My Time in Prison

“The radiations of unhappiness, depression, fear and anger that are radiating out of prisons has a grossly underestimated impact on the state of wellbeing of any collective.”

Thom Knoles

Most people are surprised to hear that Thom Knoles has spent time in prison. And not just one prison. Several in fact.

And not just in one country. He’s spent time in multiple prisons in Australia and the United States of America.

Listen in as Thom shares the tale of how he took control of his own destiny, and changed the destiny of hundreds of others in the process.

NB – Please see here for more information about The Light Inside project that Thom refers to in this episode.

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Episode Highlights


A Deep Conviction



The Starry World



Jyotish – Vedic Astrology



Prison is in Your Future.



“Go to Prison.”



Freedom Behind Bars



Multiple Prison Stays



Meditation in Prison



The Light Inside


Jai Guru Deva


My Time in Prison

[00:45] A Deep Conviction

Jai Guru Deva.

I’d like to talk about my prison time, my time in prison. Oh, don’t be shocked. Don’t be surprised. Yes, I spent time in prison. I was never convicted of anything. I was never charged with anything. But I did have a deep conviction that meditation taught to convicts would be a very good thing.

And I’d like to tell you the story of how the whole thing started. There’s a field known as astrology, and then in the West, there’s a version of astrology called tropical.

Tropical Astrology is the technical named for the Western approach to the zodiac, where you can look at the very trivialized version of it in your local newspaper or Zodiac feed, and it’ll tell you, that a tall, dark stranger is approaching sometime the next few days or some such thing, or, watch out for negative feelings and whatever, if you’re a Leo.

And then there is what we call Jyotish, Jyotish, J-Y-O-T-I-S-H. Jyotish literally means inner light. That’s what the word actually means. The light from within, Jyotish, the light inside. And I’ll come back to those words, those three words, in a few minutes.

Jyotish has a basic idea, and that is that from the moment of nativity, from the moment that the baby body, the last part of the baby body, like if the baby is born head first, as most are, when the toe leaves the protective envelope of the mother’s body, right in that moment of complete independence, there is, in the starry world above us, an array of stars and planets that have their effect on us.

[03:01] The Starry World

There’s a larger picture, which we need to just touch on briefly here, and which I’ve touched on in a very long format elsewhere, that we, meaning the individuated consciousness also choose our time of birth so that we can be under the influence of those particular stars that we need to be under the influence of, in order to satisfy the criterion.

One of the criteria of being born into a human body is to finish unfinished business and finishing unfinished business, from what? From a previous existence, a previous lifetime, or perhaps previous lifetimes in plural.

So being born under a particular phase of the starry world, from horizon to horizon, depending on where you are, there’s a certain amount of the frequencies and vibrations of all of these planets and stars.

And in our native moment, the moment of our birth, we are very impressionable. And our consciousness receives the effect and impact of the stars in the visible world.

The horizon of the earth protects us from, or obscures us from, the effect of other planets and other stars that are on the other side of the earth at the moment of our birth.

And so we’re not directly imprinted by those, but we are affected by their absence. And so then, as we grow into life, we are sensitive both to those things that were absent at the time of our birth, not within our horizon range, and we’re also sensitive to everything that was in the visible sky.

[05:08] Jyotish – Vedic Astrology

And this is why someone who practices Jyotish, which is Vedic Astrology, Vedic Astrology, Jyotish; these people are known as a Jyotishi, J-Y-O-T-I-S-H-I. Jyotish is the science, and a Jyotishi is someone who practices that science.

Jyotishi wants to know not just the exact time of your birth, right down to the second, if possible, but they want to know the location. Why?

They look at their map to see, were you born in a deep valley surrounded by mountains? If so, then there may have been occultation or obscuration of certain planets and stars because you have a more narrow horizon. Or were you born on a mountain top with a very enormous horizon relative to someone who was born in the flatlands?

So all of that is taken into account in the calculating of the kinds of influences under which you will come in your lifetime.

And Jyotish is designed somewhat like understanding the cosmic weather. To receive a Jyotish consultation, which any of you can receive by just being in contact with my team, the world expert Jyotish master is very close to us.

