Warm Sales and Congregational Book Distribution
Lately, a nice trend is growing with respect to distribution of the full set. We have the Bhakti vriksa programs, which involve weekly meetings in the house or apartment, where 7-11 individuals come together for spiritual discussion, kirtan and prasadam. In the eastern horizons, this is a most effective means to interact with people on a personal and family level which can be lacking in the temple settings. It is certainly an economical approach, not depending on 'various facilities' where people can come and meet. In the west, a similar venue is known as the 'home program'. When such reunions are done on a weekly basis, a healthy interdependence is at hand.
However, it appears when cultivating new persons only the Gita has been emphasized, with the conception that the Bhagavatam is in a different league of literary assimilation, resulting in a tendency to wait for months to go by without offering a balance of both, Krsna's instructions and His pastimes. Confusion arises "Can people relate"? Material comprehension overshadows the eternal reality of how realization and understanding is a matter of the heart. As givers we must have faith in the transformational power of our spiritual products.
We may note how Srila Prabhupada came to the west with a trunk of Srimad Bhagavatams for distribution before it was convenient to present his Bhagavad Gita as it is. Certainly the Gita provides the foundation of spiritual understanding for the young and old, but in our communication work there seems to be a hesitancy amongst our own members to introduce the full writings of Srila Prabhupada to those in need. Hopefully, this is not a result of negative reading practices or a handicapped sadhana amongst our preachers, but the emphasis to give people a well rounded presentation of our Vedic teachings automatically necessitates the personal assimilation first before we can truly share with others.
In various areas like Calcutta and Malaysia, a technique is developing where in the small group discussions; the leader will include a story from the Bhagavatam to compliment the philosophy of the Gita. In the west, there are programs where the new adherents are constantly hearing snippets from these Bhagavatam books and after 2 months(maybe 2 nights a week) or around 32 hours of sanga, they are prepared to purchase the full set. This is natural "Everyone else has their set so why not me?" When this is accomplished, they 'are locked in' and in turn they will be the ones to do the same for someone else. This form of distribution is wholesome on all levels for all concerned. Not only the facilitator has to become familiar with subject matter but new persons are receiving a most precious balance. These 'in house sales' have the follow up, where the devotees help their flock read the Bhagavatam. Now the sacred exposure to this ancient text is not limited to the confines of a monastic setting but is also available to the larger outside devotional circles.
Cold sales(meeting people for the first time on the streets or door to door) are effective mediums for planting the seeds and weakening the fabric of material society, but harvesting is still required with proper watering and cultivation. That is why the personal contact during and after is important. There is no other choice in this matter, the books must to go out, but when the user friendly 'warm sales approach' is available, the resulting opulence is that these persons will become Vaisnavas.
Either way, if you find yourselves preaching in the East,West, North or South, the personal touch in presentation and follow up brings results. Just as with the story of the competition between the wind and sun to take the coat off the man's back, the wind blew to no avail but when the sun came out, the coat easily came off. The same scenario is there as we try to attract and cultivate others to Vedic culture. People can not be forced, but with proper exposure they will want to reciprocate within a temperate climate.
Once there is this mood for 'giving more', our seniors will re-examine their dependents for the next step and not fall into the routine rut of drip feeding their hungry patients. One Bhakti vriksa leader in Malaysia, distributed 4 Gitas in a month to his group, but with this new 'hand in glove reality of presenting the set' amongst friends, went out to sell his first full set in just 5 minutes. As the new blood are trained to do the same, then our group leaders can experience the topmost ecstasy to watch their 'spiritual down line' beat them to a prospective set recipient. Lately in Malaysia 18 full sets were purchased by leaders and beginners alike in three weeks, which provides hope for a tradition of increasing distribution. Just imagine if a similar culture is developed within our various circles, how book distribution in this way would become a self generating actuality. As the saying goes 'many hands make light work'. Such 'in house' distribution is already a proven formula and on a large scale would act as an inspiration for all others angles of delivery.
One avenue for quantity distribution is even to bring the temple set prices slightly down and coupled with the standing order of monthly installments for payment, such an attractive offer encourages one and all to bring these deities into their very own home. Even in areas where finances are especially low, sponsors who have the capital, knowing well the benefits of the yajna, can help the others get started. At the end of the day if your positive service concern is to open the vault for profits and people, then welcome to the right combination.
In conclusion, yajnaih sankirtana prayair, yajanti hi su medhasah, "In the age of Kali, intelligent persons will perform this congregational chanting to worship the incarnation of Godhead". As we communicate and cultivate this chanting process an important goal is 'lasting impressions'. As Srila Prabhupada commented "What good will your words do, give them a book". As we worship the Lord in His various incarnations, especially His book form, persons and spiritual provisions will tag along. If service to the book bhagavat is a complimentary or back seat affair, then our dependents will also neglect the needed oils in the future preaching machinery. Good habits are more difficult to break than the bad ones. Congregational book distribution means bringing people together. As the saying goes "Families that pray(distribute) together, stay together." Remember the books have already been sold and if not by you then someone else will. Instead of watching history go by then why not become part of this spiritual history. And everything else will follow.