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Dandavats! All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga!

Friends of the BBT Newsletter – February 08

Sunday, 03 February 2008 / Published in Book distribution, Newsletters / 4,213 views

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In loving service to His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness and The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust

In This Issue…



South American BBT

by Madhava Smullen

Spanish is the second most widely-spoken language in the Western World.
And while many of the people of South America are poor, their piety and respect for religion is such that they will part with their last pennies in exchange for a spiritual book. On top of that, even staunch Catholics show a warm receptivity to yoga and Indian philosophy.

Yet rather than triumph, history only reveals a dark struggle for the Spanish BBT. Book distribution in Spain diminished in the late eighties and early nineties after the ISKCON leader there abandoned ship. The Chaitanya-charitamrita, on which translation had been completed, could not be printed. Production froze for the best part of ten years, and in 2004 the Spanish office finally closed, with Spanish language operations shifting to South America instead.

Things there were no better. Although hundreds of thousands of books had been distributed in Mexico over the past 35 years, now thousands of dollars were owed in debt. Bad management and dishonesty had fractured devotees’ trust in the BBT. In Columbia, ISKCON had been devastated by splinter movements. Book distribution in Peru was difficult, with only a small BBT presence and devotees scattered throughout the country. And Argentina was a financial wreck.

Enter Hanuman Dasa, an assistant BBT Director from Barcelona assigned to the case. In 1978, he had left his university teaching job to join a commune with many other spiritual seekers. But when one of his closest friends joined the Hare Krishnas and sent him a Bhagavad-gita, his life was changed forever. “I know these books have the power to change the lives of others for the best too,” he says. “And that’s why I want to help bring them to the people of Latin America.”

Hanuman has his work cut out for him. There are four BBT offices in South America: A Mexico City one that deals with Central America, Columbia and the Caribbean; a small office in Lima, Peru, that also serves Equador and Bolivia; an Argentinian office serving Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay; and finally, a Brazilian office for Portuguese-speaking countries. And they all need his attention.

“I spend at least four months of the year traveling,” he says. “These offices are still finding their feet, and I have to spend time training them in accounting, legal systems and more. I also must mend broken relationships with the BBT, and re-establish our credibility and identity in Latin America. That’s a challenge.”

But Hanuman is taking to it well, and so are South American devotees and the 15-20 superhuman staff that somehow manage to handle all the BBT work for this huge continent.

“The facts speak for themselves,” Hanuman says. “Devotees in Columbia distributed 3,000-4,000 books during the 2007 Prabhupada Marathon, and just bought 10,000 more. Not bad for a country in which ISKCON has been devastated for many years.”

The pattern continues—in Chile, book distribution is also on the rise, with the Santiago  temple relentlessly promoting sankirtana and the temple president himself a dedicated book distributor. Argentina is organizing a huge festival for congregational members across South America. And Peru, where the BBT office is the home of a dedicated householder couple, has purchased several thousand Bhagavad-gitas for university distribution. “The devotees in Peru are saints,” Hanuman says. “With the financial state of the country, they can go out all day and return with less than four dollars at the most. But that never stops them.”

Even the Spanish Chaitanya-charitamrita, translated over ten years ago, is now being resurrected. Madhusevita and his staff at the Mediterranean BBT are working hard on the huge job of indexing the epic scripture, and they expect it to be released in summer 2008. The handy four-volume format will be aimed at a devotee audience rather than mass distribution, and is eagerly awaited.

The BBT’s greatest success in the Spanish-speaking world may be in Mexico, however, where under Aravinda Dasa’s able management, book distribution increased 42% in the past year, and five sankirtana parties took part in the 2007 Prabhupada Marathon.

“We’re also developing a relationship with the huge South American congregation, encouraging them to be BBT agents and book distributors,” says Hanuman. “There are 1,000 congregational devotees in Mexico City, and at least 8,000 in Brazil. If every family distributed just one book a week, that would be 150,000 books a year.”

