Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

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Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby sraddha » Sat Aug 08, 2009 1:12 am

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=3,8425,0,0,1,0

London, UK -- Although adherents to the Eastern faith believe in peace and the sanctity of life, almost all of the Buddhists behind bars in this country are serving lengthy sentences for serious crimes such as violence and sex offences.
Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails over past decade.

Some jails and secure hospitals including Broadmoor have opened shrines known as Buddha Groves in their grounds, and there is a nationwide network of chaplains to cater for the growing population.

It is claimed that most of the Buddhists in jail converted after their conviction, and chose it over other religions because its emphasis on meditation helps them cope with being locked up.

Supporters of Buddhist criminals say they also believe the spiritual development they gain in prison will help them once they are released, and prevent them from re-offending.



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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Aug 09, 2009 4:43 am

Greetings Sraddha,

That is interesting - thanks for sharing.

Co-incidentally, on Wednesday I'll be meeting up with Dan74 (who you may know from a couple of other forums) to give him some Dharma Books to distribute to prisoners. He's a Buddhist chaplain for prison inmates!

He's helping to make Buddhism the fastest-growing religion in Australian jails!

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sun Aug 09, 2009 7:57 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Sraddha,

That is interesting - thanks for sharing.

Co-incidentally, on Wednesday I'll be meeting up with Dan74 (who you may know from a couple of other forums) to give him some Dharma Books to distribute to prisoners. He's a Buddhist chaplain for prison inmates!

He's helping to make Buddhism the fastest-growing religion in Australian jails!

Metta,
Retro. :)


How wonderful, that Dan does that. <deep bows>

:anjali:
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby sraddha » Thu Aug 13, 2009 10:59 pm

Hi Retro!

:applause: I can't believe you guys are a part of this!

Are these guys told the story of Angulimala as a part of the dharma material given to them?
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Aug 14, 2009 1:44 am

Greetings Sraddha,

I'm not entirely sure whether there are materials specifically written for prisoners but it would be interesting to know. The texts I was taking were copies of "A Life of Blessings" and "Anyone Can Go To Heaven, Just Be Good" by TY Lee which you can see online at http://www.justbegood.net

Incidentally, I know vipassana is taught in some prisons. Documentaries like "Doing Time Doing Vipassana" show something about how this trend has started and how it's working.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby sraddha » Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:24 pm

Hi retro,

Here is a site for the Vipassana in prisons movement :

http://www.prison.dhamma.org/

Because the conducting of courses in Vipassana meditation in correction institutions was only begun relatively recently, there are few analytical studies to date on the effectiveness of such courses as a tool of rehabilitation. However, one such study has been in progress for some time on inmates who have attended the courses that have been going on regularly for several years at the North Rehabilitation Facility in Seattle, Washington. This study is being conducted under the auspices of the University of Washington and preliminary results are impressive and seem to show radical and statistically significant changes in the inmates which have attended Vipassana courses versus a control group which has not. A detailed report is due shortly but preliminary data indicates a significant decrease in recidivism for the Vipassana inmates.

The detailed report will be made available here as soon as it is completed.

As drug and alcohol addiction is a major problem with many inmates, there have been studies showing the effectiveness of Vipassana meditation courses in the treatment of such addictions
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby Dana » Sat Jan 02, 2010 6:54 pm

Hi,
In the past, in the US many inmates found Islam while they were incarcerated. I know this to be a religion that employs violence when it is felt 'need be'.

In more recent years, Thubten Chodron,
http://www.thubtenchodron.org/PrisonDharma/index.html
has been a nun in the US working in prisons.
I heard another nun speaking about teaching dharma in prisons here in Canada.

Buddhism teaches a very clear path which espouses no violence.

Long may it flourish and grow to help others be more able to help themselves live good lives.

Dana
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby ronnewmexico » Sat Jan 02, 2010 11:23 pm

As a aside of sorts....I have thought Buddhism is a natural for prisioners. Being in jail several times mostly as a juvenial but not in prison however it is speculation.

In Tibet(in past times) a practice, as some are undoubtly familiar, is to have oneself imprisioned in a cell of sorts with the entrance being walled off with brick and such and only a small bit left for food or waste, as a meditational aid. Similiar a bit to being in a cave for years and years with someone bringing food and the days spent in meditation.

