Diary of a Traveling Sadhaka, Vol. 17, No. 6
By Krishna Kripa Das
(March 2021, part two)
Tallahassee, Gainesville, Tampa
(Sent from Tallahassee on April 3, 2021)
Where I Went and What I Did
For the second half of March, I again found myself in Tallahassee, Gainesville, and Tampa. In Tallahassee I was happy that several Florida State University students came to our second music and meditation program at our temple, and they ended up dancing ecstatically in the kirtan. I had nice experiences chanting at Landis Green on the FSU campus on weekdays and at Lake Ella on weekends as usual. Bhakta Jeff of Tampa organized a twelve-hour kirtan the day before Gaura Purnima, and I decided to support him by going there again and also to please Ramiya Prabhu by advertising our University of South Florida Bhakti Yoga Society in the course of doing harinama on that campus for the two days before. It occurred to me it was highly unlikely I would be able to convince anyone in Tallahassee or Gainesville to do harinama for three hours with me on Gaura Purnima, so I decided to spend that holiday in Tampa because I knew I could count on Bhakta Jeff for harinama. We ended up doing harinama at two venues in Tampa for three hours and twenty-four minutes on that holy day and seven devotees participated in the chanting and an Indian devotee couple distributed books when we chanted outside Patel Brothers.
I share excerpts from the writings and lectures of Srila Prabhupada and the writings of Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami. I share notes on Back To Godhead magazine articles by Sivarama Swami, Caitanya Candra Prabhu, and Madhurika Devi Dasi. I share absolutely amazing sankirtana stories and realizations from many, many devotees, which are included in Vijaya Prabhu’s soon-to-be-published book, Tribute to the Brhat Mrdanga.
Thanks to Jeff for driving me from Gainesville to Tampa. Thanks to Jorge for sharing his Instagram video of our musical meditation program for college students. Thanks to Vivasvan Prabhu for facilitating my stay in Tampa and to Sruti Sagar Prabhu for facilitating my visit to Krishna House.
February 9–April 28: Tallahassee harinamas and college outreach
April 29–May 1: Tampa harinamas
May 2–3: Orlando harinamas
May 4–: NYC Harinam
Chanting Hare Krishna in Tallahassee
On weekdays, Chandrashekhara Acharya Prabhu would join me in chanting at least an hour a day on Landis Green, behind the main FSU library.
While I was chanting Hare Krishna at Lake Ella in Tallahassee on the weekend, one man appeared happy to see me. I showed him Chant and Be Happy as his gray hair caused me to think he might remember George Harrison from his youth. He smiled and told me he had some of the books, and in fact, he had Bhagavad-gita As It Is!
Then he said, “It is nice to see someone keeping the tradition alive.”
I smiled and said, “Someone has to. It is predicted to continue for 10,000 years!”
He liked that, and said, “Namaste!” as he left with his Chant and Be Happy!
One man with a graying beard (left) said, “Hare Krishna!” as he passed by.
I said, “You say that very nicely!”
That’s something I often say to encourage them. But this time I added, “Have you been practicing?”
He replied, “No. Not recently.”
On his next lap around the lake, the lady in the threesome said several words of the mantra.
I exclaimed, “You have a whole group of Hare Krishna chanters!”
I saw a disheveled man with a full beard. I waved to him as he was looking in my direction. He came up to my table, and he said he had recently hitchhiked to Alabama and Tennessee and that he slept behind gas stations or under bridges. He said his liver was shot, and he had only a few months to live. He said he didn’t want a book. He had read so many books and was tired of it. I decided to teach him the mantra. He repeated it after me two words at a time, and then we said the whole mantra together. I gave him the “On Chanting Hare Krishna,” and I told him the mantra would bring him good fortune. I said he must have a lot of realization that the Lord takes care of one, from his lifestyle. He replied, “He does not always give me what I want, but He always gives me what I need.”
One young black man had some interest in meditation. I encouraged him to take a book. I described some of the books briefly and went back to my chanting. I stopped and described some more. Then he said to me, “Keep singing. It has a peaceful effect.” He settled on Science of Self-Realization. I said the books were sponsored, and he did not have to pay anything. He said he could not take one without giving something. He gave $20, and I encouraged him to take another book, and he took Perfection of Yoga. In the course of our conversation he said, “The trouble with endeavoring for material things is that when you get them, you always want more.”
I said, “On the other hand, spiritual things are so nice that even a few of them can bring great satisfaction.”
The Seminole Christian LIFE people were asking passing FSU students to write their answer to the question “What is the reason for your hope?” After packing up they passed my book display, and I said, “I was too busy singing to answer your question, but I would have written, ‘The unlimited power of the holy name of the Lord is the reason for my hope.’” Youthful Pastor Lee, smiled broadly and spoke affirmatively, appreciating my answer.
We had a program we advertised as musical meditation to Florida State University students who had signed our mailing list. We gave them Hare Krishna kirtan with some explanation about it. Chandrashekhara Acharya Prabhu led the first kirtan and talked about the meaning behind the mantra and why we chant it (https://youtu.be/nst7aa756mw):
I led the second kirtan for about seven minutes (https://youtu.be/B0Yedz46taE):
Then everyone got up and danced for the final three or four minutes (https://youtu.be/Ia9SQm38l4I):
It was so beautiful to see their spontaneous joy!
Later Jorge and a couple of the FSU girls played instruments (https://youtu.be/lqJbGffN0UQ):
Chandrashekhara Acharya Prabhu chants Hare Krishna on Landis Green at Florida State University in Tallahassee, behind its main library (https://youtu.be/H5ZQnQ_CfT8):
Usually we face the sidewalk and the passing students, but for this video we changed our orientation because the light was better. You do, however, get to see the view we usually have when we sing.
Chandrashekhara Acharya Prabhu chants Hare Krishna at ISKCON Tallahassee before ista-gosthi, and I dance (https://youtu.be/SRyzZMo1pZc):
There are so few devotees in this community at our kirtanas, that it is rare I could just chant the response and dance instead of having to play the instruments or lead, and I was very happy for the opportunity.
Kaliya Damona Prabhu chants Hare Krishna at the Wednesday kirtan at ISKCON Tallahassee and several FSU students happily listen, chant, and play instruments (https://youtu.be/n_T0jt4odcE):
As the kirtan climaxed, Jorge began dancing and the students began to participate more intently (https://youtu.be/bqwwqzpjCp8):
The four students on the right in the above photo visited ISKCON Alachua temple the following Sunday for Gaura Purnima and had a great time.
On my way to Tampa, I stopped in Gainesville, and I chanted at Krishna Lunch the entire two and a half hours. I took videos of four of the devotees who chanted.
Max plays ukulele and chants Hare Krishna at Krishna Lunch in Gainesville (https://youtu.be/N6Ad0x3pXYE):
Ally chants Hare Krishna and Max plays ukulele (https://youtu.be/BLyKaBkRH_w):
Caitanya Dasi plays ukulele and chants Hare Krishna (https://youtu.be/Ks88aQUBylw):
Adikarta Prabhu, a Srila Prabhupada disciple and book distributor, chants Hare Krishna (https://youtu.be/u4F8USzGyPo):
Chanting Hare Krishna in Tampa
I chanted an hour and a half at USF after arriving there from Gainesville, and Jeff and I got six names for the Bhakti Yoga Society mailing list. The next day we chanted two hours and got twelve names, certainly a record for me.
That evening, Sesa of New Talavan chanted Hare Krishna in Ybor City, his mother, Nanda Priya Dasi, distributed literature, and a passerby danced (https://youtu.be/lJJaY1wNnmg):
More passersby danced as the harinama continued (https://youtu.be/Su0OHFaaxmI):
Later a young lady and a young couple danced and played the shakers for a good while (https://youtu.be/oz47NNbCIDw):
Narada Priya Dasi of New Talavan chants Hare Krishna at the Tampa ten-hour kirtan the day before Gaura Purnima (https://youtu.be/8XVMvLbNk98):
Actually the Tampa temple kirtan was supposed to be twelve hours, but because too few people participated, we decided to end two hours early and to do harinama in Ybor City instead, and we ended up chanting there from 9:36 to 10:50 p.m.!
We did harinama at two venues on Gaura Purnima, outside Patel Brothers and at Ybor City.
Here Sesa of New Talavan chants Hare Krishna outside Patel Brothers in Tampa midday on Gaura Purnima (https://youtu.be/UjLBz6B9Mbk):
Here Sesa of New Talavan chants Hare Krishna in Ybor City on Gaura Purnima (https://youtu.be/RlzbJ_tRVEg):
Bhakta Shaun of Lakeland chanted Hare Krishna during the evening Gaura Purnima program in Tampa (https://youtu.be/Dlrdx8VFRqo):
Striking Photos from the Campuses
Celibacy, although recommended for serious spiritual practitioners in practically every tradition, is not so popular these days. Thus it is not every day you encounter a “Virginity Rocks” T-shirt! Although the YouTuber who popularized the T-shirt invented it as a joke, for Garrett, a senior at FSU, who plans to study theology in grad school either at Yale or Notre Dame and ultimately become a Catholic priest, it is a genuine sentiment. We wish him the best.
Whatever we are able to accomplish in life is possible only by the mercy of the Supreme Lord, and thus all glory goes to Him, as this FSU Seventh Day Adventist reminds of us by his T-shirt.
At University of Florida, even a policeman
can be seen waiting in line for his Krishna Lunch.
Seeing this bird with an extra long beak outside the Marshall Student Center at University of South Florida, I wonder if the scientists have found fossils for all the intermediate forms required for their evolutionary theory, in his case.
From Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.1.4, purport:
“The great sages are always anxious to do good to the people in general, and as such the sages headed by Saunaka and others assembled at this holy place of Naimisaranya with a program of performing a great and continuous chain of sacrificial ceremonies. Forgetful men do not know the right path for peace and prosperity. However, the sages know it well, and therefore for the good of all men they are always anxious to perform acts which may bring about peace in the world. They are sincere friends to all living entities, and at the risk of great personal inconvenience they are always engaged in the service of the Lord for the good of all people.”
