Free and Happy Within Prison Walls

Mother Vinata, from Rejika Croatia

"Where is your tilak?“ Candramauli Swami asked us as we gathered in front of Karlovac vege restaurant club, managed by local devotees, preparing to go for a preaching progam in a nearby prison. Quickly running to refresh my already invisible vaisnava marking, I overheard Maharaja quoting Prabhupada on the importance of wearing tilak and vaisnava clothes and remembered Sridhar Maharaja's instruction, "If you are unable to preach by explaining philosophy, just dress as a Vaisnava and go out. You will be a walking advertisment for Krsna consciousness.“

Happy to be engaged once again in the service of translation, I hurried up to join other devotees already on their way to the prison. Raghunath was easiest to catch since he was carring harmonium. He is peaceful and smiling as always,looking a little weary from numerous KC engagements but obviously very satisfied for having just transformed his home into a temple for big Nitai Gaura Candra Deities and Their servants. Beside him in our team today there are also Mohan, Dasaratha – who has just left his cooking tools in the restaurant to join us - and Mahasimha, pioneer,and after this program appointed leader of Prison Preaching Program in Croatia.

Once at the entrance, one by one we were searched by the police officers and then let in the small corridor room, which turned out to be the place for our program. Maharaja and Mohan found out the best way to arrange a table and two chairs that were at our disposal when a lady, prison director, came in to wellcome us. Mahasimha was little dissapointed that she couldn't take part in the progam, so she left her representative with us. Soon after that inmates started to pour in the long and narrow space in front of us and the managers began bringing in extra chairs for them. They were of all walks of life – very young and innocent looking, mature and old and very serious. Sure enough, almost at the very beginning some amongst them asked about our tilaka and Mohan promptly explained it.

After introductory words, we distributed the Maha mantra printed on a nice card, and then Raghunath started singing while playing on harmonium. Our audience joined in as best as they could. During the subsequent lecture Maharaja was talking about the need to find out who we really are in order to be really happy. Then he asked them to participate in an experiment which they shyly accepted. Asked to point at different parts of their body, serious and maybe even dangerous grown up men appeared bewildered just as children when at the end they were to point to themselves.Two of them somewhere in the back were quite loudly discussing something they have just heard while others were intently listening and occasionally nodding their heads in approval. When it was mentioned how Krishna is all-atractive, one young and cocky inmate filled in, "I'm also all-attractive. I'm God.“ Explaining peacefully to him that he might be attractive to some women, but definitively not to everybody, Maharaja warned him, smiling all along, "Don't try to compete with Krishna. You will be the looser!“ At the end of the talk, when the inmates heard that one can be freee and happy even within prison walls, they eagerly took the books that we brought in.

During the question and answer session inmates inquired about the book for practicing KC in prison and its author, meditation and value of different mantras, meaning of Hari bol, while one of them shared his previous experiences with devotees in Lička Jesenica, some 100 km distant village in which several devotee families live, cultivate land and annualy organize a summer Vaisnava festival. A few officers on the other side of the glass wall running through entire room were also quite interested to hear something new. It seems everybody really liked the bhajan, since they requested us to sing more. Dasaratha won their happy smiles with his jolly melodies and Mohan captured their hearts inviting them to a free prasadam lunch in our nearby restaurant, as soon as they get out.

Mother Vinata is a disciple of Smrta Krsna Maharaja. She publishes a regular monthly journal on Krsna Consciousness activities in the Balkans.

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To help with this prison program, please contact Mukunda Dasa or Bhakti-lata Dasi at:

ISKCON Prison Ministry
PO Box 2676
Alachua, FL 32616-2676