“I’ll be back!”
A presentation by Navina Nirada Dasa at the NE BBT symposium, South Germany on the 1.15.2000
I feel excited to be here and hear all these wonderful presentations and see all these documentations of Srila Prabhupadas present book production and distribution.
I just came from Mayapur where we completed the Sankirtan Academy. In this Vaishnava Academy we will soon host the MIHE, Mayapur Institute of Higher Education. Over twenty-five teachers will give courses, some of them sastric, others like yoga or cooking. All of you are invited to come and attend. Just come a little earlier to the festival and take part in these great seminars which start on the 4th of February.
If you ask myself how am I doing now. Well I have to say that I'm a little exhausted from six weeks of construction marathon. That was my marathon this year. I did not go out to distribute any books, and I did not feel that bad about it, unfortunately maybe. But I was directing the final stages of construction and painting work. It was interesting to have an insight into that field and prepare for the seminars, which are going to be held shortly.
My heart is obviously beating faster now then usually. For me this is a sign that I feel strongly about what I'm trying to say. I feel very much anxious to get back into book distribution when I come back to Europe at the end of March, after the festival is over. I'll settle in Switzerland, have my family there and distribute books. I also am looking forward to work closer with my old friends in the German speaking lands, to increase book distribution and preaching there.
As you know I have spend the last seven or eight years around the world visiting all the different temples and sankirtan yatras to help them with book distribution. That took a break about a year ago when my spiritual master went on a holiday and did not come back. That is how I saw it. This event changed many things in my life. I got a lot of inspiration and affection from him for doing this service of book distribution. Now if you are always on the stage and you have to deliver you have to obviously get that energy from somewhere. I was getting a lot of that from him. So I had to find other sources where to get that inspiration and affection.
What brought me to the Krishna consciousness movement in 84 when I was 15 years old was Srimad Bhagavatam 1.1. which I found in the library of my boarding school up in the Swiss Alps. Although I did not understand a word of it I felt the affection of Srila Prabhupada with which he is writing, his care for the people. That drew me to visit the temple. There I talked to devotees like Rohini Suta and Harinamananda Prabhus and others and their affection drew me closer. So I joined to become a book distributor. And still to this day I feel like a book distributor. Although some day I might distribute and others I don't.
Hopefully one can say that I got over some of the deeper crisis situations of my life. That was possible by the help of my dear wife and by the help of some dear friends who are standing by my side to help me in this period. I also feel a lot of affection coming from you and that is what gets me excited and inspired. Although we have here all these high tech presentations, great place and delicious prasadam which is all wonderful. But what you will probably remember after a few months is not this. You will remember the mood, the spirit. How everyone is trying to do something in their own little way to please Srila Prabhupada and to bring his message to the people of this world. This is what I feel here in this assembly and this is what keeps me going. Staying constantly on the move, pushing forward to do something for book distribution.
Obviously I took a break. For the last 15 years I have not had one vacation. Not even a day, being constantly on stage on performance. That was not always an easy thing to do. So I figured out I have been working for 15 years now and I need a little vacation, so it might be a little bit longer. I took 6 months off and just visited some peaceful places, chanting and getting my head together.
When I got back to Mayapur after travelling all around the world including Southern India I could actually see how Srila Prabhupadas vision for the Mayapur City and the Mayapur temple is very clear. It is accessible to those who are ready to imbibe the mood of Srila Prabhupada. Now at this point in time I'm not sure wether our society is ready to build that temple. Because of so many spiritual, social, political and financial troubles we are going through. But at the same time I'm convinced that it is by the potency of Srila Prabhupadas books that this project will be realized. People will come forward to contribute to the mission of Lord Caitanya. I feel very much inspired to give my small contribution because of reading Srila Prabhupadas books. Because I can feel his affection. It is the same affection that I can feel when I go out on the streets and I try to hand people Srila Prabhupadas books. I feel that affection touching both the receiver and the distributor. All of you who are book distributors know that this is the reason why we go out to distribute books. It is not primarily a financial concern. There are unlimited ways to distribute books. We have heard some of them, they are many more, which work, and they are all valid. They are all proper if they are done in their own right way.
One aspect which I'd like to underline. We feel very strongly that devotees continue with book distribution in some form or another. In the last few years especialy so many senior men and women in our movement have left book distribution because of not being encouraged, accepted and supported by their leaders, managers and peers. Now obviously these are issues, which will have to be addressed. Being a person who loves controversy I'm ready to address them.
I very much appreciate the format of this symposium; where people give different short presentations and one can ask questions and get answers. Now although I'm sometimes seen as the bad guy, because I bring up some topics, which not everyone likes to hear about, still it is necessary in order to stimulate our own minds and intelligence to figure out how to make book distribution more accessible. How to make it user friendly, both for the devotees and the people we contact, that it will actually be an enlivening experience for all of them.
