Chakra Living

Oregon Prisoner Appreciates Devotees

by Bhakti-lata dasi

Posted November 17, 2009

Here are excerpts of a letter from a prison inmate in Salem, Oregon. You can see that there are really no obstacles to Krsna consciousness, even in prison. Bhakta James writes: "Our program has grown a lot. New men are becoming interested in Krsna consciousness. I give a Bhagavad-gita class every day in the yard. Then we have our own worship service.

"Preaching is my life, and my friends always ask: 'Why is it, no matter what we start talking about, we end up talking about Krsna?' And you know your friends see you as a priest when they say they're sorry for letting a 'cuss word' slip." The prison environment permits frequent interfaith discussions, and James cheerily notes: "Many faiths are coming to our worship service — Christians, Buddhist, Islam, Wicca and even two Vedanta impersonalists. We all chant Hare Krishna together and dance in great joy!"

James writes that there are many ways to encourage his fellow prisoners to take to devotional service, including the honoring of prasadam. "After I offer my veggie tray to the Lord, I like to ask the men sitting at my table if they'd like something off my tray." He also sometimes buys a bag of Jolly Rancher candies, offers them to the Lord, then asks people: 'Care for a Jolly Rama?' "The men simply love it and can't get enough!"

James likes to provide opportunities for seva. "At our worship, we try to engage everyone, like the chapel orderly — by setting up a fan, or to bring a table, something, anything — and the chaplain, who lights the candle. He's made so much advancement over the past six years. Last time he was dancing down the hall, singing Hare Krsna maha mantra, matches in hand."

He appreciates the efforts of ISKCON Prison Ministry participants who correspond with prison devotees and arrange for them to have access to devotional paraphernalia. "Some men bought japa beads at our canteen and chant Hare Krsna," he writes. "They read Prabhupada's books and preach to their friends.

"Actually, due to wonderful devotees like you, this whole prison has become a holy Dhama! Because Prabhupada has come in the form of his books, CDs and DVDs."