Memories (#34)
Until They Became a Customer

On a morning walk at Venice Beach, Los Angeles, during one of Srila Prabhupada’s many visits to New Dwarka, Srila Prabhupada asked me about the mail-order dept. and the membership program I had recently developed through the mail. I gave him some of the statistics concerning how many BTG subscriptions we were handling each month as well as sales of books, beads, record albums, cassettes, etc.

From 1969 to 1980 I had the very good fortune to serve as the corresponding secretary of ISKCON. In the front of all Srila Prabhupada's books the following words appear: “Readers interested in the subject matter of this book are invited by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness to correspond with its Secretary.” All such letters came to me during those years.

I told Srila Prabhupada that I was trying to develop a mail-order membership program by requesting people to send in regular monthly donations in exchange for which they received a monthly newsletter I developed called Bhakti Rasa, as well as a free BTG subscription, various membership benefits according to the amount donated… and we even sent lugdus through the mail now and then.

Srila Prabhupada listened with interest and appeared to be pleased. When I finished speaking he then told me that he once worked for Dr. Bose and one of his duties was to handle whatever correspondence came in to the company. He said, “even if the smallest inquiry arrived -- I would answer personally -- and continue to correspond until they became a customer.”

In this way I understood that Srila Prabhupada was stressing the importance of personal communication as well as determination and enthusiasm for any and every opportunity to preach. A few days prior to that morning walk it was suggested to me that I make up a form letter and send it along with our catalog to those who wrote in and expressed general interest in Krishna consciousness. I didn’t think it was a very good idea when I heard it and Srila Prabhupada’s words that morning confirmed the importance of taking a personal interest in every letter that arrived -- even if all that was written was “I am interested in your movement” or "please send information." Once again I was reminded of the meaning of the word Acarya... one who teaches by example. Jaya Srila Prabhupada!!

Swarup Das
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