(Photos by Nitai Caran Dasa)
Mayapur, India, March 7, 12:15 PM –The morning session of the 2019 GBC Annual General Meeting continued with an hour-and-a-half presentation on the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, or BBT. The BBT was established by ISKCON’s Founder-Acharya Srila Prabhupada in 1972 to publish Krishna conscious literature, and is the world's largest publisher of classic Vaishnava texts and contemporary works on the philosophy, theology, and culture of bhakti-yoga.
Vaisesika Dasa made the presentation on behalf of the BBT’s new Marketing Communications Innovation department. This relatively new area of the BBT focuses on ascertaining how to assist and inspire ISKCON members around the world to distribute books.
Members of the GBC discussed the importance of Srila Prabhupada’s books and examined what Srila Prabhupada meant when he stated that his books are “the solid ground” beneath ISKCON’s preaching.
“These literatures are the solid ground upon which our preaching stands, so I want that they should be available to everyone, as many as possible.” (Srila Prabhupada, Letter to Damodara, December 3rd 1971)
The GBC recalled that the first ISKCON property that was purchased was in Boston, on Beacon Street, and that Srila Prabhupada acquired this property specifically for the purpose of housing ISKCON’s first printing press.
“Prabhupada’s guru, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, told him, ‘If you ever get money, print books,’ and that’s exactly what he did,” Vaisesika Dasa said.
The GBC reviewed how two of their previous resolutions regarding book distribution have been implemented. In 2013, the GBC passed a resolution that local GBCs should develop a plan for increasing book distribution in their area. In 2017, a resolution was passed in support of the One World Team, a concept used to unite devotees around the world in camaraderie and assist the expansion and organization of book distribution all over the world.
GBC members discussed how they have been endeavoring to improve book distribution in their individual geographical areas, and statistics on book distribution over the last five years were examined.
Vaisesika Dasa remarked, “Prabhupada’s bent was towards increasing dramatically, not towards stability. Prabhupada said things like ‘double it, increase your program.’”
“Yes, this is our philosophy; anandambuddhi vardhanam. It means to expand or to increase. Therefore I strongly encourage you to double your program…” (Srila Prabhupada, Letter to Tamala Krsna, December 28th 1974).
Vaisesika Dasa asked the assembly: how can the GBC lead ISKCON to double its book distribution in 5 years, taking the total books distributed in one year from 10 million to 20 million?
The importance of setting goals and creating plans was emphasized, and the efficacy of these steps was affirmed by a report of book distribution in North America. Book distribution in North America has seen a drastic increase over the last 7 years, ever since the North American leaders made a commitment to increasing book distribution by 20% in two years. They have continued to meet their increase goals every year since.
GBC members applaud after the presentation by Vaisesika Dasa
Despite ever-present challenges, Vaisesika Dasa’s report was positive and he described the success of different book distribution campaigns. The Bhadra Purnima campaign was inaugurated in 2017 and in 2018 resulted in the distribution of 7,007 sets of Srimad-Bhagavatam in one day. The Monthly Sankirtana Festival, or MSF as it is now known, has proved successful in many communities around the world, bringing congregations together once a month to distribute books.
“We offer a seminar where people learn the legacy of book distribution, and we talk about how edifying it is just to cross the threshold and go out into the great unknown with the goal of doing good unto others,” Vaisesika Dasa explained. He emphasized that no one is pressured “to perform” in the Monthly Sankirtan Festivals. “We’re only going out to touch the pavement,” he continued. “If you take all the pressure off of people, people become inspired to go out and share Krishna consciousness with others.”
Vaisesika Dasa further reported that book distribution Sankirtana Leaders teams are now forming all over the world, giving those who are inspired about book distribution the opportunity to network and associate with likeminded individuals. Near the end of the morning’s GBC meeting, each GBC member recommended one person in their acquaintance to become a Sankirtana Leader.
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“The results show that there is no limit to our book distribution. Our books are qualified to be distributed unlimitedly.”(Srila Prabhupada, Letter to Ramesvara, January 18th 1976)