Swami Satchidananda always cared deeply about serving men and women in prison. When he was serving in Sri Lanka, he and the members of his ashram built temples for both minimum and maximum security facilities and conducted regular prayer meetings for the prisoners. Sri Swamiji and a few others were allowed to enter the prisons, give lectures on spiritual life and Yoga, and speak to the prisoners individually in their cells.
After he came to the United States, Sri Swamiji continued this service by visiting prisons across the country and giving satsangs. He also encouraged his students with an interest in this type of service to teach Yoga in prisons, and there are many moving stories of inmates who were helped and rehabilitated by this service.
The Satchidananda Prison Project – Why?
Throughout the years, inmates have contacted Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville and Integral Yoga Institutes, looking for spiritual guidance. These letters arrive in a steady stream, making it clear that there are people in the prison system wishing for a better life and for spiritual direction. Eventually, the Satchidananda Prison Project was established as part of Service in Satchidananda.
The Satchidananda Prison Project – What Services are Offered?
We offer free malas (prayer beads) to prisoners who are unable to purchase these.
We offer free correspondence courses on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and The Living Gita.
We network with prison projects sponsored by other Yoga and Buddhist organizations so that we can join together in serving this very underserved population.
We work with prison administrations to have Yoga classes taught in prisons around the country.
We correspond with inmates, answering their questions about spiritual life.
We send spiritual books to inmates and prison libraries.
The Satchidananda Prison Project – Summer 2018
During the summer, in just one month, SPP received over 120 letters and emails, sent out 40 packages of books with an accompanying letter, sent out single letters (these are single letters answering prisoner questions, letters to chaplains, and other miscellaneous letters.), 4 correspondence course answers, 7 emails to prisoners and administrators, and 5 single packages. Rev. Bharati, and Shaktidevi assisted Rev. Lakshmi in answering the letters and in helping send out the book packages. Atman Fioretti who teaches Integral Yoga Hatha and Pranayama to the men in a special “Overcoming Addictions” Pilot program at Buckingham Correctional Center (BCC—a prison located in the same county as Integral Yoga headquarters in Yogaville in Central Virginia) is now teaching once a week. Swami Divyanandaji has volunteered to head an Integral Yoga Basic Teacher Training program at Buckingham Correctional Center. The warden and prison administration are enthused about the program and it has been approved. This program will be in addition to regular Integral Yoga Hatha classes taught at BCC.