I would hope if I was in prison to have the fortitude to enable such a practice requesting solitary but I don't know if I would. Much noise and confusion around your cell of course but it seems it would be a effective useage of time if in such a circumstance.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby Dana » Mon Jan 04, 2010 5:57 pm

Yes Ron,
I think it would be an aid to practice for sure if one knew they were 'stuck' in prison for a long time.
The one person I knew who did time did say that learning to follow his breath gave him something that was not controlled by anyone else.

What karma tho to be put inside - fortunate or unfortunate?

D
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby ronnewmexico » Mon Jan 04, 2010 7:29 pm

Well to my take the being put in prison would be a karmic debt paying of sorts. Perhaps at one time I had put someone in prison or caused others to conduct themselves as in a prison in a past lifetime, or conducted myself as though others are prisioners. So that would be debt paying in a self fullfilling sort,(not outside agent of course but self caused) and thusly a necessary and good thing as when done it is done.

To use it for spiritual purpose would be the best thing possible considering the difficult circumstance, and that is a good thing.

So both of those are good but certainly it would be very difficult and certainly a bad circumstance to be in, as circumstances go.

But by my take any circumstance we find ourselves in(though I personally fear and dread certain circumstances) are fortunate circumstances if we end up utilizeing them for spiritual purposes.That is if it aids and enhances our understanding of thngs as they are, through our interaction with it(my add on pretty much states that). So If I was in that circumstances I would estimate it would ultimately be a fortunate one. Ultimatly disease and death will be far more painful circumstances than prision for most. Though prison would be very painful in many ways.

In some forms of Buddhism people do indeed self create such circumstances for spiritual learning purposes.And self create other circumstantial things such as acting like crazy people or inhabiting haunted places, wildernesses, enhancing fears diseases even utilizing death when it presents as circumstance. They may all be fortunate circumstances, as you may know.

Involuntarily, prison would be very challenging. But death is largly involuntary for the most part as are most diseases. So this subject lies close to me and my practice.

I personally(jesting) hope I have no such causes, prefering solitary wilderness sojurnes of the not so wild kinds in only moderately rough terrain encountering spirits of the mostly benign kind. But I remain very lazy and spiritually slothful. Those fortunate circumstances I hope to avoid, and let others have their benefit.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby Dana » Wed Jan 06, 2010 4:40 pm

Good Morning Ron,

Your quote at bottom is an apt one for this topic. That wilderness being like the advice given to sit on the edge of a well in order to stay awake while meditating and seems like the heightened awareness necessary to remain safe in prison.

Recently I heard a discussion on the topic of solitary confinement in relation to gitmo detainees ( a young pre-trial inmate) and what devastating effects this can have on the mind and how measurable changes in brain activity result afterward. This young man is not even allowed to speak aloud nor to do certain physical exercises as they were thought to be martial arts movements. The point was the unnecessary cruelty of this punishment and the drive to stop solitary in prisons in the US.

Whether voluntary or not seems to make a difference tho if some were indeed walled into their meditation retreats, how voluntary would that be at times during that long 3 yrs or however long; that being the reason for the wall? Insurance of a sort, I think.

I have never read or heard of a negative result emerging from one of those meditation retreats as we do in the prison stories. Perhaps some do exist. Teachings, training and guidance must be the differences that make it possible to have a positive result.

To have the karma to enter a prison for a length of time (many innocents ((if there be such a thing)) land jail) could be a good thing if one knows what to do with the time. Those who speak on the topic say that dharma practice is more stringent than the demands of the prison system rather than easier and those in jail who access the programs really must have the drive and desire to do it.

I might make a great candidate for this as I am hyper and lazy-busy. The times I have been ill have been good dharma moments for me but then, no matter the difficulty in my mind or body, dharma is my constant retreat and refuge. Even while out walking I find my mind reciting mantra where I used to count the steps as a youngster.

I feel sorry for those who are imprisoned and know not what to do with their mind. Must be so difficult for them. One can only wish they get the help needed from the generous people who enter those places to be with them and teach.

D
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby ronnewmexico » Wed Jan 06, 2010 7:30 pm

Hello Dana

It might perhaps be important to keep in mind to my limited exposure...... those in Tibet in years past that did engage in such things as a walled retreat did so in a special environment. Basically one seeking enlightenment, following Millarapa's example, were willing to risk about anything to include insanity, I have heard.