From Srimad-Bhagavatam 6.17.33, purport:
“The Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His second feature, is the Supersoul of all living entities. As one’s self is extremely dear, the Superself of the self is still more dear. No one can be the enemy of the friendly Superself, who is equal to everyone. Relationships of dearness or enmity between the Supreme Lord and the living beings are due to the intervention of the illusory energy. Because the three modes of material nature intervene between the Lord and the living beings, these different relationships appear. Actually, the living entity in his pure condition is always very near and dear to the Lord, and the Lord is dear to him. There is no question of partiality or enmity.”
From Srimad-Bhagavatam 10.11.27, purport:
“A devotee desires only that he may execute devotional service undisturbed. Actually we see, however, that even during the presence of Krishna, when Nanda Maharaja and the other cowherd men had the Supreme Personality of Godhead in their presence, there were disturbances. Of course, in every case, Krishna came out victorious. The instruction we may derive from this is that we should not be disturbed by so-called disturbances. There have been so many disturbances to our Krishna consciousness movement, but we cannot give up our forward march. On the contrary, people are receiving this movement very enthusiastically all over the world, and they are purchasing literature about Krishna consciousness with redoubled energy. Thus there are both encouragements and disturbances. This was so even in Krishna’s time.”
From “The Gopis’ Example of the Purest Love,” in Back to Godhead, Vol. 55, No. 4 (July/August 2021):
[A class on Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.9.40 in New York City on May 22, 1973.]
“The gopis are not interested to know philosophically whether Krishna is God, although they are seeing at every step that Krishna is God. Mother Yasoda is seeing that Krishna is God, and the gopis are also. Gopijana-vallabha giri-vara-dhari. Krishna is lifting Govardhana Hill. Who can do that except God? They are seeing it; still they do not know that Krishna is God. “Krishna is wonderful,” that’s all. They do not like to know whether Krishna is God or not. They want to love Krishna. Krishna may be God or not God; it doesn’t matter. If you love somebody there is no consideration what he is – rich man or poor man, educated or uneducated. Love has no such consideration. Similarly, the gopis’ love for Krishna was pure.”
Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura:
From Amṛta-vani, Section: “108 Essential Instructions,” No. 93:
“Just because mundane thoughts appear in the mind while we chant the holy name does not mean we should slacken our chanting. The useless thoughts will gradually disappear as the irrevocable fruits of chanting the holy names appear. Do not be in a hurry.”
Satsvarupa Dasa Goswami:
From Every Day, Just Write, Volume 1:
“May I give them what my master gave me: love and capatis, bread balls and chaunced dal, and may they eat it with the whole self by the mercy of God as I both fail and succeed.”
“I go by circadian body rhythms. Peak times and ebbs are individual. I do get tired around 4:00–6:00 A.M., after rising at midnight and doing my bhajana, then showering, etc. They also say that old people tend to sleep light and be restless at night—wake about five times during the night. Yeah, that’s me. ‘Over fifty-five’—that’s me too. I’m pure spirit soul and never grow old. That’s me too.”
“I say ‘Krishna’ and stand by it. I am faithful sticking here to ISKCON even though a guy says why don’t you leave if you are right and the GBC is wrong. For what? To join him down the block?
From Prabhupada Meditations, Volume 4:
“When a pure devotee like Srila Prabhupada looks out at the conditioned souls, he sees Krishna’s mercy and compassion showering over them. The pure devotee conducts the kirtana for them. When he hears them singing in the kirtana chorus, he also hears their joy mixed with the material modes, although he can see the kirtana is lifting them out of the material realm all together. Swamiji was not touched by the modes—that was obvious to us from the beginning—but he stayed with us. He came close to us. Only a devotee who is pure like Prabhupada can understand what he really felt toward the fallen souls. No one else can understand it.”
From Remembering Srila Prabhupada: A Free-Verse Rendition of the Life and Teachings of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Founder-Acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness:
“LOOKING BACK AT THE TEMPLE
“In that look back at the temple,
in that sad look, you gave yourself.
You were from the spiritual world,
dignified and liberated;
you were beyond all merely human motivation—
you manifested real love.
Better than anyone else, you could see
your storefront was small and homely—
you knew the great temples of India.
But you also knew that those temples
were mostly abandoned,
with scarcely a trace of preaching.
Your storefront was alive.
This was your own work,
given by your spiritual master.
You had started alone with nothing,
and others had predicted you could not
make devotees out of hippies.
But you had done it—
in New York and now in San Francisco.
and when you looked back one last time
to the scene of many disturbances,
the scene of the Jagannath installation,
the place where you had turned animal-like couples
the place of chantings and ecstasies,
the site of discussions of Gita and Lord Caitanya—
when you looked back,
you felt love
for the infant life of ISKCON,
for the sweetness of the new branch
of the Lord Caitanya tree,
love for your Guru Maharaj,
who had personally empowered you,
and love for his order.
Your new branch was admired
by devotees of the spiritual world
because they knew the truth
was not a rented building
but the activities of the devotees
you had rescued and revived.
You yourself were captivated
by the miracle of Krishna.”
From Here Is Srila Prabhupada:
“If we are to love Prabhupada, we have to actually care about his interests as much as we care about our own. What does he want? He wants us to become Krishna conscious. He wants us to cooperate with his other disciples, to maintain his movement and expand it by preaching. Loving Srila Prabhupada means carrying out these aims even at the expense of some of our more personal aims. There is room for us to develop our interests in serving him. But our own aims should not be separate from his expressed desires; they have to fall within the parameters of his teachings.
“This is at least a working definition of love for Srila Prabhupada. One will be ready to forgo one’s own conveniences, to invest one’s own time, and even to risk one’s own security to promote the desires of Srila Prabhupada. Our love is not just a feeling, but feelings translated into action. Feelings are fickle. Sometimes they are deep and at other times they are distracted. It is the constant sacrifice for the sake of love that makes those feelings profound and steady.
“It is impossible to love all the different people in our lives with equal intensity. The spiritual master has a special place and he is given special love. Srila Prabhupada said, ‘To be everyone’s servant means you are no one’s servant.’ We give him more respect, more credence, more attention than anyone else we may have love for.”
From Japa Transformations:
“We should be confident that our chanting and hearing will accumulate like a bank balance and that the practice is never in vain. Prabhupada used to say, ‘Don’t be discouraged.’”
From Prabhupada Appreciation:
“If we love Prabhupada, we have to follow the letter and the spirit of his most essential teachings. In the light of this, what rights do those in a position of authority have over others? In a sense, a leader’s power is concentrated in his ability to give guidance to other devotees. He is not in a position to force, cajole, or otherwise manipulate other devotees into obeying his instructions. He is there to represent Prabhupada, not to replace him. A leader has to inspire others by his own example of dedication to sadhana and hard work. In that sense, he has no more rights over others than what others are willing to give him, and this will depend on his purity in exemplifying and presenting Prabhupada’s teachings.
“There is a saying that ‘Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ But this does not have to apply to those who are truly representing parampara as authorities. There is always a danger of becoming contaminated by prestige, but one who is striving to purely apply Prabhupada’s instructions in his own life first does not have to become a victim of this offense.
“We have to find a balance between attention to our own personal following and our willingness to help maintain the standards that Prabhupada taught. On the one hand, we cannot become overbearing in our presentation of Prabhupada’s instructions, forcing them down the throats of others. On the other hand, we cannot be afraid to stand up and assert what is right and in parampara. We have to have faith that Prabhupada’s authority will stand on its own without our attempting to filter it through ourselves. And we have to be loving in our dealings, as Prabhupada was loving with us.
“We should also take the responsibility upon ourselves to know what Prabhupada said. There is really no excuse for anyone to be unsure about his teachings. His maha-vakya teachings are present in his books. If we are unacquainted with them, we will either have the tendency to concoct in our preaching to ourselves and others, or we will become victims of someone else’s misuse of Prabhupada’s authority. Part of our pure following of Prabhupada is to ensure that his parampara message is properly transmitted.”
From Memory in the Service of Krishna:
“My years’ experiment in Bohemian living was exciting to me, but I had also learned some bitter disappointments. As my father remarked sarcastically, ‘You’re trying to act like a big cat in the jungle, but you’re just a pussycat.’ What he said seemed true, and it hurt. But at least I wasn’t like him, selling out to ‘the System.’
“I was so uneasy that night that I didn’t eat much at the supper table, although I was hungry. My mother must have known, and so while I was up in my room—the same boy’s room I had lived in as a child and adolescent—my mother came and brought me another plate of food, ‘Just in case you’re hungry.’ I thanked her, and she left me alone.
“I was about to eat the warm, wholesome meal when I became overwhelmed with anger and grief. The meal represented my parents’ false idea of happiness. I revolted at the idea of eating it, and at the same time I very much wanted it. I was starving, but I couldn’t eat. I wanted food and I wanted love, but I couldn’t get it. Who could help me? I had already rejected a personal God along with my faith in family and nation. So it was too late to turn to ‘Him.’ In a violent mood I took the plate and threw it in the garbage pail. Then I knelt, gnashing my teeth and crying bitter tears. I faced a dead end.
“By the grace of Srila Prabhupada, I will never have to go through that again.”
From Shack Notes:
“What is needed is for everyone to find a place in this movement to work. Be satisfied with simple preaching work. Distribute the knowledge of Krishna consciousness in whatever ways are open to you. Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Maharaja said, ‘When you go to preach, even if no one attends, you can speak to the walls.’ You can speak to the four directions and to the moon and the sun. Tell everyone you meet about Krishna.
“But to do this we must be hearing. Otherwise, it becomes a farce. Hear and desire to hear, and then, one day, Krishna may appear within us an overwhelming truth—the only Truth. There are already so many books written in pure Krishna consciousness—why read anything else? Make Him your sole truth.
