Not long after arriving at Portsmouth, I stopped a guy who was wearing a really cool Star Wars t-shirt. His name was Harry, and he will be starting university in Liverpool this year. When I showed him our books, he was immediately intrigued by them and wanted to know more. He decided to take a Beyond Birth and Death, Chant and Be Happy and Veda, for which he gave a generous donation.
He also asked where we were based, so I gave him a leaflet about the Manor. Harry expressed a strong desire to visit the Manor and listened with interest when I mentioned the “Be a Monk” course, which is an opportunity to stay there on a residential basis for seven days.
I wrote down his contact details and then asked where he got the t-shirt from, to which he replied, “I think it’s from Primark.”
I remarked that I might get one for myself, so he said, “Maybe I’ll see you at the Manor and we can wear matching t-shirts!” (I’ve got a feeling that Star Wars merchandise would not be considered acceptable ashram attire, but I thought it would be cruel to take his newfound dream away from him so I didn’t mention that!)
Later, I met a Muslim student who was originally from Algeria. He introduced himself as Toufik, which he said meant “good fortune.” He is currently doing a PhD in English Literature, for which he has to do some university lecturing and write a thesis of at least 80,000 words! I mentioned that I had also been very interested in English Literature at high school but had never taken that interest further.
Toufik said that he did a lot of reading and was very interested to hear about our books. I said that, among other things, they teach one how to live a spiritual lifestyle and develop a peaceful frame of mind, which can help a person regardless of which religion they practise. He was open-minded and accepted that all the major religions are legitimate and can have a very beneficial effect on the lives of those who follow them. The only difference between them, he said, was that they followed different paths. The goal, however, was the same.
In the end, Toufik said that he wouldn’t take any books as he was, understandably, very busy with his PhD. I really enjoyed our conversation and I wish him all the best.
Kṛṣṇa also kindly arranged for books to be distributed to Phillip, who plays cricket to relax; Kyle, who gets stressed out by family issues; Lewis, who gets stressed out by work and university and plays PC games to relax; and Andrea from Romania, who had tried yoga due to back problems but had found that it didn’t help her (hopefully she’ll have more luck with mantra meditation).
Because I find it very difficult to approach people on the streets, I tried to meditate on Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta, Ādi-līlā 14.1, which states, “Things that are very difficult to do become easy to execute if one somehow or other simply remembers Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu. But if one does not remember Him, even easy things become very difficult.”
I focused my mind on Mahāprabhu by singing His names in my head, and I found that this gave me greater confidence to approach people.