He lives in India, but you can have your telephonic Jyotish reading with Dr. Harsha, someone whom I’ve known since before, before his birth. I’ll leave that for you to think about. 

[06:47] Prison is in Your Future.

And so a Jyotishi appeared on the scene. It wasn’t Dr. Harsha, his parents had only just met at that time. A Jyotishi appeared on the scene to be with Maharishi, my teacher, and there were opportunities for one to go and sit with this Indian man who would, there were no computers in those days, so he would look through a vast number of large books that he carried everywhere with him. He had thick Coke bottle lens glasses on, from constantly reading the tiny, tiny Sanskrit script in these beautiful bound, large books— something is really lost when books go away, and you only have a laptop in front of you, even if it’s a beautiful one, but anyway, that’s a whole other subject…

And looking through these books and telling me a little bit about what was in my cosmic weather report, he looked at me through his thick Coke bottle lens glasses with his highly magnified eyes, and he said, “It looks like you’re going to do some prison time. It looks like you’ll be spending time in prison.”

And I said, “What? How will I do that?”

He goes, “That doesn’t, it’s not here. I can’t know that from this.”

But he said, “You need to be prepared for this, and it will happen in your thirties and in your forties.”

I was at that time in my very young twenties. I forgot everything else he told me because of that one thing. My heart was beating and all of that.

[08:27] “Go to Prison.”

Maharishi had just given a lecture the night before about how accurate Jyotish was in giving you an understanding of the different influences in your life, and so many tales had been told about the accuracy of it all.

So I went to Maharishi, and I got in the line to get in to see him. And after an hour, I got in to see him, “Maharishi. What? Prison. Jyotishi said there’s prison time and all of that.”

Maharishi had a great big rose in his hand. He used to love carrying flowers. He had a great big rose in his hand. And he began yawning into the rose, which I found a little disconcerting. He found this a kind of boring subject, but. “Maharishi prison time. But will I do? What will I do?”

And he looked at me, and he said, “No. He said, don’t do anything. Just go to prison.”

I said, “What? Like take a brick and throw it through a window or something and get convicted. Go to prison. I don’t understand.”

He said, “No, no. It didn’t say anything about you being convicted or charged with anything. It just said prison time. So you’ll go to the prison, and there you’ll teach meditation to the inmates, and it will be a great liberation for them. For them, it will be a kind of freedom, even though they’re still behind bars.”

[09:47] Freedom Behind Bars

And one of my friends in the organization that was bringing Maharishi’s knowledge to the world in those days decided to call a program, later on, called Freedom Behind Bars. It was a very wonderful program .

So I lived in Australia in those times, which itself was once upon a time, the world’s largest penal colony.

And, Australia, for some of you who don’t know, was a place that, convicts from England and from other parts of the United Kingdom Empire, would be sent for crimes as petty as stealing an apple at the market, to crimes as serious as armed robbery.

And having been convicted they were transported. Transportation was the name of the sentence, which meant you got on a ship and spent three to six months traveling through the seas to be deposited in Australia. And then there was a kind of indentured servitude into which the convicts were placed.

I lived in Australia in those days and I’d heard all these tales of the convict society, and I’d also heard tales of the extreme approach to rehabilitation that was being taken in some of the Australian prisons.

And I met in that context a wonderful man by the name of Dr. Tony Vinson, V-I-N-S-O-N, Vinson who had been made the chairman of the New South Wales, New South Wales is a state in Australia, the New South Wales Corrective Services Commission, the chairman, and I decided to go to the highest first and I went, and talked to Dr. Vinson about Vedic Meditation and what I thought it could do, and he was an immediate fan and he and I, we struck a chord and he said, “Well, the first thing that should happen is I should learn it.”

And so I taught him, and then he said, “This is so wonderful, fantastic experience. I want as many of the inmates in the prison system in New South Wales as possible to learn this.”

And because he was the chairman of the entire Corrective Services Commission, the boss of all the bosses of all the prisons, I was able to get into the prisons.

And my number one approach was that, in consultation with prison officers and with inmates, I learned that the inmates wouldn’t trust me fully if, like most consultants, I arrived at nine or ten in the morning and departed the prison at five in the afternoon or evening, because they knew, as well as me, that I was going home to family and cheerfulness and dinner and what was considered to be freedom.

