All in the Mind

All in the Mind

Every morning, about two thousand prisoners of Thane Central Jail gather in the various barracks to participate in a special session. For an hour or so, the participants embark on a spiritual journey wherein they enter the world of self-discovery and god-realization.

The positive effects of the "Spiritual Awakening" Programme conducted by Prajapita Brahmakumaris have transformed a number of inmates. Incorrigible addicts have given up drugs, alcohol and smoking. A large number of them have turned to vegetarianism. Negative emotions like violence, anger and depression are increasingly being substituted by peace, harmony and inner-contentment. The once contaminated atmosphere is gradually paving way for a pure ambience.

This amazing transformational programme was initiated in July 1998by the then superintendent of Thane Central Jail, Ramkrishna Mahale, along with a few volunteers of Prajapita Brahmakumaris. Last year Thane Municipal Corporation honoured Mahale with the "Thane Bhusan Gaurav Puraskar" in recognition of his splendid contribution.

The first batch of the programme comprised of a small group of 20 odd convicts, including notorious gangster Arun Gawli and his group. The results were immediate and many members of this batch took an oath never to commit a crime again. Since then the number of participants has steadily increased.

Dr. Sudhir Bhatankar, Deputy Municipal Commissioner of TMC, who is one of the Gurus who conduct spiritual discourses in the Jail, provided many examples of convicts who were transformed. Like Balasaheb Nirmale who was convicted in the fake-currency case. Bhatankar says, "Nirmale was so influenced by the course that he vowed to dedicate his life to the welfare of others, after he serves his sentence." Today, Nirmale is a social worker helping a credit society based in Thane. Even after his release from the jail, he has remained a follower of Brahmakumaris."

Dr. Bhatankar also revealed an interesting fact related to a well-known dacoit of the yesteryears, Pancham Singh, who was completely swayed by the teaching of Brahmakumaris and surrendered himself to Jayprakash Narayan. Soon, he began spiritual preaching himself. In fact, Pancham Singh attended the inaugural batch of "Spiritual Awakening" programme in Thane Jail and gave a live account of his transformational journey – from a hardened criminal to a spiritually conscious human being.

The regular turnout at the discourses and the visible transformation among the participants made a strong case for making this programme a permanent feature of the Jail. Today over 2,500 inmates participate in the self-realisation programme.

According to Mayur Kapadia, another Guru, "Many members of the police staff observed the positive effects of the programme and asked for a similar programme for them and their families."

This is not the first time that meditation techniques have been used in correction centres. Spiritual meditation is fast emerging as the key to rehabilitation of lawbreakers serving in jails the world over. Perhaps the best example is that of Dr. Kiran Bedi, India’s first female police officer. When Bedi took charge as Inspector General of prisons, she introduced a meditation course in Tihar Jail and the results were simply remarkable.

The success of the "Spiritual Awakening" programme of the Thane Central Jail only proves what Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds."

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