Published on April 18th, 2002 | by madhavananda-dasa | Full size image0
The Power of Prabhupada’s Books–Bhakta Steven
It’s incredible the realizations you get directly learning from Prabhupada. It’s really I think a rare thing going on now, to be so engaged in what Prabhupada is teaching. We all have our different views but Prabhupada has his views through Krishna directly. It seems very powerful when you hear it from his mouth and you read the actual words that he wrote.
Hare Krishna, I am here with Bhakta Steven in Manhattean and we are staying at the temple of Sri Sri Nitai Guranga of Prabhupada Sankirtana Society at Avenue B. We are two blocks from Tompkins Square Park where Srila Prabhupada first began chanting in 1965.
So part of our mission is to go to Tompkins Square Park where we have the Hare Krishna Food Relief program which was introduced by Kapindra Maharaja. He registered the society in 1988 and immediately began serving prasadam under the name of Hare Krishna Food relief. What we do is go out and set up a prasadam table. We cook up a couple of big buckets of halava and kitri and a big jug of nectar and set up a book table and prasadam table.
This program has been very effective in the community and a lot of people recognize our mission here through this prasadam and book distribution and the chanting which accompanies the program.
Today we were out and I was distributing prasadam while Bhakta Steven was distributing some books. As book distribution is one of the essential services that devotees perform, distributing the holy name and the mercy and knowledge of Krishna consciousness, and the vani, or form of Srila Prabhupada in his teachings. I thought I would ask Bhakta Steven about his experiences on book distribution today.
Hare Krishna. So you were out there today distributing books, how was your experience? I noticed the people were very receptive.
It seems they are naturally attracted to a lot of the stuff. Not everyone, but mostly I guess the people who have some kind of spiritual idea. I have some mixed feelings at the moment, what I am going through personally. But it’s really interesting to see how people are suffering, and how they need Krishna to end the suffering.
dasa: I noticed one person bought a Krsna Book and some other books, Bhagavad-gita, Light of the Bhagavata.
Light of the Bhagavata was always a popular one today.
So how were you approaching people? You have just started book distribution recently. How do you find it approaching people? How do you feel about it?
Well, I kind of lost a lot of the shyness but I’m just trying to be as sincere as possible, I feel that that has been the most successful thing when I was doing it. Really trying to be as sincere as I could. It’s actually difficult to do but it’s easier on my mind when I’m thinking about all sorts of things that disturb me.
Sometimes devotees have a training period where they observe other devotees distributing books and they learn certain techniques, but in this case you just dived right into it and it seems your approach is natural, it doesn’t require any kind of mantra or particular lines. It seems you are just approaching the people and humbly requesting that they look at the books.
Yes, that’s true. There is one particular mantra, the Hare Krishna mantra, that definitely makes everything possible. I have noticed that throughout my experience with anything to do with Hare Krishna. The more sincere I felt with my chanting it only reflects everything else. It makes everything else much more blissful.
So you feel that by vibrating the Hare Krishna mantra immediately when you introduce yourself that people are favorably responding?
Yes. Absolutely. Even if they don’t like it I just say “Hare Krishna” and sometimes if they don’t even like me or like the movement at all sometimes they even say Hare Krishna back and just walk away. And they will even mock it a bit which I guess is offensive to the Lord but even though it’s offensive they’re still chanting Hare Krishna which is great for them. It pulls them out of the darkness.
Yes. There’s a passage in the Srimad-Bhagavatam that’s says even if one chants jokingly or mockingly that the mantra still has a purifying effect and that’s the Lord’s mercy. You notice around here, we’re at the Lower East Side, and of course this is where Srila Prabhupada started the movement in 1965. So around here the people are very familiar with Hare Krishna and it has become a regular part of the scene down here. We sleep right here in the temple and so often we hear people walking by and saying “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna,” “this is Hare Krishna” and you walk out the door and people say “Hare Krishna.” So you can see how everyone around here is a devotee actually. Not everyone knows it or is consciously practicing it but it says in the scriptures that one who simply utters the Holy Name has in previous births practiced much devotional service to come to the point of uttering the Lord’s name like that. So it’s really a phenomena around here.
Now we have the opportunity to expand our temple, our storefront on Avenue B so it’s kind of exciting. What else can you tell us about your experience on book distribution today. Did you talk to a variety of people today?
