Sankirtana Spotlight #5 – Radhakund Devi Dasi

Radhakund Devi Dasi is one of the key sankirtan leaders within ISKCON Sandton’s book distribution team. She has always loved reading from the time she was a child.  As an adult, the first ISKCON book that she read was titled, “Prabhupada” – a biography of Srila Prabhupada, written by Satsavarupa dasa Goswami.  After reading this book, she immediately started chanting 16 rounds of japa, and became a devotee.  This is without doubt a demonstration of the potency of reading! This book remains the most treasured book to Radhakund Devi Dasi as it was instrumental to her pursuing the spiritual path.

There were many parts in the book which touched her deeply with the following being most profoundly moving to her:

“When Harikesa had received the call to come immediately to Vrindavan, he had been told to ‘expect the worst.’  Immediately he had contacted the printer, who was in the process of completing several books, and told him that he must have advance copies by the next day.  So by the time he got on the plane for India, he had newly printed volumes of the second canto of Srimad Bhagavatam in German, the Krsna trilogy in German, and a Yugoslavian Sri Isopanisad.  Harikesa went in and showed Prabhupada the seven new books.  Immediately Prabhupada took the first volume of the Krsna trilogy and held it up, looking at the cover painting of Radha and Krsna.  Prabhupada began crying and reached out, trying to stroke Harikesa’s head.  Harikesa reached out and held Srila Prabhupada’s hand, thinking himself unworthy of being patted.

‘He was rotting here, typewriting,’ said Srila Prabhupada, referring to when Harikesa had been his secretary, just before going to preach in Europe.  ‘I said, “You go.”  I had ten servants.  You thought that I was degrading you by sending you away. No.  Now you understand?’

‘Yes, I understand,’ said Harikesa, sobbing.    

‘Here is an intelligent boy, I thought,’ said Srila Prabhupada.  ‘Why should he rot here, typewriting?’  Prabhupada looked at each book.  ‘Printing and everything first class,’ he said.  He asked how many had been printed, and Harikesa replied, ‘One hundred twenty thousand Krsna trilogies, sixty thousand Srimad Bhagavatam Second Cantos, and ten thousand Isopanisads.’

‘Can you distribute that Isopanisad?’ Prabhupada asked.

The devotees in the room knew that Harikesa had been involved in distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books in the Communist countries of Eastern Europe, at great personal risk.  This knowledge heightened the already supercharged emotional intensity of the moment.”

This pastime occurred when Srila Prabhupada was extremely ill and was leaving his body.  Even as a non-devotee at the time, Radhakund Devi Dasi realised the intense passion that Srila Prabhupada had for book distribution and getting the spiritual knowledge out to all fallen souls. 

Over the years, Radhakunda Devi Dasi sold the odd book to friends and family.  Over the past few years however, book distribution became an important and fulfilling service to her.  She realised that just like her, there are so many souls, who are disillusioned with this material world, and who are also hankering after real knowledge.  Thus began her wonderful world of distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books and Back to Godhead magazines. It afforded her an opportunity to preach to strangers and also offer them the priceless opportunity to go back home, back to Godhead!

Radhakund Devi Dasi recounts instances in which people who had previously purchased a book, would spot the sankirtan team out on book distribution again:

“They then come and purchase more books and now stop to linger longer at the book table to chat about how reading a particular book has changed their life!  I really relish these special moments, to hear how a single book has impacted them so favourably.  This in turn strengthens my love and faith in Srila Prabhupada even more.  There are also the special moments where people ask for assistance in choosing their next book and want to stay in touch to share what captivates them in their own reading of Srila Prabhupada’s books and magazines.  Personally, this keeps me on my toes too!”

Initially Radhakunda Devi Dasi was apprehensive about approaching strangers to purchase books but she soon I realised that Srila Prabhupada and the parampara empower us on our book distribution journey.  Radhakund Devi Dasi explains an incident in which a woman with her children hurried past to go to a restaurant: 

“However, it was a Sunday evening, and the restaurant was already closed.  The lady was quite disappointed.  I quickly sent my daughter, Radhika Kripa Devi Dasi, to check if there was any prasad left from the Sunday love feast.  She came back with a plate of prasad and gave it to the woman.  She then said, ‘Tell me, do you pray with this food?  We are Muslim you know…’  I immediately thought of Srila Haridas Thakur and prayed for some inspiration.  I then told the lady that we actually pray all the time…we pray before we eat, we pray when we wake up, we pray before we do anything and actually we try and pray throughout the day as much as we can so that we can always remember God.  I also stressed the point that there is only one God!  She then turned to her teenage son and asked whether she should accept the plate of prasad.  Her son replied, “Ma, you heard the aunty – there is only one God.  Take the food – we’ll eat it!” 

So the lady accepted the plate of prasad!  She then insisted on giving a donation.  We had already packed away all the books from the book table.  However I had a few copies of the Back to Godhead magazines in my bag.  So I offered her these.  Again, the lady reminded me that they were Muslim.    I quickly went through the magazine articles with her and kept eye contact with her teenage son too.  And lo and behold, there was an article in the magazine that was appealing to teenagers!  Again the lady turned to her teenage son and asked if she should accept the magazines.  Again, the teenage son replied, ‘Mum, you heard what the aunty said – there’s only one God.  Take the magazines, I will read them!’  So, the lady graciously accepted the Back to Godhead magazines!  This is the causeless mercy of Srila Prabhupada, and the entire parampara!  I realised that I was the recipient of the causeless mercy of Srila Haridasa Thakur in empowering me to somehow be an instrument in this interaction with this Muslim family.”

Radhakund Devi Dasi emphasises that interactions such as these are priceless as they remind us about how we get the causeless mercy from our Acharyas.  She further explains, “Knowing that you can be an instrument in one more soul starting their journey back to Krishna, by purchasing a book and reading it is priceless! Reading how Srila Prabhupada has painstakingly written all these books, giving us this most matchless gift of Krishna consciousness, to get out of this repeated cycle of birth, death, old age and disease, is indeed most priceless!”

Srila Prabhupada ki jai!

Books and Back to Godhead magazine distribution ki jai!

Radhakunda Devi Dasi (3rd from left)

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