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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

Touching the soul

Thursday, 20 December 2007 / Published in Book distribution, Sivarama Swami / 5,387 views

Thirty years ago I was doing the Prabhupada marathon at the Chicago airport. One afternoon, we devotees were so intoxicated by distributing books that we decided to show that one doesn’t have to speak to sell books, that book distribution just depends on our state of consciousness. So we didn’t speak.

By Sivarama Swami

Just after loading my bookbag with (20) maha books I tapped a man on the arm and looked him in the eye. He stopped, expecting me to say something. I didn’t. I put a book in his hand, pointed at Prabhupada’s picture, to the Sanskrit inside and then up to the sky indicating the books are meant to elevate you. I remember being absorbed in the desire to give out books and after looking deep into his eyes again, I slapped my pocket indicating he should give a donation. He did.

He was a young businessman, obviously heavily stressed out and floundering in the world of consumerism. He held the book appreciatively. As he started to go I held his arm. I wanted him to get more mercy. We locked eyes for a minute and in my mind I said, “These books will give your life meaning”, and I stuck another two books in his hand. Now he had three books. Again I tapped my pocket. Again he gave a donation.

I opened one of the books and pointed to a part of Prabhupada’s purport and had him read it. I watched his face. It was obvious Prabhupada was speaking to him. I tapped his arms and smiled at him and he smiled at me. Although standing in the middle of the busiest airport in the world we were somewhere else, in a different land where there was no stress, no noise; our own world of Krsna consciousness. Then he looked at the other books in my arm and I knew he wanted more. I gave him a few more books. He gave another donation. By now the total was past $40.

To impress upon the man what was reality I waved nonchalantly at the bustle about us and pressed my forefinger to his heart, indicating the soul. I looked at him, “You are not this body. You are spirit soul.” He understood. He smiled appreciatively. We then shook hands and as he turned to go it was as if he was leaving a realm of peace for the world of anxiety around. For a minute he hesitated. He didn’t want to go. He wanted to remain in that realm of consciousness in which our exchange had taken place. He had been happy. I saw there were tears in his eyes. I touched his hand and tapped the books saying in my mind, “It’s all in the books. Don’t worry.” He nodded shook my hand and left. Neither he, nor I had spoken a word. Yet we were communicating fully. It was one of many such experiences that afternoon. I was convinced that success in book distribution depends upon our state of consciousness. Making soul-to-soul contact with people is the most effective way to sell books. We need to be in the consciousness that we are not this body, that we are Krsna’s spiritual messengers and that we have to want to distribute the mercy. Give! Give! Give! That is our dharma. Give Krsna to others.

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4 Responses to “Touching the soul”

  1. dear Sivarama Maharaja
    Please accept my pranams at your lotusfeet
    All glories to Srila Prabhupada
    A tear is coming to my eyes also hearing this pastime.I like to share a pastime from ISKCON Sweden, where two great souls where competing, one was Premarnava Prabhu
    the other devotees name escape me, he was the real hero in this …I have not seen him in so many years, and hope he is still a devotee. He was a very humble devotee, and one day his voice went away partly from the very cold weather, in Sweden in the winter it is often 0 farenheit to minus 20-30 degrees, that in celcious is something from minus 10 to 60.
    He went out anyway and had a sign because he could not speak, and he still did as many books as usual as he was so dedicadet to distributing Srila Prabhupadas books, sometimes he used sign languages like you did in this case, and still he did so many books.without saying a word , I believe he did this for 3-4 days till his voice came back.

    One Marathon he one day did 405 Maha big books (one full Canto) and Premarnava Prabhu did 400– and if I did one fourth of these great souls I had a good day.I believe Brhad Banu Prabhu in Germany also sometimes did books without saying a word, just for the fun of it and he would also do over a hundered big books on a regular days .Marathons was also 200 to 500 Maha big books for him.
    I pray I may see these days again in ISKCON.
    I recall once in a Christmas Marathon in Denmark my voice was going away due to to much talking and the cold too, I believe, and someone told me bees vax helps the throat
    from this problem, i was chewing it even while talking ( it must have seemed a bit rude , people may have thougt I was chewing gum, but it worked, and some actually fell sorry I could not speak properly but with a hoarse throat , they still took the books and gave donations, not the best way of course, but I could keep distributing, and I tried to apologize
    and use some sign language when it was really difficult to talk , and sometimes I had similar experience like you Maharaja, but this was of course forced…on by mother Nature.
    I recall one man asked me how much and pulled out a bill , I showed him 2 fingers, to ask him of another, then folded my hands and smiled, he was very happy too..remembering all these sankirtana pastimes Maharaja you have made my day, and of course hearing yours too
    Your servant
    Payonidhi das

  2. Damana Krishna dasa says :


    Damana Krishna dasa:

    If we want to know which activity pleased Srila Prabhupada the most then definitely book distibution will have a special place in the heart of Srila Prabhupada, who could overlook the faults of a devotee trying to distribute his books and gave him unlimited mercy.

