The importance of Book Distribution

Book distribution is an adventure. We never know what is going to happen. Amazing things happen. Just like yesterday I heard an amazing story. A friend of mine, Tara Prabhu, was distributing books in the Miami airport. He distributed some books to one boy from Columbia. The boy went home and put the books on his bookshelf. The books remained there for five years, sitting there, waiting. A friend of his one day saw these books and asked him if he could borrow them during his upcoming trip to California. He read the books, and he was so inspired by reading them that he became a devotee. He looked in the back of the book and found the address of the L.A temple. He joined the temple. He began doing harinam everyday. At one point, his friend who had lent him the books decided to go on a vacation to Los Angeles. He was surfing, and when he came back to the beach, he heard some chanting, some karatals, mrdanga, and he found the sound attractive. He approached the harinam party and was looking at the devotees’ faces. Then he saw his friend, his best friend, the one who had borrowed the book from him. He saw him in the crowd of devotees, chanting. He asked, “Hey, what happened?” His friend preached to him and invited him to the temple. Then that boy also started reading the books, and he also became a devotee. He is sitting here now, as a matter of fact, this brahmacari there. [applause.]

So Tara Prabhu didn’t know. Ten years later he found out. You can imagine how much happiness he must have felt. He distributed books to one person, and Phalguna Prabhu was his best friend who became a devotee. Phalguna Prabhu is a very adventurous devotee; he preaches in Africa. You never know what is going to happen.

There is another amazing incident which I just heard recently. There was a young man from Baltimore, Maryland. He was going through some difficulties in this material world, as many people do, as practically everybody does. Some people just struggle and struggle, and patch things up, trying to make them nice, but some people ask, ‘there must be something more than what I’ve experience here.’

So he asked his mother, “Who is God? Can you tell me something about God? Maybe it could help me.”

The mother replied, “Well, I don’t know much; maybe you could read the Bible.”

He said, “I’ve read the Bible. I don’t get much out of it.”

Then she went to her library and pulled out one book, “Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.”

She had received this book thirty years ago. Thirty years ago! She took it and put it in her bookshelf thirty years ago. That’s a long time. She pulled it out and said, ‘Here, maybe this will answer some of your questions.”

So he read it, and he became convinced that Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This boy is now living in the Chowpatti temple under the very nice guidance of the Chowpatti devotees and Radhanatha Swami.

So it is so nice. You never know. You could distribute a book, and it could even be one hundred years later that someone reads it and becomes a devotee. The book could be in someone’s house, and the person who bought the book dies, and the book is still there. The child inherits the house, and the book is still there. It can go on. Books last a very long time, and books are very patient. They’ll wait and wait and wait. Therefore we should understand how important this book distribution is.

Sometimes book distribution can be a little difficult. Anybody agree? It can be a little difficult. But this difficulty is the price we have to pay for pure devotional service. It is called the “Fire of ordeal.” It purifies us. So the difficulty is very good; it is purifying. When there is difficulty, what do you do? You take shelter of Krsna. Just like in America there is a saying, “There is no atheist in a foxhole.” v When a war is going on, they have these ditches where soldiers go to avoid bullets flying over their heads. They are all praying to God because it is very dangerous. So difficulty is good. Queen Kunti, she prayed, “PLEASE, give me difficulty.”

Why? In present society, people could think that she should go see a psychiatrist or something. She is praying for difficulty. But the reason is because that gives an opportunity to take shelter of Krsna, to cry out to Krsna. So it is good.

There is an interesting story in the Bhagavatam about a devotee King named Rantideva. He was doing some austerity; he was fasting. He had fasted forty seven days. He was just getting ready to break his fast when a brahmana came in and said, “Oh King, I am hungry. Please, can you feed me?”

The king replied, ‘Yes, yes. Please come” and he fed him sumptuously. He was again getting ready to break his fast when one sudra came and said, “O King, I am hungry; can you please feed me?”

The king replied, ‘Yes, yes. Please come” and he fed him sumptuously. Then he thought, “Well, so much for eating.” So then he prepared to drink something, but at that moment a man came and asked, “O king, I am thirsty; can you give me something to drink?” The King said “Yes,” and gave him to drink. So then the king made a very powerful statement. When I read this I thought, “Wao. That’s an amazing statement!” He said, “na kamaye ‘haà gatim ecvarat param anöarddhi-yuktam apunar-bhavaà va artià prapadye ‘khila-deha-bhajam antaù-sthito yena bhavanty aduùkhaù

When I read this, I thought, “This is a Sankirtan verse!”

He says, “I do not pray to the Supreme Personality of Godhead for the eight perfections of mystic yoga, nor for salvation from repeated birth and death. I want only to stay among all the living entities and suffer all distresses on their behalf, so that they may be freed from suffering.” [Srimad Bhagavatam 9.21.12]

Is that deep? This is actually the mood of a devotee. It is difficult. But this difficulty is for a great cause, namely to deliver the conditioned souls from this deep well of material existence. So although book distribution may be difficult, it is a glorious difficulty.

