A new initiative by ISKCON’s Harmony Collective in Ypsilanti, Michigan, dubbed “Each One Carry One,” asks devotees to commit to carrying Srila Prabhupada’s books and prasadam for distribution everywhere they go.
“People would talk about the early days of ISKCON in a nostalgic way, and I thought, what can we do to recreate that magic?” says Harmony Collective director Deva Madhava Das.
“The principle of Prabhupada’s time was that everybody had the hope – even the expectation – that every moment could be magical in Krishna’s service. Now that sense of sharing Krishna consciousness has been artificially compartmentalized, relegated to weekends or Rathayatras. I thought this would be a really exciting way to help devotees feel once again like wherever I am, whoever I’m with, there’s a potential to share Krishna, see His magic work and please my spiritual master and Srila Prabhupada.”
The recently launched website, eachonecarryone.com, lays out the simple idea: commit to carrying three things with you at all times.
The first is of course a few of Prabhupada’s small books, such as Beyond Birth & Death, Chant and Be Happy, and The Higher Taste – books you would find easy to carry and would be comfortable handing to a stranger who seems like they might be interested in spiritual life.
Secondly, carry prasadam – something offered to the Lord. The website suggests organic vegan lollipops, however Deva Madhava says that with today’s many dietary restrictions, an essential oil roll-on that has been offered to your Deities instead of food is ideal.
“I’ve never had anyone say no,” he points out. “And what’s cool about it is that other people can smell it too! So the prasad distributes itself exponentially. Once when I dabbed Nrsimha oil onto a store owner’s hand, she immediately retorted, “Oh my God, this smells fantastic!” and started walking around to everyone in her shop, asking them to smell her hand. She was distributing Nrsimhadeva maha automatically and spontaneously!”
Lastly, devotees should carry maha-mantra cards or invitation cards to their local temple. Amazon links to organic lollipops and a small messenger bag to carry all the items in are available on eachonecarryone.com, along with a Paypal link where those interested can donate to ISKCON Ypsilanti in exchange for books. Alternatively, they can get books from their own temple.
The idea, according to Deva Madhava, is for devotees to have these items on them everywhere they go during the normal course of their lives – the bank, the office, the store, even the temple.
“The mood is that in carrying these things, I’m letting Krishna know, ‘I’m open to being an instrument for your mercy,’” he says. “ ‘Please indicate to me what I can do, now that I have You with me in this easy, accessible way for others.’”
Success stories are already being reported in Ypsilanti and beyond. When one devotee stopped at a gas station, he found that the pump wouldn’t work. He tried different fixes, going inside, talking to the cashier, and coming back out to try again. After three tries, it dawned on him, “Maybe I’m supposed to give this person a book.”
Sure enough, as soon as he returned inside holding his books, the cashier began talking to him about how much her son loved this kind of literature, and how she had been looking for it for a long time. She wound up buying all the books the devotee had to give to her son as a birthday present.
The devotee then left to try the pump again. This time, it worked.
On another occasion, in Alachua, Florida, second generation devotee Nandapriya Prema Dasi stopped at a gas station late at night. Although she was tired and not in a social mood, the cashier tried to strike up a conversation, asking if she was Indian and if she knew the best place for Indian food in town. “Are you vegetarian?” he said. “I’ve been trying to become one for years, but it’s difficult.”
Nandapriya gave him the Krishna: Reservoir of Pleasure Pamphlet and Spiritual Yoga book she had on hand, then returned with a copy of The Higher Taste cookbook and prasadam cookies.
“He was overjoyed,” she says. “I invited him to the Sunday Feast, and asked him if he believes in the power of prayer. When he said he does, I spoke briefly about the Holy Name, and we chanted together. I feel honored and amazed that the Lord let me be His divine instrument.”
Jai Nitai Das, who has served as a full-time book distributor on the road, says the power of the “Carry One” method can’t be minimized. “I remember when I first started carrying Srila Prabhupada’s books with me everywhere, I was in an aisle of Walmart, and I distributed one Nectar of Instruction to a man there,” he recalls. “The enthusiasm and satisfaction and ecstasy I got from that was the same as when I was on the street distributing many more books.”
Devotees have also commented that having books everywhere with them keeps them in a mood of Krishna conscious meditation, and keeps them alert to the possibility of Krishna sending somebody their way at any time.
The “Each One Carry One” project is being launched now, with a major push planned for the sacred month of Kartik this October/November – Deva Madhava will be reaching out to temple presidents in the US, and making presentations at Sunday Feasts in several temples.
“We’d like everyone to take this up as part of their vow for Kartik,” he says. “It will also get everyone in the right spirit by the time the December book distribution marathon hits.”
In the future, as devotees click the “commit” button on the website to pledge doing their part, a map will show the project’s growth, thus encouraging more to do their part and change the world.
“I’m excited about devotees recognizing, “What I’ve got is cool and substantial – there are people out there who want it,’” Deva Madhava says. “That I have this special opportunity for every moment in my life to have meaning, and I’m really happy to take advantage of it.’ That will really bring the spirit of the old days back to life again. Because every person who identifies as a follower of Srila Prabhupada will feel that sense of responsibility and possibility, in doing that dearmost service to him, every day, whereverthey are.”[ book-distribution ] [ books ]