I am not one of these devotees. I continue after 25 years to struggle to convince myself that going out on sankirtan is a better option than not going out on sankirtan. Having said this I cannot say that I have not experienced bliss or things of a mystical nature on book distribution (which seem to be a common occurrence in this most dear of the Lord's sports). And, dare I say it; I have also gained some realizations as an immediate result of performing this service. But, and I say this with all sincerity without wishing to minimize book distribution in any way or form, this service is not one that I always joyfully perform - at least this is what I sometimes contemplate before going out.
A few days ago I was sitting in a library reading the Gita. I was planning to distribute that afternoon after the searing sun had gone down a little. As the time to go out drew ever nearer my mind began to conjure up its usual worst case scenarios: "How many more of these uninterested people can I tolerate? How many are going to disrespect me today? The scowls. The ignorance. The obvious wrath. I'm getting too old for this. Ten years ago I could take all this in my stride but now I'm almost fifty and it's time to hang up my boots and go to the forest. I should take the day off today and read more so I can be strong tomorrow."
The above way of thinking is a prime example of a self-developed strategic logic designed to overwhelm me at times of weakness. It's tricky because it's not entirely negative but, if followed, the end product seldom turns out to be positive: i.e., I rarely read more. In the library on this particular occasion, instead of dutifully surrendering to this argument, I caught myself and noted that which was not quite right in regard to this thinking process. It wasn't a light-bulb moment. It was more like a digging moment; that is, I suddenly wondered why I was so worried about others' reactions. These reactions have not troubled me so much in the past. I may have been affected during weak moments here and there but it was never anything worth bailing for. And then I realized that it wasn't so much others' reactions that worried me but my own reactions to their reactions. Rejection, rudeness, abuse and/or hostility from others is nothing to get hung up about. It's their problem. How I react to these reactions is my problem and this was worrying to me. What if I reacted badly? If I did react badly I would be forced to do one of two things. I would either have to let my false ego cover up the misdemeanor (or sort out all events in my head so that they were in my favor, thus making me the unsung hero/victim and everyone else a demon and/or fool) or I would have to face my own shortcomings. To be Krsna Conscious would be to choose the latter and use it as a foundation from which to try to improve. And that — facing my anarthas, my unwanted bad habits — would be the hard part.
Like I said earlier, book distribution does not come as naturally to me as it does with others. Maybe I'm not the only one who struggles like this. However, and I'm sure this also applies to others; I have developed an attachment for the dependence I need to have in Krsna to perform this service. But, needless to say, this dependence does not become complete without realization. If I am to keep distributing books I need to be willing to face my own anarthas, to realize my own shortcomings — and sankirtan will reveal them to me, no doubt. Am I willing to face them and learn what I have to do about them? Or will I cover them up, paste over them with a smattering of false ego, and continue to begin each day by painting worse case scenarios in my mind until I stop the service all together (to read). If I am at all sincere what better way is there than to face my troubles out on book distribution and hence improve my behavior and gain the symptoms of one dedicated to Srila Prabhupada's mission.
A life of full-time dedication to distributing Srila Prabhupada's books is glorious. If this cannot be done, then this service performed part-time is also wonderful. If it cannot be done part-time, then a year, a month, a week or a day doing it bestows untold benefits. If this is not practical, then simply one or two hours during an entire lifetime can be a life-changer. Why would I consider such short a time as an hour to be so beneficial? Because, apart for the benefit we are giving others, a moment's clarity in regard to how far we have to go to attain Krsna Consciousness through facing even one anartha while doing something so dear to guru and Gauranga as sankirtan is something that will stay with us our entire life. It will give us strength and fortitude when inevitable problems, spiritual crises and indolence manifest. It will help us with acāpalam, the determination to not be agitated or frustrated in, this case, the attempt to serve Krsna.