He was just twenty-four years old when he was found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole, and thirty-six years have passed since then. Though he’s appealed his sentence many times, this innocent man has spent his entire adult life behind bars.
His name is Joe Hunt, but we call him by his spiritual name, Jairam, meaning “Victory to God.” Jairam is a dear friend, and one of the most courageous, inspiring people we know. We first met him about twenty-five years ago after he had read Autobiography of a Yogi, and contacted Ananda to see if someone could come to his prison to teach him meditation.
Over the years, many Ananda members have visited him in various California prisons as he was transferred from one facility to another. He not only learned Master’s meditation techniques, but began to practice them for hours each day sitting on the bunk of his cell. Later Jyotish initiated him into Kriya Yoga in a little closet that the guards allowed him to use.
Amidst the noise and unrest of maximum security prisons, Jairam continued to meditate and do Kriya Yoga for hours daily. During his years behind bars, Jairam also studied law, and through his efforts he was able to get many of his fellow prisoners released. But not himself.
Jairam turns sixty this year. A few weeks ago he began having heart palpitations, and was taken by ambulance to a prison hospital. Though shackled to his bed with leg chains, Jairam continued to practice meditation and Kriya. (At this time, his heart has stabilized, and he’s been returned to his cell, although he’s developed leg infections from the chains.)
My heart was heavy with the thought of his suffering in the hospital, and I prayed earnestly to God and Guru to help him. One morning after I had been praying for him, I randomly opened Yogananda’s Metaphysical Meditations and asked Master to help me understand what was going on for Jairam. These are the words of our Guru that my eyes fell upon:
I Go Within
I was a prisoner carrying a heavy load of bones and flesh, but I have broken the chains of my muscle-bound body by the power of relaxation. I am free.
You can imagine my amazement at reading Master’s words in direct response to my prayer. I began to think, “Who are the real prisoners? Jairam, who finds peace and acceptance while chained to a prison bed? Or those of us who, wherever our bodies reside, are trapped behind self-made bars of desires, negative emotions, or self-involvement?” As long as we’re locked up behind these bars, we are all sentenced to a life in prison without parole.
There is a way out, however: Master has given us the secret key to escape the bondage of ego, and Jairam uses it every day. Through daily meditation, and withdrawing the life force through Kriya Yoga practice, we can break the bars of limitation that keep us bound to this physical plane.
Master concludes the prayer above with these words: “Now I shall try to go within. . . . Like a sacred hidden river my life-force flows in the gorge of the spine. I enter a dim corridor through the door of the spiritual eye, and speed on until at last the river of my life flows into the ocean of Life, and loses itself in bliss.”
From the bondage of ego to soul freedom, from suffering to joy, from limitation of consciousness to expansion into infinity: We can find the way out of our self-made prison, if we go within. Through the grace of God and Guru, may Jairam and all of us find true freedom.
Towards the infinite shores of bliss,