A few years ago, in a small village in Roscommon County, one of the most rural parts of Ireland, there lived a man by the name of Michael Henmore. He never married and at an early point in his life he became a hermit. He had few possessions except a cow, a horse and a cart, and a small house that time had forgotten. He lived without running water or electricity.
World Enlightenment Day for ISKCON signifies a thrust for radical social change. On this day, thousands of Hare Krishna devotees expect to achieve a world record by distributing the greatest number of Srila Prabhupada's books ever in one day. But what exactly are these books, and what is their value to ISKCON and society at large?
Sastra-Dana, the US program that places donated copies of Srila Prabhupada’s books in public locations where they are properly kept and read, is now supplementing its main course with a lighter snack: its own full-color newspaper.
The 44th president of the United States Barack Obama has been presented with a copy of Bhagavad-gita As It Is by an old friend – the brother of Srila Prabhupada disciple Krishnalaulya Dasi.
The Trustees of ISKCON’s publishing arm, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, have modified their “book point” system, unchanged since 1989, to eliminate the now negligible difference between hard and softcover books. The point system emerged in 1974 with the first issue of the “Sankirtan Newsletter,” a publication which keeps track of book distribution around the world and compares overall results. A lengthy list of editors modified its format many times until 1989, when current editor Mayapur Sasi Dasa came onboard.
Luca Pistolese didn't have an easy start to life. Born premature, he was placed in an incubator to care for his frail body. But a malfunction caused too much oxygen to be released into the chamber, burning his eyes. Luca would be blind for life. The darkness was complete, enveloping him both physically and spiritually. As a young man, he tried to dispel it by studying different books on spirituality, but they only left him unsatisfied and confused.
“Asian-Indians own almost 65% of the total motel rooms available. Our goal is to place Bhagavad-Gita As It Is in every one of those rooms,” says Milan Doshi from the Pancajanya Project. “The motel owners we already approached were very receptive. They liked the idea of placing Bhagavad-Gita As It Is in their own motels. They also gave us recommendations for their friends are relatives in the industry!” Approaching motel owners on an individual basis has proven successful.
“Monthly Sankirtan Festivals are a great way to engage the entire congregation in book distribution,” says Vaisesika dasa. “At our temple, we combine the festival with a holy day on the Vaisnava calendar. Our meditation during the Monthly Sankritan Festival is that the sankirtan results are our special offering to the Lord.”
The year was 1997. In the midst of a frantic search for material enjoyment, Vasudeva Datta reluctantly agreed to go along to a Hare Krishna meeting with one of his friends. There he bought Life Comes from Life and a set of japa beads—and within two weeks he found himself chanting sixteen rounds a day and devouring Prabhupada’s books.
Govinda-Prema Dasa, an ISKCON devotee from Nairobi, gifted Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga with a copy of Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita this May. The opportunity arose when devotees attended the same Sikh community college opening that the Prime Minister had been invited to speak at. After Odinga’s speech promoting higher education as the way to a peaceful and happy country, Govinda-Prema approached him.
Hare Krishna movement has been stopped from seeking donations at the Los Angeles International Airport by a US court. The court allowed the Los Angeles Police to enforce a 13-year-old municipal ordinance, which would prevent members of the movement from seeking donations at the airport.
Authorities were blocked this week from finally being able to enforce a 13-year-old city ordinance that bans solicitors from seeking donations at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), officials said Friday.
The Prabhupada Christmas Book Marathon is a special time of the year. Many ISKCON devotees make special endeavours to distribute Srila Prabhupada`s books, and many others made extra sacrifices to facilitate them. In the Bhaktivedanta Manor, UK, it was an especially wonderful team effort and exhibition of unity.
In the late 1960s, when ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada personally negotiated his first book contracts with Japanese publisher Dai Nippon, he insisted on high grade paper and binding, considering the highest quality to be essential for books containing the highest knowledge.
