Submitted by Murari Dasa
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
A few weeks back we started going house to house on Sundays, here in Blantyre, Malawi. With me was Bhakta Ram, an expatriate Indian professional who started attending Bhagavad-gita classes about one and a half years ago and who subsequently took up the process of Krishna consciousness.
So far we have gone out on 4 Sundays. On the first Sunday that we went out we were used as instruments for giving out two books. I had gone house to house in India for at least about two years in the South. But this was Malawi, in Africa, worlds apart. I didn’t know what to expect or what to say or how to present myself and the books. And so I just followed whatever we did in India and then tried to adjust accordingly. Still my mind tried to play tricks on me and questions came up in my mind like; “Why should they take these books when they have nothing in common with the culture philosophy or religion?”, “Supposing we annoy some people for coming on their ‘rest day’?” and “Perhaps two devotees is not enough, we should be at least 4 or 5 for safety?” So I thought the best thing is just go out and walk quickly and knock on the first gate to remove these cobwebs from my mind. I started chanting all the pranam mantras that I knew starting with my Guru Maharaja and then the Guru Parampara, Nrsimha, and others. We started out in the most posh part of town; Namiwawa. For some reason everyone was out and we didn’t know why. And then one of the guards supplied the answer when we told him what we were doing. He said everyone is in church till about 11am or so, so we won’t be able to meet anyone. Its better we started at about 11am. Anyway we managed to distribute two books. One to a young couple who it seems had just woken up when we knocked at their door, and the other to an elderly British man who had been in Malawi for many years. He took a Bhagavad-gita for his wife who he says has been doing and teaching Hatha Yoga for many years. He mentioned that he normally doesn’t answer when anyone comes on Sunday morning but that when his guard came and told him some from ‘ISKCON’ came he thought the guard said ISKOR which is a company that a friend of his works for.
On the second Sunday, we were used as instruments for giving out 3 books. This time we made sure we started at the time when the church goers would be back. So we set out at 10:45am on the same street as the last Sunday. The first book, a Bhagavad-gita went to a woman who was exiting her house in her car. I saw her getting in the car just as we were about to knock at the gate and then thought that it was better to just wait for her to drive out and then speak to her here. She was frowning and seemed really stressed out and because of that I almost didn’t stop her thinking there was no point. But I started speaking about how the Gita solves our problems in life and she got interested and even asked to see the other books we had (Nectar of Devotion, Srimad Bhagavatam 1st Canto and Krishna book). She took the Gita but then hesitated and told us that she was a Christian and would this conflict with her belief? I told her no this book is for all spirit souls and she was a spirit soul. The second book went to an old Sinhalese woman in her 70’s from Canada who was visiting her son in Malawi for some time. He had gotten married to a Malawian lady. She (the mother) was a Buddhist and was surprised to find out that we taught about reincarnation in our books. “Just like Buddhists!” she said. So she ended up taking a book, and said that it was only because we were teaching about reincarnation, which no one else teaches or believes in. She took a Krishna Book. The third book went to a woman who said she heard of Krishna before and she saw it written on the Hindu temple in town. Are we Hindus she asked us? I told her no we were not Hindus but we share similar teachings and scriptures. She took a Krishna Book.
On the third Sunday, we were used as instruments for giving out 4 books. By now Bhakta Ram was relishing Sankirtan and would call a few times one or two days before Sunday to confirm that we were indeed going out and what time should we meet at? This was different from before when I had to call him a few times to check that he hadn’t changed his mind about coming yet. The first book went to a Malawian woman who answered the banging on her gate, while carrying her toddler. We gave a small introduction and seeing our tilak and attire began to speak about the time in India she spent recently. She said she had recently visited Kerala in India on the recommendation of some friends, for some health issues and her neighbours there seeing that she was foreign visited her house out of courtesy. In the course of her conversations while in Kerala they spoke on Bhagavad-gita. So we showed her the Gita and she took it immediately and seemed happy to get it.
