Penitentiary in Glina; August 26, 2014


HH Candramauli Swami, Raghunath Prabhu, Bhakta Domagoj and I made up a small group of devotees who visited Glina Penitentiary.Yet another in a series of jail programs, very nicely organized by Mahasimha Prabhu,head of the Prison Preaching Programs in Croatia. We met at the foot of the high and massive prison walls, which seemingly separates the “free” from the “confined”.

While waiting for the shift change, we watched the personnel going in and out, many of them greeted us cordially. After coming through the gate into a small corridor and ongoing the normal routine checks a police officer escorted us into the prison compound, where the program was to be held. While walking through the courtyard, we were recognized by a group of inmates in the distance, who greeted us happily their arms high in the air.

We were then lead into an empty spacious lecture hall with neatly arranged tables and chairs – appropriate for the dissemination of knowledge. The officer who escorted us into the hall curiously enquired about the meaning of the tilaka markings on the forehead. He listened attentively and appreciated the explanation. Shortly after that, five inmates entered the room, amongst them Tarana Caitanya, an initiated devotee. The men were all young and innocent looking.There was a feeling of uncertainty about them, but also one of anticipation of what was to come.

We started the program with bhajans, this opening was different. After some persuasion and encouragement from us, Tarana Caitanya agreed to lead the opening bhajan playing the harmonium, the rest of us accompanying him on mridanga and karatals.We didn’t bring mantra cards, so we gave each of inmate a copy of the Definitive Guide for Practicing Krishna Consciousness in Prison, to the page which displayed the mahamantra. This worked well, as during the bhajan they could at times be seen inquisitively going through the pages of the book,. Before starting to sing, Tarana Caitanya shortly explained the meaning of the maha-mantra and its effects. Even though he had not touched a harmonium for over a year, as he had told us before agreeing to play, the moment he touched the instrument, his fingers appeared to move by themselves, carried by something greater than himself. He sang a beautiful melody and the transcendental sound seemed to resonate far beyond the prison walls. Tarana Caitanya’s fellow inmates looked very amused and appreciative of the fact that their “buddy” was “in the spotlight”. One of them, the only one who had already attended jail preaching programs before, was singing along with confidence while another inmate was shyly opening his mouth reading the names from the book.

After the bhajan, Candramauli Maharaj began the lecture.Maharaja opened by speaking of God, Krishna, as Bhagavan, One who has all opulences, completely and perfectly. He went on to briefly explain each opulence and how these are eagerly sought after people in this world. The subject instantly caught the attention of the inmates, whose demeanor slowly changed as they attentively listened to everything Maharaj said, who then further explained that a person could have one or more of the opulences, but only to a certain extent, while God has all six of them in full, completely and perfectly. Therefore, the best and lasting way to access these opulences is by connecting with God. In continuation, Maharaj talked about God’s different energies, both spiritual and material, and the real spiritual nature of living beings, clearly wanting to make them aware of the importance of true knowledge, and the fact that it goes far beyond material power. Maharaj illustrated this point with a nice analogy of a rabbit outsmarting a more powerful lion, which the inmates found both interesting and amusing. In the third and final part of the lecture, Maharaj connected everything he had previously said to the knowledge about the Holy Names,the transcendental sound which they vibrated, as the completely spiritual medium which opens our heart, elevates the consciousness and finally connects us with God and His opulences.

After the lecture, Maharaj invited the inmates to ask questions. Initially they appeared shy then Maharaj asked us to say a few words recounting in a couple of sentences our experiences in the movement. Bhakta Domagoj stressed the benefits and rarity of being in the association of a saintly person and really encouraged the inmates to make use of this opportunity and ask anything they liked. One of them finally decided to break the ice and began asking a few questions. He was interested to know where we all lived and how we earned a living. Maharaj answered explaining to him different asrams within Vedic culture and their individual duties in the society. The same inmate asked further if there were any temples in Zagreb,in Croatia.

We concluded with a short bhajan, that pervaded the room with the sweet sounds of its transcendental melody. Finally, we showed them the books we brought, they immediately showed interest recognizing their value pursuit of a better life.They took two sets of five different books, deciding to share them amongst themselves. They thanked us for coming and left in high spirits, expressing the desire to see us again in the future.We left with the feeling of gratitude for being tiny instruments of Krishna’s mercy to these God-hungry souls, leaving them with a simple, yet deep message: Connect with Krishna and tear down the prison walls of material life!

Nitya-kisori devi dasi

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