Bhakti-lata Dasi's Posts (34)

Inmate Letter Excerpts

I was convicted and sentenced to ‘life plus 60 years in prison! I never stopped chanting the entire time I was there, I was strong in Kṛṣṇa Consciousness up until I heard them say ‘guilty’ and sentence me, then my entire mind, thoughts, actions ‘FROZE UP.’ Although I knew that the ENTIRE trial process was UNLAWFUL. I couldn’t chant, eat, or sleep for days. It took some Christian guy to remind me of the story of Job in the Bible to bring me back to reality. I accept Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, but you know, a lot of people see me chanting etc. and assume it’s witchcraft because it’s ‘DIFFERENT’ from their belief. Recalling the story of Job was all I needed to remind me of KRSNA’s omnipotence. Now I’m sure I will find stories similar to Job in ‘KRSNA BOOK’ you sent (THANKS) which definitely predate Biblical stories.
I am now back to Devotional Service and done thinking that KRSNA has rejected me as His servant. I met another Bhakta, actually, he is the 1st Bhakta I’ve ever met in person, named ‘Fernando’. He knows you and told me to tell you we met. He is here with me, but in another dorm. I had the Kṛṣṇa book in my hand and he saw it and came over to me and said “Prabhupada’. I smiled ear to ear, amazed to finally meet someone who not only was familiar, but also a devotee.
Mario S.
Pelham, Georgia

I have received all the books. I have been so eager to devour the knowledge within them. I have been reading constantly for the past two days. I was so happy to receive them. Thank you so very much. I grew up studying mysticism and esoteric topics. So a couple years ago when I ran across the teachings of Kṛṣṇa I was naturally drawn. I’ve recently finished my full memorization of the Bhagavad-gita in English. I can’t easily pronounce the Sanskrit, though I hope to one day.
Dale S.D.
Oglethorpe, Georgia

Dear Devotees,
Please accept our humble obeisances.
All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

We are in receipt of your blessing and exceedingly humbled by your spirit of generosity. Thank you for exhibiting the mercy of Lord Kṛṣṇa in the contribution of the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta book set; the greatest literary gem of India. This Sri Caitanya-caritamrta set is now the crown jewel addition to our Eastern Religion library. We are aspiring devotees and your gift of the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta with its instructive value will enrich our practice and assist us in our service. You have set the perfect example in following Srila Prabhupada’s foremost decree, “distribute my books.” By faithfully following Srila Prabhupada’s instructions, you are helping in the spreading of Kṛṣṇa consciousness to those who are the most misfortunate and in great need of this spiritual science. Srila Prabhupada must be very proud of you and more than pleased with your commitment to service. Our sincere appreciation and we thank you for the gift of the Sri Caitanya-caritamrta book set. We offer our prayers for the continued blessings and mercy of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Kṛṣṇa to be upon this ministry and upon every devotee dedicated to the sankirtan mission-JAYA!
In His service,
Your humble servants, the Devotees of the Eastern Religion Service
Bhakta Daniel,
Bhakta Charlee,
Bhakta Brian,
Bhakta Rolan,
—Tennessee Colony, Texas

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NOTE:
This article is only a part of IPM NEWS, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter. To read whole issues, please go to: iskconprisonministry.org
If you wish to receive it in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.
More excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork are available on our website at: iskconprisonministry.org

 

                                    ************************************************************
WANT TO HELP?


3 Donation Options:


1) Send check or postal money order to:
ISKCON Prison Ministry
PO Box 2676
Alachua, FL 32616


2) Donate through PayPal at: www.paypal.me/IPM


3) For automatic, monthly donations, you can do so on our website (with the PayPal button), or through your bank “Automatic Bill Pay” option, which is free and easy.
We can send you a tax deductible receipt at the moment of the donation or at the end of the year, as you wish.


ISKCON Prison Ministry
PO Box 2676
Alachua, FL 32616
IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com
IskconPrisonMinistry.org

BELOW: Artwork from Bhakta Jason B.- Inmate in Graceville, Florida.7832126088?profile=RESIZE_710x

Read more…

iskconprisonministry.org

 

     After years of dreaming of a better, more modern IPM website for the pleasure of Srila Prabhupada, today it finally manifested. I felt like crying out of joy! Kṛṣṇa helped me make this desire a reality by inspiring Svarbhanu prabhu to embrace this project as his service. I am so very grateful to him.

     For the very first time, all of the inmates’ artwork is beautifully displayed and easily accessible to all of you. You can double click on any drawing or painting to enlarge it and read which inmate created it. A most wonderful website! J

     All of the inmates’ writing is similarly easy and pleasant to browse through. 

     This website is a splendid vehicle to share all of the prison ministry preaching nectar with all of you. I pray you will derive inspiration from it and take pleasure in exploring it!

Your servant, Bhakti-latā Dasi

http://https://iskconprisonministry.org/

 

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Devotional Service is most important to me

 

By Inmate David B.

 

Dear Mother Bhakti- Lata,

Please accept my humble obeisances.  All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

I received the ten BTGs’ you sent me as the mail room guy knows me now and said he will look out for me since the other staff in there are lazy and inmate haters- [especially when they are] non-Christians.  I can definitely share the extra BTGs as. I find that many people are more willing to read magazines at first than the Bhagavad-gita.

Ujjvala Das had been coming regularly again until just a few weeks ago, when he was taking a few weeks off.  He kindly loaned me his kartals and, on the weeks he was gone, I was able to lead the service, involving lessons such as the one on Lord Nrsimha’s appearance. That day I read the story of His appearance and the attendees and I discussed the importance of this pastime.  I also lead kirtan and then Lord Nrsimha’s prayer, which some of them tried to sing with me.  We also worked on learning a text from the Bhagavad-gita and the importance of that text.  I have also gotten the one aspiring devotee to come out on the recreation yard on Sunday mornings to do kirtan.

On Lord Nrsimha’s appearance day I fasted until dusk, led the service at the chapel, and then came back and made cherry cheesecake, kitchari, potatoes, and a fruit salad with homemade yogurt, which I offered to the Lord and His associates before sharing the prasadam with the aspiring devotee and many others in my living unit. I have moved out of the mental health unit as a mentor and the aspiring devotee is still a part of that unit. I am so grateful that Kṛṣṇa allowed me to give such a nice service.  I also broke fast with not only the offerings but also by singing His song, Lord Nrsimha’s pranayama, and mantra.  It is the best I could do in the circumstances, but it felt right.

So, I quit my job here after doing some serious introspection and listening to Kṛṣṇa’s subtle signs.  I am able to devote more time to my devotional service whereas I was stagnating in the mentor job and the unit situation created problems with me practicing devotional service, which is most important to me above all.  I still struggle at times with my devotional service as you can see in my [written] realizations and it can be tough at times, surrounded by so many meat-eating selfish ignorant souls; their energy can sometimes get to me. I also know how my energy gets to them too [in a positive way] and I see the possibilities of being immersed in such groups, but it still tough for a non-pure devotee like myself.  I also long for the association with other devotees and that is what I speak of when I mention loneliness from association because I am the only serious aspiring devotee in this facility and, while blessed with another aspiring devotee here, I long to associate with more advanced devotees than myself.  Ujjvala does his best considering the situation and I always look forward to those moments each week when he is able to come.  I just wrote back to Śrutadeva a few days ago and am grateful for his association as well.

Yes, I chant twenty rounds a day, but not purely, as I find sometimes my mind wandering even when recalling Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes, sadly enough.  Sometimes I manage a few pure- non offensive rounds but it varies daily as I have yet to develop pure taste.  I do find though that many times I am sad when I finish my rounds, as I want to keep going; yet, while chanting the rounds I struggle.  Go figure.

As to my practices of offering arati; because at the moment I am limited, I offer prayer oil on a Q-tip instead of incense, and a handheld light for the ghee lamp, as that is the best I can do for those items. However, I am able to also offer water, a flower/ leaf/ plant, a handkerchief, and a feather for a fan.  I also do the prayers, Prema-dhvani, prayers to Lord Nrsimha, and even the Tulasi puja.  The Tulasi puja I sing three different prayers and mentally offer the various items and circumambulation focusing on a Tulasi plant I cared for before going to prison and such.  I always chant Sri Sri Guruvastaka in the early morning as part of the service.  At 7:00 AM, I do guru puja after greeting the deities [pictures] by singing the Sri Brahma Samhita, I also offer Them nice eatables for breakfast such as fresh fruit, oatmeal, and nuts.  It is not perfect temple standards but I am trying. [I pray that] resolving some of the issues with the BOP [Bureau of Prison] will happen so I can increase the standards.

 

P.S.: The homemade Indian food I make in here [David is allowed in the kitchen], is very popular.  I never eat the chow hall [cafeteria] food and make all my own from uncooked food items.  It is great for spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness and Kṛṣṇa’s mercy.  A guy here had a laddu (super popular in here) yesterday and was telling everyone else to have one and how they were “Hare Kṛṣṇa balls” (his exact words). He began telling how great Hare Kṛṣṇa people are, his time around the Dallas temple as a kid, his remembrance of these “balls” being just like these, etc.  I was smiling the whole time and answering questions in between.  Mind you, he is a big, physically imposing, illegal Mexican drug dealer and gang member with tattoos all over his body—even his face.  Yet, he lit up like that little child he once was and “infected” those around him with that energy as the laddus I made quickly disappeared.  He is another one who, when he sees me, he does the Pranams hands and says “Hare Kṛṣṇa” to me.  I smile and offer Pranams and say “Hare Kṛṣṇa” to [him, who is] another jivatma, and to Kṛṣṇa who resides as the Paramatma in all of us.  Jaya Kṛṣṇa!

 

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NOTE:
This article is only a part of IPM NEWS, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter. To read whole issues, please go to: http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/

If you wish to receive it in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

More excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork are available on our website at: www.iskconprisonministry.org

 

************************************************************

WANT TO HELP?

3 Donation Options


1) Send check or postal money order to:
ISKCON Prison Ministry
PO Box 2676
Alachua, FL 32616


2) Donate through PayPal at: www.paypal.me/IPM


3) For automatic, monthly donations, you can do so on our website (with the PayPal button), or through your bank “Automatic Bill Pay” option, which is free and easy.
We can send you a tax deductible receipt at the moment of the donation or at the end of the year, as you wish.

ISKCON Prison Ministry
PO Box 2676
Alachua, FL 32616


IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com
www.IskconPrisonMinistry.org

 

Read more…

ISKCON PRISON MINISTRY

APPRECIATING KṚṢṆA AND HIS DEVOTEE

By Bhakta Seged

     To write about the devotee who corresponds with me is an honor and a humbling effort as I do not believe myself worthy to write and discuss Reverend Rambhoru. She is gracious, patient and has a heart of pure gold. Our very first connection by mail was of a familial tone and nature. Her letter was written to me as though I was a longtime devotee. This began a teacher/friend relationship over three years ago. Not so long, but spiritually and soulfully enriching.

     At the time I was just finishing a Bhakti correspondence course and I was sad that it had ended. My response to Reverend Ram's letter was respectful, humble and the beginning of a new teaching/learning experience of understanding the modes of material nature and how our attachments bind us to them. Most important for me was learning that the teachings of scripture are both a guide and a mirror for me.

     In my first letter to Rambhoru I pictured myself in terms of the introduction of the Bhagavad Gita, e.g., "I was born in the darkest of ignorance and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torchlight of knowledge." My letter began this way because I saw Rambhoru as a spiritual teacher and friend. At this time, I was also studying Buddhism so I asked Rambhoru if it was okay if I continued to learn from her at the same time. She said it was acceptable. In my mind at the time, the two doctrines were like brothers (twins). But, Ram set me straight. The similarities in doctrine are slight and the closest similarities are that they both emerged from India.

     The most important question I asked Rambhoru was this, "Please make clear what the Absolute Truth is." Ram gave me an actual lecture to read, not just a text book, and also shared her realizations about trial, error, successes and failures of herself and others. The Bhagavad-Gita helped me understand that the Absolute Truth has several features. ‘The Absolute Truth is expressed as Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. These are divine aspects that are similar to the sun. The sun planet, the sun surface and the sunshine. One who studies the sunshine is a preliminary student. Someone studying the sun surface is advanced further. And finally, one who can enter the sun planet is the highest. This is all expressed in terms of learning and knowledge. I, myself am still at the preliminary stage. A fault, a flaw of my own.


      I am learning that the ‘seers of the truth have concluded that of the non-existent there is no endurance, and of the existent, there is no cessation. The seers have concluded by studying the nature of both.


      My hope is to eventually become a wise person, as the Gita describes, who engage himself fully in devotional service by taking refuge in the Lord. In this way, I hope to free myself from the cycle of birth and death by renouncing the fruits of my actions. In this way, I can attain a state beyond all miseries.
Bhakta Seged
San Quentin, California

                                                                    *********************************
NOTE:
This article is just a part of IPM NEWS, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter. To read whole issues, please go to: http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/

If you wish to receive it in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

More excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork are available on our website at: www.iskconprisonministry.org

                                                      ************************************************************

WANT TO HELP?

3 Donation Options:


1) Send check or postal money order to:
ISKCON Prison Ministry
PO Box 2676
Alachua, FL 32616


2) Donate through PayPal at: www.paypal.me/IPM


3) For automatic, monthly donations, you can do so on our website (with the PayPal button), or through your bank “Automatic Bill Pay” option, which is free and easy.


We can send you a tax deductible receipt at the moment of the donation or at the end of the year, as you wish.

ISKCON Prison Ministry
PO Box 2676
Alachua, FL 32616
IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com
www.IskconPrisonMinistry.org

Read more…

ISKCON Prison Ministry

article by inmate Bhakta David [Excerpts from  two of his letters]

 

Dear Mother Bhakti-lata,

 

Hare Kṛṣṇa! My most humble obeisances to you. Jaya Srila Prabhupada!

