Oct 07, 2012
I want to address the issue of compassion. Compassion has many faces. Some of them are fierce; some of them are wrathful; some of them are tender; some of them are wise. A line that the Dalai Lama once said, he said, “Love and compassion are necessities. They are not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” And I would suggest, it is not only humanity that won’t survive, but it is all species on the planet, as we’ve heard today. It is the big cats, and it’s the plankton.
Two weeks ago, I was in Bangalore in India. I was so privileged to be able to teach in a hospice on the outskirts …
Feb 11, 2011
One of the most frustrating things in my life is that for the last few months, because of a change in my wife’s work schedule, I haven’t been able to get up to the prison I’ve been teaching in for the last seven years. I miss the guys there. I regard them as part of my “sangha” (spiritual community). I have great respect for them as spiritual practitioners because of the sheer effort they have to make in order to remain sane and balanced in a very challenging environment. Not only do they stay sane and balanced, but some of them bring about huge changes in their lives. …
Sep 28, 2010
In a sense we all live in a prison, but a life of literal confinement can force us to confront our existential situation — and our need for change — with unflinching honesty.
As the subtitle indicates, this is a collection of writings; of the nine chapters comprising the body of this text five appear to be written while the author was still in prison. A sixth chapter appears to have been composed within two weeks of his release. The remaining three chapters recount the nature and experience of the author in relation to practicing the Buddha’s path.
Chapter one carries the book’s title and also expands on the theme with the subheading …
Jun 08, 2010
For six years, I’ve been traveling up to the state prison for men in Concord New Hampshire, where I help, with other volunteers, to run a meditation and Buddhist study group. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, and every visitor from outside the walls who has ever visited the group has come away feeling inspired. Our inmate practitioners live in very challenging circumstances, and meditation is their lifeline to sanity — therefore they practice with an intensity that puts many Buddhists “on the outside” to shame.
One of our inmates, Bob, makes malas — the Buddhist rosaries that people use when chanting mantras — and we’ve …
May 11, 2009
Over the years that Bodhipaksa has worked in prisons he’s observed that some of the inmates he works with are among the freest people he knows. So if freedom can be attained even in prison, what is freedom, and how can we find it?
Just about every week for the last six years I’ve met with inmates at the state prison for men in New Hampshire. I enjoy going there. In fact it’s the highlight of my week.
I’m used to the peculiarities of the place now. Sometimes the guards there can be unwelcoming, but mostly they’re now accepting. The room we meet in can be rescheduled at a moment’s notice, but you …
May 06, 2009
What makes a prisoner? Sarvananda, a prison Buddhist chaplain, has an inside view of life in jail; and he reflects that we are all prisoners of our mental states
Twice a week for the past seven years I have visited Norwich Prison in eastern England, in my capacity as a Buddhist chaplain. Recently I have been wondering why I am drawn to this work. Apart from the desire to spread the Dharma and the fact that my teacher Sangharakshita has encouraged his disciples to undertake such work, a certain fascination has drawn me to prison visiting — a fascination with prison life itself and with the people I meet.
I was brought up in …
May 05, 2009
People behind bars are often open to change, as Suvarnaprabha discovers when teaching prisoners to meditate.
There is a series of rituals you learn when you start going into prisons. Of course they aren’t meant to be rituals –- they’re for security, but they end up feeling like rituals, in the same way that some of us automatically bow when we enter a meditation room. You walk up to the door, push the button, turn your back to the door, the door buzzes, and you turn around, open the door and go inside. Every time you go through a door, even on the inside, you do the same thing: you push …
May 04, 2009
For some inmates imprisonment offers an opportunity to reflect on the causes and conditions that have shaped their lives, and a powerful incentive to bring about personal change. Calvin Malone’s first book, Razor Wire Dharma, elegantly and powerfully outlines the challenges and rewards of practicing behind bars.
Calvin Malone began practicing meditation and Buddhism soon after he entered prison — about twenty years ago. In “Razor Wire Dharma,” he gives an account of time served, of fellow prisoners, and of his attempts to practice the Buddha’s teaching in this most challenging of environments.
And challenges Calvin Malone has encountered in plenty. In a series of short and …
Mar 02, 2009
Prison can be a tough environment for those who work there as well as for inmates. Psychotherapist Steve Bell reflects on a few tough months spent in Rikers Island and realizes how much he learned.
For four months last year I worked with women detainees on Rikers Island in the Intense Treatment Unit, or ITU. Those four months were an adventure, but I won’t easily forget the trauma and abuse the women reported, and eventually the need to live a simpler life led me to give up working there.
The idea of the ITU was to try and apply the work of Marsha Linehan — who created Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) for people with …