Hanuman is adamant that the BBT is there to serve, help and inspire these devotees, and that they are the only way book distribution in South America will truly succeed. “I fall at the feet of those householder devotees who struggle to earn a livelihood distributing books, despite being able to get a higher paying job if they wanted,” he says. “Sometimes the BBT has acted like the ones who know better and make the decisions—but we’re definitely their servants.”

With this refreshing outlook, things are finally looking up for the South American BBT. The year 2006 saw an impressive 350,000 books distributed, and they aim to increase this annual output, reaching their goal of one million books in the year 2012.

The marathon is on. Watch this space.


News in Brief

Premier Website on Book Distribution Launched

The new was launched at the Dallas meeting of ISKCON leaders on January 26. The go-to place for active or aspiring book distributors, the site includes strategies, techniques and tips, videos, audio lectures, seminars, and more—everything you could possibly want.

And if you’re wondering what to say or how to deal with a tricky situation, you can get the answers to all your questions from expert book distributors. We’ll be covering the site in depth in a future issue of our newsletter, but in the meantime, check it out for yourself and see what you think.

Nirguna Dasa Passes Away

Veteran book distributor Nirguna Dasa passed away recently on November 3, 2007 in Mayapur, surrounded by chanting of the holy name. Beloved godbrothers remember him as simple, sincere, and a dedicated servant of his spiritual master Srila Prabhupada.  

His determination to serve, through years of traveling sankirtana and difficult management projects, was a prominent quality. Once, as he led a harinam party through downtown Atlanta, he was assaulted and injured by several thugs. Yet the very next day, he joined the chanting party again, unafraid and undaunted.

Godbrother Vaishnavananda Dasa recalls, “Once, after a blissful day on book-distribution, he told me, ‘Vaisnavananda, I want to preach and distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books for the rest of my life!’ When he said this, I saw his face glow, his eyes bright with love as he made this promise to Srila Prabhupada.”

Nirguna fulfilled this promise, and his life is a perfect example that we can all aspire to.

People Profile

by Yamaraja Dasa

When small-town boy Yamaraja stepped off the subway into New York for the first time, he felt scared and alone. He dragged his huge suitcase through the city, outrageously conspicuous in his orange-burst robes. His heart skipped a little as he noticed a group of black gang members hovering around behind him like eagles waiting to attack. Suddenly,  he heard a commanding voice say, “Leave him alone,” and the predators dispersed as a policeman seemed to appear from nowhere.  

Yamaraja relaxed and smiled. It was his first day working for the BBT, and he knew that Krishna was watching over him.

There were still bumps, though. When he tiptoed past the layout department where he’d been assigned to work, grabbing a drawing board and surreptiously trying to blend into the art department instead, a stern Jayadvaita Dasa appeared at the door. “Is Yamaraja here?”

Yamaraja, an art major in college, reluctantly raised his hand. Jayadvaita led him mercilessly back to his destiny, sat him down, and slapped a picture of Radha and Krishna on the wall in front of him. “That’s a reminder of who you’re working for,” he said, and left.

“I soon realized that my work also had an artistic quality—I was making Prabhupada’s books look good,” Yamaraja says. “And I knew it was important. We weren’t distributing books, but Prabhupada always made us feel like we were part of the Sankirtana movement. He said that they were shooting, and we were making the ammunition.”

Yamaraja also grew to like and respect the candid Jayadvaita, who worked with him for many of the incredible 33 years he has spent with the BBT to date. It was with Jayadvaita that he moved on to Back to Godhead magazine, after the grueling but rewarding Chaitanya-charitamrita marathon of ’75. “His dedication, professionalism and Krishna consciousness is inspiring,” Yamaraja says.

