Below is a selection of testimonials from prisoners all over the United States who have benefited from the Swami Satchidananda Prison Project.
Thank you for your letter with words of encouragement. It is inspiring to know Gurudev would appreciate the work we are doing here. I know He was involved in prison work because my Guru met him in a prison in the 1970’s. People think it’s funny when I tell them prison is a great place to practice yoga and work on inner realization because in here we are free of all worldly responsibilities which allows us all the time we wish to use for self-improvement So, coming here we lose certain freedoms yet we gain certain freedoms.”
— Yogi Ram Robert Peterson, Yazoo City, MS
“I am so thankful for all the books you last sent to me. I become more and more enamored of Swami Satchidananda with each word I read. I am actually reading a little of The Healthy Vegetarian, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and The Satchidananda Sutras every day. Sometimes I read the whole Satchidananda Sutras again in a day. Everything he says, and the way he says it resonates truly with me. There is never a moment when I am hesitant in taking in his teachings. I find myself wanting more and more to be utterly immersed in everything he has to say, to become the sort of Being he asserts we all really are.”
— Jason Rhoades, June 2015, Adrian, MI
“I love this book, To Know Yourself. I am in tune with Sri Gurudev’s teachings, they resonate the truth to me… Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you and let y’all know that the books you sent are cherished and being read. I read a little every day. I’ve cut animals out of my diet and I’m doing what I can.”
—Greg Hausenfluck, Edinburg, Texas
“I very much enjoy the concept of Integral Yoga, as I’ve been studying several yogas at once. You’ve helped reinforce my belief that I’m on the right path. Thank you.”
—Don Turner, Huntsville, Texas
This prisoner is responding to my inquiry if he wanted to continue with the Correspondence Course on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali with Commentaries by Sri Gurudev: “I won’t give up on the course. I’m evolving, Rev, and I have been guided to this path for a reason. This knowledge is helping me become who I truly am. I am applying what I learn from you and Sri Swami Satchidananda because whether I get out of here or not, I will need it to help others and for the future. I don’t know what’s to become of me, I just know I have been on a strange path since I was at least 9 years old… Anyway, I’m going to stick with it.”
—Timothy Harper, Huntsville, TX
“Dear Yogi, This is not the first time I have corresponded with your Ashram. Years ago I received a copy of the Yoga Sutras with commentary by Swami Satchidananda. I have read it numerous times and continue to read it as every time I do a fresh lesson is learned. I have been incarcerated nearly 15 years and 9 of that has been fully dedicated to the practice of yoga. Human vocabulary proves inadequate in expressing how yoga has transformed me on every level, but I am sure you can relate. Most people think of prison as something bad that has happened to them but for me it is a blessing thanks to yoga.
Namaste, Yogi Ram.”
—Robert Peterson, Yazoo City, MS
“I just want to thank you for all the books and other reading materials. Thank you so much for helping further my spiritual Practices and for all the Support! ☺ It means more than you will ever know! I pay for each and every one of you in an effort that you can continue your spiritual seeking in love, truth and Bliss. You all have been a blessing and your kindnesses have inspired me and I will forever be grateful! Sending with all love! Thank you once more and God Bless! Om Shanti Namaste to you always.”
—Joshua Jones, Apr. 2014, Pine City, NY
“I can’t tell you in words how much of an inspiration Gurudev & Yogaville have been. Whenever I am in my weaker moments I sit down & will pick up one of the books or pictures & it puts me back into a peaceful state that makes this whole situation all the more bearable. I never thought that life would be like this. But I am grateful it has all turned out this way.”
—Joshua Jones, Oct. 13, 2014, Pine City, NY
Much gratitude and peace. I got the books you sent me last week. I’ve already rad one and it was inspiring—the Kailash Journal to be exact. You over the years and the words of Swami have transformed my thinking. So for that I pray endlessly for the srength of Yogaville to continue on.
—Ryan Mays, 2/4/15, Pelham, GA
I just want to take the time to tell you at Satchidananda Ashram, Yogaville, and the guru who guides me on my path of understanding and enlightenment that this path has opened me up within in a way that a human being could never know. At times I cry because I am so happy within myself that a person or me could understand these teachings. I let my guru guide me to that light within. Thank you for each and every book I have received and I hope to continue to receive them. Thank you with great love and respect to Swami Satchidananda, the Ashram, and Yogaville.
—Aldrain L. Ward, Feb. 12, 2015, Chesapeake, VA
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the works that were sent to me from your institution. I cannot express in words how much it means to me. It is truly a beautiful act of pure kindness, that you spread this knowledge to people in difficult times, such as myself. I find peace and healing in these words. These books have inspired me to practice and learn more about the ancient teachings of yoga. They have helped me to unlock a wisdom inside my soul that I know has always been with me. I am so truly blessed to have the support of Yogaville. . . .With no rehabilitational programs offered here, I have been desperately wishing for spiritual guidance. You have replied to that wish and I am so eager to express my gratitude. I absolutely enjoyed the work The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Please send the full edition and enroll me in the correspondence course for the Yoga Sutras. I have read Beyond Words and The Living Gita. Please continue to send any works available if it is possible. I am considerably interested in the work titled Bound to be Free: The Liberating Power o Prison Yoga. I feel that I would benefit greatly in my journey towards enlightenment with these books. Again, thank you so very much my friend. You have helped show me that the universe has so much more to offer. I am excited to begin living a life of self-awareness after my sentence is at an end. Hearing from you is an amazing event for me. Please continue to show me any material you believe to be beneficial.
