Book Distribution Table at Bhaktifest, Midwest Madison, Wisconsin 2014
Shivananda sena dasa:
Krishna Mayi dasi, Vasanti dasi, and I Shivananda sena dasa, drove to this yoga festival and distributed at Srila Gurudeva’s GVP book table during the New Braj Badger Hari Katha Festival. Why? Srila Gurudeva so often would respond to a disciple’s inquiry about a seva with, “Do what is favorable for bhakti.” In December of 2000 during his divine Hari-katha Festival in La Jolla I asked if I should go to Navadwipa Dhama Parikrama 2001, and he responded with that same answer. I didn’t go, thinking somehow distributing his transcendental books like Siksastakam in LA at the time would be more seva….foolish choice for sure. Was this to be another mistake made by a neophyte again? Doing what is favorable for bhakti, favorable for whom? The aspiring performer? The recipient? The Guru? How does time, place, and circumstance factor in?
The only safe answer seemed to me to be “anugatya”, the aspiring disciple must constantly, at all times, and in every circumstance, be under guidance of a siksa guru. The ultimate siksa guru according to Srila Gurudeva, during his ending of manifest pastimes is: “The siksa guru should be on the same level as the diksha guru.” Hmmm
We have heard that one may accept the writings of our guru-parampara as siksa guru, that the pure bhakti shastras manifest by them are not mere books but their internal potencies and personalities….hmmm?
A vaishnava who is obviously much more advanced and on a different platform of devotional service than oneself is also siksa guru. Many times during the ten short years I was able to be physically close to Srila Gurudeva even while simultaneously so distant from him internally, I witnessed various aspirants presenting ideas of service and receiving blessings. Often however, these ideas were manufactured by the aspirant, “Srila Gurudeva, may I have your blessings to do such and such?” “Yes you have my blessings,” my divine holy master would say. Often these ideas would never actually manifest, although being sincere creations of the aspirants mind.
Was this to be the same giving up hearing Hari Katha from the pure vaishnavas to go 2000 miles away, and spend hundreds of dollars, simply to practically give away a few books to a bunch of bewildered mayavada impersonalists? Really, is there any real bona fide reason to miss the Badger Hari Katha Festival, where so much udipan of Srila Gurudeva, so much remembrance of him and so much Katha about him manifests?
This is the quagmire of the neophyte, anisthita, thick-thin, unable to make decisions of what is favorable and hrdaya-daurbalya, weakness of heart aspirant such as myself. Which activity would please Srila Gurudeva the most became a question that is so often impossible to be solved by the fickle, selfish, conditioned soul’s mind that I posses.
The one thing that kept repeating over and over in my heart and mind, was Srila Gurudeva’s words, ”I do not want my books to remain in cold storage. (Period)!” Over and over I heard this instruction, and thus that became the deciding factor. The rest was simply praying for blessings from the senior guardians, which came in direct and timely phrases, like, “I know you are doing this for the pleasure of Srila Gurudeva.”
So off we went. The results actually all up to Srila Gurudeva, up to our Guru Varga and Parampara, up to the Supreme Lord and His Bhakti Shakti, Sri Radha. We simply desired to remember in this instance, the purity, authenticity, and depth of prema these transcendental gems contain, We remembered Srila Gurudeva saying, that if he does not manifest them into other languages from their original Sanskrit, the deeper meanings and messages they contain may be lost to this earth forever. To attempt to bring them, even in theory, to a place like the U.S. Midwest at a “Bhaktifest” Festival, was just too alluring, too tempting an opportunity. We wanted to please this order of our holy master, Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja. Thank you for reading this process. Dandavat pranams to all.
In agreement with what Shiva said, it was a very difficult decision to attend Bhaktifest Midwest and miss the New Braj Harikatha festival which unfortunately overlapped. We’ve attended 13 consecutive Badger festivals, and New Braj is definitely our home. When pondering the fertile ground of the Midwest, and how many wonderful people we have connected with in Joshua Tree for Bhaktifest, we thought Srila Gurudeva would be most pleased with his books and mercy being spread to the middle of America, at a festival called Bhaktifest, where people need to know the true meaning of bhakti. Not a better place to distribute this nectar!
Who would have known that Madison, Wisconsin has such a huge yoga community? The people have a special sweetness, and are extremely receptive. They are already chanting the maha mantra in kirtan, and want to learn more about Radha and Krishna and what Their names mean.
