A devotee from a remote village finds an innovative way to share Srila Prabhupada’s message with everyone.
It’s widely known that Srila Prabhupada’s books have the potency to transform people’s hearts. Their message is so pure that they can elevate anyone to the highest platform of spiritual perfection. Having witnessed the transformational power of these books in my own life, I was eager to share these amazing pieces of literature with the people of my city. By the Lord’s grace, I came up with an innovative idea to do just that.
I own a cell phone shop in Kolhapur, Maharashtra. While commuting between my village, Kotoli, and downtown Kolhapur, I used to observe how most passengers spent their travel time sleeping.
What a waste! I thought. Somehow I must give them transcendental knowledge of the divine pastimes of Lord Krishna. I used to take a great deal of interest in marketing, so I decided to use my marketing skills in Krishna’s service.
At first I hesitated to distribute Srila Prabhupada’s books; since I would have to receive some payment for them, I feared regular passengers would think I was earning a sales commission rather than simply doing religious work. Soon I thought of another way. Since I am handicapped in one hand, I was being charged only a quarter of the bus fare. This meant that the state government was contributing Rs. 1,200 for me every month. As a gesture of gratitude, I decided to use that money to give out copies of Jau Devachiya Gava, the Marathi edition of Back to Godhead. Because it is a monthly magazine, I knew it would create interest among the passengers. The bus drivers and conductors encouraged me, and thus the magazine distribution received a kick-start. Bus passengers started reading the copies. Srila Prabhupada’s teachings were finally reaching the people of Kolhapur.
One day a passenger took a copy of BTG from the bus and showed it to his family members waiting to meet him at the bus stand. They appreciated the pictures and the articles, but they thought he had stolen the attractive religious magazine and admonished him to return it. But he wouldn’t let it go he had gotten attached to it.
When I later heard the story from him, I exclaimed, “Jaya Prabhupada!” rejoicing at his good fortune.
Another idea struck me. I noticed that some passengers spent their time listening to music on their cell phones. I realized that literate people can get Srila Prabhupada’s mercy by reading Back to Godhead, but how can the illiterate ones get that mercy? So I bought an MP3 music player and loaded it with Srila Prabhupada’s lectures and Hare Krishna kirtanas. If I could play this inside the bus, I thought, everyone would receive the mercy of the holy name. The drivers, the conductors, and my regular co-passengers were all happy with this idea. Throughout the day, Srila Prabhupada’s voice was amplified on the bus’s internal speakers. Every passenger came in touch with the pure devotee’s divine voice.
Sometime later, our bus, No. 7810, received the nickname “The Hare Krishna Express,” and whenever it entered the Kolhapur bus station, the entire transport staff welcomed us enthusiastically. Now, even in my absence, they listen to Srila Prabhupada’s lectures and kirtanas. Soon another bus will become a “Hare Krishna Express.” Passengers now regularly ask me about the magazine, and many have become paid subscribers.
Preaching Through Action
Once I found a bag on the bus containing Rs. 40,000 in cash. There was a business card inside the bag, so I called the owner to tell him I’d found it. He was speechless, unable to express his gratitude. When he insisted I accept something as a reward, I explained how I was trying to share Srila Prabhupada’s message with everyone. I confessed that it was Prabhupada’s preaching that had influenced me to return the money, without keeping any for myself. He immediately signed up for three BTG subscriptions. Somehow this story spread, and the local newspaper ran a short article about me.
Another time, I found an expensive cell phone in the bus. When I called the owner, he was greatly relieved. He came to my home and showered me with praise. I asked him to subscribe to the magazine, and he did. Then he told me his name: Shri Rasid Gulab Sayyed. A Muslim! I couldn’t believe my ears But then I realized that the mercy of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu is all-inclusive. Even those outside the scope of Vedic religion are eligible for devotional service.
I am determined to make as many Back to Godhead subscribers as possible. To this date, after about a year, 145 people have enrolled.
When I hand someone a magazine, I usually say, “Spirituality is like Mother Ganga, but you cannot take the whole Ganga home. This magazine is like the kamandalu, which can carry Ganga to your home and sanctify your whole family. ”
I firmly believe that by serving Srila Prabhupada and his mission by distributing his Back to Godhead magazine, Hare Krishna Express in the form of ISKCON will take me back home, back to Godhead. Let me pray to His Divine Grace for his blessings and causeless mercy.