On one of Srila Prabhupada’s visits to London, a young women had inquired, “Srila Prabhupada, do they preach Bhagavad-gita in Hell?” His face was serious as he replied with a rhetorical question, “This London is not Hell?” The woman was puzzled and thought perhaps Sril
a Prabhupada had not understood her question so she repeated it. Srila Prabhupada responded even more emphatically, “I am saying, this London is not Hell?”
By his transcendental vision, Srila Prabhupada could clearly perceive the hellish nature of the Western cities, yet he was driven by his immense compassion for the fallen conditioned souls and the order of his spiritual master. With a trunkful of books and very little money, he had left the serenity of the holy dhama and fearlessly voyaged into an uncertain future with the mission to spread Krishna consciousness to the Western world.
Following in his lotus footsteps, a group of five girls from Sri Mayapur International School filled their suitcases with Srila Prabhupada’s books, and with no certainty of where they would stay or if they would be successful in their attempt, they left their homes in Sridhama Mayapur to distribute Krishna consciousness to the people of London.
Their timing was perfect. After a day to settle in, the next day was London Ratha Yatra! What better way to be introduced to the city of London than with Their Lordships Jagannath, Baladeva, Subhadra and thousands of devotees?
The following morning the girls loaded their sankirtan bags with books, went to Soho Temple to receive the blessings of Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara (and their sankirtan ID cards) and hit the streets.
It wasn’t easy. Just the thought of approaching complete strangers in a foreign country can be daunting, especially if they’re in a hurry (which most Londoners are), and especially if you happen to be a shy teenage girl who has spent most of her life in a remote village in West Bengal and has never experienced anything like this before.
But they were on a mission. Impelling thoughts raced through their minds: now I’ve brought all these books here, they’re too heavy to take back home; my Dad is expecting me to pay him back for the money he spent on my plane ticket; what will Prabhupada priya Mataji think about me if I don’t even try? Then there are the fallen conditioned souls, they do, indeed, look miser
able, poor things….OK, LET’S DO IT!
“Excuse me, it’s very quick…,” “Excuse me, it’s not a survey….,” “Excuse me, do you like football?” Krishna, please help me. These people don’t stop, but You are in their hearts, You can make them stop for me. Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna… “Excuse me, just two seconds…”
“Mataji! Did you see that? Gourangi gave that man a book! Look how happy he is.”
“Mataji, that man knows the Hare Krishna’s, he really liked the book and I gave
him an invitation to the temple, too, I think he’s going to come.”
“Congratulations! Your first book, see how fun it is. The whole disciplic succession is smiling at you. Now go do another one. Come on, Bhava, your turn. Go for it, Vrinda, you can do it, too.”
“Excuse me, are you from London?” “Excuse me, it’s really quick.” Mataji, if “Excuse me” was the maha-mantra, I’d be a pure devotee by now!”
“Actually, it’s non-different; by chanting the maha-mantra, you’re calling on Radha and Krishna to engage you in Their service. Approaching the people saying “excuse me” is the same: you’re calling them to engage in Krishna’s service, and by doing so, you are engaging in the highest service. If you keep it up, you will be a pure devotee.”
As the days went by, the girls became more and more confident and were distributing 10, 20, 30 or more books per day. Seeing that the older girls were doing so well, Subhadra (who is only 15 years old) wanted to have a try. She surprised everyone by giving out 16 books on the first day! After some of the girls returned to Mayapur, she started going out every day and became a model of determination and perseverance.
Of course, it wasn’t all ecstasy and bliss. There were those days when no one woul
d seem to stop, when someone would criticize the Hare Krishna movement, or when some creepy guy would drop a lewd comment. Those were the days when you would realise how far you have to go to be genuinely humble, tolerant and detached in Krishna’s service – the science of self-realization, in your face. But those were the days when you could almost tangibly feel yourself making spiritual advancement. By taking shelter of Krishna and surrendering to Him in a mood of utter helplessness, Krishna reciprocates, and the relationship deepens. Those were the days that when you would go back to the temple and take darshan of Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara, Krishna’s smile would seem extra sweet. He seemed to have tears in His eyes – and so would you. All the difficulties of the day would melt away, and you would realize that there is no such thing as a bad day on sankirtan.
