Questions from the Field by Rohini Suta Dasa
BY THE MERCY OF Srila Prabhupada, I have been distributing his books for many years, and I often travel to ISKCON centers to talk about this service. Because devotees face many challenges when distributing books, they naturally have questions both about techniques and, especially, about the right spiritual consciousness for a book distributor. Here are some questions devotees have asked me, along with my responses.
Q: I've been a top book distributor for the past three years. But lately I've been feeling a lack of enthusiasm to go out and distribute like I used to. People are so passionate and moving so fast. I barely have time to say hello, say a few short lines about the book, and ask for a donation. I want to spread Krsna conscious philosophy. How can I become reinspired in this service and feel satisfied with this type of preaching?
A: Sankirtana spreading Krsna consciousness is not a mechanical process; it is a dynamic one. So we have to arrange to live in such a way that sankirtana becomes our nature, our life and soul.
To stay enthusiastic we have to stay absorbed in Krsna consciousness by chanting Hare Krsna and taking part every day in Srimad-Bhagavatam class. And a sankirtana devotee should always associate with other sankirtana devotees. We have to pray to Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai and Srila Prabhupada that they allow us to stay always absorbed in this transcendental mission. We have to pray a lot.
Actually, on the material platform it's not possible to stop people and give them Krsna consciousness. Sometimes we're standing before a whole ocean of people and nobody stops. But when we really want to satisfy Srila Prabhupada in a pure, unmotivated way, Krsna will help.
By Krsna's mercy a sankirtana devotee can become like a magician and stop people and give them many books. Asankirtana devotee sometimes dances from person to person, smiling at them. And then they also begin to smile and dance away with books in their arms.
Q: I love distributing books, but I have a problem. When I'm going door to door I try to remind myself of the fallen, pitiful state of the conditioned souls I approach. But by this meditation I develop a feeling of superiority, thinking I'm better than them. They often sense this and get turned off. If I were sincerely humble and compassionate I don't think this would happen. What can I do?
A: We always have to think of how we came to Krsna consciousness, of the fallen condition we were in. Somehow, by the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and the devotees who follow in his footsteps, someone gave us a book or spoke to us, and we got here.
I should always think that I some-how got Krsna's mercy without deserving it. So why can't others, less fallen than I, get the mercy as well?
Q: I don't want to be a salesman and feel that I'm trying to convince people to buy something they don't even want. How can I distribute more books yet feel that I'm giving people something and not forcing anyone to take a book?
A: On the material platform we think that whether people take a book depends on whether we can convince them or force them to do it. Well, maybe we can get out some books in this way, but long term it will become tough, and we'll be dissatisfied.
To go on distributing books, one has to become transcendental, like a living Bhagavatam.
These books are not different from Krsna and Prabhupada. They're all-attractive, like a magnet. So people are naturally attracted to them. And especially when our desire is connected with the desire of Krsna and guru, Krsna will send the people who are interested.
Also: The material mind may not want these books, but the soul does. So we don't talk to the mind; we talk to the soul. When we're empowered by Krsna, we can penetrate the material coverings and reach that soul. Then we see that even people we thought would never take a book become interested and buy some.
Q: How can I avoid becoming too mechanical with people, especially when I want to reach a lot of people on the street?
A: When we become too attached to results, we forget to see people as souls, and the books as nondifferent from Krsna. That's when we become impersonal and mechanical.
So we have to set aside our own interests and motives and think about the welfare of the people we're speaking to.
The words we speak when we tell people about these books are not different from the Hare Krsna maha-mantra. So even when we're repeating the same words, what we're doing should not become mechanical.
How we chant and how we preach are a question of consciousness. So when we feel trapped in a mechanical routine, the best thing is to chant extra rounds or do some loud reading. And also speak with our sankirtana devotee associates on the street. Then we become enlightened again, and everything becomes like another world Vaikuntha, the spiritual world.
Rohini Suta Dasa has been distributing Srila Prabhupada's books since the early seventies. He lives at the ISKCON temple in Zurich, Switzerland.