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New Vrindavan Prison Preaching

Wednesday, 21 February 2007 / Published in Announcements / 4,131 views

By Lokavarnotamma dasa

PREACHING TO A CAPTIVE AUDIENCE

Unbeknownst to the general community of devotees, the New Vrndavana Prison Ministry program is the most successful and dynamic worldwide. Headed by Mukta Kesa Prabhu, a Prabhupada disciple, this ministry mails out no less than five hundred of Srila Prabhupada’s books every month to its data base of over 1600 bhakta inmates, provides personal letters for guidance and encouragement for hundreds of inmates, has no less than 12 different sastric courses which inmates eagerly study and respond to in essay form, and monitors weekly quizzes for several of Srila Prabhupada’s books.

Prison is a dungeon of concrete and steel, where those who are condemned due to past misdeeds, unceremoniously find themselves. Many who enter abandon all hope, as barbed wire fences and guards with shotguns are a constant reminder of their inability to escape their fate. Their children, wives, brothers, parents and friends have been forcibly ripped away from them. And most have resigned themselves to a life of great suffering and sorrow. Prison can most certainly be a dark, dangerous and frightening place.

Nonetheless, Lord Chaitanya’s mission is to deliver the most fallen. And by the grace of Krsna’s pure devotee the forgotten and forsaken fallen souls of Kali yuga are being introduced to the beautiful lessons of spirituality and devotional service as presented in the books of His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami, Srila Prabhupada.

In this way, the most unfortunate are becoming the most fortunate. By virtue of Srila Prabhupada’s books, inmates are now finding hope where there is no hope, and a guiding light. Our bhata inmates are learning to chant and embrace Krsna, beginning their journey back home, Back to Godhead.

We need help. For three years this prison ministry has expanded. New inmates are constantly learning about us and writing, asking for our literature and association.

Previously all of our postage and costs for books has been donated by one kind devotee, who had been successful in business. Now after many years of supporting devotees in their preaching, our benefactor’s businesses are struggling and he is no longer able to continue supporting us.

But, it is imperative that we continue this preaching program. There is really no limit to the scope for the future of this endeavor if we can find the resources. Books should be sent to every prison library in America, with our prison ministry stamp on the inside covers, encouraging inmates to write to us to learn more. Unfortunately this prison preaching program receives no funding from our temples and is completely self-sufficient.

So, we must ask that devotees step forward and help us as much as possible. Book distribution and this preaching of Krsna Consciousness is the highest activity. Many of us have jobs and families and cannot go to the streets to preach the glories of Guru and Sastra. So the offering of financial support, providing mercy to the very fallen of Kali Yuga, is another certain way to please Lord Chaitanya; assist in His mission, and to become eligible for a drop of His mercy.

It will be difficult to continually post appeals like this online, so we ask that devotees attentively remember us and continually send donations as follows to support this worthy project.

Make checks payable to: New Vrindavan Prison Ministry

And mail them to: Mukta Kesa dasa

c/o New Vrindavana Prison Ministry

RD1 Box 319

Moundsville, WV 26041

We invite devotees to please come visit us at New Vrndavana, especially when the weather improves, and when joining us for festivals or just for a friendly visit, to stop into our Prison Ministry Office, so we can give you a prsonal tour and show you how your contributions are being used.

All Glories to Srila Prabhupada

All Glories to the Assembled Vaisnava Devotees of the Lord

Hare Krsna

Thank you

5 comments

  1. 0
    Pandu das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Teaching convicts to love Krishna is obviously wonderful. But there is also a concern that ex-convicts may not be ready to give up criminal activities. Although everyone is motivated to seek happiness somehow, different people have various ideas of how happiness can be achieved.

    I know from the persistence of my own mundane habits and tendencies that purification of our harmful desires may not occur right away. It is a lot easier to look like a devotee than to be one.

    I would appreciate hearing more about the consideration that has hopefully been given to the likelihood that some convicts might not really be that interested in simple living and high thinking.

  2. 0
    jerryns says:

    The reason all of us are in this material world is because we are spiritual criminals. We can try to distinguish between who committed a greater offense such as our mundane courts do with 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree levels of felonies but the reality is that if you are in this world you are a criminal.

    To look down upon another person for being in a prison within the prison of this material world is not acceptable. What is the difference between this type of discrimination and other types of discrimination based on bodily differences?