 

 I am so very grateful for all the books you sent me and I wish there was more time in the day, but I try to read at least fifty pages each day from a few of them. I am learning and enjoying the process so much! I actually find that now I crave reading this Kṛṣṇa conscious material over the mundane. Still, I am but an infant and have very far to go.

 

Ujjvala Dasa has been able to come to this prison for about a month now and his association is most wonderful! We have a nice program on Thursdays, during our scheduled weekly time in the chapel. I know he says he is new to this role but he is deeply sincere and passionate as well as humble and honest. I am learning much from his association and while I am a bumbling fool, he helps guide me patiently, sometimes sternly if need be, in pronunciation and rhythm of the bhajans. I look forward to and yearn for his next visit so I can learn more.

I still write to Śrutadeva Dasa and enjoy his association as well. He puts a lot of time into his correspondence and teachings and I relish reading his letters. We have a great relationship and I will be sure to ask him questions, like I do with Ujjvala. I really like both of them.

 

I have sent you three paintings. Thank you again for everything; your service to Kṛṣṇa helps so many of us leave our erroneous path of foolishness and find our way back to Him. I deeply and humbly thank you and the work Kṛṣṇa does through you and all the other volunteers.

 

Yes, I do have access to the Srimad-Bhagavatam and Caitanya-caritamrta you so generously donated to the chapel library, along with all the other literature. I am currently reading Srimad-Bhagavatam, third Canto, volume three and I love it. I want to finish Srimad-Bhagavatam at least once before starting Caitanya-Caritamrta. I really look forward to it! Thank you for providing such divine nectar. It is truly wonderful!

 

I gave the book Chasing Rhinos with the Swami (by Syamasundara Dasa) to Ujjvala so he could pass it on to another prison devotee he thought would like it. I loved it, but I knew I could not keep it, as I want others to enjoy it like I did. My mother is still reading her own copy that she bought on her Kindle.

 

I did indeed watch all the DVDs you so kindly donated and really enjoyed them. I plan on watching them all again soon as I am able to do so; perhaps on a day Ujjvala cannot make it up here.

It is bitter sweet the association with Ujjvala because of the restricted environment, but still I relish whatever time we do get; it helps me remember the deepest need I feel to give service to all of you devotees of Kṛṣṇa and to encourage others in here to have a relationship with Him.

Daily I am talking to others in here about Kṛṣṇa Consciousness and some are interested although not as much as Bhakta Justin was when I first got him to try it. I am not at all discouraged; like Srila Prabhupada said, ‘it is like selling a diamond.’ Yet, I know it is worth the price and will keep trying.

 

The chaplain services here (and in many other prisons) have been problematic and at times downright against accommodating persons of our faith. But I do my own devotional programs outside of the chapel as best I can and only go there to check out one of the books or view one of the DVDs you donated and to associate with Ujjvala when he is able to drive the distance to come up here. I know I am not alone in this struggle either. I saw in the prison ministry newsletter that fellow bhaktas I know from the Petersburg prison are filing a suit against the BOP (Bureau of Prison) on some of these issues....

I just keep doing my best to serve Kṛṣṇa and His devotees and to not focus too much on all the problems. I observe all the Holy days and Ekadasi days the best I can by doing deity worship, bhajan, offering arati, etc. I follow the regulative principles and chant japa. I do all this as though I was initiated and no one bothers me anymore on any of it. In fact, usually it is now curiosity that comes up, such as asking about my altar; it gives me a chance to expose them to Kṛṣṇa Consciousness. Hopefully these conversations with others will help them find their relationship with Kṛṣṇa again.

 

Even though I must be austere and eat out of my locker by buying from the commissary (instead of going to the chow hall), at least I am able to offer bhoga and take prasadam; in this way I can work within a non-accommodating and illegal system without making too many waves. I tried to fight that system and got nowhere and my only option that way is to take it to court.

Right now I am managing and at least I get to associate with devotees such as Ujjvala, Śrutadeva and yourself. I do wish I was not such an ignorant fool and knew the pronunciation better, knew more of the melodies of some of the songs, could offer nicer food, and could properly do arati with all the correct paraphernalia. Still, I do what I can and I at least have the association of Kṛṣṇa’s devotees. Kṛṣṇa’s mercy is great!

I see Kṛṣṇa’s mercy in so many places and that alone gives me the conviction to stay on this path and forget all the other nonsense.

 

Thank you too for the encouraging words about not being alone. I have that ‘Vaisnava is never alone’ quote, (by Prabhupada) up on my bunk as well as other photos you and Ujjvala sent me of Srila Prabhupada, Kṛṣṇa and Panca Tattva, and the calendar prints of various paintings of the Lord’s pastimes! I see them when I lay down at night and wake up in the morning. I keep some pictures to meditate on while chanting my rounds, when I chant with my eyes closed and then lose focus and Maya tries to intrude. My PTSD does not help.

 

Maybe someday I will be able to grow Tulasi like I once did, years ago, before really understanding the divine nature of whom I nurtured and cared for. She reciprocated by thriving, which delighted the Indian family I lived with at the time. If I had only known then, what I know now.

I miss taking care of Tulasi, and I miss the prasadam. I regret having been so foolish as to not see the mercy Kṛṣṇa was bestowing through the devotees I was associating with ‘on the street’, years back. Still, I am finally starting to wake up and can only hope to keep trying to wake other up as well. Prison is a great repository of souls who need it and want it – they just do not realize their foolishness.

 

I like the Prabhupada’s conversation in Paris, August 11, 1973. I really enjoyed it! I love how Prabhupada defeats much thoughts and foolishness. Reading such talks helps me in my own discussions with others, inspiring me to appeal to their logic.

The ‘Divine Form’ article (by Ananta Shakti Dasa) you sent me was also very interesting and inspiring. I did not paint (fine art) much, until I came to this facility. But Kṛṣṇa has been so kind to give me this outlet to offer service while in prison and I am thankful for your help in encouraging me to continue onwards. Also, giving me Pushkar’s book (Windows to the Spiritual World), further encouraged me to carry on this service.

 

Your personal reflections are sweet nectar and I really enjoyed reading them. Not only did I connect with what you wrote, but it really got me to think about some things in my life too. Thank you for sharing such personal insights!

I enjoyed Prabhupada’s lecture, Death means sleeping for seven Months. There is a great deal of distilled nectar in that article and Prabhupada touches on many connected subjects and sumps up each very nicely, I believe. From dharma to the arrangement of the universe, to how we relate to all, and our purpose in it. Thank you for sharing such a powerful talk of Srila Prabhupada.

 

You have given me much to read, be inspired by, and think about. I am deeply grateful for all of it and despite your busy schedule you have so kindly devoted a huge chunk of it to give me such kindly association. You do a great job and I cannot begin to express how affected I am by your great mercy. Your service to Kṛṣṇa has impacted my life and that of many others. Thank you again for everything. If you need anything that I can help with (you got more paintings definitely coming), please ask. If it is something I am able to do, I will do my best to help.

 

.           Thank you for sharing with me about the reality of the devotees. I appreciate your humility and honesty. Śrutadeva and Ujjvala have also both been kind in sharing their stories and struggles with me. I am glad that the honesty and openness is there, otherwise I would be extremely wary; all of us cannot be Srila Prabhupada.

 

I enjoy the Bhagavad-Gita and years ago I read it through, twice, within a few months. Yet, the Srimad-Bhagavatam seems to be tough for me. I enjoy reading it and once I get to reading it I hate to put it down. However, a character flaw of mine is the impulsivity of my “all-or-nothing” attitude (got me in trouble with the legal system too) and it is a good lesson for me to learn that all of it will come in time.

 

I am blessed to have access to so much reading material and I have always loved to share. After I finish reading them, I give the books to others who are interested, instead of just keeping them for myself (save for a few, of course). It helps me keep with the mission that was so dear to Prabhupada and Bhaktisiddhanta.

 

Tonight my mother told me (before I could ask) that she was sixty percent through Syamasundara’s book; she’s at the point where they are with the Beatles. She says she is enjoying it and although she has little time to read right now, when she does, it is this book. Jaya!

 

The book Forbidden Voices is beautiful and I enjoyed reading it. Of course I could relate to many inmates’ letters in it and I know some of the inmates too.

 

Srila Prabhupada said—about accepting Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati as his spiritual master— “unofficially but in the heart”. I am doing my best, as if I am officially initiated. Does that make sense? In the early morning I perform at least mangal arati, prayers to Lord Nrsmha, Tulasi puja by chanting Sri Tulasi pranam three times and singing Sri Tulasi kirtan; I sing Sri Sri Guruv-astaka and Sri Guru Vandana, then Jaya Radha Madhava; and I also apply tilak. Then, I offer a breakfast of nuts, honey and rice cake in the formal manner. While Prabhupada and Kṛṣṇa enjoy, I chant at least a few rounds of japa before partaking in the prasadam. I have most of the songs and ceremonies committed to memory but I am still very much a novice. I do all this in the morning, before beginning the rest of my day.

Around noon I offer bhoga for lunch, at my altar, which is in the locker in my room.    

In the evening I do the same for dinner. And at night I chant at least Sayana arati and sing Gaura arati and Jaya Radha Madhava and I put Them away in a folding altar Ujjvala gave me some years ago when I was at another facility in Alabama. And I read at least for an hour each day, no matter what the rest of my crazy schedule is like. I chant at least sixteen rounds a day, but usually more.

 

The other inmates do not bother me anymore as I have a decent reputation here about the way I am. My willingness to help others without strings attached (as is the norm in prison), has endeared me to many. Being an instructor and mentor in the Skills Program has also worked in my favor. And my open-mindedness to other religions has unlocked many doors.

 Prisoners, for the most part, are good judges of character (don’t BS the Bser’s). As such, my sincerity and devotion to my beliefs show (or so I have been told) and so I am able to just be me and no one really gives it a second thought; be it the tilaka, the bead bag, the paintings (people dig them!).

My painting of Prabhupada—‘the Swami’ or ‘the Guru’ as some have called it— is in the paint room, on a shelf, and it is with reverential respect that everyone speaks about Srila Prabhupada, despite not knowing who he is (many think it is Gandhi). And they embrace my other ‘eccentricities’ as well. So, yeah, despite a few staff members, everyone else is great!

 

Thank you so much for helping with this whole process. May you be most blessed.

Your servant, Bhakta David 

 

     

David's Painting                                                                

___________________________________

 

NOTE:

  This article is just a part of IPM NEWS, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter. To read whole issues, please go to:   http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/

 

 If you wish to receive it in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

 

More excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork are available on our website at: www.iskconprisonministry.org

 

_______________________

 

IPM’s PRABHUPADA MARATHON!

 

Two months ago, a devotee generously donated eleven sets of Srimad-Bhagavatam to the Prison Ministry. All of them have already been placed in chapel libraries in different prisons in the USA!

Now, in preparation for Srila Prabhupada’s book distribution marathon, we have the opportunity to acquire eleven more such sets, at the low price of $95 eachincluding the cost of shipping them to the prisons!

Would you please consider making this marathon a SUCCESS by sponsoring one or more sets (or even part of a set)?

To donate toward this IPM Prabhupada Marathon, you can either:

 

1) Send a check or postal money order to:

ISKCON Prison Ministry

PO Box 2676

  Alachua, FL 32616

2) Donate through PayPal at: www.paypal.me/IPM

 

Thank you in advance for your support!

___________________________________

 

EMAIL ADDRESS: iskconprisonministry@gmail.com

 

 

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Strengthening my faith

ISKCON PRISON MINISTRY

 

Article by Janardana Dasa


Hare Kṛṣṇa, Mataji. 

Dandavat pranams. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

 

In prison my Kṛṣṇa consciousness has been truly "hands on" (isn’t it always? J).  Sri Kṛṣṇa knows best and is always testing and strengthening His bhaktas. I truly feel that He has been especially and specifically helping me for the past twenty-six months I have spent in prison. I am a Naturopathic Physician and Ayurvedic Medical Consultant in my professional life and was brought here because of immigration issues with some of my employees.

 

I joined The Hare Kṛṣṇa movement in 1982 and have been chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa regularly since about 1983. I have been more and less steady throughout the years. But never has it been as intense as it has been in these past months of incarceration.  It is said in the śāstras that when you are put in adverse situations, all of a sudden, you can really call out to the Lord.

 

Srimati Kunti Devi prayed, "I wish that all those calamities would happen again and again so that we could see You again and again, for seeing You means that we will no longer see repeated births and deaths.

 

Since I arrived here, in May 2017, I have met many inquisitive souls interested in the bhakti yoga process. I have had the opportunity to read to them directly from the śāstras and chant with them.

I am currently holding regular readings of various scriptures daily, either from the Kṛṣṇa Book, Srimad-Bhagavatam, or other authorized Vedic bhakti śāstras.  It is truly purifying, I have to say. Again, Kṛṣṇa’s mercy. Several aspiring bhaktas are now wearing Tulasi kanti mala and chanting on japa beads.  Gradually, people are making advancement toward bhakti. 

 

Thank you for letting me know about the material you are sending. Sending more Bhagavad-Gitas is good, as there is only one copy in the chapel library and there are 1,600 men in this facility.  And the Srimad-Bhagavatam set will be excellent and will be read by many. Chaplain Upton will put it in the Chapel library for all to have access to. Grantha Raj Srimad-Bhagavatam Ki Jai!!!   

I received the incense and tilaka. Thanks again so much. It is so nice to smell and wear tilaka again after so long. Sri Tilak Ki Jai!!! 

And even Chaplain Upton remarked about the lovely sweet aroma of the incense. Wonderful! 

