By Akruranatha das
On April 22-25, 2009, at a convention center just outside Washington, D.C., members of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) met for their annual national convention and trade show. Amid the booths of vendors of furniture, ice machines, accounting software, and just about everything else related to the hospitality industry, stood a booth of a different kind, in which a group of earnest volunteers passed out copies of Bhagavad-Gita and made a humble request to the assembled hotel and motel owners: “Please let us provide copies of Bhagavad-Gita to place in your rooms alongside the Gideons Bibles.”
The volunteers were members of Pancajanya Project (www.MotelGita.org), a branch of ISKCON dedicated to placing at least 1 million Bhagavad-Gitas in guest rooms across the U.S. and Canada. By making these sacred books available to millions of travelers who might not otherwise buy or examine them, not only the readers but everyone involved will be immensely benefitted.
“Wherever there is Krishna and Arjuna there is opulence, victory, power and morality”, says Vaisesika Dasa, president of ISKCON”s Silicon Valley temple in San Jose, California, and visionary of the Pancajanya Project. “Whoever reads one verse, one line, or even touches one of these books will have an opportunity to achieve perfection in life and meet Lord Krishna face to face.”
The Project started when Dilip Patel, owner of Sea Breeze Motel in Pacifica, California, began placing Gitas in his own rooms. A faithful devotee of Bhagavad-Gita and its universal message, even he was surprised at the favorable reaction and comments he received from many of his non-Hindu guests.
In April of 2008, Patel teamed up with Milan Doshi and began approaching other motel owners in the San Francisco area. By 2009 they had placed Gitas in over 10,000 rooms in California, and the response was they got was tremendous. Meanwhile, on the other coast, Rohini Nandana of ISKCON”s Boston temple had been independently inspired to distribute Gitas to motel owners in his area.
“Something like 60% of the economy lodgings in the United States are now owned by Indian Americans, primarily Gujarati Patels,” Rohini Nandana explains. “This gives the owners a unique opportunity to spread the wisdom and glorious message of Krishna throughout the country. We are finding that many of the owners we contact have been waiting for an organized effort such as this one and are showering their blessings on this Project.”
Gitas have been supplied to motels of numerous chains including Days Inn, Econolodge, Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, Motel 6, Super 8 and many more. Guests at these motels frequently express their gratitude and interest in the Bhagavad-Gitas provided in the rooms. Nilesh Patel, manager of a Super 8 in Sacramento, California, writes: “I often see guests coming in for breakfast with Bhagavad-Gita in hand and reading it while they are in the lobby or in the reception room. It is satisfying to know that I have contributed in spreading this knowledge.”
Taking a booth at the national AAHOA convention in April marked a concentrated effort by ISKCON’s Pancajanya Project to expand operations throughout the U.S. and Canada. The experience was very encouraging. Convention organizers offered to support the Project in the future. Many motel owners expressed their happiness to see this Project developing. Over 12,000 confirmed orders were taken at the convention, and contacts were made with owners who could potentially order twice that many in the near future. Pancajanya Project plans to attend future national AAHOA conventions and also regional conventions throughout the year, as well as meetings of other organizations.
Several motel owners not only ordered books for their rooms, but offered to personally take Project members to other friendly motels to encourage them to order as well. With orders for nearly 30,000 books and counting, the goal of placing 1 million Bhagavad-Gitas seems quite realistic.
Giving the opportunity to so many ordinary Americans to contact Lord Krishna in their motel rooms will have profound positive effects, promoting cross-cultural understanding and spiritual awareness. Many will respond like one California guest named Terrance, who wrote: “I got my first Gita in a hotel room and ever since I read the first verse my life has been ever-increasingly in Krishna consciousness. Life is a journey back to Krishna. Peace.”
Pancajanya Project organizers anticipate the need to accommodate exponential growth, as this appears to truly be “an idea whose time has come.” “We request all motel owners to not only place the Gitas but to also encourage friends and relatives to do so,” says founding member Milan Doshi. “We expect to organize regional chapters to contact and meet the needs of motels in their local areas. Many volunteers are welcome.”
In addition, funds are needed to print and ship the books, and to supply advertising and promotional materials. Many, but not all motel owners are contributing the cost of the Gitas for their own rooms. Many more are waiting to receive books when funds become available to pay the cost of publication and shipping.
Pancajanya Project organizers request everyone to visit http://www.MotelGita.org and to contact Milan Doshi, (510) 962-2203 (email@example.com), Rohini Nandana, (617) 233-9567 (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Dilip Patel (650) 369-3903, to find out more about the Project and how they can assist this historical effort.