How ISKCON's worldwide prasadam distribution began
Excerpt from a lecture by H.H. Jayapataka Swami:
It was the second or third international Mayapur festival.� We had just finished the four-storey building that is today known as the Lotus building.� Srila Prabhupada had invited devotees from all over the world for the inauguration of this mandir. On this occasion we had a big feast, after which Prabhupada took a little rest.� However, this rest was disturbed by the howling of dogs, and Prabhupada eventually got up and said, 'Bring all the sannyasis, bring the GBC immediately! Bring them!'
Usually if Prabhupada wanted to say something, he would cry, 'Bring my secretary'. But in Mayapur he would call everyone. He would want everyone to hear what he was saying. This time the devotees were just 'recovering' from the feast. When Prabhupada called, all the devotees came rushing down - 'What is Prabhupada calling for? What's happening?' They saw Prabhupada intently looking out of the windows with tears in his eyes.� Looking out, they saw a big pile of leaf plates that had been thrown at the back of the temple after the feast.� There were about fifteen dogs and approximately twenty children between eight and fourteen years, picking through the leaves and fighting off the dogs. They were eating the leftovers and licking the leaves. They were ordinary village children, basically clean but poor.
Prabhupada was silent, and everyone was curious as to what he was trying to communicate. Then Prabhupada revealed his mind: 'How hungry they must be!� They are picking the prasadam from the pile, they must be so hungry! We must arrange for their prasadam! If you want to make this a mandir, a house of Krsna, then you must see that no-one goes hungry within a ten mile radius. That will be your success. Krsna is everyone's father.� How can the son go hungry in the presence of the father?� Immediately arrange to distribute prasadam.'
When Prabhupada wanted something done immediately, it meant the next day was too late. However, this time we could not get it together until then. We just had a big tent in those days, and since Prabhupada wanted prasadam distribution, we cooked some kichuri, and started to distribute it.
Prabhupada said that if we could have a prasadam distribution centre every ten square miles throughout the country, we could transform the whole of India. People would become so grateful to ISKCON that they would definitely accept Lord Caitanya's movement, it would be the most important movement and they could follow very strictly.� Simply by prasadam distribution, all the effects of Kali Yuga could be stopped.
'Give the people a chance' programme
It just so happens that I had a copy of this letter on my computer.� When Sannyas Dasa read it to me I was very inspired, and immediately became extremely enthusiastic to push this programme every minute I had left in Moscow. Now I've also heard that Sannyas Dasa has done some very successful programmes in prisons, which will greatly enhance this programme. He should get all kinds of encouragement. It was an extremely well-conceived programme. Here's the letter (as translated by Lalita Kundaga Devi Dasi):
Give them a chance!
' ... help me if you can. Please help me to make the first step, then I will myself be able to give up all bad things.' ' ... I want to enter a new life - free from envy, violence and selfishness'. ' ... The literature is a problem here. Nowadays there's a great spiritual poverty everywhere - but nothing can stop a man's striving for self-perfection.'� (From the letters of prisoners).
The Society of Krsna Consciousness, in co-operation with the Bhaktivedanta� Book Trust and the administration of the Moscow prison Butirskaya, has started a programme of free distribution of spiritual literature to prisons and other places of detention.� This action is part of our charitable programme called 'Give them a chance!' In some inconceivable way the ancient knowledge of these books changes the hearts of people, who become thoughtful about the goal of their lives.� This has been proven by the letters we are receiving.� Judge for yourself:
' ... My mother sent Bhagavad-gita to the colony where I'm staying and since I read it for the first time, I've never got the opportunity to absorb myself in it - now I just manage to read from time to time.� The book is very popular here. Could you help us and send us this literature. It would be great to have lots of books such as Bhagavad-gita!'����������� ��Murashov Yevgeniy, Prison OX 30/2.
'Your books are travelling from hands to hands and are read with great interest. And the most wonderful thing is that those who read them become much more pure in their thoughts and deeds.'� Sobolev S.Y. Novosibirsk, district UF 91'15-8
'I've read two wonderful books, Bhagavad-gita As It Is and Krsna� Book. Though it is already said before that one should read these books while staying on his knees, I would repeat the same statement a thousand times more. The value of the books is unlimited, they are the great spiritual treasure. I need the books of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. And although I'm penniless, I'm ready to give my last pants for the Vedantas. Some words about myself. I was given a twelve year term of imprisonment for a severe crime. I've spent half of the term.'� Korelov A.Y. Ussuriysk, UC 267'41.
'I'm twenty-two. Fourteen years of my life are spent in prison. I'll be delivered soon. And I don't have a slightest idea how I will live there, but those books, which I heard about, give a lot to a person. Kindly forgive me my request, but if possible, send me those books ...� May God save you. With respect, Sergey.'� Stavila S. Nizegorodsk, district Prison 62'1.
Such letters are received by the hundreds, and the most amazing thing is that they are written by people who are considered to be hopeless criminals.� However, they are sincerely trying to change themselves and their lives. To give them a chance is a duty of every honest man. The programme is planned for December. �The first people to get the books will be the prisoners of the Moscow prison, Butirskaya. Bhagavad-gita and other books of the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust will become the best New Year present for every prisoner. The programme will be given a lot of attention by the mass-media (television channels, main radio broadcasts, newspapers). We welcome all commercial and state enterprises to take part in this unique programme. The administration of the prison, the Society for Krisna Consciousness and the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, are expressing their gratitude to all the future participants.