Starting a Discussion

Prabhupada Books

Dear book distributors,

Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to the ISKCON gurus.

Starting with the premises that things can always be improved, that we, as book distributors, are (and should always be) receptive to ideas that could lead to better representation of ISKCON in the world, and that the amount of money we collect (for those who do ask for donations) is much less important than how effective we are at bringing jiva souls closer to Krishna's Lotus feet, I would like to share with you a thought that has been on my mind. It is this:

I think that book distributors, when approaching people, should always first introduce themselves as members (or missionaries, or monks, etc..) of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. I have several reasons to think this.

First, we notice that every other respectable religious institution on Earth does this. Indeed, whether the Catholics, the Jehovah's witnesses, the Mormons, the Baptists, (etc…), they ALL share one practice: They (their book distributors) politely introduce themselves to the public as representatives of their respective Churches. I would like to invite reasons why it would not be a good policy to imitate them in this regard. Besides the reason that by this act the book-point results or the Laxmi collection (if any) could decrease initially, I do not see any strong argument against it. On the other hand, I see many ways in which such a policy would greatly enhance ISKCON's preaching. I briefly mention these at the end of this letter.

Second, it is a question of truthfulness and politeness. Dharma stands on one last leg: truthfulness. Also, we are supposed to be gentlemen with the public. I am not saying that distributing Srila Prabhupada's books without making it explicitly clear that we come from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is untruthful. I would tend to agree, however, that to make it clear to them from the beginning of our presentation is more "clean," straighforward, and gentleman-like.

Srila Prabhupada was asked in Florida How could people recognize a Hare Krishna when they meet one. He replied, "You would recognize them because they would be perfect gentlemen." And in the Krsna Book (I forget which chapter), Srila Prabhupada comments that it is general etiquette that a stranger first reveal his or her identity to someone before asking him or her about their own identity. It's just good manners. "Hi. My name is so and so. I am a member of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. I have some books. May I show them to you?" (or something along those lines) should be a standard policy for book distributors across the board. It would force us to be honest. It would force us to depend on Krishna more than on sales techniques. And it would increase the dignity of ISKCON and of ISKCON's book distributors, who would be really standing up for what they beleive. Furthermore, it would weed out the truly interested people from those who do not care much about Krishna consciousness. The people who would reply to us by saying, "Yes, I would be interested in your books and in what you have to say" would be much more likely candidates for further cultivation than someone who might not have been given a clear picture of who we are and what institution we represent when we "put the book in their hand." Imagine if all the book distributors around the world had mandatory general guidelines about what is allowed and what is not allowed in public. This sort of civility would enhance our purity and our reputation. (Two factors that Srila Prabhupada was concerned about.)

This is just a thought. I would really appreciate it if we could discuss this issue (in the mode of goodness) from different angles so that the outcome of our inter-communication could bring pleasure to Srila Prabhupada and to Lord Nityananda's lotus feet.

Your aspiring servant,

Candrasekhar Acarya dasa

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