On July 17th in the Northeastern Indian state of Bihar 27 school children died of food poisoning. Some of the groups are well-equipped NGOs such as ISKCON Food Relief Foundation (IFRF)—was not involved in the tragic incident. So why did this negligence occur, and what can be done to prevent such tragedies in the future? Radha Krishna Das, the managing director of IFRF explains.
Accepting a motion by the Republic of Hungary, the United Nations declared September 5th to be the International Day of Charity.
Two weeks after Cyclone Phailin struck Odisha (formerly Orissa) and Andhra Pradesh at 140 mph, the Eastern Indian states are still reeling. Doing its part to help, ISKCON Food Relief Foundation -- which delivers healthy vegetarian meals to 1.2 million underprivileged school children around India every day -- flew members into Odisha on October 15th.
Shaktyavesha Avatara Das, a London-based book distributor originally from Moscow, has devised a new way of following up with people he gives ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s books to on the street. His project, “Fortunate People,” uses modern technology and social networking through Facebook, one of the most popular websites in the world with over 1 billion users.
Annamrita, an initiative of ISKCON Food Relief Foundation in India, has received a three-page feature article in CSR Mandate magazine. The article describes how ISKCON Food Relief Foundation feeds more than 1.2 million underprivileged children across India everyday. It explains how this allows poor children to attend school and get an education rather than turning to crime or menial work in order to survive.
Real confidence comes from humility. We realise our inherent limitations, but gain firm conviction from knowing that the all-powerful will of providence is on our side.
As the holiday season comes around, ISKCON devotees like to wrap up warm, pack their bags full of books by their Founder Acharya Srila Prabhupada, and head out on the streets to give the most valuable Christmas present of all: spiritual knowledge. One of the most enthusiastic ISKCON communities of recent years in this endeavor has been ISKCON of Toronto, Canada.
A video by Shkatyavesha Avatara dasa.
The distribution of ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s books has seen a major resurgence in North America in recent years. Inspired by the positive signs of increase he saw in 2010 and 2011, veteran book distributor and “Sankirtan Strategist” Vaisesika Das attended the Temple Presidents’ meeting in Dallas, Texas with a mission: he suggested that ISKCON North America distribute books as one team with one common goal.
ISKCON’s Food For Life continues to feed victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines on November 7th with winds of 195 mph. ISKCON’s Food For Life is one of the many aid organizations doing what it can to help in the wake of the disaster. A a total of 15,130 plates were served over the thirteen days from November 18th to 30th.
6,000 plates of hot meal and 32 tons of food packages, warm cloths and toys were distributed by Hungarian Krishna devotees over the Christmas holidays. Many political leaders, well-known public figures, sportsmen and artists joined them as volunteers in helping their efforts to care for underprivileged families.
An inspiring video by the brachmacharis of Yurlovo ashram about the book distribution leaders in Russia.
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) India invites ISKCON devotees to participate in a 2-day seminar on the “Merits of Organized Book Distribution.” It is scheduled to take place on Jan 31,2014 and Feb 1, 2014 at ISKCON Tirupati. It is being conducted under the expert guidance of Vaisesika Dasa Adhikari.
BBT India organized a two-day seminar fon Jan 31st and Feb 1st 2014 on the topic of ‘Merits of Organized Book Distribution’ at ISKCON Tirupati, India. This was a pioneering attempt to get book distributors in India more organized. Around 80 devotees participated at the seminar.
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, which publishes the spiritual literature of ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada, has reached a new watermark of success. Thanks to the efforts of book distributors around the world, it has sold over half a billion books -- 503,385,383 to be exact -- since Srila Prabhupada began ISKCON in 1965.
On the occasion celebrating ISKCON's Annamrita Food Relief program Basanti Roi a Government Officer speaks appreciatively about the project.
Radha Krishna Das and Radhanath Swami speak about the beginnings of ISKCON's Midday Meal program (Annamrita) and the inspiration for doing this service.
