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How Straightforward Should a Preacher Be?
Devotee: What is the solution to problems with authorities, such as the police?
Harikesa Swami: Problems on the street are usually either maya trying to stop us or Krsna testing our sincerity. What-ever the cause is ,the solutin is to increase our dependence on Krsna and not get entangled with the material nature. In the mid-seventies the police in Germany were giving us trouble. We were trying to solve the problem by fighting legal battles, but things were not changing. I even arranged for the lawyer who had helped legalize book distribution in the United States airports to come to Germany. He made a thick book of plans on how to defeat the laws in Germany. I took one look at this book and knew that this was not the right way. Instead we just kept going and depended on Krsna, and
The problems that had been an everyday occurrence were rarely experienced anymore. Still, that does not mean we should not try to legalize book distribution, because legalization makes distribution easier for the sankirtana devotees.
On the street you should be a perfect gentleman and not a disturbance. If you are pushy or if you try to cheat people, you will get bad reactions. For example, in the past some devotees used the ''change-up" method. Once in 1976 or 1977, I was traveling from Germany and my plane had to make an emergency landing at the Chicago Airport. Since I was stranded there, I decided to take advantage of the situation. I had heard about some of the distribution methods being used in America, so I phoned up the president of the Chicago temple and asked him how I could find out what it was like to be "changed-up." He told me to stand underneath the main departure and arrival board and look stupid. I disguised myself as an ordinary, spaced-out karml, looking at the board. Within no time I got my wish fulfilled: a distributor girl approached me. As she tried to pin a flower on my shirt, she babbled some nonsense about collecting money for some cause. But I kept saying that I did not want to give her any money, so she asked me if I could change some small bills for a fifty-dollar-bill. Although the temple president had warned me that this would happen, I handed her a fifty-dollar-bill. She slowly gave back the change, one dollar here, five dollars there—until she got to about thirty dollars. Then she said, "Why don't we leave it at that, for charity?" and I said, "No, I don't want to give any charitv," Again, after another five dollars, she <=aid "Why don't we leave it at that?" and she started walking away, adding, "By the way, where are you from?" When I told her, "From the temple at Schloss Rettershof, Germany," she gasped and froze in her tracks. "I'm Harikesa Swami," I said. "Give me back my fifty dollars."
When I came back to Germany, I told the devotees that they should never, under any circumstances, chear people. It is a horrible experience. We would rather distribute five hundred books less each week than make money by cheating. As soon as people realize that they have been cheated, they get angry and tell the police. They tell their friends and theire family, and we become known as cheaters. Therefore we should distribute the books in a straightforward way, as gen-t'emer. and ladie- Many points in '^ir philosophy address topics that people are interested in. It we preach the philosophy directly, then problems with the police will gradually disappear.
Devotee: Some devotees present the books in a way that does not seem so honest.
Harikesa Swami: Lies are not needed. Tell people about the book. By explaining the books from a social, political, scientific, or economic angle, you attract the people to these books. Devotee: Among the sankirtana devotees there are two opinions on how to distribute books. Some say that the people should be inspired to read the books and not feel cheated. Even if they don't take the book, they should be left with >ome sweet words. Others say that the most important thing is to just pump out the books, and it doesn't matter what people mi^ht think afterward.
Harikesa Swami: I personally would prefer that you present the books nicely and encourage the people to read them, which comes naturally when you present the books philosophically. We do not condemn giving out the books using a mantra, without caring what happens, but that kind of book distribution is not the best. It is better to have the people walk away thinking, "That was a nice person. Let me try to read this book."
Devotee: The problem is the devotees think that if they present the book« v'i ' rhev cannot distribute «^ much, been"'-it takes a little more time. It's also a different mood. Harikesa Swami: Yes, it's more brahminical. Devotee: People who have met an unfriendly devotee are often fried out. Harikesa Swami: The problem is that in big countries like Germany there are so many people that you might think, "Well, it doesn't matter if I try out a couple hundred thousand people." But in Switzerland there are not so many people, and the devotees have to present the hooks nicely. Therefore the people in Switzerland take sets of hooks, read the books, and apporch the devotees to thank them for the books?
Devotee: Not only do we preach Krsna consciousness, but we also try to get laksml. You mentioned that those in management positions sometimes have to be a little duplicitous, bur that a preacher, a brahmana, should always be completely straightforward. Should we be completely "up front" when trying to get donations for books?