 

Also, we just received the wonderful package with the CDs and DVDs of Srila Prabhupada's lectures and bhajans; they are incredible! They are now in our allocated box in the Chapel. When I watch them and I chant, I am not here; they bring my mind in the dhama and put tears in my eyes. So sweet. J

 

Things are improving here. Kṛṣṇa’s holy name is being chanted more and more. And yes, I am "your eyes" here, didi. Anything you need for me to do, just let me know. It is my pleasure to serve.

 I have been assigned an official Hare Kṛṣṇa meditation time slot on Thursdays from 1:30 PM till 2:30 PM. JAIHO!!! People have been coming.

I also read with several aspiring devotees in the housing unit I am in at least four days a week. 

 

Yes, didi, for the last month I chant eighty rounds a day. It is not difficult; if you focus and want to acquire some ruci for the name and ask Sri Harinama Prabhu to be merciful and help. 

 

Thank you for sending more japa malas and neck beads. I have a few left from the ones you sent last time. I have given them to people I know are seeking spiritual knowledge and will appreciate wearing and using them to chant with.  Many aspiring bhaktas were very happy to receive these japa malas and Tulasi kanti malas.

There are about eighteen or nineteen people chanting Hare Kṛṣṇa now and, of that number, about twelve are more serious daily chanters. Didi, thank you so much for your selfless seva of sending all that you have sent to all these souls here. I am seeing a big change in several people since they have been wearing Tulasi mala.  They say it makes them feel a "peace" and calm.   They all mentioned that since they have worn it, positive events have been occurring. JAIHO!!!  I'm at your service, mataji.  Just let me know how to help you in this seva. 

 

I want to sincerely thank you and IPM for all you are doing for incarcerated persons, earnestly promoting Srila Prabhupada’s and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu’s mission. It is truly karunika seva (compassionate service).   

I am also grateful to the two chaplains here who have been extremely helpful in assisting us to obtain items here for preaching; Chaplain Alba (the complex Chaplain) and Chaplain Upton who is here five days a week and is especially kind and always goes "the extra mile" to help us sort things out. 

 

Thank you Bhakti-latā for being in communication with me directly and always assisting me in so many ways (too many to mention). 

Thanks again for all you are doing, mataji.  Very kind.  May Srila Prabhupada and Sri Kṛṣṇa always bless you and Sri Guru and Gauranga give you the blessings of Their Lotus feet and always keep you in Bhakti seva.     

NITAI GAURA HARIBOL!!!

 

Your servant, Janardana Dasa

Coleman, FL

 

___________________________________

 

NOTE:

  This article is just a part of IPM NEWS, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter. To read whole issues, please go to:   http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/

 If you wish to receive it in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

More excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork are available on our website at: www.iskconprisonministry.org

 

_______________________

 

WANT TO HELP?

 

3 Donation Options

  • Send check or postal money order to:

ISKCON Prison Ministry                                                                                

PO Box 2676

                               Alachua, FL 32616

  • Donate through PayPal at: paypal.me/IPM
  • For automatic, monthly donations, you can do so on our website (with the PayPal button), or through your bank “Automatic Bill Pay” option, which is free and easy.

We can send you a tax deductible receipt at the moment of the donation or at the end of the year, as you wish.                                                               ISKCON Prison Ministry

                                                                            PO Box 2676

                                                                              Alachua, FL 32616

IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com    

www.iskconprisonministry.org


Read more…

UNPRECEDENTED HARINAM!

 

ISKCON PRISON MINISTRY

 

EXCERPT OF LETTER from Bhakta Krishna Kirtan

We have a new bhakta. His name is Thomas Biers and he is the MOST sincere new bhakta I've come across since I've been practicing Kṛṣṇa consciousness (2009). He is very genuine and his bhakti was spontaneously awakened in his heart at the sound of the maha mantra. Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada sent me a great one. I've known him for years. He became disenchanted with the Buddhists because of his belief in a creator and Kṛṣṇa consciousness resonated with him like nothing else!

Program in Petersburg, 2015 (Krishna Kirtan circled)

Devotees present: Sarva-drk Dasa and his wife, Sudevi Dasi

Haripada Dasa and his wife, Phalini Dasi

Things have been just amazing lately. We had an extra unused mrdanga, in the chapel as well as an extra pair of kartals. I convinced the chaplain to donate these to the rec department, so now I can check them out and have harinam on the yard!!! Already, inmates who would have NEVER have heard the maha mantra have benefited by Bhakta Tom and myself doing kirtan on the yard. And we sing LOUD!!

 Inmates have come up to watch and ask what it is we're singing and we've had such a good opportunity to spread the holy name. Tom and I do this on Saturday and Sunday evenings and on holy days. It's SO great, singing kirtan outside; something we weren't able to do at the chapel. To sing the Lord's name to the birds and the tree, to experience Krishna in the wind and the sunshine, to sing TO him, for him, there's no greater ecstasy.

 I'm learning how to be a very good mrdanga player. I learned the mrdanga pranam and say it before playing this holy instrument and I instruct the rec employees how to care for it so that when it’s not in use, it is respected and put in a good place.

Also, one of the nine processes, atma-nivedanam, has been working its way through my heart. Being that "soul surrendered unto the Lord" is particularly liberating. I notice when I remind myself that Krsna's got my back...what in the heck should I be worried about? When I realized a deity like Lord Nrsimhadeva is always there...I like to say in my mind

Jaya Nrsimha, ugram viram maha visnum jvalantam sarvato mukham nrisimham bhisanam bhadram mrityourmrityam namamyaham Sri Nrisimha jaya jaya Nrsimha…

…u know? What do I need to be concerned about? That doesn't give me a license to be stupid, but it lets me know if I screw up somewhere, or if I get too wrapped up in maya, Krsna is always there in one of His many forms to bring me the comfort and assurance that I may need at that given time. Really, no other path can provide this. We are SO blessed to have this. Jaya Prabhupada!!

 

We fasted until sunset on Lord Rama’s day and had the entire chapel all to ourselves from six to eight. We chanted a round of japa together then we had a lesson about Lord Rama. We sang kirtan (I did the Prema dhvani prayers for the first time after kirtan!!) and then watched the first part of an old Bollywood Ramayana. It was pretty awesome. 

 

Oh also, the case is being filed by the attorney this week in Federal court to get our holy days recognized in the BOP [Bureau of Prisons] and thus require them to provide us with vegetarian fast replacement meals. It will be listed as Chase vs. BOP, Eastern district, Virginia. They have twenty-one days to respond. Please have this news published in the newsletter as all prison bhaktas need to hear about this case so they can get what THE LAW will now require their chaplaincy and prison to provide. I will let you know more as the case progresses. Hopefully, the BOP will concede once they see they have no way of winning this, but if it goes to court, I know that Lord Nrsimhadeva will be co-counsel to Mr. Harsh Voruganti and have quite the effect in the court room. I so look forward to this.

Gaura-premanande hari haribol!!!!

Bhakta Krishna Kirtan

Petersburg, Virginia

 

__________________________________________

NOTE:

  This is just the main article of IPM NEWS, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter.

To read it all, please go to: http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/node/495

To read ALL issues, and also see inmate artwork, please go to:   http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/

 

 If you wish to receive it directly in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

 

More excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork are available on our website at: www.iskconprisonministry.org

 

 ______________________________________

 

WANT TO HELP?

 

3 Donation Options

  • Send check or postal money order to:

ISKCON Prison Ministry

PO Box 2676

Alachua, FL 32616

  • Donate through PayPal at: paypal.me/IPM
  • For automatic, monthly donations, you can do so on our website (with the PayPal button), or through your bank “Automatic Bill Pay” option, which is free and easy.

We can send you a tax deductible receipt at the moment of the donation or at the end of the year, as you wish.      

 

ISKCON Prison Ministry

PO Box 2676

Alachua, FL 32616

IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com

www.iskconprisonministry.org


THANK YOU!

 

 

Read more…

Dying in Prison

One of the inmates who has been in contact with the prison ministry since 2009, Bhakta Sasha, now has terminal cancer. He is fifty-seven years old. The prospect of dying is overwhelming for everyone, but having to die in prison is even more daunting. Prisons are not known for their warm, loving atmospheres; they are cold and impersonal at best. However, Bhakta Sasha is armed with Prabhupada’s teachings and graced with the holy name and he is taking full advantage of it.

            Premvilas prabhu, from Columbus Ohio, has generously sponsored a Srimad-Bhagavatam set for him to read. Hopefully he’ll have time to read it all before he passes away. Due to prisons’ regulations, I cannot send him the whole set at once, so I send him two volumes at a time so that when he finishes a volume he always has the next one ready.

 

Bhakta Sasha writes:

 

            “Thank you for sending the first and second cantos of Srimad-Bhagavatam. I have just finished the first canto and was intrigued by the in-depth description of all the friends and kinsmen of the armies from the Bhagavad-Gita. From the demigods to the demons—like Kamsa and Sisupala— to King Yudhishthira and his actions which determined the future of the Pandavas. It really helps me get a better grasp and understanding of how the saga has carried the words of Sri Kṛṣṇa to the Kali-yuga.

 

            I start my day at 2 AM, showering, cleaning my room, and doing laundry. I now have pure vegetarian meals. I do not think about how I feel. I take it one day at a time. I am only concerned about staying Kṛṣṇa conscious. I spend my day reading and listening to my Kṛṣṇa CDs. I own no other kind of CDs. My day begins with the Daily Temple Program CD.

 

There are a few CNAs (certified nursing assistants) and RNs (registered nurses) here that are Kṛṣṇa conscious. They were surprised to see that I spend my days in this way.

Unfortunately, in this particular unit, everyone has only 6 months or less to live.

 

            Every day I also let other patients read some of my other books like Coming Back, A Second Chance, and Holy Jail (the book by Candramauli Swami, about prison inmates).

 

            I only want my last breath to have Kṛṣṇa on it. Reading and hearing bring me so much peace of mind and calm in my everyday life. It’s a battle, but I resist taking any strong dose of morphine. I want my days to be lucid; I only ask for some to take the edge off my pain.

 

            I am going to close for now as I tire easily while concentrating on writing the proper words to express my thoughts. Until my next letter. I bid you peace, joy, love and happiness in everything related to Kṛṣṇa. Hare Kṛṣṇa.

Bhakta Sasha”

 

NOTE:

  This article is just a part of IPM NEWS, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter. To read whole issues, please go to:   http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/

 If you wish to receive it in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

More excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork are available on our website at: www.iskconprisonministry.org

 

 

WANT TO HELP?

 

3 Donation Options

  • Send check or postal money order to:

ISKCON Prison Ministry                                                                                

PO Box 2676

                               Alachua, FL 32616

  • Donate through PayPal at: paypal.me/IPM
  • For automatic, monthly donations, you can do so on our website (with the PayPal button), or through your bank “Automatic Bill Pay” option, which is free and easy.

We can send you a tax deductible receipt at the moment of the donation or at the end of the year, as you wish.                                                               ISKCON Prison Ministry

                                                                            PO Box 2676

                                                                              Alachua, FL 32616

IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com    

www.iskconprisonministry.org


 

 

Read more…

By Govindanandini Dasi

In 2012, I was casually looking at Dandavats.com when, for the first time in my life, I came across the words “ISKCON Prison Ministry”. I felt curious to know what it was all about. I began to read their article, appealing the readers to become volunteers to correspond with prison inmates and send them Srila Prabhupada’s books! I was instantly attracted to the concept of Prison Ministry and to their appeal. I was attracted because I could see in it a great opportunity for a genuine service, a selfless service, and also a humbling one.

 

Genuine, because it would help a most helpless and desperate person. Selfless, because there was no way my mind could find a possibility of any subtle benefit in return from the inmates. And humbling, because no one would know of my service unless I mentioned about it and thus there was no scope for my mind to find pride. Plus, with its flexibility, it would perfectly work for my schedule!

The Prison Ministry director, mother Bhakti-lata, approved me, but there was one other approval I needed –my spouse’s. I was concerned that he would oppose the idea of me corresponding with criminals, but eventually he got convinced that it was safe using the spiritual name and a post office box address. 

In the past five years, I was able to write to about three dozen inmates, at least once. The turnover is high. Some of the inmates do not continue to write and read for long, while others correspond for many years. A couple of inmates who were enthusiastically corresponding, reading, and asking questions suddenly stopped and never wrote back, mostly because they were released and got busy with their world. Initially that disappointed me.

But gradually, my disappointment was replaced by compassion. Through their letters, I got some understanding about their prison conditions, their struggle to obtain and store books, limitations on food choices and an extremely negative surrounding for pursuing spiritual practices. Understanding and considering all this, even if they attempted to read one book and responded, that now seemed incredible.

This understanding kept me going. I reminded myself to be just an instrument and nothing more. Here I was learning a practical lesson from Bhagavad Gita’s teachings“—be detached from the fruits of your labor” and “do not expect anything in return”.  Over time, I am able to maintain a serious and continual long-term correspondence with 5-7 of them.

Many times rewards come in many pleasant and sometimes unexpected ways. Sometimes, inmates write back saying he/she was able to overcome a negative feeling, was able to chant and feel peace, or was moved by a recent reading of a book. They express their gratitude in the simplest way, yet it is so touching. Sometimes they write poems or draw beautiful artwork which reflect their meditation. Some inmates crochet or knit items and mail them just to express love and gratitude for Prison Ministry volunteers. Sometimes, someone asks such nice questions upon their readings, questions that show they really read and meditated on the subject matter.