We have a mission. Srila Prabhupada has left us a mission. This mission is to help others to become free of their suffering. There is another mission as well that has been given to us. That is an internal mission. It is a mission of our own purification. Srila Prabhupada said that 99% of our advancement in spiritual life is in the chanting of Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare. So this maha-mantra is the internal cleansing. And chanting this mantra is also what gives us the sakti which is necessary to be successful in the external mission.

Srila Prabhupada once said, “If you want to be inspired to distribute books, you should chant the sad-goswami astakam, because it is in the mood of preaching.

kanëotkertana-gana-nartana-parau premamatambho-nidhe
dheradhera-jana-priyau priya-karau nirmatsarau püjitau
cre-caitanya-kapa-bharau bhuvi bhuvo bharavahantarakau
vande rüpa-sanatanau raghu-yugau cre-jeva-gopalakau

The first statement in this astakam speaks about very enthusiastically chanting the Holy Name. This is very important. Once a devotee asked Srila Prabhupada, “Prabhupada, how can we be enthusiastic on book distribution?” Srila Prabhupada replied, “You chant 16 rounds uninterrupted.”

In other words, if you get up and chant some rounds before mangala aroti and the rest after mangala aroti, that is also uninterrupted because during mangal aroti we are chanting also. But we should not have rounds left during the day. Rounds chanted in the morning are so much better than when we chant them after breakfast or in the afternoon. This is because this brahma-muhurta is the most auspicious time of the day. Srila Prabhupada went even further and said, “It is better that you chant all your rounds before mangala aroti.”

That’s a little tough. But it is just to emphasize the point, ‘Early chanting is the best chanting.” You’ll hear your rounds best in the early morning, in this early time of the day.

Coming back to the verse, because the Goswamis are chanting so nicely, they are getting a taste for Krsna Consciousness. Therefore they are dheradhera-jana-priyau priya-karau. They are very popular among the gentle and the ruffians. Why? Because they see the soul; they see the Supersoul in everyone. This is why they are able to be so enthusiastic to preach Krsna Consciousness. When you are distributing, it may be difficult to approach everyone you see. We try to approach the gentle-looking people and avoid the ruffian-type people. But I just heard a wonderful description about one devotee, the number one book distributor in the whole world, namely Krsna Balarama Prabhu. I just heard from a devotee who distributes with him that Krsna Balarama Prabhu does not discriminate when he approaches people. He engages everybody, old ladies, old men, businessmen, everybody, one after another after another. Everybody gets an opportunity. So this is a good example, and Lord Caitanya is reciprocating with him. He has been the number one book distributor in the world for three years. Lord Caitanya is reciprocating. Sometimes we get mental, thinking, “No, this person is too fat, too old, too ugly, looks too much like a karmi.”

I remember one time in the airport, it was kind of slow at that moment. So there was one businessman coming towards me, and he had a thousand-dollar suit on. He was just a hard-core businessman, the type of person that you generally do not try to engage. I thought, “Well, he’s the only one here right now. I have to surrender.”

So I stopped him, spoke to him and showed him the Bhagavad Gita. He said, “You know, I am completely into this! It is amazing that you picked me out of the crowd!”

Actually, there was no crowd at all. He was the only person there. [laughter.] But he was completely into it. He gave a very nice donation; I got his address. It was amazing. He was a total sweetie. This is what we call the people who are nice in America, ‘sweeties.’ So you never know; you never know.

Another example is when I was at a college campus. I distribute books at universities by setting up a table. One janitor came by, an old janitor, with his trash bucket, rolling by. He saw the books and asked me, “What’s that all about?”

I replied, “Yoga, mediation, philosophy; it gives inner peace.” The man replied, “Alright; sounds good.” He gave a donation, took the Bhagavad Gita, put it in a plastic bag and stuffed it in the trash. He had to protect it by putting it in a plastic bag, and he just put it in there to carry it. He took it home with him. I would have never spoken to him. That’s the nice thing about doing a book table. Old people come up and say that they are interested in these things.

One thing that I wanted to promote, by the way, is the Bhagavad Gita. I am just curious, how many devotees here came to Krsna Consciousness because of the Bhagavad Gita? Raise your hands. Very good. I travel a lot, and so whenever I meet devotees I ask them how they came to Krsna Consciousness. About half of them came because of the Bhagavad Gita. So I thought, “Well, why not focus on the Bhagavad Gita, if this is the main reason for people coming to Krsna Consciousness?”

This is one reason that I have changed the point system. The Bhagavad Gita used to be one point and a half. Now it is two points. So for those of you who like to get your score up, with the Bhagavad Gita you’ll do that. Srila Prabhupada liked competition, transcendental competition. So now it is two points. [“haribol.”]

