Books are the Basis Week, run by the ISKCON Ministry of Education from September 22nd to 28th, is encouraging devotees worldwide to read Srila Prabhupada’s books by providing resources and guidelines, and facilitating grassroots level engagement.
The Week is part of a larger effort to “enhance the culture of reading Srila Prabhupada’s books globally.” It was officially added to ISKCON’s calendar in 2020, after the society’s Governing Body Commission (GBC) accepted a proposal from the Ministry of Education during their Annual General Meeting. A GBC resolution also supported the initiative.
“Books are the Basis is a very ambitious project – our vision is that we’d like Srila Prabhupada’s books to be the most widely read spiritual books in the world,” says Ministry of Education Co-Minister Tapana Mishra Das. “And our mission is that we’d like to significantly increase the reading of Prabhupada’s books amongst ISKCON devotees. So during Books are the Basis Week we encourage ISKCON leaders, managers, teachers, individuals, familes and communities around the world to emphasize the importance of reading Prabhupada’s books every day, and create study groups and sangas so that devotees feel more encouraged to participate in reading.”
Devotees who want to be involved can participate in one or all of six levels of engagement laid out at iskconeducation.org, according to their ability and time. At level one, they can share promotional videos like an invocation from Srila Prabhupada instructing devotees to read his books; an inaugural address from GBC Chairman Bhakti Chaitanya Swami; a guide on how to celebrate locally from Tapana Mishra Das, and an inspirational call-to-action from senior devotees.
Level two involves daily participation throughout Books are the Basis Week. Devotees can watch and share 64 one-on-one interviews conducted with ISKCON leaders since last September, and available at the Ministry of Education Youtube channel. In these interviews, leaders from around the world such as Malati Devi Dasi, Devamrita Swami, Kadamba Kanana Swami, Dina Sharana Devi Dasi, Bhanu Swami, Jayapataka Swami and many more offer insight into how Srila Prabhupada’s books changed their lives; the benefits of reading to one’s spiritual life and services; and insightful tips on how to make daily reading a reality.
Devotees can also watch and share daily panel discussions provided on the Ministry’s YouTube channel. In each one, three or four leaders from a particular geographic region, such as South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Russia, India, or Australasia discuss how to make regular reading of Srila Prabhupada’s books a reality within their region. Some of these videos are available in local languages such as Spanish or Russian.
In addition, the Ministry is publishing panel discussions with different constituencies within ISKCON, such as Vaishnavis and ISKCON youth. In these discussions devotees talk about the importance of reading Prabhupada’s books, how they overcome obstacles to reading, what reading groups and programs they can launch for their community, and what ISKCON leaders can do to help facilitate reading.
Those who don’t have time to watch the panel discussions can watch and share short 2 to 5 minute realization videos, in which a diverse list of ISKCON devotees talk about their realizations from reading Prabhupada’s books.
At level three, temples or centers can organize an event (either virtual, or in-person if local Covid regulations allow). During the event they can present a compilation of personal instructions by Srila Prabhupada on reading his books daily, and broadcast the two-hour webinar Be A Sage Page by Page. Groups or individual devotees can also conduct their own Zoom panel discussions about reading with friends, leaders, or community members.
“We’ve provided a small document with simple steps on how to do such panel discussions,” Tapana Mishra says. “We also want to make sure they don’t disappear into the ether – we would like devotees to submit their panel discussions to the Ministry, so that we can publish them.”
Meanwhile those who feel inspired to do so can avail of the Ministry’s “Manual for Reader Leaders,” which explains how to present a detailed seminar to your community on the best practices, challenges, and solutions in regularly reading Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Next, at level four, devotees can share their experiences of celebrating Books are the Basis Week via photos, videos, realizations and presentations, by joining the Books are the Basis Telegram group.
Level five is simple – read every day. To assist in this step, the Ministry has provided special downloadable study guides on Bhagavad-gita, Srimad-Bhagavatam, and Sri Caitanya-caritamrita.
Finally, at level six, the Ministry offers guidelines on how to join an existing study group or start one’s own, to get the association we often need to maintain a steady reading practice and to dive deeper.
According to Tapana Mishra, since the Books are the Basis project started in April/May 2020, devotees have derived much strength and inspiration during lockdowns from reading Prabhupada’s books, and many have expressed appreciation that the importance of reading the books is being actively discussed and highlighted.
Reading or hearing is a fundamental limb of bhakti, Tapana Mishra explains, and for ISKCON devotees specifically, reading the words of their Founder-Acharya and pre-eminent siksa guru Srila Prabhupada will keep them united.
“After all the excitement and events of Books are the Basis Week, if through this process, devotees can reach the point of reading every day, then we’ll feel it’s a win for us,” Tapana Mishra says. “We’ll feel that the festival has succeeded in delivering its objective.”
For all information and resources on celebrating Books are the Basis Week and reading Prabhupada’s books, visit: https://iskconeducation.org/booksfestival-2021/[ books ] [ books-are-the-basis ] [ ministry-of-education ]