Chakra Discussions

Benefits of Book Distribution

by Suresh das

Posted June 14, 2006

First I want to thank Chakra for being a very open website. I am grateful that you are allowing devotees, at this time, to express their differing viewpoints of their Krishna Conscious experiences. I believe by airing our grievances, misunderstandings might possibly be rectified, and we might find harmony again, since we are all working for a common cause. Some issues of course are very deep, and may never be resolved, in spite of endless discussions, arguments, and debates. I have found many irresolvable issues have been healed in the past simply by chanting the Holy Name in Kirtan with all the devotees - at least it has always worked for me, because our minds have been looking for the answers to our problems since time immemorial, but being material with only material solutions and elements at our disposal, we can never find eternal and permanent solutions, and we always come up short and dissatisfied. After Kirtan we might become angry again with each other, but at least during Kirtan we can enjoy some peace and happiness together.

In this angry age it is the only hope we have for any harmony between each other. I realize this seems very simplistic to some, especially for some deep-seated problems that have occurred in our movement, but Hari Nam Kirtan, in association with devotees is the real answer. For all other unsolvable problems we must have faith that the Deity of the Temple (Lord Krishna) ultimately will rectify and put everything in order, and make things just and right in time. I have been a devotee for many years and have seen this with my own eyes, so I know it is true.

I wish to apologize for anything I have written before which was offensive to Lord Krishna, Srila Prabhupada, to the Sankirtan Movement, and to all the Vaisnavas. I feel very sorry if I have said anything offensive or have tried in any way to hinder or discourage the Sankirtan Movement, especially via Book Distribution, in any way. I wish to share my Sankirtan experiences, even though more than some 30 years have passed, and hope it will be of some help to others, since it is an eternal activity. I personally was involved in the Book Distribution part of the Movement, distributing books for a large percentage of my active service while a member of ISKCON. My method of distribution might conflict with others who were much more successful than me, but what always helped me was regularly reading Srila Prabhupada's books. Srila Prabhupada stated "Preaching is the Essence, Books are the Basis, and Purity is the Force".

If anyone wishes to distribute books they must be empowered to do it. It is not an ordinary material activity. Book Distribution is very difficult, because only a small part of society will be interested in Self-Realization. The scriptures state we must distribute Krishna Consciousness to angry people, without becoming angry ourselves.

We should also remember if the current intention in the revival of book distribution, at this time, is just to increase your temples' cash flow, so that devotees can live at the expense of society, without contributing real enlightenment, then the current revival of effort will probably prove unsuccessful and fail. For this reason, because we have to be pure and empowered, and be true preachers for a true spiritual cause, book distribution has often been abandoned in the past in favor or easier and more lucrative money collecting methods such as selling paraphernalia, incense, flowers, paintings, etc.

To give an example on the question of purity of purpose, during my brief stay in New Vrndavan in the mid 1970's, I was told by devotees that all the cathedrals of Europe were built by breaking the Four Regulative Principles, and that it was the intention of the temple authorities, at that time, to build the Palace of Gold in the same way. Although the Palace went on to be built in very lavish style, and is very beautiful, it is questionable whether their methods of doing it were on the up and up and were ultimately successful.

Everyday, after being dropped off at my distribution spot for the day, I would read Nectar of Devotion, Krishna Book, Sri Isopanishad, etc. I would never sell one book until I finished my daily reading. My feeling always was: I can't sell books if I am not personally enlightened myself. How will I be able to sell one book if I am not happy and filled with joy of spirit? It always worked, although I have to admit I was rather offensive, because it was a challenge to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna, either you make me enlightened and joyful enough to sell the books, and bring peace to my mind, or I wasn't going to sell any. Still, inspite of my unacceptable attitude, I gradually developed an attachment for regularly reading the scriptures, and as I became stronger and stronger in my hearing, offensive and challenging mentalities gradually fell away. Somehow or other I was always enlightened and empowered enough by taking shelter of reading Srila Prabhupada's books, so in turn I felt empowered to also sell the books, and I sold thousands.

