Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  

Inspiring book distribution story

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Since the christmas marathon has started...


Indradyumna Swami: Then I visited the public restroom near the festival grounds, and I complimented the old cleaning woman. "This is the cleanest public toilet I have ever seen in Poland," I said. "Thank you very much."


She was struck. "I've been working here 10 years," she said, "and you're the first person to ever thank me. But I'm not surprised. You're good people. I've watched your festival from a distance for years now. Everyone leaves your program smiling."


"Can you come also?" I said.


She looked surprised. "You're inviting me?" she asked. "Yes," I said, "to dinner. I'll come get you at 6 p.m. and we'll have dinner together in our vegetarian restaurant."


She looked down. "I'm an old woman," she said. "No one has ever asked me. You know, I ..."


She stopped. Her eyes had welled up with tears.


I took her hand. "I'll be back at six," I said.


But ! ! at 5:30 p.m., just an hour into the festival program, our big seven-ton generator broke down. The maintenance crew told me that it appeared to have been sabotaged. "It seems someone poured water into the fuel tank," Niti-laksa das said.


Not everyone appreciates our programs. We have to be always on guard against the envious. So I was 20 minutes late for picking up the old woman. I went with Gaura Hari das and Nandini dasi.


She wasn't there. An old man was sitting in her chair, bent over preparing a bucket of water to clean the toilets. "She went home," he told us. "She wasn't feeling well."


"I'm sorry to hear that," I said. I looked at the thin, gray-haired,poorly dressed old man, and I felt sorry for him.


"Do you know the old woman?" I asked.


"Oh yes," he replied, "she's my wife. We've worked together here for years. Can you imagine that?"


"No," I said, "I can't."


I immediately regretted my answer. I was afraid I had insulted the old ! ! man, so I tried to smooth things over. "I don't think there's anything wrong with working here," I said. "I meant to say I ..."


"Don't worry," said the old man. "I know it's not the best work, and it doesn't pay well, but we get by."


He paused. "And do you know how?" he asked.


I was afraid I would put my foot in my mouth again, so I didn't answer.


"By reading the Gita," he said slowly.


Gaura Hari, Nandini, and I looked at each other in amazement.


"Yes," he continued, "your Gita makes sense of everything. You can clearly understand the soul by reading the Gita. No other religion has such a concise explanation of the soul, reincarnation, and karma. If a man kills someone and then himself dies soon after, how will he be punished unless he's born again? Reincarnation explains why some people are born into misery and others into good fortune."


For a moment I thought I was dreaming. Was the old cleaning man really speaking Vedic philosophy?


"Take the material body," he continued. "It is only dead matter. How can it be activated unless there is the presence of the soul? That's why it's wrong to kill animals. They also have souls. God created beings so they could live, not so they could be killed."


I was struck by his clear logic.


"A man works all his life," he continued, "and he gets a pension to live out his remaining days, but the cow gives milk all her life, and then people kill her. It's wrong. And the whole world is suffering the reaction in the form of wars. Therefore God sends messengers at different times to enlighten us to these truths, but people just don't listen. What can be done?"


Gaura Hari turned to me. "Sometimes I think you exaggerate in your diaries," he said, "but I'll never think that again."


"You know," I whispered to him, "that's the same thing Dharmatma prabhu said after we survived a serious car accident near Jagannath Puri."


I turned t! ! o the old man. "But there is an answer," I said. "We can have festivals like these to help people understand."


"Yes," he said, "you're right. Go on with your festivals. Let people hear the truth."


I had to return to the festival to give my stage lecture. "One more thing," I said. "Can you and your wife be my guests for dinner tomorrow evening at the last night of the festival?"


He looked surprised.


"Please," I continued. "We'd be honored."


"All right," he said, "thank you."


He stood up and picked up the bucket. "I didn't know what real religion was until I read the Gita," he said softly, half to himself, as he disappeared into the toilets.


