By Meera Khurana

Lord Chaitanya instructed His followers to tell everyone they meet about Krishna. Here’s how one devotee is trying to take up that task.

I was born into a Krishna conscious family. My mother was six months pregnant with me when she and my father were initiated by Srila Prabhupada. So, while growing up, I was frequently informed of the extreme rarity of achieving a human birth, as stated by Prahlada Maharaja: durlabham manusham janma (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.6.1). My mother often reminded me that I shouldn’t let this unique and rare gift pass by wastefully.

I achieved good academic qualifications and enjoy the analytical and technical challenges of work in banking. When I was a child, my father had often said that Srila Prabhupada told him to not give up working, but to add Krishna to your life.

Even though I practiced Krishna consciousness at home, I left it there. I wasn’t telling anyone the glories of Krishna consciousness. This made me feel I was lacking in a fundamental duty. I felt it was selfish to not spread Krishna consciousness to “whomever you meet,” as instructed by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: yare dekha, tare kaha ‘krishna’-upadesha (Chaitanya-charitamrita, Madhya 7.128).

Introducing Krishna to others at work seemed daunting to me. Prahlada Maharaja, a five-year-old boy, did it at school even though the most powerful enemy imaginable, in the form of his father, was trying to stop him. Surely no one can have a stronger a reason to not tell people about Krishna consciousness than Prahlada Maharaja did.

I eventually decided to try to sprinkle some small elements of Krishna consciousness at work. I thought, “Why does it need to be that different from doing it in the street?”

Admittedly, it would not be full-time, but opportunities are there in many ways. Moreover, it is easier to talk to people at work, as they already interact with you as part of the work and want to get to know you personally. Surely they are looking for Krishna and need Krishna just as much as every other living entity. I believe my time at work and the social interactions there can be used positively in this respect.

I’ve been trying subtle, nonintrusive ways to inject Krishna into my day-to-day office life. Here are some of the things I do and the opportunities I take advantage of:

Sharing prasadam: People bring food treats to the office on special occasions, so I bring prasadam. Things like biscuits, cakes, and sweets always go well. Prasadam removes impurities from the heart and sows the seed of love of Godhead. It can even soften the heart of an atheist. An additional benefit of prasadam is that it often initiates a conversation about the food. I’ve found that this is a good way to start talking about food in the mode of goodness and the sanctification of food, or making food sinless by offering it to God. This is a novel concept to most people, even religious people. People of other religions find this interesting and even wonder why it is not part of their religion. If you love God, why not offer Him gifts?

It is also a good way to explain why we eat only cruelty-free food. Because God is the father of everyone, a concept all faiths seem to agree with, He does not accept anything involving cruelty or the killing of His children. In this way I can introduce an argument for vegetarianism.

Prayer rooms and interfaith discussions: With the growth of diversity and the promotion of cultural awareness in workplaces, faith or prayer rooms have become common. These are a natural place to leave transcendental literature, such as Bhagavad-gita As It Is, The Science of Self-Realization, short introductory books, and local temple flyers for Sunday programs.

Even though many people who visit prayer rooms already follow a religion, the rooms do provide an informal way to introduce Krishna consciousness to people who may otherwise have no idea of it. I have found that people who practice the traditional monotheistic religions are interested in what Eastern religions believe, but have the common misconceptions that Hindus worship many gods, including elephants and monkeys, and have no one predominant scripture – no equivalent of the Bible or Koran. Hence, they have a somewhat negative and misleading impression to start with.

I usually give a succinct explanation to correct this misunderstanding, such as, “We believe in one God with unlimited names to reflect His unlimited potencies. The most common name is Krishna, which means the most attractive person, because God is all-attractive. As Islam has ninety-nine names for God, we have innumerable names, as God cannot be limited in any way.

“We have a predominant scripture, called Bhagavad-gita, which means ‘The Song of God.’ It was spoken by God directly, not via a medium, over five thousand years ago. Vedic religion does not have a start date, as God has always existed.

“What some people consider gods are actually demigods, or empowered servants of the one God.”

I have found this explanation surprises people, as it defeats their main criticisms. It is not what the common understanding of the broader term Hinduism is known for, but people generally seem much more able to accept it as a serious faith rather than trying to mock it. In fact, I have found that these simple, yet profound facts impress people, especially when they hear the meaning of Krishna and Bhagavad-gita, and the confidence with which we can state these: this is God and this is His scripture.

