The year was 1997. In the midst of a frantic search for material enjoyment, Vasudeva Datta reluctantly agreed to go along to a Hare Krishna meeting with one of his friends.
There he bought Life Comes from Life and a set of japa beads—and within two weeks he found himself chanting sixteen rounds a day and devouring Prabhupada’s books.
“My mother didn’t know what was going on,” he says, laughing. “I had never read a book in my life and now I was reading all day.”
It wasn’t long before Vasudeva decided that this world was not his real home. Packing up his belongings, he moved into the local ISKCON temple and enrolled himself in its three-month Bhakta Program. There, he began to notice how the devotees that returned from travelling book distribution every weekend were radiating with spiritual happiness.
He wanted to become like them—dedicated, simple, joyful and fully convinced of Krishna consciousness. And so in January 1998, he joined Slovenia’s travelling Sankirtana Team.
“My first few days tasted like chutney,” he admits, explaining: “Chutney is very sharp and at the same time so sweet that you cannot give up taking it. But whenever I encountered difficult times, I would just try to take shelter of sincere devotees.”
It’s a strategy that worked—Vasudeva has been distributing books roughly non-stop for the past eleven years, breaking only to visit holy places or take scriptural courses to renew and inspire himself spiritually.
The majority of these he has spent in his native Slovenia, with three years in South India, and several months in Tokyo, Japan.
His schedule is simple, intense, and spiritually invigorating. He travels, distributing books, for five days a week. In the mornings, he chants sixteen rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra, reads Prabhupada’s books for one hour, attends a short lecture and then eats breakfast.
He then distributes books for six hours, taking a break only on some days. “Evenings are more relaxed,” he says. “We share stories and discuss how to improve our book distribution, then read from the Krishna book before going to sleep. And of course we return to the temple on the weekends.”
Vasudeva regularly gets spiritual realizations and inspiration while out on the street. Once, while distributing in southern Slovenia, he came to a point were people were no longer taking books.
“Usually if I had reached my quota for the day I would just wrap up,” he says. “But this time I was determined to push on till my last breath. I struggled on until finally I rang one doorbell and a big guy came out. I simply told him, ‘Please take these books, they are very nice.’
Immediately he pulled out his wallet and said, ‘I will buy these books because you are endeavoring so much.’ I became so overwhelmed that tears came to my eyes, for it was like Krishna and my guru were speaking to me through him.”
Vasudeva says that in Slovenia there has never been a better time for book distribution—today there is little harassment from the police, people are more affluent, and yoga, vegetarianism and meditation are very popular.
As long as we are sincere, he is convinced, people will buy our books. And with the progress that Slovenian book distribution has made in recent years, this seems likely. “In the early days there was much more competition and fruitive mentality, whereas today devotees are acting more like a team,” he explains.
“Also, for the past four years we have dressed in
Vaishnava attire rather than civilian clothes, making book distribution more open, straight-forward and mature.”
Vasudeva’s future plans are simple: He prays to always be engaged in book distribution and teaching Krishna consciousness, and to one day become free from all material contaminations.