Distribution of Srila Prabhupada’s books in the East African country of Kenya has reached an all-time high, with 54,399 books distributed during the December marathon of 2013 by just three small temples: Nairobi, Kisumu and Mombasa. The score catapulted Kenya to the number seven country in the world during the marathon.
Serving up to 1,200 students a day, five days a week, the Krishna Lunch prasadam distribution program has flourished under Srila Prabhupada's vision. Krishna Lunch is served on the University of Florida's main crossroads, the Plaza of the Americas, which is the very place Srila Prabhupada lectured to over 500 students and faculty on his visit to Gainesville in 1971.
A ban on soliciting donations at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) does not tread on Hare Krishna members' free speech rights, the 9th Circuit ruled Wednesday. A city ordinance forbids the immediate solicitation of money at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), including the terminals, the parking lots, and adjacent sidewalks.
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.
Vaisesika Das, disciple of Srila Prabhupada, Hare Krishna temple president in San Jose, California, book distribution coordinator for North America. In this video he distributes ancient spiritual scriptures such as Bhagavad Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
High streets are intriguing places. It’s where people descend in their thousands. Crazy as it may sound, this is where monks spend many days and weeks; standing on street corners, speaking to random people, and showing them spiritual books.
Footage from the Summer Sankirtan Tour conducted by Manor Brahmacari ashram, teaming up with UK temples, Hare Krishna Festival Team and Food For All.
ISKCON devotees distributing books for the end-of-year Prabhupada marathon got an unexpected boost on December 4th when Dr. Eromosele S.A, a highly influential chief in the Bini Kingdom of Benin, Nigeria, invited them to preach at his Trado-medical Herb Healing Home.
“The Srimad Bhagavatam Gifting Chain Project” is a unique idea inspired from the purport by Srila Prabhupada to the first verse of the first chapter of the first canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam, where Srila Prabhupada referring to the Matsya Purana, states that anyone who makes a gift of this great work on a full moon day attains to the highest perfection of life by returning to Godhead.
The latest effort from the African branch of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust – which has been publishing ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s books in various African languages since 2009 – is the e-magazine “Imprint.” The magazine, which released one issue last year but is becoming a regular quarterly with this November’s issue, is intended to communicate all the latest developments of the BBT Africa.
In a country torn apart by war and suffering a plunging economy, Ukranian devotees are braving sub zero winter temperatures to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books this December. And they’re being rewarded by a receptive public. “People are very grateful,” says ISKCON Ukraine Regional Secretary Acyuta Priya Das.
Karthiga deepam a festival celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva attracted more than 12 lakh of people at Thiruvanamalai, South India this year. This festival has been attracting millions of pilgrims to this tiny town of for hundreds of years now. In the midst of all this there was one thing that caught a lot of attention, the Bhagavat Gita As it is.
During the month of December, ‘Food For Life Hungary’ ISKCON Hungary’s charity program has been distributing 30 tons of dry food (rice, flour, oil, pasta, canned vegetables) as well as 30,000 plates of hot meal to the needy all across the country. The ‘Christmas packages’ that the volunteers have been giving out in 12 locations and cities represent the only source of food for many families during the cold winter and the holiday season.
Distribution of ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s books in North America has made another dramatic increase for the third year in a row. At this point, says Sankirtan Strategist Vaisesika Das, “It’s no fluke.” According to Vaisesika, the increase in book distribution has resulted not only in new people becoming devotees, but also in a renaissance of programs to care for these new devotees.
In 2014, ISKCON's worldwide book distribution increased 10% over 2013, with almost nine million books distributed, the best year since 1996. It is in India is where the biggest amount of books has been distributed, 5,355,465 of the 8,913,251total books handed out in 2014.
One of the most astonishing miracles of placing Bhagavad Gitas in motel rooms was a story of a man who was saved from committing suicide by reading just a few pages of Bhagavad Gita.
