Lessons from Book Distribution Marathon
Is Krishna the center of our ambitions and transformations ?
It was December – the month of Srila Prabhupäda’s book marathon! We were quite excited when we began book distribution. We remained excited throughout. The thought of reaching out to unlimited number of souls thrilled me.
The results we achieved were seemingly in proportion to our efforts. Actually, the mercy we received during this time was much beyond the external effort or internal state. There were times when nothing seemed to work out, but then everything worked out at once. The first time when we got zero response I had this feeling Krishna would do something just before we decided to give up. He did! He always does! (I recalled the past incidents when He intervened just when I was about to give up.)
Before I would step out of home for distribution, my long and short prayer to Krishna would be “Krishna , please don’t let any of those Bhagavad-gita copies come back home with us. Umm. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want them to be stolen. Help us distribute them all. (smiley)” Krishna always heard this prayer. There were days when I forgot to pray, but He heard it anyway – as if He printed out my prayer and pasted it on His display board so He could read and grant it every time we went out.”
One time we couldn’t distribute even a single book for an hour and then right the next moment someone took six books. It may be small thing for veteran distributors, but for us it was no less than a small miracle. Another time, we had thirty-two books in the car, and just two of them refused to part from us. So, we were going back now. We were at the stop light when I looked at my friend Rajesh Rani, my teammate in book distribution, and said “Krishna , please help us distribute these 2 books by 6.15 pm, so I could attend my nephew’s birthday party at 6.30 pm.” It was already over 6 pm. Within five minutes we reached New Delhi’s Dwarka, sector 12 market. I parked the car in a corner and asked Rajesh Rani if she would like to come along while I hit the street to distribute the remaining two books. She was quite tired and I too preferred that she stayed in the car. For her age, she had already done a lot that day. (I wonder how I efficient I would be when I cross 50. She amazes me with her energy.)
The clock hit 6.07 pm. I entered the market zone and observed people’s faces. Krishna guided me to one person who, it seemed, would value the message and our effort. She accepted the book gracefully. I thanked her and moved on. 6.09 pm. A 30-ish-looking couple was going in the opposite direction on the other side of the road. I ran toward them and said what I had to say. They had multiple copies of the Bhagavad-gita and didn’t seem to be willing to take one more. But after a little dialog, the man decided to take it and said he would gift it to someone. Last copy distributed – what a feeling of joy! Childlike joy!!! I whispered words of thanks to Krishna , I ran in the direction of my car. As I reached near the car, Rajesh Rani welcomed me with a big smile and said, “I knew you would come back victorious.” It was 6.12 pm. Krishna is our best friend.
Was it for me or for Krishna ?
During the distribution hours, my ambition to distribute more and to know how many books I distributed began to disturb the harmony within and without. Was I after self-approval and others’ appreciation?
Every time these thoughts entered my mind, I would try to fend them off helplessly. I would try to reeducate myself how greed, fear, jealously, and anger take control of us time to time. But mere psychological placebo can’t heal the samskara that the soul has accumulated life after life. Once in a while I would pray to Krishna for cleansing my heart and my senses. But mostly, I would feel guilty and disappointed at my inner progress in devotion. It saddened me to face malicious enemies who had been hiding in my heart – a place I thought I was clearing up for Krishna. My retrospection became very painful, more so because my consciousness didn’t seem to have changed despite all the retrospection gymnastic. My selfexamination reopened old wounds, or rather tore them up brutally. I began to sulk over my failures pertaining to self-transformation. Life was so beautiful since the last twelve months – since I began chanting sixteen rounds of Hare Krishna mantra. What happened now? Is this a part of purification? Is everyone as bad as I am? I began to observe others around me to justify the darkness of my heart. All of us are in the same boat, are not we? “Well, while this may be true, will I ever be willing to sink or get caught in the whirlpool with others if that boat overturns in a major rapid?” I asked myself. If my answer to this is no, then I better focus on my purification at this stage rather than comparing my vices with those of others.
Yet another day my internal turmoil took a different form, but its premise was the same: anger and fear took over me. It won’t matter much if I shared the incident with you. After all, the bone of contention in all material stories is the wellknown enemies, born out of false ego. All we need is rearrangement of characters and a different storyline, so to say. The book distribution was over, and the inner enemies were dressing up in new attire. I reacted over something; blew the matter out of proportion. The six enemies won again! They left me bruised and covered my joy and my desire to transform; and to become a channel of Krishna’s love. Some hours were more difficult than others. In one of those hours, when I had just come out of Srimad -Bhagavatam class, tears welled up my eyes, and I whispered to Radharani that I was scared I would stray from bhakti and lose the purpose of my life. I asked Her to help me. I confessed my helplessness, my inability to handle anything. I confessed how insignificant I felt. If only I could go beyond this “I”.
The next morning when I opened Srimad -Bhagavatam to resume my reading at home, the following Slokas were waiting to show me the light: “Having awakened faith in the narrations of My glories, being disgusted with all material activities, knowing that all sense gratification leads to misery, but still being unable to renounce all sense enjoyment, My devotee should remain happy and worship Me with great faith and conviction. Even though he is sometimes engaged in sense enjoyment, My devotee knows that all sense gratification leads to a miserable result, and he sincerely repents such activities.” (Srimad – Bhagavatam 11.20.27-28)
Some lines in the purport of these Slokas just hit the right chords of heart. All this time I have been attached to my detachment from external factors. And for what? To serve Krishna with love? It doesn’t look like it. The reason was me. That’s why it didn’t work.
Obviously, I was obsessed with renunciation rather than the pleasure of Krishna . My desire was not oriented toward Krishna but my own self. I murmered, “Thank you, Radha-Krishna .”
While I was reading this çloka, a senior godsister called me up to check if everything was fine. Senior devotees can sense both, growth and regression. I shared my state of mind with my her devotee and just like always I was shown the light. I was rightly advised to open my heart with devotees with whom I am comfortable. The power of devotee association is unmatchable!
Some Take-away Lessons
My learning/take-aways from this experience are:
• Realize and remember your mistakes/challenging personality traits, but don’t let them dampen your spirit of devotional service.
• Don’t assign a deadline to transformation. It will happen by Krishna ’s will. If our efforts are sincere, His “will” will happen sooner or later.
• Never be obsessed with detachment and transformation to be a better person. The center of our spirit should be Krishna and His pleasure, not our satisfaction with our progress.
Only Krishna can fulfill our desires, whether for transformation or for service. And He always does when the time is ripe. However, for some reason, if He does not, no one else can.