Experiences while distributing Srila Prabhupada's books to others.
This story took place in March this year in a simple nondescript typical Indian village in Maharashtra. Travelling by our sankirtana bus, we toured different places and distributed many of Srila Prabhupada's books. During the day we would set up stall or distribute books door to door. In the evening we would ask some farmer for permission to stay in his field overnight and use the water facility. People always agreed.
One day, early morning, we had a refreshing bath in the fresh bore water and blissful chanting in the peaceful, serene and natural surroundings. By 8 am we had finished honoring prasadam and were ready for book distribution. The bus engine roared and broke into a gentle start for the neighboring village. The road was muddy, narrow, and full of potholes and we were so slow that a bullock cart could have easily overtaken us. We impatiently waited for the roller coaster road to wind up, when suddenly the driver noticed in the rear mirror, a man waving to us. "Look at that!" he said drawing my attention to it. I turned and saw a man frantically paddling his cycle and waving and shouting at us to stop. "What does he want?"I asked. "Let's ask him only," the driver replied and stopped the bus.
By the time I jumped out of the bus, the man had already reached next to us. "How can I help you, sir?" I asked. The man seemingly ignored me and went over to the side of the bus where our address and name of ISKCON was printed. "This is it!" he exclaimed with joy. "This is what?" I asked. "This is the bus I was looking for. Give me a Bhagavad gita."
"How do you know we have one?"
"Many years back this bus came to our village," he said, "and I bought a Bhagavad gita from devotees traveling in it. But six months back a relative brrowed my only copy and has not returned it. Ever since, I have been looking for Bhagavad gita As It Is, but could not find it anywhere. Now please give me one."
I went in the bus and got a copy of Bhagavad-gita in Marathi. "Eighty rupees, please," I said.
"But I have only fifty."
"I am sorry, but this money goes to the temple. I can't give you discount … "
"Don't worry," he stopped me, "but please wait till I arrange the money." He quickly went to a neighboring shop and begged the owner for thirty rupees. The shopkeeper was a complete stranger but this man earnestly pleaded with him for money. "I belong to the neighboring village. This is my address. I promise to return the money soon." Much to our surprise the shopkeeper trusted him and loaned him thirty rupees. Gleefully he ran to us and handing us the money, eagerly grabbed his Bhagavad gita.
I was amazed to see his strong desire to have Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad gita. On a better road he would have missed us in moments, but the very road we had been cursing became the cause of his getting Bhagavad gita. Wondering at the arrangements of the Lord I got in to the bus leaving behind the new owner of Bhagavad gita fondly caressing the pages of the divine book.
But that was not the end of it.
We entered the new village and were looking for a parking space, when someone noticed a dilapidated shop. "No one will object if we park in front of it," we thought. We were mistaken. Some time passed and the shopkeeper arrived. He was the same man! This time he came to our stall and began crying hysterically. "What's the matter?" [ asked him. "This bus …. This bus …. ,"he could not continue and broke into a louder cry. "What about it?" I asked sternly, pulling him away from the stall so as not to disturb the other customers.
"You won't believe me panditji," he said, "but I saw the very same bus in my dream three days back. I told you that I had the copy of Bhagavad Gita As It Is, but one of my relatives took it away. Ever since I had been trying to get it but was unsuccessful. Three days back this bus appeared to me in a dream and a voice spoke, 'This bus will come to your village and you will get Bhagavad gita from it.' Ever since I have been saving money to buy Bhagavad gita. I am a poor flower garland seller and make just twenty five or thirty rupees a day. I have been saving all my earnings just to get this book."
"However, now I see that this bus has come to my shop. Your bus is like a temple of the Lord and Lord Himself has come to my house. I don't deserve this but the Lord is so kind. I am so fortunate." Saying this he broke down uncontrollably.
All of us were deeply moved by hearing about the special mercy the Lord had showered upon him. We invited him in our bus for prasadam and taught him chanting of Hare Krsna mahamantra. All the time he just kept on saying how wonderful and kind the Lord was.
True indeed.
Govindananda Dasa serves full time in ISKCON Mumbai and is the leader of the traveling sankirtana bus party.