Maha-maha-maha-maha-sankirtana book distribution
Please kindly accept my humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
I pray that you are all well and in good health and spirits.
By your blessings I am able to participate in this Hare Krishna movement,
despite my disqualifications. Thank you!
Dec 16-27 – Drivers, staff & Shopkeepers Sankirtan – 6 All-day sessions
Dec 24-28 – FLight Attendant & Co-passenger Distribution – 2 sessions
Dec 24-28 – Airport Distribution – 2 outings
Dec 24-28 – Vrindavan Distribution – 1 outing
Dec 16-23 – Dilsukhnagar Street Distribution – 7 outings
Dec 16-23 – Friends & Family Sankirtan – 3 outings
Dec 16 – Air India Office Invasion – 1 outing
Dec 18-19 – Mantralayam Distribution – 3 outings
Dec 17 – Anantagiri Distribution – 1 outing
Total 26 Outings
*What an incredible marathon month it has been!* From Canada to India and back, it has been Hearing, Chanting, Distributing, and collecting Lots of Blessings!
*In December, if you recall, I had an opportunity to visit India*, to meet my elderly parents, go out on pilgrimage with them, and also to distribute books like I’ve never distributed before!
*My marathon goal was to complete 108 outings – I could not reach this goal. But another goal was to be an instrument in the distribution 1008+ Bhagavad Gitas, and that goal was smashed.* In addition, I was able to chant a lot, read a lot, hear a lot, and serve a lot, all while being out on pilgrimage. All in all, it was probably one of my most successful marathon seasons. I would have completed the 108 outings, if only I hadn’t caught COVID at Pearson airport in Toronto and fallen sick, had to take time to recover, quarantine, etc. But it was all Krishna’s blessings, COVID infection included. During the downtime, I was able to reflect on just how much I take for granted, and how little time I may actually have to serve Krishna in this lifetime. And this resulted in an even more determined outlook, spread Krishna Consciousness to the best of my ability, for as long as I live and am able to!
*Distribution in India was especially exuberant. Krishna says “manushyaanaam sahasreshu”, or one among thousands may be interested in
spiritual life.* This holds everywhere in the world, it is a general principle, BUT, there are many more thousands of people in India than in
Canada. So, the number of people I would meet, say, in 3 hours of distribution here in Toronto, is equal to the number of people I had a
chance to pull in, about 10 mins! And of course, India is a Holy Land, with a greater degree of piety than in the west. So compared to the drought-like conditions here in Toronto, India distribution was like the raging monsoons. Books were flying, left, right, and center. I didn’t even have to have long conversations – the book was typically distributed in seconds upon meeting a soul, in most cases!
*Madhava Govinda Prabhu set me up with the team of distributors led by Tarun Mohan Prabhu, in ISKCON Sri Radha Madan Mohan Temple, Hyderabad, and the devotees, Srinivas, Vinay, and Naresh kept me flush with books.* Initially, I purchased just 40 books, but was able to turn them around several times, and after distributing thousands of books in India, I still have about four boxes of books and donations in Indian Rupees not yet delivered to the temple. Krishna’s Lakshmi will reach Krishna, thanks to my father, and the books will be there, ready for me to resume whenever I return to Hyderabad.
*I had taken suitcases full of books from my stock* here, my checked in bags were full of books, my hand bags were full of books, and my jacket pockets too were full of books.
*I started at Pearson International Airport, no one could kick me out! *I ran out of books in my pockets, in my backpack, and my suitcase. It is another thing that I almost missed my flight to Delhi, but fortunately, the last person I distributed a Gita to, an engineer from Mississauga, reminded me that he had a flight to catch, and we both were the last two on that flight! 🙂
*Then, on the plane, I distributed to my co-passengers, and the flight attendants.* People have such difficult lives in the material world,
dealing with so many problems. A listening ear, and a good stock of books, helps people like anything! On flights where I intend to distribute, I dress in devotional clothes, and this is sufficient to get the conversations started “what’s that on your forehead”, “why are you dressed
that way”, all the way to “Panditji, can you read my palm?” I tell people I come from a family of astrologers, but my uncles, the last to practice that science in its pure form, told me not to get into it, that it was hopeless. It wasn’t until I read Srila Prabhupada’s books that I realized the true meaning of what they said… an astrologer can predict the future, but cannot change it. Krishna can change the future, and I witnessed that on a daily basis in the last twenty-plus years in Krishna Consciousness!
*Then I distributed at Delhi Airport*, with books freshly received from the baggage belt, and at Hyderabad airport. I distributed to the staff, clerks, and drivers, everyone I met I tried to distribute to. And the people in India, they may be poor, but they sure know the value of making daana, charity, and they donated from their hearts.
*I distributed in Anantagiri,* a place of pilgrimage, site of the Ashram of Markandeya Muni, who would daily visit the holy rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Kaveri, daily go to Badarikashram, Vrindavan, etc., but at the onset of Kaliyuga, was not able to… so in answer to his prayers, all the holy rivers appeared in a spring, and the Lord appeared in a beautiful Shaligram form of Sri Ananta Padmanabha Swami… and Markandeya Muni was able to continue his seva… this place is a powerful spiritual oasis, and great place to distribute books – the beggars and the shopkeepers even took books, what to speak of the priests and the temple visitors. Many years ago, when I was sitting in the temple yard reading Brahma Samhita and Srimad Bhagavatam, a monkey came and sat next to me, listened to the reading and left peacefully – such is the place.
