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
In May 2012, a Chaplain from El-Paso, Texas, Steven Cottingham, emailed me in the hope of getting some books for the inmates he served. He said,
“My name is Steven. I serve in 5 jails, 3 federal prisons, and 2 state prisons and there are people asking for books in each of these institutions. What I do is place books in each institution’s Religious Services library, so it is cost-effective that way. Do you have books we could have?”
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After reading, and remembering, very heated discussions—often intense arguing or worse—between those with seemingly great differences of opinion, I was reminded that often the issues are not that important in the larger scheme of devotional, or spiritual, advancement. Such conflicts are often more about both person’s ego of being right, than in trying to understand the real truth—which, after all, one already has. It is sad that for the most part no attempts are made to understand the other person, find a middle ground, respectfully agree to disagree, or sympathetically search to discover if there could be value in the other position. The study of psychology has revealed that we tend to find what we have defined as our aim, or what we’re focused on. If we are not careful, we will only notice what supports our premise, perhaps missing an important opportunity.
I am reminded of a story Shrila Prabhupada tells to outline how stubbornly opinions can be held: “One man declared that a piece of paper had been cut with a knife. A second said no, it was done with scissors. An argument ensued, and the first man, being stronger, took the other to a river. There he told him, ‘Now, if you don't agree that it was a knife I shall throw you into this water!’
“The other man boldly continued to insist, ‘It was scissors!’
“So the ‘scissors advocate’ was tossed into the river and began to drown. Still he would not concede. As he disappeared for the last time, his hand emerged from beneath the surface with two fingers moving together like a pair of scissors, while he kept thinking. ‘No, it was by scissors! It was scissors!’ " And so he died for no good reason except to be right.
Some years ago I read Ravidra Svarupa Prabhu’s blog post titled Flowers of Devotion, wherein he described different important flowers in the Vedic literature. The atasī is said to be similar to Lord Kṛṣṇa’s skin complexion. He writes:
Dallas Morning News,
Do you ever shop at thrift stores? I confess I sometimes do. You never know what you’re going to find—sometimes brand-new items, at a fraction of their department store prices. When you’re on a budget (as I generally am), you get more bang for your buck if you frequent these places. So it happened not long ago, as I was in the neighborhood of such a store, I stopped in to see whether anything jumped out at me. There was an apron which looked perfectly clean, as if it had never been used. Like many people, when I’m cooking, I like to wear an apron to protect whatever it is I’m wearing.
Dancing Before the Deity
Over the last weekend I attended two festivals in honor of Siva-ratri. One was held outdoors and included a small fire yajna as part of the ceremonies for installing* the head of Lord Siva, just like the one worshiped in Vrindavana, India as Gopisvara Mahadeva, whose main function there is understood to be to guard the arena of Lord Krishna’s rasa-lila to ensure that no unqualified people can enter there. Only those whose love for the Lord is untainted by selfish desires can take part in the Lord’s spiritual circle dance.
SB 2.07.53 "If the jīva constantly describes māyā in relation to the Lord, remembers māyā or hears about māyā with proper faith, he will not be bewildered by māyā." -Viśvanātha Cakravartī Thakura