In his upcoming new book “Our Family Business: The Great Art of Distributing Srila Prabhupada’s Books” – out February 24th -- veteran distributor Vaisesika Das shares the history, key principles and techniques of book distribution, drawing from a lifetime of experience.
Vaisesika, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, is known for strategizing innovative ways to distribute his spiritual master’s books on spiritual knowledge, and for teaching these methods to devotees around the world.
The ISKCON spiritual community of three hundred families he developed in Silicon Valley, California is based on the study and distribution of Prabhupada’s books, and consistently ranks high amongst the list of small temples in these efforts.
A year and a half ago, after both senior ISKCON leaders from around the world, and trustees of the publishing company Bhaktivedanta Book Trust had requested him to share his knowledge and insight, Vaisesika sat down to write.
“It was great to consolidate all the things that I had learned throughout the years from mentors, and to dig deep and think about my own realizations, and how this service had actually molded my life,” he says.
Our Family Business is divided into four sections. The first, Chronicles, gives a basic history of book distribution in the Gaudiya Sampradaya, in Srila Prabhupada’s life, and in ISKCON up to his passing in 1977, describing how it got off the ground in the U.S. and spread all over the world.
“I wanted to show how Prabhupada developed it from nothing, so I compared his starting in a dusty little room in Vrindavana to other family businesses like Hewlett Packard and Apple, which both started in a garage,” says Vaisesika. “I call it ‘spiritual entrepreneurialism.’”
The first section also includes an account of how Vaisesika himself received his first book from a friend in high school.
The Cover of Our Family Business
The second section, Tenets, outlines the reasons why ISKCON devotees distribute books. In the chapter “The Pen is Mightier than the Sword,” Vaisesika talks about the written word’s sway on humanity, and about how Krishna consciousness is most solidly spread through it. He also discusses how books are part of the yuga dharma; that according to Srila Prabhupada, there is no difference between chanting Hare Krishna in public, and distributing books, or literary kirtan.
“In that section, I also talk lot about how book distribution is confidential service, high sadhana [spiritual practice],” Vaisesika says. “Because when you go out on the street, you face your own mind, you face other kinds of challenges, and in that tension, you grow.”
The third section, Axioms, describes the foundational principles for building a successful book distribution program, with a whole chapter on how to improve one’s personal spiritual practice – something Vaisesika considers of paramount importance. It also talks about new methods of book distribution, such as the monthly sankirtana festival, in which householders go out to distribute books just once a month, but can make a huge impact.
“I also go into the four laws of book distribution,” Vaisesika says. “They are: 1) Your sadhana must be strong, 2) You must get books -- because you can’t distribute books you don’t have, 3) The more you show, the more you sell, and 4) You must organize.”
In the final part of Our Family Business, Vaisesika discusses Ajnata Sukriti – how people derive great benefit from coming in contact with Prabhupada’s message, even if they don’t know exactly what they’re receiving.
“I also talk about how important it is for us to make a good presentation, to leave people with good impressions,” he says. “Because just because there’s power in the Holy Name doesn’t mean that people will be mentally able to accept it, unless we make it available to them within their cultural perspective. So in that regard, I give a lot of evidence about how Lord Chaitanya particularly honed His message so that people would accept it.”
The book also includes illustrative and inspirational first-person book distribution stories with dialogue, secrets of highly effective book distributors, and more.
It has been highly praised by ISKCON leaders including Jayapataka Swami, Giriraj Swami, Indradyumna Swami and many more as a must-read for all devotees, not just book distributors.
“The work covers its subject so thoroughly and deeply, that it simultaneously serves as a superb instructional manual for Krishna Bhakti itself,” writes Ravindra Svarupa Das in his forward. “Even if book distribution is not your primary service, you will still find yourself enlightened, encouraged and enlivened by reading and re-reading Our Family Business.”
Vaisesika himself, in his introduction, adds: “Experts, newcomers, well-wishers, and retirees in need of a refresher course – all will find something in this book to inspire them. Finally, this book is meant to give a fresh and favorable second look at distributing books for those who, for whatever reason, now think of it disparagingly.”
At 540 pages, Our Family Business: The Great Art of Distributing Srila Prabhupada’s Books is published by the BBT and will be available to temple presidents for pre-order at this week’s North American Leaders’ meetings in Houston, Texas. It will then be physically released on February 24th at the ISKCON Leadership Sanga in Mayapur, West Bengal, followed by a North American release soon after.
“I hope readers will get a sense for Prabhupada’s compassion, and for his penchant for literature, which he inherited from his spiritual master,” says Vaisesika. “And I hope they’ll also get a sense that book distribution is a holistic service -- that which educates us, enlivens us, and is a centerpiece for our entire movement.”
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