Bhrigupati Prabhu has been distributing books ever since he joined the Hare Krishna movement in the early 70s and is still going strong after 40 years.
During our 20 minute drive he shared about the Advanced Warp tour and his “sharing the love” philosphy of preaching:
This conversation is full of practical and inspiring ideas.
As a bonus I’ve also included a short video where Bhrigupati Prabhu shares his secrets to being a successful book distributor (or successful anything actually.) It’s less than four minutes and his tips are very valuable and relevant for everyone – book distributor or not.
Once you’ve listened to the conversation and watched the video leave a comment below and share your thoughts. How will you put into practice the ideas he shared?
|Spoiler Inside: Interview Transcription||SelectShow>|
Krsnendu: Tell us some more about the tour. What’s the name of the tour? The Warped Tour.
Bhrigupati: Advanced Warped Tour, yeah. It’s really good. So many things I could say about it, the most significant thing is that we’re able to distribute about a thousand big and maha-big books every day. The group of us, there’s five devotees that travel in one van, and there’s one devotee that kind of travels on his own that also distributes. Between the six of us, I’m sure we’re doing about a thousand big and maha big books every day. Probably averaging double BBT [price]. It’s a tremendous amount of books going out.
This year for the first time, we had a tent inside, and we had devotees chanting and having the kids come sit down with them and chant. Some of the kids got neck beads, you know, they actually got beads, and got books. We got their contact information, and that was another team, a separate team of another six devotees that was doing that. It was very positive. I was amazed to see the kids actually sit down there and chant and like it. Hopefully some devotees are going to come as a result of the whole thing.
It’s really austere, I mean, the program is that you… On pretty much any given day, you get up at four or earlier, shower, a couple of gallons of water from an empty milk jug, dry off, get dressed, and hop in the van and off you go driving because we probably drive an average of five to six hours a day. It’s a lot of driving. The shows are not set up in terms of what city is closest to the next city, like that. It’s all over the place, because New York, the owner wants to be in the big cities on the weekends. He wants to maximize the number of people coming to the show, not minimize the amount of driving in between shows. So, there’s a lot of driving.
You drive for like three or four hours in the morning, get to the place, get out, start distributing. We’re distributing from the time we get there, pretty much, till four, five, six, even seven o’clock, depending upon how far away the next show is. We have to calculate it. Then basically, at the end of the day, you’re coming back, taking another shower real quick, drying off, hopping in the car, and off you go driving again.
Krsnendu: So, you’re doing some of the driving at night, and some in the morning? Split it up?
Bhrigupati: Yeah, some of driving at night, some in the morning. Split it up. On days off, days off is just a misnomer, because on the day off you have to do the laundry, you have to do the banking, you have to do… Usually it’s an average of helping one a week. And you have to do so many different things, pick up books, a shipment of books, so it’s not really a day off at all. It’s just a day you’re not distributing. Even on those days, you’re driving a lot, also, because usually the day off is because it’s such a big distance between shows. They give people an extra day to drive it.
Krsnendu: So, you guys are like this for a full two months?
Bhrigupati: Yeah, a little less, maybe a month and a half.
Krsnendu: That sounds like it’s making a really big impact.
Bhrigupati: Well, yeah, I think it’s making an impact. It’s just really hard to make an impact in Kali Yuga there’s so much stuff out there. We’re making, I don’t want to say an impact, but we’re definitely making a good impression. Making an impact – that’s up to Krishna.
Krsnendu: Bit noisy with the window wide open, eh?
Bhrigupati: So really, it’s a great opportunity for distributors to make a lot of advancement, because it’s a real surrender. You’re distributing… There’s no really down time, because how comfortable can you get even though you’re just driving in a van, you can’t get really comfortable. It’s an austerity like the whole time, pretty much. Sometimes it’s really hot. We had quite a few shows, distributing in over 100 degrees. If it rains, tough luck. You’re distributing anyway. As long as the people are coming to the show, we distribute. We don’t stop because it rains, we don’t stop because it gets too hot.
