Serving a prison sentence is no fun, nor is dealing with a life that has often involved poverty, broken homes, and substance abuse—one’s parents’ substance abuse as a child and one’s own as an adult. For prison inmates there is much adversity to transform. The thought-training teachings by Nam-Kha Pel entitled Mind Training Like Rays of the Sun contain excellent instructions on how to do this. Venerable Thubten Chodron, Abbess of Sravasti Abbey in Washington State, has been teaching this topic since September 2008, and the Abbey has made a set of 10 DVDs with a total of 28 video teachings that is being donated to prisons around the country so that inmates can hear these precious techings. This has been made possible through a generous grant from Spokane Washington Rotary Club #1 that enabled the Abbey to purchase a DVD duplicator. The DVDs, DVD cases, postage, and packing are offered by the Abbey.
These thought-training teachings contain special methods that enable us to realize that our real “enemy” is not other people, but our own self-centered attitude. Giving explicit step-by-step instructions on how to cultivate impartial love, compassion, and altruism, these teachings are to be practiced in formal meditation sessions and during our daily life interactions with others. Through them, inmates are able to practice specific techniques to cultivate patience and a calm mind in the difficult, and often dangerous conditions found in prison.
Sravasti Abbey volunteers have been instrumental in producing the DVDs and contacting prison chaplains. We expect to send out at least 50 DVD sets to prisons, and more if requested. Both inmates and chaplains have been sending us letters of appreciation. Here are some examples:
An inmate from the Florence Correctional Center in Arizona expressed his appreciation:
Chaplain Lunga received the 10-disc set of Buddhist teachings given by Venerable Thubten Chodron, and I learned of it last night. Tomorrow we will have our Buddhist service and after our meditation, I’ll play the first DVD before our Dharma discussion. Thank you very much for your assistance and continued support, I look forward to a long-lasting Sangha-student relationship.
An inmate in Sioux Falls said:
On behalf of our Buddhist group, I want to thank you for the wonderful gift of the DVDs. There is nothing as precious as Dharma teachings! We don’t have the benefit of having live teachings, and so any and all audio and video teachings we can lay our hands on are very welcomed. When I sent word out to all inmates that a set of 10 Dharma DVDs had arrived, our little group went from four people to ten! Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts.”
Chaplain Jen Wagner at the South Dakota State Penitentiary wrote:
I am letting you know that we received the DVDs sent to the Buddhist group. They are very appreciative of your kind gift.
Rev. Dr. Laurie W. Etter at York Correctional Institution in Connecticut enthusiastically said:
We received the Buddhist teachings on discs. Thank you very much!! Now I’m going to ask if you can send a second set of the DVDs to use on the maximum side of the prison in our long-termers spiritual development unit. Thanks and blessings.
For those of you who are fortunate enough not to be incarcerated but still have adversity to transform, watch the Mind Training Like Rays of the Sun teachings here on ThubtenChodron.org.