Looking back, I feel that through these exchanges, I am more benefited than I am helping them. The reason is that I get to closely analyze destiny and human nature thus helping me learn my own lessons. Here are a few examples:

When we take birth, we carry along a blue print of our destiny that we created in our past lives. In that blue print, there is a package deal of some good and some bad fortune. As we go on, the destiny simply unfolds. As I get to study the variety of destinies of the inmates, I ask myself, “If I don’t try to maintain the mode of goodness, if I don’t adhere to the principles of bhakti, could I end up building an unfortunate destiny for my next life?” I shudder at that thought and I get more fixed up in my devotional practice.

In this material world, it is natural that we all, as embodied souls, make mistakes and get reactions. Even though on the absolute level they are all mistakes, our reactions are seen as mild or strong in a social system. Due to their misfortune, the prisoners pay dearly for their errors. I ask myself, “Do I want to live a life full of reckless mistakes? Just see, I may end up in a serious reaction like them.” I again shudder at this thought and become serious about the moral principles I learn from the Gita. I also share a few examples with my teenage daughter and ask her to learn the same lessons I learn. These examples become thousand times more effective for the young than theoretical teaching.

The stories from the rich Vedic literature suggest that a wise person learn from the pains and mistakes of others, so that he does not have to experience them himself. While corresponding with inmates, I get a realistic understanding of their blunders and pains, and I tell myself to become more fixed in devotional practice to Lord Krishna, so that by Krishna’s grace I may not have to experience some of them in the journey of my soul.  I feel that this is a priceless benefit, which keeps me motivated to continue this humble service.

Govindanandini lives in Plainsboro, New Jersey with her husband and daughter.

 

NOTE:

  This article is just a part of IPM NEWS, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter. To read whole issues, please go to:   http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/

 

 If you wish to receive it in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

More excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork are available on our website at: www.iskconprisonministry.org

 

_______________________

 

WANT TO HELP?

 

3 Donation Options

1)      Send check or postal money order to:

ISKCON Prison Ministry                                                                                

PO Box 2676

                               Alachua, FL 32616

2)      Donate through PayPal at: www.paypal.me/IPM

3)      For automatic, monthly donations, you can do so on our website (with the PayPal button), or through your bank “Automatic Bill Pay” option, which is free and easy.

We can send you a tax deductible receipt at the moment of the donation or at the end of the year, as you wish.                                                               ISKCON Prison Ministry

                                                                            PO Box 2676

                                                                              Alachua, FL 32616

IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com    

www.iskconprisonministry.org

 

Read more…

Embracing all of Krsna's Family

NOTE from Bhakti-lata Dasi: As the inmates evolve in their Kṛṣṇa consciousness, increasingly realizing the importance of Prabhupada’s teachings and making a conscious effort to apply them in their life, they develop in strength and realization. Being a witness to this spiritual growth, I feel the joy and pride of a mother seeing her children mature. I am forever captivated by the power of Srila Prabhupada’s words to completely transform the lives of so many who receive his mercy. Joseph has been in contact with IPM since at least 2010 and following his progress is an honor. Below is an essay he sent me in August 2017.

 ____________________________________________________

The Lord is very satisfied with His devotee when the

Devotee greets other people with tolerance, mercy,

Friendship and equality.

SB 4.11.13

 

In our devotional service to the blessed Lord Krsna, we are repeatedly encouraged to practice friendship with all living entities. Not just the ones that we find pleasing to be around, but even, and sometimes especially, those who we find it so very difficult to befriend. But oftentimes this is the most monumental of tasks. Not everyone is easily approachable, and many are downright mean. So why then must we include these “ruffians” in our circle of friendship? We don’t have to be mean in return, but can’t we just have nothing to do with them?

 

In Sri Isopanisad, mantra 7, it is explained that we are all spiritual beings, part and parcel of Krsna. It is only because of our contact with material nature that we have become deluded, thinking one person better than another, desiring material pleasures and seeking to gain power over the mundane world (BG 14.5). This contact is the root of our lust, anger and greed, and is the impetus for the animosity we feel towards other entities. Understanding this, we realize that we are all struggling. Trying to find our way back home. It is our duty as devotees to help others find the path of Krsna Consciousness – the path Back to Godhead.

 

If a person in Krsna Consciousness (…) is always

compassionate, he is not satisfied that only he

himself is a devotee, but he tries to distribute

the knowledge of devotional service to everyone.

SB 3.21.31 purport

 

By excluding these “undesirables” from our circle, we are committing a most grievous act – we are denying what was so freely given to ourselves —Krsna Consciousness— to those we judge unworthy. We have placed ourselves upon a pedestal (so much for humility!), and, in our arrogance, have possibly prolonged their suffering.

Being a friend to everyone doesn’t necessarily mean having direct association with them (though sometimes this is absolutely necessary), but it does mean sharing with them the glories of Krsna. By preaching, chanting and even just living a life dedicated to serving God, we help others to discover the wonders of Krsna – His love, compassion, mercy, etc. Through our words and actions we are helping others find their way back to the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, and this is the greatest act of mercy and compassion we can offer.

 

May there be good fortune throughout the universe,

and may all envious persons be pacified. May all living entities

become calm by practicing Bhakti-yoga, for by accepting devotional

service they will think of others’ welfare. Therefore let us all

engage in the service of the Supreme transcendence, Lord

Sri Krsna, and always remain absorbed in thoughts of Him.

SB 5.18.9

 

Even in prison, there are those we deem worthy of association, and those we would exclude from our circle. We create a social caste which causes separation and segregation of the many that we find “undesirable” – and yet, we ourselves have been ostracized by society. It is only by the acceptance and compassion of those such as His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada that we have this chance of redemption. How then can we deny this chance to others? Are we, the lowest, that arrogant?

I was taught an important lesson today, by being shown something about myself. I have worked diligently at trying to see everyone as equal, without exception. This can certainly be a real challenge, but one I think worthy, and one that the Gita declares necessary. But, as it turns out, all I’ve done is learn to compartmentalize everyone into a structure of how I deal with them. I thought I was responding to people as necessary in each situation, but not so. I was judging them, and acting accordingly to my own egoistic views.

Today, I found myself disappointed and frustrated at how a couple of people acted towards me, and I spent way too much time thinking about how to respond. Then I realized – they actually didn’t do anything to me; they just failed to meet the standard I had set for them. HOW EGOISTIC!

It is not my opinion that matters, nor my standards they should meet. It is Krsna’s, and He sees everyone as equal.

It is up to me now to reciprocate this sentiment, and take the little “I” out of the equation.

The time I could have spent trying to serve Him was wasted trying to figure out how to adjust another to fit my standards.

Here, again, I have failed.

I am sorry.

*******

As spring comes forth, melting the frozen ponds of winter,

So devotion to our Lord breaks loose the wrathful grip

Maya holds upon us.

Trees and flowers blossom, opening – gathering the rays of the sun

And our spirit, before the glories of Govinda, dance,

Basking in His love.

But unlike spring, which rises and falls with progressive time,

The love, the light of our blessed Lord is evermore

In our hearts – always shining.

 

Joseph P.

Galesburg, Illinois

___________________________________

This is only part of the Sept/Oct 2017 IPM NEWS.

To read the full newsletter, please go to:  http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/node/490

WANT TO HELP?

3 Donation Options

1)      Send check or postal money order to:

ISKCON Prison Ministry                                                                                

PO Box 2676

                               Alachua, FL 32616

2)      Donate through PayPal at: www.paypal.me/IPM

3)      For automatic, monthly donations, you can do so on our website (with the PayPal button), or through your bank “Automatic Bill Pay” option, which is free and easy.

We can send you a tax deductible receipt at the moment of the donation or at the end of the year, as you wish.                                                              

ISKCON Prison Ministry

PO Box 2676

Alachua, FL 32616

                                                                          

                                                                       

 IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com    

www.iskconprisonministry.org

Read more…

Romanticism Versus Realism

              For many years I have wondered why it is so difficult to find devotees who are inspired to not only correspond with inmates but to do so steadily as well. It’s been quite a bottleneck since there are far more inmates who write than there are volunteers to reply to them.

 

                It seems that often the devotees who volunteer with IPM have an unrealistic, romantic view of what this service is and they get discouraged when reality turns out to be different. I am wondering if, in some way, this IPM NEWS itself contributes to this misconception. Why?

 

       Maybe because, naturally, only the best letter excerpts are published. It may give the impression that every letter we receive is ecstatic and that every inmate is that introspective and enthusiastic. But it’s not a fact. Not every inmate becomes a long term bhakta. Far from it. For every letter of substance we receive, there are a dozen more which are shallow. Comparatively few are the inmates who correspond for years on end.  Many will write for a year or two and many will write for a few months only. Some will not even write twice. It is a bewildering reality that some inmates, even if deeply touched by Krsna consciousness, will nonetheless stop writing.

       I remember a Bhakta Mark who wrote me for about four years; his sincerity was palpable, his questions insightful, and his realizations powerful. I had absolutely no doubt that he would keep in touch after his release. Wrong.  I never heard from him again. I was surprised, concerned, and really, really disappointed by his sudden silence. I still think about and pray for him regularly. But his case is not unique. So what to make of this? Is this preaching not “working”; is it worth our time, energy and resources?

 

                Many IPM volunteers get discouraged and feel their efforts are in vain. Or they conclude that they are not good at this service. They couldn’t be more wrong.

 

        IPM is very much like book distribution on the street. We’ve all heard the stories, right? You give a book to someone, knowing you will probably never see him again. Some will receive a book and put it on their bookshelf; years later, they may pick it up, read it, and visit a temple. Or one of their friends might end up with the book and he becomes a devotee. Or the book may be left on a bench or even thrown in the garbage and someone else finds it and it changes his/her life.

 

       Interestingly enough, these same scenarios are applicable to inmates, albeit in a prison setting. Just as with regular book distribution, we are rarely privy to what happens next; once the book is given and the letter sent, we are often left in the dark.  That is because we are entitled to doing our duty but not to enjoy its fruit. Sounds familiar? It’s Bhagavad-gita 101; we’ve all read it. This IPM service is a wonderful opportunity to apply and realize this instruction. Being detached is at the core of this challenging service. However, from time to time, because Krsna is so kind, we are given glimpses of Krsna’s transcendental touch in the inmates’ lives. These glimpses fill us with bliss, deep within our heart; they strengthen our faith, and keep our enthusiasm alive.

 

       A few inmates write on and off. Sometimes there’s a “radio silence” for one, two, three years and then, they write back, once again seeking Krsna’s shelter. One inmate told me that he had to go in and out of prison three times before he finally realized that Krsna consciousness was really important. As Prabhupada said many, many times; it’s a gradual process.

 

       Prisons are notorious for being “revolving doors”; many go in, are released, and come right back in again. That’s because people tend to keep the same kind of association and activities, which lead them to commit the same crimes (environment is stronger than will). The good thing is that these repeat offenders know they can always reach out to IPM and get more mercy. I know, for example, that the Bhakta Mark I was talking about earlier may pop up again at any time; even if he doesn’t, I know he can never forget the precious experiences he’s had in Krsna’s service.

       Each time inmates practice Krsna consciousness, they make a little bit more progress. It is the principle of the drop of water falling on a hard rock; little by little, it makes a dent. Each time they chant, read Prabhupada’s books, offer their food, and tell someone else about Krsna, they make deposits in their spiritual bank account. Every deposit counts and is eternal.

 

        “That I have already explained. You are coming here, even though you are not initiated. That is also service. If you deposit one cent daily, one day it may become $100. So, when you get the $100, you can get the business.” (Laughter.) So you come here daily, one cent, one cent. When it will be $100, you will be a devotee.”

Prabhupada Lecture, Melbourne, 5/22/1975

 

       Even when the inmates don't seem to stick around we know that the seed has been planted. Whether in this life or in the next, this seed will fructify; there is absolutely no doubt about that.

 

       Wanting to personally see the seed sprout into a plant is my own personal desire, my own sense gratification. What matters is Prabhupada’s pleasure and desire. Whatever happens in the heart of those conditions souls (who happen to be inmates in this lifetime) is completely between them and Krishna.

       I for one simply feel fortunate, grateful, and thrilled just to be allowed to do this service; to be given the chance to play this very little part in Srila Prabhupada’s huge mission. The real satisfaction is to do one’s service to the best of one’s ability, even if it sometimes seems like it’s going nowhere.

       I pray that more devotees will be inspired to assist Prabhupada in planting the seed in the heart of some of the most unfortunate souls. I hope more will be willing to tolerate what appears like a lack of results, while praying to Lord Caitanya on behalf of the inmates, and having faith that Krsna is completely in control.

If you are called to give this service a try, you can reach me at: iskconprisonministry@gmail.com

          

Your grateful servant, Bhakti-lata Dasi

 

 

NOTE:

  This article is just a part of IPM NEWS, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter. To read whole issues, please go to:   http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/

 If you wish to receive it in your inbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

Excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork are available on our website at: www.iskconprisonministry.org

 


 

 

Read more…

GUARANTEED SUCCESS

     While reflecting on a good title to summarize the prison ministry’s activities of 2016, I was feeling a little dejected because, due to our relocating twice in a year, my service was disrupted, affecting the number of books I was able to send out in 2016. But then it dawned on me that as long as we keep endeavoring to serve Srila Prabhupada to the best of our abilities, our activities are a guaranteed success. Giving Kṛṣṇa consciousness to others can only be a victory.

     We are now back in Alachua, Florida since December and I am very happy and grateful to continue working for this wonderful preaching program for Prabhupada’s pleasure.

 

      I want to thank everyone who make this service possible; volunteers, donors, and well-wishers alike. I also want to say a special thank you to my husband, Mukunda prabhu, for allowing me to devote so many hours of my time to serve others. He is always encouraging me to keep going despite the obstacles and difficulties that inevitably come up while doing anything in this world.

