Preaching, Book Distribution, and the Ultimate Goal
Caitanya Chandra dasa
First edition: 2019
This is a free e-book, a humble offering to all the exalted Vaishnavas in Srila Prabhupada's movement.
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We gratefully acknowledge the BBT for the use of verses and purports from Srila Prabhupada’s books. All such verses and purports are copyright of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International, Inc.
This book is dedicated to my spiritual master, His Holiness Bhakti Dhira Damodara Maharaja, who, without any concern for difficulties or inconveniences, boldly preaches the message of Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He is the dear disciple of Srila Bhakti Tirtha Swami and is always absorbed in spreading the mercy of Srila Prabhupada through the world.
“Pure devotees are so absorbed in thought of Krsna that they have no other engagement; although they may seem to think or act otherwise, they are always thinking of Krsna. The smile of such a Krsna conscious person is so attractive that simply by smiling he wins so many admirers, disciples and followers.” (SB 3.22.21 purport)
Much of this work was written during my travelings to Russia, in the years of 2014, 2015 and 2016. The opportunity of associating with so many nice devotees and doing some small preaching work offered the right environment for the manifestation of this work. The list of devotees that contributed directly or indirectly for the production of this book is too big to include here, but I want to give my sincere thanks to my wife, Acyuta Madhavi devi dasi, who helped tremendously in the formulation of the book, to HG Rabindra Prabhu and HG Daru Brahman Prabhu, who helped enormously in the grammatical revision of the text, and to Steve Prabhu from Switzerland, that heroically did a last-minute revision of the whole text, finding many embarrassing mistakes.
I want to express my special gratitude to HG Navina Nirada Prabhu, who spent much of his valuable time going through the early manuscript of the book and giving (literally) hundreds of corrections and ideas on how the book could be improved, and above all for his unshaken dedication to the sankirtana mission.
My sincere thanks also to mother Alena from Tyumen, who is always helping with translations and ideas for new writings. Not only she takes care of much of the internet preaching organization, but also helps enormously with her sharp intelligence and attention to detail.
My sincere thanks to the many devotees whose words are quoted in this book. Their pearls of wisdom transmit profound realization and help us to understand the teachings of the previous acaryas.
I want also to express my utmost gratitude to HG Vijaya Prabhu for his support; HG Suresvara Prabhu, who gave valuable information through his Our Founder Acarya seminars and some priceless feedback; to HG Hari Sauri Prabhu for his extraordinary classes on the legacy of Srila Prabhupada; to HG Devaki devi dasi for her help on the 7th chapter; HH Mahadyuti Swami, for his support and help on the 5th chapter; HG Krsna Balaram prabhu, who helped with a few ideas for the 8th chapter during its initial stages; HH Bhakti Ratnakara Ambarisha Swami, HH Bhakti Ananta Krsna Swami, HG Adhoksaja Prabhu, HG Acyutatma Prabhu and HG Dayavan Prabhu for their inspiration and support; HG Brahmananda Puri Prabhu (from Chelyabinsk) for his expert managerial help; HG Isana Prabhu, who hosted us in Sochi and facilitated our service; HG Kirtaniya dasi for selflessly hosting and helping us in Saint Petersburg; HG Hariscandra Prabhu for his support and care; and to HG Vasanta Prabhu and his wife HG Anuradha Priya devi dasi for their sincere friendship, support and help with many aspects of this work.
This beautiful cover was made by HG Gita Jayanti devi dasi from Miass, Russia. Since it’s a book about sankirtana, we had an idea of using a photo of Lord Caitanya, the Master of the sankirtana movement. After much deliberation, we came to this beautiful close-up photo of Lord Sri Sacisuta, from Moscow, that HG Vishnuratha Prabhu, the head pujari, kindly allowed to be used for the cover.
There is a lot of symbolism present. HG Gita Jayanti devi dasi created a design based on the colors of the Lord's dress. The back image represents the creation, with the material world symbolized by the dark part in the bottom left. It gradually transitions to white, symbolizing the impersonal brahman.
The silver mandala at the top left symbolizes the Vaikunta planets, while the golden mandala at the right, Goloka Vrindavana. Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is in the middle: it’s by His mercy that we can ascend from the dark material world, where we currently reside, to the brilliant spiritual realm. From darkness to light, from nescience to knowledge, from sin to virtue. This most magnanimous Lord came to give us the most precious gift, and all we have to do is to accept it by participating in His sankirtana movement.
yad advaitam brahmopanisadi tad apy asya tanu-bha
ya atmantar-yami purusa iti so ’syamsa-vibhavah
sad-aisvaryaih purno ya iha bhagavan sa svayam ayam
na caitanyat krsnaj jagati para-tattvam param iha
What the Upanisads describe as the impersonal Brahman is but the effulgence of His body, and the Lord known as the Supersoul is but His localized plenary portion. Lord Caitanya is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna Himself, full with six opulences. He is the Absolute Truth, and no other truth is greater than or equal to Him. (CC Adi 2.5)
sankirtana-yajne tanre bhaje, sei dhanya
sei ta’ sumedha, ara kubuddhi samsara
sarva-yajna haite krsna-nama-yajna sara
Lord Sri Krsna Caitanya is the initiator of sankirtana [congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord]. One who worships Him through sankirtana is fortunate indeed.
Such a person is truly intelligent, whereas others, who have but a poor fund of knowledge, must endure the cycle of repeated birth and death. Of all sacrificial performances, the chanting of the Lord’s holy name is the most sublime. (CC Adi 3.77)
This book took a long time to ripen. I started working on it in 2014, but it was finally completed only in the spring of 2019. This long period allowed me to relate in detail many realizations from book distribution while they were still fresh in the memory. Many passages were written directly on the frontline, in the van, or on park benches during breaks on book distribution.
I started to distribute books in 1993, shortly after receiving a few books from HG Agnihotra Prabhu in Brazil. I took a Bhagavad-Gita and a few small books in the 1992 December marathon, and, as I was reading them, I started to regularly go to him to ask questions. He would take time to answer my questions and explain the philosophy, but eventually, he got tired of spending so much of his sankirtana time answering the questions of a teenage boy.
One day he said to me: "Every day you come here with lots of questions, I see that you are already reading our books and know many things. Why don't you start helping me to distribute them?" I got a few small books and started stopping people, imitating the way he was doing.
Every book distributor has his sankirtana stories and his particular realizations and reasons why to continue book distribution despite all difficulties. One reason is that it helps others, but another is that we are actually the main beneficiaries. By assisting Srila Prabhupada in his lila of spreading Krsna consciousness, we get more mercy than we can realize. A first-class disciple is one who assists his spiritual master in his mission. All our spiritual masters are sacrificing their lives to spread Krsna consciousness, and if a sincere disciple takes up the mission of assisting them, they become most pleased. Actually, it’s impossible to repay the debt to the spiritual master: knowledge about Krsna and love for Him is such a great gift that it is impossible to repay the benefactor. Still, we can at least show some appreciation by trying to relay the message to others.
“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 Krsna" — 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 Krsna?" "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 Krsna?" 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 Krsna you have become happy, and if they chant, they will become happy. Then I will be satisfied, and my spiritual master will be satisfied." (Srila Prabhupada Lilamrta, Los Angeles, 1968)
I’m writing this book in English which is not my native language, and it’s also meant to be translated into Russian, further complicating the issue. Therefore, I humbly beg the reader to disregard any discrepancy in the language while reading this work. As Srila Prabhupada wrote in his purport on SB 1.5.11:
“Our presenting this matter in adequate language, especially a foreign language, will certainly fail, and there will be so many literary discrepancies despite our honest attempt to present it in the proper way. But we are sure that with all our faults in this connection the seriousness of the subject matter will be taken into consideration, and the leaders of society will still accept this due to its being an honest attempt to glorify the almighty God. When there is fire in a house, the inmates of the house go out to get help from the neighbors who may be foreigners, and yet without knowing the language the victims of the fire express themselves, and the neighbors understand the need, even though not expressed in the same language.”
