By Gurumaharaj

I distributed books in India after Prabhupada’s departure. A group of us went to Calcutta to do a big marathon. Our goal was to distribute one million books and win the marathon championship. We were a bit ambitious and competitive. At the end of one day, a book distributor came back to me and said:

“What should I do?”

“What do you mean what should you do? Distribute books!” I said. 

“No,” he said, “something happened today.”

“What’s that?”

The devotee explained, “Well, I went to distribute books in Howrah train station in Calcutta. I distributed to one man who read the book, came back, and said, ‘I’m convinced, I want to surrender. You gave me this book, and now you must guide me. What should I do?’ So I said, ‘Okay. Come and live in the temple.’ Because that’s what I knew people should do. The man replied, ‘All right, but I’ve been working here with the railways, a government job, for my whole life. I have three years to serve before I retire and get my pension, which is half of my present salary. I can give that up as you say if that’s what I should do to be Krishna conscious. I have a wife and five children. One daughter is paraplegic, handicapped. I have five cows and a dog and some other animals.’

Plus his grandmother and aunt stayed with them in the village.” 

“I’ll bring all of them and live in the temple,” the man said.

“No! I mean, I don’t know if the temple has a place for all of you.” 

“So what should I do? I read your book. I’m convinced and I want to practice.”

“You can become a life member,” I suggested.

He said, “How much is that? You have to pay thousands of rupees to be- come a life member? Well, I’m a poor man. I just get a simple salary, but I can give you a little bit every month from my salary and become a life member. What else should I do?”

The book distributor had never faced such a situation. He had never met anyone who surrendered upon getting a book. The railway man wanted to give his life to Krishna, and the book distributor didn’t know what to do to facilitate that. He told the man, “Buy some more books and keep reading.”

I thought about it. We had to have a program for all these people. It was not practical for them to live in our temple. So what would be our program? Then I remembered what Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura wrote about the Nama-hatta. Nama-hatta is a program suitable for most people in society. During those days after Prabhupada left, I was thinking that ISKCON must develop well organized programs so that people will chant Hare Krishna and practice Krishna consciousness in their homes. Maybe some of them would join the temple, but that is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that people are Krishna conscious and that they are helping to spread the Krishna consciousness movement in whatever situation most suitable.

Lord Caitanya preached to a brahmana that he should not give up his family connection to become a sannyasi. Rather, the Lord advised him to spread Krishna consciousness by preaching to everyone he met. In Prabhupada’s purports in Caitanya-caritamrta we find that Lord Caitanya did not build any temples. Instead He distributed Krishna consciousness through harinama sankirtana.

Gradually, as we get a broader picture of Krishna consciousness, we can develop preaching programs that are relevant and applicable to the larger society. Krishna consciousness isn’t only for completely renounced people. Nor is it absolutely necessary for one to live in the temple. The Congregational Development Ministry is trying to organize programs to develop communities in a more systematic way. ISKCON temples will function as holy places to receive congregation members and new devotees. Temples will be tirthas, places of pilgrimage where people come and get purified by praying before the deity, taking prasada and chanting Hare Krishna. But to do this we have to become very expert in receiving guests and making them feel that the temple is their real, spiritual home. If they want to participate in Krishna consciousness, then we can show them how to make their home into a temple. There is so much to do.

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