The Big House of the Guru--Arizona State Prison

Prosperity Paths Newsletter Number 14 January 1996
By S.S. Dr. Hari Simran Singh Khalsa, DC--Phoenix, Arizona

By the grace of the Guru, the opportunity came forth to lead Sikh services within the Arizona Department of Corrections. After several months of careful negotiation and hundreds of pages of contracts, FBI checks, orientation, and planning, S.S. Soul Singh and I became contractual representatives for Sikh Dharma in the Arizona State Prison System.

As ministers assigned to this task, we travel to the far reaches in the State of Arizona, past the deserts, over the mountains and through the forest to reach many remote areas and deliver the word of the Guru. We conduct Sikh services in over 25 units at over 10 locations serving about 200 inmates who have chosen Sikh Dharma as a path of spiritual disciple.

Many people who are incarcerated "find religion" under the pressure and stress of life behind the tall walls and cold steel. Under the highly regimented routine of the average inmate, the technologies of Kundalini Yoga, meditation and prayer have proven to be powerful tools in the hands of disciplined inmates. The regular practice of Sikh Dharma and Kundalini Yoga in this compressed environment creates a rhythm and spinning effect on the inmate, uplifting him or her out of the hustle and hassle of the gang violence and prison caste.

Some of the locations we serve are rural timber work farms, high desert industry yards, maximum security and death row. Security is a constant issue, whether it be showing identification at the farm gate, or putting on the prison issue flack jacket and safety goggles required in most secure "Special management Unit".

Many of the Sikh services are conducted in small groups using the tools of the Guru, discussing the Word of Siri Guru Granth Sahib (Sikh holy books) and instruction in daily Sadhana. Much of the work is done individually with people applying the technology to specific circumstances in their life and daily situations. Many incarcerated individuals seek to identify the patterns in their life that got them where they are today. The vision of the "Possible Human" often develops into an enthusiastic Sadhana.

Despite the restrictions of prison life, many Sikh and non-Sikh inmates enjoy watching the Siri Singh Sahib videos several times a week on the special prison religious cable station. This program is spiritually rewarding and provides great challenges. When an individual is incarcerated, one of the only clear rights they have is freedom of religion. Many inmates strive to reach their neutral mind, find some grace and create a sacred space as they serve their time. Looking for GOD in everything can be a constant search. The Guru’s word today is everywhere, even in a dark cell bound behind the walls and razor wire of the Arizona institutions of correction.

Once a prisoner becomes awakened through the Guru and starts to radiate, his or her life changes dramatically. This new found spiritual sovereignty inspires many. After several years of practice, they often wish to adopt some of the outer manifestations of Sikh Dharma, or at least the ones that the security officers will allow. Items of religious faith such as turbans, Nit Nems, written spiritual material (in any condition), and musical tapes are greatly appreciated and will be passed on to inmates for use in their daily practice.

We are currently working on a Sikh Dharma and Kundalini Yoga manual for this Arizona State Program which is called Prisoner of the Rib Cage and Spiritual Sovereignty.

Copyright © 1998 by Rick Ross

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