ONCE IN San Diego a devotee was distributing small books in a parking lot. As he approached one car he saw a young man sitting in the driver's seat. When the devotee knocked on the window, the man shouted, "Look, just leave me alone! Get outta here!"
The devotee went on his way, but then he thought, "This guy's pretty bad off. He needs a book." So the devotee returned and stuck a small book under the windshield wiper.
Later the young man showed up at the San Diego temple and told this story:
"When the devotee saw me, I was very morose. I was frustrated about school and feeling no inspiration in life. My parents had sent me to a psychologist, but he was no help, and I became even more depressed. I thought there must be something wrong with me. I saw how my friends were so enthusiastic about going to school, getting jobs, making money. I concluded that everyone else was okay and I was just messed up, a total failure.
"So I decided to kill myself. I ran a tube from the exhaust pipe through the trunk into my a car, rolled up the windows, and started the engine. I thought this would be a good way to end all my misery and pain.
"The car was filling up with carbon monoxide when someone walked up holding a big stack of books on his arm and knocked on the window. I told him to get lost. I thought he was a crazy fanatic especially when he came back and put one of his books under my windshield wiper.
"But then I began to get bored and thought, 'Well, what would be the harm if I read something before I die?' So I rolled down the window, reached out, and grabbed the little book. The title looked interesting Civilization and Transcendence. I started to read.
"In that book I found that Srila Prabhupada directly points out the defects of modern civilization and gives people an alternative, the Krsna conscious way of life.
"Suddenly I realized, 'Hey, I'm not crazy. Everyone else is!'
"So I rolled down the windows, disconnected the tube from my exhaust, and drove home. After reading the book cover to cover, I've come to the temple to become a devotee."
The young man stayed in the temple and became a very nice devotee.
Prabhupada's Books: Crimefighters Extraordinaire
During my last visit to Siberia I heard the following story from the devotees there.
A burglar who belonged to a gang of thieves was in an apartment searching for valuables when he heard a noise at the door. He became scared and started to climb out the window. Frustrated that all his trouble had come to naught, he quickly grabbed whatever was at hand a book lying on the kitchen table and then ran off.
When the burglar arrived home and looked at the book, he saw that the title read Bhagavad-gita As It Is. He didn't have the slightest interest in such a book, but since he had stolen it he figured he might as well read it, so he opened it and began.
Soon he was becoming more and more interested in philosophy and spiritual life. He started visiting the local temple and gradually began chanting Hare Krsna. After some time he brought his gang members to the temple and introduced them to Krsna consciousness. Before long they were all regularly visiting the temple to render services like cleaning and driving. When devotees asked them what they did for a living, they simply answered, "God allows everyone to survive."
But there was a problem. The burglar's wife became disturbed to see the great change in his character. He was losing interest in his occupation. She worried about their income. To make matters worse, her father was one of the biggest gangsters in town. Infuriated to find his son-in-law breaking with their tradition of thievery, the father-in-law even threatened to kill him if he didn't stop his spiritual practices, which his father-in-law considered an insult to their great heritage.
So the burglar was caught in a real bind. But one day his wife went to visit some relatives in Moscow, and while shopping in a big marketplace she saw a young man carrying a stack of books. He was walking around without approaching anyone. After he had walked past many people, he went straight up to her, gave her a book, and said, "This is the best book in the world. You should read it, because you'll really like it." The devotee didn't know her and had no idea her husband was already chanting Hare Krsna.
The burglar's wife was intrigued that out of hundreds of people in the marketplace the devotee had come up to her. She bought the book, Teachings of Lord Caitanya. Then she went home and read it cover to cover. Now convinced about the philosophy of Krsna consciousness, she joined forces with her husband and threw her father out of the house.
The couple started to visit the temple together, and soon the man began going out with the devotees to distribute books. As he became more and more keen to do that service, he realized, "Formerly I would walk by so many mansions thinking how I could enter them and steal something. Now I think, 'Let me go to that house and give the occupants Krsna's mercy in the form of Prabhupada's books.' "
Books for Everyone
Vijaya Dasa from the United States was distributing books in Vienna, the capital of Austria. Walking around in the area in front of the Austrian Parliament building, he offered books to many sophisticated and influential people. One middle-aged man, accompanied by a few other people, stopped to look at the Bhagavad-gita.
"This is a classic work from the Sanskrit wisdom," Vijaya told him. "We present this knowledge to people suffering due to ignorance of their own identity."
As they spoke, the man revealed his interest in karma, reincarnation, and ancient wisdom and philosophy. He agreed to buy the book, gave a donation, and left with his group.
Afterwards Vijaya asked some passersby who the man was.
They said, "He's the President."
Navina Nirada Dasa, a disciple of Harikesa Swami, has been one of ISKCON's leading book distributors for many years. He is based at the ISKCON temple in Zurich.