9-4-10: With KC, I Can Embrace My Situation

By : 
Bhakta Richard Chase, Sheridan, Oregon

Dear Bhakti-lata, Hare Krsna!

All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Please accept my humble respects and obeisances.

I hope everything is well for you, mataji. My KC grows and flourishes with our correspondence and your letters are truly worth the wait.

Well, I never imagined it would be so difficult to practice my KC here [a new institution]. Chaplain H. hates KC. He more or less alluded to the fact that he was going to have me sent to the hole [solitary] if I persisted in trying to practice KC in the chapel. Chaplain R. is much more enlightened. It’s been so discouraging and my KC has suffered as a result.

I settled for attending the Siddha yoga meetings. Chaplain H. told me that if I want to practice KC, it falls under the “umbrella” of Hindu services of which the Siddha yoga inmates take all the time slots. So I cut Prabhupada’s picture out of last month’s BTG and made a cardboard frame that I could set up in front of me while I chanted. Well, last night when I went to the meeting, the inmate facilitator, who has NO idea of what he’s doing, told me I was not permitted to have Prabhupada’s picture in the meeting and, in essence, tossed me out of the meeting.

So for now, I’m renewing my KC fervor. I’ve cleaned off the top of my locker and have erected an altar. There’s flowers on the yard so I can offer a flower every day to Prabhupada. In your next letter, please send me some pictures of Lord Krsna, Lord Visnu, Lord Caitanya, and Lord Nrsimhadeva. I’m going to renew my chanting and my vegetarian diet. And until I received your Bhagavad-gita, I have another that’s not a bad translation and seems to keep to the format, but I can tell how far superior As It Is is. I so miss Prabhupada’s purports.

In the last two years, KC has brought me so much peace, so much tranquility, so much hope, and so much joy- it seems unfathomable that I could ever give it up. There is no way I could replace it with Siddha yoga. Impersonalism is so vague, so empty. It feels so good to know that by chanting the maha mantra and practicing devotion to the Lord I can, as an individual, transfer to the Vaikuntha planets and live with our Lord. After practicing bhakti yoga, it’s as if everything makes sense now.
Mataji, I received your letter and, just earlier in the day, I received the Bhagavad-gita and the japa beads. And, yes! Separation did indeed make my heart grow fonder of KC and Prabhupada’s words. Quite an interesting chain of events. I had come back to meat eating ever since I had arrived here and hadn’t chanted more than a few rounds. Chaplain H. kept telling me he was going to send me to the hole if I persisted in trying to practice KC and I was getting very discouraged. I even thought about giving it up for a little while and go back to my Mormon faith.

Well, believe it or not, I related this whole experience to who I considered my best friend here; an old Muslim man, about 65, and this guy has no he asked me- was I willing to go to the hole for my religion? He told me, of all the reasons to go to the hole, practicing your religion seemed the best. He told me I needed to make a decision; was I willing to put Vaisnavism front and center in my life? So I decided. I cut pictures out of the BTG and made an altar on my locker top (as I told you before). I immediately offered water and flowers and began again eating a strict vegetarian diet and offering my food to Lord Krsna. I began praying to Him again, asking Him to help me- and mataji- did it really surprise me that within days, Chaplain R. stood up for me and even the associate warden sympathized with me and that muddha H. went on vacation. Jaya! How the Lord reciprocates with His devotees!
I left San Bernardino and my KC books on June 29th and it took until September 9 to see a Gita back in my hands. Those two months felt like a virtual eternity and Krsna willing, that will never happen to me again. With my altar, Tulasi Devi [japa beads], and the Gita, others are inquiring what KC is. Last night, I made prasadam for two friends. One says he wants to hear kirtan and watch Prabhupada with me! I certainly felt like the gopis- well, not anywhere near their anxiety of separation- but I certainly felt like crying. I did feel desperate just to practice KC. I felt such separation from Krsna that a day felt like a month. Literally, the last two months seemed to take so long to go by, as opposed to Sand Bernardino, where I was locked down all the time but the months flew by.
I much prefer inner spiritual happiness than outer material happiness. But today, as I walked out on the yard, with the beautiful tall poplar trees, the friendly black biers and squirrels, the gorgeous forest beyond the fences, the gorgeous cloud cover, the colorful flower gardens and the bumble bees happily pollinating the flowers, I chanted my rounds with Tulasi Devi and felt bliss spring in my heart. Things are definitively getting better.