     Foremost, I want to thank Srila Prabhupada for sacrificing so much to give everyone the opportunity of devotional service and inspiring us, in return, to give that same chance to others. What our lives would have been without his unlimited mercy is simply unthinkable.

     Please bless me so that I can remain steady in this prison ministry service for years to come.

Your grateful servant, Bhakti-lata Dasi

BOOK DISTRIBUTED IN 2016:

 

Prabhupada’s Books total: 1,245

Breakdown:

Magazines (10 to 50 pages): 290

Small: 442

Medium: 352

Big: 111

Maha-Big: 340 

                                               

Books by other devotee authors: 71

 

BTGs: 1,201

 

CDs: 54

MP3s: 19

DVDs: 9                                                                 

Japa Mala sets: 62

Neck Beads: 11    

                             

Grand Total of all Books and BTGs in 2016: 2,807  

                                

 Srila Prabhupada, ke, Jaya!!!

 ********

APPRECIATION

By Bhakta Joseph Galesburg

     Hare Krsna Mother Bhakti-Lata, I would like to first thank you for all you have done for me. The books, magazines, encouraging words, the opportunity to correspond with Ram Tulasi dasa – everything. You have been so very helpful to me, and I cannot thank you enough. I am truly and forever blessed for having met you, and am eternally in your debt.

 

     I am doing my best to keep my thoughts, words, and actions functioning solely for our blessed Lord. I am chanting (stronger every day), studying Srila Prabhupada’s books, and ever seeking ways to engage others in Krsna Consciousness. I have given up entirely my TV (way too distracting and so distasteful), and seek my enjoyment in reading about the pastimes of Lord Krsna and Srila Prabhupada. I have also found a necessity in learning all that His Diving Grace has taught about eating a non-meat, non-violent diet. It seems that the best way to start conversations about Krsna Consciousness with others is by challenging our diet choices.

 

            I am still awaiting for the opportunity to listen to the tapes and CDs you sent, and to view the DVDs. I am absolutely ecstatic about having this great privilege given to me. As of yet, the chaplain has not made them available, but I am sure that he is working on it (he has quite a few people to tend to). I will let you know as soon as we are granted access (there are quite a few people here who are desirous of watching these DVDs).

 

            Thank you for sending the book Our Prabhupada. It is absolutely fantastic. I already had Prabhupada Nectar, and greatly enjoy reading about other people’s interactions with him, and now having the chance to learn of his lilas before he came to the US is simply amazing. It seems that everyone who knew him recognized how wonderful he is. It is truly my pleasure to read about him. I feel my heart break every time I think about never meeting him, but feel so intimately connected at the same time. This book is a real blessing. Thank you.

 

            Prabhu, I thank you and all at the IPM volunteers so very much. You have all completely changed me – gave me hope, truth through knowledge, and gave me blessed Krsna. Even this place (prison) has become a blessing. It has given me so much time to study the writings of Srila Prabhupada and offered a grand and diverse group of people to engage in conversation about Krsna Consciousness. My blessings are immeasurable and I will spend forever trying to repay my debt. I am hoping to one day be allowed to take the next steps on this incredible journey of devotional service. My prayers always include blessings for you, and for IPM. I am forever in your debt.

Your servant, Bhakta Joseph

 

 

NOTE:

  This article is just a part of IPM NEWS, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter. To read whole issues, please go to:   http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/

 If you wish to receive it in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

More excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork are available on our website at: www.iskconprisonministry.org

 

WANT TO HELP?

URGENT need for 2017:

We want to thank a group of devotees from Scotland who have sponsored the inmates’ Back to Godhead magazines for over a decade. Unfortunately, they cannot continue to do so and we are now urgently seeking a new sponsor for this most important aspect of the prison ministry.

 

The Back to Godhead magazines are a very important part of our prison ministry’s outreach. While reading BTG is an enlightening endeavor for everyone, for the inmates BTG takes on a whole new dimension. This magazine has very special place in their lives. Inmates are in seclusion from the world and, not having access to the internet, most don’t have the faintest idea of how widespread this movement really is. Most are pleasantly shocked to realize, through BTG, that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is not an obscure cult practiced by a few. As they read about so many devotees, so many programs, so many facets of the Hare Kṛṣṇa movement, it dawns on them that Kṛṣṇa consciousness is a bona fide and eternal spiritual path. The reality of devotional service in practice comes alive for them. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words; the BTG’s pictures convey to them the attractive nature of service to Kṛṣṇa in a most powerful way. All of a sudden, they are no longer bhaktas practicing in isolation; they are part of a worldwide family of devotees. Also, let’s not forget to mention that in prison, each magazine is read not only by the person who receives it, but often by a dozen other inmates as well. Each magazine is eagerly passed from hand to hand, affecting everyone with Prabhupada’s magic touch.

 

But let the inmates tell you how important BTG is for them, in their own words:

 

BTG is the best magazine in the world
“Thank you very much for all the times you have helped me to receive what is to me THE best magazine in the world, I mean I have learned more now and have a clear understanding of what is going on, not only in my mind but I feel it in my soul too.”
Mark F.
Susanville, CA

 

BTG is Vital to Keep My Sanity in Prison
12-9-11
"I can't express how vital BTG is in helping me maintain my sanity in this environment. I set up my makeshift altar on my bed in this 50-men dormitory-style barrack almost daily, time permitting. I line up photos of my spiritual master, Their Lordships Sri-Sri Radha Nila-Madhava (from Houston) and Baladeva, Subhadra & Jagannatha (from Philadelphia). Then I lay out copies of 2-3 BTGs, opened to harinama photos or articles, BG, etc.
I rise around 1:30-2:00 am, clean up, and then start on my japa. All the men can see me do this daily, and a few ask questions or sometimes make sarcastic or crude comments behind my back. So be it. Some I can help, some are beyond help!"
Bruce K.
Pine Bluff, AR

 

Postcard
"Hello, prabhu, just wanted to thank you for the BTGs. They mean the world to me. Haribol! With respectful obeisances, your servant, Kalki Das"

 

I read and re-read every copy several times
"I received the Jan/Feb 2003 issue of Back to Godhead, which was sent to me and I wanted to write and thank you and everyone else who made it possible for me to receive a new issue.
I have been a member of ISKCON for about two years now and some of my pen pals have sent me back issues of BTG and I thoroughly enjoy the magazine. I would subscribe to the magazine, but I just don't have the funds available, so being able to receive a fresh copy is a treat. Then again, any copy I receive is new and fresh to me and I read and re-read every copy several times, before I set them out for others to read, in the hopes that maybe others will join me in the quest for Krsna realization."
Bhakta Charles

 

Thank you so much for mercifully ministering to me on a personal level
“I want to thank you so much for mercifully ministering to me on a personal level in the form of sending transcendental

items for my sadhana. I have received the two BTG magazines that you sent; one just recently and the other some months ago. Greatly appreciated! For when my mind is disturbed, which is quite often these days, and I cannot concentrate well enough to read a book I can always turn to BTG so as to simply look at the spiritually potent pictures, and at times, read a short article or a few captions and 'Vedic Thoughts.' Again, mata, I am certainly grateful for these wonderful gifts given in Krsna consciousness. Uplifted, as well!
Jason M.
Columbia, SC

********

 

There are six issues of BTG per year. We need a sponsor for 240 magazines per issue. 

TOTAL per YEAR: $1,656.00 (or $138 per month)

If you called to take up this very important service, please contact Mukunda Dasa or Bhakti-lata Dasi at:

 

iskconprisonministry@gmail.com


ISKCON Prison Ministry

PO Box 2676

Alachua, FL 32616

Read more…

Janmastami in Huntsville, Texas

ISKCON Prison Ministry

 Article written by Phalini Devi Dasi

     One of the most memorable experiences during our last visit to Houston was our trip to the Estelle Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice near Huntsville, Texas on September 19, 2015.     

     Although we had not planned it into our schedule, Krishna apparently had, so we went along with Krishna's plan. It's always good to cooperate with Krishna's plan.

     We were invited to participate by Gopal Krishna Prabhu of the Houston Temple. An enthusiastic and dedicated prison-preacher and alternates with Sridhara Shyama Prabhu from the Dallas Temple, to conduct regular, open-call Hare Krishna services—which comes under the wider umbrella of "Eastern Religions."  But this was not just any ordinary program. It was their Janmastami celebration, so they had invited a huge number of inmates for the festival.

     After clearing security, we entered a room full of men--maybe forty or fifty--who sat ready and waiting for the Hare Krishna Festival to begin. Comfortable sitting cushions were arranged around the edge of the room, and the devotees had set up a microphone and amplifier with speakers.

 

     My husband started the kirtan. The inmates joined in enthusiastically from the very start, singing robustly like old kirtan veterans. As the kirtan picked up to a livelier pace, the men almost all stood up to dance. They bounced and jumped back and forth, up and down the length of the room, chanting more and more loudly and grinning from ear to ear as they felt more and more jubilant with the intoxicating sound of Lord Krishna's holy names. Even His Holiness Bhakti Vikasa Swami joined in the dancing. The men formed a train, each man holding onto the shoulders of the man in front of him. They weaved and hair-pinned around the room like expert dancers from the old Agnideva kirtans of the seventies.

 

     After the kirtan, His Holiness Bhakti Vikasa Swami and Haripada Prabhu took turns speaking about Krishna conscious philosophy and answering the men's questions. They reminded the prisoners how we are all imprisoned in material bodies because of our desires and our actions in the past, and how the chanting of Hare Krishna breaks the chains of our imprisonment in this material world. Haripada Prabhu compared the chanting of God's holy names to a spiritual alarm clock that wakes up the soul to his true identity. Maharaja challenged the men to improve their lives by deepening their relationship with God and making loving service to

 

Him their life's prime focus. Some of the men asked questions and Maharaja suggested that my husband answer first. After my husband answered, then Maharaja would give his perspective on the topic. So altogether it was an enlightening, enlivening group discussion.

 

     After the pravachan, a delicious and colorful feast of Krishna prasadam was served by the devotees who had come from both Houston and Dallas to help out with conducting the Huntsville Janmastami program. With satisfaction, I watched the eager faces of the inmates as they were served sumptuous helpings of paneer subji, rice, whole wheat bread and carrot halavah, all cooked and offered with love to Lord Kalachandji. The devotees also served generous helpings of sweet, juicy, crisp green grapes that had been brought by Sridhara Shyama Prabhu and his good wife Lalita-sakhi devi dasi.

 

     During the feast, one very nice, sincere young man--I'll call him Haridas--sat with my husband and me and asked deep, soulful questions about how he could become more sincere and serious in his Krishna consciousness. We felt extremely satisfied preaching to Haridas, a deep soul connection.

 

     As we said our good-byes to all the inmates and to the Dallas devotees as well, Haridas shook our hands warmly and looked into our eyes with an expression that said, “Please do come back again.”

 

     As we drove back to Houston, we shared our impressions and experiences, which were all positive. We reminisced about the exhilarating kirtan, the exuberant dancing, the heartfelt questions, and how the men enthusiastically honored Krishna prasadam. We vowed to come back to the Huntsville Prison for another preaching program next time we're in Houston, Krishna willing.

 

Phalini and her husband Haripada live in India most of the year.

 

***********************

 

  This article is just a small part of the bi-monthly IPM NEWS, an electronic newsletter. If you wish to receive it in your inbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line. Thank you!

 

To read excerpts of inmate letters and to see some of their artwork, please visit our website at www.iskconprisonministry.org

 

Want to help with this prison program?

Our need of the moment are 27-beads Neem japa malas for the inmates who are not allowed full size japa malas.

Please contact Mukunda Dasa or Bhakti-lata Dasi at:

 

ISKCON Prison Ministry

3759 McCreary's Ridge Road

NBU #46

Moundsville, WV 26041

IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com

www.iskconprisonministry.org



 

Read more…

Transcendental Postman

Transcendental Postman

By Kirtan Rasa Dasa           

             A few months after I started working with ISKCON Prison Ministry, I received a letter from an inmate which helped drive home to me the nature of this service and just how important it is.

     “I only know what I read in your letters and Prabhupada’s books,” was part of his response to me, regarding my reply to a question he had posed. His words brought me a sudden, clearer understanding and. I’ve often since reminded myself of them.

 

            Although I had some idea of the nature of this service when I began, this particular letter made me acutely aware of how isolated and cutoff these men and women can be and how critical is our role as one of their few, if not only, avenues of inquiry and discourse.

As a devotee, I’ve naturally come to understand association as a fundamental element of the bhakti-yoga process. I also have practical, personal experience of what it can be like to lack this association.

 

            I first became aware of Krishna consciousness by coming across Srila Prabhupada’s books in a used bookstore. For years I carried around some very vague notions of Krishna and Bhagavad-Gita and had decided to pursue some deeper understanding. I eagerly began studying, but much of what I was reading remained impenetrable, as it was so far beyond the scope of anything I’d ever encountered. It would be several more years before I met devotees and it was only then that I began to gain some real clarity through inquiry and the give and take of realizations. Although I now understand that I already had the association of a pure devotee through Srila Prabhupada’s books, I understand that it is also through the day to day, incidental direct association with other devotees that we gradually gain the qualification to receive what Krishna is sending us. So when I read the inmate’s words it struck me that for this man, at least for the time being, I was it. This impressed upon me both the importance of being there and of getting it right. 

 

            It was not too long before this that I had even first become aware of ISKCON Prison Ministry (IPM). While taking prasadam with a friend at the Dallas temple, our conversation had somehow turned to the troubled state of our correctional systems in the United States. This subject had always been of interest to me but had been weighing particularly heavily on my mind because of some news articles and books I had recently read. When my friend mentioned the ISKCON Prison Ministry it was the first I’d heard of it and it was as if a light and turned on in my mind and I knew immediately that I must try to be part of it. As far as I can remember I’ve had a fascination and empathy for the incarcerated. Anytime I passed a correctional facility I would find myself haunted by thoughts and questions about the souls inside- who they were, how they must feel, and how they came to be there. Now the thought of transcendental knowledge being made available to them seemed like one of the rightest things I’d ever heard. 

