You can’t distribute books you don’t have!
At first glance, this principle – this law of book distribution – may appear simplistic, perhaps even an insult to the intelligence. Isn’t it obvious that you can’t distribute books you don’t have? So you have to get books, and that’s why this principle follows as the second law of book distribution. You can’t distribute books you don’t have. And this law applies to everyone in all circumstances. If you’re thinking about distributing books, get some! If you live in a house, if you live in a trailer, if you live in a temple, if you live in a dorm, it doesn’t matter. If you want to distribute books, you must get books.
Don’t let the simple wording of this law mislead you into not taking it seriously. In truth, if you go out of your way to get books and simply intend to distribute them one day, you’ll naturally start to think of ways to do it as soon as you have them. And even if you forget you have a stock of books, Lord Caitanya will remind you in amazing ways to pass them on to others.
Success = Preparation + Opportunity
Bobby Unser, the celebrated race car driver, coined the phrase “Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.” To have Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books in your physical possession, then, means to be prepared to distribute them. Opportunities to pass them on will seem to come to you like magic, but such openings are actually the divine arrangement of Lord Caitanya. In summary, when you have books to give, you’re surely on the verge of distributing them.
Here’s an example of this second law in action, told by Ajita Dāsa:
After attending a powerful seminar on book distribution at the ISKCON Chicago temple and hearing about the four laws of book distribution, my best friend and business partner Yaśodānandana Dāsa and I decided to implement the second law – Get Books – in a practical way by always carrying a box of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books in our car. Soon after starting this discipline we had an experience that convinced us of this law’s effectiveness.
It happened one day when Yaśodānandana and I were invited to a home program hosted by a wealthy gentleman. Our host had invited a few devotees from our local ISKCON temple along with a group of his friends. We came in our own car and met the devotees at the program. At our host’s request the devotees performed kīrtana. After the chanting, he spontaneously asked us if he could sponsor Bhagavad-gītās for all his friends who had come to the program.
None of the devotees who had come in the temple’s van had anticipated such a request. Thus they had come to the program without bringing any books. When Yaśodānandana and I heard our host’s request, we at once remembered the box of books we had put in our car as standard equipment. Luckily the car was parked just outside the house, so we ran out, brought in our box of books, and presented it to our host. We had fifteen copies of Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, five copies of Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and twenty small books. To our surprise, our host, noticeably pleased, at once wrote us a check for one thousand dollars.
He then asked us to distribute the books to all his friends, so Yaśodānandana and I spent the rest of the evening at a book table in the living room, glorifying Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books and inspiring the guests to take them home and read them. By the end of the evening, all the books were gone. The next day we brought the check for a thousand dollars to the temple. What’s more, two of the guests we had met that night later attended the Chicago Ratha-yātrā with their families.
This is only one instance of many distribution opportunities we’ve had since we started following the second law of book distribution – Get Books!
If a devotee misses a chance to distribute a book to an eligible soul, he or she should feel pain. A kindhearted devotee who has forgotten to have a transcendental book on hand, on meeting a receptive person will think, “Oh, I am so cruel for not being prepared!”
And such a missed opportunity should be painful because it is a form of violence. Why? Śrīla Prabhupāda gives the answer in this purport:
People in general are trapped by ignorance in the material concept of life, and they perpetually suffer material pains. So unless one elevates people to spiritual knowledge, one is practicing violence. One should try his best to distribute real knowledge to the people, so that they may become enlightened and leave this material entanglement. That is nonviolence.
During an epidemic, doctors who have access to the medicine that will cure the disease are morally and ethically responsible to distribute it and administer it to the sick. If they neglect to do so, they are violating their Hippocratic oath, which states, in part, “I will for the benefit of the sick apply all measures which are required … I will prevent disease whenever I can.”
In the same way, devotees, who are doctors of the soul, who know that distributing transcendental knowledge is the panacea to alleviate people’s suffering, and who are aware of the unparalleled spiritual potency of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, must keep them on hand and distribute them.