When I was in Burma recently I met up with a number of people who were involved teaching in the prison programs in the US, including Donaldson, and in Burma.
According to one of the senior assistant teachers I met, Donaldson is currently building a 'vipassana wing', a purpose built building for 10-day courses of vipassana within the prison. And again, I asked how courses were attended and what the drop out rate was like, and unlike the washington post article, what I was told that only a few inmates dropped out per course. The other inaccuracy within the article was in regards to the technique of meditation. Prisoners practice exactly the same technique that everyone else who has done a 10-day course under SN Goenka or his assistant teachers practice.
The courses are run a little differently and that there is significant pre-course counselling and briefing.
Following my long course when I was back in Yangon, I with another old student and an american assistant-teacher couple, were invited to BL Goenka's (U Shwe) house for dinner one evening. U Shwe is the senior assistant teacher and coordinator of the Myanmar prison programs. I had known about U Shwe from an article (interview) I read where he discusses the prison programs in Myanmar. http://www.irrawaddy.org/article.php?ar ... mit=Submit
I was lucky enough to sit next to him at dinner and had the opportunity to discuss with him, via an interpreter, the efficacy of the program in Myanmar.
There are three concurrent vipassana prison programs in Myanmar and they run ten-day courses back to back in three separate prisons including Yangon Central Prison, Mandalay Prison and another one which I have forgotten. When I was talking to U Shwe he told me that over 300 inmates were released in the three years since the vipassana prison programs have been operation and following assessment of the prisoner following ten-day course/s and maintenance of practice for some time. The most serious of crimes includng rape and murder were simly 'forgiven' and the prisoner released within the community. Again, like the prison program in the US, the drop out rate is small in vipassana courses in Myanmar prisons. When I asked about this, I was told that for most Burmese there was already a certain familiarity with the Dhamma and whether it is a course run at a prison or not, the Burmese simply adhere to the code of discipline. The other thing is that prisoners have nothing to loose by being there and everything to gain - especially if they are taken out of the normal prison environment and away from other prisoners and circumstances that continue to cause difficulty for them in their day-to-day lives.
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725
(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •
e: [email protected]