By Restituto Oqeundo, Philippines
Translated by Inigo Jesus Conlu
When I was sentenced and sent to prison, I was extremely scared. In my first week there, I was made to sleep on the floor. What made it worse was being next to a stinking bathroom where I could not sleep because everyone was passing by to get to the toilet. The only time I could rest and sleep was when all the inmates were already asleep. I can never forget that during my first few days, I was bitten by a cockroach and I really suffered a lot. There was no one that I could ask for help. I got sick because of the heat and congestion but nobody ever helped me. No one would take care of me inside the prison cell. I also suffered from separation anxiety, missing my wife and my son BJ. There was a group who used to visit us and sing prayers. When this group came and prayed, I could not control my tears as I felt remorse.
When my son BJ visited, he told me that the mother of his best friend (Inigo) visits this prison monthly to feed the inmates and conduct yoga and meditation. I had no idea which group she belonged to. So every time we had a visitor, I looked forward to meeting her. That’s why I pushed myself to attend every programme and participated in it. Then in one visit, I finally recognised someone I knew and she was Irene. She mentioned that a lady named Wee was looking for me. I later found out that she is the mother of Inigo. I was overwhelmed with shame knowing that Wee knew what I had done to my family, especially to my son BJ. But she never saw me as a bad person, showing only kindness and a desire to really help. During our yoga and meditation sessions, my fellow inmates and I had the time to reflect and share happiness. It was as if all our discomforts, sufferings and pains were put aside, and we even forgot our problems in those moments. Since then, every last Monday of the month, I would look forward to the meditation group to come and have the session with us, because it was not only me who was excited but also my fellow inmates.
What really made me change was when Wee gave me the responsibility to look after the free library that the group placed inside the prison. This made me realise that there are people who still value me as a person and would still show their love and trust in me. And as the days went by, I started to realise the difficulty of living with the absence of my family and peers. But this made me look within, and I found myself learning how to pray and seek a closer relationship with Jesus. There were so many hindrances to all my hearings which I never saw as something negative but used them to build hope and strength in me.
Then in one of the visits of the group, Wee introduced to all of us her meditation teacher, and she even left his picture with me when they left. Little did I know that the man in the picture would change my life forever! The man in the picture as said by Wee was miraculous Mohanji. Wee explained that Mohanji was not a God. She told me that Mohanji was a man who has given himself to help the world, to bring out the goodness in the world and create changes through meditation, yoga and selfless service. She said that Mohanji sends love, help, and guidance to those who seek. It made me curious. So I asked Wee more about Mohanji and she would tell me that whenever I feel down with life I could talk to Mohanji and ask for guidance because he always listens. Even some of my inmates asked me about him, so I just shared with them who Mohanji was as explained by Wee.
From that day on, I placed his picture beside Mama Mary and Jesus and started the practice of praying and silencing the mind. Every night, I would pray to Jesus and talk to Mohanji. I always asked for guidance and forgiveness and a second chance to renew my life. As the days, weeks, and months went by, I was still waiting for the dream of getting out of the prison, and despite the delays, I never lost hope. I also promised Wee that once I get out, I will join her group to help and inspire others. As I practised meditation, it made me calm and relaxed, removing all the discomforts felt inside. Sometimes I would just fall asleep but be conscious in my body. I felt happier even in my situation, I also felt acceptance of my time there. I started feeling inner peace even on hot days or lonely nights inside the cell.
It was already a year and a half and it felt like I had been there forever. Then on one random day, the warden called me and asked me to come to his office. He informed me that my name was on the list of inmates who will have a hearing the next day. I was surprised to know this as I was not expecting this news at that time. Lo and behold, on that hearing I was finally allowed to be released and be under probation for a year, for using drugs. It felt like a miracle but then I realised that the universe was working for me to have a new life. The chance that Wee’s group gave me helped me to learn the values of self-love and self-worth. I realised that if others can see value in me, I could also do it. I now know that life should be lived with a purpose and not just wasting it with things that will be harmful to me and others as well.
The day arrived when I was finally going to step out of prison. So many inmates were asking for my clothes and other belongings and I decided to leave everything with them except for my pillow and the picture of Mohanji. As I left the place, I hoped and prayed that my inmates would look at me as a symbol of hope for them. I am a free man now, the world outside welcomed me with a bright sunny day. My son had a big smile on his face as he welcomed me, waiting for me outside. Up to this day, I still talk to Mohanji as if he is there in front of me, still asking his guidance every day, as I continue serving people through the Mohanji Philippines group lead by Wee, which I am now a part of.
|| JAI BRAHMARISHI MOHANJI||
Edited & Published by – Testimonials Team, 23rd April 2020
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