    I spent twenty years of my life knowing there was something greater in this world but not having the knowledge of what it was. Instead, I came to know sense gratification and economic development as my only solace. This led me to become a criminal and to be sent to prison.

    While there I knew I had to find a spiritual life. I found a devotee, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada. I spent five years in prison chanting and reading trying to give up these mundane attachments that are stuck to me.

    Upon my release, I moved into the temple in Chicago and only by the association of devotees was I able to give up my desires enough as to not continue my criminal ways. I’m still a rascal. Maybe some lifetime I’ll shed that part of me but for now I’m satisfied with not being a menace to society.

    Prison preaching is simple; these people are suffering and need something. We have the solution they are looking for. Are criminals more prone to remain attached than the non-criminals? No. I have gone to colleges distributing books and these kids are just as attached to mundane knowledge, beer, burgers, illicit sex and all the other wonderful amenities this world has to offer. Prisoners know that this world is suffering so that first veil of Maya is already knocked down.

    If is was not for the mercy of devotees like Mukta kesa Prabhu, Candrasekar Prabhu and Mother Shyama Priya who preached to me through my years of incarceration I would still be attached to my ways of committing crimes. The devotees of IPM changed me and there are a lot of other devotees in prisons awaiting this change.

    Please help support Mukta kesa Prabhu in this worthy cause.

  3. 0
    Pandu das ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Dear Jerry,

    I am, as you said, a “spiritual criminal;” and I am therefore not permitted entry into Vaikuntha until I am reformed. Maya seems to be quite strict in determining whether someone like me is reformed, but someday I hope to pass her test.

    If Mayadevi tests us to see if we can live in Vaikuntha, shouldn’t prison preachers also have some way to distinguish the genuine spiritual seekers from the con-men? I did not suggest that ex-criminals who have reformed should be barred from the temples. That would be grossly unjust. My concern is how we can be confident that people whose role in life has gone directly from criminal to prisoner to new devotee has actually reformed enough to be trusted. Prison is not normally a place one would be expected to find many individuals of high moral character, though there must be a few exceptions.

    I recognize that in prison one may be able to concentrate on spiritual life if so inclined, but incarceration can also twist one’s perspective. Getting locked up isn’t the same as renouncing the world, but superficially they may seem sort of similar. If I were convicted of a crime and imprisioned (hasn’t happened in this life though I probably deserve it) I might decide that the world is a bad place, but it doesn’t mean the desire to enjoy it is gone. It’s only waiting for an opportunity. I doubt that prision would be a good place to extinguish that desire, and I’m not sure I could improve myself very much in there.

    It is not practical to act as though there is no significant difference between different types of crimes, and your remarks to that effect could be cause for concern. In addition to the mundane courts distinguishing between crimes, so do Manu Samhita and Srimad Bhagavatam. Furthermore, we have to discriminate between various body differences. Dogs are not allowed in the temple kitchen, men are not allowed in the ladies’ restroom, and meat eaters are not given diksa. You can contrast these with ignorant types of discrimination such as based on ethnicity.

    You said, “Are criminals more prone to remain attached than the non-criminals? No. I have gone to colleges distributing books and these kids are just as attached to mundane knowledge, beer, burgers, illicit sex and all the other wonderful amenities this world has to offer.”

    A typical college student (I was one for 6 years) is attached to sense gratification enough to study, work, etc., to earn a living. If one person will only use legal means to achieve their goals, and another uses illegal means, it should be evident that the criminal’s material attachment is stronger.

    While in one sense a person bound by a gold chain is restrained as much as one bound by an iron chain, it is also true that a gold chain is much easier to break than one of iron. That is one reason why we try to come up to the mode of goodness, even though it is still material. The ability to voluntarily postpone happiness (poison in the beginning, nectar in the end) is consistent with the mode of goodness.

    As much as anyone, I appreciate former criminals becoming genuine devotees (and I wish you all success in your spiritual endeavors.) The sooner that happens, the better. But protecting devotees is also a very worthy goal. It’s no secret that a lot of crimes have been committed against devotees by devotees(?), and the harm from that has been devastating. When ISKCON is recruiting directly from the prison population, then it is prudent to ask what is being done to reduce the risk of inviting unscrupulous people to join the Hare Krishna society.

  4. 0
    muktakesa dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Prison Preaching and Michael Antonelli by Sacimata devi dasi
    I wanted to write up and acknowledge the life of a devotee, named Michael Antonelli. This devotee, although never taking formal initiation, has been serving Krishna for over thirty-five years and has performed tons of devotional service over those years.

