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Dear Bhakti Lata, Hare Krsna!
All glories to Srila Prabhupada! Please accept my humble respects and obeisances.
I must ask your forgiveness for causing you concern, and apologize for not writing back sooner. I know you told me that there is no need to apologize for any delay in writing, but I hate that I worried you. My job as a trustee is quite grueling, and my work is taking its toll on my correspondence. I am very much behind, and it’s difficult to catch up. The weather here has been awful. We are in a bad drought, and in the midst of the hottest summer on record. I work outside in the boiling sun, then, since I live in a metal barn-like building, and the temperature averages 21 degrees hotter than the outside air, often I come into a dorm that is a blistering 126 to an inhuman 133 degrees! Out of the frying pan and into the fryer, so to speak.
I have, in fact, been right on the edge of total physical exhaustion. I feel that it is only through the unlimited compassion of Radha that I have been able to endure it.
I know I sort of asked for this. I pray to the Lord for help, and threw myself on the mercy of Radha. And the next day I was made a trustee and moved in this dorm. Since then it has been a real trial. Besides the grueling work, I was also attacked by fellow trustees when I first got here. I will briefly tell you about that, and what I have learned from it.
For some reason when I got here at the trustee dorm, I kept getting jumped on. I believe it was an effort by some of the other inmates to simply test my metal. I was forced to defend myself on several occasions. Finally, it stopped. This is how I stopped it:
One day, another inmate just strolls up to me and, out of the blue, swings and hits me. Now, he is black and I am white, so this could have turned into a racial issue. And it was expected that I would, naturally, strike him back. I did not.
For some reason that even now I don’t fully understand, I didn’t hit him. What I did do is to simply grab him and throw him down on the floor. Now, the whole place was watching this, and, at this point, with him on the floor and me above him, most anyone else would have taken the advantage to do this fellow some real damage. But for some reason I didn’t. I stood there a moment, then backed up and told him to get away from me. He got up and ran off, and has never looked at me since.
A few days afterwards, I was approached by the leader of these black men and they were all amazed that I didn’t do anything to this man when I so clearly had a chance. And to be honest with you, I do not know why I did not. The old Mark would have – would HAVE to – in order to make a point.
I tell you this because I believe that a change is really taking place in me. Despite my surroundings, I feel that an inner person is emerging, that is rising above such petty, foolish things. I believe that KC is responsible for this change.
Since this last event happened, I have been left alone. It was like night and day. Oh, it’s still prison with all the craziness that comes with it, but I seem to have created some kind of respect because I DID NOT do something when most everyone else would have. It was not something I had to think about. It just happened. I didn’t choose to answer this man back with violence. And for a change, it worked.
Prabhupada is so right. It is the gradual change that takes place. And in small ways, like the above illustration, I can really see it in myself.
Truly, I do not know what Radha had in mind by putting me here. Perhaps it will help with my parole or perhaps it serves a bigger purpose. But that one small moment shocked me, and a lot of others because it so totally goes against what is taken for “correct behavior” in the joint.
Anyway, all is well now and I am simply doing as the Lord wants and working like mad. At least, I assume that is what He wants, since He put me here. I am firmly convinced that Radha is behind this. At least, She had Her hand in it because I poured my heart out to Her and my tears puddled the floor, and I prayed to Her as I never prayed before in my life. Heartfelt, raw, honest emotion. Now, here I am. So I’m giving it all I have, and the work and heat are getting to me, but if this is what She wants then so be it!
My chanting is still my refuge, though my reading and study, I must admit, has suffered as much as my correspondence. I have read the Prabhupada though, three times through, if only a few lines at a time, before falling asleep. Some parts of it, however, make me weep. I just love this man (yes, I’ll use the word “love” now for that is how it feels), and I see how merciful he was to me, personally. He is my gurudeva and my saint, and my personal benefactor, and where would I be right now, spiritually, without him?
