The following questions were asked by Tungya vidya devi dasi from Brasil.
Q: How important is book distribution?
A: This question alone could serve as the subject for an entire book. Srila Prabhupada appreciated all kinds of devotional service, but book distribution was his main concern.
When he came to the West he was penniless, but he brought his books with him. He never intended to start a movement, initiate disciples or build any temples. Later he said, "Even if nothing else happened, at least I followed the order of my spiritual master, published some books and sold them to English-speaking people."
But when Srila Prabhupada saw the young confused hippie seekers, he found them useful in helping him at PRODUCE and DISTRIBUTE BOOKS.
The first disciples saw that Srila Prabhupada was very open with them and talked about Krsna... but eventually always reverted back to his type of writer and wrote "his" books. As they were vocabulary captured by Srila Prabhupada's love for them, they soon found that the books he wrote were THEIR books written for them and for anyone else who was looking for a way to get close to God.
Everything Srila Prabhupada did, said and taught was based on his books. In fact, his books are the backbone of his movement. Without his books, just by chanting and worshipping Krsna in our own way, we could easily become sahajias and eventually lose our way back home, back to Godhead.
It's only logical that anyone who wants to please Srila Prabhupada should in any way possible become part of his book distribution in some way, either as a book distributor or as an assistant book distributor. This is the debt we owe to His Divine Grace, a debt that can never be repaid... but we can at least try by becoming part of the book distribution.
Q: What is your history of book distribution?
A: When I joined the Srila Prabhupada's movement in 1974 I was lucky. In a yatra of maybe 40 devotees, nobody did anything else as book distribution. Even being a shy introverted boy I could never imagine doing anything of that sort, to be recognized as a devotee...I had to distribute books.
Standing the first day on the street, being left there alone with a bundle of magazines, freshly shaved, dressed in an orange curtain as a dhoti, (nobody was in India yet). I thought of myself being already transferred to another body, having died without noticing:-)
Fearfully I approached only elderly ladies, asking them for a small donation and giving them a magazine. Not many saw a devotee on the street yet, people were simply amazed, considering me a madman in a bedsheet roaming around.
Nevertheless, nobody was aggressive and after a few hours, my 200 magazines were gone. Devotees picked me up in the late afternoon wondering what happened to all the magazines.
Finding out they were all distributed, they brought me to the temple, reporting the happy news to the temple president. I still remember the huge grin on his face when he said "hey, he is a sankirtan devotee!"
For the next fifteen years, my car became my home and the temple was just a place to have the most ecstatic kirtans, get darshan of the Deities, accept huge amounts of prasadam and finally load my car again to roam the country up and down.
Even being later on for 25 years temple president, I am back in my car again, the place of my spiritual birth.
Book distribution gave me everything. Life, ecstasy, understanding of the nature of my body, wonderful association with ecstatic sankirtan devotees, way of learning to deal with conditioned souls, way to see things as they are and not what they seem to be...and above all it made me a recipient of Srila Prabhupada's mercy without which I couldn't even write this text.
Whoever desires to be recognized by the pure devotee and get the same mercy I got should become part of Srila Prabhupada's book distribution.
Q: Would you like to tell us any special stories that happened while distributing books?
A: All the major stories I can remember are recorded on my website. They all carry some lesson as sankirtan devotee is constantly under the supervision of Krsna and his spiritual master, including the Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada. Once one becomes a tool in Krsna's hand amazing things start to happen. Book distribution cannot be materially understood or explained. It is ahaituky apratihata, it doesn't have any material origin and it cannot be stopped by any material cause. It is purely transcendental and it is up to us to realize it by practice.
Q: What inspires you to distribute books?
A: It is the closeness to Srila Prabhupada I feel when engaged in this way. I have to admit that my compassion for the conditioned soul has still its limits, seeing them being absorbed in such destructive activities, arrogant and obstinate to take any good advice can one occasionally fill with disgust. But as soon one approaches them with Srila Prabhupada's books that disgust fades away and the feeling of doing the right thing at right time, pleasing His Divine Grace, takes over.
Srila Prabhupada's love for us was so great that when following in his footsteps even we can also become SPIRITUALLY loving.
Q: What would you advise someone who wants to distribute books?
A: Give Krsna a chance. A chance to use you in this wonderful service. Don't consider yourself useful or useless, let Krsna be the judge of that. Simply walk out on the street and give a book to the first person you meet. Smile, look into his eyes, and tell him that this is a book for those who seek real happiness. Keep things as simple as possible. Sankirtan is simple for the simple ones and complicated for the complicated ones.
Don't listen to your mind!
Once one of the foremost sankirtan devotees told us a story in Mayapur about how he goes on sankirtan. Seeing the books being stored in his garage, he considers going on sankirtan. Immediately his mind remembers that he has so many other things to do.
"Good", thinks our sankirtan hero, "today I cannot go on sankirtan but I can at least put the books into my car so TOMORROW I can go on sankirtan. "The mind is happy and agrees. But then the devotees think, "since I already got the books into my car, I can as well sit in my car and FEEL how it will be to go tomorrow on sankirtan."
The mind is not objecting.
"Well, since I got the feeling to sit in my car with the books, I could as well take a short ride and look at the place I will distribute TOMORROW."
And so he drives around, finally parking the car, thinking: "Well since I am here I could as well try to handle some book to somebody so I know how it feels TOMORROW."
By the time he distributed his first book, he distributes his second and so he finds himself on sankirtan TODAY.
The mind got cheated:-)
These are dialogues and this is the preaching to oneself a sankirtan devotee has to do every day to avoid Maya's tricks. In her view there is never an opportune time to distribute books, material energy always offers some excuse. But remembering Srila Prabhupada and his determination to preach all the time to everybody, even to the walls, we become the recipients of the mercy of guru parampara and get to see how a blind man can see stars in the sky, a man who never spoke can recite poetry and lame man can dance wonderfully. For Krsna nothing is impossible, let's give him a chance to use us.
Nobody is disqualified to distribute Srila Prabhupada's book....provided he wants to do it.
Sankirtan ki Jaya!
Srila Prabhupada ki Jaya!