BTG moved from New York, to Philadelphia, to San Diego, where in 1989 Yamaraja had to face the biggest challenge of his devotional career—making the switch from T-square and light table to computers. “At first I was completely lost,” he recalls, “But that didn’t stop
the deadlines. It was a heavy time—I really had to do a lot of praying and soul-searching to stop myself from imploding.”

Today, Yamaraja works with editor Nagaraja Dasa at the BTG/ offices in Alachua, Florida. “Now all the work that required several departments in the seventies can be handled by a fraction of the people,” he says adding that less can be more. “I have more consistent quality control and creative freedom.”   

Yamaraja has now worked with Back to Godhead for 28 years, and says it’s a very powerful tool for reaching the masses. “It’s a way of establishing a connection and giving Krishna conscious philosophy without imposing—it just comes in through your mailbox,” he explains. “It also allows for creativity in a way books can’t.”

He hopes that future issues see more social criticism from a transcendental viewpoint, more interfaith and political dialogue, and more brand new BBT artwork. But most of all, he’d like to see ISKCON stand behind BTG more as a society—it is, after all, The Magazine of the Hare Krishna Movement. “With everyone’s input and enthusiasm, it could really explode,” Yamaraja says.

One of the strongest rocks the BBT has ever had, we are fortunate to have him. But  Yamaraja considers himself the one indebted. “I owe a lot to this service,” he says. “It’s saved my devotional life.”

And no, there’s no secret to his steadfastness. “I just connected with a service that spoke to me, and I feel blessed to have it,” is his simple answer. “I felt accustomed to it from the beginning, so why do anything else? It’s a very liberating feeling.” 

Distribution Story of the Month

When Angry Cops Call

by Murari Gupta Dasa

After a busy day distributing books at the train station in Boriwili, India, we packed all the books from our stall into boxes and made our way back to the temple, exhausted. The next day at breakfast, the phone rang.

It was the inspector of police, calling for me. And he wasn’t happy.

“You left a box of Bhagavad-gitas at the train station,” he roared. “You fool! Do you know how much panic that can cause in these days of bomb scares? Luckily the number of your temple was written on the box, so I could call you. You better get over to the police station right now to pick it up.”

By the time I arrived, the inspector seemed more relaxed. I identified my box and turned to leave, but as I did an idea struck me. “Sir, would you like to see a Bhagavad-gita?” I asked.

He consented, and so I ripped the tape off and handed him one. As I gave an explanation, another policeman arrived and peered into the box. I handed him a Bhagavad-gita, which he purchased before leaving and returning with a group of co-workers.

Fifteen minutes later, I had distributed Bhagavad-gitas to eight more policemen. I was delighted. At the train station the day before, I had put so much effort into distributing one Bhagavad-gita. But now Krishna had brought these books to the station and simply made me an instrument to deliver them. The inspector’s fear of finding a bomb in the box had been well-founded: Srila Prabhupada’s books are precision-guided bombs. They focus on a target, deliver themselves to it, and simply explode.

Visit our website for more stories like this >>

Download the PDF version here.


Fighting Impersonalism and Voidism

“Yes, we are fighting impersonalism and voidism with pure devotional service. Impersonalism and voidism kills the natural aptitude of devotion which is lying dormant in everyone’s heart.

Therefore we are printing books like our KRSNA book so that people may know it that the supreme absolute truth is a person. The perfection of every living creature is to render transcendental loving service to that Supreme Person and thereby go back home, back to Godhead.

Krishna has said in Bhagavad-gita that “whoever explains my transcendental glories to others is most dear to me in this world and never will there be one more dear to me than he.”

So go on with your organization for distribution of my books through press and other modern media and Krishna will certainly be pleased upon you.                   

   Letter to Bhagavan, 24 November, 1970


Book Distribution Totals for October

During the month of December 2007,
170 temples reported distributing the
following number of books:

Books and magazines: 1,863,510

2007 year to date:5,387,283

461,638,491   literatures distributed worldwide since 1965.

All glories to
Srila Prabhupada!




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