NOTE from Bhakti-lata Dasi: As the inmates evolve in their Kṛṣṇa consciousness, increasingly realizing the importance of Prabhupada’s teachings and making a conscious effort to apply them in their life, they develop in strength and realization. Being a witness to this spiritual growth, I feel the joy and pride of a mother seeing her children mature. I am forever captivated by the power of Srila Prabhupada’s words to completely transform the lives of so many who receive his mercy.
NOTE from Bhakti-lata Dasi: As the inmates evolve in their Kṛṣṇa consciousness, increasingly realizing the importance of Prabhupada’s teachings and making a conscious effort to apply them in their life, they develop in strength and realization. Being a witness to this spiritual growth, I feel the joy and pride of a mother seeing her children mature. I am forever captivated by the power of Srila Prabhupada’s words to completely transform the lives of so many who receive his mercy. Joseph has been in contact with IPM since at least 2010 and following his progress is an honor. Below is an essay Joseph sent me in August 2017.
The Lord is very satisfied with His devotee when the
Devotee greets other people with tolerance, mercy,
Friendship and equality.
In our devotional service to the blessed Lord Krsna, we are repeatedly encouraged to practice friendship with all living entities. Not just the ones that we find pleasing to be around, but even, and sometimes especially, those who we find it so very difficult to befriend. But oftentimes this is the most monumental of tasks. Not everyone is easily approachable, and many are downright mean. So why then must we include these “ruffians” in our circle of friendship? We don’t have to be mean in return, but can’t we just have nothing to do with them?
In Sri Isopanisad, mantra 7, it is explained that we are all spiritual beings, part and parcel of Krsna. It is only because of our contact with material nature that we have become deluded, thinking one person better than another, desiring material pleasures and seeking to gain power over the mundane world (BG 14.5). This contact is the root of our lust, anger and greed, and is the impetus for the animosity we feel towards other entities. Understanding this, we realize that we are all struggling. Trying to find our way back home. It is our duty as devotees to help others find the path of Krsna Consciousness – the path Back to Godhead.
If a person in Krsna Consciousness (…) is always
compassionate, he is not satisfied that only he
himself is a devotee, but he tries to distribute
the knowledge of devotional service to everyone.
SB 3.21.31 purport
By excluding these “undesirables” from our circle, we are committing a most grievous act – we are denying what was so freely given to ourselves —Krsna Consciousness— to those we judge unworthy. We have placed ourselves upon a pedestal (so much for humility!), and, in our arrogance, have possibly prolonged their suffering.
Being a friend to everyone doesn’t necessarily mean having direct association with them (though sometimes this is absolutely necessary), but it does mean sharing with them the glories of Krsna. By preaching, chanting and even just living a life dedicated to serving God, we help others to discover the wonders of Krsna – His love, compassion, mercy, etc. Through our words and actions we are helping others find their way back to the Supreme Lord, Sri Krsna, and this is the greatest act of mercy and compassion we can offer.
May there be good fortune throughout the universe,
and may all envious persons be pacified. May all living entities
become calm by practicing Bhakti-yoga, for by accepting devotional
service they will think of others’ welfare. Therefore let us all
engage in the service of the Supreme transcendence, Lord
Sri Krsna, and always remain absorbed in thoughts of Him.
Even in prison, there are those we deem worthy of association, and those we would exclude from our circle. We create a social caste which causes separation and segregation of the many that we find “undesirable” – and yet, we ourselves have been ostracized by society. It is only by the acceptance and compassion of those such as His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada that we have this chance of redemption. How then can we deny this chance to others? Are we, the lowest, that arrogant?
I was taught an important lesson today, by being shown something about myself. I have worked diligently at trying to see everyone as equal, without exception. This can certainly be a real challenge, but one I think worthy, and one that the Gita declares necessary. But, as it turns out, all I’ve done is learn to compartmentalize everyone into a structure of how I deal with them. I thought I was responding to people as necessary in each situation, but not so. I was judging them, and acting accordingly to my own egoistic views.
Today, I found myself disappointed and frustrated at how a couple of people acted towards me, and I spent way too much time thinking about how to respond. Then I realized – they actually didn’t do anything to me; they just failed to meet the standard I had set for them. HOW EGOISTIC!
It is not my opinion that matters, nor my standards they should meet. It is Krsna’s, and He sees everyone as equal.
It is up to me now to reciprocate this sentiment, and take the little “I” out of the equation.
The time I could have spent trying to serve Him was wasted trying to figure out how to adjust another to fit my standards.
Here, again, I have failed.
I am sorry.
As spring comes forth, melting the frozen ponds of winter,
So devotion to our Lord breaks loose the wrathful grip
Maya holds upon us.
Trees and flowers blossom, opening – gathering the rays of the sun
And our spirit, before the glories of Govinda, dance,
Basking in His love.
But unlike spring, which rises and falls with progressive time,
The love, the light of our blessed Lord is evermore
In our hearts – always shining.
Bhakta Joseph P.
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