December 14, 2006

Prison Dharma

Philip Ryan

Maria Sudekum Fisher of the Associated Press reports on the growing number of services for Buddhists behind bars in an article printed in the Houston Chronicle (now on the Buddhist Channel.) The article cites Lama Chuck Stanford, the Buddhist representative of the Kansas City Interfaith Council, the Prison Dharma Network in Boulder, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Zen Mountain Monastery's National Buddhist Prison Sangha, and St. Louis's Inside Dharma as organizations doing prison outreach to Buddhist inmates and the difficulties and prejudices Buddhists encounter as a tiny minority in a large and growing prison population. The Department of Justice says that U.S. prisons held 2,193,798 inmates in December of 2005.

Fisher discusses how Buddhist practices vary widely around the world and across sectarian boundaries, but cites meditation as a common, unifying ritual. Along those lines, the Detroit News recently reprinted Michael Luo's New York Times article discussing how Pure Land groups, which have historically placed little emphasis on meditation, are beginning to offer it more widely since that is what Americans seem to expect from Buddhism.

Information on Tricycle's own Prison Outreach program here.

Philip Ryan, Webmaster

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oliviajane's picture

The Prison Mindfulness Institute (previously the Prison Dharma Network) is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 with the mission of supporting prisoners and prison volunteers in transformation through meditation and contemplative spirituality in prisons. The organization provides books and resources through their "Books Behind Bars" program, publishes books on prison dharma through their Prison Dharma Press, organizes a pen pal program between prisoners and meditation volunteers, and offers an apprenticeship program for prison volunteers called "Path of Freedom". The organization supports prisoners in the study and practice of contemplative traditions as well as mindfulness awareness practices.

The organization lists as its spiritual advisors Robert Baker Aitken Roshi, Pema Chödrön, Rabbi David Cooper, Roshi Bernie Glassman, Roshi Joan Halifax, Father Thomas Keating, Jack Kornfield, Stephen Levine, John Daido Loori, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Thrangu Rinpoche, and Jon Kabat-Zinn.

Best wishes,
Olivia Jane
Editor, Paid to click