PLANTING THE SEEDS IN AUSTRALIAN PRISONS
By the mercy of His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada and my Guru Maharaja, I received the inspiration to serve the ISKCON Prison Ministry. On Vyasa-puja day, while chanting myjapa, the inspiration came to me to serve in the prison ministry. Interestingly enough, at that time I didn't even know the prison ministry existed.
I researched the internet, saw on the web site a request from IPM for volunteer pen pals. I thought this was an easy service, one I would enjoy and could do from the comfort of my home and in my
own time. I contacted Bhakti-lata mataji and expressed my interest. Unfortunately, as I live in Australia, it was not possible to correspond with prisoners in the US as they couldn't afford the
overseas stamps. She suggested that I start up the prison ministry here in Australia.
At first I was excited and enthusiastic, but then became a bit overwhelmed by the task. Bhakti-lata suggested beginning by taking some small steps, one at a time. I followed her advice and with her blessings began the endeavor.
I contacted prison Chaplains, explaining I was from ISKCON Prison Ministry, and asking if I could send some books on Hinduism. The Chaplains I spoke to were Christian and all of their chapel books were Christian; I was not getting a positive response and decided to take another approach.
I contacted the prison librarians and education departments, explaining I was from Gold Coast Bhakti Yoga (as we do have a Bhakti Centre here on the Gold Coast) and that I had books on Yoga, Meditation, Karma and Eastern Philosophy that we'd like to donate to the prison library. Immediately I had an overwhelmingly positive response, and it was as if the prison doors opened to welcome and receive Prabhupada's books! In Australia if you mention religion people tend to run a mile, but if you say Yoga, Meditation and Karma people are favorable and accepting.
I sent out small sets of 8 books, which include Bhagavad Gita, to the prison libraries. I opened a P.O. Box and stamped all the books with our address and, with Bhakti-lata's advice, our prison ministry’s name:
Gold Coast Bhakti Yoga.
I needed to set a goal, so by the end of 2013 we hope to have Srila Prabhupada's books in 50
prisons across Australia, if this is Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya's desire; I am merely an instrument in
Their service. From there- who knows, but at least the seeds of Prabhupada's books will be planted behind
prison walls in Australia.
I have now contacted most of the Correctional Centers in Queensland and decided to move on to the
next state, New South Wales. I was finding it a bit tough at first and was not having much success or
positive outcomes. Most of the prisons are operated by a government department and will not accept books
directly in the prison libraries.
I finally got an e-mail address for the lady in charge of the government library department and
contacted her. Within a few days I received a reply and she gave her OK to send the books. Even better, I
just have to send them to one address where they get security-checked and then sent out to the individual
prisons, allowing me to box them up and save a fortune on postage!
Here’s another inspiring story- I called one prison and spoke to the man in charge of education and
learning, explaining that I wanted to send some books on Yoga, Meditation and Eastern Philosophy.
He says, "Oh, are they for prisoners so and so," mentioning 2 specific inmate names.
I say, "No, I don't know anyone from the prison; I'm just sending these books to all prisons across
He says, "Oh, just last week a few of the guys were asking for some info on Yoga and I was trying to
print some pages from the Internet for them."
I said, "These books must be for them then."
Then he gave me the address and we chatted some more. I wanted to know where Junee is, as I'd
never heard of it. It turned out to be very remote, somewhere inland from Canberra and North of Wagga
Wagga. If you know Australia, it’s a very vast country and some places are extremely remote. Imagine
Prabhupada's books going to this prison and inmates waiting to read them! Lord Caitanya's mercy knows no
limits- in every town and village - even Junee! ☺
I sincerely thank Bhakti-lata mataji for her help, her guidance and her enthusiasm which has
enthused and inspired me to serve the IPM in some small way here in Australia. I pray to all the devotees
for their mercy and guidance that I may continue this service to please Srila Prabhupada- for He gave so
much for us. Hare Krishna!
Radha dasi lives with her husband in Queensland, Australia
If you want to give Radha your support, you can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org