An enthusiastic team of devotees led by ISKCON Lagos temple president Kavi Karnapur Das is placing Srila Prabhupada’s books in bookstores and bookstands throughout the Nigerian city.
They have a huge audience: the New York Times estimates the population of Lagos at an astronomical 21 million, which would make it the most populous city in Africa.
The team of eight devotees spend seven hours a day, three days a week, distributing mostly in the Lagos suburb of Ikaja, which serves as the capital of Lagos State.
While they have always distributed to individuals, supplying stands and stores is a brand new effort.
“We’re making use of what we learned from the four-day communications course that ISKCON Communications Director Anuttama Prabhu taught in Ghana last year,” says Tribhuvanath Das, who has been distributing books for eleven years.
He adds, “We’re also inspired by Prema Vilas Prabhu, who has been working to ignite the sankirtan spirit in Nigeria and other West African countries, and who has supported our efforts by kindly donating books for distribution.”
The ISKCON Lagos Sankirtan Party, as the team is dubbed, regularly restocks eight roadside book stands in the Ikaja area, placing Prabhupada’s books among first- and second-hand novels, motivational books, and magazines. Devotees also deliver to the appropriately monikered “Divine Favor Bookshop.”
“Initially the store and stand owners were antagonistic,” Tribhuvanath says. “In spite of this, I kept visiting them when we were doing book distribution near them. I told them that these books help to avoid the four fearful anxieties in human life: birth, old age, disease and death, and they became interested!”
At first, the book distributors gave books to the stand managers to display for free. Now, however, the managers pick out the books they think will sell, purchase them, and resell them on to customers. Good sellers include The Science of Self-Realization, Bhagavad-gita As It Is, The Path of Perfection, Coming Back, and The Laws of Nature.
“The stand managers say their customers like the books,” says Tribhuvanath. “ Sometimes they direct customers who want to know where the books come from to our temple. Every day, we see new faces.”
Tribhuvanath and his fellow book distributors also travel to other Nigerian states, and use different distribution techniques.
“Kavi Karnapur Prabhu is a good chanter,” Tribhuvanath says. “As soon as he begins his chanting, it attracts audiences, and we take the opportunity to reached out to them and give them books.”
Tribhuvanath also has his own unique techniques. “One time I met a group of Evangelist pastors,” he recalls. “One of them said, ‘We are aware that you people are spiritually-minded persons – you must know the science of palmistry.’ Then he stuck his palm out for me to read!”
Tribhuvanath chuckles. “I said a mental prayer, and then I took his hand and said, ‘On your palm, I see old age, disease, death and birth.’ He said, ‘Oh my God!’ I told them, ‘That’s just a sample of what you can find in these books!’ And they each walked away with a copy!”
In the future, Tribhuvanath, Kavi Karnapur and their team plan to increase the number of stands and bookshops they place Srila Prabhupada’s books in. They also want to branch out to university outreach.
“I love to read Prabhupada’s books, and what I read, I love to share,” Tribhuvanath says.[ book-distribution ] [ book-review ] [ nigeria ] [ sankirtana ]