I see a very bright future for book distribution because we got the best product. There is no doubt about it. The market is unlimited; we have the whole wide world out there. The resources are there. Now it is up to us how we are tapping into that. How we apply ourselves to this vision of Srila Prabhupada in our own way.
I'd like to thank all the present devotees, especially the book distributors for tolerating me for the past few years. I have driven some of you a little crazy. I'd like to apologize for any inconvenience, which you had to suffer. I'm not a very socialy refined person, nor a scholar, but I feel very strongly about Srila Prabhupadas books and I feel very strongly about those who distribute them.
I hope to be of some use in the future. Hare Krishna.
"How do you perceive your service Navina Nirada? I think you mentioned that you would settle in Switzerland and from there will do your regular service as book distribution minister, travelling around the world, giving training courses. Or has something changed?"
"I have been travelling around the world the last seven to eight years extensively. I parted with that, because it was just not possible for me anymore for different reasons. It was obvious that I wanted to get settled and have a family. You can't have it all, as they say. It does not work. We have connection with the sankirtan leaders from all different countries. Our courses are available; we are available if there is interest. But we found out over the past two years that many of the areas of our society aren't aware of the possibilities and they are not ready to commit themselves to book distribution. Due to a lack of leadership, management, financial stability, so many different reasons are there. I have seen that travelling to all these different places very fast does not necessarily change the face of book distribution in our ISKCON society.
I'd rather like to see that the BBT sponsors projects like sastra dana and helps devotees develop manuals and presentations to make Srila Prabhupadas books available to all sections of society. Because our book distribution is experiancing a big shift from temple based monks and celebates to a congregation, which means bigger society. This is a big step. Now I have taken that step myself in my own life and it will take me some time to adapt, before I can say " I have figured it all out." Obviously I have not, but that is why I came here to be inspired by all of your association."
Brahma Muhurtha Prabhu:
"Is that shift happening everywhere?"
"No. I don't think that this shift will happen unless the global and local management has a different set of priorities. Obviously we have made this our priority, that is why we are sitting here. We are in a very nice place, hearing nice presentations, but we are not getting paid for this. Because our set of priorities is clear, it is no question wether to attend or not."
"I have often heard that this shift and changes are needed in ISKCON. Why not keep both things? Temple based bramacaris with sankirtan vans as a part of their training and at the same time congregation distributing books."
"That is wonderful. There are so many ways of distributing books through unlimited different venues. I have been faced over the last few years with a good number of sankirtan leaders who have quit because their leaders were not able to deal with them in adequate ways. I feel kind of guilty being in charge of an activity of ISKCON where most the members who engage in it feel in some way or another exploited, hurt, not taken care of, not trained properly. I feel that this is an issue, which has to be addressed.
I'd rather see more people living in their own places, taking care of their own lives, paying their own rents and distributing Srila Prabhupadas books maybe part time. Then to encourage people to move into an ashram society and give themselves fully to a service where after five or ten years once they decide to move further in their life and get married the temple has got zero to offer them. They are disappointed. I'm feeling disappointed, you are feeling disappointed. The funny thing is that most of us are feeling disappointed because our expectations were probably not right and the prospects which were given to us were also not realistic. I think we have to go back and work on realistic prospects and expectations, so that it will be a pleasant exchange. I don't want a person to come back to me after ten years telling me you have taught me something, which has ruined my life. Nobody has come so far. But many management and financial concerns are being brought up and not many are being resolved satisfactorly. It takes a clear change of consciousness and procedures."
Visnu Murti Prabhu:
"It is a very natural thing to have people getting married and engaging in more congregational type of book distribution. As a way for someone who might join our movement very enthusiastically when he is young. Not to do sankirtan for ten or fifteen years and feel that where do I go from now. But does sankirtan for three to five years and then he has a whole infrastructure, or our society has a infrastructure where they can go out and still respectfully and honestly distribute books and maintain their family. So it seems that when we develop our congregation we have both these possibilities."
"I personally don't regret one day that I spend out there on the streets distributing Srila Prabhupadas books. And I can say that very frankly, not one-day, not one minute. I hope that most of us feel that way. I would have done some things in a different way. But I don't regret. I would have been grateful if some people would have taught me some things a little earlier. Not that I would have to learn it all in the school of hard knocks. Because the older you get the harder it becomes to reform ones bad habits and bad character.
I'd like to thank all of you for being present here and for pushing forward Srila Prabhupadas book production and distribution. I look forward to continuously increase this activity.
Srila Prabhupadas sankirtan movement ki jaya!