Invatation to Visitors
We invite visitors to this site to contribute "Book Distribution" Stories. I am sure that everyone who has tried to 'hit the streets' with a bag of books, has countless stories, and experiences to share. Lets enliven each other with Book Distribution reports, new ideas, transcendental stories, etc. In a letter to Satsvarupa from Srila Prabhupada in 1974; "Whenever I get report of my new book selling I feel strength. Even now in my weakened condition I have got strength from your report. You should know that in this work you have Krishna's Blessings".
Books are the Basis
"This, our book distribution, is the most important task in our society. Therefore I am giving so much stress and I am working so hard on this. Because this is my life and soul according to the order of my Guru Maharaja. And by his grace it is to some extent successful. And I took it seriously. I take it seriously still now. That is my life soul. I was selling personally books. That is the History. -Srila Prabhupada room conversation, Bombay, Dec. 31, 1976
Be assured that there is no more direct way to preach than to distribute Krsna conscious books. Whoever gets a book is benefited. If he reads the book he is benefited still more, or if he gives the book to someone else for reading, both he and the other person is benefited. Even if one does not read the book but simply holds it and sees it, he is benefited. And anyone who distributes these transcendental literatures, he is also benefited. Therefore sankirtana is the prime benediction for this age. -Letter to German disciples, May 6,1977
Books are the Basis
"The Sankirtan Devotees are very very dear to Krishna. Because you are doing the field work of book distribution, Krishna has immediately recognized them as true servants. Just like durning war time, a farm boy or ordinary clerk who goes to fight for his contry on the front immediately becomes a national hero for his sincere effort. So Krishna immediately recognizes a preacher of Krishna consciouness who takes all risks to deliver his message". (Letter to Uttamasloka, 11 December 1975)
Why We Distribute Books - A devotee-bookseller explains.
By Seva-devi dasi
Back to Godhead Magazine # 19-08, 1984
Have you ever met a Hare Krishna devotee in an airport, a parking lot, or on the street distributing books and collecting donations? Many people wonder why we do this. I've been distributing books for over six years, and I'd like to tell you something about the origin of book distribution.
Devotees are not ordinary booksellers; their bookselling is transcendental. It is sankirtana, the glorification of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Sankirtana can be executed very easily, without great endeavor or expense. One can simply chant the Hare Krishna mantra by himself or with others. Or one can read about and discuss the pastimes of the Lord and His devotees. When we give someone a book, we allow him to get in touch with the philosophy and pastimes of Krishna. Any donation he gives helps support the book publication and the temples of the Krishna consciousness movement. Temples worldwide distribute prasadam (spiritual food) free of charge and give people the opportunity to come and take part in spiritual activities. And all of this is sankirtana, the glorification of Lord Krishna, which is what Krishna consciousness is all about.
Sankirtana is not new. Five hundred years ago in West Bengal, India, Lord Caitanya -- Krishna Himself in the role of His own devotee -- came to establish sankirtana as the process of purification in this age. At that time, many persons believed that one could attain perfection only by intense study of Sanskrit and the Vedas. They would spend their whole lives memorizing and discussing verses. Many also believed that spiritual life was open only to those bom in the families of brahmanas, or intellectuals. Lord Caitanya, however, did not concern Himself with caste distinctions, nor did He require candidates for spiritual life to possess vast amounts of learning. He allowed everyone the opportunity to engage in the service of God simply by chanting the holy names: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Lord Caitanya desired that the chanting of the holy names of God be spread to every town and village in the world. Traveling widely throughout India, He introduced people to the chanting of Hare Krishna and also asked them to give the chanting to others. He directed His most competent disciples to write books elaborating all aspects of devotional service to Krishna, for the benefit of people in the future.
