1."Please regularly chant Hare Kåñëa and read Çrémad-Bhägavatam, and very soon you will get other books also, like Bhagavad-gétä As It Is, Teachings of Lord Caitanya, and always read and talk about Kåñëa between yourselves, and always remember that this life is but a flash only. We have to seek after our eternal life in Kåñëa consciousness and be transferred to the spiritual world in the association of Kåñëa. Continue to keep your present attitude and certainly even within this life, you will be successful in attaining perfection of Kåñëa consciousness."
(Letter to Dayänanda, July 7, 1968)
In this early letter Çréla Prabhupäda indicates that reading his books daily is as basic to attaining the perfection of Kåñëa consciousness as chanting Hare Kåñëa, and he promises that if the devotees maintain their desire to read about Kåñëa, then they will return to the spiritual world at the end of their life. Prabhupäda established the Kåñëa consciousness movement on the foundation of his books, and these books form the basis for all other activities in the Kåñëa consciousness movement.
In The Nectar of Devotion, Prabhupäda states that the foremost activity of the spiritual master is to preach. "In this connection," Prabhupäda writes, "Çréla Bhaktisiddhänta Sarasvaté Gosvämé Mahäräja recommended that a spiritual master print books. If one has money, instead of constructing costly temples, one should spend his money for the publication of authorized books in different languages for propagating the Kåñëa consciousness movement. "
As his books appeared in print, Prabhupäda would repeatedly stress his purpose in publishing: to create and maintain devotees. Prabhupäda desired that the devotees become spiritually strong by reading his books, and that they go out and distribute those books and thus increase the family of devotees. Prabhupäda desired that his books thus create a spiritual revolution throughout the world.
And he assured success to whoever took up the practice. "The teachings presented in this book are nondifferent from the Lord," Prabhupäda writes in the preface to Teachings of Lord Caitanya. And he wrote similarly in the preface to Kåñëa.
We therefore ask everyone to take advantage of this great transcendental literature. One will find that by reading one page after another, an immense treasure of knowledge in art, science, literature, philosophy and religion will be revealed, and ultimately by reading this one book, Kåñëa, love of God will fructify.
2. "You are always at liberty to inquire from me about all such questions in the Çrémad-Bhägavatam, Bhagavad-gétä, and I am so glad that you are reading all these books so carefully. That is our business—we shall chant Hare Kåñëa or read Çrémad-Bhägavatam or associate with devotees in the temple, so that program shall go on continually for constantly remembering Kåñëa, and we shall never forget Him, even for a moment.
... Formerly great aristocratic families, kings, and rich men, they used to engage a qualified brähmaëa to copy Çrémad-Bhägavatam in handwriting and then present it to a suitable person, especially brähmaëas, in a gold casket. That was the system.... That was a great work of charity... Still there are many rich men in India who have engaged learned brähmaëas to copy Çrémad-Bhägavatam in handwriting, and they gave in charity, to a qualified person, in the above way.”
(Letter to Candrävalé, October 16, 1968)
Here, as in the previous letter, the reading of Çrémad-Bhägavatam is linked with the chanting of Hare Kåñëa as a regular program by which the devotees may constantly remember Kåñëa. Although in this letter Çréla Prabhupäda encourages the devotees to inquire from him if they have questions about the philosophy, in letters of later years he would instruct the devotees to turn to his books for answers to their questions. "If you want to know me," Prabhupäda would say, "read my books." But even in the early years, Prabhupäda encouraged the careful reading of his books. Today, Prabhupäda's books provide the ultimate recourse for devotees with questions. By following Prabhupäda's recommended program of reading his books daily, devotees are able to remember Kåñëa constantly.
The auspicious practice of distributing the Çrémad-Bhägavatam benefits both the giver and the receiver. Although giving handwritten copies of the Bhägavatam to qualified persons as charity is a thing of the past, a form of this practice continues today, based on Prabhupäda's desire that everyone receive a full set of his books. And today it is possible to purchase a handsome set of Çréla Prabhupäda's books for only a few hundred dollars.
The great benefit of reading or simply keeping Kåñëa conscious books in one's home is described in The Nectar of Devotion, page 101, quoting the Skända Puräëa:
A person who is constantly engaged in reading literature enunciating the cultivation of Vaiñëava devotional service is always glorious in human society, and certainly Lord Kåñëa becomes pleased with him. A person who very carefully keeps such literature at home and offers respectful obeisances to it becomes freed from all sinful reactions and ultimately becomes worshipable by the demigods.
This and similar statements from the Vedic literature help us to appreciate the opportunity that is now so readily available to us. We should not, however, be like the homeowner who simply keeps prestigious book collections on his shelves but finds neither the time nor the desire to read them.