By Giriraj Swami
I am pleased to encourage you to participate in the Prabhupada book-distribution marathon. Srila Prabhupada explains, “Srila Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami had no fixed residence. They stayed beneath a tree for one day only and wrote huge volumes of transcendental literature. . . . It is certainly not good to write literature for money or reputation, but to write books and publish them for the enlightenment of the general populace is real service to the Lord. That was Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati’s opinion, and he specifically told his disciples to write books.” (Cc Madhya 19.132 purport)
This is parampara. Srila Rupa Gosvami and Sanatana Gosvami and all the Gosvamis wrote books for the enlightenment of the general populace, and that instruction and practice came down through parampara to Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who wrote many books and instructed his disciples to write books. And Srila Prabhupada faithfully followed those instructions and also wrote many books. In fact, it is inconceivable that anyone could write so many books in such a short time.
Srila Prabhupada came to America in 1965, and from the very beginning in New York City he was selling his books. Years later, when devotees were doing research about Prabhupada’s life, they went to some bookstores where he had sold his books, and the shopkeepers remembered, “Oh yes, a very nice Indian gentleman came, and he would always give us samosas.” He would give them samosas when he went to sell them his books.
Prabhupada said that from the very beginning the basis of his movement was book distribution—the publication and distribution of books—and he showed that example.
In the same purport, Prabhupada explains further, “[T]he business of advanced and empowered devotees is to write books, publish them, and distribute them widely.”
Prabhupada wrote books, the BBT has published them, and now it is for us to distribute them. This is “the business of advanced and empowered devotees.” We are all already connected to Srila Prabhupada, and we all will benefit when we distribute his books. And if you persevere with sincerity and intelligence, you will also be advanced and empowered devotees.
Prabhupada states further, “According to Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, distributing literature is like playing on a great mrdanga.” He called the printing press the brhat-mrdanga, the great mrdanga, because an ordinary mrdanga can be heard for a few blocks whereas the brhat-mrdanga, the printing press, the books, can be heard all over the world.
I was the first ISKCON devotee to go to West Africa, Nigeria. I did hari-nama on the streets, and large crowds of people would gather round. Some well-dressed Africans started speaking about the Bhagavad-gita and the philosophy of Krishna consciousness, and I asked, “How do you know all these things? Did you ever meet devotees?” They replied, “No. But we have a friend who met devotees on the street in London, bought some books from them, and then shared them with us.” Even before any devotees had gone to West Africa, Prabhupada’s books had reached there and people were learning about Krishna consciousness.
Sometimes a whole yatra can begin just from books. Once, a tourist from Venezuela visited Israel, met devotees, and got some books from them. Back in Venezuela, he shared the books with his friends. They all started reading, became convinced of the philosophy, began to chant, and started practicing Krishna consciousness without having met any devotees. Eventually they developed a community of devotees and invited Srila Prabhupada, and he went—and it all began with the books.
The brhat-mrdanga can be heard all over the world.
Srila Prabhupada concludes his purport with a request to all of us: “Consequently we always request members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness to publish as many books as possible and distribute them widely throughout the world. By thus following in the footsteps of Srila Rupa Gosvami, one can become a rupanuga devotee.”
Rupa Gosvami is described as sri-caitanya-mano-’bhistam, sthapitam yena bhu-tale: he established on earth the mission to fulfill the desire of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. And that is done primarily through writing, publishing, and distributing books.
Srila Prabhupada said, “It’s like a train.” In a train, one car pushes—or pulls—the other, the other pushes another, and the other pushes still another. He said, “My guru maharaja is pushing me, and I am pushing all of you.”