Dandavat pranams, all glories to Srila Prabhupada
Last year I lost my best friend to cancer and all in all it made me appreciate Prabhupada’s books in a way I haven’t before. I have always been attracted to book distribution but only realized the importance of Prabhupad’s books on a personal level when I lost my friend. In the cold hospital environment having access to Prabhupada’s books would have been the beacon of comfort that we would have appreciated. However in the hospital that he stayed there were none of Prabhupada’s books to be found. My friend and I spoke about placing Prabhupada’s books everywhere so that they are available for all, especially those that are experiencing difficult times in their life.
We have been working on Hospitals, airports and prisons. Recently after months of trying to contact the right person, Krishna arranged for a meeting with the Chaplain of the London Prisons. He invited me to spend an afternoon at Wormwood Scrubs.
At Wormwood Scrubs there are approx 40 Hindu prisoners and I had the opportunity to see the prison inside out (the kitchen, solitary, high-security prisoners, prison cells, etc) and was even locked up in a cell for 5 minutes. Meeting the prisoners was quite an experience. They had all come to attend the ‘Hindu’ service and, I gave prasad and a copy of “Krishna, reservoir of pleasure” to each of them.
One young man stood out in particular. He looked at the back of the book and pointed to a picture of Srila Prabhupada. He said he had seen him (his murti) in the temple as a young boy. He looked at the picture with the expression one can only have when they have found a long lost loved one.
Throughout the service and after when the inmates were given some time talk to each other, he sat alone and read the book. I approached him and he expressed how he had wanted to read the Gita for so long and that everything in this book was making sense. We looked at the soul passing through the body picture and talked.
He then became quiet and said “God really is omnipotent and omnipresent” He pointed to the words in the book. You could see he had just experienced that beautiful moment when a soul feels touched by the Lord’s grace because he had been desiring a copy of the Bhagavad Gita and here it was.
We spoke about the Lord always being with him, outside and inside the cell. We spoke about the lord’s grace and that he is never alone. Seeing him connect with Prabhupad was simply wonderful.
The trip really made me think; prison isn’t just the bars and building that hold us in, we all live in some kind of prison. The key is to learn to be mindful of the invisible prison that binds us and pray with that desperate kind of helplessness that comes with truly knowing that we are not in control.
So in Wormwood Scrubs a total of…60 Gitas (for prisoners, library, multi-faith prayer rooms), 20 small books, 40 Krishna – Reservoir of Pleasure have been delivered. The Chaplain also wants more Gitas in different languages which have been ordered.
There is great opportunity to connect here and am waiting to hear from the Chaplain. I have requested if I can take some devotees with me next time. He feels that the greatest help he needs is to befriend/mentor these people so they do not re-offend/have hope etc. I am waiting to hear from him how this could be taken forward. I have spoken to some devotees who would be more than happy to write letters even if they cannot visit. Having seen the conditions I can see how even this would make such a difference to these people’s lives.
The Chaplain has agreed for all prisons in London to take Prabhupada’s books and I am just waiting to hear back if I can take some devotees with me next time.
Dandavat Pranams Maharaj,