By Yadavendra Das, travelling book distributor, Queensland, Australia.
Still early in the morning, I visited two quite small towns, where in the past, I had distributed books well. But due to economic contraction, I met with a very poor result this time. Many shop premises were closed and vacated. Many of the remaining shop owners were anxious about their own future and charity was definitely not their top priority. One good and steady customer considered for some moments the purchase of another Kurma vegetarian cookbook. He finally decided not to part with the money. Under such circumstances, I speed up the process and altogether avoid some shops selectively. Time is short for the book distributor preacher because the task at hand is huge. In wartime, the expert physician has only a few moments for each wounded combatant and perhaps none at all for the fatally wounded and dying. It is in that mood that I arrived in the next bigger town and first of all I noticed two separated shops only: a hairdresser and a liquor shop. From experience, I know that both these shops’ attendants can be very good customers. To go there or not to go there was the question. What if the economic contraction had spread to this particular town also? I would expend the extra energy to reach these separated shops and achieve no tangible results.
I decided: “This is a different town with essential economy. Let me go anyway.” As far as possible, we really want to give everyone at least one seed-chance to engage in Lord Krishna’s service and especially at least one seed-chance to read Srila Prabhupada’s books. “Every word is for the good of the human society, every word, each and every word. Therefore we stress so much in the book distribution. Somehow or other, if the book goes in one’s hand, he will be benefited. At least he will see, “Oh, I have taken so much price. Let me see what is there.” If he reads one shloka, his life will be successful, if one shloka, one word. This is such nice things.” 740105SB.LA
The response and success in the bottle shop was excellent. I evidently noticed how the attendant had a damaged right eye. He later explained to me that his somewhat colorful eye was collateral damage of a public bar brawl. He happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I started to extol the glories of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is and showed him relevant pictures in my folder. He was attentive. Usually I stress the second chapter, which, as we all know, explains exhaustively the immortality of the soul, first through analytical study and in the second part “in terms of working without fruitive results.” To understand our soul-identity and its characteristics represent really the first steps of spiritual life. How many times did Srila Prabhupada explain that we are not these fragile bodies but that we are spirit souls? I may also get them to read the quotations of Gandhi, Thoreau and / or Emerson on the back cover. His final conclusion was:” Yes, let me have one of these! (Bhagavad-Gita As It Is)” He further accepted a copy of The Higher Taste and paid my full retail price for both volumes without hesitation.
A few minutes and steps later, I noticed a lady leaning against the balustrade in front of the drug store. She had a plastic container tied to her left ankle. I quipped: “ Good morning Madam, are you on a drip?” She answered: “I am dying of bowel cancer.” I then realized that the plastic bag contained body waste instead. We had a subsequent conversation during which we agreed that death is certain for everyone and that we are all dying now in the sense that with each passing day, death is coming one day closer. I quickly added that the intelligent person will consequently prepare for death, just as everyone and anyone would not fail to prepare for an important trip. Again I extolled the glories of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, as described above and she agreed to accept a copy. “My brother in-law will also enjoy reading such a book. Thank you very much.” was her final conclusion.
That represented two copies of Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, edition 2, distributed in five or ten minutes, a not-so-common Sankirtan occurrence! From these two live examples, it would seem that those pious souls who are undergoing tribulations in life are more inclined to surrender to and take shelter of God, Krishna, the Ultimate Liberator. This analysis is confirmed by the prayers of Queen Kunti in Srimad Bhagavatam canto one, chapter eight, text twenty five:” I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.”
There is another town where, over the years, people had become excessively vain and would totally disregard and resist my entreaties to engage in Lord Caitanya glorious Sankirtan Movement. I take it that their real situation was summed up on a vehicle license plate with the word “ PAAPY”, parked on the day of my visit very near to the main shopping precincts. For those of us who are not familiar with this nomenclature, the Sanskrit word “paapii” with long “a” and “i”, as indicated by my intentional spelling, means “sinful person”.