*I distributed in Mantralayam… There stays Sri Raghavendra Swami, an incarnation of Sri Prahlada Maharaja, there to help the unfortunate souls trapped in Kaliyuga… for 700 years, of which about 350 have passed.* The last time I went there, I saw that people were asking for material benedictions at the Samadhi (Raghavendra Swami had supervised the construction of his samadhi shrine, then walked in, and told his followers to cover up and seal according to his instructions). And he listens to prayers day and night… people asking for a husband, a wife, a child, a job, good health, victory in litigation… it must be so much fun for the Madhva Sannyasi pure devotee of Sri Panchamukhi Hanuman and Lord Moola Rama! So in answer to my prayer “how may I serve you”, he inspired “help them understand what to ask of me” so I distributed Srila Prabhupada’s books there. The administrator had interrogated me the last time, then taken a set of books for himself and said “you can distribute here any time as many books as you want”… so this time I arrived with a car load of books! And the flower sellers took, they lined up and took a Gita, made a donation “Aiy, that is too less, give more”, one lady exhorted another vendor… and then the shopkeepers lined up with their donations in hand. Many souls took, many did not, but it was an incredible experience!
*The most amazing part was in P&T Colony, Dilsukhnagar, Hyderabad, just a little intersection where 5 small roads met.* All I had to do was go there with a Gita in hand (and more in my bags), and people would come out of nowhere, take a Gita, make a donation and speed off… pedestrians came from behind, people on motorbikes screeched to a halt past me, put their bike on the kickstand, and walked towards me palms folded just to take a book! School children took books, pleading to read. Housewives stopped, examined the books and took books, carefully counting out donations from their fruits and vegetable budget quota!
*Here are a few Sankirtan stories.*
*A woman stared at me as she passed on her Scooty,* then she made her way back, stopped and said “give me one please”… her school-aged daughter said “but mummy you already have one”, to which the mother answered “I felt like getting another one”, and then the girl took an English one, and then they took more to distribute… at each book, the woman kept giving me more and more money – when I protested that she had far exceeded the cost of the books and more, the lady said “you said donation, so why are you stopping me from giving to Krishna”. She said that she wished more people did this.
*A Maulvi, a Muslim priest, walked by a couple of times*, elderly gentleman, used a walker to walk slowly… I respectfully stood aside each
time he passed, giving him space. He then said he would read the Bhagavad Gita any day, so he got a Hindi copy… and he said “you know, I am not different from a Brahmin” and explained that he had dedicated himself to the service of God, did not take any meat or liquor or tobacco, so how was he different. And indeed, this is exactly what Krishna says in his qualities of a Brahmana and a devotee! I reflected later that an honest and pure hearted soul from any tradition is equally dear to Krishna, and an impious person is as materialistic as another, no matter which tradition he professes! The Maulvi said, Allah spoke the Gita and Allah spoke the Quran, so why read one but not the other!
*A gentleman, following the Aiyyappa Swami tradition, with a salt-and-pepper beard and black clothes stopped his bike* and stretched out
his hands as if begging for alms, and I placed all the books in his hands. I said “please make a daana”, and he immediately opened his wallet, took out every single item of cash (several thousands of rupees), and said “you gave me everything you had, and I give you everything I have”, and then he said “tomorrow I go on pilgrimage, I will have something worthwhile to do, something nice to read”! Just imagine the amazing thing – Srila Prabhupada, preaching to a demigod worshipper while on pilgrimage!
*A school-going child, not very much older than Vitthal Bhakta said* “uncle, I want to read, but I have no money”. So I gave him a Gita and he gave me the coins his mother had given him for his after-tuition snack!
*Young men sought me out… one young man said he had seen other book distributors during his 10 years in New Zealand*, and never engaged with them, always suspicious whether they were using the money to buy drugs or what… but he spoke to me, asked me a few questions. I offered to give him the books in case he didn’t find me later… he started his bike and went off to his office to get a donation. Then he returned after I had moved on, almost didn’t find me, but did some detective work asking other people if they had seen me as I wandered… found me, took the books I had, made a BIG donation and said “now I know you people are genuine”.
*An amazing experience happened at the Air India office where I had to go to get my ticket changed and book a ticket for my father*… I waited there patiently as the ladies worked very very slowly, tic tic tic, click tic pause tic… when it was all done, I asked the lady if she would read the Gita – I had shown up straight after the morning program with boxes of books and the security guard forbade me to leave them outside. He placed them right next to himself and said he would watch over them… so she took one. Then I asked the cashier, who said he had one but he would ask his colleagues… then once the transaction was done, he led me into the office… where he took me to the head of finance, who took two Gitas, then another person sauntered in and took a couple… and before you know it I was going from desk to desk, office to office, until finally the security guard came and said “sir, the big boss wants you to leave”, but by then I had already distributed to practically all the staff members! Once outside, the security guard, the cleaning lady, and all the blue collar staff lined up to get their Gitas!
