Srila Prabhupada was attending the 1970 Ratha-yatra in San Francisco. The day was cold and windy, and about ten thousand people had joined in Lord Jagannatha's procession through Golden Gate Park. Srila Prabhupada had danced in the street with thousands of participants during the parade, addressed a large crowd in an auditorium by the beach, and looked on as his disciples had distributed a free vegetarian prasadam feast to thousands. But when a devotee arrived with a half-dozen advance copies of Volume One of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Srila Prabhupada appeared especially pleased.
Surrounded by devotees and curious festival-goers, Srila Prabhupada held one of the books, admiring the front cover, with its full-color picture of Radha and Krishna. The volume was big, almost seven-and-a-half by ten-and-a-half inches, and its dust jacket shone, silver with large bright red letters: "KRISHNA." It was a transcendental wonder in Srila Prabhupada's reverent hands.
Onlookers could barely restrain themselves from pressing in against Srila Prabhupada to peer over his shoulders. And they didn't restrain their exclamations when Prabhupada smiled and opened the volume. He examined the illustrations, the print, the paper, and the binding. "Very nice," he said. He fixed his attention on a page, reading. Then he looked up and announced that this greatly valuable book, Krishna, had just arrived and that everyone should read it. Holding one book in his hand, with the other copies stacked before him, he said that anyone who so desired should come forward and buy a copy.
People began clamoring, and hands with ten-dollar bills thrust forward, while voices cried out, begging for a copy. And Prabhupada promptly sold every book, not even keeping one for himself.
For the devotees, Srila Prabhupada's selling of the Krishna book was the most spectacular event of the Ratha-yatra festival. They pored over the purchased books in groups, discussing Krishna's pastimes and the effect they would have on the people of America.
Brahmananda told how in 1967 Prabhupada had given away his advance copy of Teachings of Lord Caitanya in his room at 26 Second Avenue in New York City. Just before that book had arrived, Srila Prabhupada had been sitting and talking with Satyavrata, a disciple who had previously stopped coming to the temple due to petty quarreling with his Godbrothers. When the copy of Teachings of Lord Caitanya had arrived, Srila Prabhupada had lovingly inspected it and had then offered it to Satyavrata as a gift.
Brahmananda had been astounded to see Srila Prabhupada give away his only copy of the book. Having helped publish the book, Brahmananda knew how painstakingly Prabhupada had written it and how he had anxiously waited one year for the book to finally see print. Yet once it had arrived, he had immediately given it away, and to a disciple who was not even in good standing. Satyavrata had taken the book, thanked Srila Prabhupada, and left, never to be seen again.
Although Srila Prabhupada wanted his disciples to be as eager to distribute Krishna conscious literature as he was, none of them knew how to do it. Distributing a magazine and asking for a small donation was one thing-but a big, hardbound book? When the entire shipment of Teachings of Lord Caitanya had arrived in New York in April of 1967, the devotees had hired a truck, picked up the books at the dock, and unloaded them at 26 Second Avenue. They had then shipped them to ISKCON centers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Montreal, and elsewhere. And there they remained.
Some devotees had tried placing ads in magazines and leaving books in book stores on consignment. But the books didn't sell. How to sell these big, hardbound books remained a mystery-until something significant happened, an accidental discovery.