Book Distribution Experiences:
By Srila Prabhupada’s mercy we’ve been able to be involved with book distribution. From roughly middle last year, I’ve had this desire to seriously get involved with this service. Harish Prabhu was kind enough to allow us to assist at the book stall he had in Actonville for the last year or so and I was wanting to expand this service going forward. I had certain ideas plans as to how we could do things but let’s just say Krsna had His plans and we had to adjust accordingly.
I’m just another soul struggling to be Krsna conscious and serve Srila Prabhupada in some way and need all the support I can get on this devotional path. The family (Pam Mataji, Nesan and Luvasan Prabhus), Archi Mataji and temple devotees have encouraged and supported this book distribution service, fulfilled this desire I’ve had and definitely showed their compassion in helping get Srila Prabhupada’s books to the souls out there.
kripa-sindhubhya eva ca
vaishnavebhyo namo namah
I offer my respectful obeisances unto all the Vaishnava devotees of the Lord. They can fulfill the desires of everyone, just like desire trees, and they are full of compassion for the fallen souls.
In early March, we visited St James school in Jeppestown after making arrangements with the principal, Mr Grace. We actually met a student from this school at Harish Prabhu’s book stall last year some time – she mentioned that her school teaches Sanskrit, practice some sort of meditation, etc – so we took down her details and followed up with this. I think they are following some sort of Advaita Vedanta – ie. impersonalism – that the living entity and God are one. This is in contrast to our Vaisnava philosophy and conclusions, as we worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna.
Anyways, we met early one morning at the school and Mr Grace allowed me to give a short talk in the assembly on why we were there. I kept the talk very basic but stressed that we need to understand that God is in control and not us and that we must comply with His plans and that prayer is very important. Our main aim was to leave some of Srila Prabhupada’s books in the library which we did, together with some flyers and calendars. The staff partook of some snack Prasadam that Pam Mataji kindly provided. Getting contact details and following up with a person is very important and it’s something I need to do more consistently and diligently.
We try to go out every weekend, juggling between work, other services, temple activities, etc. Saturday morning is always a peak time for people to be out and about. It doesn’t really matter where you go, as everyone is suffering in this material world and needs to be told that only surrender to Krsna can solve all of our problems that we are battling with.
We met a family opposite the East Rand mall. They were selling couches and seats one would have in your lounge or so. Business was a bit quiet at that time and the devotees spoke to them, gave them some Prasadam and some books as well. They said they were Christians but were eager to have a look at the books. Just as we were about to move on, they got their first customer for the day – I think he bought 3 items from them, took a book from us and also gave a donation. They were so happy to have a customer (I think they attributed this to the devotees being there and giving them some luck with the business), that they also gave us a donation for which we were most thankful.
One thing I’ve realized is that we are so fortunate, the Lord has kept us all comfortable and provided for. He’s allowing us a chance to go out during the weekend for example and do this service for Him. The other’s out there, like this family, are forced to spend this same time trying to earn some money to put food on the table, etc. I also saw this when we used to be at Harish Prabhu’s stall – we were all well situated, health wise, work wise, family wise – plus we came to Krsna consciousness and were engaged in service, while the other stalls around us had people trying to make ends meet. We have this opportunity to make a difference in our lives and other’s live as well, so it’s important we all do our little part in spreading this Krsna consciousness.
We also met Pitso and his family while he was having his car washed. He’s a project manager at Std Bank and asked some intelligent questions which we tried to answer as best we could. We told him all the answers to his questions are in the books we gave them and that they are welcome to visit us and contact us going forward. He was kind enough to give us a donation and also thanked the devotees for the welfare work they were doing.
Going out on book distribution means you have to be prepared for all kinds of situations, people, etc. We also want to give them as much as we can in that few minutes or so that they are willing to give us. The Matajis are most merciful and always have Prasadam cookies/sweets for the customers. From practical experience, we see how the Prasadam helps in our dealings with public as a means of easily getting someone’s attention. We also hand out flyers with all our contact details and temple info. Archi Mataji kindly provided us with chanting bags and beads – we occasionally give these out to someone serious about chanting, etc. Mataji also had some of Prabhupada’s books in Zulu and Afrikaans and we’ve given many of these to customers who were more comfortable with these languages.
Sometimes they want just a book, sometimes just Prasadam, sometimes just a flyer – ideally we want them to take Srila Prabhupada’s books but if not, we want them to take back something with them. Thanks to temple, we’ve had some extra calendars for 2010 with beautiful Krsna pictures and we’ve distributed most of them with no hassle at all. It’s encouraging to know the customers will be taking darshan of the Lord in their homes. We must be prepared with as much of this paraphernalia if possible.
The flyers we made have Bhagavad Gita verses and Srila Prabhuapda quotes as well as some intro info to peak someone’s interest – eg. who are you, what is your purpose here, etc, as well as the Hare Krsna Maha mantra. All this is from Srila Prabhupada’s books and if someone just opts to take a flyer, at least they’ll read a few lines that could change their lives as well. We’ve also added our contact details and Namahatta/Temple activities and details too.
Most of the people are mild mannered and easy to deal with. Ones that aren’t interested politely say that they are not and we move on to the next person. Occasionally, we’ll get someone who is a bit intimidated or uncomfortable by us and gives us a hard time.
There was one such person we encountered one morning in our Primrose town area in Germiston. We were doing our thing, handing out flyers, Prasadam, books, etc and I saw this man handing out bread rolls to the people walking by. I could see he was watching us as we were showing one of the customers the lovely pics of Krsna in the 2010 ISKCON calendar. Later on, on our way back, we crossed paths with this man again – I saw that he had a t-shirt with something about Jesus and understood that he was from one of the local church congregations.
We got into a conversation and he was definitely annoyed with us preaching and doing our thing as well. I remember talking to him about having compassion for all God’s creatures, not just human beings and that Christ himself preached this but this man wasn’t interested and started to become blasmephous. I knew it was time to go – we said Hare Krsna and left him still shouting and misbehaving. It pains me to see such behaviour but this is a reality and is all part of going out on book distribution and dealing with the public.
There are lots of Jehovah witnesses in our area and we cross paths every weekend we go out. Most of them are friendly, some even stop to discuss philosophy. They won’t take Srila Prabhupada’s books but many of them can’t resist having a Prasadam cookie or 2. One thing I’ve seen with these Jehovahs Witnesses, is their spirit and dedication to their mission. They are always out and about in numbers, almost every morning of the week – men, women, kids as well. We can definitely learn from this and try to do the same going forward.
There’s so much more to write about – watch this space for more stories…
Thanks for the opportunity to share these experiences with you’ll as well.
Your servants on the East Rand,
Srila Prabhupada Ki Jai!
Transcendental book distribution Ki Jai!
Srila Prabhupada quote:
Be assured that there is no more direct way to preach than to distribute Krishna conscious books. Whoever gets a book is benefited. If he reads the book he is benefited still more, or if he gives the book to someone else for reading, both he and the other person is benefited. Even if one does not read the book but simply holds it and sees it, he is benefited. If he simply gives small donation towards the work of Krishna consciousness he is benefited. And anyone who distributes these transcendental literatures, he is also benefited. Therefore Sankirtana is the prime benediction for the age.
[Letter to German disciples, 6 May 1977]