Srila Prabhupada's words came to my mind: "Therefore we stress so much in the book distribution. Somehow or other, if the book goes in one hand, he will be benefited ... If he reads one sloka, his life will be successful...Therefore we are stressing so much, 'Please distribute books, distribute bo o! ! ks, distribute books.' "


[Lecture, January 5, 1974, Los Angeles]


Excerpts from a Travelling Oreachers Dairy - Volume 5 - A Lesson from an Old Cleaning Man.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The day before I left, I asked to go into the desert to the Temple of Fire. I had gone there the last time I was in Baku, but that visit had been brief. It was an ancient Vedic temple in the outskirts of Baku, and I wanted to know more about it.


The history of the place, with its natural-gas fires coming out of the earth, goes back thousands of years. The earliest written records of it date back to the followers of the ancient Zoroastrian faith, which preceded Islam. These people were mainly worshipers of the elements, and fire was their main meditation. In the fourth Century BC, they worshiped at the site.


After an hour, we arrived at the temple. It is an impressive structure, built by ascetics from India many centuries ago. From the 15th to the 18th centuries, Baku was one of the most important trade centers between Azerbaijan and India. Goods were brought by traders from India and then sent by sea to Russia and Western Eu r! ! ope. Some historians say the site was frequented by Indian sages for thousands of years. These descriptions conform to Srila Prabhupada's statement that Vedic culture once flourished all over the world.


I entered the sacred compound with the understanding that I was visiting an ancient Vedic holy place. The compound is surrounded by large walls, with a main temple in the center and 26 other rooms. Small fires emanate from the rock floor of each room, and ascetics used to live in the rooms, worship the fires, and perform severe austerities.


The Azerbaijan government has decided to promote tourism there and recently installed dioramas of yogis performing austerities in many of the rooms. In one room, there is a diorama of a yogi lying on limestone, a severe skin irritant. In another room, a yogi is standing in heavy chains. The display board says he has vowed never to sit again. In another room, ascetics are fasting to death while meditating on the sacred flame.

Of course, such austerities have nothing to do with bhakti yoga, which aims at awakening one's love for God through devotional activities, but it was fascinating to see the ancient site where sadhus attempted to become detached from this world of birth and death.


As our government guide, a young woman in her late teens, took us around, I noticed that the doorways were very low. I turned to my translator. "Why are the doorways so low?" I said. "Ask the guide whether it means the practitioners were small in stature."


"Oh no," the guide answered through the translator. "It was a way of making people bow in humility as they entered to worship the sacred fires that came from the earth. They were practicing to become saints."


"But Srila Prabhupada was a modern-day saint," she continued.


We all looked at one another in surprise.


"He taught people all over the world how to love God in a simple way," she said.


"She knows about Srila Prabhupada?" ! ! I asked the translator.


The translator spoke with her briefly, then turned to me. "She says she has never met him," he said, "but she hopes to, some day. She knows all about his mission to America in the 1960s. She wants to know if he will ever visit Azerbaijan."


My eyes welled up with tears. There, in that remote part of the world, someone was speaking about and inquiring with such faith about my spiritual master.


I paused for a moment. "I'm sorry," I said. "He passed away many years ago."


She looked down, visibly affected. "Such saints are very rare in this world," she said.


"Yes, they are," I said, appreciating the fact more through her realization than mine.


"How do you know about my spiritual master?" I asked.


"I bought a book about him last year from one of your members on the street in Baku," she said through the translator, "I learned to appreciate him from that book."


"All glories to book distribution," I said under my breath.


It was getting late, so I paid my obeisances and left that holy place with a deeper appreciation of Vedic history, and more important, a greater appreciation for my spiritual master, inspired by the words of a young Muslim girl who understood him to be a genuine saint of our times.


"The Vaisnavas are internal forms of the blissful mellows of Sri Caitanya's samkirtan movement. Because they distribute the gifts of love of God, their consciousness is always purified. They are all great souls. Indeed, Lord Krsna empowers them as equal with Himself and they rescue the people from the cycle of birth and death."


[sri Sarvabhauma Bhattacarya, Susloka-Satakam, verse 39]


Excerpts from The Travelling Preachers Diary by HH Indradyuma Swami - Chapter 5 - The City of Doom & The Temple of Fire.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Create New...