Krsnendu: So it’s a real high-volume distribution. It’s like, you don’t get much chance to talk to people, and it’s like the books are just flying out.
Bhrigupati: Yeah. Another thing is… it’s austere all round. Before the show, we’re distributing in the parking lots as the cars are coming in. Sometimes it’s a paved lot, but usually if it’s a paved lot, it’s random parking. You don’t have a parker there, pulling them in one next to the other. So it’s kind of like you’re all over the place, and you’re moving around a lot. And if it isn’t a paved lot, you’ve got parkers. Usually they pull them in one next to the other because there’s not marked spaces. But then you’re dealing with a surface, and you’re pulling one of these Jansport backpacks around on gravel or dirt.
Krsnendu: Physically quite tiring.
Bhrigupati: Really tiring. So, it takes it out of you like that.
Krsnendu: Yeah, especially… How old are you now? Fifty plus?
Krsnendu: Sixty-one! Oh my goodness. Still going strong.
Bhrigupati: Still going. I don’t know about strong, I hope still strong.
Krsnendu: That’s incredible. And how old are most of the distributors? They must be like their early twenties, I suppose?
Bhrigupati: Yeah, Paramesvara was the second oldest one, the party leader, I think he’s about forty or so. And then, the other guys were twenty-seven, twenty-four and twenty-one, I think.
Krsnendu: Wow. You’re the real grandaddy of the whole team, eh? That’s amazing. And you’ve been doing it for all these years. Have you ever felt like, “I’ve had enough of this, I need to try something else,” or it’s just your identity…
Bhrigupati: I’ve felt a lot of times I’ve had enough of this. But then, you just keep doing it somehow, and Krishna makes it worthwhile
Krsnendu: It’s amazing.
Bhrigupati: But it’s got like… It’s getting better. It’s becoming more and more fun. I’m at a point where I’m not competing to be the biggest anymore, so that’s taken a lot of pressure off.
Krsnendu: Right. So you’re not so attached to the results, maybe, as you used to be?
Bhrigupati: Not as much, no. I’m more into just going out there and trying to share the love. Because that’s what it is, if you stop and think about it. Krishna was here five hundred years ago as Lord Caitanya. A big part of His thing was, He was trying to taste, experience what Radharani was experiencing, loving Him and all those esoteric things. But what was the program? The program was share it. Get it out there. At least for those six years he was traveling, at least for the first six years in Jagannatha Puri. He was trying to give Krishna consciousness to as many people as he possibly could.
If you stop and think about it, what are the most advanced devotees doing? Devotees in the madhurya rasa, like the gopis. Radharani, she’s always trying to get the other gopis a chance to be with Krishna, and the gopis are always trying to get Radharani to be with Krishna. And they’re basically…
Even Krishna himself. He expands himself into so many living entities to enjoy, but what is that enjoyment? It’s sharing the love. It’s not like Krishna’s narcissistic and he’s thinking, “I’ll expand into so many living entities. Everybody pay attention to me.” No, no. His mood is, “Let me share the love.” It’s just like, even human beings experience that, in a very small, small, probably perverted way. Like when you stumble upon some really good thing, and you’re feeling like “Oh man I have to tell my friends about this. I have to turn other people onto this.”
So that’s a very teeny, teeny, teeny, as I said, because everything here in the material world is a perverted reflection, so I guess it’s correct to refer to it as a perverted reflection of Krishna’s psychology. And actually Prabhupada in the First Canto of the Bhagavatam, “Our psychology is just a reflection of Krishna’s psychology.” So Krishna’s psychology is, he just wants to share it. He’s just feeling like, “Whoa!
Krsnendu: “Too good to keep to myself.”
Bhrigupati: Yeah. “Too good to keep to myself. I gotta share this with other living entities. I’ve gotta turn other people on to this.” You see?
Actually, getting back to us, when you’re feeling that way, what is it that you want? What is it that you want in return? You really don’t want anything. That’s why it’s… considered love. You’d really just… You’re only thing is you just want to experience, see that other people are able to take advantage of what it is that you’ve told them about or offering, and that they appreciate it.
