By Madhava Smullen

“When the lockdown started, nobody thought we could distribute books, and everybody was worried about what would happen,” says Shyama Mohini Dasi, co-sankirtan leader at ISKCON Toronto, Canada. “But Vaisesika Prabhu encouraged us to think differently, and innovate.”

Every year since 2007, devotees at Toronto, ISKCON Silicon Valley, and other temples – inspired by Global Duty Officer for book distribution Vaisesika Das – have held a Bhaktivinode Thakur Marathon for the six weeks between Nrsimha Chaturdasi and Bhaktivinode Thakur’s appearance day.

This year, from May 6th to June 20th, ISV devotees actually doubled the number of books distributed, despite being unable to physically approach people due to the pandemic lockdown.

With a poster and video from Vaisesika encouraging devotees to “distribute from home – all you need is a phone,” teams across North America as well as in London, England also posted incredible numbers of Srila Prabhupada’s books.

Team ISV distributed 13,861 books and 253 sets; Team Harinama Ashrama NYC 5,570 books and 136 sets; Team London, UK 1,235 books and 4 sets; Team Laguna Beach 1,000 books and 40 sets; and Team Toronto 875 books and 31 sets.

Teams in Seattle, Philadelphia, Houston, Delware, Chicago and Round Rock, Texas rounded out the effort for a total of 26,4747 books and 519 sets.

To take the edge off and make the sankirtan fun, devotee organized virtual “calling parties” on Zoom, which provided moral support and gave the feeling of distributing all together. Around 30 devotees at a time would call people from their own homes and distribute books over the phone, while simultaneously consulting each other for help on Zoom and reporting successes.

“We would start by calling contacts we had made before, on sankirtan or at temple festivals, dating back to 2014,” says Malini Dasi, co-sankirtan leader at ISKCON Silicon Valley. “We would introduce ourselves, and make a connection. Then we would present the books. If they accepted them, we would ask for a donation, and tell them about contactless shipping – we either ship directly through USPS or deliver the books and leave them outside people’s doors. We also offer e-books if they are not comfortable with paper books.”

Read more: https://iskconnews.org/north-american-teams-see-book-distribution-increase-during-covid-19-marathon,7404/

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