The International Pure Bhakti Yoga Society Prison Program began in 2010 in order to freely distribute the transcendental writings of Srila Bhaktivedanta Narayana Gosvami Maharaja to those individuals who do not have easy access to them. We were not aware at the time what a wonderful and powerful service the program would turn out to be and how many lives would be touched by Srila Gurudeva’s, Srila Prabhupada’s and our acaryas’ mercy (both the devotees serving the program and the inmates themselves).
Over six hundred prison libraries throughout America have each received about ten to fifteen of Srila Gurudeva’s books, along with Srila Prabhupada’s Krsna Book. Mahabuddhi prabhu (of Florida Vedic College) was able to get the permission to send prisons books via the chaplains in the facilities. So many kind devotees and friends have given donations, thus enabling us to buy the books from Gaudiya Vedanta Publications (GVP) and the Bhaktivedanta Book Trust (BBT) and send to the libraries, as well as to individuals upon their request. Requests come in weekly now from inmates requesting various books, especially Bhagavad-gita and Journey of the Soul.
Rupa prabhu, an inmate in Florida writes a monthly course entitled The Journey to Prema, and Bhagavati-kanta prabhu and his sanga in North Carolina/Virginia send this out monthly to more than 230 inmates who are now members in our program.
Bhagavati-kanta prabhu also created and maintains the prisonseva.org website, which keeps track of the address and books received by the inmates in our program. This keeps us quite organized.
Sudevi dasi [England] compiles a monthly newsletter and spends much time carefully choosing the newsletter’s theme and relevant articles by our acaryas based on a holyday in that month. Bimala dasi then mails the newsletter and raises funds among her sweet sanga in Alachua to pay for the postage. She is also the administrator of the program and handles the bank account, deals with permissions for visits, does the necessary paperwork in order for the inmates to receive books and many other behind-the-scenes and important tasks.
Bimala said, “The prison program has taken over my life, or should I say, given some meaning to my life. Srila Gurudeva has given me so much, but until now, I haven’t made an endeavor to repay him. The prison program has given me an opportunity to serve Srila Gurudeva. My heart has been forever changed by it. I can’t say how thankful I am that Srila Gurudeva and the prison seva team have given me an opportunity to render some service to his mission. Srila Gurudeva ki jay!”
Syamasundara prabhu and Brajendranandana prabhu are steady pen pals to many inmates and give them solid spiritual guidance and support. Syamasundara prabhu has also made personal visits to inmates and sends books to them regularly.
Brajendrananda prabhu states, “Every day, when I go to my mailbox, I become excited to see which prisoners are writing and how I can serve and encourage them in their Krsna consciousness on behalf of my gurudevas. The sincerity of the prisoners to take up the process of bhakti has inspired me so much.”
Kesava dasa said, “I never imagined that by being a pen pal, I would make a dear devotee friend who would inspire me so much in my own practice. Although my pen pal is in a prison very far from where I live, recently Krsna arranged for me to be in that area and I was able to meet him. It was a meeting and conversation I’ll never forget!
Syama-mohan prabhu is on the team as the accountant for IPBYS Outreach nonprofit. Without him, we could not function as an entity, and so we are so grateful for his assistance and expertise.