Friday night Kirtan at San Quentin Prison was a completely mind-blowing experience. I’ve tried to describe it to several people, but I’ve found that words have failed me.
I’ve been going into the prison on and off for about three years, along with my Bhakti brother and sister Radhanath Das and Kilimba, and we’ve always had very uplifting, albeit somewhat draining, kirtans there. The guys are so hungry for spirit, love, connection and hope. Usually around 15 men sing, one or two even dance, and the rest of the inmates watch us with very serious faces. It’s impossible to know what they’re thinking.
However something different happened this past Friday. Perhaps because there was a very gentle and sensitive film crew with us, recording the event for the Mantra Movie. Perhaps because, this time, we were joined by Ben Leinbach on bass AND drums and Prajna Vieira singing her heart out. Perhaps it was the stars — but definitely a miracle happened. About halfway through the kirtan, Radhanath started dancing with his Mridanga, as he usually does. But this time, one by one, inspired by the rhythm and the mantra, all the guys got up and began dancing together — black, white, Hispanic, Indian — and singing at the top of their lungs “RADHE RADHE RADHE,” bathing in bliss. The eyes of these very tough guys, many of them in prison for life sentences, were radiating love and joy and light. It was simply awe inspiring. How did this happen?
As we were packing up our equipment one of the incarcerated bhaktas came up to me with tears in his eyes saying, “This is the untold story!!! Please, please tell it to the world. Men of all races, spending their lives behind these prison walls, can and DO sing, dance and pray together as brothers. Please tell it to everyone! This is our ‘House of Healing’….”
We left the prison walking on air, amazed at the mystery of God’s grace.
Love and peace,