An interview with Radhanatha Prabhu
While visiting the ISKCON center in Kansas City, Missouri (the locals call it "misery"), I had the good fortune of associating with one of the greatest inspirations in ISKCON, Radhanatha Prabhu. He joined in 1975, in Philadelphia, and shortly after joining he contracted a disease that put him in crutches and then a wheel chair. Last year he had his legs amputated. Despite all this, he has been enthusiastically distributing books for the past twenty-eight years! I'm a big fan of his, so I decided to interview him.
Vijaya Dasa: What year did you start distributing books?
Radhanatha: I joined in Philadelphia in 1975, and after a few weeks I went out on book distribution during the Christmas marathon. The devotees were making headway distributing books in the subways, airports, and other places.
What inspires you to distribute books?
When I read Srila Prabhupada's books, I get inspired to distribute them. I used to be into welfare work; I always wanted to help people. From reading Prabhupada's books I could see that these books are the ultimate solution to all problems. I read the Krsna Book that my sister gave me, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Perfection of Yoga, and by reading these books I became very inspired to take up the process and give it to others.
What do you say to distribute books?
It depends on the person's mentality. The face is the index to the mind. If they look very sinful, I just try my best and pray to Krsna. If they say they're Christian, I say, "Yoga means to think of God, always, so this won't impede your faith in Christ, but it will help you understand what a great devotee Jesus was because He was always thinking of God." With other people, I hand them a Bhagavad-gita and tell them that A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada's translation has sold more than 15 million copies and has the best translation, and why it is best. Small books I distribute randomly. I tell them that this book will help you to become more successful in life.
You've gone through many trials and tribulations. How is that you're able to go on despite the difficulty?
Everyone has trials and tribulations, mentally or physically. One way or another the trials are there, there is suffering. But when I look at the difficulties Prabhupada had to endure just to come to America to inspire us, whatever trials I have are very little compared to what he went through. We had temples, books, prasad, etc. all we had to do was enter the temple and then when we were inspired to preach, all we had to do was get the books and go out. We should see how fortunate we are and do our best. There is one friend of mine, she's been a nurse for the past twenty years. One day she decided to go out to distribute. She went out and tried her best but she couldn't distribute a book. She came back and was feeling a little depressed. But that night she had a dream. Srila Prabhupada was there saying, "That's OK, you just keep on trying". If we just endeavor to distribute Srila Prabhupada's books we're doing the right thing. Success will come, success will ultimately come because were getting purified. Simply by the desire to get the books out, they will go out.
What advice could you give to someone that wants to distribute throughout his or her life?
Prabhupada wanted all the devotees to learn the art of book distribution. There are so many types of devotional service, but book distribution is especially important. If a devotee distributes his favorite books, he'll be inspired to distribute them. There should also be a variety of other books, but we should mainly distribute the ones that inspire us the most. This will give a taste and you'll enjoy very much. It's a very wonderful service and you'll love to do it.
Jaya Srila Prabhupada!