After Lord Caitanya left this world, many persons claiming to be His followers changed the essence of His teachings, until by the 1800s His teachings were no longer respected by intelligent, educated persons. Then, on September 2,1838, Bhaktivinoda Thakura, a pure devotee of Lord Caitanya, was born in India. Although a highly placed government magistrate and the father of ten, Bhaktivinoda Thakura would rise very early every morning to write essays, books, poems, and songs about devotional service to Lord Krishna. Thus, through his writings and personal influence, he reestablished the purity and deep meaning of Lord Caitanya's teachings.
Bhaktivinoda was very concerned that the message of Lord Caitanya be spread throughout the world, and he prayed to the Lord for a son to help him accomplish this mission. On February 6, 1874, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura was born to him in Jagannatha Puri. Even as a young boy, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was an avid scholar of Vedic literature, and his father trained him in proofreading and publishing his magazine, Sajjana-tosani. By age twenty-five, Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had established himself as an outstanding author and scholar. He never married, but directed all his attention to the distribution of Krishna consciousness. He initiated many disciples and established the Gaudiya Math, a unified group of devotees, temples, and presses throughout India.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was especially interested in using the printing press to disseminate Krishna consciousness, and he coined the term "brhat mridanga" (big mridanga) in relation to the printing press. A mrdanga is a drum used to accompany the chanting of Hare Krishna. This drum can be heard for only a block or two, whereas the "brhat mrdanga" of the printing press can be heard all over the world.
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was very eager to see that Lord Caitanya's teachings be spread worldwide, and he always urged his disciples to take Krishna consciousness to the West, where most people were ignorant of spiritual life. One of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati's disciples, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, very successfully carried out this instruction.
Srila Prabhupada was born on September 1, 1896, in Calcutta. An astrologer predicted that the child would be a great devotee of the Lord and in his later years would be a very successful religious leader, opening 108 temples around the world. His father, Gour Mohan De, was a pure devotee and very carefully trained Prabhupada in all the principles of devotional service.
In 1922, Prabhupada met Srila Bhaktisiddhanta. At that time, Bhaktisiddhanta requested Prabhupada to spread Krishna consciousness in the West. From that first meeting, Prabhupada began planning how to carry out this instruction. In 1944, he began to publish a monthly magazine in English called BACK TO GODHEAD, which he would distribute to many people in India as well as abroad. In 1962, after retiring from family life, he began to translate into English and write commentary on the Srimad-Bhagavatam, India's great spiritual classic, and by January 1965 he had published the first three volumes. With these books he felt confident to travel to America and spread Krishna consciousness.
After one year in America, Prabhupada had gathered a few followers, and in 1966 he officially incorporated the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). He initiated many disciples, some of whom he then sent to various cities to establish more centers. At first additional centers sprang up in America, then in Canada, Europe, India, and eventually all around the world. But the prime means for spreading Krishna consciousness, Prabhupada emphasized, was the distribution of transcendental literature.
Following the instructions of Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada, the devotees in ISKCON are enthusiastically distributing books for the benefit of people everywhere. So, when you meet the devotees collecting donations, remember that they're not out to exploit you by taking your money to give it to some big man at the top or to keep it for themselves. The members of ISKCON want to give people the opportunity to find out about Krishna consciousness and thus perfect their lives.
Charitable organizations abound, but to give a suffering person free food or medical treatment is incomplete, because it neglects to give a person the knowledge that he is not his body but an eternal spirit soul, servant of Krishna. As long as one does not have transcendental knowledge, he must repeatedly suffer birth, disease, old age, and death. All problems are due simply to a lack of God consciousness.
The books the members of ISKCON are distributing present the science of God consciousness and explain how it can be implemented in society. The devotees who are distributing these books understand the urgency of presenting this message, and therefore they work with great determination. But it's not easy. Most people are not inclined toward spiritual life, and a devotee has to tolerate a lot of rejection and harsh treatment, just as he tolerates the heat, cold, rain, and snow. You may have seen a devotee untiringly approaching people despite continual rejection, or running up to people in a parking lot for hours on a freezing winter day. Some people think that these devotees get a lot of money for this or that they're "brainwashed," because this kind of voluntary enthusiasm and determination isn't ordinary. But for the devotee, distributing transcendental literature isn't an ordinary job, and he derives transcendental satisfaction from meeting receptive people and from knowing he's pleasing his spiritual master and Krishna.
