ACQUIRE KNOWLEDGE AND ACHIEVE FREEDOM
Yet another in a series of jail programs in Lepoglava, which has been going on for over a year, took place on September 24th. HH Candramauli Swami, Raghunath Prabhu, Dharma-vatsalah Prabhu, Mahatma Prabhu, Bh. Sasha and I were present.
At the prison entrance, a police officer hastily searched our belongings. We were then escorted through a long series of doors, corridors and courtyards until finally we reached a seemingly well-protected building and a small room where the program was to be held.
Only two inmates came, one of them wearing a japa bead-bag around his neck. Both of them have been regularly attending the programs, showing much interest in what the devotees have to share. Not discouraged by the poor attendance, Maharaj mentioned, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura once said, “If no one comes, you should still preach to the walls, our business is to preach never mind the attendance.”
As usual, our program started with bhajan, which brought a smile on the inmates’ faces. The inmate with the bead bag happily sang along, while the other one just looked on with attention, keeping the maha-mantra card we distributed in his pocket.
Candramauli Maharaj then began his lecture speaking about Bhakti as the inherent quality, the true nature, of all living beings. Maharaj explained that the nature of water is liquidity, the nature of sugar is sweet, the nature of fire is warmth and gives light, the inherent nature of the living beings – their main quality – is our connection with God. How to develop this relationship, how to connect with God? Maharaj mentioned two prerequisites: knowledge and practice, he then further elaborated on the importance and value of knowledge, on hearing about the Lord, His form and qualities, stating it expands our consciousness and awakens our Bhakti, love for God
Maharaj went on to speak on how knowledge is connected with the principle of freedom. This proved to be of particular interest to the inmates. He explained that the more we develop spiritual knowledge the more freedom we gain, highlighting it as “the spiritual principle”, opposed to the material principle which perceives freedom as ‘being free from prison walls’. If we are connected with God, we are free from the restrictions of this world. He gave the example of Socrates who was preaching about reincarnation, which was contrary to the principles of Christianity. He was repeatedly being warned and threatened, “Stop or meet death.” Socrates continued, was then arrested and placed and jail and sentenced to death. They ask what should we do with you when die? His response was: “First you have to catch me, but as far as body is concerned you can do whatever you want with it.” If we have the knowledge that we are not our body, we are free even from death. As the saying goes, “Prison walls do not make a prison”, our attachments do. Maharaj introduced the topic of chanting as the means of freeing us from attachments and connecting us with God. He also shared one of his recent realizations about the Holy Name. Maharaj was a passenger in a car driving late at night he fell asleep. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, he woke up and started to chant japa. Minutes later, they managed to avert, what would have been, a big crash. No doubt it was Krsna who woke him up and inspired him to chant the Holy names.
Maharaj told the inmates that they had an advantage in prison – they had lots of free time, and that gives them the opportunity to read and study about God and to chant God’s names. Maharaja’s words prompted a small discussion wherein one of the inmates shared his experiences of reading the Srimad Bhagavatam and discussing it with his fellow cellmate and the other spoke of what he felt like on different occasions while chanting.
Maharaj asked us devotees to share some thoughts and realizations on the process of Krsna Consciousness. Three of us spoke, each for a few minutes, trying to share some small realizations and encouraging them to stay fixed and continue to give time and heart to this most amazing and rewarding spiritual process.
The program ended with a short bhajan led by Raghunath Prabhu. Before leaving, the inmates took a book each from the book table. Filled with words of gratitude for the continuous prison programs. It was the main thing which kept them going.
We left with happiness in our hearts, for being able to bring some light and joy into their lives, seeing it reflected in their hope-filled eyes.
Nitya-kisori devi dasi