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Making life meaningful in prison

Mind training DVD series for prison libraries

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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.

White wordings: Do something good every day,  background in red color.

“I can do something good, something that benefits others, and that makes my life meaningful.” (Photo by Howard Lake)

In an effort to better serve our Dharma brothers and sisters in prisons (including the 50 to 70 incarcerated people 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 incarcerated people 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 incarcerated people, 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.”

Read about the conclusion of this project, including comments from the users.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.