Thank you so very much.
—Stephen Ball, Feb. 2015, Virginia Beach, VA
I just wanted to say again, thank you, so much for the book, To Know Your Self. Wow! What wisdom is in this book, for sure! This is by far the best book that I have in my possession. Trust me. Wow! It is truly a blessing for me. I started reading it right away, and I must say it helped me to understand so many other things. And I just wanted to say thank you again so much because you can’t know how much this book helped me to be a better Jew. That’s for sure.
I’m also doing a lot of the practice in book and integrating it into my life, for sure. Again thank you, so much.
—Malakim B. Israel, Feb. 2015, Chesapeake, VA
Hello! Thank you for everything you have done for me. Your work and dedication towards the souls that seek help will never be forgotten by us. It is the great souls, such as yourself, that allow those suffering hardships to see the light of a greater future and give us a needed smile. Our dark are brightened the love that you share. Some of us have been rejected by society who see us as failures who do not seek change but only destruction. Those who think this way only help to perpetuate the criminal mentality by their own failure to recognize that the “criminal” maid can be healed by offering a helping hand and a good dose of love. But living in a world where it’s all about me me me who can help anyone? Thank You! Thank You! Thank you!
—Brian Byrnes, Feb. 1, 2015, Frackville, PA
I am a humble prisoner incarcerated in Texas. I am a man who has been on a Spiritual quest to find myself and my place in the Universe and I must say, someone loaned me a copy of the “Bhagavad Gita” with commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda, and I swear it is one of the most poignant & profound works of literature I have ever read. Since then I have sung it’s praises to Christains, Muslims, and any who will listen.
—Harold Umanzor, Mar. 20, 2015, Huntsville, TX
I received your latest batch of books and wanted to express my sincere gratitude. I read A Thought for Each Day every morning and evening and spend a lot of time studying The Living Gita. I also keep the pocket sized copies of Meditation and The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in my back pocket at all times. I’ve dedicated myself to using this time behind bars to better myself, both for my own sake and for the sake of my children (boy/girl twins), and the literature you have so generously donated to me has played an integral role in my quest for self-betterment. Thank you so much! Bound to Be Free was particularly helpful, and I have read Seeds of Peace six times now! I love it!
–Harold Miller, May 2015, Gunnison, UT,
I wanted to let you know how wonderful it feels when I do yoga and my meditations. I hope one day to go to Yogaville or to meet a real guru, just to see how it feels like to be in the presence of a beautiful spirit of Light and peace. I remember ever since I was a kid I would tell my mother how I wanted to go live in a monastery with monks and be at peace. Well, now I found out I don’t have to do so, only meditate and to find peace. All I do is go to God because He is peace. Also, I found out that we never loose our peace; we only allow people to take it from us, and I decided not to allow no one or anything to take the most important thing in my life, “peace.” It took me 44 years to learn this and I’m glad I did because hopefully soon I will go home to my family and I want to spread the word about all I have been learning and reading to my kin. I feel like the planets are on my side and the universe is there to guide me also. I hope to keep in touch with you or some one from Yogaville if allowed to do so. I meditate a lot on others and I want peace for all creation. By the way, I’m Native American and Spanish (well Aztec) and that side of me teaches us to respect all creation even nature, animals of all kinds and not to disturb anything in life because everything has a purpose in this world. I believe we are no better than anything on earth. We are all equal. I’m no greater than a dog and th dog is no greater than me, etc. So I respect all in life.
– Jorge Gonzales, Gatesville, TX Jan. 3, 2016
Thank you for the card and the books, that is the best gift I have ever had. It has reminded myself of the “Self”, my duty and purpose in life. It has given me deeper understanding on “Islam”, and all traditions, unity within diversity. I couldn’t thank “Sifu”(another inmate) enough for bringing my awareness and eye on Integral Yoga. It is truly a blessing to be able to practice + study everyday. Keeping the mind clear, calm, and clean. I love it, Rev. Lakshmi Barsel. I love you for being you and doing what the Creator wants you to do – Selfless Service. That is something I am willing to do, submit to selfless service and sacrifice. Scriptures say: If you seek enlightenment from those who have realized the Truth prostrate before them question them, serve them. I humble myself before you by asking to guide myself by begging to enlighten me… There is so much I want to say, but there are not enough words to say it.
– Joseph Kelley, Bexar County Jail, San Antonio, TX 78207
This is just a few lines to say thank you so very much for the books you sent me. And I want you to know that they have made a difference in my life. I am now experiencing a peace that I never thought I would be able to experience. The teachings contained in these books has allowed me to see my body as a temple and the spiritual power of yoga has exposed me to an entirely new form of enlightenment based on the practices that I have learned. The teachings of [bhakti] and hatha yoga especially have had a profound effect on my entire approach to living, by accepting the “Divine Will” for my life and to let go of everything to gain everything. Learning to be a servant is causing me to grow and has spearheaded a growth process that I am truly excited about. Thank you, Lakshmi, for giving me this guidance and helping me to arrive at this point in my spiritual journey…I am calmer, happier, more energetic than I have ever been in my entire life. Since starting my prana exercises I am more conscious and my clarity is truly improving: embarking on this path has me filled with wonder regarding all the possibilities the universe holds and my connections to it.
— Larry Dickson, Huntsville, TX