“A devotee confessed to me, ‘I have been working for Krishna for ten years, but I have no realization at all of His personal existence.’ I know what that’s like. Twenty-five years of no realization? We mean very little realization. We do mean emptiness void of love. When we look within, we see pictures from television, billboards, material stuff. We don’t see Krishna, and it makes us sorry. But we go on serving anyway. We are afraid that if Krishna would storm our hearts, we would become so proud that we would ruin it in a minute. We are not fit for love of Krishna. This devotee who confessed said, ‘I think I need to practice more austerity.’”
From Srila Prabhupada-lilamrita, Volume 7, Chapter 2:
[Description of the appearance day of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura in 1968 in Los Angeles.]
“After the feast the devotees followed Prabhupada into his room. He sat at his desk and read letters aloud to the small gathering of his disciples seated on the floor before him. The letters were of appreciation. And these letters became Srila Prabhupada’s offering to his spiritual master. Prabhupada read aloud statements like ‘We really like chanting,’ ‘We’re happy since we met you,’ ‘We’re trying to teach other people how to chant Hare Krishna’—simple sentiments.
“Reading the letters, Prabhupada became very happy. He then put the letters along with the flowers before the picture of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Then looking at Nandarani, he asked, ‘Have you become happy since you have been chanting Hare Krishna?’
“‘Oh, yes,’ Nandarani replied, ‘my life is wonderful.’
“Looking at the others, Prabhupada asked, ‘And what about you? Do you feel more satisfied since you have been chanting Hare Krishna?’ They all answered yes.
“‘Then I have only one request,’ Prabhupada continued.
“‘Whatever happiness you have felt, you simply tell someone else about that. That is all you have to do. You don’t need to teach anything. You don’t need to teach the philosophy. You just explain to people that because you chant Hare Krishna you have become happy, and if they chant, they will become happy. Then I will be satisfied, and my spiritual master will be satisfied.’”
“In San Diego a devotee was distributing small books in a parking lot. As he approached a car he saw a young man sitting in the driver’s seat. When the devotee knocked on the window, the man shouted, ‘Look, just leave me alone! Get outta here!’
“The devotee went on his way, but then he thought, ‘This guy’s pretty bad off. He needs a book.’ So the devotee returned and stuck a small book under the windshield wiper. Later the young man showed up at the San Diego temple and told this story.
“‘When the devotee saw me, I was very morose. I was frustrated about school and felt no inspiration in life. My parents had sent me to a psychologist, but he was no help, and I became even more depressed. I thought there must be something wrong with me. I saw how my friends were so enthusiastic about going to school, getting jobs, making money. I concluded that everyone else was okay and I was just messed up, a total failure.
“‘So I decided to kill myself. I ran a tube from the exhaust pipe through the trunk into my car, rolled up the windows, and started the engine. I thought this would be a good way to end all my misery and pain.
“‘The car was quickly filling up with carbon monoxide when someone walked up holding a big stack of books on his arm and knocked on the window. I told him to get lost. I thought he was a crazy fanatic—especially when he came back and put one of his books under my windshield wiper. But then I began to get bored and thought, “Well, what would be the harm if I read something before I die?” So I rolled down the window, reached out, and grabbed the little book. The title looked interesting—Civilization and Transcendence. I started to read.
“‘In that book I found that Srila Prabhupada directly points out the defects of modern civilization and gives people an alternative, the Krishna conscious way of life. Suddenly I realized, “Hey, I’m not crazy. Everyone else is!”
“‘So I rolled down the windows, disconnected the tube from my exhaust, and drove home. After reading the book cover to cover, I’ve come to the temple to become a devotee.’
“The young man stayed in the temple and became a very nice devotee.”
Hridayananda dasa Goswami:
“Due to the false ego, one may find book distribution difficult, but don’t give up the book distribution, give up the false ego. The difficulties one undergoes in one’s service are the price one pays for pure devotional service.”
“I was in front of a store in Winnipeg, where -20°C (-4°F) was a warm winter day. Because I was doing well, I couldn’t use gloves, since I was always taking money and giving change. Then my hands froze stiff—I couldn’t move them. I prayed to Lord Caitanya, ‘How can I distribute books if I can’t move my fingers?’ All of a sudden I felt a warmth enter my hands; they thawed and the fingers unlocked. It was like that all day long. It was wonderful. It was a miracle. I was so elated that I just laughed while selling books. I was experiencing how the Lord protects His devotee. I thought, ‘Let me always suffer all kinds of hardships, but let me always feel the mercy of Lord Caitanya, and let me try not to get in the way of Lord Caitanya’s mercy.’”
“When a devotee distributes books, Krishna, who is within the heart of the book distributor, is most pleased, and as His pleasure potency expands through the devotee’s heart, that potency intoxicates him with its effects.
“I’m sure all book distributors have felt the intoxicating effects of sankirtana bliss. On occasion I was also fortunate enough to be blessed in this way. It didn’t happen every day, but when it did, I found it difficult to stop sankirtana. Although I may have been tired, I had to do just one more book, to get one more blessing from Krishna. And that phrase — ‘Just one more’ — became a sankirtana mantra. When a sankirtana party was ready to go back to the temple, there was always one devotee floating in bliss who would say, ‘Just one more.’ Sometimes we waited for him, and sometimes we just left him behind, knowing he would stop only when he became too tired or ran out of books.
“One Saturday in Montreal the devotees left me behind. I had to do just one more book. It felt too good to stop. There is no happiness like the happiness a devotee feels when Krishna and Prabhupada are pleased with him. I was walking on clouds. I wandered the shopping streets on this pleasant summer evening, selling books until all the shops closed. But the taste of book distribution was so addictive that I had to do just one more. I went into a large hotel lobby and sold books until they threw me out. I went into another hotel and went door to door until I got caught. Back on the street, I thought, ‘Where will I go now?’ I was standing on a street with many popular nightclubs and bars, and since by that time it was after 8 p.m., the area started to fill up. So I walked around selling books to people going to or leaving the clubs.
“The nature of sankirtana bliss is that whoever you speak to can also taste it. So as I approached couples who were already intoxicated from drinking, they would also feel some of what I was feeling, and that was almost all they needed to buy a book.
“By eleven o’clock I was down to a few Bhagavatam volumes (Second Canto). I approached a group of maybe four well-dressed couples. They were all drunk. I stopped them and placed all my books in their hands. Lord Caitanya must have thought of Jagai and Madhai at that moment, since I felt such a surge of happiness that I just stood in the middle of the group, rocking on my heels, smiling at them.
“At first they laughed and looked at the books. I was just standing there beaming as they exchanged amused glances, until one of them asked, ‘Are you high on something?’ Everyone laughed. Then they all started asking the same question, which brought me back to my senses. I replied, ‘I’m high on the natural happiness of the soul, which comes through yoga. Read about it in these books. Please give a donation.’ They bought all the books, and with nothing to sell I went back to the temple. It was past midnight.
“Since Sunday was a day of rest and the Love Feast, it became my habit to stay out till midnight on Saturdays to do ‘just one more.’ When we did airports, almost every day was like Saturday.
“When we lay down at night and noticed one devotee hadn’t returned from sankirtana, we knew he was blissed out, walking around in the terminal doing ‘just one more.’”
From his offering in Srila Prabhupada’s 1994 Vyasa-puja book:
“Dear Srila Prabhupada,
“Please accept my humble obeisances at your divine lotus feet. All glories to you on the celebration of your appearance day.
“While planning a composition for your offering, I was attending to my regular correspondence. One letter stood out among the others. I enclose it here, translated into English, for your pleasure.
“‘Dear Sivarama Swami,
“‘Hare Krishna. Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. I hope you do not mind my writing to you. I have never written to a spiritual master before. You do not know me. My name is Bhaktin Dóra and I live in Pécs [Hungary]. I am 14 years old, and I live at home with my mother and older sister.
“‘In 1992 I went to the Hare Krishna Festival with a friend. I was not very interested, but I enjoyed the chanting and dancing at the end. After it was over I bought a book, The Science of Self-Realization. I do not know why—generally I never read. I think it was because of the chanting.
“‘I took the book home and forgot about it. One day my mother found it and was very angry with me. She thought that I was reading this kind of thing. You see, our family members are all very strict Catholics. They thought Krishna consciousness was some kind of “brainwashing.” Actually, I wasn’t reading the book—I had forgotten all about it. Somehow it just “appeared.” Anyway, my mother was going to throw it away. My grandmother, who is 68, was in the kitchen at that time.
“‘She lives in the apartment upstairs. She came in and took the book.
“‘She looked at it and scolded me in a very heavy way. I thought that that would be the end of it. I did not mind so much, as I was in a lot of maya at the time.
“‘About a week later I overheard a conversation between my mother and grandmother. Granny was saying that this was not some ordinary book. She said that what Prabhupada was saying is what Jesus Christ said and that Krishna is God. I was very surprised.
“‘She said that we should listen to what Prabhupada said and chant Hare Krishna because that was the religion for this age. There was a lot talk about how Christianity was no more, and no one was following the Bible, but what Prabhupada had said was pure and perfect.
“‘Things really took a turn from there. One day my grandmother visited the nama-hatta center here and began to chant on beads. She also began to buy Prabhupada’s books one by one. She was spending her whole pension on buying what she called the “beautiful, holy Bhagavatam.” Sometimes she could only afford to eat potatoes, but she kept buying the books. The devotees even came to her flat and helped her set up an altar. When I went upstairs, they had taken all her old pictures down, and there were Krishna pictures everywhere.
“‘That was really the beginning. One night granny had a dream about Prabhupada. Something really amazing happened to her then. I don’t know what it was, but she began to get very enthusiastic. Next she began to get the whole family involved—I mean, not just me and my mother and sister, but her two sons, their wives and six children, as well as her brothers, sisters, and relatives. Before she used to carry a Bible with her and quote Jesus Christ. Now she has a Bhagavad-gita and quotes “the good Lord Prabhupada.” She has become a veritable transcendental terror. Everyone in the family has to chant at least one round a day. In addition, Granny has made everyone become a vegetarian, including my dog Sikra, and we offer our food to a picture of Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya.
