Bhagavad-Gita is bringing light into the prison houses of the world
By Shyama Priya devi dasi
Bhagavad-Gita is bringing light into the darkest regions, namely the prison houses of the world.
Two months prior to 2006 Gita Jayanti festival, I requested inmates, who regularly write to me, to write down a few lines about how they received the 1st copy of Bhagavad Gita As It Is and what they learned from the Bhagavad Gita and what are their favorite verses. I have tried to keep the inmates responses as it is in order to keep the originality of the text. The following is a compilation of inmate’s quotes:
Supreme Knowledge: I got Bhagavad Gita As It is from the Vedic resources. I learned it is Divine instruction for the battlefield of one’s life to serve the Supreme Personality of Godhead. My favorite verse is in chapter 9, “This knowledge of Bhagavad Gita is king of education, the secret of all secrets”. It is the purest of all knowledge and because it gives direct perception of self realization, it is the perfection of all religion. This is Raja-Vidya as there is no higher knowledge than Bhagavad Gita. It is spoken on the battlefield of Kuruksetra between Sri Krishna and His disciple friend Arjuna. (Mark Barnett, Canon City, CO, he is seriously practicing Krishna Consciousness)
Bhagavad Gita must be understood in Disciplic Succession: I found a Bhagavad Gita As It Is in a used bookstore, as soon as I saw it I purchased it immediately, I was already familiar with Srila Prabhupada’s books by reading BTG (Back to Godhead Magazine), BTG was given to me by sankirtana devotee. Under Srila Prabhupada’s expert qualified guidance, I learned that Bhagavad Gita must be understood in the disciplic chain of succession. When approached by a sincere student, a bona fide guru transmits knowledge of the Absolute Truth, namely knowledge of soul, the relationship between soul and supersoul, understanding of the time activity and cosmic manifestation. This knowledge is contained in the Bhagavad Gita, and Bhagavad Gita must be accepted in the manner Arjuna, disciple accepted from Sri Krishna the original guru. (Anonymous inmate, he holds a very nice Krishna Conscious program on festival days in the prison)
Krishna reveals Himself in Bhagavad Gita: I read all the books on Buddhist philosophy and I was not satisfied. As I read Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Krishna began to reveal Himself to me and the realizations were so deep. The information of Bhagavad Gita totally made Buddhist literature seem weak. Besides reading Bhagavad Gita, I decided to chant one round of Hare Krishna Maha-mantra. By doing these two things I had a spiritual experience, this is something I will never forget, something that has changed my life forever.
(Kyle Weatherwax, Mineral Wells, TX)
Give up all forms of religion and surrender unto Me: Once I was child in the juvenile lock up in the Orange County, CA, where I met a long haired boy who would read Bhagavad Gita very nicely, he had a name like Arjuna, may be it was John or Aaron. He would sit up perfectly straight and read the Bhagavad Gita and he would teach me how to pronounce the Sanskrit. My favorite verse in the Bhagavad Gita is where Krishna says to Arjuna, give up all forms of religion and just surrender unto Me. (H. Sullivan, CA)
Everyone has to follow Krishna’s will: I received the copy of Bhagavad Gita from H. G. Chandra Sekhar – ACBSP in 2001. I have learned from the Bhagavad Gita that I am not this body I am spirit soul, I am eternal and once dwelled with God. My goal is to return home back to Godhead, and only way to do this is through devotional service unto Lord Krishna; and I must become His devotee. To become Lord Krishna’s devotee I must render service unto Him and follow His will which is set forth in the Vedic literature specifically set forth in the Bhagavad Gita. The basic of devotional service is the hearing and chanting of Krishna’s glorious pastimes and names and to follow the four regulative principles. (Travis Becker, Parchman, MS)
One can attain happiness and peace by surrendering unto Krishna and six promises of Lord Krishna: In verse 2.66 it is stated that “One who is not connected with the Supreme (in Krishna Consciousness) can have neither intelligence nor a steady mind, without which there is no possibility of peace and how can there be any happiness without peace. I am very impressed with the Bhagavad Gita because it has answered my questions, and if I want to read about something in particular I will look in the general index and it will take me to what I want to read about. I have learned from the Bhagavad Gita that we are not this body and we are spirit soul (Bg. 2.2). The six promises of Lord Krishna are: (1) Therefore Arjuna you should always think of me —-(Bg. 8.7). (2) Engage your mind always in thinking of Me —–(Bg 9.34). (3) To those who are constantly devoted to Me —-(Bg. 10.10). (4) My dear Arjuna, he who engages in my pure devotional service ————(Bg. 11.55). (5) Just fix your mind on Me the Supreme Personality of Godhead — (Bg. 12.8). (6) Always think of Me become My devotee— (Bg. 18.65) (Gordon Shaw, he is very seriously practicing Krishna Consciousness, Salem OR)