Harikesa Swami: "Up front" does not mean stupid. In a place where the people do not like Hare Krsna devotees, you do not pull off your hat, show your bald head, and shout, "I am a Hare Krsna devotee! I have come to take laksml from you! Please give it here!" They will throw you out the door. However, if you tell the people, "I'm trying to spread love of God" or "I'm trying to do something beneficial for human society," then you are following the brahminical principle, satyarh bruyat pri-yarh bruyat: "Truth should be spoken palatably, and unpalatable truth >hould n«)t be spoken." A person who cannot take Krsna directly has to be given Krsna in another way. You can give Krsna consciousness in manv ways. If you have a little expertise, you will not disturb the person. The point is to give him a book. If you tell him something about Krsna and he says, "Krsna, forget it!" and doesn't take a book, then you have ruined his opportunity. It's your duty to make a palatable presentation, so that he will take the book. Devotee: Maybe sometimes one has to admit that he is a Hare Krsna.
Harikesa Swami: You can do that. We are not afraid of admitting it.
Devotee: How can one devlop enough faith in the book to preach directly about the book or about Krsna and His qualities? For example, one may be afraid of the directness of the cover of the book, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Harikesa Swami: If you read and appreciate the books, you will have faith in them. When you have faith in the books, you can impart that faith to others. There were times when the devotees in Germany were also having negative feelings. In 1976, I printed one hundred thousand Krsna books. Although that is not a big number nowadays, at the time it was the biggest printing run ever done. Printings had been usu ally about five thousand books, and 1 printed one hundred thousand.
The devotees were coming to me shaking in their boots: "It says on the cover, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. How can we distribute these books?" So I made fun of them. I said that when they handed the book to someone, they would try to cover up the title with their thumb, because they would not want anyone to see that it says "Krsna" on the cover. When you are paranoid and you think it is bad, the person on the street will immediately sense that something is wrong and not take the book. But the same person will react differently when you are not hung up about the title and you go out with full faith, thinking, "This is a book about the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and whoever reads this book will like it." The German devotees had not been distributing many-books, and all of a sudden they increased. After a week or two of preaching, our sankirtana devotees sold all one hundred thousand Krsna books in a month or so. The change was due to the Krsna books alone. The devotees just went out and distributed like crazy, running around all day in complete ecstasy selling Krsna books. You can tell people that the books contain stories from the Vedic literature about wonderful personalities from the past, stories that their children will also like. You have to have a positive attitude and put the book into the people's hands. Then, although they read, Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, they will not think anything bad about it. Everything depends on vour consciousness. Always think positively about these books, and that will rub ott on the person you are distributing to.
Devotee: When we distribute books we often present them as yoga, meditation, or Indian culture. After some time we meet the same people again, and sometimes they are disappointed, because they found out from the first page that the book is about God and religion. How can we avoid disappointing the people in this way?
Harikesa Swami: If you say "spiritual culture," "spiritual philosophy,’’or ‘’spiritual knowledge,’’ they will not fill cheated, because you tell them "spiritual" right away. Our books are not religious. You should not use the word "religious." You should use "spiritual" or "transcendental." Then thev cannot sav you didn't tell them. You can say, "Of course the books are spiritual. Spirit comes from the Supreme Spirit in the spiritual world."
Devotee: Is it OK to say that we are students?
Harikesa Swami: Yes, we are students.
Devotee: A karmi thinks that "students" means university students, which we are not; therefore they feel a little cheated. Would it be better to say monks or nuns?
Harikesa Swami: What is a monk? You can tell them, "We are sadhus." I used to distribute books in a way that you might consider strange. I presented Krsna consciousness directly. People would just become hypnotized by what I was saying and take the book. Of course, we were only distributing the small paperback Krsna books for a dollar. When I got bored with repeating the same words, I would say, "We are sadhus," or, "We are the tatastha-sakti of the Supreme Personality of Godhead." Amazingly, nobody objected. I sold the most on days when I was running from person to person, throwing books into their arms. People would buy them, but I don't know how. If someone asks me how I distributed books, I cannot precisely remember. Sometimes I used to say, "These books are fantastic. If you don't have any other book but this one, your life will be perfect. Just take it," and it would work. Distributing books often has nothing to do with what you sav but who vou are. You can sav exactly what a devotee who can distribute many books says, but when you say it the ettect will be different. It is a question of personality. Some devotees have a personality that the people like, so they buy a book. The most important thing is to be natural. You should be well-dressed, but don't try to put on an artificial show of who you are, who you think you are, or who you want the people to think you are. Just be yourself and be friendly. By being a friendly devotee, people will be attracted to you.