The library manager himself would abruptly hang up the phone, as soon as I would mention the words “Hare Krishna”. So much so that, for several years in a row, I decided to stop visiting this particular town during my yearly trips. It clearly would have been a mismanagement of time and energy, considering that elsewhere customers are waiting in line, so to say. In Caitanya Caritamrta, Madhya 7.109, in the chapter titled “The Lord begins tour of south India”, it is explained that the preacher goes where the customers are enthusiastic for Krishna consciousness, not where there is no response or where there is a positive aversion for Krishna consciousness. On such considerations, the lion like Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu went to South India, instead of Bengal, which was at the time dominated by the tantrics.
Then during the wet season, the town was heavily flooded and damage inflicted was just as heavy as well. I decided to resume my visits to observe how the floods had affected the collective mind. The change was astounding. Several people made proactive, unsolicited and favorable statement such as “ Hare Krishna people are good people. Hare Krishna people are doing a great job”. I sold an unusually high amount of books on that day. There is a natural tendency for the living entity to get a little proud of one’s assets or achievements. The living entity falsely thinks himself the only doer and cause, when these are ultimately bestowed upon us by the Lord’s kind mercy according to our desire, pious credit and endeavor. We may quote Bhagavad As It Is 18.13 and following verses in this regard: “O mighty-armed Arjuna, according to the Vedänta there are five causes for the accomplishment of all action. Now learn of these from Me. The place of action, the performer, the various senses, the many different kinds of endeavor, and ultimately the Supersoul—these are the five factors of action. Whatever right or wrong action a man performs by body, mind or speech is caused by these five factors. Therefore one who thinks himself the only doer, not considering the five factors, is certainly not very intelligent and cannot see things as they are.”
Srila Prabhupada also say in a lecture that if we forget Krishna, the supplier of everything and maintainer of everyone, then His material nature may punish.
If my memory serves me well, Srila Prabhupada Himself on His deathbed, playing the role of an ordinary conditioned soul and in His inconceivable humility and made the following statement: “I must have become a little proud of my achievements and now the Lord is taking it all away from me.” During the rasa dance, some of the gopis also became a little proud in the personal association of Krishna, Who took immediate steps to rectify the matter, by depriving them of His most cherished company.
Inadvertently-I use “inadvertently” because my main business on this occasion was not book distribution -I also visited a cooking school and restaurant, where Kurma Prabhu himself taught at least on one past occasion. The owner was friendly, liberal and welcoming but he didn’t seem to be a happy man though. Sometimes we can actually see the anxieties of the slaughtered animals reflected on the face of the meat-eaters. He clearly stated that if it were for vegetarianism, his business would not survive. His wife however did not tolerate my approaching the chefs in the kitchen for the purpose of book distribution. That is generally not an auspicious sign!
Just like in the early days of Iskcon, sometimes our detractors still involve the police. Many senior devotees will easily remember how forty or so years ago, we would often end up at the police station for either distributing books or chanting
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
in the streets. Recently a shopping center management not only targeted me with its own security team but also called the police because I was distributing books on their premises. God, Krishna is the Supreme and Ultimate Proprietor. He therefore also owns all shopping centers, in every country and all over the world. As humble servants of Krishna, we should therefore be welcomed to execute our duties almost anywhere and everywhere. I suppose it is a matter of education. Under such circumstances, we should always remember and follow Srila Prabhupada’s strong and staunch letter statement that we shall never stop our preaching activities, nor change their essence. But confrontation may not be the best policy under the circumstances. More responsive policy of push when there is give and give when there is push is required. This is the most energy effective policy also.
In India, Srila Prabhupada’s glorious servants once mistakenly requisitioned a stranger’s vehicle for the pure devotee’s service. This vehicle was an exact replica of Srila Prabhupada’s own vehicle, whence the misunderstanding. Instead of an altercation, the owner felt honored and privileged by the service inadvertently rendered to the representative pure devotee of the Lord and additionally gave all honors to Srila Prabhupada. “This is the difference between India and the West”, I believe, Srila Prabhupada commented on this or such similar occasion.
108 glories to Srila Prabhupada, the greatest unacknowledged friend, well-wisher and welfare worker of humanity at large!