Krsnendu: And you get that inner happiness, you’ve done something that’s helped others.
Bhrigupati: Yeah, right. That’s Krishna. That’s Krishna satisfaction. Just when He sees that the living entities are appreciating his gift of love of Himself, and they’re thankful, and He feels like, “Okay, that’s cool, that’s worth it.”
Just like that’s how we feel. I went down to the beach this weekend, it was so good. My wife kind of twisted my arm, and I finally said okay, okay. I’m so glad I did it, because it was really terrific. I was just walking on the beach, chanting, and then after I finished my sixteen rounds I just jumped in and had a bit of a swim. It was like wow.. just so refreshing, I felt like a new person, really, in just the course of a few days. And immediately I was thinking, “I gotta turn Ratna Bhushan on to this, I have to turn Rabindranath on to this,” I have to take the sankirtan devotees down here.” You know. “Maybe I’ll make a birthday party for myself and invite all the devotees down here.” Like that.
Krsnendu: So there’s a couple of points there. One is the importance of taking a just break sometimes, it really freshens you up, right? That’s one point. And then the idea that when you have a realization like that, you just want to share it and help others to get the same experience.
Krsnendu: I mean, you must be pretty exhausted after all that, the big tour and everything, just to have a break …
Bhrigupati: Well, I was, but I’m back. I’m okay again now. I feel okay after that. It doesn’t take much to get back to normal again. The human body is… human life is meant for austerity. If you look at people who aren’t even devotees, they can perform incredible austerities and it doesn’t take them very long to recover. Like the guys who run the marathon. Sure, after they run the marathon, if you ask them five minutes later, “Could you run another marathon?” No, forget it. But you just give them a bit of time, and within probably, these guys that run the marathon, probably within an hour they’re recovered to do their normal activities, and probably within a few days they’d be ready to run another marathon. The human body is meant for austerity. It’s designed for that purpose. So even though the whole Warped Tour thing was pretty intense, after just a few days of resting up, you’re ready for action again.
Krsnendu: So what’s next? Is there another tour like that coming up soon, or is it just once a year that happens?
Bhrigupati: No, it’s just the summer, just that once a year.
Krsnendu: That’s probably enough, is it?
Bhrigupati: Yeah, that is enough, actually. Well actually, the next intense thing is the Prabhupada marathon coming up in December. I don’t know what I’m going to do about that. But in the meantime, it’s schools, which can be as intense or not as intense as you like it. The thing about the Warped Tour, it’s a do or die program. You’ve gotta…
Krsnendu: You fit into that program. It’s not like your program that you choose.
Bhrigupati: You’re right, you’ve got to fit in. The program doesn’t revolve around you, you revolve around the program. Whereas in, when you’re going to schools, if you want you can get there very early, and then of course you’ll be able to do the most books and maximize on the whole thing, but then you can also just go to the whole program and toodle on out there after the whole morning program, then you start distributing at about eleven or so, and distribute until about four or five. Which is good. So it can be as intense or not as intense as you want it to be.
Krsnendu: Now, when I was with you last time and you picked me up, we were listening to a Prabhupada lecture. Prabhupada was talking about how everyone should become a guru. Can you remember the basic point from that lecture? I’m sure you’ve heard it many times, right?
Bhrigupati: Yeah, Prabhupada would always quote the famous statement by Lord Caitanya, yare dekhe tare kaha Krishna upadesha amara ajnaya guru tane ei desha . Wherever you go, wherever you meet, tell them about Krishna. And in this way, become a spiritual master, and deliver everybody in the land. That was Prabhupada’s formula, but Prabhupada was basically just quoting Lord Caitanya, that was Lord Caitanya’s program. Prabhupada’s idea was that he wanted all his disciples to become gurus. He said it. If you listen to enough Prabhupada’s lectures, you can find it on the database, and you can hear it with your own two ears. Of course he wanted them to be qualified, but ideally that was his vision, that was his hope, that a lot of his disciples would become qualified to be spiritual masters. Of course, he never said whether he was thinking about diksha, shiksha, or whatever. Basically, he wanted his disciples to be people who could share Krishna consciousness.