    Back in the day, around 1970, Michael started reading the Bhagavad-Gita after meeting some book distributors on the streets of Philadelphia. After reading and buying more books, like Cantos of the Srimad-Bhagvatam, he would show the books to his friends in Phila., and we would all relish the beautiful artwork, and try to understand what Srila Prabhupada was trying to teach us. One by one, we all started going to the Philadelphia temple, becoming servants of Lord Jagannath, going to Rathayatras, and trying to absorb all we could about Krishna and Srila Prabhupada. Later on, Michael became good friends with His Holiness Tamal Krishna Maharaj, and even travelled with him on the Radha-Damodar bus trip for a while. He always donated lots of laksmi in the service of the Lord, and influenced all friends to do the same. Here’s a little story to show you what kind of character he really was. One time, all our friends were attending a gathering in Washington Square Park in Manhattan, to hear Srila Prabhupada lecture. At that time, there were Christian hecklers that would always try to stop and harass the devotees when they gathered. At this particular event, they became so loud and boisterous, then Michael became afraid for Srila Prabhupada’s security, and pushed the head heckler in the fountain, and of course a riot pursued. Even some swami’s joined in the fun, and the devotees became victorious!!! Srila Prabhupada ki jaya!!

    Due to bad association, and bad old habits, although his heart was rightly situated, he became involved in some unfortunate bad activities. So for the last twelve years, under conspiracy charges, never really “catching” him do anything wrong, he was convicted and spent those last twelve years in prison. He had lost connection with most of his old friends, but through the mercy of Krishna, myself and another friend found him lost in the Federal system about 4 or 5 years ago. So I started writing to him, preaching to him, reviving his innate love for the Lord, and especially his love for Tamal Krishna Maharaj, and for Srimati Radharani, and he became much more peaceful and completely took up his devotional life once again. He began chanting sixteen rounds, keeping the principles, and reading each and every day. He would dream about one day living in India, and doing some menial service for Krishna. He loved to clean, and had a high standard of cleanliness his whole life. So his dream was to one day, be a street cleaner at the Radha Kund in service of his beloved Radharani.

    He was due to be released around December 2007, but Krishna somehow or other had another plan. I received a phone call from his wife, who resides in Phila., on Monday, Feb. 26th, she didn’t exactly know who she was calling but explained who she was and told us that he had passed away on January 26th. He had spent the last several years of his incarceration in Beckly, WV prison, and was not treated very kindly as he had refused all these years to “aid” the system in tracking down others like him. He certainly didn’t have an easy time there, as I visited him several times to witness. His poor wife and 8 of his 10 children had to witness him, shackled to the bed, handcuffed in a semi-coma supposedly suffering from liver failure. He opened his eyes enough to see his family, they each kissed him good-bye, he kissed his wife, and then he died. They didn’t ship his body remains back to Phila. for 12 days, at which time, his body was already so disintegrated, he was hardly recognizable. Was this the end of a sad and tragic story? To most folks, it would be so, but to a devotee in knowledge of spiritual truths, he died the death of a ksatriya, keeping firm in his convictions, and firm in his devotion to serve Radha and Krishna, and he was released from his present hellish condition to be personally taken care of by the Lord. His spiritual bank account, was filled with the service he rendered over the years, and even though he wasn’t the “ideal” citizen, he was a devotee of the Lord. Although his body was imprisoned, you can’t imprison the spirit soul, it is ever youthful and never slain.

    I would also like to thank Muktakesa prabhu who runs the Prison Ministry at New Vrindaban for sending Michael, books, BTG’s and other nectar to help enliven him on his way back Home. Please say a prayer on Bhakta Michael’s behalf. Hare Krishna, Your servant, Sachimata devi dasi

  5. 0
    Madhava Ghosh dasa ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Let us not forget that all the criminals are not in prison, only the ones who got caught. So many criminals came to ISKCON and gave up their criminal activites before being caught. Drug use is a criminal activity.

    ” The Department of Justice reported that at year-end 2003, federal prisons held a total of 158,426 inmates, of whom 86,972 (55%) were drug offenders. ”

    http://www.drugwarfacts.org/prison.htm

    So the consideration is are we judging someone for being in prison or for being a criminal? Is forgiveable to be a criminal but unforgiveable to get caught?

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