[12:53] Multiple Prison Stays

And so I began a process, with Dr. Vinson’s blessing and help, to work to get locked in. And I was able to do so in several of the notorious prisons of Australia in the central industrial prison at Long Bay, in Malabar in Sydney, in Goulburn Gaol (Jail), in a place called Goulburn in a little country town in Australia, which was a prison that held, at that time, maximum-security, high-risk violent offenders.

In Victoria, in the southern state of Victoria, where Melbourne lays, in that land, there had been a prison, no longer extant, but in those days called Pentridge.

And then coming to the United States to continue the work I did time in the famous, which is now closed, Folsom Prison and in Lompoc, L-O-M-P-O-C, another prison in part of California. And then my favorite prison known to the inmates only by its last name, Quentin, but known to the outside world as San Quentin; a very big, dark castle-like looking place on the left-hand side of the freeway going north, just after the famous Golden Gate Bridge if you’re heading north out of San Francisco.

[14:24] Meditation in Prison

And my experience in being locked into jails for 10 days to two weeks was just what I’m experiencing right now, bliss consciousness on the move. Prisons are supposed to be terribly frightening places. I, I didn’t find it so.

I was able to be in a consciousness state that made every inmate with whom I was in contact full of worthy inquiry, and all anybody ever wanted to do was meditate.

Perhaps one little vignette will help. There was one particular prison in Australia where rival bike gangs who had committed multiple murders were sentenced to lifetimes, consecutive lifetimes in a particular prison in New South Wales.

It was almost like the judge decided that it would serve them right to end up having to be in jail with, or in prison with, other inmates who killed their friends and lots of murderers and killers and all of that.

And one day teaching meditation in the library, this particular notorious prison had members of rival bike gangs, the head of one bike gang, the head of the other bike gang who were leading consecutive life prison sentences in this prison.

In the same one library, meditating, usually libraries are the best place to have group meditations in a prison setting, and every prison worth its salt has a library.

And so then, at the end of the group meditation, one of these, inmates at the end made the comment, “This must really be working because there’s no way, otherwise, I would ever sit in a room for 20 minutes with my eyes closed, with him,” pointing at the other chap, “in the same room as me.”

To which the other chap responded, “Same,” looking at him. And the two of them had just finished meditation with me, and then the most unexpected, delightful thing happened.

Each of them, the head of the Bandidos and the head of the Comancheros, each of them broke into a big sunny smile. And I was nervous for a second because they stood up and walked toward each other.

There was an armed guard at the door of the library, and that armed guard got quite alert too, as these two men approached each other and threw their arms around each other and embraced with a great big hug, and then went back and sat down.

And one of them, the one who had started it all by saying, “I didn’t think I’d ever sit in a room with my eyes closed with that chap in the room.” He looked over at the other one and said, “Okay, that’s enough.”

And then, the meeting was finished, and there was a nice laugh all around the room with the other 15 or 20 inmates who were in the room at the time.

This is the kind of effect that meditation can have in the darkest setting. The darkest setting on earth is the jails and prisons of the earth. The incarcerated populations who sit in there living in despair, whose lives are going by ticking by, day by day.

[18:01] The Light Inside

The radiations of unhappiness, depression, fear and anger that are radiating out of these places has a very, and mostly completely unestimated, or if estimated at all, underestimated grossly, impact on the state of wellbeing of any collective.

The population on earth with the largest incarcerated percentage of its citizenship is the United States of America. There’s no country on earth that can even come close to rivaling the percentage of its citizens that are incarcerated than the United States of America.

And I’m very happy to announce right here in this format that my dear colleague, an Australian by the name of Joh Jarvis, but who is a transplant to New York City, has formed a new organization, one that is worthy of the modern need of the time, and her organization is The Light Inside.

The Light Inside is actually the direct translation of the word Jyotish, the Vedic astrology system. The meaning of Jyotish is the light inside. That was the inspiration for all of this when as a very young man, I was told that I would do prison time.

So I did my time. And after about eight years of dedicated work in the field of rehabilitation, I passed the baton onto other teachers, and now Joh Jarvis is the leader of this new movement to bring light into all of the prisons of the world.

Jai Guru Deva.

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