(Based on a talk given by Sripada Bhakti Vikasa Swami)
If you really want to see ISKCON a lot stronger than it is at present, and if you are ready to take part in a grassroots revolution, here is a program for you. It is non-political and non-controversial, easy to implement, and with negligible cost, yet it will benefit the whole society of devotees worldwide. The program is that all members of the Krsna consciousness movement should read all of Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Of course, many devotees are already reading Prabhupada’s books, but still, far too many are not. Numerous devotees who have been initiated for ten years or more, and are even brahmana-initiated, have not read all of Srila Prabhupada’s books, and apparently have never thought of doing so. They are depriving themselves of the nectar of Srila Prabhupada’s association and guidance—maybe due to lack of time, a sudra-like mentality (being preoccupied with working hard and earning money), having little interest in philosophy, wasting their life watching TV or on the internet, or reading other books apart from Srila Prabhupada’s. Not that going to websites or reading other books apart from Srila Prabhupada’s is necessarily wrong, but the focus should be on Srila Prabhupada’s books.
It is Srila Prabhupada’s books that will change the world, and it is Srila Prabhupada’s books that give solid understanding of Krsna consciousness. It is particularly through Srila Prabhupada’s books that we can make positive advancement and gain the strength to overcome maya. Srila Prabhupada’s books tell us how maya works, and give practical advice for overcoming maya. For instance, it seems that nowadays many devotees do not even know that they should not eat food cooked by nondevotees. But by reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, they will come to know.
Dear devotees, by reading Srila Prabhupada’s books you will get spiritual strength and a clear understanding of the mission and philosophy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and Srila Prabhupada. If you are not feeling inspired in spiritual life, you will definitely gain inspiration by reading the books of Srila Prabhupada. You will also get inspiration to distribute those books and to preach Krsna consciousness.
Devotees enjoy hearing stories about Srila Prabhupada from his disciples, about how those disciples personally interacted with him. By reading Srila Prabhupada’s books you will feel intimacy with him, like that which comes from a mother reading to her child. Srila Prabhupada said, “If you want to know me, read my books.” By doing so, you will feel closeness to Srila Prabhupada, how he is personally speaking to you through his books.
Make Srila Prabhupada happy! He becomes pleased if you read his books. Here are just a few of the many quotes from his letters that confirm this:
I am glad to see how nicely you are reading my books. Please continue to do this. We need so many preachers who are soundly versed in the scriptures to convince the world to take to Krsna consciousness. (9 November 1970)
I request you to thoroughly study all of our literatures very thoughtfully and try to understand the sublime import of this Krsna consciousness philosophy. (4 January 1971)
I am very pleased that you are inclined to read and study our books with seriousness. Thank you very much. So continue it wholeheartedly. We want good preachers also. Preaching shouldn't depend on me only. My disciples should become all good preachers, and that depends on studying the books nicely so that you can arrive at the right conclusion. (5 July 1971)
A commitment to reading Srila Prabhupada’s books will not only impart strength to the individual members of ISKCON but will also give the whole movement the knowledge and potency to withstand maya and to take on the demonic atheistic civilization. (And if you didn’t know that this civilization is demonic and atheistic and that we are supposed to be taking it on, then you should read Srila Prabhupada’s books.)
Reading Srila Prabhupada’s books will also give devotees the insight to recognize deviations when they (inevitably) arise within ISKCON and to not become bewildered by them. Or better still, if all devotees were fixed in the knowledge in Srila Prabhupada’s books, then deviations could not arise.
A campaign for getting all devotees to read Srila Prabhupada’s books is the best way to keep Srila Prabhupada in the center of ISKCON. We could put Srila Prabhupada’s vyasasana in the middle of the temple room and dance around it—which would be very good—but to put his instructions (as given in his books) as central to all that we do is the very best way to keep Srila Prabhupada in the center of his movement.
Encouraging all devotees to read all of Srila Prabhupada’s books is a very simple program.
Individuals can take it up, and leaders can encourage their followers to do so.
Gurus, those who are awarding initiation, can instruct those who (having endured the horrors of mundane education) have learned how to read that they should read Srila Prabhupada’s books. Gurus could stipulate that before approving any candidate for initiation, the prospective disciple should have read a certain number of Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Parents can teach their children how to read by reading with them from Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Other obvious leaders, such as temple presidents and congregational preachers, can best benefit their wards by urging, coaxing, cajoling, or doing whatever is necessary to get them to read Srila Prabhupada’s books.
Indeed, anyone who speaks about Krsna and Krsna consciousness to others can encourage everyone else to read Srila Prabhupada’s books.
As more and more devotees read Srila Prabhupada’s books, it will have a snowball effect. It is just a matter of resolving to do so and then making a habit of it. Reading should be done prayerfully, in a submissive mood of wanting to learn and to be purified. It should be done daily, and preferably a devotee should fix a time period within which to have read all of Srila Prabhupada’s books. Maya always provides something seemingly more important to do, but actually there is nothing as important as reading Srila Prabhupada’s books. And when you begin reading them, you will understand that all topics in the universe other than Krsna-katha, as delineated in Srila Prabhupada’s books, is simply superficial.
Once you start, you won’t want to stop. Careful regular reading of Srila Prabhupada’s books elevates us to an entirely different dimension in spiritual life. On the other hand, if we do not read—if we do not know why we are doing what we are doing—then our devotional practice is probably on the basis of sentiment, which is insubstantial and means that we cannot advance properly. Srila Prabhupada wrote:
All the devotees connected with the Krsna consciousness movement must read all the books that have been translated (the Caitanya-caritamrta, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad-gita and others); otherwise, after some time, they will simply eat, sleep and fall down from their position. Thus they will miss the opportunity to attain an eternal, blissful life of transcendental pleasure. (Cc Madhya 25.278, purport)
Most of Srila Prabhupada’s disciples will not be in this world much longer, which means that soon the whole responsibility to transmit the teachings of the parampara will be with the next generation. If you have not gone very deeply into those teachings as received through Srila Prabhupada, then what will you give to others? If you have not immersed yourself in Srila Prabhupada’s teachings, if you do not have profound faith in them, then you will not be a strong link in the parampara; and many weak links makes for a weak movement.
As previously stated, the cost of this program would be negligible. All one has to do is purchase Srila Prabhupada’s books. Every initiated devotee who lives in a home should have at least one full set of Srila Prabhupada books. If you do not, then get them.
This program can only be auspicious. Nothing bad can come from it.
Listening to Srila Prabhupada’s lectures is also a must for those who claim to be his followers. You can get all of Srila Prabhupada’s recorded lectures, conversations, and also kirtanas, in a set of DVDs. Absorb the pure sound of Srila Prabhupada’s Vaikuntha voice, from far beyond the realm of mundane illusion. Allow him to cut through all your anxiety, attachments, and misconceptions and to deliver to you what he came to give: Krsna. Hear how Srila Prabhupada preached—his clear delineation of the truth, piercing straightforwardness, transcendental humor, and sense of urgency to communicate Krsna consciousness.