Yes. Definitely a variety of people. Some homeless people, I even tried to distribute some books to them. Although it may seem that they may not have the money, it’s difficult, maybe a lot of people don’t have money. But I tried to see if at least they’re interested in reading. I tried to mention things and preach a little bit at least. I most of the time ask for a donation. I don’t require that someone give a certain amount of money. I try to keep away from that… To just get people to open up, to experience it a little. Most people seem to be afraid. Money is touchy I think. We’re all attached to certain things. Most people are attached to money. But of course I think Krishna takes great pleasure when someone donates something just out of their good will. That’s actually what happened to me in my experience. The first time I bought a book I just out of curiosity and good will gave a donation. And I had a very good reaction to it. It made me very pleased. Krishna made me very pleased, without even knowing.
This was at a concert?
Yes. Tibetan Freedom Concert, maybe four years ago.
How did you develop until now? Did you immediately start reading the book?
Well I didn’t really have time to read the book, although I wanted to, at the concert. I just remember I constantly gazed at the picture on the front. A beautiful picture, I kept looking at one of the forms of Krishna. I was definitely attracted and I felt really happy and I didn’t even know why. I’d just found a book, a new book. Actually I just thought the Hare Krishna’s were Buddhist Monks, you know. It was a pretty wild day.
So now we’re getting the opportunity to distribute these books. There’s many nice places in Manhattan to distribute books, there’s so many places, one place we like to go is up to Broadway at Astor Place, there’s always a lot of people. Bhakta Steven and I were out just last night, Saturday night, two of us, on Hari-Nama Sankirtana chanting in the streets. We went out in the evening and there was a very favorable response. People were very receptive to the chanting and a lot of people were raising their hands and clapping and dancing and also other people were joining in and singing Hare Krishna along with us and people would follow. Especially up there at Saint Marks there’s a lot of young people. A constant flow, a crowd of young people coming through and they were at least curious as to what this is all about.
A lot of people are coming in now to the store. We have our temple here, it’s a store-front on Avenue-B and a lot of people are curious and are coming in to see what’s going on here. So we’ll be expanding. We recently acquired the storefront next door in order to expand and invite more people especially for the Sunday Feast and accommodate them nicely. So everything is working out nicely. How do you like the saddhana program, the morning program?
It’s incredible the realizations you get directly learning from Prabhupada. It’s really I think a rare thing going on now, to be so engaged in what Prabhupada is teaching. We all have our different views but Prabhupada has his views through Krishna directly. It seems very powerful when you hear it from his mouth and you read the actual words that he wrote. It seems extremely powerful, extraordinarily powerful. It’s hard to believe for me, it’s so hard to accept, I have trouble accepting, but it just keeps coming right in front of me, you know, that here I am and this great power is coming right from Krishna teaching me how to get out of all these discrepancies that I have trying to understand everything. It seems to be helping me get out of all the trouble I’ve been having before I even came here. I had a lot of trouble comprehending things and Prabhupada seemed to clear it up.
Perhaps because we are hearing from Prabhupada every day that may be something that is new in your life, to have a regulated way in a class, and to hear from Prabhupada just like he’s right here, he’s giving the class daily. And we have the complete set of audio of all Prabhupada’s classes and conversations and discussions and everything that was recorded while Srila Prabhupada was physically present on the planet and it’s all been archived. So each day we are listening to Prabhupada in chronological order, going through his teachings. Hearing from the Srimad-Bhagavatam in the morning and we also have Bhagavad-gita classes in the evening. It’s really very enlightening. You hear many points that Srila Prabhupada repeats. The essential points, the basic principles of Krishna consciousness that Prabhupada emphasis over and over in many different ways by using many different examples and analogies. So every class Prabhupada is giving us a different angle on it. And it really gradually becomes cemented into your mind. Hearing each day, over and over that we are not this body and that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Although we may have heard these things a few times, several times, and have some intellectual understanding, to arrive at the actual realization is a process of purification. What we’re embracing here is that to come to that it’s essential to hear from the pure devotee each day. So we’re relishing this and we feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to distribute it to other people. So here we are and we welcome anyone who would like to come and experience the program here, chant with us, talk with Krishna and hear from Prabhupada with us. If you’d like to come for a vist, everybody, all the devotees are welcome to participate. We extend this invitation. You can call us on (212) 674 0698 and we wish everyone the best wishes in Krishna consciousness and offer out humble obeisances to all the Vaisnava devotees and all glories to Srila Prabhupada. Jaya Hare Krishna!
Read About the PSS New York Temple Expansion