 

            However well-prepared I may have felt this life-long fascination and empathy had made me for this service, dealing with these issues in theory and in reality are two very different things and I was soon to encounter some surprises. Among them was the unexpected strong emotions I quickly found welling up in me as I began to get deeper into correspondence with certain of the inmates. For instance, I encountered an overwhelming sense of anger and revulsion when I began corresponding with an inmate who had committed a particularly heinous crime. The man had gotten my contact information through another inmate and had written me out of the blue. I did a quick web search in an attempt to get some sense of who I was working with and quickly came across information about his crime and subsequent trial. At one point I found my hands literally shaking as I labored to write him back. Some part of me felt compelled to write “monster!” on the page and have done with it, but I worked my way through it and soldiered on. As much as writing him bothered me, moreover it bothered me that it bothered me (who am I to say who is or isn’t qualified to receive mercy? How solid is my own grasp of this philosophy if I’m seeing this man as anything other than another conditioned soul?). In struggling to deal with this, I found myself recalling one of Prabhupada’s lectures in which he likened preaching Krishna consciousness to a postman delivering a money order. Srila Prabhupada made the point that it is not the postman’s money (he may be penniless) and it is not the postman’s place to judge the worthiness of the recipient. It is the postman’s duty to deliver the money to whom it has been addressed exactly as he has been entrusted to. I no longer encounter the strong emotions I did early on but whenever I do experience some trouble I remind myself that I am only a postman.

            (As a side note, this “monster” to whom I had so much trouble writing, has since become very dear to me. I’ve come to know him as a very sincere, steady and sweet devotee and I’ve actually found myself worrying if I go some time without hearing from him.)

           

            Ultimately though, as big a lesson as these sorts of things have been, the bigger growth opportunities this service has given me personally have come simply from having the opportunity to witness over and over again the profound effect that this transcendental knowledge and process have, even in the most brutal and harsh of environments. As devotees we naturally come to possess some awareness of the power of the Absolute Truth but there is a keen perspective that can be gained by seeing it cast in stark relief to such a dark backdrop. I’ve come to liken it to the difference between seeing the light of a candle in broad daylight or in a cave. Same light, vastly different perspective. And I would have to say that of all the surprises I’ve encountered in this service, perhaps most surprising has been how much I have personally learned and grown through working with these inmates as we both struggle to gain understanding. I had no idea how much they had to teach me.

Kirtan Rasa lives in Arlington, Texas. If you would like to be a transcendental pen pal for the inmates, please contact him at: kirtanras108@gmail.com

 

NOTE:

  This article is just a small part of IPM NEWS, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter. To read whole issues, please go to:   http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/

 

 If you wish to receive it in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

 

More excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork are available on our website at: www.iskconprisonministry.org

You want to help?

 

OUR PRESSING NEED OF THE MOMENT: we are looking for mini japa malas (Neem, with 27 beads) for those prisons who won’t accept our normal size japa malas.

If you can help, please contact Mukunda Dasa or Bhakti-lata Dasi at:

 

iskconprisonministry@gmail.com

ISKCON Prison Ministry

3759 McCreary's Ridge Road

NBU #46

Moundsville, WV 26041

 

 

 

 

           

             

 

Read more…

Entering the new Year 2016!

      A month ago, I was in the kitchen, cleaning up after dinner—in the Prabhupada House where we stayed at the time—when there was a knock on the door. My husband answered the door and I heard,

     “Is Bhakti-lata there?”

     A polite young man entered and he told me,

     “I know someone you know”

     “Who?”

     “Yogi.”

     I thought for a second.

     “Richard C.?”

     “Yes!”

      Yogi is the prison name of bhakta Richard (whom we now call Krishna Kirtan). The young man had been in prison with him for a short while. Now that

he was free, he wanted to meet me in person. We talked for a while. It was a very sweet encounter.

 

            Each and every time I feel a little overwhelmed by my IPM service, Krsna arranges something like this to re-kindle my enthusiasm and let me know He wants me to keep going.

            This meeting reinforced the fact that all the letters I receive are from real, live, breathing human beings, who need our support, guidance, and kindness. Each book we send often touches more than just one life, as books and magazines get passed around a great deal.

 

            Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakur said that the little mrdanga may be heard for one block, but the big mrdanga can be heard around the world.

            The great resounding sound of the brhad mrdanga is indeed heard in many cells, cell dorms, hallways, chow halls” (cafeterias) and yards across United States and around the world.

 

            The preaching activities of the prison ministry give an extraordinary opportunity to the inmates.

 

“Both by rising and by setting, the sun decreases the duration of life of everyone, except one who utilizes the time by discussing topics of the all-good Personality of Godhead.”

Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.17

 

            Life is prison can be very dangerous. Not only physically, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well. It is said that environment is stronger than will, and in prison, good qualities are neither valued nor encouraged. It’s easy to lose hope in that setting. Days merge together into an eternity and years of incarceration can feel like kalpas, stretching endlessly into a night of hopelessness and boredom.

 

            Krishna consciousness is the light that drives away the darkness, bringing knowledge, understanding, and freedom to whoever is open to receive them. And many inmates are. The sincere souls are waiting for this light and are overjoyed and grateful to receive it.

           

            In the year 2015, some inmates were released, while some were imprisoned for the first time; some “old timers”, bhaktas for many years, have steadily progressed in their spiritual lives; newcomers have seen their life changed; inmates have given books and the holy name to their fellow prisoners; chapel programs have developed or grown…Krishna consciousness is alive and well in prisons all over.

 

            I am deeply grateful for all the players involved in IPM; inmates, volunteers, chaplains, donors and well-wishers, and all who have and continue to support this leg of Lord Caitanya’s preaching movement.

            As we enter 2016, I can only pray that more and more souls will come back to Prabhupada’s and Krishna’s lotus feet. Thank you with all my heart!

            We are a good team and I am sure that Prabhupada is very pleased by our cooperation in Krishna’s service!

 

*****

 

BOOKS DISTRIBUTED in 2015

Prabhupada’s Books total: 3,375

Breakdown:

Magazines (10 to 50 pages): 553

Small: 774

Medium: 254

Big: 139

Maha-Big: 1,655   

                                         

BTGs: 1,874

Books by other devotee authors: 212

Tapes: 16

CDs: 564

DVDs: 31

MP3s: 30                                 

Japa Mala Sets: 198                                                    

Neck Beads: 228

Incense packs: 30

GRAND TOTAL of all Books and BTGs in 2016: 5,461

                  Srila Prabhupada, ke! Jaya!!!

*****

 

  The above is just a small part of the bi-monthly IPM NEWS, an electronic newsletter. To read the whole Jan/Feb 2016 issue, please go to:

 

http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/node/474

 

 If you wish to receive it in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

 

More excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork are available on our website at: www.iskconprisonministry.org

Would you like to help?

 

OUR PRESSING NEED OF THE MOMENT: we are looking for mini japa malas (the kind with 27 beads on it) for those prisons who won’t accept our normal size japa malas.

If you can help in any way, please contact Mukunda Dasa or Bhakti-lata Dasi at:

 

ISKCON Prison Ministry

3759 McCreary's Ridge Road

NBU #46

Moundsville, WV 26041

iskconprisonministry@gmail.com

 Art%20Design%20Class-unknown-Nrsimha.jpg

 

 THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

PLEASE BLESS THE PRISON MINISTRY FOR A VERY SUCCESSFUL YEAR!


 

             

 

 

Read more…

Petersburg Krishna Kirtan Concert

By Phalini Devi Dasi

At 7:00 a.m. on August 22, 2015, my husband and I climbed into the car with Sarva-drik dasa and his wife Sudevi.  We all drove to the Petersburg (Virginia) Federal Correctional Complex where we all had gone for a kirtan and preaching program in September of 2014.  Our first trip there had been such a positive experience that we were eager to go again. 

During the pleasantly scenic drive between Sandy Ridge and Petersburg, we learned that before relocating to Prabhupada Village six years before, Sarva-drik Prabhu had lived at the Denver ISKCON Temple for twenty-five years.  While living there, he used to regularly go to the prison in Englewood, Colorado to chant, preach and teach the inmates about Krsna Consciousness, as well as to distribute prasadam.  He now works in connection with the ISKCON Prison Ministry.  Over the last six years, he developped and now follows a regular prison preaching route.  Prison preaching has given Sarva-drik Prabhu such a sweet taste that he goes to at least five prisons every month—one or two per weekend—including facilities in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

We arrived in Petersburg right on time, with our closed-toe shoes (visitors are not allowed to wear flip-flops there) and our otherwise completely devotional dress, tilaka and musical instruments.  After clearing security, we were escorted to the chapel. The Prison Chaplain and Bhakta Richard (aka “Krishna Kirtan”--the devotee who is in charge of the Bhakti-Yoga Club at the medium-security facility) met us there and led us into a large room which is part of the vast prison chapel complex. 

We were not prepared for what awaited us.  Forty men greeted us, many of whom were positioned and ready to play various types of musical instruments to accompany the kirtan.  We recognized some of the faces and gave nods and smiles of recognition to those whom we had met the previous year—Simon, Louis, and David were a few of the names we remembered. 

Bhakta David, the now-famous origami florist, had handmade many more paper flowers this year than he had the previous year (Petersburg Correction Facility still does not allow real flowers on campus).  In fact, he had made more than two-hundred paper flowers, dozens of which were strung together as garlands.  As we entered the concert hall, we were lovingly garlanded by four of the men.  Bhakta David had also learned how to make multi-colored origami lotus flowers, which were beautifully arranged in vases on the altar.  Their Lordships Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, dressed in simple yet lovely outfits, graced the altar with Their effulgent, benevolent forms and were accompanied by an attractive statue of Sri-Sri Radha-Krishna as well as a set of blissful Jagannatha deities.  Bhakta Louis, Krishna Kirtan's cell-mate, is particularly attracted to Lord Jagannatha, so he always makes sure that Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra are prominently placed on the altar and a huge three-foot wall-hanging of Lord Jagannatha's face is hung on the wall behind the altar.

We were happy to see the familiar Prabhupada Pastimes video playing on a screen to the right of the altar.  It always fills our hearts with joy and makes us smile to see old clips of Srila Prabhupada and his disciples from the sixties and seventies. 

Krishna Kirtan Prabhu signaled for the kirtan to start.  We were amazed by how all the men sang Hare Krishna so enthusiastically and played their instruments so expertly together.  I was especially impressed that all the instruments were in tune with each other and even with our harmonium!  The kirtan sounded so sweet that I found myself hoping that someone was recording it.  Bhakta Simon played the congas and there were even a bass guitar and another harmonium playing along.  It was phenomenal.  A veritable Petersburg Krishna Kirtan Concert!

After the kirtan, both my husband and Sarva-drik Prabhu took turns speaking.  Haripada Prabhu reminded the men that there are 8,400,000 species of life and that the human form of life is very rare.  He said that we are all lucky to be in human bodies because we have the opportunity to reconnect with Krishna, God.  He said that God is known as Yogeshvara—the master of all mystic powers—and that each of us has some powers, but God has all powers—all potencies—to the fullest degree.  Krishna can be compared to the unfathomable ocean, and we can be compared to small quantities of ocean water.  If you take a drop of ocean water or dip a bucket into the ocean, you'll find salt just like in the vast ocean, but in a small quantity.  So we are like Krishna, in that we have a small, minute quantity of powers compared to His unlimited powers. 

Recalling for the men the Bible story of the prodigal son, Haripada Prabhu painted a mental picture for them, “Imagine a wealthy family.  One of the children leaves home and becomes a drunkard.  The family tries to encourage him to come back, but he refuses.  But some day he may decide to reconnect with his father, with his family.  We are like that prodigal child.  We have the wealthiest, most loving father, yet because of our minute independence, we have somehow chosen to leave home, to disconnect from our family and to try to enjoy this material world in a separate way.  As in the story of the prodigal son, when we decide to return home to Lord Krishna, we are welcomed with open arms and unconditional love.” 

Sarva-drik Prabhu spoke about Canakya Pandita's verse in Niti-sastra which explains that time is the most valuable asset for the human being.  He emphasized that we cannot buy back even a moment of time, even with unlimited money.  He questioned the men, “How do you invest your time, your most valuable asset?  Do you spend time contemplating 'who am I'?”  Then he took that thought further by asking, “If you don't know who you are, how can you be happy?”  He asked, “You have all lost your families, your cars, your bank accounts, and your reputations.  How can you be happy without these things?”  Then he proceeded to explain how to be happy without material attachments and affluences.  He advised, “Meditate on who you really are, and what is your relationship with God.  Ask yourself, 'Why do I have to be sick and grow old and die?" Sarva Prabhu told the men that only a fortunate person feels inspired to ask these questions.  He concluded by urging the men to become fortunate, and to learn to use the wealth of their time wisely.  “If you misuse wealth, all you have left is sorrow, but if you use your time efficiently to understand what is the soul's relationship with God, you can become happy.  That is the actual object of human life, the real wealth of human life.”

After the devotees spoke, we all joined together in another sweet, melodious kirtan.  Although we sang a melody that the inmates had not heard before, they caught on quickly and soon became absorbed in the sound of the holy names.  We noticed many of the men closing their eyes and really trying to hear the holy names.  Some even accompanied us with their musical instruments.  By Sri Nama Prabhu's mercy, we all felt purified and uplifted by the beautiful kirtan of Krishna's holy names.

