Chakra Discussions

Some Food for Thought On Food for Life

by Devaki Nandana das

Posted December 31, 2005

I found Satyahit prabhu's article on prasadam distribution in Hawaii intriguing. It's wonderful to see such dedicated Vaisnavas in Srila Prabhupada's movement. Srila Prabhupada once said, "If you feel at all indebted to me, then preach vigorously like me."

I sensed, perhaps unfairly, a little animosity from Satyahit das towards book distribution. I don't know what his reasons are -- maybe the book distributors in Hawaii aren't so well trained, or something. In the 1970s there were some similar problems. One of the causes was that many book distributors were using heavy tactics to distribute books, and this created friction by upsetting devotees who thought we should be more polite and gentlemanly in our approach.

There is a conversation in Hawaii between Srila Prabhupada and a few devotees who were having some difficulty distributing books for this reason. Srila Prabhupada basically concluded that those devotees who were complaining shouldn't have given up distributing books, but instead should have distributed the books in a more appropriate, pure way. His order was that all devotees should distribute his books. In a different letter, he said that book distribution is the best business and the best preaching, emphasizing book distribution in such an urgent way that no sincere devotee could ignore his pleas. Srila Prabhupada said that our movement could be funded by book distribution.

Even in ISKCON, the problems of the world have filtered in, but the best method is to choose the positive approach, as Jayananda prabhu did. He always found a solution. I try to have a positive attitude and to appreciate the services of all sincere Vaisnavas. When I see problems, I try to help in any way I can. It's no use getting upset over things we have no control over. I would love to fix all of ISKCON's problems but I choose to try and fix only the ones that I know I have the power to fix. Although ISKCON Hawaii may have some problems, the fact that so much laxmi is being generated by book distribution is glorious.

I just spent a year in Sydney, Australia, a temple that makes much of its laxmi by selling smile stickers and using donation buckets at traffic lights. It's all collected in the name of Food for Life, which is not accepted by the Food for Life minister. Also, practically none of that money ever goes to prasadam distribution. Most of the money is never accounted for. To make matters worse, they call their collection Sankirtana. They even tried to drive me out of their because I told them that they weren't doing sankirtana but scamming the public. The brahmacaris there are exhausted, having to go out to bars late at night to meet their quotas.At least it's not that bad in Hawaii. It could always be worse.

I also notice a dangerous mentality that has created havoc in our movement: the mentality to not appreciate others' services. Sometimes the book distributors think their service is the best. Sometimes devotees who are distributing prasadam think that way, or maybe devotees who teach Bhakti Sastri think they are the best.For example, in Philadelphia there was a devotee who was very learned in the Sastra but it totally went to his head. Because he knew lots of slokas and Sanskrit he became very puffed up; he criticized the book distributors and Harinama preachers that that they weren't reading enough and were wasting their time like parrots out preaching. He knew so much, but knew so little about Krishna Prema, the actual goal of the Sastra.

I realize that I can't fix all these problems, but Krishna can. I pray to Krishna to please help fix what He so desires. I'm praying that anyone who reads this will simply try to help ISKCON reach the potential that Srila Prabhupada wanted it to reach by cooperating together to spread Krishna Prema all over the world.