What is contained in Bhagavad Gita is stated in Bible: By reading Bhagavad Gita and studying Prabhupada’s books I gain wisdom and knowledge of God. Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita – verse 9.34 that engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances unto Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me. The same is true in the Bible, “Love your God with all your heart, mind, strength and soul”. Constantly my mind is completely absorbed in God. One should engage his/her mind on the eternal form of Lord Krishna (God), with conviction in his/her heart that Krishna (God) is Supreme, he/she engage themselves in worship. (James Spark, Carson City Nevada)
Everything is there in Bhagavad Gita: The first copy of Bhagavad Gita As It Is was sent to me by Tirtha Dasa. I was amazed by looking at the cover, pictures and pages. I began reading it with no understanding and no attention. When I got to the last page, I placed Bhagavad Gita in a box filled with old books; which contained the books I have read a long time ago. One day in spiritual crisis, I opened the box, looking for something though unsure what I was looking for. There laid Bhagavad Gita, I picked it up and began reading. Again I didn’t understand a thing that I read but this time something was different. I felt something different. I felt calm when reading from this book; I felt that this book contained the answers which I needed. If I am right about anything in my life it is this that Bhagavad Gita contains all the answers I need in life. Though still I don’t understand much of what I read in Bhagavad Gita As It Is, I know that I am looking in right direction; I must continue to read Bhagavad Gita and study it daily. (Mark Myers, Huntsville, WV. He is very seriously practicing Krishna Consciousness)
Emptiness got filled by reading Bhagavad Gita: My cellmate introduced me to in Krishna Conscious philosophy and I was very much attracted to the artwork and philosophy. I wrote to Shyama Priya Mataji and explained to her that I carry emptiness due to my different beliefs. Shyama Priya wrote me a nice letter and sent me a Bhagavad Gita. I read her letter very carefully and read Bhagavad Gita. It may be hard for others to understand the Bhagavad Gita but I truly found what my body and soul is looking for Bhagavad Gita. I filled that void of emptiness in my heart by reading Bhagavad Gita. As you can see the impact of Bhagavad Gita has made in my life and I will always practice and carry Bhagavad Gita in my physical life. (Pedro Pinedo, Corcoran CA. He is seriously practicing Krishna Consciousness)
Devotees feels that my sufferings are reduced by the mercy of Lord Krishna: In 1978 my friend took me to LA temple for the Sunday feast program. This was the first time I saw the Bhagavad Gita As It Is and devotees gave me one to take with me, and after three days I moved into the temple. Many texts in the Bhagavad Gita I love so much, it’s very hard to pick one as my favorite. But may be verses 12.13-14 and purport I love very much. In purport Srila Prabhupada writes “Thanks to my past misdeeds I should suffer far far greater than I am suffering now, so it is by the mercy of the Supreme Lord that I am not getting punishment I am due”. I am just getting a little suffering by the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. How wonderful Krishna is to bless this old fool with so much facility to come to Him. (Jivananda Dasa, Portland OR, he preaches Krishna Consciousness very nicely to inmates)
Every verse of Bhagavad Gita is my favorite verse: I have learned from the Bhagavad Gita As It Is that we as human being have forgotten our true self and position, as servants of God – Lord Krishna, eternally I have learned that it is by His mercy that we even have the chance in human form to acknowledge even His lotus feet, and try to get back to home Back to Godhead position. I have also learned that to know Lord Krishna, first one must know one’s self and supersoul. The only way to truly know these things is by hearing from proper authority such as Lord Krishna Himself, the Vedic literature and other advanced devotes. As of my favorite verse, I would have honestly have to say that every verse in the Bhagavad Gita is my favorite verse. (Gregory Ivy, Reidsville, GA)
Opening a treasure: When I first received my Bhagavad Gita As It Is from Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, it was like opening a treasure. I have truly found the answers that I have been searching for all my life. I know that continuing to study and reading Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures, associating with devotees and dedication to my devotion of practicing Krishna Consciousness will make the rest of my life in this body a much more pleasant place to be. (Michael Hall, Salem OR)
Best Birthday Gift: I received my 1st Bhagavad Gita on my birthday (June 20, 2005). It was best present I have received. Bhagavad Gita has taught me the most important thing is devotion to Lord Sri Krishna, it shows that true path is Bhakti Yoga or devotional service. I read nine verses every morning to help start my daily routine along with chanting Hare Krishna Mahamantra. I share the verses of the Bhagavad Gita with others when one comes to my attention, they find verses interesting. I love the Bhagavad Gita and I love the words spoken by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. (Jennifer Robinson, Draper UT. She is very seriously practicing Krishna Consciousness)
