Joyful Prison Program

Author: 
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.

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Want to help? 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