Here at 3,600 feet. Deep within the mountains of West Virginia. Spring has come late this year. It’s where I have lived out the uncompromising reality of my life for the past nearly thirty years. Within a cell smaller even than the tiniest hotel room. With dull grey walls trimmed in white. Where each day I ask myself… What have I done with my life. This life. What will be the final tally of my deeds?
Bhakta Tim, a former inmate, was recently released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Rochester, Minnesota — but not before planting over thirty Tulasis and establishing worship of the sacred plant there. See the full article in ISKCON News.
Download the IPM newsletter, September / October 2013: IPM News 9/10 2013
My favourite essay speech craft lecture I often have told at the Toastmasters International Assembly speaking engagements is the transformative story I tell of a person misunderstood to be the exact opposite of who he really is in throwing the “mocking bird” out with the bath water in truth.
The story begins with myself as I am standing on the perimeter roadside of the passing traffic on a busy roadway near a cliff ledge, where an avalanche has taken the roadway all the way down the very steep high cliff mountainous deep valley.
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,
We carry out counseling services in batches on a weekly basis. The inmates whom we counsel are those sentenced on a short term, long term, life imprisonment & death sentences. Inmates are free to choose, which religious counseling they would want. We have counselors from various religions such as Christian, Roman Catholic, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu. We come under Hindu counseling. Within Hindusism there are few different groups doing counseling at the prison, preaching the various types of philosophy like Mayavada, Sai Baba, etc. Currently, we have a team of 8 counselors who are Krishna Conscious devotees doing this seva. The prisons provides us with fully air conditioned counseling rooms, overhead projectors, DVD players, PC facilities and TV monitors for us to use. We use this equipment in our counseling session.