“‘Now I am also getting out of maya and chanting and reading a little also. Where I go to school my friends inquire about Krishna, as they know I am a devotee. The whole family goes to the nama-hatta—all sixteen of us. During the Christmas Marathon we all tried to distribute Prabhupada’s books. Even Granny would take books with her to the market and sell them to the vendors. Everyone is afraid of her because she is fearless. They all think she has gone crazy, but she doesn’t care.
“‘Now she is saving to go to Budapest to see the newly installed Deities. She has heard that Lord Caitanya and Lord Nityananda “have come to Hungary” and are being worshiped in Budapest by the devotees. She says she wants to see God just once in this life.
“‘At this year’s Hare Krishna festival you spoke to the guests after the kirtana. You must remember my grandmother because she came and sat right beside you and asked so many questions. At the end, when you stood to leave, she even kissed your hand. Remember?
“‘I also wanted to ask a question, but I was shy. Could I please ask you now? I hope you do not mind, Maharaja. I want to know what kind of man Srila Prabhupada was. He must be so dear to Krishna to have spread this message all over the world. What are these books that changed my family so much? How is it possible that he can speak so powerfully through them? You must feel very fortunate to be his disciple. How great a man he is! Sometimes when my granny chants in front of a picture of Krishna, she cries. How does Prabhupada do that? I want to cry like that too. Granny dreams of Prabhupada, and sometimes she talks to his picture. Although it says on the cover of the book that he passed away, is Prabhupada really dead, or is he still alive? Do you think I can meet him some day?
“‘I’m sorry that I’ve gone on so. I would like to be a good devotee one day and help you and Prabhupada spread Krishna consciousness. Please could you answer my questions?
“Srila Prabhupada, this is one letter, from one girl who came in contact with you through one of your books. How many millions of such souls are there who have yet to write, who are directly experiencing your mercy daily, who read your books with implicit faith, whom you talk to in dreams and pictures, whose lives you change abruptly and reward with tears when chanting the holy name? How many people cross the boundaries of rules and regulations by the strong boat of your mercy and practice and taste Krishna consciousness in a realm beyond logic and argument? I think these people are meeting you every day.”
“When I met George Harrison, he said he had become interested in devotees because they were on the streets chanting and selling books under any condition—rain, snow, hot sunshine. He knew they could do this austerity only by getting a higher taste. Thus he respected devotees before he even met them.”
From “Take the Mind to Vrindavan” in Back to Godhead, Vol. 55, No. 4 (July/August 2021):
[Excerpt from Chant More: Collected Writings of Sivarama Swami.]
“Krishna’s pastimes, as they happen throughout the twenty-four hours of the day, are the subject of absorption of both practicing devotees as well as perfected devotees. So in that way, we should also take the opportunity whenever we have an extra moment to think, ‘What is Krishna doing now?’
“We are always thinking about what our family is doing, we are thinking about what we are doing, or what we want to be doing, or about the news, about what materialistic people are doing all over the world. But rather than spending our very valuable time with this, at least a few times a day we should ask ourselves, ‘Now what is Krishna doing?’ and try to remember what Krishna does as it is written in Krishna Book, in Srimad-Bhagavatam. Venu-gita describes Krishna’s daily activities, and we should spend at least even a few minutes remembering them. It will only bring us ecstasy.”
Praghosa Prabhu (ACBSP):
“By spectacularly pushing on the mission of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, Srila Prabhupada has arranged for all the ‘stranded starfish’ of this material world to be given the golden opportunity of Krishna consciousness. He showed the example and set about saving us all—individually, one at a time. Each of us has our own beautiful recollection of how we found the shelter of Lord Krishna, Srila Prabhupada, and his devotees.”
“During the marathons and nonmarathons, let us all keep our eyes fixed on the individual standing directly in front of us on sankirtana. Let us ‘make a difference for at least that one.’ Then let us move to the next and again ‘make a difference for at least that one.’ Then at the end of each day we can tally up all those individuals for whom we made a difference and offer those results to His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada, knowing full well how much he will delight in our efforts.”
“And for those who are unable for whatever reason to participate directly in the Marathon, my sincere suggestion is that you kindly go to your local temple president and ask him how you can assist with the marathon in your local region. Remember, you too can help make a difference for at least one soul during the marathon. Let nothing in your mind or another’s prevent you from making that difference—for at least that one soul. Offer your time, your money, or your assistance to the men and women going out each day during the marathon. Trust me, you will make a difference, even if for only one soul. And remember, once upon a time in the not-too-distant past, that one soul was you!”
“One of the things, if not the main thing, that deeply impressed me about Srila Prabhupada was his unconditional acceptance of each person he encountered and his immediate and spontaneous treatment of that person as being vitally significant to him. . . . he did not relate to us from the head or the mind or the intelligence, but he related to us from the heart. Heart to heart. Because he was pure, he really enjoyed meeting each person and dealing with them on a person-to-person basis.”
“Sometimes devotees are afraid to go out on book distribution because they think so many horrible things may happen, but if we overcome the tricks of the mind and just go out, we’ll find that so many wonderful things will happen.”
“Worries about terrorism, escalating healthcare and living costs, global warming, nuclear proliferation, and widespread violence are just a few of the concerns that plague people around the world. People everywhere are looking for peace, prosperity, and happiness, but in Kali-yuga these things are hard to find.
“Fortunately, however, everyone can get relief from all material pangs by participating in Lord Caitanya’s sankirtana movement. Sankirtana, the congregational chanting of the holy names and the distribution of Srila Prabhupada’s books, simultaneously cleanses one’s heart and vanquishes suffering, while giving even beginners a taste of real happiness.
“Srimad-Bhagavatam tells us that the root of all worldly afflictions is forgetfulness of Krishna. The remedy is sankirtana. Therefore Lord Caitanya ordered every human being within this universe to accept the process and to help Him spread it everywhere (Cc. Adi 9.36).”
“Success on sankirtana does not depend on the number of books distributed but on the sincere effort of the devotee to please the Supreme Lord. As the ultimate manager of His ‘firm,’ He never forgets even the smallest service rendered by His devotee. That fact can be easily experienced on sankirtana. And out of this realization grows the devotee’s gratitude toward the Supreme Lord, and this gratitude enthuses him to serve more and more.
“Then Krishna gives him this realization: ‘Where is the austerity on sankirtana? If I understand that my eternal nature and the eternal nature of everyone else is to be a servant of Krishna, it is simply bliss to go soul to soul every day to help them understand who they are.’
“Sankirtana is austere only when we think we’re the material body.”
“In the mid ’70s I was doing the Prabhupada marathon at the Chicago airport. One afternoon we devotees were so intoxicated by distributing books that we decided to show that one doesn’t have to speak to sell books, that book distribution just depends on our state of consciousness. So we didn’t speak.
“Just after loading my book bag with twenty maha books, I tapped a man on the arm and looked him in the eye. He stopped, expecting me to say something. I didn’t. I put a book in his hand, pointed at Prabhupada’s picture, to the Sanskrit inside, and then up to the sky, indicating that the books were meant to elevate you. I remember being absorbed in the desire to give out books, and after looking deep into his eyes again, I slapped my pocket, indicating he should give a donation. He did.
“He was a young businessman, obviously heavily stressed out and floundering in the world of consumerism. He held the book appreciatively. As he started to go I held his arm. I wanted him to get more mercy. We locked eyes for a minute, and in my mind I said, ‘These books will give your life meaning.’ And I stuck another two books in his hand. Now he had three books. Again I tapped my pocket. Again he gave a donation.
I opened one of the books and pointed to a part of Srila Prabhupada’s purport and had him read it. I watched his face. It was obvious Prabhupada was speaking to him. I tapped his arms and smiled at him, and he smiled at me. Although standing in the middle of the busiest airport in the world, we were somewhere else, in a different land where there was no stress, no noise—our own world of Krishna consciousness. Then he looked at the other books I was carrying and I knew he wanted more. I gave him a few more books. He gave another donation. By now the total was past $40.
“To impress upon the man what was reality and what was illusion, I waved nonchalantly at the bustle about us and pressed my forefinger to his heart, indicating the soul. I looked at him and thought, “You are not this body. You are spirit soul.” He understood. He smiled appreciatively. We then shook hands, and as he turned to go it was as if he was leaving the realm of peace for the world of anxiety. For a minute he hesitated. He didn’t want to go. He wanted to remain in that realm of consciousness in which our exchange had taken place. He had been happy. I saw there were tears in his eyes. I touched his hand and tapped the books saying in my mind, ‘It’s all in the books. Don’t worry.’ He nodded, shook my hand, and left.
“Neither he nor I had spoken a word, yet we were communicating fully. It was one of many such experiences that afternoon. I was convinced that success in book distribution depends upon our state of consciousness—making soul-to-soul contact with people is the most effective way to sell books. We need to be in the consciousness that we are not this body, that we are Krishna’s spiritual messengers, and that our mission is to distribute the mercy. Give! Give! Give! That is our dharma: Give Krishna to others.”
“So difficulties undertaken in the service of Krishna are good. As Queen Kunti prayed, ‘O Lord, please give me difficulties again and again.’ Why? Today people would think she should see a psychiatrist. But the reason she prays that way is because difficulties undertaken in Krishna’s service force us to take shelter of Him.”
“Srila Prabhupada has left us a mission: to help others become free of suffering. The other part of the mission he gave us is internal—to become purified and advance in Krishna consciousness. Srila Prabhupada said that 99% of our advancement in spiritual life comes from chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Chanting the maha-mantra is the internal cleansing. And chanting this mantra gives us the shakti and determination necessary to succeed in the external mission of book distribution and so many other services.”
“Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura said, ‘I have been shoved around in this world. Without giving the world similar shoves, neither can its ignorance be broken nor its people attracted to the lotus feet of Sri Caitanya. Those who do not get severely rough-handled by the world cannot worship the Lord.’”
“When Krishna was in Hastinapura to negotiate peace with the Kurus, he visited Vidura. Vidura didn’t want Krishna to go to the assembly of the Kurus because Vidura knew they wouldn’t take Krishna’s advice. The Lord then said to Vidura, ‘The wise have said that if a person attempts a virtuous act with all sincerity but fails, he will still receive the merit of that act.’ Even if you fail to distribute a book to someone, you still get the merit. By performing this austerity we can only benefit.”
“To his disciples Prabhupada instructed, ‘Throughout the year distribute books, and then once a year go to Mayapur and Vrindavan. Become inspired there and go back to preach.’”
“Often when I distribute books people ask, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I tell them, ‘The only thing lacking in society is wisdom. That’s why I’m distributing these books. We’re on a mission to increase wisdom in society.’ Everyone appreciates this statement because they know it’s so true, and then they usually take a book.”
“Two guys came to my table joking. One of them, Doug, said to me, ‘I think my friend Alex here is ready to become a Hare Krishna.’ Then Doug started chanting Hare Krishna. Going along with their joke, I said, ‘No, I don’t think he’s ready yet. He’s got too many material desires.’ Then I got serious and started showing them the Bhagavad-gita.
“‘You know,’ Doug said, ‘this is interesting, but I don’t have any money.’
“‘I can get it for you,’ said Alex.
“Alex gave $20. So I said, ‘You gave a nice donation; so you take one also.’
“‘No, I’m an atheist. I’d never read it.’
“‘Could you give it to a friend?’
“‘Yea, OK, I can do that.’
“He took it, and as he was walking away he saw a man rushing to my table. So Alex said to him, ‘Do you want this book?’ And handed it to him. The guy couldn’t believe that someone had just given him such a nice book.
“Lord Caitanya is so amazing. Alex was an atheist, but he bought a Bhagavad-gita for a friend and distributed another one to a total stranger. An atheist became a book distributor.”
“I was distributing books in Vienna. Walking around the area in front of the Austrian parliament building, I offered books to many sophisticated and influential people. One middle-aged man in the company of a few other people stopped to look at the Bhagavad-gita.
“‘This is an ancient classic Sanskrit work of wisdom from India,’ I told him. ‘We present this knowledge to people suffering due to ignorance of their own identity.’
As we spoke, the man revealed his interest in karma, reincarnation, ancient wisdom, and philosophy. He agreed to buy the book, gave a donation, and left with his group.
“Afterwards I asked some passersby who the man was.
“‘He’s the president of Austria.’”
“In the San Francisco airport I was distributing books, mostly hardback Bhagavad-gitas and Bhagavad-gita CD ROMs. I saw a couple of young men who looked to be in their mid or late twenties. They were casually dressed in khaki pants and button-down shirts. “Java” badges dangled from their carry-on bags, tipping me off that they were computer engineers (an easy guess, since they were young, on business in San Francisco, and appeared to be from India).
“I gave them each a Bhagavad-gita CD ROM and told them that since Indian people already know everything about the Bhagavad-gita and most of them have one in their home, we’ve specially produced this high-tech version of the Gita for today’s Indians. In fact, I noted, it is perfect for the modern Indian engineer.
“I offered them my observation that in today’s world many people believe that if they could just get hold of a million dollars they would become happy. But most people intuitively know this is not true. The Bhagavad-gita teaches, I continued, that real happiness comes from the re-awakening of our spiritual nature through introspection. Finally, I informed them that we accept donations to continue the work of spreading this knowledge around the world.
“They both happily—and without hesitation—donated. Before parting, I asked them what part of India they were from. ‘We’re actually not from India,’ one of them said with a slight smile. ‘We’re from Pakistan.’ They were Muslims! He then patted the Bhagavad-gita CD ROM he had tucked under his arm and said, ‘This is important work you’re doing. Thank you very much.’”
“A group of five girls comes out of the concert. When Parama approaches them and explains what he’s doing, they all become very interested and ask many questions. But what kind of questions do they ask poor old Parama? Whether he has sex or not, etc.
By the way, why is it that people ask monks questions they would never dare ask anyone else? Parama eventually gets back on the path of perfection and gets to the point: ‘Please take these books and give a donation.’
“One of the ladies feels bad that she hasn’t any money, so she comes up with a startling plan: she’ll help Parama distribute the books! She takes some small books, and off she goes. After approaching a group of concert-goers and failing to get the message across, she tells Parama, ‘Hey, this is a lot harder than it looks.’ So in the mood of a seasoned book distributor she changes tactics in midstream to get the upper hand. She approaches some boys and says, ‘These books will give you good karma, so that in your next life you will get lots of girls.’ The gentlemen begin frantically diving into their pockets looking for cash but can muster up only a few coins. Then one of them finds five dollars and gets the book.
“So, she didn’t exactly present the book quite on its merits, but hey, she’s new. After all, the boys got the book and she got the mercy of being a book distributor.”
“I stopped a couple from Santa Cruz and handed them a Light of the Bhagavata. The girl told me her friend had the book and was very attached to it. She clung on to it too. The boy also knew the book and asked me if I’ve heard of The Nectar of Instruction. It happened that I had that book in my bag, and when I handed it to him he held it to his heart and, with a tear in his eye, loudly proclaimed to everyone within earshot: “This is the best book in the world! The Nectar of Instruction!” He had had it before and had consulted it during all his times of woe. It had remained with him for years, but somehow he’d recently lost it. Now he’d been reunited with his old friend. In all the years I’ve distributed books, I’ve never seen anyone react to a book with that much emotion.
“Maybe that’s why I keep coming back to this service of distributing books. Maybe that’s why this service is more important to me than all my troubles and problems.”
Chandrashekhara Acarya Prabhu:
“In 1992 I met a lady with her two young daughters in a parking lot in San Francisco. I showed her the Bhagavad-gita, and when she saw the picture of Srila Prabhupada she said, ‘Oh, I saw this man once!’ I politely told her that maybe she was mistaking him for someone else, since Srila Prabhupada had passed away many years ago. But she insisted: ‘No, I met him. I was six years old. My parents were hippies in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco. It was so wild at that time, in 1967, that my parents would forget to feed me and my sister. So she and I would often go to the Hare Krishna temple and eat your wonderful vegetarian food. I especially remember one young lady—she was so nice to me and my sister; her name was Melanie. So one day your spiritual master arrived from New York. I remember the temple room was full of incense and people. He came in and sat down and chanted for a while, and then he spoke to us a little bit. I remember it very vividly. Just by my speaking to you, all these memories are coming back.’
“Then this nice lady showed the picture of Srila Prabhupada in the book to her little daughter and told her, ‘You see, this is Swamiji.’ She then gave me $30 for the Gita and told me I could visit her at her home any time.
“A few weeks later I saw Malati Devi Dasi (an early disciple of Srila Prabhupada who is now on the GBC) in Arizona. I knew that she had been in San Francisco in the early days. When I asked her what her legal name was, sure enough, she told me it was Melanie.
“How wonderful it is that twenty-five years later a woman who was then six years old still remembered the name of a Hare Krishna devotee who was ‘so nice to me and my sister.’ Twenty-five years later she bought the Bhagavad-gita!”
If I meet nice people while on book distribution, I ask if they want to be regularly contacted. If they say ‘Yes,’ I write them at least once a year. I bring them presents when I visit them, as well as prasadam and more books. In other words, I act as their first guru (vartma-pradarsaka) and sometimes as a siksa-guru also. It is the duty of the book distributor! Always give with love!
Caitanya Carana Prabhu:
From “Self-acceptance, Team Spirit, and Success” in Back to Godhead, Vol. 55, No. 4 (July/August 2021):
“Indeed, the ability to admit our inability may well define humility.”
“Today’s culture often lionizes those people who persevere doggedly and make life say yes to their will. Yes, such a strong will is a characteristic of greatness, but it isn’t the only characteristic. When life says no, accepting that gracefully is also a characteristic of greatness. In the long run, the ability to face life’s reversals steadily may well characterize enduring greatness more than making life change according to our will.”
“During some phases of the match of life, we may have less prominent roles than others. If we all clamor for the most important role, especially when we don’t have the necessary capacity, we will end up hurting our prospects as well as the team’s prospects.”
“Of course, we live in a competitive world. To further our ambitions we may want or even need to stake our claim to be the best among our peers. But if we aren’t actually the best, we may well be acting in delusion. Being ambitious to change reality may be desirable, but being foolhardy and denying reality isn’t. Counterintuitive as it may seem, accepting our limitations can be empowering, for it stops our denial of reality. Even if reality is changeable, it is not deniable.”
“By playing our part, we enter into a life of meaning and purpose, which is far more sustainably nourishing than the euphoria of an occasional special achievement, which may or may not come our way regularly. When we play our part in a mood of service to the Whole, we relish sublime spiritual fulfillment. When Hanuman returned victoriously after meeting Sita, all the monkeys celebrated; his success was their success too. Being thus fulfilled, we gradually understand that the things that matter most don’t depend on our abilities; they depend on our consciousness, our character, our commitment – things we can develop, despite our inabilities. By thus accepting ourselves for who we are presently, we can concentrate our energies on becoming the best we can be eventually.”
Madhurika Devi Dasi:
From “Culture Crossing: Krishna Kids in the Material World” in Back to Godhead, Vol. 55, No. 4 (July/August 2021):
“One devotee, now an adult, described how, from the time he was in middle school, he was determined to shed his devotee identity and experiment with everything that mainstream culture had to offer. He was popular at school and excelled at sports, so he had every opportunity for sense enjoyment. It was only several years down the line, when he concluded that all these experiences hadn’t really left him happy or satisfied, that he realized that what he actually wanted was that feeling of love and happiness he had experienced around his parents and the devotees while growing up, and he knew how and where to find it.”