Now hundreds of devotees all over the world are distributing Krishna conscious literature, and the desire of the great spiritual masters and the Supreme Lord is being fulfilled. The "brhat mrdanga" is being heard all over the world, and people are being benefited.
Book Distribution Stories
The First Book
I think we all remember very clearly where we were and what we were doing the day Srila Prabhupada first entered our lives. Many of the older devotees remember where they were when President John F. Kennedy was shot, or where they were when "The Beatles" appeared on the Ed Sullivan show. But our remembrance of Srila Prabhupada will outlive any mundane event in our lives, as our relationship with our Srila Prabhupada is an eternal relationship.
I meet my spiritual master in an unlikely place, in the Chicago O'Hare airport. I was walking through the airport just wandering aimlessly, when I was approached by a sankirtan devotee. He said "hey, you into George Harrison?" I replied "sure I just saw him in concert last night". So he said, "take this book and give it a read, its really far-out!" To make a long story short I took the book, the Krishna Book, and found a place to sit down and read. I couldn't even pronounce some of the words like Srila Vyasadeva or Srimati Radharani. I didn't have a clue what the book was about. But I loved the picture on the cover instantly, and when I turned the book over in my hands I saw the most beautiful sight in this material world, a picture of my spiritual master Srila Prabhupada.
I had been thinking lately that I needed to find my guru, as I had been doing a lot of reading on spirituality and had a pile of books on Eastern Wisdom, Hinduism, and Buddhism etc. And had come to the conclusion that I needed to find my Guru. I had no idea where to find him? Do I go to India? I didn't have a clue where to go or who to ask. But the mercy of the spiritual master is unfathomable, and he came to me, through the kindness and compassion of his disciple, in the form of the Krishna Book.
The love I felt for the picture of Srila Praphupada was deep and profound. I had never before experienced such a deep loving sentiment as I was experiencing when looking at the picture of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada. I was in love as if for the first time. I recognized Srila Prabhupada as my Guru. And I began to associate with him directly through his picture and his words. In one fell swoop I meet my Guru and by his mercy I meet God.
"By the mercy of the spiritual master one receives the benediction of Krishna. Without the grace of the spiritual master, one cannot make any advancement. Therefore I should always remember and praise the spiritual master. At least three times a day I should offer my respectful obeisances unto the lotus feet of my spiritual master." (Sri-Sri-Gurv-Astaka)
From this one encounter of meeting one of Srila Prabhupada's disciples, my spiritual life began. All Glories to the Sankirtan Movement of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu! And from there I went on to receive (again by chance) a Bhagavad-Gita "As it Is" and some smaller paperback books. By this time I was associating directly with Srila Prabhupada because I was following his instructions and chanting the Hare Krishna maha mantra. In this way my heart became purified and within the next few years I joined the society of devotees, shaved my head, put on tilak and interestingly became a book distributor on the Radha Damadora Traveling Sankirtan Party. Giving to others what was given to me; Srila Prabhupada & Krishna!
It was years after receiving my first book and hearing from my eternal spiritual master Srila Prabhupada that I finally got a chance to meet him personally, in his physical form, and I enjoyed walking alongside him on a morning japa walk, hearing him speak Bhagavatam, and watching him dance at the Rathayatra festival. But for me, the turning point in my life, when my association with my eternal spiritual master began, was at the Chicago O'Hara airport, in the form of the KRSNA Book.
I am eternally grateful to that book distributor (I don't even remember his name), for introducing me to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, and helping me on my journey Back Home, Back to Godhead.
Note: All prices in US Dollars