Devotees sometimes ask how I distribute books. Srila Prabhupada once said that the artists are the real preachers because people like art. There are a few places where Srila Prabhupada said this. That’s why I like to focus on the artwork in the books by showing the people the pictures inside the book. I show them the artwork. For example, with this painting [the picture of a sober man looking over at the death of a young man surrounded by his family], I tell everyone, “A wise person does not lament for death because he sees that the soul is everywhere.”

With the painting of reincarnation, I tell people, “You see, we used to have a baby body, a child’s body, a old body, but the soul is just cruising through.”

With the picture depicting the brahmana seeing the soul and the supersoul in every body, I say, “A wise person sees within everyone the soul, and so therefore he has got great respect for all species of life.” With the picture of the yogi, I jokingly tell them, “He’s been there a while!” v There is one picture that people especially like, namely the picture of the five horses pulling the chariot. I tell them, “the chariot is the body, the reins is the mind, the driver is the intelligence, and the passenger is the soul, and the soul is saying, “Okay everybody, slow down! Take it easy!!” When you show people that picture, it blows them away. People come back to buy the book just for that picture. I even had one student who cut out the picture and taped it on the wall next to his bed. He said, “As soon as I wake up in the morning, I understand this is the situation.” [laughter.]

That picture is amazing. It is incredible. Another picture people like is the one with the puppets being controlled by the three modes of material nature. I show them the picture and I say, “These persons here are controlled by goodness, passion and ignorance.” I ask them, “So, which one are you controlled by? Goodness, passion or ignorance?”

A lot of them are honest and they reply, “By ignorance.” They like that.

The Bhagavad Gita is a very, very powerful presentation. And it is very famous.

Regarding getting donations, if people honestly tell you that they only have, for example, one dollar in their wallet, then just let the book go. But if you see that they have a fair amount of cash and they give you one dollar anyway, you can ask them, “Look; we have a smaller book. Can I give you a smaller book instead? Would that be okay?” Usually they say, “Sure” because they are not so interested anyway. Otherwise they would give more than a dollar for a big book like that. But still if they insist, “No, no. I want the big one,” just let it go. It is important that they have a good impression. Even if they have no money at all but really want it, let them have it. Krsna will make up for it. This happens all the time. Krsna makes up for it. And anyway, temples nowadays are not struggling so much financially. In the past, back in the seventies and eighties, the temples were pretty much depending on book distributors. But now it is not so much the case. Therefore let the books go. Of course we should try to get what Srila Prabhupada wanted, namely double the BBT, and we should not take the books cheaply. They are very valuable books, and we should try to get as much as we can for them. If we let them go very cheaply and we become satisfied with getting very small donations, then we start thinking of the books as being cheap. Srila Prabhupada also liked profit. For example, Pragosh Prabhu, who was probably the best book distributor in history, came back to the temple one day and told Srila Prabhupada that he gave 8 books to one man. Srila Prabhupada said, “Oh, very good. And how much did he give?” Pragosh Prabhu replied, “Srila Prabhupada, he gave one hundred dollars.” Srila Prabhupada said, “Oh, good profit!” So Srila Prabhupada liked that.

Any question anyone may have?

Question: Can you explain about the book tables?

Reply: Book tables are very nice if you have a good spot to distribute. In America we have freedom of speech and freedom of religion. So pretty much we can go to any public university and set up a table on campus. Most of the times I don’t even ask permission and it is not a problem. But most countries don’t have that advantage. On the other hand, in most countries outside of America they have walking streets. That is very nice. We don’t have any of that in America, practically. That is a disadvantage that we have. I don’t know if they allow tables to be set up in walking streets in Europe and other countries. It is a very nice way to distribute. People actually come up to you. It is nice, because most of the time we are approaching the people, but here the people see the books and walk up to you. It is a very nice way to distribute. Of course, we don’t reach as many people, but it is a very powerful presentation. And the way to actually get people to the table is to have a free leaflet. That is the transcendental trick. You have a leaflet in your hand, and as people walk by you call them over, handing them the leaflet, “Here you go!” That gets them to the table. And then you start speaking to them. If you just have a table, then everybody is just going to walk by you. You need something that will get them to come to the table. Then you speak to them. The leaflet has quotes by famous people about the Bhagavad Gita. Or you can have quotes from the book itself. Sometimes people just take a leaflet and walk away. Then they read the leaflet and come back and say, “Alright; yeah, I’ll take one.”

Question: Sometimes we are in circumstances, such as padayatra, when we are forced to take rest late at night and therefore we cannot wake up so early and chant attentive rounds during brahma muhurta.

Reply: Regarding regulation, you cannot always have a regulated program due to circumstance. But do the best you can. You have to get enough sleep, at least six hours. And if you have to stay up late to distribute more books, then do you best. Krsna has put you in that situation, and chant the best rounds in the situation that you are in.


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  2. What a nice article. It keeps me reading more and more!

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