“The following ecstatic incident took place when I was on traveling book distribution with three other devotees in northern Greece. We would distribute throughout the day, and in the evening we would go on harinama-sankirtana.
“One evening a police patrol came and commanded us to stop chanting at once. They took us to the police station, and for a long time they inspected all our belongings while we tried to explain that we weren’t doing anything bad. After the inspection, they asked us to show them our musical abilities. So we started to chant enthusiastically with all our musical instruments. Suddenly all the policemen started to smile, and then they started to clap their hands, and at last they even danced! Suddenly the whole situation turned favorable. At the end of the kirtana they thanked us, returned our books and CDs, and told us to carry on as we had been doing.
“It appears they just wanted to hear us chant. Special police.”
“I was distributing in the Czech Republic, in a town near the Polish border, in a parking lot in front of the local shopping center. After some time an older, nicely dressed man arrived in a big luxury car. I approached him and briefly and politely introduced our books and the Prague center. He quickly expressed appreciation for the books and gave a nice donation.
“He disclosed that he knew Prague because until recently he had been working there as the head of the biggest engineering establishment in the Czech Republic, CKD. When I recognize a cultured and serious man, I take a little time to explain more about the philosophy and our activities with the hope that he will take more books or get more connected to the Society. So I put the Bhagavad-gita in his hands. After he looked at the Supreme Lord on the front cover of the Gita, driving His devotee Arjuna’s chariot as Partha-sarathi, to my surprise he began to breathe very heavily and lose his balance. When he began to clutch at my body, I asked him whether he was epileptic and suffering fits.
“He mildly smiled and without a word collapsed to the ground. It all happened very quickly. He lost consciousness and injured his head from the fall. I had somebody call an ambulance and asked the gathering crowd to help. Then with the assistance of another man I turned him on his back and did whatever I could. The man almost stopped breathing, his face turned blue, and foam issued from his mouth.
“As his pulse grew weaker, it was clear that the soul was leaving his body. I was disturbed but at the same time happy. I knew that Krishna had bestowed His causeless mercy upon that conditioned soul, who left his body under very auspicious circumstances. As soon as I could see the ambulance coming, I left the scene to resume distributing books nearby. I felt greatly inspired, so I began to directly preach to everybody about the temporary nature of material life. I distributed a hundred big books that day. I couldn’t help glancing over to where the doctors were trying to save the man’s life. After half an hour they gave up and placed the man’s dead body in the ambulance and departed.
“This incident starkly illustrates the ephemeralness of living in the material world, and at the same time it attests to the unlimited mercy of the sankirtana movement. Although the man who died had dedicated his whole life to ugra-karma and sinful activities, by the mercy of Lord Caitanya he left his body smiling after performing devotional service, and with his attention fixed on the Supreme Lord in the form of the Bhagavad-gita, which he was holding with respect and appreciation during the last moments of his life.”
“I was on patrol in Iraq when we came under sniper fire. Instantly we took cover. Since we couldn’t move, I thought, ‘Might as well read the Gita.’ So I took out my pocket Bhagavad-gita and started to read. Next thing I know I had five soldiers around me, all huddled against a wall. They listened intently as I read a verse out loud, and then they asked if I had any books with me they could have. For some reason, that day I had put some small books in my assault pack. Within seconds they were all grabbing them and putting the books in their pockets. You could see in their eyes that they’d forgotten about the situation for a second and were happy to get this doorway to the spiritual world. The next round of bullets struck near our position, startling us up out of our reverie. I quickly gave them orders so we could push through the kill zone.
“Just another blissful day of service!”
“I was sitting in my room at an army base in Iraq, reading Bhagavad-gita As It Is, when someone knocked on the door. I called out, ‘Come in,’ and to my surprise an Indian gentleman entered. He was there to fix something. He walked in and stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the altar with my Deities, and then he fell flat on the floor to pay obeisances.
“He ran out and returned with thirty-six other people. They all bowed down and paid their respects to my Deities. I took a chance and brought out a box of Bhagavad-gitas. Before I could finish asking if they’d like a book, they were all fighting over who would get into the box first! Instantly every one of these good souls took Prabhupada’s Gita, and they all left with smiles on their faces.”
Vraja Vihari Prabhu:
“It was the fall of 1984, and our party had been distributing books at the State Fairgrounds in Tampa, Florida, all day. We parked our van in a Days Inn parking lot for the night. Our party of five brahmacaris was fast asleep in the van when we heard aloud voice over a megaphone: ‘All right in there! Come out slowly with your hands raised!’ I looked out the window and was shocked to see the van surrounded by twelve police cars and about thirty officers with their guns drawn!
“We emerged from the van squinting from the bright flashlights burning our eyes. The officers began to frisk each one of us, though we were dressed only in gamshas.
“‘What are you doing here?’ the officer in charge demanded.
“‘We’re distributing love of God in the form of books,’ I explained.
“I opened the van doors, thinking perhaps this was all a dream. I reached into one of the boxes, pulled out a Bhagavad-gita, and handed it to the officer in charge. He intently inspected the book, then me, then the book again, until finally he broke the silence, declaring, ‘All glories to Srila Prabhupada!’ I was flabbergasted, as were his gun-toting subordinates and all my vanmates. At this point I was sure I was dreaming!”
“The officer in charge then cheerfully explained: ‘I used to go to the University of Florida and regularly ate the Krishna Lunch on campus. You practically put me through college. I even stayed two days at the temple!’
“Turning to his associates, he declared, ‘These are great books, and you should all buy one.’
“On his order the officers began reaching for their wallets. About 80% of them took books. We made almost $300!
“Our new friend then apologized for disrupting our sleep. He explained that earlier that night a gun store had been robbed, and the description of the getaway vehicle exactly matched our van.
“I don’t think any of us slept again that night. It was certainly a most bizarre experience we went through. But thanks to prasadam distribution, it turned into a great sankirtana success story.”
“In the summer of 1991 we went to Toronto to do book distribution. We stayed at the temple and did a marathon for almost a month in downtown Toronto on Yonge Street, a great spot for sankirtana in the summer. After the marathon we were on our way back into the US near Buffalo when we got stopped at the border by the US officials. An officer demanded to see the contents of our van. We opened the back and he started poking around inside. When he came upon a shelf that held some of the books we would use for personal reading, he pulled out a Nectar of Devotion and shouted to the other border officials, ‘Hey guys, come over here! This is the Nectar of Devotion!’ The way he said this, they must have thought he’d found the greatest treasure on earth.
“The customs agent then told us he used to go to the temple in Buffalo in 1969 and had once met Srila Prabhupada there and heard him give a lecture. He asked if he could make a donation for the Nectar of Devotion and gave us $50. He told us he often would tell his colleagues about the time he spent with the Krishnas and Srila Prabhupada.”
“I was walking down a street in downtown Kansas City when I suddenly felt an incredible force inside me, pushing me to give a book to a woman walking on my left. I handed her a Science of Self-Realization and told her what the book was about. She said, ‘Sure I’ll buy this book. Let me give you a donation.’ As she handed me five dollars she said, ‘Actually, I’m a Christian, see? [She pointed to a little cross hanging around her neck.] I was just praying to Jesus that I want to love God more than anything else in my life. At that time I felt a more intense connection with God than I’ve ever felt in my life. I thought, “What’s going to happen next?” Then I walked out here and you handed me this book!’”
“I was distributing on a sidewalk at an intersection in Barcelona, Spain. Every day I would try to stop the same young lady, but she would ignore me. One day I walked with her a few meters, pleading with her in a friendly way: “Come on! Just take one book!” Pointing to the Teachings of Queen Kunti I was holding, I said, “Here, please take the teachings of the queen!”
But to no avail; she wouldn’t stop.
“However, the next day when I saw her she humbly approached me and asked, ‘Can I buy the Teachings of Queen Kunti?’
Surprised, I replied, ‘How did you know the name of the queen?’
“I clearly remembered not having mentioned Queen Kunti’s name to her but saying only ‘Please take the teachings of the queen.’ But here she was, asking explicitly for the Teachings of Queen Kunti.
“She replied, ‘Actually, I had a dream of this Queen Kunti last night. She told me, “Go buy my book from that man.”’
“Queen Kunti ki jaya!
“The young lady gave such a nice donation that I also handed her a Bhagavad-gita. When she saw it, she exclaimed, ‘The Bhagavad-gita! I can’t believe it! My boyfriend has been telling me about this book for a whole year!’
“Then I showed her all the books I had. She gave even more laksmi and ended up buying my entire selection.
“Book distribution is mystical.”
“I was distributing in a small town named Yambol, Bulgaria. I had been running all day with a big bag full of books, but I’d distributed only one or two books. My mind was very disturbed because it was so difficult.
“Then I had a realization: ‘The problem is in my consciousness.’
“Completely exhausted at the end of the day, I stood in front of a restaurant in the center of town and prayed to Krishna: ‘Please forgive me for my lack of proper consciousness and help me be Your surrendered instrument in this restaurant.’”
“The two security guards were very compassionate when they saw me lugging around my bag of books, so they each purchased one and let me in. But they said, ‘Here no one will take a book; the customers are not very philosophical.’
“‘Let me try.’
“At the first table an old couple took two Bhagavatam volumes. At the second table a group of people took a whole set of books—thirteen in all! I was in ecstasy seeing Krishna’s mercy in action. Table three took three books. Within a few minutes I distributed more than thirty books. As I looked over the restaurant, I saw that everyone was looking through the books and talking about the beautiful pictures. It become a Vaikuntha restaurant!
“Now all I had left was a set of thirteen books. I approached a strange-looking man who said he was a magician. He offered me a seat at his table and some herbal tea. Then he asked me to explain the books. I quickly told him what was in every one of them. Then he thought a moment and said, ‘These books are very dangerous! You must stop distributing them!’
“‘Thank you for the tea, but I’ll go on with my service. Goodbye.’ I quickly arose from my seat, remembering some verses from the sixteenth chapter of the Gita about the qualities of the demons.