Communal book areas: Some offices provide areas where books can be swapped. I have left books, including the Bhagavad-gita and Hare Krishna cookbooks, mainly The Higher Taste. I’m surprised at how quickly they have been taken, sometimes within a day. Perhaps someone who would not have otherwise obtained these books has taken them home, read them, and passed them on to others. As Srila Prabhupada said, his books are like time bombs waiting to transform hearts.

Hare Krishna bookmarkers are always popular. I’ve placed ones with the maha-mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. I place them inside the books I leave too, and I include the address of the local temple.

Noticeboards: I place a Rathayatra poster every year on our office noticeboard. Even if people do not go, they see the beautiful face of Lord Jagannatha on the poster, getting their first darshana of the Lord of the Universe. It may not have an immediate effect, but someday it will.

Chat channels: Some organizations have social chat channels that staff can join. They’re often used for clubs for sports, music, food, and other interests. Some organizations have one for each major religion. If Hinduism is missing, you can ask that it be added. On a Hinduism channel, I’ve seen people daily quoting the favorite mantra of the various demigods they worship. I write the Hare Krishna maha-mantra on it every day. It’s a nice way for me to start my workday, and it makes people on the channel read and be reminded of the maha-mantra each day. I also post links to our festivals and what they mean, such as Gaura Purnima. Even many Hindu Indians have little awareness of this festival, one of the biggest on our Vaishnava calendar. This is a way to introduce people to more aspects of Vaishnavism. Gaura Purnima falls on the same day as Holi, which Hindus know about. But they are unaware of the original story of Holi from Prahlada Maharaja’s time and find my post on that topic enlightening.

Being exemplary with colleagues: This is in tune with bhakti-yoga. By showing empathy and being friendly, you’ll encourage people to want to know about the source of your inner strength and contentment. In every aspect of life, we should try to be an ambassador for Srila Prabhupada’s mission.

Taking advantage of festivals: During festival days like Diwali, which not only Vaishnavas but most Indians celebrate, I bring sweets to work. I have found that not many people know much about Diwali. They know only that it is “The Festival of Light.” I created a “Meaning of Diwali” sheet and placed it with the sweets for people to read or take away with them. People expressed gratitude at having been given a glimpse of the richness and deep substance of Vedic culture and literature.

When colleagues are going to big music festivals, I always mention that Hare Krishna devotees may be there and encourage them to look out for them – for the delicious food and the chanting. This gives people the opportunity to hear Krishna’s name, maybe chant themselves, and enjoy some prasadam.

Exchanging gifts: If gifts are exchanged, such as during “secret Santa” events at Christmas, people always seem to appreciate receiving a Hare Krishna cookbook. Almost everyone cooks sometimes, and the book may inspire even the occasional cook to try a recipe. When I’ve given a cookbook, I’ve seen others ask the receiver to borrow it. The introductory chapters in Hare Krishna cookbooks present a good, simple overview of Vaishnava philosophy.

Using vegetarianism: Being in London, I suggest Govinda’s Restaurant to people looking for vegetarian places to eat, or when vegetarianism comes up in conversations. This is usually a good chance to explain why we do not eat meat, and to introduce the ideas of karma and reincarnation. Topics around food and diet are an excellent opportunity to bring up vegetarianism and the role of cow as mother – an idea some may mock at first. But when I explain the reason, I find everyone appreciates the simple common-sense logic.

Using musical interests: Other examples may be more specific. An older colleague told me he has hearing problems because he used to go to a lot of concerts and music festivals when he was young in the 1970s. I brought up the seventies pop band the Rubettes. He remembered them well. I told him I frequently see a key member of the group at Hare Krishna events, as he has become a devotee. This encouraged him to immediately search them on the Internet, ask questions about Krishna consciousness, and research websites with information. People’s musical interests can be a good opportunity to introduce them to Krishna consciousness.

Cultural opportunities: Corporate committees on diversity and cultural awareness sometimes host events involving various faiths. This can give opportunity to have a representative from Krishna consciousness. Intranet websites on diversity and cultures are also common. They provide information or links for various cultural beliefs. A section for Krishna consciousness can be added, along with links to Krishna websites.

I have found these to be some simple ways to add a little bit of Krishna consciousness to day-to-day office life. They are not intrusive, and people generally appreciate them. And there are always other ways, tailored to location, people, and local events.