In the beginning I couldn't sell any books no matter how hard I tried. I tried everything, even getting on down on my hands and knees and begging people to buy the books. All the other devotees in our temple very easily sold books, but for me it was impossible. Then I remembered in Nectar of Devotion that it states if you desire service to Lord Krishna you must cry for it. I went to a place where no one would see me and I cried again and again. Gradually after that time I was able to distribute books, more and more each day. We should always try to distribute books based on the principle of spiritual philosophy, which might not be as successful as other methods employed in the past. We should refuse to compromise on the principle of being an "avid reader Srila Prabhupada's books", as a prerequisite for distributing books.

Surprisingly, more than once I was chastised by temple authorities for reading Srila Prabhupada's books, in an extracurricular way, outside of classes, and on my own, and for encouraging others to do so. I specifically chastised with words: "you are not supposed to read Srila Prabhupada's books - you are just supposed to sell them." But, in spite of the many problems and difficulties, I experienced so many miracles while distributing books. Those miracles are my possession as a devotee and are always my shelter whenever times of doubt arise. Perhaps the greatest miracle of all is meeting devotees in the temple who have come over the years, because they bought and read Srila Prabhupada's books. This is the real benefit and symbol of success of your book distribution.

The importance of studying the Scriptures

We must regularly and extensively read Srila Prabhupada's books to become a successful book distributors and here is the reason why it is important. You don't have to know the internal pastimes of Lord Chaitanya and His associates, or the pastimes of Radha Krishna to be a strong book distributor, but you must be able to answer questions about self-realization and Krishna Consciousness whenever they arise. As a book distributor and preacher you will meet many adversaries of the Krishna Consciousness Movement, atheists, as well as people with sincere inquiries and questions.

As an example, I was speaking with an Indian guest at the temple. He challenged me by saying "where in the Vedas does it state that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead?" Unfortunately I couldn't answer him. In spite of extensively and regularly reading Srila Prabhupada's books for years I had no answer. I even had a hint right in front of me - Mahatma Prabhu, who had recorded the Brahma-Samhita CD and was standing just a few feet away, but I still couldn't remember: "Isvara Parama Krishna, Sat Cit Ananda Vigraha, Anadir Adir Govinda, Sarva Karana Karanam. " Fortunately, you will hear the same arguments and questions over and over, so if you study and find the answer when you don't know, then you will be ready and prepared for the next time.

As an example, last night I attended a lecture by the main promoter at this time of Srila Bhallabacharya's teachings in the West. Everything sounded in harmony with Srila Prabhupada's teachings about Bhaktiyoga, until it came to the part of his blaspheming and criticizing ISKCON, the Gaudiya Math, Srila Prabhupada, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Prabhupada, Srila Narayan Maharaj, their books, and their philosophy. One of his students challenged: where in the Vedas does it state that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so I quoted the above verse "Isvara Parama Krishna..." This is an example of how you will hear the same arguments again and again.

It is our duty to be strong in Krishna Conscious philosophy so that all challengers and opponents of our cause and philosophy can be set right, corrected, and defeated if necessary, but we can only do this if we are strong in our spiritual practices, and we thoroughly know our own philosophy.

I once met a man on book distribution who told me he was a scientist and professor. In those days we sold books in dhotis, with shaved heads, so when he saw me he flatly told me that our Movement was nothing but sentimentalism. It reminded me of the conversion of the Mayavadis in "Teachings of Lord Chaitanya". I simply quoted something that I had heard Srila Prabhupada say "this is a science for understanding the difference between a living body and a dead body."

This is another great secret of book distribution. If you quote word-for-word, the Parampara words of Srila Prabhupada's books, without changing anything, or adding your own opinions, no one on Earth can defeat you in any argument, no matter how much more educated the other person is in material estimation - the words are that strong and mystical. When I spoke the words, the atmosphere suddenly changed. The wind began howling and the air began crackling as if it were full of electricity. The man's hairs were standing on end and my hairs were standing on end. Suddenly he said "give all of those books, I must have all of your books." I sold him 10 hardbound Bhagavad-Gitas, which was very unusual for me.

Most of the time we will not experience mystical experiences, which are rare for each of us. I think they come just to remind us that the process is real. It is very important then, to know the philosophy, and be fluent in it, to be successful in book distribution. This can only come by regularly and very carefully studying Srila Prabhupada's books.

I wish to offer thanks and best wishes to anyone who desires to distribute books, because you will find great joy, happiness, and success by your activity.