I have so much to share about the Prison Tour I just was a part of, yet will break it up into a few reports so they will not be so long.
I will start with my visit to Jon in Oregon. He used to be at Snake River Correctional where we have held a few kirtans over the past 2 years. He attended the kirtan we held there last year with Radha and Revati dasis. He was very inspired by that program and began reading Srila Prabhupada and Srila Gurudeva’s books as well as chanting japa (in his mind).
He was recently moved to a work camp and so before going to Snake River for programs, I went to visit him at this new camp. It was such a beautiful drive in the beautiful Oregon forest. And when I drove up to the camp, I was so surprised that there was no gates and no barbed wire. Quite shocking actually. I walked in and there was no metal detectors or search. The guard in the reception area put us in a room next to him with no time limit on how long we met.
I learned from Jon that they live in cabins with 12 inmates in each cabin and they go out 4 hours a day cleaning up the forest (affected by fires) with no supervision. I thought, “This is really rehabilitation. Being in nature and given opportunities for growth.”
Jon and I spoke for almost two hours. He had very practical and real questions about Krsna consciousness, and how to live like a devotee. Just from reading books, he is already offering his food to Krsna and seeing Krsna as his dear friend. We talked about how to make offerings in his situation, how to chant japa, how to stay afloat in his current situation and how Krsna consciousness is a way of life. He also shared his emotional difficulties and life’s struggles and the conversation always came back to how the process of bhakti can heal these struggles and lift us up and out of this cycle. The conversation was very deep and real and I felt grateful for the opportunity to be Gurudeva’s representative in this situation.
It was also an emotional meeting for me as it made me want to be the best possible representative of Srila Gurudeva that I could be – praying for his kindness and compassion that he showed to all, regardless of their situation to descend to this nice and sweet young man who like so many, made a mistake. Srila Gurudeva told me once when I was feeling bad about something, “You are human.”
Jon wasn’t even informed that I was coming. When they held him back from going out to work that day, he thought that he was in trouble or getting moved to another facility. He had some stress about the situation and told me in the past he used to worry and stress so easily, and this day, he decided to chant to ease his worry. And lo and behold, the outcome was such a surprise for him – a visitor.
I will end with sharing the letter I received from him after our visit:
We plan to continue regular visits and kirtan programs in various facilities in America. If you are inspired to donate to make this happen, any amount helps. Our paypal is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so much
Aspiring to serve Sri Guru and the Vaisnavas,