Dear Mother Shyama Priya,
Thank you for your letter and thank you for the Back To Godhead. I just got some more envelopes, just now, so I can write you.
The Lord had been blessing us like anything . The State of Oregon Dept of corrections has recognized ISKCON as a bonefide religion and for the glorification of Lord Caitanya, japa mala prayer beads have been put in the canteen. So we can just go to the canteen (prison store) and buy them and when we're not chanting on the beads, we are allowed to wear them as neck beads.
When the beads were first being approved, it took two months, we were chanting Hare Krsna, on Catholic rosary, 54 beads, 2 times around equaled one round. Men walking by would say, Hail Mary, Hail Mary. Now with the real japa beads, they see the real thing and say Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna. as they pass by.
On Thursday night as the canteen closed for the weekend we heard, "They're here, a long strand of beads with a knot between each bead and a big bead in the center." All weekend I could barely sleep. All I could think about was the beads. On Monday we got in line at the canteen. The man at the canteen said, "I hope you like these", and pulled out the most nice set of nim wood japa mala beads I have ever seen! I asked " How much." "$5.45", He said. So we both got 2 sets, so we could give a set away to interested men.
These are big beads and everywhere we went, every officer who saw them stopped us. "Where did you get the beads?" They asked "These are Hare Krishna japa beads. We got them at the canteen." They said, "You got to be kidding" and they'd call on their radios, "I've got a guy here who says he got Hare Krishan japa beads from the canteen." They'd hear the Captain say, "Yes, it's true, the Hare Krishna's have got their japa beads for sale at the canteen."
I was walking around for days making sure every officier saw them and stopped me, just to hear them chant Hare Krishna, as they called in. I must have told a 1000 inmates what the beads are for and I hear Hare Krishna, as men pass me, inmates and staff alike. I am known as "Das" by everyone and talking about Lord Krishna has become my heart and soul!!!
I don't know why , but I have experienced when I lived at the temples. Devotees kind of looked down their noses at those who are not devotees. There's devotees and then there are Karmis. You know what I mean.
In 1986, I remember standing in front of the new Dwarka temple in LA. A devotee had a letter from an inmate who was asking in his letter, why he did not get a response from the devotees. I remember thinking, "If he was not a bad guy, he wouldn't be in prison." And I turned my nose up and looked down at the letter. I did not write to him, none did! I NEVER DREAMED IT COULD HAPPEN TO ME! But here I am in prison and I wrote to a temple many times, and they never came to Oregon state prison, in fact they never respomded to my letters, never wrote back. If that inmate back in 1986 lost faith, it's my fault. It's all our fault.
One may think that prisons are all dark hell holes of depravity. One may think that convicts who poputlate prisons are the drags of society, the degenerates, but nothing could be farther from the truth!
One may think there is little that can be done to change these people! But, to think that would be to minimize the Holy Name of the Lord, Srila Prabhupada and all He brought to us. His love and compassion. One might still think, "Why should we go to the prisons" THERE IS ONLY ONE REASON I CAN THINK OF, LOVE AND COMPASSION!
Mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers,wives and children , faithful friends of these inmates visit them, because, despite the prisoner's crimes, they love them. And Krishna loves them also! Even more so! Lord Krishna is looking for His lost servants! Many inmates have never heard of Lord Krishna! They have never heard of Lord Caitanya! It is our responsibility to tell them. How else will they know!
Your Servant, Das This is one letter, one of many we receive every week. We feel we are spreading Lord Caitanya's mission to every town and village by preaching to the prison inmates. We need devotees to write inmates, buy books and pay for postage. This is a completely voluntary mission, but the rewards are unlimited
Please contact Mother Shyama Priya, ISKCON Prison Ministry, e-
mail firstname.lastname@example.org. or 4455 Quince St. San Diego, CA 92105.