Friends of the BBT Newsletter - October 07
Posted October 16, 2007
Spotlight: Hungary for Enlightenment
by Madhava Smullen
In the 1970s, when devotees first printed *Bhagavad-gita As It Is*, *The Perfection of Yoga,* and *Sri Isopanisad *in Hungarian, it was hard to see Hungary as a country where Krishna consciousness might flourish. Communism had reigned since 1949, and with its power still formidable, devotees had to keep their spiritual activities under the radar.
But in 1986, when the Austrian border opened up, Krishna inserted a foot firmly in the door. Hungarian tourists were pouring into Vienna by the thousands to buy TV sets, microwaves, and video players. Many of these unsuspecting consumers found themselves purchasing products of far higher value as Labanga Dasa and Nalini-Kanta Dasi seized the chance and distributed large numbers of Prabhupada's books to them.
It was obvious that Hungarian people had a desire for spiritual knowledge, and the devotees were determined to fulfill it. In true covert fashion, books were smuggled in to the country and distribution began in earnest.
In 1987, help came in the form of Sivarama Swami, who had been a long distance inspiration for some time. Nilamani Cakravati Dasi, a dedicated book distributor and disciple of Indradyumna Swami, is grateful for his encouragement.
"When we heard he was coming, we rented a house in the country town of Velence and organized a devotional summer camp," she says. "We were all new devotees, and he taught us so much about the basics of Krishna consciousness in just a few days."
In 1989, forty years of communism in Hungary came to an end, and a world of possibility opened up. Devotees built two large warehouses to store bigger quantities of Prabhupada's books: one in the capital, Budapest, measuring 160 square meters, and one at the New Vraja Dhama farm community, measuring 200 square meters.
Books have been steadily flowing from these warehouses into the hands of the public, and the results are showing. Every summer, coachloads of guests visit the New Vraja Dhama temple, with an incredible twenty-five thousand visiting the 450 acre farm every year. "Book distribution is becoming more and more successful because people in general greatly appreciate devotees' work in Hungarian society," Nilamani says. "Hungary, you might say is 'sankirtana friendly.'"
[image: IMAGE]With more than 200 devotees distributing 54,000 books during the last Prabhupada Marathon, and millions of books sold so far, this is more than mere coincidence. And it's no surpise either, considering Sivarama Swami's mandate that all ISKCON centers in Hungary should distribute Srila Prabhupada's books prior to any other activities. "The devotees have conceived of a national plan to sell a certain quantity," Nilamani tells me, "And each center is seriously taking and sharing the responsibility of completing that task."
Of course book distribution will only thrive where all other areas of Krishna consciousness are well taken care of, especially good sadhana, good leadership, and good education. Hungarian devotees run summer camps and seminars, and progress further in their knowledge of philosophy by studying at the Bhaktivedanta Theological College in Budapest. Refreshed after reading and studying Srila Prabhupada's message, they are infused with inspiration and can't wait to distribute more books.
"Book distribution is at the heart of all our preaching activities," Nilamani says. "Everything comes from Srila Prabhupada's books. And for those of us who did not get the chance to meet Prabhupada personally, we can feel the strongest relationship with him through his books. They're our very life-we simply can't live without them!"
Nilamani and her husband distribute books twice a week, and during the Srila Prabhupada Marathon, every day. Their rule is: never stop. "Preaching is the fire that gives life and force to spiritual life," says Nilamani. "That was my spiritual master Srila Indradyumna Swami's instruction to me-'Never stop the preaching.'"
An easy order to follow, with people so receptive to Prabhupada's books. "One year I was distributing books outside a store at Christmas time," Nilamani recalls, "When a famous Hungarian actor arrived to buy some presents. Having lived in the temple for the past twelve years, I didn't recognize him. Instead, I tried to convince him to buy a book.
He said, 'Because you are so persistent I will think about this while I'm shopping, and when I come back we'll see.' As he walked away, I thought, 'He'll never come back.' But he returned, took a book, and gave me a big donation." She smiles. "It wasn't until he'd left that a bystander came up to me and told me who he was."
Meanwhile, the Hungarian BBT are busy reprinting books to meet with the demands of the distributors. This year, as well as delivering old favorites such as Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Coming Back, they'll be enlightening the Hungarian public with books one might not usually expect to see on the street, including Srila Prabhupada-lilamrita, Krishna Dharma's Mahabharata, and Brihad-Bhagavatamrita.
Nilamani and all the Hungarian devotees look to the future with nothing but positive expectations. "We would like to distribute more and more books until we achieve Srila Prabhupada's dream: that there be one Bhagavatam set in every house. We may have already distributed several million books, but 10 million people live in Hungary. And the future is very bright for them all."