Letter to ISKCON Prison Ministry
submitted by Shyama Priya dasi
Posted July 10, 2003
Letter from Jivananda dasa in prison in Oregon
Dear Mother Shyama Priya:
I went to a memorial service the other day for two men I knew here at Oregon State Prison.
Larry Pierce I met at the infirmary. A few days after I came here. My heart became very irregular, so they put me in the infirmary. Larry had cancer. We had many talks about Lord Krsna. I was chanting on my hands and asked Larry if he would buy me a Catholic Rosary. (They have 54 beads, so two times around = one round japa) Larry got me a Rosary to chant on, while we waited to get japa mala beads in the prison store, which they now sell there.
I was in the infirmary for 30 days. And I set up an altar on my bed table, so everyone including Larry saw Lord Krsna's and Srila Prabhupada's pictures!
After I got out of the infirmary, I chanted on that Rosary Larry got me for about 3 months. When Larry (who had gotten better, and was out of the infirmary also) would see me, he'd smile, and say "I think of Krsna names being chanted on those beads" When we got our japa mala beads, I made counter beads from that Rosary. It was just a $.95 plastic beaded Rosary, on cheap string, but they lasted the whole year. When the final set of counter beads broke, Larry happened to be sitting with me. I said, I guess I got my use out of that Rosary, wouldn't you say, and thanked Larry once again. he laughed and said "Hare Krishna!" I'd see him around and we'd always talk about Lord Krsna! The cancer finally took his body!
Roger Anstett and I ended up cellies! We had many talks about Lord Krsna. I set up a nice altar, with pictures of my guru maharaja, Srila Prabhupada, Sri Pancatattva, Lord Nrsimhadeva, and Deities from all over the world. It was at that time, you sent a picture of Sri Sri Gaura Nitai worshipped in San Diego. And he watched me change every picture around so They were in the center of my Bulletin Board altar. Even though he was a Christian and could not understand Deities or my altar, he woke up everyday to see Their Lordships. And many times eat fruit prasadam that had been offered at my altar. He had "Hep C" and passed away from it.
So, sitting in their memorial service, I felt that if I had not been taken to prison, these two men might have never even heard of Lord Krsna. The fact, that by the Lord's mercy, they are now on their way back to the Lord, in their next lives, be given a chance to take up devotional service, makes my coming to prison worth it! How many more can I touch with Prabhupada's Mercy?
And what of me, I am a demon, I'm full of all the worst stuff. Out there, I'd be blown away in a moment. I'd fall right back into using intoxication, or maybe even worse. But, it's the Lord's mercy to keep me here. Of course, this is Oregon State Prison and all drugs are easier here to get than on the street. I smell it often, weed! But, there's a big difference. Here, I am the representative of my guru maharaja and Srila Prabhupada! Here I have a great responsibility! Here, there's no place to sneak around! Here, I do not take the devotees for granted. I miss them. I miss everything temples, devotees, classes, seeing the beautiful deities daily. I miss devotee cooked prasadam, I miss my guru maharaja's personal association. In separation, I love the devotees and everything so much more!!!!!! "You don't know what you have till it's gone." So, this is the Sweet Lord's mercy. He knew just what I needed to come alive and stop messing around. I got just what I prayed, "Do whatever it takes to bring me back to You, fully!" So, be careful what you pray, you just might get it!!
We have 9 men reading Srila Prabhupada's books at this time!
Jivananda dasa brahmacari
Write to him at:
2605 State St.
Salem OR 97310