Shyamlal and Danakeli distributing books at the local Ahimsa Festival.
In the quaint villages and bustling towns of Norfolk, a retired couple, Shyamlal Prabhu and Danakeli Mataji, have embarked on a remarkable 175,000-mile book distribution journey in the last seven years, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of the local community. This initiative, driven by their deep devotion to Srila Prabhupada’s mission and guided by the instruction of their spiritual mentor, serves as a shining example of dedicated service within the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) community.
Their journey into Krishna consciousness was tailor-made, as Shyamlal initially resisted the movement, while Danakeli embraced it wholeheartedly. Shyamlal’s transformation is a testament to the power of spiritual influence, as he recalls the pivotal moment when, during a chance encounter in a lift, he found himself saying “Hare Krishna” to two devotees. Little did he know that this seemingly simple interaction would set the course for a life-changing spiritual journey.
Shyamlal candidly shares his initial resistance to Krishna consciousness, admitting that it took years for the teachings to resonate with him. However, a fortuitous encounter during the festival of Janmashtami, where he learned the essence of the Bhagavad Gita in a matter of minutes, became the turning point. His steadfast devotion grew, leading him to approach Kripamoya Das for initiation. That decision marked the beginning of their dedicated service.
The couple’s service took a quest-like form – book distribution through a humble table. Shyamlal recalled the inception of this innovative idea, “And, on the day of the initiation, following the ceremony, we joyously danced around the yajna, and devotees generously contributed lakshmi for guru dakshina. On that auspicious day, we managed to collect £169. Excitedly, we presented the offering to our guru, saying, ‘Here is what we collected, Maharaj.’ Graciously, he responded with gratitude and handed the lakshmi right back to us. With a warm smile, he stated, ‘This is the one service I require of you. Take this lakshmi, purchase books, and go distribute them in service to my beloved guru maharaj, Srila Prabhupada.’ And so, our journey into book distribution began.”
Their book distribution efforts extended beyond Norfolk, reaching villages and towns in six different counties, covering the entire East Anglia region. The couple’s dedication knew no bounds as they ventured into Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, and Kent. Shyamlal Prabhu emphasized, “We started to go to all the little villages, and then when we found that we covered most of Norfolk, we then started to branch out.”
Their unwavering commitment to the service of book distribution has been challenging. Both Shyamlal Prabhu and Danakeli Mataji battled serious health issues, including cancer. Despite these hurdles, they pressed on, motivated by their love for Guru, Srila Prabhupada, and Krishna. Shyamlal shares, “So, you know, it’s not been easy at times, but we still do it.”
The impact of their service grows around distributing books and extends to transforming lives. They recall encounters with individuals struggling with drug addiction, homelessness, and even contemplating suicide. Through their outreach, these individuals found solace and support, eventually becoming devoted practitioners of Krishna consciousness.
Danakeli shared a heartening story, “We encountered an individual who was deeply immersed in a challenging life, struggling with drug addiction, living on the streets, and facing various forms of abuse. Initially, she was hesitant and unwilling to accept a book. Expressing concerns about affordability, she resisted taking one. In response, I assured her that payment was unnecessary. We encouraged her to take the book, read it at her own pace, and shared our contact details, emphasizing that she could reach out to us anytime. She has since become a devotee and is part of our Hare Krishna family.”
The simplicity of their book table ministry, born out of the desire to share Krishna consciousness, has inspired many others. Shyamlal reflects on its impact, “So it’s surprising. You never know who you’re going to meet or who you are going to help along the way…just approach everyone indiscriminately.”
December Marathon Encouragement!
As the December Marathon, a significant period of heightened book distribution, unfolds, Shyamlal Prabhu and Danakeli Mataji extend a heartfelt call to the larger ISKCON community. Shyamlal urged devotees to “get out there and be inspired and please your guru, please Lord Chaitanya, please Krishna, go out there and distribute books!”
Shyamlal and Danakeli’s seven-year journey of book distribution stands as a testament to the transformative power of Krishna consciousness and the tireless efforts of two dedicated souls. Their humble table, laden with spiritual wisdom, has become a beacon of light, touching hearts and fostering a deeper connection to spirituality within the communities they serve. As they continue their service, their story serves as an inspiration for devotees worldwide to embrace the timeless tradition of sharing the message of Lord Krishna through the distribution of sacred texts.
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