In his teachings, ISKCON founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada often points out that in the material world every living entity is a prisoner, without exception. So regardless of our nationality, age, gender or social status, we all equally need the mercy of the "great mantra of liberation" -- the Maha Mantra -- to achieve true freedom.
Every year, ISKCON devotees and admirers of Srila Prabhupada celebrate his appearance day with great devotion and offer words of love and appreciation. The following is the Vyasa-puja offering by bhakta Douglas G., who is presently an inmate in a Colorado prison.
All obeisances and praise unto the lotus feet of Sri Sri Krishna, who is the supreme person and Lord of all, and also unto the assembly of the pure and unalloyed devotees who serve Him with their love and devotion—ceaselessly and beautifully.
I bow down at the lotus feet of my spiritual master, His Divine Grace, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, Prabhupada, through whom I have received—finally—the solution for the vexing and dangerous complications of material existence.
From practically the first time I remember being alive and conscious, I remember being afflicted with the tendency to ask, “Why?”
Answers I received to the big “why questions” gave me doubts about the capacity of the “adult world”. I found such answers as “You can do anything you want,” to be false, simply pat assurances. I found that there were a multitude of injustices, imperfections and ugliness both within and without. Hypocrisies and cruelties seemed to abound just about everywhere I looked. And when I looked inside, I found, to my horror, the same things inside of myself. Why?
The scientists said, “There is no spirit!” They told me that there was just this electromagnetic soup in which we swim and nothing else. They asserted that all the sin, dominance-displays, corrupted competition and other human vices, derived from the actions of chemicals upon our monkey brains. They told me there was nothing else. Although I tried to go with this, I felt that there was something good inside myself, although it was dirty, corrupted, and covered. But I wasn’t a Petri dish; I couldn’t just clean it. Bad habits and errors accumulated. I hurt others. I hurt myself. I hurt. Why?
Then I stumbled and fell into people who were into health and funky books. I got into yoga, fasting, vegetarianism. I had figured out! Why? Because the body was sick! That was the source of my misery—The Body!Healing the body helped a bit but still, there was a darkness and distrust and anger and sadness inside of me that the carrot juice just couldn’t take away. I still couldn’t manage my life well, what with the peaks and valleys and guilt and anger and shame about the past—I fluctuated. I failed. I tried to cast up false fronts on all sides in an attempt to dress up the internal flaws. I played Hero. I played scholar. I played mystical guy who knows about the obscure and the arcane. I playedartist, musician, writer, and adventurer. I played these roles pretty well some of the time, just enough to maintain hope for some kind of eventual ‘score’. Because when I could just catch my breath, I had a plan; I would rescue myself from this hugemess I had made out of my life and I would come clean. Why?
Because, on the stumbledy-dumbledy course of my life, I had kept crossing paths with two very important things: Vedic knowledge and the devotees of Sri Krishna. And of all of my encounters in life, I had found that only these two fountains truly contained fast, final and seamless answers to the question, “Why?” that I had eventually become obsessed with. And not only were there answers to the “why?” but even more importantly, answers to those next questions; “How do I fix it?” “How do I get free?” and, “What does it all mean?” All the answers were also contained in the lives of the devotees and along with the complete symmetrical agreement between the Upanisads, the Vedas, the Vedanta, the Bhagavad-gita, and the Srimad Bhagavatam.
Prabhupada knew. All praise, glory, and devotion therefore goes unto the lotus feet of His Divine Grace, A.C. Bhaktivedanta, Swami Prabhupada, and those pure devotees of Lord Sri Krishna, whom they serve so well.
Did I run from Vedic wisdom and Prabhupada? Sadly, yes. I told myself that I would get around to it later. I would “dabble”. I would mince around the edges. I would wait—and “prepare myself” for “eventual transformation”. What I was really doing was the worst sin I can imagine; I was running away. Having so eagerly flopped and fried and whined and screamed and lied about my “search for an answer”, when it finally came to me, my reply was: “Uh…not yet…I’ve, uh…got more living to do! Check ya’ later!”
Yeah, right: as in, “I’ve got to first dig the hole of my errors and deceits and imperfections and manipulations all the way down to the bedrock of the El Paso County Jail.” Job well done, Douglas. Low point achieved.
But as crazy-stupid as that trajectory may have been, way down there, in the bottom of the pit, was a ray of light—a ray of light which I knew, with every fiber of my being, was a real light, the real light, the benediction moon of His Divine Grace, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s life mission; the turning towards real and final Truth. The turning towards Krishna, under the perfect and ever-loving tutelage of Prabhupada.
So now, here in my cell (what a fitting analogy for all the cages and traps I prepared for myself), I take you, Srila Prabhupada, as my father and my family, and as my “boss”, and as my friend, and as my authority, and as my guide-post, and as the fount for all the answers and the salve for when I’m lost and asking, “Why?”
Srila Prabhupada, you are the unassailable bastion of love and kindness that brought forth the answers to all of my “Whys”. And the fact that I did not immediately turn completely towards the practice of Krishna Consciousness from day one of my encounter with you, is the only real reason I have to ever cry a tear.
But I will not let my regret rule the roost, Srila Prabhupada. The past is gone, but your words and movement and teachings live on. Thank you master, for your hyper-excellence, steadfastness, intelligence, charm, wit, surrender, and love. Oh, Hare Krishna! Thank you for this song of your life, this saving grace of the Holy Names and your beautiful devotees who, by your instructions, care for my fallen soul by sending me books, a foldable altar, and kind words while, by the laws of this world, I am locked up like a wild animal!
Thank you, thank you, thank you Srila Prabhupada. The benediction of your appearance has been responsible for the re-animation of spiritual life in this tumultuous existence of mine. Thank you for being you.
Your fallen servant lies prostrate at your lotus feet,
Bhakta Douglas G. (Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA)
To read more excerpts of inmate letters and to see some of their artwork, please visit our website at www.iskconprisonministry.org[ preaching ] [ prison ] [ puja ] [ vyasa-puja ]