Meet the devotee who distributed 50,000 Bhagavad-gitas and 108 Chaitanya Charitamrita sets.
The beginning of book distribution
Krishna Bhava Das, from ISKCON Punjabi Bagh community in Delhi, is 68 years old, strongly built, having a sharp gaze of determination yet having an air of humility around him. He is the eldest in his family of 30 members, untouched by modern flare, who prefers to keep to his village roots and culture. He is strong businessman and has also been one of the most enthusiastic devotees when it comes to book distribution. Over the last ten years, he has distributed lakhs (hundred thousand) of Srila Prabhupada’s books and contributed to various projects of ISKCON.
He was introduced to devotees by one of his relatives approx 14 years ago and his life took a different turn at that point. He was initiated in 2010 and heard through devotees how much Srila Prabhupada and his spiritual master, H.H Gopal Krishna Goswami Maharaja, love book distribution. Taking inspiration and gathering courage he started going door to door with his study class for three years during the December book marathons and they would distribute a total of 250 Bhagavad-gitas as a group.
During the month of Kartik in 2013, a seemingly minor incident gave him the idea to distribute more books. There was a shobha yatra (procession) in his neighborhood. During that shobha yatra, one devotee approached Krishna Bhava Das and requested him to purchase a Bhagavad Gita. Out of generosity, he gave a donation and the devotee gave him five copies of the Bhagavad Gita to gift someone from his hands.
This exchange made him think that just like this devotee, he himself can distribute more than one copy to a person as well. Being in the business of construction and properties, he called for a meeting of some of his business associates and invited Keshav Murari Das to address them. At the conclusion of the talk, he requested the group to help in the distribution of the Gita and everyone agreed to contribute. Some 5 copies, some 11, some 21, and some 108 copies.
“That was my first experience of distributing more than one copy. I remember one person who had entered the meeting only at the very end said I will also contribute 1100. Everyone cheered and clapped for him. Only later did he find out that one Gita cost Rs 100 at that time and cleared himself that I meant Rs 1100, not 1100 BG. We all had a good laugh”
One incident particularly left a remark on him. When one of his relatives was struggling with a life-threatening situation and was admitted to a well-known cancer hospital, Krishna Bhava used to visit him regularly there. He gave one Bhagavad-gita to the Chief Medical officer there. The officer told him after a couple of days, “I have read many versions of Bhagavad Gita, but I have never ever read this particular Gita by Bhaktivedanta Swami. And I can say that for the first time I am beginning to understand Gita. I never knew about Krishna and this philosophy. Thank you.”
Hearing this appreciation from a highly educated person left a deep impression on him. Krishna Bhava Prabhu then purchased and distributed a copy of the Bhagavad-gita to all their doctors and staff at the hospital.
A leap of faith
“Initially, there was some hesitation in approaching people and asking them to utilize their money for distributing Bhagavad-gita. But then I thought it’s not for me, this is for Krishna. I was confident in my heart that this is the most selfless thing I have ever done and the cause gave me strength. It’s an opportunity for others to come in contact with Krishna as well. I thought if Bhagavad-gita is the mercy of Krishna, why keep my own family and relatives bereft of it? I started with my own relatives and requested them to contribute to distributing Bhagavad Gita.”
He and his younger brother, Raktak Prana Das, who is equally, if not more enthusiastic about book distribution, make an incredible team.
They made a list of all their clients and then started visiting them and bringing with them Kadamba Bihari Das, a resident monk from ISKCON Punjabi Bagh. They would share the importance of this knowledge especially in modern times for the peace, direction, and happiness of society and would request the person for their help in sharing this knowledge. The team indeed ran a marathon for 30 nonstop days and they would distribute 20,000 copies in 2017.
There was this one client, who just wanted to sponsor 250 Bhagqavad-gitas, but did not want to distribute himself. Krishna Bhava Prabhu still sent him 250 copies with special thanks and with the printing of their company name as sponsors on the first page. Those copies were then arranged to send to Jammu for distribution. A seemingly small act, but one day, one person called their company and told them a very personal story. This person shared that he was very depressed and was contemplating death by suicide, but before he attempted, he saw a copy of Bhagavad-gita and thought to open it. Upon opening and reading for some time, he gave up the idea of suicide. He found the companies number as sponsors and called them to thank them. He later got connected to devotees and is currently practicing Bhakti yoga and has a devotional life.
This left a deep impression on both – the person who sponsored the books, as well as Krishna Bhava Prabhu.
How can I increase my seva? – Distributing 50,000 Gitas
Krishna Bhava also completed his Bhakti Shastri studies in 2015, attending all classes while in his 60s. He is the type of person who likes to quote verses from the Gita during his conversations with people, being inspired by his personal study of Bhagavad-gita, especially by the section where Krishna is expressing his heart “one who shares this knowledge is most dear to me”, he resolved to do more in the service of Bhagavad Gita.
Krishna Bhava Prabhu, through his faith in the sastra, has been steadily increasing his distribution year after year. Over the last few years, he and his brother Raktak Pran Das (and with their families) have been distributing 20,000, 30,000, and 35,000 during the Bhagavad-gita marathons.
Being the 125th birth year of Srila Prabhupada, he strived to distribute 50,000 Bhagavad-gita and achieved that.
He thinks and meditates throughout the year on how to prepare for the distribution of the Bhagavad-gita during the marathon. He manages all the accounts of distribution, wishes all the people who are supporting in service of Krishna with genuine love and affection, and most importantly works honestly and maintains high-quality work in his profession that builds trust with all his clients. His heart is full of devotion, honesty, and concern for others. He gives from his own pocket as a token of gratitude to all the persons who contribute to this service. He has decorated his entire office with quotes from the Bhagavad-gita and any person entering the office marvels and understands the importance of Bhagavad Gita.
Apart from distribution, he contributes to building temples and loves to serve the Vaishnavas in whatever way he can. He regularly sends very high-quality fruits to the deities and all the devotees in the temple. One may be surprised at his recalling of various examples, analogies, and philosophical concepts presented in Srila Prabhupada’s books so freely in the conversation despite him not reading all the books. These indeed are the blessings of guru and sastra for his service over the years.
“To avoid any miscommunication, side talk, or conflict within the family over financial spending towards the temple, we have made a system that a predetermined percentage of all our income will be spent only for Krishna and his services. We have made a separate bank account in God’s name and whatever money we receive, that percentage goes to that account. Initially, we were somewhat reluctant about how we would be able to do that, but surprisingly we noted that Krishna’s account is never empty.”
Due to his sharing of Krishna consciousness, currently, in his family of 30 members, 11 members have taken initiation and others are also practicing. He faced two severe health crises over the last couple of years, but nothing diminished his enthusiasm for serving Krishna.
His brother Raktak Prana Das said, “ The quality that I appreciate the most in him is that he is always ready to serve Krishna. He likes to say YES to Krishna and his service opportunities. I personally hesitate so many times and often time is reluctant, but I have seen him saying YES without hesitation. He says each time… I am just an instrument”
Aug 06, 2022
Brahmatirtha das Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies