Prisoners helping prisoners
Posted September 14, 2004
Many times people ask us why we are helping people in prison. "They committed the crime; why not let them do the time?"
But we see that we are all prisoners in this material world. Some of us are in a state or federal prison; some of us are in the prison of our minds, or a physically disabled body; but just to have a material body is a type of prison. We have no freedom to enjoy all our insatiable desires.
At the Prison Ministry, we try to help others, and ourselves, by practicing Krsna consciousness. The following letter is a nice example of how Krsna consciousness is working in the prisons:
Dear mother Shyama Priya prabhu,
All glories to Srila Prabhupada. All glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga.
I have been having a wonderful time, for a devotee can go to hell and still be happy. For the devotee, being situated in the heavenly planets and being in the hellish planets are equal, for a devotee lives neither in heaven nor in hell, but with Krsna in the spiritual world. So, in prison or out, it's all the same. There are many people to preach to.
The devotee is not interested in so-called meditation in the Himalayas or the forest. Rather, his interest is in the busiest part of the world, where he teaches people Krsna consciousness. The Krsna consciousness movement was started for this purpose. A Vaisnava is interested in enlightening people in Krsna consciousness, because that is the only way for them to be happy. A Vaisnava would say, "Let others be saved; let me rot in hell on their behalf." The willingness to feel that, and to carry it out if necessary, is the cost of true compassion.
I didn't come to prison to preach . . . or did I? I believe Lord Krsna put me here for that purpose: a do or die proposition. So as long as we preach we'll be happy, no matter where we end up.
Just today I went to chow; all these men were sitting there. How can I give them Krsna? I felt a deep compassion for them. I sat down. A man came over to me and asked for a Bhagavad-gita -- that just made my day! I happened to get back one I had loaned out. So I went over and gave it to him. "Oh, that was fast!" He got all excited looking at the pictures.
Another man who is not interested in God or religion took The hidden glory of India. I took him the book; later I found out he liked to draw. A few days later I saw him and I asked how he liked the art in the Glory. He said he really liked it. So a few days later I saw him drawing in the card room, and what picture did he decide to draw? The Changing Bodies, the picture that shows going through animals too, with the Grim Reaper in the middle.
So I asked him, "What does it mean?" He said, "Reincarnation; we came through the animals too." I said, "What does that mean?" He said, "We're not the body."
All this from an 18-year-old kid who hated to be preached to. Hare Krsna!