Fall in Love with 1st Chapter of Gita: The first I knew of Bhagavad Gita As It Is was from word of mouth and then from the quotes from books and magazines. When Bhakta Bill sent me a copy of Bhagavad Gita, I fell in love with the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. Even though I have lot to learn, while I am reading Bhagavad Gita I feel content and it seems that all I need. I like the chapter one of Bhagavad Gita so much that I feel like it fits my current situation. I am a man who loves beginning to something good and for me Bhagavad Gita is ultimately good. (Fahad Mogual, New Boston, TX)
SSR gave me love and devotion to understand Bhagavad Gita: H. G. Chandra Sekhar (ACBSP) gave me a 1st copy of the Bhagavad Gita, and thus by his mercy I began to learn Bhagavad Gita from him. From my constantly studying Bhagavad Gita, I have learned that the false identification of material life is due to our being ignorant of our real life, our ultimate relationship with the Lord. I always thought I was this material bodily nature conceived from the womb of earthly mother, therefore I was in ignorance, ignorance of my real identity apart from the nature of delusion, or material consciousness. I was mostly attracted to Srila Prabhupada’s presentation of Krishna Consciousness. What really impressed me was the book called “The Science of Self Realization”. This was my first book, it gave me the love and devotion I needed to understand the Bhagavad Gita As It Is. The more I hear of Krishna the more I became enlightened of my real life, my relationship with Him. The verses 4:34-42, 3:36-43, 2:10-30 and 12:30-20 had created a strong impression on me and helped me to understand that I am a spiritual being. (Kevin Brown, Reidsville GA, he is seriously practicing Krishna Consciousness for a long period of time)
Can’t get enough of Krishna and Srila Prabhupada: I received Bhagavad Gita from Chandra Sekhar – ACBSP, after reading Science of Self Realization, I was hooked reading Srila Prabhupada’s books. I have been requesting Srila Prabhupada’s books ever since. Reading Srila Prabhupada’s book are like an appetite that grows when you feed it, can’t get enough of Krishna and Srila Prabhupada. My favorite verses of Bhagavad Gita are 9.26, 9.27, 9.29, 9.30, 9.34 and 18.66. (John Rodda, New Boston TX)
Hope of getting out of darkness: My favorite verses are Bg 2.17, 7.5 and 7.7. In the purport of verse 7.7, Srila Prabhupada states that: I know that Supreme Personality of Godhead who is transcendental to all material concepts of darkness, only he who knows Him can transcend the bonds of birth and death. I liked that it was uplifting and made me feel like I will make it out of my darkness. In the purport of Bg 2.17, Srila Prabhupada explains very well how the spiritual spark is an atom is size of 1/106 of the tip of hair and is situated in the heart and changing the red corpuscles and how the scientist agree the energy of the body is caused or comes from the heart. (Robert Mitchell, Wala Wala, WA)
Make mind as best friend: In reading Bhagavad Gita it is obvious that purpose of life is to serve Krishna. In Bhagavad Gita verse 6.6 it is stated that “One who has conquered the mind, the mind is best of friend, but one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy”. Most religion regards the mind as intelligently evil, which seems silly to me. This verse reminds me to always direct my mind for good and not just float through this life. (John Bastany, Frackville, PA)
Illusion got cleared by reading Bhagavad Gita: In Bhagavad Gita As It Is verse 4.31 it is stated that existence in the material world is due to multiple reactions to our sinful lives. Ignorance is the cause of sinful life and sinful life is the cause of ones dragging into material existence. From Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad Gita, I understand that this materialistic society which is made to look like it’s new or modernize on futuristic way of a life is really demonic. (Rhodney Smith, Lancaster CA)
Chant 16 Rounds & follow 4 Regulative Principles: I have learned from the Bhagavad Gita that I must always chant 16 rounds and follow the four regulative principles of freedom and study Srila Prabhupada’s books and associate with His devotees. I should serve Srila Prabhupada, improve my service attitude and preach to whoever will listen. (Thomas Daigle, Aiea, HI)
Applying Krishna in to Life: I am learning much from Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Arjuna and I have much in common and many of the same characteristics. I bear the witness to the truth and divinity of Bhagavad Gita and I am constantly chanting and applying the ways of Krishna to my life. (Richard Sharp, Menard IL)
Hungry to learn more: I do my best to understand Bhagavad Gita and every time I study the Gita it feels me up with self realization, it makes me hungry to learn more. (Kendrick Curry, Datesville, TX)
We are searching for soft bound Gitas, as they are out of print at the BBT for now, if anyone has any please let us know.
For more information on the prison ministry please contact:
ISKCON Prison Ministry
PO Box 2676, Alachua, FL 32616
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