A few houses from that is where the bomb really blew up. We knocked at the gate and the guard was so favourable and polite and went to call his boss immediately. We peeped inside the compound to see a massive compound with manicured lawns. It was so big that we couldn’t immediately see where in the compound the house was. The owner arrived with a jolly smile after a while. I told him we were Hare Krishnas and had he ever met Hare Krishna’s before? He said ‘Oh Krishna ? That’s the Hindu God isn’t it? I said no Krishna is a name of God just like Jehovah or Allah. I then showed him the Gita and spoke a little about it as well as the Vedas. He said yes he remembers something about the Vedas from his Indian friends while spending time in New York as a student. Then he looked over at Bhakta Ram who was holding the effulgent Srimad Bhagavatam reflecting the afternoon sun. What about that book? Immediately Bhakta Ram replied that this book has everything about God and all the contents of these other books we were carrying. He seemed interested and took it to have a look. I showed him how the second verse said that when one studies the Srimad Bhagavatam there is no need of any other scripture. Then he said he would take it and we told him the price. He went in and got the money and paid us and then gave us his business card. It turned out that he was the CEO for the Malawi Stock Exchange!
After that we were in a daze. We couldn’t walk properly or even think clearly due to being intoxicated and didn’t realize while walking after leaving that house we were walking into a dead end. The road had ended after that and there were no houses on either side, so we turned back and tried hard to focus to continue sankirtan. I had taken the Srimad Bhagavatam with us that morning as we seemed low on other books and we didn’t really think we could distribute it. We didn’t even present it to anyone. But I guess Krishna had His own plans and when the time was right it virtually distributed itself right out of our hands to that fortunate soul. I tried to think how Simon (his name) would change after reading just the first verse and the purport. And what about his family? Maybe there were some future devotees there.
So after that we managed to give two more books by Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mercy. In one house a woman showed up who gladly took a ‘Nectar of Devotion’ within a few minutes of our speaking about it. Two houses from there another gentleman answered the banging on his gate (these houses were so big that we had to really bang hard for the owners in their houses to hear us), and looked a little surprised to see us in devotional attire and tilak. He seemed nervous and said he couldn’t take a book as he was a Christian at the same time he reached out for a ‘Nectar of Devotion’ and started leafing through the pages and reading the blurb etc. All the while we were trying to tell him to take the book and he was shaking his head, yet still reading passages from the book intently. That was a mistake. These books are like Krishna, all attractive and if one didn’t want to take one of these books, then the last thing to do is start reading the book. Sure enough after sometime Srila Prabhupada penetrated the layers to his Soul, through the medium of the words he was reading, and he (the man) took the book. All Glories to Srila Prabhupada !
Last Sunday (Easter) we couldn’t go out as the head of state had died of a cardiac arrest and there was a disagreement over who would succeed him. The state media advised everyone to stay indoors. I couldn’t help thinking that; “yes, but our mission is an emergency, maybe we should be allowed out?” Anyway we went out the next day, Monday which was a public Holiday. We were mercifully allowed to be a part of the beginning of the spiritual journeys of two fortunate souls.
The first one was a student who seemed to be living in a house full of students. She said she liked the book (Bhagavad-gita) but didn’t have money. They had just gone shopping for items for one week. I could see all the bags of groceries and vegetables. Could we come the day after tomorrow to collect the money? So we left the book with her and came to collect the money a few days later. Also on that day we entered a compound and walked up the driveway to see a man reading a small pocket bible on his lawn. I introduced the Bhagavad-gita to him and he looked very serious and sober. He then said; “OK let me see what you people have to say [about God]” and so he took the Bhagavad-gita.
Every time a book goes out here for me it seems like a miracle. In India people know what Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam is and who Krishna is, but what made people here take these books? We hear how even the Muslims and Christians HAVE TO give their books out for free as no-one will buy them. This proves the transcendental nature of these books. A lot of times that we sell books, we have to come and collect the money the next day or even in instalments. That is how much of a problem poverty is here. And yet still they open these books, see the images of Srila Prabhupada, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Krishna and hear the philosophy and in an instant they are not Malawians anymore but spirit souls who are awakening their dormant yet eternal love and attraction to Sri Govinda.
I feel extremely grateful for being able to participate in this Sankirtan movement in any way that is pleasing to the Vaisnavas and Sri Gauranga. Especially here in Malawi, people are suffering so much from poverty, corruption, etc. The lower sections of society in particular are being manipulated quite badly. We are so fortunate that Srila Prabhupada gave us the antidote for all ill effects of Kali Yuga in one stroke- Sankirtan. Just by distributing these books and the Holy name (in one way book distribution is also distribution of the holy name) I am convinced we can remove poverty, hunger, disease, cow-killing, intoxication, crime etc and all other evils of Kali Yuga without resorting to patchwork fixes to sort out each of these problems individually. All Glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga !