Srila Prabhupada delighted to see the newly published Srimad Bhagavatam.
A still relatively new website on the art of distributing spiritual books has drawn nearly 35,000 unique visitors in the past ten months, and numbers are increasing as many find inspiration.
The website, iskconbookdistribution.com, was launched in 2011 after ISKCON Book Distribution Minister Vijaya Das met with Vaishnava Seva Das, the webmaster at the popular website iskcondesiretree.com.
The distribution of spiritual books by ISKCON founder Srila Prabhupada, a common missionary activity by ISKCON devotees, has been at the center of Vijaya’s life since he came across a Bhagavad-gita As It Is in the public library in Key West, Florida in 1978.
Soon after reading the book, Vijaya met devotees chanting on the street outside his workplace. He joined ISKCON, and moved to the Miami temple.
“After two months, the temple president asked me if I was bold,” Vijaya recalls. “I said, ‘I can be.’ So he sent me out to distribute Back to Godhead magazines on the street.”
Vijaya soon graduated to book distribution, and became the ‘sankirtana’ leader. Since then, for the past thirty-five years, book distribution has been his full-time service.
ISKCON Book Distribution Minister Vijaya Das
He accepted the position of ISKCON Book Distribution Minister in 2002, and now travels around the world, giving seminars and finding as many ways as possible to inspire devotees to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books.
So when he met Vaishnava Seva Das, he saw a major opportunity.
A doctor based in Mumbai, India, the aptly-named Vaishnava Seva started iskcondesiretree.net in 2002, to provide devotees with free Krishna conscious audio lectures and kirtans. Today, he runs the website from his apartment and contributes eighty per cent of his income to the project.
ISKCON Desire Tree now offers over 65,000 mp3s, and draws over 1 million unique visitors per year. What’s more, it has about fifty other websites in its family, including websites for various Indian ISKCON gurus, temples and the Indian version of Back to Godhead magazine.
“Vaishnava Seva was thinking of how to put book distribution in there as well,” Vijaya says. “He saw me in Mayapur two years ago, and we discussed it. I was immediately excited that there was something else we could to try and increase book distribution, which is so dear to Srila Prabhupada. He would always say, ‘You should tax your brain on how to distribute more books.’”
North American Sankirtan Strategist Vaisesika Das in action
The resulting effort, iskconbookdistribution.com, currently features 1,182 book distribution stories, 146 videos, 196 audio lectures and seminars, 101 book distribution-themed desktop wallpapers, and 131 photograph galleries of book distribution in action around the world.
The stories, in which devotees from all over the world tell inspiring tales of success in book distribution, come from Vijaya’s book distribution Google Group.
“I send another story out every other day to my 1,300 readers,” he says. “And when one of them gets a nice story from someone, they send it on to me, and I in turn share it with everyone. They get a lot of inspiration from the stories. And each one goes not only to the Google Group but also to iskconbookdistribution.com.”
Another popular feature of ISKCON Book Distribution is the video category “In Action.” This is video of the best book distributors in action on the streets, including Vaisesika Das, Bhrigupati Das, and Vijaya himself. The inexperienced can watch the videos and get a masterclass on how to interest people in Prabhupada’s message.
Also extremely popular are the wide range of inspiring lectures on book distribution by senior devotees; quotes by Srila Prabhupada; and a news feed about the latest in book distribution.
There’s also “Action,” a section in which readers can find practical, down-to-earth tips on many different methods of book distribution, such as door to door, Monthly Sankirtan Festivals, Smart Boxes, Weekend Warriors, Full Set Distribution, and Shastra Dana.
The website is very dynamic, with new content constantly being posted.
ISKCON Book Distribution has already proved to be extremely well-received by devotees, many of whom have given positive feedback to Vijaya.
But best of all, readers of iskconbookdistribution.com are being inspired to go out and distribute books!
“Just last week, one devotee in India went on the website, and saw one of my videos on how to distribute books,” Vijaya says. “He watched it many times over, and then promptly went out on book distribution the next day. He distributed 100 Bhagavad-gitas! I thought, well that’s good! It’s working!”
Overall, Vijaya is very positive about the current state of book distribution in ISKCON. Although activity may have declined in the 1990s and early 2000s, he says it’s now increasing every year.
Although some continents like Europe and Australia are struggling, book distribution in North America is beginning to catch up to what it was in the 1970s. This is partly thanks to the efforts of Sankirtan Strategist Vaisesika Das, whose innovations such as the Monthly Sankirtan Festival have made it easy for today’s family-based ISKCON community to distribute books.
Byron Bay, Australia
Dedicated temples and teams of book distributors add to this success. The Rupanuga Vedic College Travelling Sankirtan Party, for instance, have been number one in the country for many years, distributing books at colleges and concerts.
Meanwhile, India, where book distribution was practically non-existent in Srila Prabhupada’s time, is now leading the world.
“Close to half the books in the world are distributed in India,” Vijaya says. “Chowpatty and Juhu in Mumbai, Tirupati, Mayapur and New Delhi are on fire. Last year, ISKCON New Delhi was the first temple in ISKCON history to do one million book points in one year.” (Medium books equal one third of a point, big books one point, and extra big books two points.)
Durban, South Africa
Vijaya says that each of these temples are driven by leaders who love book distribution, such as Radhanath Swami, Jayapataka Swami, and Gopal Krishna Goswami. If leaders get behind book distribution, he feels, their congregations will naturally be enthusiastic for it too.
Meanwhile, iskconbookdistribution.com will be playing its part.
“We want to add more and more to it and make it as nice as possible,” Vijaya says, “So that when devotees visit the website, they walk away inspired.”
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