We met this amazing young woman named Stephanie from Brazil. She decided to escape The World Cup madness, and visit her aunt in Madison. Little did she know, she would travel so far to discover that the Gangamatas have a temple very close to her home. She was so overwhelmed with the beauty of Gurudeva’s books, that she couldn’t stop weeping in happiness. She was already reading Srila Prabhupada’s books with her mom. They planned to go to India, but her mom got sick, so they couldn’t go. This made finding a temple at her home full of like-minded women, that much more amazing and impactful for her. Vasanti is going to connect her with the Brazilian Gangamatas. She’s a Gangamata if we ever met one!
In our hotel, we spotted a car in the lot that had a bumper sticker that said, “Love is our soul purpose” with yoga mats in the back window. Shiva and Vasanti wanted to leave a Way of Love on the front window, and a note. The hunger demon had already overtaken my consciousness, and I hurried Vasanti along saying, “We don’t need to leave a book and a note to meet us at our booth. They probably aren’t even attending the Bhaktifest festival.” That same morning, they showed up at our booth with the note! I felt so badly for my poor behavior and was so glad that Vasanti quickly left the note. They received several books, and were also extremely amused when we told them the story. I learned a good lesson in a very humorous way.
We met so many other phenomenal people and made heartfelt connections: a college religious studies professor wanting to learn more about Krishna to teach her students; yoga instructors getting every piece of art to decorate their yoga studio; young seekers;
People appreciating the prison program (even leaving a note with a donation); people hearing an overview of the philosophy from Shiva; a Lithuanian couple who had been visiting ISKCON temples, seeking a guru and never heard anything about Srila Gurudeva; joyful and kind neighbors – Erin, Vera, Jean, and Varanya who all received books and art; Tracy and Tracy weeping at Krishna’s madhurya feature; Amit Jaya who hesitantly got tons of books, and came back the next day and got one of everything and gave a nice donation; Radha and her husband from India adoring Symarani didi’s art; Gangamantri prabhu who was a bramacari with Shivananda in the early 80s in New Govardhan, San Diego led a wonderful kirtan at our booth and received Gauravani Pracarani and expressed his heartfelt appreciaton that Shivananda had finally found a bona fide guru by which he could perform ecstatic guru seva; we made a nice friendship with Shivani and Shivangi twin docorate researchers at Northwestern University who were there distributing Radhanath Swami’s book Journey Home, they have only heard good things about Srila Gurudeva from Alyssa who was a Gaudiya girl last year and they received books; Radhanath Swami graciously and kindly came to our booth, told us inspiring personal stories, appreciated Syamarani didi’s art, and received Srila Gurudeva’s new publication Discerning the True Sentiments of the Soul; and many, many more beautiful jivas received Srila Gurudeva’s mercy in the form of his books and art.
The amount and quality of people, and how there is the perfect book for each and every one of them, completely amazes me. If they like stories: Krishna Book, Venu Gita, Bhakti rasayana. People that are philosphical: Jaiva Dharma, Journey of the Soul. People who want to learn about the vedas: Brahma samhita, Bhagavad Gita. People that are familar with ISKCON: Siksa Guru and Priya Bandhu, Letters from America, Their Lasting Relation, Gauravani Pracarine. People who want to learn about Mahaprabhu’s gift: Pinnacle of Devotion, Raya Ramanda Samvada. People who want to know about Guru tattva: Gurudevatatma, Discerning the True Sentiments of the Soul, The Soul of Book Distribution. Those who want to know the ultimate goal (prema-prayojana): Gopi-gita, Prem Samput, Radha-krsna-ganodessa-dipika. Shiva went on a Prem Samput marathon, single-handedly distributing 41, telling everyone that they will never be attracted to mundane love again after reading this book. Over 450 of Srila Gurudeva’s transcendental books went out ober the course of the weekend, and numerous email addresses for the hari-katha mailing list.
People are genuinely appreciative that is is any amount of books and posters for any donation. We heard many stories from different people who had negative experiences with books trying to be distributed to them in an aggressive manner. They also adore the prison program. We got several connections to people already doing yoga in prisons that want to collaborate.
The yoga/kirtan movement is flourishing, growing, and spreading rapidly. Anyone interested in having sponsored books at a table or booth at any local festival, or even farmer’s market, please contact Vasanti at email@example.com The only small price is a written report with pictures in order to encourage others to do the same, and support the amazing GVP book sponsorship program. I personally feel so much inspiration, reciprocation, and enlivened beyond words to be part of these festivals distributing Sirla Gurudeva’s divine books. I may be a nonsense in my everyday life, but Gurudeva made it very clear that he doesn’t want his books in cold storage, and that he is pleased by their distribution.