Devotees around the world are aiming to distribute at least two million Bhagavad-gitas during the last quarter of 2020, as part of the Prabhupada marathon and the Live to Give campaign.
The campaign will culminate with World Gita Day (also known as Gita Jayanti) on December 25th. To mark the occasion, there will be a live Zoom broadcast wherein ISKCON communities from all over the world will glorify the Bhagavad-gita As It Is in creative ways, concluding with a COVID-safe fire yajna broadcast online from Kurukshetra, where the Bhagavad-gita was spoken over 5,000 years ago.
“We felt that since devotees have been successful during the pandemic in distributing books through alternative means, this is an excellent time to extend ourselves in those new channels in order to develop a bigger capacity overall for ISKCON book distribution,” says Vaisesika Das, Global Duty Officer for Book Distribution.
With a unified target of 2 million Bhagavad-gitas, the BBT Marketing, Communications and Innovations team behind the campaign has been meeting virtually with GBCs, BBT Directors, temple presidents and leading sankirtan devotees in every continent to help set goals and share best practices.
“Our philosophy is that everything works better when we’re together, with a combined goal,” says Vaisesika.
“Super Sundays” have also seen luminaries like Jayapataka Swami, Indradyumna Swami, Visakha Devi Dasi and Radhanath Swami give Zoom talks to enthuse devotees and remind them of Srila Prabhupada’s mood and instructions on book distribution.
As of December 10th, devotees in 30 countries were participating, while 1.47 million Bhagavad-gitas had been pledged.
A COVID-safe book table in Tampa, Florida
Around the world, devotees are distributing books through Zoom calling parties to contacts, friends and referrals; social media connections; placing sponsored books in motels, hospitals and correctional institutions; and providing care packages for essential workers. Books are being mailed out or delivered via contactless delivery.
Following local government recommendations in their areas, some devotees are also applying COVID precautions, such as masks and social distancing, and distributing books in person from book tables.
Others are distributing books to grocery stores and other customer-facing business such as insurance agents and real estate agents, who are giving them to their customers as Diwali or Christmas gifts.
In addition, Gitas are being distributed at online contests wherein children recite and comment on the Bhagavad-gita.
Full-time ashram or sankirtan devotees, householder devotees distributing on the weekends, and even children are all participating in the effort.
As part of the campaign’s glorification of Bhagavad-gita, there will also be an “Empowered by Gita” creative contest on worldgitaday.com wherein children of different age groups from 3 to 18+ are invited to submit art, creative writing, or videos by the December 17th deadline. The contest will be a chance to bring out the teachings of the Bhagavad-gita in a fun and engaging way, answering the question “What does the Gita and its message means to me and the world today?” Winners will receive prizes and a chance to be featured on the World Gita Day broadcast.
According to Vaisesika the idea of distributing two million Bhagavad-gitas at this time has struck a chord with many people, who are excited at the chance to help.
A grocery store owner purchases Bhagavad-gitas from ISKCON SIlicon Valley devotees
Shyama-Mohini Dasi, who is co-sankirtan leader at ISKCON Toronto, Canada, and who helped coordinate the Live to Give campaign, says, “The response has been amazing.
One devotee called a store owner in Guelph, Ontario for giving Bhagavad-gitas as Diwali gifts. After an initial conversation, the store owner revealed how earlier that day he had been contemplating what gifts to get for his customers. He was so delighted to receive the call that he ordered 125 Bhagavad-gitas to give as gifts.”
As far as how Bhagavad-gita will benefit both recipients and distributors, Vaisesika explains: “Bhagavad-gita is framed in a story wherein the great hero Arjuna is seemingly star-crossed and befuddled by his existential situation. In the first chapter, Arjuna feels that he is getting exactly the opposite of what he wanted out of life. That’s something we can all relate to, because in general the world always goes against our individual plans.
“But although our life may seem to be out of order, the Bhagavad-gita teaches us that that doesn’t mean the universe is out of order. It just means that if we align our attitude and our vision to the perfect workings of the universe, then our lives can become sublime, even in times of upheaval or change.
“There is no way to adjust the universe in such a way that we can be happy, but we can adjust internally, because happiness comes from within. It’s not what happens to us, it’s what we do about what happens to us that matters in life. And the Bhagavad-gita is the quintessential self-help book for everybody, regardless of their cultural or religious background, because it gives non-sectarian, practical advice about how to work in the world.
“For example, Krishna says that those who are wise show respect to all living beings. And wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone had that perspective?
“He also recommends that we work without reward-seeking. And if we do that, although it’s counterintuitive, we’ll feel that our work is nourishing. Whereas if we work towards an individual reward, rather than doing it as a service or a contribution to the greater good, then we’ll always remain frustrated.
“That’s practical, and something everyone can participate in.”
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For more details on the “Empowered by Gita” contest and to submit, please visit:
May 15, 2022
Sunanda Das, Temple of the Vedic Planetarium