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founded by S. N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin






Personal Account of an Ex-Prisoner of Baroda Jail

From the state of Haryana, Gurmel Singh entered the world of crime in 1983. He joined the terrorist group of Bhindranawale, and was arrested in Gujarat in 1984, two months prior to the famous operation Blue Star at Amritsar. He was implicated in the largest criminal case in the state, for murder, bank robbery and possession of weapons, and he served a ten-year jail sentence. After serving time in four jails in Haryana and Maharashtra from 1984 to 1992, he had the good fortune to enter Baroda Jail in June '92, and within six months of his entry into the jail he sat his first Vipassana course.

In his own words, "The first three to four days of the course were difficult, aches and pains, an agitated mind, but from the fifth day onwards the body started becoming lighter, and the mind was much better." He said a major transformation occurred in him. The main change he notices is in his thinking, his "wrong thinking", as he said. He gave an example, where this has changed completely -previously, if any officer in the jail said anything to him, his spontaneous thought would be: "Either that officer remains, or I will remain." Anger was always one of his major weaknesses, especially when he had to face views which were contrary to his own. Now he finds that his tolerance of other's views-however different they may be-has increased tremendously as a result of this course.

He said "I was living in hell, but after this course things have changed completely. Revenge was always at the fore in my mind. I used to feel that I would not be at peace until I had chopped off the head of the Nasik session judge who sentenced me. Now I thank the judge, because it was he who sent me to Baroda jail. Instead of being filled with revenge, I am now filled with an immense desire to serve the poor, to serve society, to serve humanity."

He continues his meditation practice daily, at least two to three hours a day , and gains a lot of peace of mind because of the equanimity which results from his daily practice. He called this technique of Vipassana a "sanjivani" herb. This word is very difficult to translate, but it is like a herb which gives life, or has very strong rejuvenative properties. He said "This technique of meditation is mandatory for every human being, not just prisoners. The government is spending lakhs of rupees and imposing all this punishment, but still can't produce any change in the inmates. But one Vipassana course can produce so much change. This may seem unbelievable, but my own case proves this point."

He requested Madam Bedi to send the police personnel who still continue to harass inmates after their release from the jail, to undergo this course. He also said that the administration and the authorities should try and look into the possibility of rehabilitation of the inmates once they have left the prisons., especially occupationally. "They promise, but their promises are not fulfilled."

He ended by saying: "Previously my life was useless, but now I have a new life thanks to Vipassana. I am filled with gratitude towards Baroda jail and I vow not to re-enter the world of crime."