„Would you like to be a book for an evening at our library?“ This was the unusual invitation I received some time ago. I wasn’t sure what it means to be a book, but I certainly liked the idea. I love books! So why not be a book myself?!
“The event should give people a chance to interact with persons they would otherwise never meet and in this way reduce prejudice they might have”, explained Simone, the organizer of the event ‚Living Library‘. “Instead of borrowing a book about a certain topic, the visitors of this special library can borrow a real living person for a private conversation. For our next event, we already have a farmer, an adoptive father, a person with chronic depression, a refugee, a tiny house dweller, and an artist. In addition, we thought it would be great to also have a Hare Krishna in our ‚book collection‘!“
I agreed and once the event took place, I found myself on a "bookshelf" and was “read” by several people that evening. I got to a great variety of customers who wanted to “read me”. Amongst them was, for example, Erika and Christoph, an elderly couple in their sixties, who mentioned Osho and their trips to Nepal. Then there was a young man, who was trying to get a clearer understanding of the difference between Buddhism and Hinduism. Another person was Olivia, a woman who turned out to be a student of theology.
Here are some of the questions that came up in the conversations: “How did your spiritual journey begin?”, “What inspired you to live such a life?”, “Do the daily religious rituals ever become boring?”, “Do you plan to spend your whole life like this?”, “How does a day at the Temple look like?”, “Did you ever doubt your belief?", “What's the meaning of your orange robe“?, “How do you experience God?”
Every conversation was unique and I tried to share as much Krishna Consciousness as I could. Once again, I was able to experience the dynamic between the speaker and listener: the more sincere and inquisitive the listener was, the more profound and meaningful my answers were. I felt like a fish in water. If I'm allowed to share my realizations in Krishna Consciousness, I thrive. So being a book was a great experience for me. It was nice to see how open people are and how everyone is somehow looking for a deeper meaning in life.
On my way back to the temple that evening, I reflected on the concept of being a living book. A Chinese proverb says: “Open a book and the book opens you!“ In other words, knowledge has the power of transformation, especially transcendental knowledge from Shastra, Holy Scriptures. After reading a spiritual text, we reflect on what we read, try to understand the content deeper, and contemplate about it. After offering prayers for empowerment, we then try to apply this knowledge in our day-to-day life. The more we apply it, the more we become like a living book, not in the sense of just knowing a lot, but in the sense of living our lives according to the teachings of the scriptures. A person who has attained perfection is then called a bhakta Bhāgavata, a sadhu who leads his life in terms of the book Bhāgavata. Only by the mercy of the bhakta Bhāgavata can the true meaning of the book Bhāgavata be revealed unto us. Therefore, it is said “nityam bhagavata sevaya”, we should serve the Bhāgavata daily; the book as well as the person! That’s the true living book, and we are meant not only to serve such a bhakta Bhāgavata but become such a “living book” ourselves one day!
Another way to look at this concept is the following: At this point in time, we might still be far away from being a living book in the sense of a bhakta Bhāgavata, but we are a living book in another sense. We all write the script of our lives by our thoughts, our desires, and the kind of decisions we take every day or as the famous saying goes: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”
We are all living books. We all have a unique story to tell. What’s the title of your book?
Organiser in Zurich: https://livinglibrary.ch