*Once I took an Uber back to my parents’ place, it was a long long drive, lots of traffic, and the driver kindly accepted books.* At the end of the ride, he said “sir, you don’t pay anything”, he pointed to the books and said “today you brought Krishna to my car, I can never repay you” and he had tears in his eyes! I insisted, it was over Rs. 500, but he wouldn’t budge, just wrote the whole thing to Krishna! So I made an equivalent donation to my book fund!
*Muslim drivers took books for their friends and families!* Labourers who could not read took copies for their children! Shopkeepers took books for their shops and homes. Fruit sellers, vegetable sellers, they took books, it was just incredible to witness how these books were using me as a carrier and distributing themselves!
*On the flight back to Toronto, one flight attendant was extremely worried that I wasn’t eating anything.* She kept checking and checking, she offered me fruits (which I didn’t need)… I explained to her that I had a lot of Krishna Prasad from the temple in Vrindavan, but she wasn’t convinced, she kept asking me again and again, and all I needed was water, which she gave generously. She said she was checking because it was important to her. So finally a few hours before the plane landed, I got up and went to the back and asked her, “so why do you care, I am just one of the hundreds of passengers here”… she revealed that she had tried to be a devotee but could not follow. She said she felt great admiration for those who were following. So I dug a bit deeper, she told me she watched videos of Gaura Gopala Prabhu, was reading his book, but hadn’t completed the Gita. She said that as a flight attendant she has to serve meat and alcohol and her work schedule didn’t allow her to read the Bhagavad Gita peacefully. So then I went to my handbag and brought back a HUGE pile of small books, and said “you can read these on your breaks”, and all the flight attendants crowded around and got books. I was moved by their interest, all these young ladies, may Sri Krishna steal their hearts!
*I carried books everywhere, and everywhere I went the books flew.* It was truly magical! All I had to do was attend the morning programs, chant sincerely, get books and GO!
*What I love about the Shaastra daan program in India is that they have it very well organized. Instead of just giving books away and hoping people read them, they give books only to those students who enroll in the course…* then there is a course, and an exam at the end of it all, with prizes and all! Hundreds of thousands of students have taken part in the course, it is guaranteed that the donated books will get read. It is much more than raising donations, buying books and placing them to whoever will agree to take them, but a full followup program with devotees going to schools and colleges and conducting a full-fledged Bhagavad Gita course, presented as a “Values Education” course. Very very smart and well done.
You can be sure that there are many many untold stories. After all, it is just one poor little me, how much can I remember and how much can I possibly write?
*Friends and family members made shaastra daan donations, some wrote big cheques to ISKCON Hyderabad*, my nephews were bringing their friends to talk to me and get Gitas, my cousins and aunts were distributing, my parents were distributing, *people who just got books were distributing*, it was incredible to be in that Sankirtan festival.
Again, all of this is not any credit to me, but credit to the blessings I have received from you. *And why is India so warm to Sankirtan devotees? Because of Srila Prabhupada’s austerities in India – his efforts have impacted India in such a major way, that even fools like me with his books meet with such amazing warm reception!*
The pilgrimage to Sri Radha Madan Mohan, Anantagiri, to Sri Mantralayam, and to Sri Vrindavan Dham and Sri Giri Govardhan was totally blessed. I met great saintly souls, both those who currently walk our planet and others who sit in Samadhi for our benefit… *our own Srila Prabhupada, Srila Rupa Goswami, Sri Sanatana Goswami, Sri Gopal Bhatta Goswami, Sri Lokanath Goswami, Sri Vishwanath Chakravarti Thakur, Sri Lochana Dasa Thakur, Sri Tapan Mishra, and many more… Toronto’s Srimad Bhakti Anugraha Janardhana Swami Maharaja… and the highlight? One of my dearest most respected teachers, Srimad Bhakti Brhat Bhagavat Swami Maharaja, who trained me and so many others in so many wonderful ways* was my neighbour at the Krishna Balaram Mandir guesthouse, the room which had been kindly allotted by His Grace Ganapati Prabhu in Vrindavan! It was such a powerful blessing to hear from them and from other great souls wherever I went…
In this way, the blessings of my spiritual master and the Vaishnavas were manifested in beautiful causeless ways, and I am grateful for my great good fortune. And I want to pass it on!
*Now, my 2022 target is 108 outings, and to be an instrument in the distribution of a minimum of 2016 Bhagavad Gitas or equivalent.*
*And now, in the cold Toronto winter, January, February, as I await the lifting of gathering restrictions and wait out the subzero temperatures*, I have LOTS of contacts to follow up with!
Followup continues, and I’m blessed with many wonderful conversations with sincere souls making their way to Krishna’s lotus feet all over the world. Begging for their blessings too!
Praying to be always out on Harinam Sankirtan, or at least be in Harinam Sankirtan consciousness 24/7, this is my humble desire, though I must admit that unfortunate as I am, I still maintain all sorts of material attachments. Please bless me.
This is written for your pleasure.