Strategies To Become A “Weekend Warrior”
A renaissance in book distribution is blooming in North America. This revival is being led by a new pedigree of transcendental book distributors—the “Weekend Warrior.” Many “Warriors” are householders who have family obligations and who work during the week to earn their livelihood. But despite their busy professional and family lives, these devotees, eager for the nectar that comes from direct preaching, go out on weekends to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books. But the “Weekend Warrior” comes in all shapes and sizes: Kids, students, temple managers, retired book distributors, and congregational members of ISKCON are all joining the swelling ranks of the “Weekend Warriors.” In fact, this new approach to book distribution is so simple and appealing that even devotees who previously thought of book distribution as being intimidating or too demanding are now enjoying Srila Prabhupäda’s favorite method of preaching.
One successful group of “Warriors” lives near the ISKCON temple in Potomac, Maryland. There, four enthusiastic preachers: Bhakta Steve, Lokadhyaksha Dasa and his wife, Vidarbha-suta Dasi, and their five year old son, Nimai, have come together as a powerful weekend preaching team.
Bhakta Steve, a householder and long-standing member of ISKCON, works for a property management company during the week. Despite his busy work schedule and family obligations, Bhakta Steve commutes to Potomac to attend the temple’s morning programs and volunteers to help several temple projects. His favorite service, however, is book distribution, which he does alongside his other team members, Lokadhyaksha Dasa, Vidarbha-suta Dasi, and young Nimai.
Lokadhyaksha Dasa is a computer programmer with a demanding work schedule and his wife Vidarbha-suta Dasi has her hands full home schooling Nimai. Despite these obligations, they both give valuable service to their local temple. And like Bhakta Steve their most cherished service is distributing Srila Prabhupada’s books on weekends. Vidarbha-suta Dasi says, “Even Nimai loves to go out. He often asks us when we’ll be going out to distribute again. His favorite job is passing out pamphlets.”
One of this team’s favorite preaching spots is on the world famous “Mall” inside the beltway of Washington D.C. They specifically chose this sankirtana spot because of its location. Being very near the Lincoln Memorial and just outside the Museum of Natural History, the “Mall” attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.
To secure this valuable preaching venue, they approached the Washington D.C. Mall Authority and asked for permission to set up a table from which to distribute religious literature, to solicit donations, and to perform hari-nama-sankirtana. After the devotees filled out some paperwork, the Park Authority granted them full permission to do their work. Now, during busy weekends these four dedicated “Weekend Warriors” gather to distribute books and to chant Hare Krishna at this world famous tourist attraction.
These “Warriors” have assembled a preaching display that includes a folding tent (costing $100 at a sporting good store), a portable folding table, a small ” Changing Bodies” exhibit, a sign (which reads: “Books on Yoga, Meditation, and Vegetarianism”), a hearty supply of Prabhupada’s books, and a sitting carpet (for sit-down bhajanas ). When erected, their display becomes the backdrop for a “mini festival.” And if lugging all this gear sounds unwieldy, it’s not. Their entire setup fits handily into a Toyota Corolla sedan and takes only a couple of devotees a few minutes to assemble (or disassemble).
These devotees make it a point to invite other members of the Potomac community to come out with them on the weekends. Bhakta Steve is famous for urging others to come out to experience the bliss of book distribution. “Come experience the nectar for which you are always anxious!” he exalts. Lokadhyaksha and Vidarbha-suta are just as enthusiastic to put out the word about their program, inviting friends and congregational members of the temple to join with them for a few hours of preaching on weekends. “Usually a few others join us,” says Bhakta Steve. “But,” he remembers, “one Sunday during the summer we were able to recruit a dozen devotees from the temple community to join us.” Working together that Sunday, their group distributed 150 books. And according to Vidarbha-suta Dasi, “We all had a lot of fun doing it.”
Bhakta Steve recounts some of the events of that particular day: “One group of devotees sat and chanted Hare Krishna to sweet melodies accompanied by harmonium, karatalas, and mrdanga.
“Another group stood behind the book table greeting the people attracted by our tent and signs, inviting them to browse through the books we’d displayed. We’d trade off with one another—sometimes chanting, sometimes selling books.”
Indeed, the chanting and special display attracts many passersby to take notice.
Bhakta Steve comments, “It draws people in. When they come near they seem to become transformed as if they had stepped into the spiritual world for a moment.”
Bhakta Steve tells how one lady stopped at their table to peruse the books on display. With a big smile she said, “I’ve walked by your booth three weeks in a row and I finally had to stop to find out why you guys are so happy.”
He also remembers how an employee of the nearby Smithsonian Institution called out to the devotees one Saturday, “I love the Hare Krishnas!”
Bhakta Steve summarizes the reason for their success: “If you just represent Srila Prabhupada nicely, then the people appreciate what you’re doing.”
Weekend Warriors In California
Weekend Warriors are mobilizing in other cities as well. Jayanti Radhika Dasi, who works part time as a clerk and who is a member of ISKCON of San Diego, became interested in starting a Weekend Warriors group in her area after hearing about it at a seminar at ISKCON, Los Angeles.
She launched her own program by approaching senior preachers in her community, asking them for ideas for potential sankirtana spots around San Diego. At the San Diego Sunday Feast program she made the rounds, introducing her idea to the congregation, asking for their blessings and support. By networking she gathered a list of potential Weekend Warriors and some good ideas for places to set up tables for distribution.