    ISKCON was first started on harinam sankirtana and then expanded through book distribution. It was do to this book distibution that devotees joined even in such environment like former USSR and other former comunits countries.

    But sometimes when we look the precentage of people who get interest in our books and then people who actually are practicing Krishna Counsciousness we see that book distribution has a primary role in bringing people closer to Krishna, but we should not forget to cultivate any soul which shows little interest.

    We are hearing many times of wonderful sankirtana lilas who a “searching soul” got Srila Prabhupada book, but then we see that somehow no one took care to water the creaper of devotion of this special soul.

    ISKCON definitely is taking turn to take care of this matter and developing a good follow up and congregational building program, seing that only distributing hunderds of thousands of books doesnt automatically result in more devotees.

    All ISKCON yatras should enthusiastically preach and distribute books but then not forget to give the addresses of interested people to someone who will really personally take care, keep contact, be available personally for questions, encouragement and building friendship.

    Without personal care there is rarely long term result. We should try to build up a network of devotees who can give some personal time to help people who got Srila Prabhupada books to help them to develop deeper and ongoing engagement in devotional service. In this way we can develop a system with front and back part. Sankirtana in front bringing people in contact and follow up, personal care in the back part. I think it is of great importance that sankirtana devotees see their activity in this broad way so that they can enthusiastically connect intersted people with someone who will care of them. Sometimes we are happy to distribute a book, and we keep this person on Krishnas care, but most of the time this struggling person even in begining enthused can not even reach his way to the temple.

    I think this is a very important meditation to conclude Srila Prabhupadas marathon even more successfully.

  3. Akruranatha says :

    Damana Krishna makes a good point.

    We could add that those book distributors who can learn how to really “touch the soul” of strangers they meet will be able to use that skill to continue “touching souls” as they build congregations and communities of devotees.

    If we think of our book distribution as a “con game” in which we fleece “marks” of their cash, we won’t engage in any follow up. A con artist never wants to see or hear from his victim again.

    Everything else our customers have contacted has been a “con game”, in the sense that the promise of material happiness is illusory. Our book distributors are finally bringing the real thing, that which can fully satisfy the soul.

    People don’t need “Chicken Soup for the Soul” (yuk!), they need Krishna Katha. But for most of them, it is not quite accessible yet. Book distributors have to make it accessible, by getting them the books and then providing follow up as possible (prasadam, holy name, visits to temple, oportunity for seva, and guided study)

    The fact that there is counterfeit money means there is real money somewhere. These books are the “real money”, the things that are more valuable than Sanatan Goswami’s touchstone, the great present need of human society.

    I do not think I could distriubute books without speaking. I am not that empowered, not that pure. But I am glad such devotees exist. They will be the ones who can also best follow through with building study groups and congregations.

  4. Akruranatha is making a valid point and Damana Krsna Prabhu too, I recall once on sankirtana in Germany where one young lady came to and asked me some questions about ISKCON and the books, she has priviously bought a book by a devotee ,but because the devotee was a bit pushy . she later threw it out simply because of his immature presentation.
    Srila Prabhupada has stated that if we distribute his books KC will automatically spread all over the world. the questions however also how they get distributed.
    We have heard the concern of scholarly devotees like Bhurijana Prabhu , that the books be distributed nicely. And we personally agree with this approach from many years experience on sankirtana.
    Back to the story of this young german lady-I was trying to pacifie her and she actually bought a book from me and promised to read it, and a godbrother overheard only the part
    that :” I threw the book in the trash”. So he came and started to chastise her–I have never thought of beating up a dear Godbrother- but I really felt like taking of my shoe and wack him over the head for his stupidity.I chastised him and said :” Prabhu, I will explain to you later, please apologize to this young lady , and she is actually interested in KC.”
    My Godbrother actually took my word for it and apologized to her- I was so embarrsed for having chastised him. She actually took the whole thing in a nice way and promised to read the book and visit a temple…I told her that I was there to train my godbrothers to distribute nicely and be nice to people, later that day I found some Bhagavad Gitas in the trash accidently, and I was very sad .
    However I must say that there is many persons that use such exceptions to say just see let us not distribute Srila Prabhupadas books, but i have seen devotees being made on the spot by contacting Srila Prabhupadas books and the devotees, there is a place for everything, congregational preaching is there too, and we want to make people devotees that is the point of bookdistribution .Srila Prabhupada said if they get a book and they go away angry then you are a nonsens. In the case of HH Sivarama Maharaja obviously the person appriciated–we want to use our speech to encourage people to become KC that is wanted.
    Your servant
    Payonidhi das