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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
Comment Posted By muktakesa dasa On 02.03.2007 @ 10:05