Regardless of my present difficulties, I am convinced that Krsna has ordered my days and is firmly in control of the situation. I may not like everything going on, and it is often awful. Still I know that things could be much worse. I believe that whatever difficulties I’m experiencing, it is only because of past misdeeds. And I know that it could all be MUCH worse. I can see gradual change inside myself. I respond to things with less anger (as evidenced by the last confrontation I had), and I feel less frustration over events that I obviously can’t control. I am learning to be still inside, and listen to the mantra that seems to be going on all the time in my head. I have repeated it so much that it seems to be going on without any effort on my part, as if it was a constant refrain running just on the other side of my conscious mind. As I stated before, this is a comfort and my only refuge at this time.
And, yes, I would like very much to learn more about Jagannatha. As a Westerner, naturally His appearance to me is very unusual. Still, I feel somehow drawn to Him. Why is He called “Lord of the Universe”? Is not Krsna Lord of the Universe anyway? Why is this particular aspect of God deemed to be this? How did He get to look the way He does? And Who are His companions? I know that one is His sister, but Who is the other?
I did get the two books you sent (Chanting Hare Krsna and Guide to Practicing Krsna Consciousness in Prison). I have not had a chance to start them yet. But I’m looking forward to it. I hope that the general misery I am experiencing will abate some with the coming of cooler weather. Honestly, I hope for a spate of bad weather so that I can spend a few days inside and study, as it is one of my favorite things to do. And I have had to put that pleasure aside, for now.
A co-worker cut out an article in the Dallas newspaper and slipped it to me. It was about the Krsna temple in Dallas. And the things they were doing in that neighborhood. Very favorable comments by members of the community. It also had a few nice pics of the temple itself. It made me real excited, as this is where I hope to go when I am released. I intend on bringing my two oldest kids (I say “kids” though they both are in their twenties) and if I know them, they will enjoy it very much. As for me, I intend on sticking with my plan of volunteering to work at the temple. I want to do some menial chore, some job that no one else wants to do. Clean toilets, or remove trash, or scrub floors. I want to keep on the path of humility that prison has set my feet on. And believe me, I have had to swallow my pride, often on a daily basis. I know that I am supposed to kill the ego, but I sometimes think that it has also worked to destroy my self-esteem as well.
Still, I believe that I would enjoy doing some small chore for the temple and for Krsna. After all, who but He knows how long I have traveled to get to the point that I am at now? Where I have tears in my eyes at a picture of Radha or tears run off my chin after reading about some beloved pastime of baby Krishna. I did not get to this place overnight or even in one lifetime. So, if I can go to the temple and clean a toilet or two, then I can be happy knowing that, though I am not and may never be a “pure devotee”, or even a good devotee, I am not afraid, nor is my pride so thick, that I cannot serve the Lord in the most common of ways. If nothing else I am learning gentleness. And I suppose that itself is a gift of the Lord, and a product of KC.
On a side note: My mother is a staunch Christian, though it is to her I owe so much of my early forays into Eastern teachings. She never tried to squelch my probings into other scripture. A very open-minded lady, is my mother. Well, I sent her two pictures – one of Radha and one of Krsna. I told her a little (and she already knows some) and asked that she place the pictures in her home, in a place of honor. She did so and They are sitting on her mantle. I told her that Krsna is God and Radha is His female aspect, exhibiting total compassion. Well, my mother wrote and said that when she prays and does her own devotions she also honors “the Man and Lady” (her words) in the picture.
I think this is too cool, but is it wrong? I hope that it is okay and my heartfelt prayer is that those two divine beings are there to see my walk in the door. Perhaps next year.
Anyway, that is all for now. The heat is getting to me. The violence has abated and I’m trying to catch up on all correspondence. Still chanting, but my studies are rock-bottom right now. Again, I am sorry to worry you. No need to, my faith, though it wavered slightly, was not broken. Just working myself to a frazzle and hopefully this will look good to the parole board. I have less than a year until I know something for sure.
I accept whatever they say and know that Krsna has me where He wants me. I am His, and He is mine. Through it all IPM has been my constant companion. I owe much in return.
Your obedient servant,
Iowa Park, TX
P.S. Be kind of funny, huh? I go to the temple and say something like, “Hi, my name is Mark. I’m in love with Krsna, and do you need your toilets cleaned?” (Smile!)