ISKCON Founder Srila Prabhupada’s masterwork the Srimad-Bhagavatam has been reprinted in Spanish after being out of stock for four years, to the delight of the Spanish-speaking world. It’s been a lot of work. Proofreader Gauravani Dasi in Mexico and designer Govinda Damodara Das in Argentina marathoned for sixteen-months nonstop to get the proofs ready.
Every day we experience a small miracle. Last week, on our way to Torquay, the driver lost his bearings and we accidently parked up in Paignton, a small neighbouring town. As we got onto the high street, we realised we were in the wrong place!
One of many miraculous encounters UK devotees had whilst out touring the country distributing Srila Prabhupada's Books. James Bird, who is from the sunny south coast of England explains to us how his entire life changed just from reading a chant and be happy.
While it may be turning up a little late, the BBT Africa’s recently released 2014 report shows encouraging growth in outreach – especially for a branch of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust established just five years ago to better deliver Prabhupada’s books to the African Continent. “The continent has recorded amongst its best book distribution scores ever in 2014,” says managing trustee Govardhana Das.
Three Hare Krishna devotees, Aleksandr Grankin, Aleksei Vlasyuk and Pavel Ivanov, were detained in the streets of Vitebsk on 17 June for sharing their religious views and offering religious literature to passers-by, they complained to Forum 18. The three were detained by Sergei Fadeenkov, the Chief Specialist of Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee Department of Religious Affairs and Nationalities.
This December Marathon, for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada on the 50th Anniversary of ISKCON, Bhaktivedanta Manor has a set a goal to distribute 100,000 of Srila Prabhupada's books all over the UK.
Standing on street corners, speaking to random people, and showing them spiritual books, amongst whatever else I do in life, this simple and sublime activity is what I relish most.
Upon realizing that this was George’s first contact with devotees, and that George had had been reading and chanting on his own for two years, it became obvious that Krishna had brought the devotees to meet George.
This December Marathon, for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada on the 50th Anniversary of ISKCON, Bhaktivedanta Manor has a set a goal to distribute 100,000 of Srila Prabhupada's books all over the UK.
During the month of Damodara, the Food For Life Society Malaysia and Bhaktivedanta Books Trading Sd. Bhd jointly organised a famous project in Malaysia, the Sastra Dana and Anna Dana (food and books distribution) program.
Supporters and well-wishers of ISKCON who attended a 50th Anniversary gala event in Ahmedabad sponsored over 12,500 Bhagavad-gitas.
In his upcoming new book “Our Family Business: The Great Art of Distributing Srila Prabhupada’s Books” – out February 24th -- veteran distributor Vaisesika Das shares the history, key principles and techniques of book distribution, drawing from a lifetime of experience. Vaisesika, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, is known for strategizing innovative ways to distribute his spiritual master’s books on spiritual knowledge.
On a joint initiative themed “Day of Gratitude”, ISKCON-London and the Bhaktivedanta Manor distributeed 5,000 cupcakes to commuters at key locations in central London on July 13th.The grand finale of the month-long celebration will be the Kirtan on the Thames Boat Event on 31st July. This National Signature Event will be a day of chanting, dancing and feasting on a cruise around the famous landmarks of London.
As part of the ISKCON50 program series, Vaishnavas in Hungary organized a two-day national book distribution event, taking place at different locations of the country. Devotees who had never distributed books before, or had not taken part in sankirtana for a long time were also involved. During the two days, 36 participants from the farm sold 619 books, while the 195 devotees on the streets of Budapest distributed 2,650 books.
High streets are intriguing places; a microcosm of modern life. It’s where people descend in their thousands, searching for something extra to enrich their existence. Enter the monks. This is where we spend many days and weeks; standing on street corners, speaking to random people, and showing them spiritual books.
