It is believed that Bhaktivedanta Swami’s most significant contribution are his books. Within the final twenty years of his life Bhaktivedanta Swami translated over sixty volumes of classic Vedic scriptures (such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Srimad Bhagavatam) into the English language. For their authority, depth, and clarity, his books have won praise from professors at colleges and universities like Harvard, Oxford, Cornell, Columbia, Syracuse, Oberlin, and Edinburgh, and his Bhagavad-Gītā As It Is was published by Macmillan Publishers, in 1968 and unabridged edition in 1972, and is now available in over sixty languages around the world and some other books by Bhaktivedanta Swami are available in over eighty different languages.
The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust was established in 1972 to publish his works, it has also published massively researched multivolume biography, Srila Prabhupada-lilamrta, that in opinion of Larry Shinn will “certainly be one of the most complete records of the life and work of any modern religious figure”. Prabhupada reminded his devotees before his disappearance that he would live forever in his books, and through them would remain present as a spiritual master or guru. Bhaktivedanta Swami had instilled in his followers an understanding of the importance of writing and publishing not only with regard to his works, but also their own initiatives. His early disciples felt Prabhupada had given them Back To Godhead for their own writings from the very start.
A prominent Gaudiya Vaishnava figure, Shrivatsa Goswami, who as a young man had met Bhaktivedanta Swami in 1972, affirmed the significance of book publishing and distribution in spreading the message of Caitanya in an interview with Steven Gelberg:
” Making these Vaisnava texts available is one of Srila Prabhupada’s greatest contributions. Apart from the masses, his books have also reached well into academic circles and have spurred academic interest in the Chaitanya tradition … The significance of making these texts available is not merely academic or cultural; it is spiritual. ”
Srila Prabhupada says that we can get the answers to our questions through reading his books. He does not say that we “need a living guru so that we can personally receive instructions”.
“In my books the philosophy of Krishna Consciousness is explained fully so if there is anything you do not understand, then you simply have to read again and again. By reading daily the knowledge will be revealed to you and by this process your spiritual life will develop. “
– Srila Prabhupada, Letter to Brahmarupa Dasa, November 22, 1974
The process of advancing in Krishna Consciousness is quite simple. We simply have to continuously hear from Srila Prabhupada through reading his transcendental books, and spiritual knowledge will be revealed to us. This is very important. Association with the spiritual master or a pure devotee is not hampered by whether or not they are physically present or not. Srila Prabhupada says that reading the words of a pure devotee is no different from physically associating with him. The only qualification is that one must be very eager to hear from the spiritual master. Whether or not the spiritual master is physically present is not important. So by reading Srila Prabhupada’s books, we are actually directly associating with Srila Prabhupada.What is the difficulty in this?
Once a devotee asked Srila Prabhupada if reading Krishna’s words is the same as directly associating with him, and Srila Prabhupada answered “yes”. Krishna is eternally existing, even though foolish rascals may think that he is no longer existing since He is no longer visible to their mundane eyes. And the great news is, we can associate directly with Krishna by reading His divine and transcendental words that have been left in the form of the Vedic scriptures.
“There is nothing new to be said. Whatever I had to say, I have already said in my books. Now you must try to understand it and continue with your endeavours. Whether I am present or not does not matter. ”
– Arrival Conversation, Vrindavan, May 17, 1977
Srila Prabhupada’s main mission was the printing and distribution of his transcendental books. This was the order given to him by his spiritual master Srila Bhaktsiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur and Srila Prabhupada took this order, “If you get money print books,” as his life and soul.
Srila Prabhupada would take rest at around 10:00 PM and rise at about midnight and in the early morning hours every day he would write his transcendental books. He worked so hard to write these books for our benefit.
He replied to a disciple who was asking him “How can I please you?”
“You may please me the most by reading my books and following the instructions therein.”
The greatest gift you can give to others is the transcendental knowledge and the easiest way to pass this knowledge on to someone else is to give them one of Prabhupada’s books. They will be eternally grateful to you for it and by distributing this book you will have pleased Srila Prabhupada and Krishna greatly and that will help you advance in spiritual life also.
You can purchase books, read books, or buy various types of Krishna-related paraphernalia at the following sites:
Catalog of Srila Prabhupada’s Books