So yes, your point about the wall being made is well said. That did allow for no excape from the contents of that solitary prison. And indeed those kept in solitary confinement for any length of time are considered to have suffered degrees of brain damage. The effect on a seasoned meditator with experience in solitary pursuit as spiritual endeavor I would suggest would show the opposite, enhanced capeability due to such experiences. I am no seasoned meditator but even for one as unaccomplished as I certainly am, it seems solitary pursuit in the interest of spiritual advancement leads to increased capacities. I'd guess the involuntary nature of the confinement(for no good purpose) has a very real effect upon the result.

Of course we are not dogs....but I have occasionally hit a dog(accidently) quite hard in play and have had no effect upon the dog. I hit the same dog even slightly in displeasure and it yelps loudly as if its world was ending. So I'd guess fundamentally we are in some sort similiar. The minds how and why being more significant than the actual circumstance.

Perhaps slightly related is the need to engage in preliminary practices before engageing in most advanced meditational pursuits. The preliminaries perhaps set the karmic stage for reinforcement of the spiritual nature of the thing we are about to engage in. So we (as the dog) end up being hit very hard perhaps with a blow that would kill us but survive even perhaps not noticing the blow as it has been reinforced through habitual means as being a spiritual thing.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby Dana » Sun Jan 10, 2010 12:08 am

"I'd guess the involuntary nature of the confinement(for no good purpose) has a very real effect upon the result."

Yes, and imagine the change in perspective if one is so fortunate as to come into contact with a spiritual tradition that helps one in such dire circumstances. It is often said that we do not seek until we are suffering

As I understand it, there is not much in the way of encouraging self improvement or education while in prison these days, while there is much in Buddhism that might help one understand even an unjust incarceration in a different way.

I'm glad it is being allowed and that there are volunteers willing and able.

D
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby mettafuture » Thu Jan 21, 2010 9:30 pm

This is great news.

:thumbsup:
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby ChangYuan » Wed Feb 03, 2010 3:47 pm

Speaking from personal experience, I can say that when one enters the prison system and has no spiritual beliefs, you tend to start looking. Very quickly a line is drawn where you can tell those that are receptive or not to bettering themselves. The Chapel is always one of those places that people are able to get to, and even in backwoods Florida, I had found materials to read. It was there I was first exposed to Buddhism, through the Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai book "The Teachings of Buddha". I read some other texts as well when I was in solitary, for being dumb. It took many more years for me to finally come back to the Dharma, but I will always remember how I first learned of it.
_/\_ Amituofo

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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby Annapurna » Thu Feb 04, 2010 9:40 pm

Dana wrote:Hi,
In the past, in the US many inmates found Islam while they were incarcerated. I know this to be a religion that employs violence when it is felt 'need be'.

In more recent years, Thubten Chodron,
http://www.thubtenchodron.org/PrisonDharma/index.html
has been a nun in the US working in prisons.
I heard another nun speaking about teaching dharma in prisons here in Canada.

Buddhism teaches a very clear path which espouses no violence.

Long may it flourish and grow to help others be more able to help themselves live good lives.

Dana


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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby meindzai » Thu Feb 04, 2010 11:13 pm

I wonder what the stats are in the U.S. I know MRO has been at it awhile: http://www.mro.org/zmmold/rightaction/nbps.html

I know they had a hard time getting it going in the "bible belt" here, which I believe was the topic of the previously mentioned documentary. The attachment to theism is just really overwhelming here sometimes.

-M
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby justsit » Fri Feb 05, 2010 4:16 am

Some other groups doing prison work Here and Here.
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby ground » Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:08 am

Removed from the world. Seclusion. The cell being the hermitage. Like the cell of a monk. This I would call "favorable conditions".

We all are prisoners. Some know, some don't and some just can't escape experiencing it directly.

:namaste:
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Re: Buddhism is fastest-growing religion in English jails

Postby ChangYuan » Sun Feb 07, 2010 4:08 am

TMingyur wrote:Removed from the world. Seclusion. The cell being the hermitage. Like the cell of a monk. This I would call "favorable conditions".

We all are prisoners. Some know, some don't and some just can't escape experiencing it directly.

:namaste:


Sorry, but prison is never a favorable condition. Unless you are in solitary, you are not secluded. And most other inmates, are not conducive to good spiritual growth.
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