By Atma-Nivedana dasa
At our last Saturday evening, weekly Bhagavad Gita and Kirtan program for new people, which my wife, Subhangada dasi, and I organize and teach, I had an amazing experience that verified the truth of one of Srila Prabhupada’s most essential instructions: “So Kindly help me. This is my request. Print as many books in as many languages and distribute throughout the whole world. Then Krsna consciousness movement will automatically increase.”
We hold our classes at different locations in New York City, although the general plan is to have them at 26 2nd Avenue. Our program is meant to inspire people to become pure followers of Srila Prabhuapada who may associate with devotees at any of the various temples in the area, including the Bhakti Center, the Brooklyn temple, the Queens temple, the Queens other center, etc.
On weekend nights the sidewalks in the East Village of New York City are congested with pedestrian traffic. On this particular evening, quite a few people peered through the glass door to see what our small group of ten persons or so were doing as we sat focused on kirtan or on our Gita discussion. One such person had a sikha and carried a mrdanga. He watched our group for a minute or two, then walked inside, and proceeded to join us after we welcomed him.
After our final kirtan, while we were honoring prasadam made by two of the regular students (now devotees) in our class, I asked this young man a little about himself. He described how he first learned about Krishna consciousness when he was on a school trip to Washington D.C. in June of 1996. Outside the Air and Space museum, he said, he received the Sri Isopanisad and Higher Taste from a man in his twenties. As he narrated that event, a shivering sensation rushed through my body, my face turned red, and I felt as though the hairs on my head were standing on end. I exclaimed that the man who gave the books to him was either myself or my book distribution partner, Jamuna Jivana Prabhu, both based out of the Boston temple. I know of everyone who was distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books at that time by the museums in the mall in Washington D.C., and it had to have been one of us two, probably me, based on his description. Now this young man who received Srila Prabhupada’s books back in his school days is an enthusiastic devotee initiated in Gaudiya Vaisnavism.
Once in a long while we hear from another devotee in a distant locale about someone to whom we distributed a book who later became a devotee. But, what occurred this evening was, at least for me, unprecedented: someone to whom I or my sankirtan partner distributed books hundreds of miles away tells me fifteen years later at my and my wife’s own preaching program about how he first came in contract with Krsna consciousness through receiving books from us. Krishna is so kind to inspire and enliven us in ways we could never imagine.
Back in the 1990s, when book distribution was thriving in North America and Europe, millions of Srila Prabhupada’s books were distributed by hundreds of young men and women who surrendered to Srila Prabhupada’s mood and mission. Such glorious days were those. Back in Washinton D.C. in those days I was distributing 200 Isopanisads and other books every day, six days per week. Each surrendered devotee can easily distribute tens of thousands upon tens of thousands of books over the years if he or she really understands and respects what Srila Prabhupada meant when he said: “My first concern is that my books shall be published and distributed profusely all over the world. Practically, books are the basis of our movement. Without our books our preaching will have no effect.”
My encounter this Saturday evening was proof that Srila Prabhupada was correct, and that Srila Prabhupada’s emphasis should not be doubted or ignored. I know of several devotees who joined temples after having received Srila Prabhupada’s books from me during my eight years of full-time book distribution in the 1990s. But, sometimes I wonder what happened to the recipients of the other 150,000 books that I distributed during those years. One should not think that any of the books distributed by me or the many other sankirtan devotees around the world were, or are, distributed in vain. Indeed, Srila Prabhupada said, “My books are time bombs. We have to drop these millions of millions of these bombs (books) on the lap of conditioned souls.”
All glories to the sankirtana devotees. To all of you who are distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books today, please keep it up as there is nothing more sublime in this world that you could be doing with your life. To those who could add the activity of book distribution to your current schedule, please do so and reap rewards that are unfathomable. To those who distributed books in the past, your service has endeared yourself to Lord Krishna such that He will always protect you. Hare Krishna! Please bless us to be eternal sankirtan devotees.