“There was one more table left, but the people there had no interest.
“As I was about to leave, the magician came up to me and asked, ‘Hey, boy, how much do all the books cost?’ I told him the price, and to my surprise he paid it and took all thirteen books, saying, ‘I will make a war with you guys, so I want to study the enemy.’
“‘Good luck!’ I replied happily and left.
“This all happened fifteen years ago, and we never heard from the magician. There was no war against our movement; I think Krishna tricked him.
“Krishna is amazing! We just have to surrender and allow Him to use us as an instrument: nimitta-matram bhava savya-sacin (Bhagavad-gita 11.33).”
Tulasi Devi Dasi:
“I approached a lady whose brother and sister-in-law are devotees in the Brooklyn temple. After we’d talked for a few minutes, she told me what really impressed her: ‘When my brother and his wife joined the temple, they couldn’t keep their big dog in the temple, so they left it with me, our mother, and our little brother in North Carolina. But the dog immediately ran away, and for days no one could find him. They looked everywhere.
“‘Then my little brother figured it out. He went into the forest loudly singing “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna” just as my brother and his wife would. Then lo and behold, the dog started barking and ran to him. So now everyone has to chant Hare Krishna or the dog becomes miserable and runs away.’
“She was impressed. This experience helped her get some realization of our philosophy. The dog is not a dog but a spirit soul, and chanting Hare Krishna is not material. She bought a book and a music CD, which she said she was going to play for the dog. She also took some prasadam for herself and her devotee dog.”
Vasudeva Datta Prabhu (TSKP Slovenia):
“I was so ill that I couldn’t go out on sankirtana. I felt completely useless. I thought, ‘I’m just spacing out here in the temple like a ghost. I have no desire to go out.’ Then I realized that every day on sankirtana is very special and is actually the mercy of Lord Caitanya. So I started to pray like anything: ‘Please, Krishna, allow me to do sankirtana. Please give me the desire to go out.’
“An hour later Mrgendra Prabhu asked me if I would join him the next day at an event where many vegetarian groups from around country would gather. Mrgendra Prabhu would make propaganda for his vegetarian courses and distribute halava, and I would have a book stall. I agreed wholeheartedly, seeing this opportunity as an answer to my prayer.
“The organizers forbade any religious books, so we were supposed to have only cookbooks at the stall. But we put Bhagavad-gitas and some Srimad-Bhagavatam volumes on the table also. No one objected. People were mad after halava throughout the course of the morning and early afternoon, and they also took a lot of cookbooks and a few Bhagavad-gitas.
“But then at one point late in the afternoon all the visitors became very excited and started to look in one direction. I noticed a crowd of photographers snapping pictures, and also some TV cameras. Mrgendra shouted, ‘Look! President Drnovsek is over there and is coming toward us.’ We had already distributed all the halava. What to do? I was the only devotee in dhoti and tilaka, and the president came right up to me and shook my hand. He told me he knew of our prasadam distribution in the country. Then Mrgendra Prabhu introduced his project of vegetarian cooking classes. We apologized to the president for not having any halava to offer him. “I know all about halava,” he replied in a jolly mood. “It’s great that you’ve distributed all the halava to the other guests.” We were all laughing, and the onlookers were amazed at how relaxed the president was with the devotees. We conversed a few minutes more, and then he told his secretary that he would like to have our cookbook. He explained that he’d already gotten our Bhagavad-gita on another occasion. So I took the cookbook, called Krishna’s Kitchen, and an SSR and gave them to the president as a gift. Reporters snapped photos as he happily thanked us. Then he proceeded further into the fair without stopping at any other stall. He just went to the main stage, where he prepared to give a speech in support of vegetarianism, since he is a vegetarian. But then suddenly rain started pouring down and the whole function came to an end. So we packed up our things and went back to the temple.
“The next day Mrgendra received a phone call from the president’s office. It was his secretary. She said that they were very impressed by our presentation, and that she would like to enroll in Mrgendra’s cooking class. She also said that the president would like to come and take lunch at our temple.
“Lord Krishna is really amazing. A few days earlier I had felt completely useless, unable to do sankirtana. I desperately prayed to Sri Sri Pañca-tattva to somehow or other engage me in Their preaching mission. And then the next day Krishna sent the president of Slovenia to our book stall! Krishna is really God and can do anything if we take shelter of Him.”
Radha-Gopinatha Mandir Sankirtana:
“Murari Gupta Dasa reports: November 26 will always bring back memories of the horrifying attack on Mumbai in 2008. On the anniversary of the attack, many peace programs were organized at the various places where the attacks took place. Early that morning the phone rang in the reception office of the Sri Sri Radha-Gopinatha Mandir in Chowpatty.
“‘Is any devotee coming to Nariman point?’ a lady asked. ‘There are many groups here offering prayers and kirtanas.’
“Soon a bunch of devotees reached there, only to find that the program was over and the VIPs had left after lighting the customary lamps. But there was still a small crowd there, and devotees sold a few books.
“Another group went to the Taj and met with a similar response. But a bigger crowd was expected in the evening. At 5 p.m. five devotees decided to visit the Taj. Fearing security restrictions, they decided to take only a pair of karatalas and Srila Prabhupada’s books.
“The Taj was crowded with thousands of people. Students dressed in white and wearing black armbands came and offered their pledges. One man stood with a banner that read ‘free hugs’ and hugged anyone who came to him. Various groups shouted slogans praising India and criticizing Pakistan. Some read poems. In this vast ocean of humanity there were just five devotees—two distributing books and three doing kirtana.
“But they soon created a sensation. Four rows of onlookers circled around them and began to clap and sing the maha-mantra. As a Muslim family passed by, the three-year-old boy in the family, wearing a traditional cap, long kurta, and pyjama, stopped and began to smile at the devotees. His mother released his hand, and he rushed in front of the crowd and began to clap. Then Kalavink Prabhu gently pulled the boy and began to dance with him. This was sensational! The media went berserk. Scores of cameras started flashing, and media figures, camera men, and photographers all vied to get the best view of the grand unifying act: a Muslim boy dancing with a Hare Krishna on the anniversary of a brutal act of terrorism. Then one devotee passed a Bhagavad-gita to the boy, and he raised it above his head and began to dance. The crowd roared and loudly applauded. Soon TV channels made a beeline for the devotees and interviewed three of them:
“‘What is your message?’ asked one reporter.
Sañjaya Prabhu recited the entire maha-mantra and said, ‘Chanting the names of God is the ultimate peace formula. It clears the pollution in the heart, which is the reason why people hate and attack each other.’
“‘Do you have any message for the relatives of the victims?’
“‘Yes. If all of us present here pray together for them, they will surely get tremendous peace and benefit.’
“The book distributors distributed around 25 books. When the devotees finally decided to leave, they came upon a group of about 40–50 soldiers marching toward them. On seeing the devotees, the soldier leading the troops halted, but instead of his regular commands he raised his hands and loudly shouted, ‘Hare Krishna!’ In unison the troops responded, ‘Hare Krishna!’ And then they all chanted the full Hare Krishna maha-mantra.
“The devotees were euphoric.”
Chowpatty Book Distribution:
“The entrance at Malad Station in Mumbai is quite small, and our book table occupied a prominent place there. In the late afternoon we witnessed a constant commotion of trains arriving and then leaving after disgorging their hordes of commuters eager to race home after a day’s work. Frustrated auto wallas spewed expletives all around. Honking two-wheelers and taxis blasted their ear-splitting horns. In the narrow lanes just outside the station, haggling fruit sellers vied for space and customers. Occasionally a constable would come running, waving his stick and blowing his whistle to intervene in the frequent squabbles. With so many devotees standing near the gate and ticket counter displaying the Bhagavad-gita and trying to get the attention of the rushing commuters, it was indeed an intense evening of book distribution.
“Suddenly I turned to face a tall bearded fellow with unkempt hair and sullen eyes that were staring straight through me. He pushed closer. I pulled back reflexively, repelled by his whole persona as well as the stink of alcohol on his breath. His trousers looked like they’d seen a dozen summers without being washed, and his shirt was jazzily incongruent with his dreary personality.
“Wanting to avoid an embarrassing confrontation, I gave him a half-nervous smile, hoping he would retrace his steps when he realized he wouldn’t get anything even remotely resembling what he was looking for. But however much I tried to ignore, he kept inching forward.”
“‘What could this drunkard possibly want from us?’ As this thought raced across my mind, he finally spoke up, ‘Sir, I want to thank you very much.’
“His voice was too polite. Still suspicious, I paid no heed.
“He continued, ‘I’m a fugitive from a nearby state, having three murder cases on my head.’
“I was stunned to see him pull out a long dagger from inside his shirt. Before I could turn to the other devotees, he broke down crying and said, ‘I was on my way to kill another man last night. But as I came out of the station I was stopped dead in my tracks by the sight of so many devotees chanting Hare Krishna and displaying Bhagavad-gitas. Seeing all of you wearing beautiful tilaka and displaying this book, I was struck numb and motionless. A few minutes later I went ahead with my assigned task. As I picked a quarrel with my target, my standard practice, I found myself unable to pull out my knife. A familiar voice pierced through my conscience and implored me to refrain from the heinous act. The chanting of Hare Krishna constantly rang in my ears, and again and again I kept recalling the blissfully smiling faces of all you devotees. I apologized to the man I had come to kill and returned home. Since then I’ve been restless like never before. I finally mustered up enough courage to come up to you and make this confession and thank you for stopping me from committing a terrible sin.’
“This was incredible! As devotees gathered around, we were simply wonderstruck by what the man said. He then picked up a Gita, but upon learning that it costs Rs 70/-, he reluctantly put it back. He said he had only Rs 15/-, which he needed for his daily quota of liquor. I had to act fast. If I let him walk off with his money, he was again going to engage in sin. I immediately gave him a Laws of Nature and said it was only 15 rupees. He was happy to take the book and said he would read it.
