Around a year back I landed in prison!
To put it correctly, I was invited to deliver a speech to the inmates of Bhavnagar jail. The day chosen was Jagadguru Shrimad Vallabhacharya Shri Mahaprabhuji’s Utsav.
So, after the early morning prabhat feri we were headed to the Krishna janma bhoomi as a person who received us at the prison referred to the place. On the way, one of the vaishnavs, an avid participant at most of my pravachans in Bhavnagar, was curious and a bit concerned too,
“Jeje, what will you speak about? The talk will surely have to be on very ordinary topics?”– The exact word he used was साधारण. For him, any subject besides Pushtimarg was pretty mundane and ordinary. Poor chap, he was apprehensive about my capacity to go beyond the very restricted repertoire of margiya subjects on which I usually speak.
I was like – “An ordinary topic! I can talk about our Marg in simple terms, but to make it seem ordinary would be difficult.”
His worst fears confirmed; the tilak on his brow almost disappeared under layers of skin due to the frown on his worried forehead – “You are going to talk about Pushtimarg in Jail!” Blasphemy! Pushtimargiya Hara-kiri! “They won’t understand it, don’t need it, how can they even begin to comprehend it…?”
“If you mean to say that I speak on some topic while totally ignoring the teachings of Shri Vallabh, wouldn’t it be an injustice to the inmates of the prison. I have been invited there today on Shri Vallabh’s Utsav as a representative of Pushtimarg! So my duty lies in sincerely delivering Shri Vallabh’s message, doesn’t it?”
Thankfully we reached the gates of the prison just then and while I escaped into the prison (!) the rest were tied down with completing the formalities of visiting there. So here is a translated excerpt of the talk as per the notes of the vaishnav who sincerely took it down; maybe to convince me later about the futility of such endeavors. It’s a bit jerky, but it’s been about a year and I only had his hastily jotted points to work on.
Today is a great day! It is Jagadguru Shrimad Vallabhacharya’s Utsav – appearance day. Shri Vallabh has revealed to us the path of Shri Krishna’s kripa, Pushtimarg. It must be the heightened spiritual energy of this special day that makes it possible for me to cross these thick and high walls to meet and convey Shri Vallabh’s message of Shri Krishna’s love and kripa to you.
You may all wonder how Shri Krishna’s kripa can be of any benefit to you – here; as you serve in confinement the varied sentences that have been handed out to you.
Let me share with you a little story to illustrate the nature of kripa. Once during His pravas, Shri Gusainji – the son of Shri Vallabhacharyaji, caught a thief stealing His belongings during the night. He let the thief take everything that was lying there. It was only when the thief picked up a bundle that belonged to a vaishnav that Shri Gusainji opened his eyes and said – “I can’t allow you take this away, since it’s not mine and has been entrusted to me”. In the face of such righteousness the thief fled, only to return the next morning bringing with him all that he had stolen. He sought pardon and refuge. Shri Gusainji advised him – “Since you have made stealing your livelihood, you will find it difficult to give up immediately. Make a small beginning, vow to always be compassionate towards others and to always say the truth – Prabhu’s kripa will ensure your welfare”. From then on, whenever the thief entered someone’s dwelling he would begin to feel empathy towards the family. He could actually feel their loss. These were feelings that he had never experienced before and so he would return from there empty handed; confused but happy. Prabhu Kripa flowed in his life; slowly wealth and fame came to him – through means which were virtuous. He then came to Shri Gusainji and fell at His feet – “I am your thief. One day it was you who accepted me as I was and today I am a changed person as a result of it.” [252 vartas|112]
This is kripa – the bond that Shri Krishna has with each of His jeevs. It is the only relation in this world that doesn’t label you for what you are or what you have done.
Kripa flows where there is love and the only relation where pure love exists is the one with which you are related to Shri Krishna. There is a well known kirtan in Pushtimarg,
प्रीतम प्रीत ही तें पैये – यद्यपि रूप, गुण, शील, सुघरता इन बातन न रीझैये. सत्कुल जन्म, कर्म, शुभ लक्षण, वेद पुराण पढैये…
Shri Krishna is attained only through love. Worldly qualities of being born in a noble family or caste, actions, beauty, education etc are not factors that can influence your relation with Him…
You have all made some mistakes in life. You now look into the eyes of your friends and family and see disgrace where there was honour, distrust instead of faith and aversion where there used to be love. Many of you may feel distressed at the thought that your acts have now branded and scarred you for life. Please don’t think so. Don’t let this be a barrier in your will to change. Stop looking around you; shift your gaze upwards – towards Him, the all loving Shri Krishna, the eternal lover.
His kripa is like the rays of the sun or the drops of rain which fall on good and bad alike. It collects in the palms of all those hands which are outstretched to gather it, influenced not by whom the hands belong to.
I am so glad to hear that you shall all be singing bhajans throughout the morning today. Due to pressing engagements today, it is unfortunate that I won’t be able to take part in your celebrations.
On my arrival, the officer here gave me some very valuable insight – “Guruji, if these efforts of ours can bring about a change in even a couple of these inmates out of the hundreds lodged here, we shall consider ourselves successful.”
Let me tell you all a secret; even when I speak to vaishnavs anywhere, it is always with this thought – if the words flowing through me can change even one out of the many vaishnavs sitting here; I shall count myself blessed!
So within or without, you are all Prabhu’s beloved jeevs for me. I thank you again for providing me with this opportunity…
As the talk ended, unlike the movies the police were already there, but the media arrived late! So I was asked to speak some more for their benefit. I looked at the audience for inspiration and they were actually asking me to continue. That was an encore which was highly satisfying.