All glories to Srila Gurudeva!
As part of the blessing from Srila Gurudeva and inspiration from IPBYS Prison Outreach team, from last Thursday onwards I am now preaching in two prisons on the same day. The new prison came as a surprise as they had heardabout the success in the LSCI Butner where I have been preaching almost every Thursday for the past two years.
I started early in the morning on Thursday and finished the first preaching in LSCI as usual. It went very well and followed by my class they started the satsang with meditation and listening to songs. I saw our Gokula Ganam CDs too in their hands!
After the class I came out of LSCI. In that short break I honored the prasadam nicely packed by my wife, and then I drove to the other prison called FCI-2. Out of the five prisons, this one is the largest one having more than 1700 inmates in cells and this one has more security.
When I drove for a while, the road stopped as the entrance said, “Entry Not Allowed”. I applied the brake and stopped right there. I was debating if I should enter or not. There was absolutely no other car or even a single person. In my mind, the recent news that an inmate killed a warden and escaped flashed. I reversed and turned my van around and drove back to the previous prison to ask if I can really enter. Upon inquiry, they said, “Yes you can enter as you have got the security cleared and you have the badge. Don’t worry. You can drive in..”
So I drove again and this time I drove thru the gate, and…. yes I crossed it. I looked around to see if any one is pointing any gun on me. My heart beat went a little high!
“Yes, I made it! See, I am alive!”, saying to myself I drove inside and looking for the sign “FCI-2”. I drove and drove and I came to a hospital.. “Hmm, where the heck is this prison?”. I pulled my van to the parking lot and looking for some one to ask. But there was no one coming. Finally I saw a old lady entering into her car, and I approached her. But, by seeing me, she wanted to pull her car away as quickly as possible and run. I waved again. After a second thought, she slowly pulled out her window and looked at me. It got scary by her look and I thought I should run back..
I humbly asked her, “Madam.. I am looking for FCI-2 and I am lost. Can you tell me where it is? I am a volunteer preacher..”
Now she felt relaxed, “Oh, you are a volunteer.. You actually passed it.. Go back and you will see a sign.”
“What sign? I didn’t see any sign!” I thought, but not wanting to ask any more question, I thanked her and got into my van and was driving back and carefully looking for the sign… And yes, I found the sign. The funny thing about the sign is that it was written only on one side, so you will be able to see it only when you are actually coming out from FCI-2! I drove and parked at the parking lot.
It was drizzling for the whole day and I had brought so many Bhagavad Gita books and Spanish books, etc. I carefully bundled them and carried them with difficulty.
At the front desk, there was a lady who by seeing me smiled and said, “You must be Dr. Raj. Chaplain Luke is waiting for you!” and she called the chaplain on the intercom. She gave me a pass already prepared for me for FCI-2 and within minutes after my security check and a stamp on my hand, I saw Chaplain Luke coming!
I was surprised to see the chaplain because I realized that I met him before! He came smiling.. “Dr. Raj, I know you! In the last year award program we shared the same table and talked about so many stories! Wonderful! How is your wife doing?”
“She is doing fine. “, I said.
“I loved her questions.. so curious! I wonder how she could come up with so many questions!”
I wanted to say, “She only asks questions!”, but said, “So glad to see you! and it is you who is the chaplain. I am so happy!”
“O yes. Please come and I will take you to our chapel, our program place and I too will be attending your course. I have two volunteering inmates who will also help us to setup.”
We went thru 3 iron doors and finally came inside. The prison is constructed as a square with very large meadow in the middle which scared me as it was with dead silence like grave yard and I noticed gun men standing on top in all the directions.
We entered into the chapel. It is really huge place and saw chairs already arranged to seat about fifty. The helping inmates came and introduced themselves. I asked them to re-arrange the chairs and they did. For the video setup we encountered issues and they were testing with different video players and finally one blu-ray player worked right.
By this time flocks of inmates started coming walking on the meadow like an army. They entered and greeted and introduced themselves to me one by one.
The chaplain then introduced me to them and they all clapped and expressed their cheer. I started the first session on “Essence of Bhagavad Gita” and went thru the foundation, history, the five topics, yogas, etc and introduced two slokas as well and they became their homeworks. They also asked nice questions and the class was apparently liked by them as I can see from their face. The chaplain was also there and due to lack of chairs few were standing at the back. One inmate got the remote and was advancing the slides very nicely.
At the end every one did hand shake with me (which was not not allowed in LSCI). Every one wanted a copy of Bhagavad Gita but I had only few from Madhusudan Prabhuji’s donation of Gita for Prisons. All the copies were gone as they grabbed. I also gave our first lesson of the prison Seva course – one to each and asked them to join. I said I will bring more books.
The chaplain then took me all the way back to the entrance and we said good bye!
I felt so happy that Gurudeva could engage me for a higher purpose. They heard the word ‘Krishna’ many times. That is good enough. Next class will be on KarmaYoga and so on and eventually we will do the real essence of Gita and Maha Mantra singing!
Jai Srila Gurudeva!
– Bhagavati-kanta dasa