Door-to-Door Techniques

Distribution of transcendental literature going door-to-door is a Vaisnava tradition. Lord Nityananda and Haridas Thakur went door-to-door in Nadia, tolerating all insults and attacks, distributing Krishna’s message.Srila Prabhupada carried forward this mission distributing BTGs door-to-door in Delhi before coming to the US. After he founded ISKCON, devotees all around the world have been going out and distributing his books at peoples’ doors.

Advantages of Door-to-Door

Captive Audience: Unlike distributing books to passers-by on the streets, you have a captive audience here. There is no need to chase and stop them, rather when you knock on their doors, people come up to you (to open the door) and talk. This takes away a lot of pressure. Moreover, physically also, this may be less taxing than distribution on streets as you’re less exposed to the elements.

Chance to Develop Relationship: If a person takes a book, then it’s easier to follow up with them since you know where they live. You can establish relationship with an interested person by revisiting them with prasadam, inviting them to events or local nama-hatta/Bhakti-vraksa programs.

This document reflects the ideas and thoughts gathered from our door-to-door sankirtan over the past 6 years in North America (particularly the Washington, DC metro area). It is just a starting point to give you ideas so you can start your own door-to-door book distribution program. Please feel free to add, subtract or change anything we’ve said based on your own experience. To give us your valuable suggestions please contact me at lagarwal at

Your servant,
Lokadhyaksa dasa | Gaithersburg, MD

Preparation Steps

First thing is to always keep some books (in a box or a bag) in your car. You cannot distribute unless you have books. Not having them gives the mind an excuse to dilly-dally and postpone. Having them with you creates a desire to give them out.

What books shall I bring? From the books you have in stock, bring a variety of small, medium, and large books that like to distribute. Also, keep at least one full set of Srimad-Bhagavatam and Sri Caitanya-caritamrta. Hint: if you bring full sets, you’ll sell them. Please see the Second Law of Book distribution. It’s also vital that you bring foreign language books. When you show people books in their native languages, they appreciate it very much. Do a little research in advance to find out what kind of people you’re likely to meet in the neighborhood you’re going to. For example, you can visit and by entering the zip code for the area in which you’ll be distributing books, you can see a list of what countries people are from and thus you’ll know in advance about the languages people are likely to speak in that area. This will give you an idea about which language books to bring with you.

Carry fliers on basic concepts like soul, chanting, meditation, yoga etc. The fliers should contain info about the temple, directions, local nama-hatta programs etc. Give a flyer whether or not they take a book. If they are not home or don’t open the door, put a flier on their door.

* Apartment Vs. Homes: Apartments are better because there are usually 12-16 apartments in a single building which you can cover in _ to 1 hour. Visiting homes requires lot of walking from one home to another and not as productive as apartments.

* Proximity: Find an apartment complex not too far from your house (max. 10-15 driving distance) and in a safe neighborhood. If it’s too far or hard to get to or unsafe, then you may loose the inspiration to go there.

* Ethnic and not very upscale: Its better that the apt. complex is not very upscale. It has been our experience that upscale tenants are less likely to open the door or take a book. To best utilize our time and feel encouraged, it’s best to start with a complex which is medium scale and has a mixed ethnic crowd. We’ve found that Spanish speaking people are very pious and almost always take a book.

* What to Avoid: Avoid apartment complexes which are secure and which require a key to enter. If you’re distributing during the winter months, avoid apartment buildings which are open. The long corridors create a wind tunnel which makes it hard to move around. Choose closed buildings. Also avoid condominiums and places where there may be a guard or reception at the entrance.

Pick one or two people who like to distribute books or at least who like to go out with you. Best is one’s spouse or someone who can get together quickly and easily. Don’t try to organize a big party of devotees to go out with it may take too much time and effort to organize.
In the beginning, start with a modest goal, say once every month or every two weeks or every week. Fix a day and time and stick to it. Best not to leave it open ended. Our experience has been that when we take a vow, fix a day (say every Tuesday at 7:00pm) and time, we’re able to do it. When we leave it open ended, it doesn’t happen so much.
Keep a modest goal. _ hour to 1 hour (including driving time) is a good goal. Keep a goal that will be convenient for you and your family and a goal that you’ll be able to keep in the long run. Start small and increase gradually. Main thing is consistency.
Wear clean and nice clothes. Be sharp looking. It helps. Some people like to wear Western, some like devotional clothes. It all depends on what you feel comfortable in while talking to strangers. There is no hard and fast rule. You can always wear a tilak to present yourself as a spiritual person.
You can give out nicely packaged granola bars or cookies (with neat label listing the ingredients, temple address and the Hare Krishna maha mantra). Do this only if it’s feasible for you.