Following the kirtan, Haripada Prabhu spoke again.  “The Vedas tell us that God created two realms, the material realm and the spiritual realm.  Both realms originate from Krishna.  When we come to the human form of life, Krishna grants us the freedom to choose whether to reside in the spiritual realm or the material realm.  In the human form of life, we have the chance to read transcendental literatures which describe both realms.  We also have the chance to decide in which realm we want to reside.”  He illustrated a scenario: “Someone may find himself in a bad neighborhood, a dangerous neighborhood.  He may then choose to move to a better neighborhood.  The human form of life allows us the chance to choose to move to a better neighborhood, the spiritual world.  So how does one go about moving to that better neighborhood of the spiritual world?  The method for transferring ourselves to the spiritual world is given by Lord Caitanya in this Age of Kali—the chanting of the holy names of the Lord.”  He compared the chanting of Hare Krishna to a spiritual alarm clock.  “This chanting is a sound vibration that wakes us up from the dream of identifying with our body and everything connected to our body.  The chanting is a sound vibration that wakes us up so that we can realize who we are.  Lord Caitanya, Krishna Himself, came five-hundred years ago to give us this process of mantra-meditation.  The chanting of Hare Krishna wakes us up so we can understand our eternal relationship with Krishna.” 

Because the Petersburg Facility does not allow prasadam distribution, the inmates bought candies and after offering them to Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, happily distributed them to all. 

Many of the men had requested to have their pictures taken with us.  Unfortunately, the photographer arrived late, so many participants had already left before the camera was able to capture them.  After much picture-taking with those who were still present, we said our good-byes, feeling very grateful to Lord Caitanya and the Guru-parampara for engaging us in prison preaching. 

On the drive home to North Carolina, my husband and I expressed our gratitude to Sarva-drik Prabhu for his years of hard work, traveling to prisons and sharing Krishna consciousness with inmates who might otherwise never get a chance to hear the kirtan of Krishna's holy names or Krishna conscious philosophy.  We thanked him for encouraging us to come along and experience the nectar that is freely and readily available to those who are willing to take the time and effort to touch prisoners’ lives with Lord Caitanya’s mercy. 

 

***


This article is just a small part of the bi-monthly IPM NEWS, an electronic newsletter. To read the whole Nov/Dec 2015 issue, please go to:    http://iskconprisonministry.us/node/473

 

 If you wish to receive it in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line.

 

You can also view more excerpts of inmate letters and also their artwork on our website: www.iskconprisonministry.org

You want to help?

 

OUR PRESSING NEED OF THE MOMENT: One of our donors who, for many years (thank you!), sponsored all the shipping of boxes of books to chapel libraries will be unable to do so for an indefinite time. Without this donation, I am unable to send books to chapel libraries.Petersburg%20Bhaktas-8-2015.JPG

     This is vital, as hundreds of inmates have access, for years on end, to the material placed in libraries. Please help!

     The yearly cost is $2,000 a year (or $500 every trimester/ or $167 a month).

If you can help, please contact Mukunda Dasa or Bhakti-lata Dasi at:

 

iskconprisonministry@gmail.com

ISKCON Prison Ministry

3759 McCreary's Ridge Road

NBU #46

Moundsville, WV 26041

 

 

Read more…

My Faith in Prabhupada and Krsna is Set in Stone

 by Bhakta Kevin C.

Hare Krsna!

 I believe Srila Prabhupada really knew what he was talking about and had a close personal relationship with Krishna. I choose the bliss he has offered to anyone willing to serve and worship Lord Krishna and His devotees’ lotus feet.

 

I feel very low and unfit to approach Krishna on my own strength so I will make the attempt through service to His devotees. “The servant of the servant of the servant of the Lord.”

 

My faith in Prabhupada and Krishna is set in stone and all the devotees I have had the gift of association with since I found out about ISKCON in 1999 has given me a very good foundation to stand on. Krishna has truly blessed me with His mercy in this life. He came into my life at a time when I was searching for truth and a time I needed to find answers to my questions. He has given me a sense of family through the ISKCON devotees association; through letters and in person to person contact.

 

I will serve to the best of my ability with the time left to me in this body and hope to continue in the next. Jaya Prabhupada!

 

I have been helping some inmates here to learn about Krishna. I believe one has written to you, Mr. Van Peterson. He’s a recovering heroin addict and is only eighteen or nineteen years old. He is in my cell. I share books with him and taught him how to chant on a Catholic rosary I got from the chaplain. I have made arrangements with the chaplain for inmates here to be allowed to have japa malas for chanting rounds.

 

My social worker here, Elizabeth, is very interested in Krishna Consciousness and I have given her some BTGs. I plan to leave the books you sent to me with her to use in her AODA groups. She feels it will relieve the high level of stress her inmates deal with. Elizabeth asked me to give a group presentation on Krishna Consciousness and the Hare Krishna mantra before I leave here. I told her I would do it. Say a prayer for me that Prabhupada will not be disappointed with my attempt and that Krishna will give me His mercy and guidance.  I feel very unfit to do this but it will be a way to spread the teachings of Krishna in the prison setting.

 

My goal is this: I will talk a little then explain the Hare Krishna mantra; how to say it (call and response). Then I will get the inmates from my cell to join me in a demonstration of sankirtan. Then I will make a request that everyone present rise and join in chanting and dancing the Hare Krishna mantra together.

 

This will be done during our community meeting part of programming. We have about twenty-five inmates in this program so it will interesting to see if I can get them all to stand and raise their hands and voices in praise to Krishna!

 

Wouldn’t that be something! Maybe the first actual kirtan performed in a Wisconsin prison by a large group of inmates. Wow.

 

I plan to be back to sending books to the Prison Ministry inmates as soon as I can. That service is important to me and I will put it ahead of other things I do once I’m out.

Hare Krishna!

Your humble servant,

Bhakta Kevin C.

Milwaukee, WI

 

 

POEM

Eternally Grateful

In the darkness of ignorance, so blind,

Longing for light, darkness no longer to bind.

Since time immemorial, wandering aimlessly along the way –

Silently searching for Krsna’s pure devotees, to hear what they have to say.

Desperate and downtrodden, crying for their company

Humbly begging for mercy, dear devotee, kindly help me to see

Submissively I pray, please impart the truth, as you have realized it within.

May you mahatmas free me from material life…

From within the heart compassionately teach me how to eradicate the sin.

Indeed I admit to being a rascal, no more than a poor fool –

Unworthy and unqualified though this fallen soul be, still here I am

Humbly begging of you…please rescue me from this material pool.

My heart is open and I have a little faith, but not much more

Hear me knocking, Haribol!  Haribol!  Haribol!  Please open the door.

There is hope for me to gradually surrender, hearing you speak about Krsna’s fame

Yes, attentively listening to lectures, hearing the pure chanting of Krsna’s holy name.

The glorious gif of Krsna Consciousness, ever sweet and sublime, eternally grateful that you gave

For us conditioned souls to see the light, for Krsna’s pleasure we truly live.

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!

To all of the very dear pure devotees of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna!

Jai!  Jai!

 

Your Humble Servant,

Bhakta Jason M.– Columbia, SC

 

  This article is just a small part of the bi-monthly IPM NEWS, an electronic newsletter. If you wish to receive it in your mailbox, simply email me at iskconprisonministry@gmail.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line. Thank you!

 

To read more excerpts of inmate letters and to see some of their artwork, please visit our website at www.iskconprisonministry.org

To help with this prison program, please contact Mukunda Dasa or Bhakti-lata Dasi at:

 

ISKCON Prison Ministry

3759 McCreary's Ridge Road

NBU #46

Moundsville, WV 26041

IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com

www.iskconprisonministry.org


 

Read more…

Krishna Kirtan’s Continued Journey

        For those of you who read the previous IPM NEWS, you will remember that inmate bhakta, Richard Chase—affectionately nicknamed “Krishna Kirtan”by Sarva-drik prabhu—was very well situated in a prison in Petersburg, Virginia where he had started what became a very successful and popular Hare Krishna program at the chapel library. Last year, however, he was transferred to a prison in Lisbon, Ohio where the chaplains were quite inimical toward Krishna Consciousness and who prevented him from starting a Hare Krishna program at their chapel.   However, after some tribulations in Lisbon, Krishna Kirtan has been transferred back to the Petersburg prison, back in the swing of things! Sarva-drik prabhu is still visiting and leading amazing programs, which are enthusiastically attended by many inmates! Below Krishna Kirtan recounts the first dream he had of Prabhupada, in 2006.

Srila Prabhupada’s Visit   

   W

hen I first discovered Krishna Consciousness in 2006, it was during the pre- trial phase of my incarceration.  Right after my arrest, I was abandoned by those in my prior Christian faith.  I was sure God had left me too.  He was showing no mercy and my prosecutor was going for the throat.

 

                Uncertainty, fear, hopelessness, and impending doom pervades one’s spirit during pre- trial.  It can squash God out of a guy’s heart.  During the depth of my despair, another inmate slid a magazine beneath my cell door.  It was “Back to Godhead” and my life has not been the same ever since.

 

                I learned, when I was overcome with those dark emotions that chanting Hare Krishna and reading Srila Prabhupada’s books brought more light and relief than anything else could.  The worse it got, the more I chanted, and the better I felt.  I began writing to Bhakti- lata dasi and she answered every question, every concern, and returned letter for letter. Her kindness was transcendental and she kept pointing me to Srila Prabhupada.  It was difficult to understand at first- how a mere human could be so revered and worshipped.  I soon came to understand Prabhupada is no mere human.  He is Sri Guru.

 

                As I continued to chant, a transformation began- I was becoming a devotee.  It was as if Srila Prabhupada’s words spoke directly to my heart, drenching it in love for Lord Krishna.

 

                The Christian resentments I had toward God for not helping me turned into Vedic lessons of karmic responsibility.  Everything regarding my fate began to make sense.  Govinda, the reservoir of pleasure revealed His mercy to me- I could be doing life it weren’t for him.  I deserved so much worse than what I was getting.  As I began to absorb these realizations, I started to find peace.

 

                One night, lying on my bunk while reading Bhagavad-gita As It Is, I was slipping into sleep, the Gita straddling my chest.  But, then I heard a sound to which all prisoners must be alert- jingling keys.  Glancing through my door, I noticed bright color filling the small glass window the guards look through- a rare sight in this world of grey concrete steel.  I rose, setting my Shastra on my pillow.  A small, smiling man, my height, in brilliant saffron robes, glowed on the other side of the door.  At that moment, the barrier glided open and there was Srila Prabhupada standing before me.  My heart leapt.  Instantly, I collapsed at his lotus feet, trying to gather the dust from them to smear upon my head as I broke into tears.  He pulled me up, handed me a japa mala and said, “Chant 16 rounds of the Hare Krishna mantra each day.”  I took the mala and then realized I was still lying on my bunk, the Gita still atop my chest.  I looked at my hand, the feeling of Tulasi Devi still lingering between my fingers.  That wasn’t a dream, I told myself.  It was a vision.  I knew then that it was my duty to spread Krishna Consciousness to as many inmates as possible.  I sat up and the Gita fell into my lap, opened at the 18th Chapter, verse 66 jumping from the page, “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction.  Do not fear.”

Richard Chase

Petersburg, VA

 

INMATE LETTER EXCERPTS

Dear Sarva-drik prabhu,

I just wanted to express my wonder at the Lord's mercy He took on me. It truly had everything to do with Sri-Sri Radha-Krishna and Sri-Sri Gaura-Nitai. I realized a couple weeks ago that Lord Caitanya is the most merciful of all the Lord's incarnations. And Lord Nityananda's mercy is SO infinite.

           Anything could have happened prabhuji - anything. I owe Him EVERYTHING I have. It is all His anyway - but as I had mentioned - I'm going to be a different person when I get back which will have a LOT to do with my effectiveness as a Vaisnava. You can believe that the attendance at the service - especially when you return will be significantly larger. I know that many attended just because I asked them to, but perhaps I can attract more based solely on the principles of Krishna Consciousness and not because their friend "Yogi asked them to come."
                 It was so funny last night in the holding tank, waiting to get processed, a young guy who I thought was Hispanic looked at me and said "You are Hare Krishna?" I asked, "How did you know?" He said, "I read the Sanskrit on your arm." I asked him, "How do YOU know Sanskrit?" He said, "I'm from India. I'm Punjabi. I'm a Sikh but I studied Sanskrit." So I started saying the prayers and quoting Sanskrit from the Gita and he was amazed that an American could know as much. This spoke to me of the opportunities of preaching the Holy Name in India.

          On the plane here, all shackled up and crammed-in, three to a row, I freely gave Harinam to two young black men who never heard of Krishna Consciousness. I explained to them how we are NOT the body.

Richard Chase

Petersburg, Virginia

 

Dear Mother Bhakti-lata,

I am back at Petersburg, through Lord Nitai and Sri Radha’s mercy. At the last kirtan that Sarva-drik attended here, there were twenty inmates and the room was packed. Chaplain Thompson and I are talking about moving our growing group to a larger space in the chapel. I am so blessed to be here and our group is so fortunate to have what we have. Sarva-drik prabhu also gave an awesome group Gita study course which we will be beginning soon. 

                I have been blessed beyond my wildest imaginings. To be able to preach Krsna consciousness is so sublime. Being in Krsna consciousness gives us unlimited happiness even in this material world. Inmates especially need to realize this. There needs to be a KC program in every city, county, state, and federal institution. We need it desperately and I am so very blessed to be able to spread just a tiny fractional bit of it to others. The work that you, IPM, and all the Vaisnava-desire-trees are truly fulfilling the spiritual desires of all of us most fallen and conditioned souls.