Next she compiled a list of books that she would need to buy from the BBT and also researched where to buy the right display tables and banners for her program.
Finally, with her “Weekend Warriors” blueprint in hand, she met with her temple president to present her case. Her temple president was very accommodating.
Jayanti Radhika remembers: “To continue my momentum, I also took the initiative to speak to Weekend Warriors in other cities to get their ideas and support. Karuna-dharini Mataji in L.A. gave me some great practical suggestions and encouraged me to continue.”
Jayanti’s local G.B.C. secretary, Badrinarayana Prabhu, also gave her strong reinforcement. At one point she wrote to a friend of the fledgling program: “It’s off to a slow start, but I know it’ll work. Badrinarayana Prabhu is very supportive and is encouraging me to stay focused and not to get disappointed.”
In fact, Badrinarayana Prabhu became a champion of her cause, taking time to drive around the San Diego area with her to locate potential spots to set up “Weekend Warrior” displays. He also sent a letter to every devotee in the San Diego community informing them of the new program, inviting them to participate. In the letter he appealed:
“I am writing to tell you about an exciting new program that is sweeping across America. All over the USA, devotees are starting to go out on weekends, manning (or ‘womaning’) tables at legal sankirtana spots, and presenting Srila Prabhupada’s books to the public . . . We want to also jump into this river of bliss by setting up a similar program here in San Diego. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for the participants. We will supply the books, the table, a snazzy little banner, and a hassle-free legal spot. All you have to do is reserve your day in advance, then show up at the temple and we’ll load you up and send you out on the wonderful adventure of book distribution . . .”
After several months of hard work, Jayanti announced to the devotees of San Diego that the “Weekend Warriors” program was ready to launch. She had secured five legal spots from which to choose, ordered and stocked a significant inventory of books from the BBT, and had tables, chairs, and banners ready to go. She appealed to the devotees, welcoming them to participate. She encouraged them, saying, “Even if you can only volunteer for thirty minutes once a year, that’s okay!”
Jayanti recounts the San Diego Warriors first weekend out:
“Our first Saturday out I set up a table outside “Little India Cash and Carry”, an Indian grocery store. My partner that day was Mrs. Prakasha, an Indian woman who has for years been one our most stalwart congregational members. Mrs. Prakasha had determined that she’d come out for two hours; but when her two hours were up, she didn’t want to leave. Mrs. Prakasha told me, ‘Doing this makes me feel like a real devotee; for the first time I feel truly connected to what Srila Prabhupada wants us to do.’”
To bolster the courage of her team on their first weekend out, Jayanti invited an experienced book distributor, Bhakta Bobby, to come down from Los Angeles to give the volunteers some coaching.
She says, “It was good to learn from him. He taught us how to be proactive in making friends and in introducing the books in a friendly, straightforward way.”
Since beginning her program, Jayanti has realized that one of the best book distribution spots in San Diego is right in front of her own ISKCON temple on Pacific Avenue. In fact, she and her team now set up a table with an elaborate display of books in front of the temple during the Sunday Feast. At their Sunday Feast debut, Badrinarayana Prabhu made a plea to all the assembled devotees and guests to go outside and check out the new book table.
Jayanti says, “The response has been very encouraging. More and more congregation members want their names added to my list and have promised to get back to me as to when they can go out. We’ve also been selling a lot of books.”
Jayanti offers some final revelations about the benefits of the “Weekend Warriors” program:
“One of the best things about this program is how it brings the devotees together. We are seeing congregational and temple devotees coming together more. I had a wonderful time working the table together with my god brother, Mohan-vilasa Prabhu, and with Mrs. Prakasha. We always seem too busy to take the time out to share our thoughts and realizations. But while preaching together—focused on Guru and Gauranga—we are building confidential and lasting relationships.”
Although the “Weekend Warrior” style of book distribution is not entirely new, the growing enthusiasm for it is. Devotees in San Jose, Alachua, Los Angeles, Atlanta, San Diego, Montreal and Potomac have organized “Weekend Warrior” programs. And devotees in many other cities have also expressed a desire to get started.
For those who are attracted to the idea of starting their own “Weekend Warriors” program, the process is straightforward. One only needs to follow in the footsteps of those who have already succeeded.
Regional Sankirtana Leader for the Southwest of America, Brghupati Prabhu outlines three fundamental steps one can take to get started:
1) Establish your locations for distribution and secure permits or permission to work them.
2) Gather the tools you’ll need for a simple display: Portable table, a banner, and a nice variety of Prabhupada’s books.
3) Invite some of your devotee friends to join you.
4) Go get started! Book distribution is back. And now it has become easier to fulfill the wish of ISKCON’s Founder/Acharya Srila A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada who once wrote a note to all his followers saying: “Everyone should go with the Sankirtana Party as soon as possible.”
Senior devotee and veteran book distributor, Ragatmika Dasi of Alachua, Florida, expressed her realizations about getting back out on book distribution after a long hiatus. She wrote to another devotee: “Well, needless to say, it all came back—the sweetest taste I had ever experienced in my life—from giving Srila Prabhupada’s books to a conditioned soul. By Prabhupada’s grace, I felt I never wanted to stop.
You reminded me that Srila Prabhupada wanted us to take over the ‘family business’—book distribution .
” For more information about how to start your own “Weekend Warriors” program contact Vaiseshika Dasa.