How to Approach, What to Say

Pray hard to your Guru Maharaja, Srila Prabhupada, the Parampara and the Panca Tattva. Beg for their mercy on the souls you’re about to approach, beg for mercy for yourself to stay in the right consciousness of being a humble instrument in Their hands. It’s best to approach a house in a group of ideally two or maximum, three. More than that is crowd and may be intimidating to the person.

Approach the door and ring the door-bell if there is one. If there is not one, then firmly knock on the door two or three times. Then wait for a minute. While you wait, stand right in front of the peep-hole with your partner so the person inside can see you clearly. Smile while you wait. If there is no response, then knock firmly again after waiting for a minute. Sometimes, if there is TV playing loud, you may have to knock hard.

What to say when they don’t open the door

Sometimes, people will yell from inside, “Who is it?” This is a very common response you’ll get to your knocking. Your answer should be something short and generic:

  • “We’re monks giving out books on yoga and meditation in the neighborhood.”
  • “We’re monks increasing awareness about the benefits of yoga and passing out some books.”

Come up with something short and sweet, honest & direct, something they can relate to in a second. Many times they will shout back, “No thank you,” from inside. Just thank them and move on. This is the worst response you’ll get from people.

Approach the door and ring the door-bell if there is one. If there is not one, then firmly knock on the door two or three times. Then wait for a minute. While you wait, stand right in front of the peep-hole with your partner so the person inside can see you clearly. Smile while you wait. If there is no response, then knock firmly again after waiting for a minute. Sometimes, if there is TV playing loud, you may have to knock hard.

What to say when they open their door:

Explain what benefit (something they can relate to, e.g. reduction in stress, anxiety; happiness, peace) they will get from the books.
Pass some complements about them – their appearance, their hair, their clothes, their house décor, their child. Every one likes to hear a complement. It opens their heart and starts you with an upper (giving) hand.
Don’t preach to them. Just keep the conversation very light and focused on them (what they do, their job, their lives).
Use simple examples that they can relate to: “Modern life streeses taking care of the cage but neglects the bird inside; these books show how to feed the bird, our spirit”; or “In material consciousness we are like fish out of water: nothing brings true enjoyment in the material realm”. * Smile: Have a big smile and positive body language.
Always thank them by looking them in the eye no matter whether they take a book or not.
Don’t be under the pressure to sell them a book (or many books to get a big score) in your mind. This will distort your body language. Be detached and relaxed. This greatly helps.
Don’t be in a fruitive mood. Preach and Laxmi will come (look below on how much to ask for a book); don’t haggle if they give less than you’d like. Be satisfied with what they give. Someone else inevitably gives more than you ask for and that makes up for any underpayments. Keep your goal firmly in front of you: “Leave them with a good impression.”

Say with a big smile and positive body language:

“Hi! We’re Yoga monks giving out books to increase awareness about yoga and mediation. These books talk about how to get rid of stress and anxiety. You have heard about stress, haven’t you?

Their reply: (usually with a smile) “ya!” or “never heard of it”

You say: “You don’t look stressed out. You look peaceful and happy! What work do you do?”

Their Reply: “I’m a housewife, a teacher, a student, a construction worker etc.”

You say something nice complementing their profession:

To a professional, student: “You look very intelligent. ” – To a housewife: “You look very caring and organized.”

Then switch back to telling them how the book will help them:

“These books are about how to become free from stress and anxiety and how to take care of our soul. Just like when someone has a bird in a cage and they polish the cage but forget the bird, then soon they have a distressed bird and a polished cage. These books show how to take care of the bird, the soul, as well the cage — both will benefit.”

gita-distributionHow to ask for money; and how much to ask:

“We distribute these books as gifts and accept ANY donation people give us to help with our work or printing and distribution. “

Alternative: “We print these books ourselves and distribute them widely. It all goes on by donations.”

Sometimes people don’t know how much to give. To help them you can add (for a big book like BG, or hardbound): “Most people give 10 to 20. But just give the most you can.”

They may say, “I don’t have any money.” Many times what they mean is “I don’t know how much to give.”

Your reply: “No problem. Just give what you can. We also accept checks or credit cards.” (To set up credit card acceptance see FAQ’s.)

If they still insist they don’t have any money, you can say, “Just give a penny or a dime; it’s really only the thought that counts.”

Usually, after hearing this they will go inside and get some change. That’s enough to cover a small book. If you sense that they are not attached to the book and don’t are just giving a donation, you can ask: “Would you like to keep the hardback book or would you rather have a smaller one?”

Our experience is that most people give more than the cost of the book.

The Do’s and Don’ts