Krsnendu: Share the love.
Bhrigupati: Right, share the love. With as many… With a lot of different people.
Krsnendu: Sometimes there’s a feeling like, “I’m not qualified to preach or to teach others.”
Bhrigupati: That’s good. That’s a good feeling. That’s humility. But at the same time, despite the fact that you feel like that, you should go ahead and do it, because it’s the order of the spiritual master, it’s the order of Lord Caitanya. So yeah, go ahead, feel unqualified, that’s nice, but then just chant your sixteen rounds, be following the four regulative principles, and get out there and just repeat whatever you know. And be honest. You’re not going to have an opportunity to repeat very much because these people aren’t able to hear very much.
So it’s kind of a cop out to say “I’m not qualified to preach, and I don’t know how to answer this question or that question.” You don’t have to. Pretty much, if you’re meeting people, total strangers, all you have to know how to do is just be friendly. Really, they’re not capable and any philosophy you give them, they’re probably not understanding anyway. So the basic thing is just to be prepared to try to execute the order of the spiritual master.
Like today, I didn’t do any philosophy. My approach was, I walked up to students and said “Excuse me, do you go here? Are you a student?” And they’d say, “Yeah.” I say, “Would you say you’re a good one?” It’s a weird question, just as a joke. And they go, “Yeah, I think I’m a good one.” I say, “Yeah, I think so, because you look very intelligent.” Then I say “Here, check this out, this is on meditation and yoga. We’re trying to give this to all the really spiritual looking people out here today, and I don’t know what it is, exactly, but you look kind of spiritual. Maybe it’s that goatee, or whatever…” And I just point out something to him that looked a little bit stylish or something like that, and they’d laugh. And say, “We’re monks,” we don’t sell these. People just give a donation. Basically I didn’t really say anything about the philosophy with people. Unless they were on the fence, then I might show them a couple of pictures, the picture of karma. Then I might show them a couple things to interest them. Not so much in the mood of instructing them, but just in the mood of…
Krsnendu: It’s like this about spiritual, we’re monks, so they have an idea of what it’s about, something spiritual.
Bhrigupati: Yeah. But the real thing is, like Prabhupada used to quote Prabhodananda, one of the predecessor acaryas, who said, “Flatter them like anything.” So that’s really it, I’m flattering them. I’m making jokes and flattering them. The joke is the thing about the student, and then I just flatter them that they look very spiritual. On the strength of that one compliment, I’m asking them to take the book and give a donation. That’s most of the day, 90% plus of the interactions with the students is on that level. It’s just meeting
Krsnendu: I think also even giving Sunday feast lecture or something, it’s a similar things as well, there’s only so much philosophy you can absorb, but if someone has a good feeling from their class, and you tell a few jokes and just have a few points that people can have in their head, then they walk out. That’s interesting.
Bhrigupati: Yeah. So anyway, getting back to your original question about the cop out and how to be… Yeah, that’s it. That’s a start, anyway. I think that some of my god-brothers have taken it a lot further, like Radhanath Swami and Devamrita Maharaja, if you can preach like that, all the better. It’s wonderful. But, if you can’t preach like that, that’s okay, it doesn’t mean you can’t preach. Not everybody’s going to be able to…
Krsnendu: According to your capacity
Yeah, according to your capacity, not everybody’s going to be able to preach like Devamrita Maharaja and Radhanath Maharaja and some of these other… Hridayananda Maharaja. They’re brilliant. These guys are geniuses. Aside from being great devotees, they’re also incredibly bright people. Everybody’s got a particular kind of machine. Your machine might not be equipped to put out stuff like that. But, everybody can preach, on some level or another.
Krsnendu: Yeah. Well, looks like we’re almost at the airport, so thank you Prabhu, for sharing that and I hope the listeners will get some inspiration from your many, many years of book distribution. I mean, sixty plus and still distributing books, that’s pretty amazing. Thanks for taking the time.
Bhrigupati: All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
Krsnendu: Hare Krishna.