This book combines a few of my realizations on book distribution with quotes from Srila Prabhupada and many seniors. It is dedicated not only to book distribution itself but also to understand how to apply the philosophy properly and advance in spiritual life, keeping the connection with the pure teachings of the parampara.
In this book, I speak about many topics that are way above my level of realization. I feel confident to address such topics because I’m only repeating what I heard from seniors, or got from Srila Prabhupada’s books. Despite all my efforts, in no way can I claim to be able to rigidly follow everything that is presented in this book. In fact, one of the reasons why I wrote this book is to note down a few guidelines that I can try to follow to improve my own Krsna consciousness. I humbly beg for your blessings, so I can eventually be successful in this effort.
I strongly recommend that the reader also takes time to read Vijaya Prabhu’s book, "The Treasure of the Brhat Mrdanga", which is very inspiring, full of realizations and sankirtan pastimes; Vaisesika Prabhu’s wonderful book, “Our Family Business”, and the classic "Nectar of Book distribution", that combines realizations of so many maharatis, athiratis and saints.
Your humble servant,
Caitanya Chandra dasa
“The insignificant author of this book prays that if I am wrong in my presentations of this matter, may the merciful Lord Krsna, who is very dear to the residents of Gokula, please forgive me.” (Srila Jiva Goswami, Sri Krsna-sandarbha 181.2)
In recent years, many books about book distribution have been written and published. With so many experienced book distributors sharing their experience, it seems that book distribution in ISKCON is entering a new era.
At the same time, there is a great danger: weakened spiritual practices, lack of systematic training and focus in bridge preaching and ritualistic activities are reducing the number of stable and experienced book distributors in our movement. Many of our experienced book distributors are becoming old, and it is still not clear if a new generation is going to step forward to replace them. If these tendencies are not addressed, we may instead enter a dark age, where book distribution may become part of a forgotten past.
HG Aindra Prabhu was speaking about a kirtana grassroots revolution. Similarly, we can create a book distribution grassroots revolution, starting with interested individuals and them progressing to all spheres of our ISKCON society. We can learn from past mistakes and master ways to not only increase the quantity, but also improve the quality of our book distribution, touching people's hearts and inspiring them to study our books and start their spiritual path.
Srila Prabhupada once said that history will mark how ISKCON saved the world in its darkest hour. As the world society becomes more and more degraded, our mission to step forward and bring some light in the form of spiritual books becomes more and more urgent and necessary. For this, we need some moons: devotees that will be inspired to dedicate their lives to improve their spiritual practice and to inspire others through their example and potency.
This book is my small attempt in this direction. The main factor in deciding about publishing this book as a free e-book instead of hard copy is to allow all interested devotees to have easy access to it and to share with their friends. There is no marketing department or advertisement budget: this book is being propagated by word of mouth alone. If you get some inspiration, some valuable information, or some realization in this book, feel free to share it with others.
This book is divided into eight chapters, organized into three parts. The four central chapters deal with topics directly connected with book distribution, while the first two and the last two are supportive chapters, that supplement them with other relevant topics for a book distributor.
The first chapter is an introduction. It examines the historical basis for book distribution, how it fits in the teachings of Lord Caitanya and of the previous acaryas, and how it is connected with the prediction that the holy names would be chanted in all towns and villages. It also examines how book distribution fits in the current modern environment (with e-books and other new mediums), and presents different ideas connected with the proper mood and mentality for one interested in serving as a book distributor. Pitfalls on the way are also examined.
