On April 21st we began our spring tour for the IPBYS Prison Outreach Prison Program. Syamasundara prabhu and I went to Texas where we joined Krsna keli prabhu (who lives in Austin) in meeting Michael, who received books from us when he was incarcerated. After he was released a few months ago, he found us on Facebook, and wrote telling us that he had reached out to us and we sent him books, but he was not able to take them with him upon release. He asked if he could he get more books, specifically Bhagavad-gita and the Krsna Book which we happily sent. I had asked Michael back in January after he connected with us on Facebook, if he could say something about how the IPBYS Prison Outreach Program has touched his life, and this was his reply:
“I dont always make the best decisions, however, regardless of what I do in life I always make it through. This isn’t because of any effort on my own part, but I feel, due to the hand of Krsna I find myself thinking more and more about the wellbeing of others and hoping that I can spread the ever increasing feelings of love that I experience. It’s always like there’s a guiding hand in my life that draws me to the spiritual and pulls me away from the worldliness that is my life. Through the IPBYS program I have increased my knowledge and my faith in Krsna and I truly wish to continue along this path.
Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. You guys are such a blessing. I cannot express my level of gratitude.”
We met in his hometown of Kileen, and spent about 2 hours together. We shared more about bhakti-yoga and answered some questions he had as well as hearing about his life. Keli prabhu led us in chanting and after the chanting, Michael said he almost cried and didn’t want to cry. The three of us encouraged him to cry, that there is nothing better than crying for the Lord.
It was Ekadasi (fasting day from grains and beans), and we had some simple Ekadasi prasadam with us which we shared with him.
It was such a delightful time shared together and we all felt very inspired and nourished after. Keli prabhu will help Michael get to a program in Austin, hopefully next month when Sripad Ashrama Maharaja is there.
HAMILTON UNIT PROGRAM:
After meeting with Michael, Syama prabhu and I drove almost 2 hours to the Hamilton Unit in Bryan for a program there. Jagadish prabhu (who lives in Austin) met us there for the program. The facility is a transfer unit (where individuals are sent prior to their release). The time of the program was from 2-4 and just before 2, they made an announcement we were there and any one was allowed to come. In other institutions I have visited, inmates have to sign up in advance to be able to attend. It was an honor to be with Syama and Jagadisa prabhu’s. The inmates had so many questions which both Syama and Jagadisa answered so nicely. Jagadisa prabhu also led such nice chanting, and all the inmates were chanting with us and many had their eyes closed and were very absorbed.
Vasanti Didi, Jagadisa Prabhu, and myself were very fortunate to serve our Srila Gurudeva, and Guruvarga in a most wonderful way this past weekend.
We went to Bryan Texas, more specifically The Hamilton Unit which is one of the institutions of The Texas department Of Criminal Justice.
Upon arriving, it was evident that we would by the mercy of Srila Gurudeva be successful in this mission. Generally, visitors to such institutions cannot wear clothing that is like those of the inmates housed there.
I knew this and was a little concerned about this, as we walked through the yard to our meeting I noticed the inmates in white dress. Of course my being a householder I was clad in that very same color.
Somehow or other it was overlooked, or not noticed by the guards I mean we were searched and everything. by some mystical potency it was like they did not even notice that I had on white cloth.
Upon entering we were nicely greeted by the inmates, especially Kristofer Spaulding, whom is a member of our outreach program, and has put together the eastern Religion Studies Program there. As far as I remember, before his doing this they did not have such a program.
We were expecting to interact with 15 members of that group. To our surprise it swelled to 45.
It was so ecstatic. They had many questions, and were so deeply involved in the kirtan. As I looked upon their faces most had eyes closed and were sincerely calling out to Radha Krsna. I would write more but for the sake of space, and considering that the other devotees present will add something about their experience. How ever I will add three last words A maz ing.
Aspiring for the service of Sri Guru and Vaisnava’s,