It didn’t take long for the girls fall in love with Sri Sri Radha-Londonisvara (and Their transcendental prasadam!) They started going every day for the morning program, and sometimes too in the evenings for Bhagavad-gita class, sandhya
arati and a mouth-watering treat from Govinda’s Restaurant, followed by late night bhajans. They helped cook the Sunday feast, cleaned the temple room and preached to school groups. They also visited Bhaktivedanta Manor, which they all loved.
And then there were the Harinams. Daily down the world-famous Oxford street, and – everyone’s favourite – Saturday nights in London’s West End. Ananga Gopi was even interviewed by the BBC for a documentary about life on Oxford Street, of which the Hare Krishna devotees are an integral part. In another Harinam, she was invited to lead the kirtan while H.H. Maha Vishnu Swami played his accordion in accompaniment to her singing. On one Saturday night harinam, a young lady whom Bhava had distributed a book to earlier in another part of London came running up to her and gave her a hug, telling her how much she appreciated the book and how happy she was to see Bhava again. She ended up following the devotees back to the temple. How blissful Bhava was to know that Krishna had used her (twice in one day!) as an instrument to attract this soul to His shelter.
On a train ride home one evening, Ananga Gopi went out of her way to help an elderly woman who had fallen down. The women was alone and helpless; she looked like she was about to cry. Gopi gave her water to drink and at the next station got off with her, carried her bags for her and stayed with her until they found someone who could help. The whole while, the woman kept looking at her saying, “Who are you? You are my angel. You are my angel…”
When Gopi was about to get back on the train to continue her own journey home, the woman said, “Wait, what is your name? I want to remember you, my angel, always.”
Gopi told her her name and handed her a copy of Chant and Be Happy. “Here’s something to remember me by.” The woman happily took it and promised she’d read it.
That day, Gopi had taken ten books with her and despite her determined effort to distribute all of them, she had only done nine. She realized that Krishna had been saving the last book for that woman. Her unfortunate accident had made her the most fortunate person on the train that day.
So, you see, angels do exist, even in Hell. Angels are messengers of God who wish to benefit people, and the highest benefit one can give another is the gift of Krishna consciousness. When a person receives one of Srila Prabhupada’s books, they get direct association with Srila Prabhupada. The moment they see the book or even see the devotee trying to give them a book, their lives are changed. It is the beginning of the end of their sojourn in the material world. It is the opportunity to go back home, back to Godhead.
This sublime activity benefits not only the recipient, but also the giver. Each one of the girls who participated in this preaching program made immense spiritual advancement which will remain permanently in their spiritu
al bank accounts.
So, Hell’s Angels, ride on. A Vaisnava lives for the benefit of others. Go on living like that, and your ride will take you, and those whose lives you touch, directly back to the lotus feet of Krishna. No doubt about it.
Srila Prabhupada’s Transcendental Book Distribution ki Jay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Oh yes, and how many books were distributed? The sum total for the entire grou
p consisting of four of Sri Mayapur International School’s most recent graduates – Bhava Moreira, Vrinda Carol, Gourangi Gandharvika dd, Ananga Gopi dd, one student – Subhadra DaSilveira and one teacher – Prabhupada priya dd – was 3,728 transcendental books. Haribol!!!
May all the devotees be pleased with us and bless us to continue to distribute more and more books for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada.
Srila Prabhupada ki Jay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We’d like to thank all the devotees from Soho Temple (ISKCON London) for their kindness and generosity. You helped turn our dream into a reality. We’d also like to thank Yajna Murti prabhu for all the energy he put into organizing this trip and for the delicious prasadam he cooked every day with love. We’d like to thank Adidevi Mataji for helping to supervise and care for the girls and for finding an amazing apartment for us to stay in. And we’d like to thank Yamuna-lila Mataji for letting us stay there free of charge for two weeks. Last but not least, we’d like to thank Krishnabhava for all the amazing cakes, cookies, hand-picked blackberries, homemade breads, pizzas and lasagna. She made sure we always had something to look forward to when we got home. You all are also sankirtan devotees for serving the sankirtan mission. Hare Krishna!