An Unlikely Hero in the World of Sankirtana

Article Courtesy of Book Distribution Conference.

Ayodhya Dasa, a devotee of Indian descent, joined ISKCON in 1976 in
Detroit and was initiated by Srila Prabhupada in 1977. While in Detroit
he distributed books while serving in the life membership department.
But for many years he wanted to go to Vrndavana. In 1995 Krsna made the
arrangement. That year his brother-in-law passed away in India and he
was asked to attend the funeral ceremony because he was the only
surviving male in the family. He took the opportunity to visit
Vrndavana. He loved Vrndavana and decided he would move there. Dina
Bandhu Prabhu told him that Prabhupada wanted his books distributed on
the trains and encouraged Ayodhya to try it. He did, and though he
didn’t distribute many books he got a taste for book distribution. He
was also going shop to shop in Vrndavana and various towns near
Vrndavana, but then he started distributing exclusively on the trains.
He liked the trains for three reasons: one, because the people had
laxmi; two, because they were sitting there with nothing to do; and
three, because there were different people every day. He began traveling
from Mathura to Delhi and back every day.

Every morning he looks forward to going out again to distribute Srila
Prabhupada’s books. He doesn’t take a day off. He even goes out on
Janmastami — and he’s 76 years old! But in the summer he goes to the
West because it’s so hot in India and his wife and family are in the
West. He’s especially inspired by Srila Prabhupada’s statement “If you
want to please me, then distribute my books.” Upon hearing that for the
first time, he thought, “This is something I can do. There are not many
other things I can do, so it’s Krsna’s mercy that I can do something
that is pleasing to Prabhupada and Krsna.” Ayodhya Prabhu likes to
recall how he sold a Srimad-Bhagavatam volume to an Indian gentleman who
was later initiated as Rasaraja Prabhu, one of the leaders of the
Bhaktivedanta Institute.

When Ayodhya distributes the Bhagavad-gita he tells the person, “This
Bhagavad-gita is no ordinary book. Although it is 5,000 years old, it is
still famous all over the world, and although so many Bhagavad-gitas had
been translated into other languages and read all over the world before
this one, no one became a devotee of Krsna. But this ‘Bhagavad gita As
It Is’ has made thousands of devotees of Krsna all over the world.”

Sometimes he tells the customer, “I don’t think you are going to buy
this book, but at least look at the quality of the printing.” When they
look at the nice quality of the book, they quite often buy it. Reverse
psychology.

Ayodhya Prabhu says, “To distribute books is not easy. You have to be
humble, tolerant, and patient. Once I was showing a book to a Muslim. I
was detached, but I was trying. The man said, ‘I’m a Muslim. I’m not
interested in this book. But because of your gentle behavior, I will buy
this book from you.”

Ayodhya Prabhu has dedicated his life to book distribution and wants
others to also get the mercy by distributing books. He says, “Devotees
who retire can go to India or anywhere and distribute books. What good
is playing with the grandchildren and all that? To distribute books is
austere, but it is also very sweet. The austerity brings the
satisfaction. Book distribution is very nice. Prabhupada once said, ‘You
can hire a cook, you can hire a pujari, you can hire a cleaner, but a
preacher you cannot hire, because that comes from the heart.'”

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