“As we celebrated the remarkable encounter later that evening, we reflected upon the wonderful gift Srila Prabhupada has given the whole world. We all assumed we’d seen the last of our reformed drunkard and murderer. So three days later we were all pleasantly surprised to see him again at our bookstall, this time looking sober, cheerful, fresh, and clean. He said he had indeed read the Laws of Nature and promised to give up drinking, meat-eating, and other sinful habits.
“‘I’m convinced,’ he said, ‘that I have to give up this sinful life of mine. I promise to mend my ways. I’m immediately leaving for my hometown so I can surrender to the state police.’
“After my term in prison, I promise to lead a more responsible life and do good to myself and others. And for all this I have you devotees to thank.”
“I was distributing books outside the LA Forum, where the Smashing Pumpkins rock band was to put on a show that night. It was my first day on sankirtana, and I was told to always keep moving so as not to attract the attention of the security guards.
“As I was distributing, I felt a tap on the shoulder and turned around to see a stern-looking security guard ordering me to come with him.
“‘I’ve done nothing wrong,’ I desperately protested. ‘I’m a monk distributing religious books.’ But the guard wasn’t moved and made it clear I’d have to follow him. We walked into the Forum, down a long aisle, into a corridor, and finally arrived at a door.
The guard opened the door and told me to go in. I thought, “O Krishna, I’m in big trouble now.” So I stepped into the room, which was filled with marijuana smoke, and there were the four members of the Smashing Pumpkins rock band! I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“The lead singer greeted me heartily: ‘Hi, are you a Hare Krishna?’
“‘Sure,’ I replied.
“‘You have any books with you?’
“I showed him my books.
“He was very appreciative and asked, ‘How much?’
“‘We pass them out for a donation.’
“Turning to his manager, he said, ‘Give this gentleman a donation.’
“Then he thanked me for the books and encouraged me to go out and continue distributing them.”
I was distributing at an Ozzfest concert in Virginia. I approached a car to show the occupants some of Srila Prabhupada’s books. As they were checking out the literature, a girl in the front seat began to tell me a story she was reminded of by seeing the books.
She told me that the previous July 4th she’d been in Washington, D.C., at the National Mall and had seen these guys in dresses dancing around chanting and playing ‘bongo drums.’ I realized she’d been at the DC Ratha-yatra and said to her: ‘Ok, I confess. We Hare Krishnas are the guilty party. Did you like the festival?’
“At that she got really excited and told me she’d hung out there for about an hour and was totally amazed by the chanting and dancing and the whole vibe of the scene. She had a piece of prasadam cake but put it down after one bite because she felt like she was tripping on drugs from eating it. Must have been some pretty potent prasadam!
“Meanwhile all her friends in the car were listening in and getting very excited as the conversation got more animated. She then got even more animated and told me, ‘I even climbed up onto the altar and fanned—’ Just then I opened one of the books and showed her a picture of Prabhupada. ‘That’s him!’ she shouted. ‘I fanned him!’
“Everyone in the car went nuts, but then I had to tell her that it wasn’t Srila Prabhupada himself but a lifelike statue. Still, doing some service for the pure devotee had its effect, and everyone in the car went home with one of Prabhupada’s books and an invitation to visit the festival again next 4th of July.”
“I had a very inspiring experience one night when Rupa-Raghunatha Prabhu and I were going door-to-door in an upmarket area of Adelaide, Australia. We split up to cover opposite ends of the street, and soon I came upon the door of a stately house. As I spoke on the intercom, I fully expected to be rebuked by its highbrow occupants. But the door opened after I had said I was their local Hare Krishna monk and that we were out meeting the intellectual community to discuss spirituality.
“A woman and her young daughter greeted me and, startled by my tilaka and robes, explained that they had never seen a Hare Krishna before. It was the young girl who had opened the door, but her mother, Jane, was happy to have me there and invited me in. After she had introduced me to several other members of her family (her husband was still at work), I presented the Bhagavad-gita and three other books. They all seemed happy as they picked up the books and looked through them while I did my best to explain our Krishna conscious philosophy.
“Jane was very receptive and announced that she would take all the books. I was ecstatic, and when she asked if they were all the books I had, I felt I was seeing Krishna’s mercy in action. I told her I didn’t have any more books to give her, but I suggested she could have the Swami and other devotees visit her home and do a program. But she replied that her husband would be very much against the idea. She thanked me for the books though, and I left her with a schedule of our evening Loft Preaching workshops.
“The following week I called to see how she was, and she explained that her family commitments had not permitted her to come to our evening workshops. But she asked if there was any way she could see the Swami during the day. With that, a meeting was arranged at the temple, and Jane drove up in her shiny Mercedes the very next day. I introduced her to Bhaktisiddhanta Maharaja and Rupa-Raghunatha, and we all had a nectarean afternoon. Jane enjoyed over three hours of transcendental enlightenment consisting of preaching, prasadam, and kirtana. She thought the temple was beautiful and said that she could feel something special about the Deities (Sri Sri Radha-Shyamasundara). Maharaja taught her how to chant japa and recommended two rounds a day to start.
“Indeed, Jane was a special soul. A lawyer raised in an atheistic family, she had grown unsatisfied with material life and begun questioning everything. Her husband was a prominent Australian businessman, and she herself ranked among the wealthiest women in Adelaide, yet neither of them were happy. Jane revealed her heart to us as we sat in Maharaja’s room. We explained to her how she could add Krishna to her life without dropping all her material affairs. As she left the temple to pick up her children from school, she was smiling ear to ear and carrying a package with her new japa beads, bead bag, and a photo of the Deities.
“From this example we clearly see that even if one has everything materially, the real value lies in Krishna. Whereas material opulence is usually a hindrance to spiritual life, we found that Jane was able to use her material facilities to carry on from where she had left off in a previous life and start on the path back to her real home.
“All glories to Srila Prabhupada!”
“Once when I was selling books on a street in Germany I showed a teacher The Journey of Self-Discovery. He was skeptical and uninterested in the subject. But then a man in his mid sixties riding a bicycle stopped and came over to us.
“‘Bhagavad-gita?’ he asked. ‘Srila Prabhupada’s books? These are very interesting.’
“The teacher asked him, ‘Do you know these books?’
“‘Of course I know these books,’ he said. ‘Who doesn’t know these books? Which one are you holding? The Journey of Self-Discovery. That’s a wonderful book. It tells you everything about yoga, karma, reincarnation, the science of self-realization—everything is in that book. You should read it. You should buy the book. Give him a donation. He’s a nice boy.’
“Then he told the teacher, ‘And you know what the best thing is? If you read these books you understand who you are—that you are a spirit soul and a servant of God. Then when troubles come and nothing works anymore—you’re fighting with your wife, your kids are rebelling, your job is hell—you sit down and very calmly sing and meditate on the Hare Krishna mantra. You know what happens then? Everything just turns very positive, very bright. You become happy and ecstatic and just go right off into another realm. You become so happy you just take right off.’
“The teacher was so surprised by the man’s conviction that he happily gave a donation for the book and walked off as the older man took off on his bike.
“Later the older man returned. I asked him, ‘You must know these books quite well, right?’
“‘Yes, of course. I’ve been reading them for eight years now. And every time I tell myself that something has to change in my life, I go to the city and meet one of you guys and buy some new books. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Show me what books you’ve got.’
“I showed him the books I had. He bought two. I told him we have temples and asked if he knew about the Hare Krishna movement. ‘Temples?’ he asked. ‘You mean like churches?’
“He didn’t know about the temples. He thought we were just young idealists selling books. He didn’t know there was a whole spiritual movement behind them. He was amazed to learn there is a worldwide society in which people practice the philosophy taught in the books.
“‘You know,’ he said, ‘nobody actually understands what is going on in this world. Just look at these people, how they are madly running around trying to gratify their senses and be happy in their material pursuits. Like animals, they have no aim in life. They simply know the pleasures of eating, sleeping, and sex. They don’t know what’s going on. Don’t you find it difficult to speak to them about the knowledge of the Bhagavad-gita? Do you actually know what you’re doing here? Do you know that you’re doing the most important work for the whole human society?’
“I wanted to hear more, so I asked him, ‘Do you really think so? Do you really think the work we’re doing here with these books is important?’
“‘Yes, yes,’ he said. ‘This is very important—the most important thing you can do, more important than breathing. You must give people these books so they can find out why they are living, so they can get some sense into their life.’
“The man left happily with his two new books, leaving me amazed at his conviction in the power of Srila Prabhupada’s books and the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra.”
“I was distributing books in Melbourne, just outside the Food for Life center. I saw a man in his early 30s approaching, so I called him over. His name was Christian, and in the course of our exchange he told me that he’d been associating with devotees for about fourteen years via Gopal’s, Food for Life, the temple, etc. I asked, ‘How did you first come into contact with the devotees.’
“He replied, ‘I used to be interested in martial arts, weightlifting, and so on. I would show off my strength by ripping thick telephone books in half. One day I found a softbound book called The Science of Self-Realization and thought, “Ha, this book will be easy to rip.” Then with all my strength I tried to rip the book in two—but I couldn’t! Even with all my might I couldn’t slightly rip the pages of that book. Finally I realized it wasn’t an ordinary book, so I began to read it. That was the beginning of my Krishna consciousness.’”
This verse is quoted in Vijaya Prabhu’s book on book distribution, and it is one of my favorites. It tells how Lord Caitanya and His associates distributed love of Godhead everywhere and anywhere, without any consideration of the places or the persons there. Srila Prabhupada wanted us to follow this mood of the Pañca-tattva.
patrapatra-vicara nahi, nahi sthanasthana
“In distributing love of Godhead, Caitanya Mahaprabhu and His associates did not consider who was a fit candidate and who was not, nor where such distribution should or should not take place. They made no conditions. Wherever they got the opportunity, the members of the Pañca-tattva distributed love of Godhead.” (Sri Caitanya-caritamrita, Adi 7.23)