Richard Chase

Petersburg, Virginia

 

Dear Bhakti-lata Dasi,

Please accept my dandavat pranams. Enclosed is a meager donation for the seva the IPM provides so benevolently for those fortunate jivas who have heard the message of the Bhagavata, which is so munificently gifted to such fallen incarcerated souls such as myself by Srila Prabhupada. Forgive me for the thirteen years delay in repaying such kindness. May this donation somehow touch the heart of a prisoner as the IPM continues to touch mine. Prabhupada, ki, jaya! Your servant,

Bhakta Thomas Shipley

Appleton, Wisconsin

 

I am so blessed and grateful to you, Lord Krishna and all who are able to help me in this endeavor... I pray and chant a minimum of six rounds a day and working my way up as my time, schedule, and opportunity allows in the prison environment, as well as constantly chanting verbally and in my mind at all times possible, while walking, working, eating, and more... as the scriptures tell us:

Ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanti, "The truth is one, it is spoken under various names.”

James W.
Huntsville, Texas

 

My name is Marvin Earl Carter Jr. and I’m an inmate at the North Central Unit in Arkansas. I have been following the Bhagavad-Gita for some time now. And I do study of other faiths but this one speaks to me a lot and I can feel it in my heart when I read of its divine grace.

But I’m a man with a dark past, I was convicted of sexual assault. I had no sense of reason or faith in myself to live anymore until I found Krsna. He is truly a new part of my life and the way that I see things now.

                 It is just a little different for me as being a young Black man that is following Sri Krsna and studying the Bhagavad-Gita.

I am about thirty years old and the reason that I’m writing to ISKCON Prison Ministry is to ask you if there is some way that I can speak to people from the world that follows this path in life, so that I can better understand this way of life in prison. The only way to truly know how this life and path is lived is to be able to speak to people that live it. Someday I do wish to meet someone who shares the Hindu faith.

Marvin C.

Calico Rock, Arizona

 

 [My books were taken] The only thing I was able to keep was my Gita which is all I really need anyway. Association would be nice At least the prison accepts Krishna Consciousness as a religion though they will not work with me on the diet or faith items of any kind. We are surrounded by feed-lots and slaughter houses here and the darkness in which these people live in shocking. So me and the Lord are just silently waiting for a door to open. I make beads out of string with knots in them but the guards steal them when they find them and I can’t chant in the open with them. I have found another devotee here, Bhakta Doug Gaylor. I also have another young guy that is showing great interest here. I meet him in the gym and answer questions the best I can. He has a Gita and has a good gentle soul.

Thomas L.

Sterling, Colorado

 

                I wish to express my deepest thanks to you & the ministry for the prayer beads & all the books that you’ve sent me; it’s really great; Hare Krsna! I’m really enjoying everything & I’ve been attending the Saturday meetings I am learning more each day! My chanting is coming along nicely yet I know I still have a long way to go; I’ve been doing four to six rounds (not enough!) but today, I’ve done nine rounds & the day/night isn’t over yet :)!

Please accept my gratitude & thanks again!

Thomas C.

Raiford, Florida

 

                Let me start by saying that it took me a while to grasp the teaching of His Divine Grace & of Bhagavad-gita, but the fog is beginning to clear and I am experiencing an awakening of self. I’ve had an ample amount of time to sit in solitude, chant & study the Gita, since that is the only book I now possess. It is truly changing my way of thinking, albeit slowly. Due to the circumstances of my life up until this point, I still carry around massive amounts of baggage and negativity. But by chanting and remembering to offer as sacrifice the fruits of my work, I am chipping away at that layer of illusion.

                Truly, the influence of Krsna Consciousness is working in my life. I thank you with endless kindness for the services that you provide to those of us striving behind the concrete and steel walls. Sincerely,
Tracy G.

Polkton, North Carolina

 

To read the full newsletter, please follow the link below and then click on the attachment:

http://iskconprisonministry.us/node/466

 

If you wish to receive our bi-monthly IPM NEWS newsletter, please email us at: IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com

, with “SUBSCRIBE” in the subject line. Thank you!

 

To help with this prison program, please contact Mukunda Dasa or Bhakti-lata Dasi at:

 

ISKCON Prison Ministry

3759 McCreary's Ridge Road

NBU #46

Moundsville, WV 26041

IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com

www.iskconprisonministry.org

 

 

Read more…

Joyful Prison Program

This article was written by Phalini devi dasi.

Early in the morning on Saturday, September 13, 2014, my husband Haripada dasa and I picked up a couple of friends--Sarva-drik Prabhu and his wife Sudevi dasi--and headed north.  We arrived at the Medium Security Facility of the Petersburg Prison in Virginia around 11:15 a.m.  We were checked through security, our hands were stamped, and we were escorted through several heavy, metal doors until we found ourselves in the prison chapel. 

 

     The chapel of the Petersburg facility is a carpeted room with a simple yet lovely altar at one end.  Our eyes drank in the beauty of the Deities.  Gracing the altar were Sri Sri Radha and Krishna, Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai, Sri Sri Jagannatha, Baladeva and Subhadra, and a beautiful murti of Srila Prabhupada.  Handmade origami flowers (real flowers are not allowed) and decorative burning candles helped to create a devotional atmosphere. On the wall behind the altar was a screen playing a film of Srila Prabhupada's pastimes accompanied by recorded kirtans of long ago.

 

     We were warmly greeted by all the devotees (about twenty) in the room and invited to take our seats on cushions at the foot of the altar.  We were introduced to the group by a man who is considered the leader of the prison bhaktas, affectionately called "Yogi" by the others.  Yogi glorified Mother Bhakti-lata, saying that it is only because of her help that everything we saw there had become a reality.  With obviously deep appreciation, he added, "Every letter I ever wrote to her, she wrote a letter back to me."  

      We led kirtan--the inmates all knew how to chant Hare Krishna and they chanted enthusiastically--then my husband spoke about how we are all prisoners in this material world and that the best use of human life is to extricate ourselves from this prison and go back home to Krishna.  Sarva-drik Prabhu commented, "You men are all lucky because you've had everything taken away--wives, homes, jobs, bank balances--so now you are in a perfect position to surrender fully to Krishna."  They've all heard this type of preaching before, but somehow they all expressed appreciation for my husband's and Sarva-drik's words.

 

     After the program at the medium-security facility, we made our way to another section of the prison, the low-security facility. There were four men there, all soon on their way out of the prison, with just a little time left.  We led kirtan there also, and spoke about how we all make mistakes in this world, but Krishna consciousness helps us to improve, stop making fools of ourselves, and realize the highest goal of human life.  The men all appreciated our visit and expressed a desire to meet with us again.

 

     As we drove away, the four of us talked joyfully about our experiences there at the prison and how we could hardly wait to go back again.  We all expressed our appreciation for the efforts of devotees who have reached out to prisoners all over the country, providing Srila Prabhupada's books, harmoniums, CDs, DVDs, deities, devotional pictures and other paraphernalia to encourage the efforts of Krishna conscious inmates to share Krishna consciousness with others and in doing so, grow and nurture their own bhakti-lata creepers of devotion.  

 

 

To read the full newsletter, please follow the link below and then click on the attachment:

http://iskconprisonministry.us/node/462

 

If you wish to receive our bi-monthly IPM NEWS newsletter, please email us at: IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com

, with “SUBSCRIBE” in the subject line. Thank you!

 

To help with this prison program, please contact Mukunda Dasa or Bhakti-lata Dasi at:

 

ISKCON Prison Ministry

PO Box 2676

Alachua, FL  32616-2676

IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com

www.iskconprisonministry.org

Read more…

Prisoners' and Chaplains' Appreciation

Hare Krsna, dear devotees!

Below are some exerpts from inmates, as well as some Chaplains' appreciation for the work done by ISKCON Prison Ministry. I hope they bring you pleasure and inspiration.

INMATE'S EXCERPTS 

“Everything here is coming along very nicely. I try to plant as many seeds of Krsna Consciousness as I possibly can. At the moment, I have one inmate in my pod with whom I am studying KC with. I put him in touch with Balabhadra Prabhu in Boise. When I received the C.C. he also received some wonderful books. He was really excited, he ran to my cell to show me what he had received. It was beautiful to see his utter joy! Hare Krsna!

Benjamin B., Buckeye, Arizona

 

“I had fallen away from chanting the Maha Mantra over the years, after losing the good association of bhakta Jason, and had eventually passed on all the books I had on Krishna Consciousness to other interested bhaktas at the various prisons in which I’ve sojourned.

I feel like the prodigal son spoken of in the Holy Bible, as I’ve been wandering to and fro, lost in the world of Maya. Yet, by Krishna’s boundless mercy, I am once again on the same yard (prison) as bhakta Jason, and a devotee has begun coming here once a month to share Krishna’s love for us. I am rejoicing over this great blessing and am beginning to feel alive again! We’re allowed to spend 2 hours in the presence of this devotee and are in the process of getting approval for a weekly study group for seriously interested inmates. I wonder if you could kindly provide for me a copy of Bhagavad Gita As It Is? I am certain that this one book would put me back on track. I have begun chanting again lately. It’s wonderful to have purpose in this life again. Krishna’s mercy and love have been there for me all along!”

Bhakta Edmund G., Columbia, SC

 

“Dear Mother Bhakti-Lata Dasi,

Thank you for the books “Life comes from Life” and “Chanting Hare Krsna”. They are beautiful. I love Prabhupada’s books. I love what how they are put together, illustrated, organized; I love everything about them, especially Krsna’s mercy which flows freely from them. The Holy Scriptures are alive as are Prabhupada’s books. Hare Krsna. I love to remember the story of the devotee of Lord Chaitanya who was illiterate, but followed the instructions of his spiritual master to read the Gita, and he was sitting with the book open upside down with tears pouring down his face. Books are such beautiful forms of Krsna, and glory to following the instructions of Sri Guru.

   I began to read parts of “Chanting Hare Krsna”, and found the stories of Haridas Thakur. Thank you again, this is just the food I need. Thank you for this prasadam. May we all be so dedicated in our service to Krsna. May Krsna bless you always”

Bhakta Joel S., Coaltownship, PA

 

“Dear friend, first and foremost allow me to extend my deepest gratitude for your receiving my letter with and open heart, thank you. My name is Bryant. I am a friend of an inmate here, Kalki Das, who has referred me to you. I’ve been studying Buddhism for the last five years, meditating, learning and practicing the “dharma”. I have been doing my best to spread loving kindness to others, but I still felt empty… until I found Krsna about a year ago, and now I met Kalki Das. I want to learn from him. He recently told me about Lord Nrsimha; I can’t wait to hear more, learn more. I want to be with Krsna and bask in Krsna’s love, and light. As I write now I listen to the sounds of my soul and I know Krsna is in my Heart, I can feel it. I want to dance and chant. I feel awakened, over-joyed and filled with love, but also humbled. I do my best to abide by the laws; I do not eat meat, fish or eggs. Could you send me books, perhaps even CDs? I do not have any money, so maybe you could help me a little?”

Bryant Mau, Corcoran, CA

CHAPLAINS' APPRECIATION

 10-28-201

"Dear Bhakti-lata Dasi,

            I received your package yesterday. Thank you so very much for your ministry, through your donations, to your fellow Hindu brothers who are detainees here, and for the enrichment and education of the general population of the facility. It is appreciated more than words can say."

Rev. Richard G. Barnes, MDiv, Chaplain

MTC Imperial Regional Detention Facility

Calexico, Callifornia

 

10-2014 

"Wow, your generosity is amazing. The books listed below arrived today, expecting the others any day now. Thank You again for caring so much!

We have had a very positive response about Krishna from some of the institutions. We are distributing your literature, tapes, DVD's and music.

Beads will be a great pleasure to the Inmates during their prayers! If you could send 30 sets, we will distribute them as needed by the Inmates. Also, all Inmates have access to DVD and SC players within the Chapel at the various institutions. 

 I want to thank you again for your response to the request of the inmates! I am relying on you to help me provide them with anything and everything that they might require for their Worship Services. I enjoy talking with the Inmates and hearing of their Spiritual progress. Chris L. has even started a small Worship Group at his Facility and I am proud to help him and the other Inmates on their paths!

I wish to thank you again for helping out! Most organizations are too willing to turn their backs on these unfortunate people. That is why I am so pleased by your response!
Thank you again, and Peace and Blessings,"
Namaste.

Reverend Michael Sims

Assembly of Ancient Paths Church

Ellendale, Tennessee 

 

10-21-2014

"We received the material you sent. Thank you for all you do. It really makes a difference.

Haribol,"

David Muchin

Clinical Social Worker

Napa State Hospital

Napa California

 

To read the full newsletter, please click on the link below:

http://www.iskconprisonministry.org/node/461

Thank you!

Your servant, Bhakti-lata Dasi

Read more…

By Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya's infinite mercy, here all the books and material distributed from the Alachua, Florida IPM office in 2013:

Prabhupada’s Books total: 2,717
Magazines (10 to 50 pages): 864
Small: 816
Medium: 242
Big: 311
Maha-Big: 484

Books by other devotee authors: 332
BTGs: 758
Audio tapes: 104
CDs: 343
DVDs: 24
Japa Mala Sets: 97
Neck Beads: 25

GRAND TOTAL of all Books and BTGs in 2013: 3,807 !!!

In 2014, we would like to make more DVDs and CDs available to the inmates. They need to be new, or looking like new. Can you help us make this possible? :)

SRILA PRABHUPADA, KE! JAYA!!!

If you want to receive IPM NEWS, our bi-monthly electronic newsletter, please send us an e-mail with “Subscribe to IPM NEWS” in the subject line.

To help with this prison program, please contact Mukunda Dasa or Bhakti-lata Dasi at:

ISKCON Prison Ministry
PO Box 2676
Alachua, FL 32616-2676
IskconPrisonMinistry@gmail.com
www.iskconprisonministry.org
352-575-0458

Read more…