Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

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An Interview with Vijaya Dasa, a Champion of Book Distribution
By Atma Tattva Das, ISKCON News Staff Writer   |  May 24, 2024

For over two decades, Vijaya Dasa has been a key figure in promoting Srila Prabhupada’s books worldwide. In January 2024, Vijaya stepped down from his role as the International Minister of Book Distribution, a position he held for 22 years, passing the mantle to Vaisesika Dasa, another revered figure known for his innovative approaches to book distribution. Vijaya leaves behind a legacy of transformative influence that will continue under Vaisesika’s leadership. 

Vijaya’s journey into Krishna consciousness began with a profound spiritual experience in his early twenties. Growing up in Los Angeles, he was a typical Southern California youth, but an encounter with Transcendental Meditation marked the start of his spiritual search. “I was visiting a friend who had his television on, and this Yogi was speaking about spiritual things. It sounded a little interesting, so I decided to investigate further,” Vijaya recalled. This experience led him to a yoga center in Los Angeles, where he bought his first mantra and began meditating.

Despite the basic benefits of this meditation, Vijaya felt there was something more. His quest for spiritual knowledge led him to read various books on philosophy, yoga, and different religions. “I was on a search like many youths in the sixties,” he explained. His journey took a dramatic turn when his possessions were stolen in the Bahamas, leading him to embrace a life of detachment and spiritual pursuit. “I had never been so happy in my life because I had nothing. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was going on a spiritual journey and would never return to material life again,” he reflected.

Vijaya’s search ultimately led him to the Bhagavad-gita As It Is. “I was reading a book by Baba Ram Das, and at the end, he recommended reading the Bhagavad-gita. I found a copy in the public library in Key West and couldn’t put it down. It was so captivating that I read it in three days,” he recalled. This pivotal moment led him to chant the Hare Krishna mantra and eventually meet devotees who introduced him to Srila Prabhupada’s ISKCON movement.

Vijaya’s early service in Krishna consciousness began in the vibrant city of Miami, where he was introduced to the essential practice of book distribution. Initially, he was tasked with distributing books at streetlights, a service that required a very time-bound interaction, demanding persistence and resilience. Reflecting on this period, Vijaya shared, “I just had to be steady; distributing books at streetlights where people have no time to stop is no easy thing, but I continued.” This early experience laid the groundwork for his future endeavors in book distribution.

After a few months, Vijaya transitioned to distributing books at the Miami airport. This new environment required a completely different approach. “The airport was a whole other type of book distribution. You had to talk to businessmen and travelers who required you to explain the books,” he recalled. The airport’s air-conditioned setting was a welcome change from the hot Miami streets, permitting Vijaya to connect more deeply with people.

Vijaya’s dedication did not go unnoticed. Within three years, he was appointed the Sankirtan leader for Miami. This role involved coordinating book distribution efforts and inspiring other devotees. In 1990, when the temple president stepped down, Vijaya reluctantly agreed to take on the presidency. Despite his initial hesitation, he accepted the role out of necessity. “I was happy just distributing books. I didn’t want to manage, but there was nobody else to take the service,” he recalled.

As temple president, Vijaya continued to prioritize book distribution, emphasizing the importance of good sadhana (spiritual practice) among the devotees. “I tried to inspire devotees to have good sadhana. That was the key,” he noted. Under his leadership, the Miami temple became one of the top book distribution centers in the country.

In 1992, increasing restrictions at the Miami airport prompted Vijaya to move to Los Angeles. There, he continued his book distribution efforts at the airport before shifting his focus to college preaching. Inspired by Ganapati Swami, Vijaya began traveling to universities across the country, distributing books and engaging with students. “I got a motorhome and started traveling around. It’s a very nice way to distribute books,” he said.

This shift proved fruitful, with many students taking an interest in Krishna consciousness. Vijaya’s innovative approach, including setting up tables at universities, allowed him to reach a wider audience. “Many people have become devotees from this style of book distribution,” he enthusiastically stated.

In 2002, the GBC appointed Vijaya the International Minister of Book Distribution. This role expanded his responsibilities, requiring him to travel extensively and promote book distribution globally. “I visited 60 countries and hundreds of temples, sharing strategies—trying to inspire others,” he recalled. His efforts led to a significant increase in the number of books distributed annually, from 2 million to nearly 10 million.

One of the most notable innovations during Vijaya’s tenure was the introduction of “Saptarishis” – sets of seven books tied with a ribbon. This method, pioneered by Mahotsaha Das in NYC and later Atlanta, has proved highly successful and was adopted by devotees worldwide. “It is so successful that they distributed these sets year-round,” Vijaya explained.

Numerous inspiring anecdotes also mark Vijaya’s tenure. In Australia, a man who worshiped Satan bought a Bhagavad-gita after Vijaya suggested he should know his enemy. In another instance, a Muslim student in America who was initially reluctant to take a Bhagavad-gita returned the next day after having a dream that convinced him of the book’s importance. These stories highlight the profound impact of Vijaya’s efforts on individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Vijaya on Harinam with devotees at Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia.

Reflecting on his years in this service, Vijaya expressed deep gratitude for the opportunity to serve through book distribution. “It’s a wonderful activity because it’s not an easy service. It gives great impetus to have a serious spiritual life,” he explained. His prayer to Krishna is that he will never stop distributing books, even if he were somehow no longer able to do it directly, underscores his unwavering commitment.

As he steps down from his role, Vijaya remains optimistic about the future of book distribution in ISKCON. He praises the efforts of current leaders like Vaisesika Dasa and Mahotsaha Das, who continue to innovate and inspire. “Krishna has his plans. Let’s see what Krishna arranges. I’m sure it’s a good one,” he says with confidence.

Vijaya Dasa’s story is one of dedication, innovation, and profound impact. His contributions to Srila Prabhupada’s mission of spreading Krishna consciousness through book distribution have touched countless lives. As he moves forward, his legacy will continue to inspire future generations of devotees, ensuring that the mission of book distribution thrives.

For more information about Vijaya Dasa, his latest travels, and to support his ongoing service, devotees can connect with him on Facebook.