Thank you so much for the prayers to the Six Goswamis. Reading about them in the CC was so blissful. It’s weird how fondly I remember those times I read the CC and SB in my teeny little one man cell, in the middle of the night when all was silent, after I finished my nightly 16 rounds straight, on my homemade plastic japa mala knots. I hope to have more of those times ahead.
I’m also taking your suggestion and memorizing SB 10.14.8

I’ve been studying NOD and going through the BG again and I can’t wait to get to the Krsna Book.
I always have fresh flowers on the beautiful altar I erected in my locker. Well, anyone who comes into my cell can’t help but to see it and most ask about it. Well, this young guy, Joe, I think Prabhupada’s image must have awakened something inside of him. I started telling him about KC and chanting and he decided on his own that he was going to try it. The he said he wanted to go the chapel with me and sing kirtan.

I think that now Chaplain R. is going to give me the Buddhist time slot (Monday, 6 PM to 8 PM). I can watch our beloved Prabhupada on a large 46’’ plasma screen and check out all the groovy devotees from the 70s! It’s a trip watching the shirtless guys with their shaved heads and tilaka fanning him with utter seriousness and reverence. I was also amazed to see how short Prabhupada was and yet how commanding and mesmerizing his presence was (is). I just sat there in awe with a huge grin on my face. It was also wondrous to hear kirtan for the first time. I immediately began singing it and wanted to get up and dance. I noticed how much other material there is other than the maha mantra. Are there any written transcriptions so I can follow along with what they’re singing? I’m sure, as the months and years go by, I’ll become infinitely familiar with each of the songs and grow to love each and every one of them.

Last Monday, Joe and I were relegated to what they nickname “the sacred hallway”, which is the place the chapel has when all the rooms are taken. All the CD players were out so we had to play the cassettes. I had plenty of room to dance though! Dong call and response with Prabhupada was just the greatest. I mean, after all this time and-finally- being able to not just hear him but see him. It was like he was right there in the room. I got goose bumps. I just wanted to fall down at his lotus feet. It was so amazing!

Prabhupada’s books give me such joy that I understand how they are a type of incarnation of the Lord. The shakti I feel from them, I don’t feel from any other books with the exception of the Bible, so needless to say, it’s difficult reading anything else. The connection with Lord Krsna is so strong and I feel so blessed that the sastras are back with me. Even though I’m looking at a huge amount of time [in prison], Lord Krsna is helping me through all this, teaching me proper perspective. The potency of devotional service is such, that those stinking material desires don’t have the same impact. This is an amazing blessing because the Mormon path fills me with regret for what I could have had and simply serves to remind me of how I screwed up, that I’ll probably never have the chance to marry and have children, and yet, with KC, those things are –attachments- and without them, I have less desires. Less ties to the material world, and so with KC, I can embrace my situation. I can thank Krsna that I don’t have all the material possessions, all the outside distractions that take me away from transcendental bliss, which is what it’s all about anyway.

Later-- I watched Prabhupada, sang kirtan and burned incense. It’s amazing his command of Sanskrit. I had the subtitles turned on so I could totally understand everything he was saying –just ecstatic! It charges my KC every time I get to see Prabhupada!
I’m wondering if there are any devotees that might be in the Salem or Portland area that might want to administer a KC program here?

It is so wondrous to have these awesome books here with me now. I’ve got most of them in my cell and have the small SB on my altar. I’ve finished (for now) reading NOD and on to the Krsna Book.

Prabhupada was speaking tonight about peacefulness; that it’s impossible to have in the material world and the only way to true peacefulness is through Krsna. And I can testify of that mataji. Now that I have these transcendental books I can taste His nectar and it contributes to my chanting. I gave this simple job of going across our very large yard in the housing area, picking up small bits of trash which there rarely are. It’s during a time when the yard is closed in the early afternoon. I find this a wonderful time to chant my rounds and see Krsna everywhere, in everything –all those jivas, those atomic souls, Vishnu in all those living things- when I ‘m chanting out there on the yard. I feel so close to all of it –like Prabhupada says- with Krsna only is there true peacefulness.

It’s amazing that I’ve been reading Sanskrit for a few years now and I get to actually hear how it’s pronounced. Whoa. I mean the words just flow effortlessly from Prabhupada’s mouth. I watch all the devotees effortlessly say a mantra like om namo bhagavate vasudevaya and I can barely pronounce Vrndavan!
Anyway, I’ve got my transcendental blissful work cut out for me. My cell, my beautiful altar; I’ve got the books filled with the sweetest nectar my mind and intelligence can feast upon, I’ve got Tulasi Devi to help me with my chanting and my dearest spiritual master on DVD, CD, and cassette. I can chant outside among beautiful living things and live my life as a Vaisnava. Blessings, blessings, blessings.
So once again, mataji, thank you so much for everything! I so look forward to your next letter.
Your servant,
Bhakta Richard
Sheridan, Oregon