Hard core criminals, hands cuffed and with their feet in iron chains at Central Jail, Jaipur, were brought before Acharya Shri S.N.Goenkaji on an eventful day in the year 1975, to attend a camp on Vipassana to enable them to turn a new leaf and live a life of fulfillment. This was the first camp conducted for inmates of a jail in India.
Crime takes birth due to mental stress and a mind that is impure. And in jail there is absolutely no way to release the tensions and purify the thoughts. This leads to a constant state of mental turmoil which kills the very purpose of a life in prison which is to enable their return to society as civilized persons.
Shri Ram Singh, the then Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, had found immense personal and social utility in Vipassana, the path to stress free life and bliss. Finding the right opportunity Shri Ram Singh enquired whether, Shri Goenkaji could conduct a camp at Central Jail, Jaipur, to which he received a prompt positive reply.
However there were practical problems to be tackled. Shri Goenkaji, as per rules, was not allowed to stay in the jail premises and arrangements were made in a beautiful bungalow outside the jail. But he insisted that he will have to stay in the jail all the twenty four hours when he conducts the camp. Since only those who have been sentenced to jail can stay within the premises, Shri Goenkaji retorted to punish him and thereby put him in jail there. Shocked at this reply, Shri Ram arranged to issue an official order by which Shri Goenkaji was allowed to use a room temporarily inside the jail premises.
Looking at some criminals in handcuffs and in chains, restricting their movement, Shri Goenkaji, immediately, demanded removal of the handcuffs and chains. The jail authorities expressed their inability to do so, but Shri Goenkaji, insisted on it that he cannot teach righteousness to people in chains and that he has come there to free them of their chains and that meditation cannot take place with any kind of chains.
At the end of the camp, a prisoner sentenced to death sent a message to Shri Ram Singh that he has decided to withdraw his appeal to the Government of India, against his death sentence and for pardon. He was ready to die. He knew he now had righteousness with him and he was unafraid of facing imminent death. Unfortunately, his appeal for pardon also was turned down and the date of hanging him till death was also finalized.
Shri Ram Singh was invited to witness the sad event. The prisoner walked out of his cell, with a smile on his face. His confidence and inner strength was at its peak then. He thanked the staff of the prison and walked towards the gallows to be hanged, so cheerfully, which was never witnessed before.
His soul was freed of all human chains that bound him to a life full of miseries. Vipassana enabled his flight from a frightful life to full freedom- a journey from pain to peace!
Contributed by Ms Harina, SBLC, Indore