Q&As ISKCON sutra
25 April 2009

April 25 2009

Here’s an interesting inquiry from Shyama Gopal dasa about a well-known sutra that was chanted all over ISKCON in the 70s, when book distribution was booming and ISKCON was expanding like anything:

“Prabhu, I was just reading articles on your blog site (great site!) as one devotee referred me to your blog this morning.

“I wanted to ask you about: “Books are the basis, preaching is the essence, utility is the principle, and purity is the force.”


Books are the basis


Preaching is the essence


Utility is the principle


Purity is the force


We did a lot of research about two years back but noone could find the original source of this sutra. However, it was used on the masthead of the ‘Sankirtan Newsletter‘ that Srutadeva prabhu was putting out every week in the mid-70s. Srila Prabhupada was sent copies and used to read every issue:

October 30 1976
[TD 5]

“When Prabhupada flew from New York to London in July, Srutadeva prabhu and his family from Baltimore accompanied our party to take up a new service in England. On Jayatirtha prabhu’s request, he has taken up the post of temple president at Bury Place. Srutadeva used to compile the weekly Sankirtana Newsletter, which, along with the official BBT monthly newsletter sent out by Ramesvara Swami, keeps the temples around the world (and Srila Prabhupada) up-to-date with temple book distribution scores. Whereas the BBT newsletter bases the temple rankings in the monthly competition on the amount of laxmi they send in to the BBT each month, Srutadeva’s Sankirtana Newsletter lists individual book distributors’ scores as well as all of the books sold by category-small, medium, large, and maha-large-in each temple per week. Since he started it in 1974, his newsletter has helped fuel the competitive book distribution spirit amongst the temples and devotees and is read and appreciated by Srila Prabhupada. Now, with his move to England, he has stopped this service and handed it on to another devotee in Los Angeles.”

Srutadeva prabhu just wrote this to me:

“It has always been my understanding that Srila Prabhupada quoted Bhaktisiddhanta and I don’t have any reason to believe otherwise. However, when you go to the Vedabase you do find this quoted numerous times in Vyasa Puja offerings and other books and  essays. I think that Satsvarupa Maharaja, Ramesvara and Dravida das might know something more. Especially Satsvarupa Maharaja because he uses that quote in one of his books.”

On February 25 1977 a devotee whom I believe was Lomasarishi dasa, who was living in either Hongkong or Taiwan translated this sutra into Mandarin Chinese. It was printed on a wall hanging and he presented it to Srila Prabhupada in Mayapur. His Divine Grace was happy to receive it:

Trivikrama: He has brought you one Chinese script.
Hari-sauri: What does it say?
Devotee (3): This is Chinese character scroll. It says, “Books are the basis, preaching is the essence, utility is the principle, and purity is the force.” It was translated wholly by myself, and the characters were written by…
Prabhupada: Is that all right?
Devotee (5): I can read, but I don’t write. Ah… That’s not purity. It should be… It’s not so exact.
Prabhupada: What did he say in the trans…?
Devotee (5): It’s cleanliness rather than purity.
Bali-mardana: He has translated purity as “cleanliness,” not quite exact.
[end quote]

What ever the original source of it was, whether it was made up by Srila Prabhupada or it came from his Guru Maharaja or another source, Srila Prabhupada knew about it and approved it.

Your humble servant,
Hari-sauri dasa

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