The second chapter deals with a rather important topic: how to work together with other devotees to spread Krsna consciousness. As Srila Prabhupada explains, “the distribution of the Hare Krsna maha-mantra should be performed by combined forces”. This is a simple concept to understand in theory, after all, we all heard the expression “united we stand, separated we fall”. However, when it comes to practice, we can quickly realize that to work together with others is one of the most difficult things. Actually, to be able to work cooperatively with other devotees from different backgrounds and cultures, in a peaceful mood, is one of the ultimate tests of spiritual realization. Without being able to work with others, it’s impossible to maintain an organized preaching effort.
These first two chapters lay down the foundation for the third chapter, that deals with the external aspects of book distribution: how to stop and talk with people, how to present the books in interesting ways, how to cultivate interested persons and so on. It also deals with the importance of maintaining a good sadhana and studying the philosophy, and how to deal with the mind. This is by far the largest chapter in the book.
While the third chapter focuses on the external aspects of book distribution, the fourth chapter goes deep in the internal aspects, examining the internal work that needs to be done in order for one to become stable in book distribution. In other words, the third chapter is about how to distribute books, and the fourth chapter is about how to continue distributing until the end of our lives.
The fifth chapter is about maturity in book distribution. It’s a philosophical chapter that examines sastric guidance for preachers. Frequently, we think that we should approach people unrestrictedly and insist until they take a book or become exasperated, but actually, the sastra gives guidance on different ways to deal with different classes of people. These recommendations can be used to improve our book distribution, and especially to make the distribution easier for the book distributor, avoiding the burn-out effect that makes so many devotees abandon book distribution after some months or years of struggle. This chapter also speaks about the training of new book distributors.
The sixth chapter closes the main body of the book, examining another important aspect of book distribution: traveling sankirtana. It’s very difficult for any book distributor to continue distributing day after day in the same city, speaking with the same persons. Sooner or later, almost all book distributors come to the point that they want to travel and reach different publics. Srila Prabhupada himself was emphasizing the importance of traveling sankirtana groups and giving special blessing to devotees dedicating themselves to this service. It’s not something easy to do, especially when one is traveling for long periods or living in a van, but we don’t need to make it more difficult than it needs to be. Many times, traveling preachers may develop an elitist mentality. This is balanced by discussing the importance of temples. This chapter also gives advice on how to maintain our health, discussing about exercise, eating habits and so on.
The final two chapters offer additional points. They are not directly about book distribution but offer foundational topics, that reinforce our bases, giving us a platform from which we can project our devotional efforts.
One serious problem that we currently face in our society is the dilution of our philosophical basis. More and more devotees are mixing their Krsna consciousness with different mundane ideas and concepts, distancing themselves from the teachings of our acaryas. Others go in the opposite direction, becoming fanatic and adopting limited and inflexible views, which are also detrimental.
The seventh chapter has the goal of offering a balanced view, examining different ways in which one can go off astray. The history of Vaishnavism is full of examples of different groups that deviated in different ways, and thus ended becoming separated from the tree of Mahaprabhu. By learning from their mistakes, we can avoid committing the same blunders.
Most of us are going to spend the majority of our lives living with a partner, in a (hopefully!) loving relationship. While many passages of our scriptures warn us about the dangers of grhamedhi life, others emphasize the advantages of a healthy and progressive family life. The eighth chapter offers guidance on how to avoid the traps of sensual indulgence, and how to build a safe environment for the development of our Krsna consciousness, molding our family life as an asrama, a platform from which we can advance to higher realms of devotional service. The primary goal is to offer advice to serious devotees that desire to build a family that can support their service, but this chapter can also be useful for brahmacharis since it emphasizes the duties and regulations of family life in Krsna consciousness (it’s not easy!). By understanding the duties and responsibilities, one can make a mature and conscious decision to avoid it.
This book was written for book distributors and devotees who appreciate book distribution. It contains many secrets about book distribution, which will better be placed in the right hands. It’s not a book for the general public.