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Reflections on my good fortune

Reflections on my good fortune

Yellow autumn leaf in a puddle of rain water

Daniel was in his early 20s when he received a sentence of life without parole. He was the driver for friends involved in a burglary that resulted in a death. He has used his intelligence since then to examine his life and is a diligent Dharma student.

That I have been able to communicate with you for this long is very special. If you tune into the daily news on television, there will be no shortage of calamities and tragedies, chaos and violence, even local reports of young people perishing in car wrecks or babies meeting an untimely demise. And yet, for the moment, here I am, blessed with my full faculties, able to think clearly and write you these words.

Meditating on the unexpected way death can surprise us makes me reflect on what mind state I would have if death should arrive today. What have my previous moments of mind been engrossed in? Taking it a step beyond what I was thinking today, what have I been thinking about my whole life? It is mind-blowing to actually add the total time spent on Dharma practice and realize that in a lifetime, I have studied and applied very little in totality. Now I see this as a problem and can do something to remedy it. All the great masters of the past have come and gone like I will come and go one day. But these great masters left behind invaluable instructions on the path to enlightenment. They compassionately bestowed this to us so that we can follow the path! It’s as if many of us are dying of thirst and these great masters are providing pitchers of water, yet we decline their offer and continue trotting along on our journey preferring to die of thirst!

There are times when I have trouble sleeping and I concentrate on the breath when laying down. But past events interrupt my mental state. Sometimes we engage with so much interaction in our prison community that much of it remains as a playback in my head. I have recently gotten rid of my television because of the negativity and non-sense it can feed my consciousness. My mind has been accustomed to thinking, reacting, and holding onto what it is attached to, but this is what we deal with when we are born with our body and mind. I can understand how most of us go through these struggles and continue to go through these struggles over and over and over. Our compassion should know no boundaries for we are all equal and our only enemy is the afflictions.

Incarcerated people

Many incarcerated people from all over the United States correspond with Venerable Thubten Chodron and monastics from Sravasti Abbey. They offer great insights into how they are applying the Dharma and striving to be of benefit to themselves and others in even the most difficult of situations.

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