Imagine trying to generate even the slightest bodhicitta—the intention to become fully enlightened in order to benefit all sentient beings most effectively—in a prison environment. It’s similar to generating compassion in hell! Although we are all prisoners of our negative karma, negative emotions, and disturbing attitudes, we still have this precious human life. Nothing can ever take away our Buddha potential.
In an effort to better serve our Dharma brothers and sisters in prisons (including the 50 to 70 inmates that participate in our retreat from afar each year), Sravasti Abbey proposed and was recently given a grant by the Spokane Rotary Club to purchase equipment that would allow us to expand this work by creating a DVD teaching series for distribution in prison chapel libraries.
In the past, prisons have allowed us to send books (about 200/year) and audio teachings on cassettes as well as a quarterly newsletter. Increasingly, prison chaplains and libraries allow inmates to study by using DVDs. Video allows students to receive the full communication of an oral teaching—voice, inflection, facial expression, and gestures.
The 10-disc DVD series of teachings by Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron will be on the classical Tibetan Buddhist text, Mind Training Like Rays of the Sun, which addresses how to transform adversity into spiritual growth and how to develop a loving and compassionate heart. For prison inmates, these teachings offer hope and a way to make their lives meaningful.
Through the Buddha’s teachings, we can see that our lives are more than our past actions. By listening, contemplating, and applying these teachings, we think, "I can do something good, something that benefits others, and that makes my life meaningful."