Candramauli Swami is one of the Men in Orange who sat with us at our wall-free classrooms in India. He has been wearing his orange robe for five decades. However, he spends much time with men that some of us picture wearing black and white stripes. Five decades ago he became a direct disciple of Srila Prabhupada. The founder of ISKCON, Prabhupada first approached incarcerated populations in Delhi in 1962, not long before he came to America to bring spirituality West. His teachings led to the creation of the ISKCON Prison Ministry, established more than 30 years ago.
Candramauli Swami currently leads that endeavor and has authored two books about spirituality and the incarcerated. The “Holy Jail” redacts activities of the ISKCON Prison Ministry that have changed the lives of hundreds of inmates. His second book is called “Forbidden Voices.”
Originally from New Jersey, he spends most of his time based out of an ashram in Chicago. Nonetheless, he travels frequently to share his wisdom. Our stars aligned. He was at both the Mumbai Flower Festival and later Govardhan Eco Village while my group was there. The following summarizes his pre-kirtan discussion with our group.
From 1986-1991 Candramauli Swami visited directly with people in prisons. Later, he began letter-writing outreach. Today, he does both. “Prabhupada wanted this kind of preaching. We have good success.” As part of the ISKCON prison ministry, one former inmate joined the Chicago temple and writes a newsletter for the incarcerated.
Candramauli Swami of Iskcon Prison MinistryCandramauli Swami leads kirtan at Govardhan Eco Village
The ISKCON prison ministry program is a wonderful way to reach the hearts of people that are considered persona non grata, explains Candramauli Swami. The inmates can start to relate to other people more. ISKCON prison ministry transforms them inside and outside.
Matter changes. It begins, develops, deteriorates, and vanishes. Likewise, this body will begin and end. What is the heart? It’s a machine. It’s just an organ. A brain is simply a machine.
But WE (our souls) are eternal. The soul (you) is in the heart region. We naturally want to feed that soul. On the spiritual plane, everything is perfect. Yet, we spend practically all of our time doing things that are related to the body. But what about me (my soul)?. When we focus on the material, we are surrounded by temporality.
If you take all the parts of the body and put them together, do you have a life? There’s something else that gives animation to the body. That’s you. The soul.
So what is the answer? Spirituality. As we connect with God, we connect with ourselves.
Spiritual activity is reality. Peace in spiritual life is always growing. Spirituality only gets more and more brilliant when you feed it. For example, the closer you get to fire the more you feel the heat.
Material life is what we do in this life to fulfill our desires. Our relationship with God is our relationship with everything. Everything is connected to the source. Everything is connected to God.
Consider the tale of a man in search of a buried treasure. He never finds it. Once he dies, he’s buried. And guess what? When they dig his grave, they find the treasure. That is an analogy for the concept that happiness is in your soul. It’s always part of you. Just buried sometimes. However, oftentimes, spiritual life can awaken you.
Or, consider your dreams. Who is seeing, and who is being seen? Who’s real? The one watching is the soul. Even in our wakened state, we are seeing ourselves.
We need to turn things around. Educate that which comes from within. At the Universities, we don’t get an education. We get a coat of paint. God is like the stomach. When you feed it, it expands. The soul knows everything. Past, present, and future. The soul experiences no unhappiness.
As we connect with sound, it awakens this happiness. The most powerful form of energy in this world is sound. Sound can create, destroy, transform.
Sound vibrations are so powerful. The ear never stops acting. It is always alert to sounds, and our bodies feel vibrations.
Most of us recognize music as the language of the heart. It brings us happiness.
By chanting, you’re feeding your soul. Chanting leads to a deep sense of peace. From that peace comes happiness. That joy is not something you can manufacture. It all starts from sound.
Trying to understand through logic and reason falls short. You must feel it. Experience it. Then, you’ll believe it.
Some people think they have bad karma. Karma is very difficult. Some children may show signs of superb intelligence. Like a Beethoven. That, too, you can say is karma. Karma is not just the bad. Karma is simply our past histories. The soul is carrying karma from previous lives. No one is born with a clean slate. No one is perfect. Bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. Regardless, you can improve your standing. That’s one of the intangible benefits of the ISKCON prison ministry program.
For those incarcerated, they have a heavy burden, and slimmer futures than most of us. Yet, we all experience periods of unhappiness. We can’t stay in that state of consciousness. We have to move on. When you’re connected on a spiritual level, you move on. When we live our life around God, when we lose something from the material world, we move on.
Give your love and emotions to God and you’ll always feel positive. He’ll reciprocate.
We are all coming from the spiritual world. Some have chosen to leave God, and enjoy their days separately from God. God doesn’t interfere with your independence or your choices.
You can’t force someone to love you. If so, it’s not really love. Love is voluntary. Same with love for God.
Finally, time is conspicuous by its absence. Anything that’s born is under the influence of time. But in the spiritual world, there is no past or future. Just present. We think in terms of future and past. Learn from the past. Live in the future. However, everything exists now.