The U.S. House of Representatives Library in Washington D.C. recently purchased an entire set of Srila Prabhupada’s Srimad-Bhagavatam, during the House’s Diwali celebration on October 31st. The books came from ISKCON Baltimore’s Jiva Daya Sankirtana Team, which is working hard during ISKCON’s 50th anniversary to place Srila Prabhupada’s books at various prestigious locations such as government offices, libraries, and embassies in the Washington D.C. area.
You might not have heard of Jaya Chaitanya Das, the thirty-year-old who’s been the number one book distributor in the U.S. for the past two years. Even if he sold 85,000 of Prabhupada’s books this year alone. That’s because until recently, the young man was living at home with his parents in Orange County, California.
The Nagara Sankirtana party of Ibadan, Nigeria became West Africa’s book distribution marathon champion for 2016. The sankirtan party led by Yadhunath Das has distributed 901 books in December. The Nagara Sankirtan project started off in 2015 with the purpose of reviving the Harinama Sankirtana spirit initially in West Africa, by providing special support and care for book distribution devotees, who are serving and traveling in groups.
Vaisesika Das' super-successful book about the art of transcendental book distribution, Our Family Business, is now available as an e-book in all flavors, for all devices. In this very readable book, Vaisesika Dasa discusses ISKCON-devotees we should join the “family business” of distributing transcendental knowledge through the written word, as well as how book distribution benefits distributors, the devotional community, and all those who receive one of Srila Prabhupada’s books.
A video by WestCoastMonk.
A video by Kevin Wu.
Kevin Wu, a Youtube star with over 300 million views on his “KevJumba” channel, has been left feeling spiritually uplifted after following and filming sankirtan devotee Madhava Puri Das on book distribution. Wu met Madhava Puri while staying at the ISKCON Los Angeles ashram, looking for spiritual answers during a difficult period in his life.
An innovative new project called “Go Matsya” has instigated fast growth in distribution of full sets of Srila Prabhupada’s Srimad-Bhagavatam, and the idea is catching on around the world. BBT Trustee and Sankirtan Strategist Vaisesika Das created the project, which aims to “preserve Vedic culture through mass distribution and education.”
“Without a doubt, the most exciting element of the campaign was to see the cooperation of the devotees, leaving their differences aside and uniting in a common purpose. It was possible to see how Prabhupada's books are powerful and go beyond anything we can imagine. They are not just books, but tools for individual and collective illumination," says” BBT Brazil director Nanda Kumar Das.
Since 2007, the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust’s training center for new book distributors – Colegio Bhaktivedanta in Mexico – has been gradually strengthening book distribution culture in Latin America. Now, with visible results all over the continent and two new centers on the way, this innovative idea seems to be reaching its turning point.
“One of our main inspirations was the book Life’s Final Exam: Death and Dying from a Vedic Perspective, edited by Giriraja Swami,” says Tarini Ganga. “It describes how in hospitals and hospices people are suffering so much, and how their families are so emotionally drained."
Christmas 2017. Toronto, Canada was colder than the North Pole, dropping to -22C for the first time in recorded history. Schools closed. People stayed home from work. Outdoor New Year’s Eve celebrations were canceled. The roads were treacherous. But none of this stopped ISKCON Toronto devotees from venturing out to deliver Srila Prabhupada’s books during the six-week Prabhupada marathon, from November 19th to December 31s
In Cuba, street distribution of Prabhupada’s books is forbidden, and devotees have been searching for legal ways to present them there for many years. This year, at last, saw a breakthrough opportunity: the Havana International Book Fair.
Vaisesika launched the plan for a One World Team with a message that at first may seem counter-intuitive: “Be dissatisfied.” He ecouraged devotees to shoot for “a higher goal than you think you can attain.”
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust is filled with extraordinary devotees continuing Srila Prabhupada’s legacy and bringing us the works of the acaryas. Translator Mukunda Datta Das is now working on the Sat-Sandarbhas and Bhakti-Rasamrita Sindhu.