Under the IPBYS Prison Program, our sanga (Gokul Bhajan & Vedic Studies) of North Carolina has been reaching out to the nearby Federal Prison at Butner since the end of last year. First we conducted a course on ‘Change A Heart’ – one session every week for a few months. Following the success of that course, more inmates were requesting their chaplain to arrange for more programs by us, and thus we started another course from August this year.
From IPBYS, we donated so many books to their library – thanks to Vasanti didi and the devotees for supplying the books. We also donated some kirtan CDs allowed by Kishori Mohan Prabhu and Sudevi Didi. Many paintings by Srimati Syamarani Didi was also given. In addition, as more and more inmates were asking, we also made and gave collections of maha mantra kirtans and our gokul bhajan CDs and DVDs as well.
During both the courses, Bhakta Adam also joined us several times, and he distributed his own books he brought such as Bhagavad Gita As It Is and others books from Srila Prabhupada.
This second course on “Bhakti Yoga” started this past August and just finished on Sept 29. For this course there were many more attendees than the previous one. The chaplain, Richard Hicks is a very notable personality behind our success. He is so friendly with us and he arranged for us to use the large nice chapel with a large neat hall with projection, audio video, multi-media, nice seating, and even a podium for the lecture and so on. Even though it was inside the prison, we always felt the warm support of him and his secretaries.
The way we could mingle with the inmates and their enthusiasm was very nice. In every session we used extensive multimedia and covered the nine angas (limbs) of bhakti starting with sravanam (hearing), kirtanam (chanting) and so on in good detail. The notable thing was that the chaplain himself was attending all the sessions (except one as he was sick) and was even personally helping to advance the slides for the presentations from the computer. He is a very busy official and loves to attend our programs. When a projection cable was found noisy for the video, he took the pain of pursuing with the prison paper works and got it replaced for us!
The ending of the Bhakti Yoga course was very touching. When myself and the chaplain both decided to issue certificates of completion to the attended inmates, the chaplain himself printed the certificates in color on special stock papers and we both signed those. We both then awarded the certificates to the inmates. The inmates were really moved. We could also see their mood changed a lot during the course. Their excitement to hear about Lord Krishna, performing kirtan, chanting and deity worship and all were absorbed nicely. We distributed many pictures of Sri Sri Radha Krishna for them to take to their cells and pursue the path of bhakti yoga.
3. More Programs!
The chaplain is very willing to do more courses and programs in his complex. When I mentioned about a kirtan-visit by more devotees after the holidays (ie. after beginning of January 2017), he was very happy and gave the forms to fill out. These need to be filled at least 3 weeks in advance. We are planning to do one great hari nama sankirtan session with Florida and other willing devotees.
The next course is already set to start from the middle of January 2017. We may also have the possibility of keeping even a deity and any musical instruments there permanently for use for our programs. In fact, few inmates asked the chaplain to make us go there every day! The chaplain told me and smiled at me! It was a very nice smile!!
4. For The Memory
Attached is a copy of the certificate that the chaplain printed and signed and then awarded on Sep 29th. At the background you will see the photo of just the entrance to the LSCI complex where we are preaching regularly. The actual complex is far inside with electric wire fences. Also attached is the flyer for the last course that chaplain helped to make and posted in the prison. There are totally 5 divisions in this complex totaling about 5,000 inmates.
All these preaching opportunities happened because of the causeless mercy of our Gurudeva and senior devotees. Our main gratitude goes to HG Sarva Drik Prabhu from Iskcon who introduced us to the chaplain and told about this great opportunity in this prison to preach.
– Bhagavati Kanta Dasa & Syamali Devi Dasi