Man in the Box

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Injrabodi
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Man in the Box

Post by Injrabodi » Thu Oct 25, 2018 5:51 am

I was considering making a brief introduction in the member bios thread, but then it occurred to me that what I have to say is rather unusual and will take somewhat more than a paragraph or two. I'll try to condense this as best I can, and to keep it relevant to my practice.

My family is largely Mormon and has been so since the mid 1800s. Born into this faith I simply went along with it until my teenage years when rebellion and also critical thinking skills drew me away from the church and into studying other religions. My father despite his devout Mormonism has always had a sincere respect for the Buddha and spoke highly of "Prince Siddharta" to me even as a child, and one of my uncles has always been involved with the Theravada community so Buddhism is naturally one of the first places I looked. As a youth this investigation consisted of reading a few books on the subject and also what I now call half-assed meditation, in the half-assed half-lotus position. So in short my investigation was flimsy at best.

Later on in my early 20s after encountering a former Advaita Vedanta monk I began a more dedicated meditation routine, investigating the Upanisads, and looking into actually practicing monasticism such as at the Vedanta Society of Northern California. However this desire to go forth and leave the householder lifestyle behind had to be put on hold because one day my grandmother called me out of the blue and asked me to move in with her a number of states over- she was sick and had just been informed she has 48 hours to pack up all of her stuff and leave the nursing home. As I would discover later it was due to her treatment of the nurses and intense outbursts at the staff that resulted in her expulsion from the facility.

So I packed up and moved across the country to help my grandmother out. She was on oxygen and had difficulties performing everyday tasks, such as driving, household chores and on bad days even feeding or bathing herself. As a child after my parents divorced she was a supporting, though sometimes volatile figure, who was always there to lend a hand to me and my single father, so it was a sense of duty, love and family commitment that drove me there.

It was more or less exactly as I expected. My very first day back she randomly decided to stay at a friends condo instead of her own house. The friend was out of town and so immediately after arriving in the state my first task was to pick her up from the nursing home, pack her stuff up and drive her to another city two hours away so she could stay at an empty condo. It was a big ordeal packing her stuff because she had to oversee the entire process step by step, and it took quite some time to move her into the condo and get her settled there. She then gave me a key to her house and I drove all the way back over there.
About midnight she calls me and tells me to come and pick her up because they had been spraying poison all over the condo to kill rats, and that all of her stuff was melting into the carpet. It took hours of driving to get back over there, only to discover of course the situation was a paranoid delusion she created when rearranging all of the furniture in the condo- one she fully believed in. I then had to pack up all of her stuff again and move her out, a process during which she blocked the elevator, and had her oxygen tank run out of air. She wouldn't allow me to change it though, not trusting me to do it correctly, and so she clumsily began trying to change the oxygen tank, accidentally lost a washer that seals the air, and then began to scream and urinate on herself in the apartment elevator.

If this last section was painful to read, that was the point. It was much more painful to experience in person and remember this is quite literally my first 24 hours in her company.

Things improved from there and most days were normal though she still suffered from delusional fantasies and every once in a while she would have episodes that involved screaming and throwing things around the house. My own conduct wasn't perfect, sometimes I would say harsh words back, but I did try my best to remain stoic and keep in mind her physical and mental illnesses throughout all of the ordeals I would undergo. Typically her episodes would last only a handful of minutes, during which I could just sit there silently, and then soon enough she'd run out of steam and return to normal baseline behavior. Looking back on these days I realize that most of her episodes would occur around time periods when she had medical appointments and was required to leave the house.

In any case it was rough living there, but do-able, and only temporary. My plan was to remain until she was stable and healthy enough to return to a nursing facility of some sort, or until she passed away. Then I would move on and perhaps join the Vedanta society the former monk had discussed with me.

However one day, about a year into this living arrangement she surprised me for the very first time. I was sitting there in front of my computer in the morning time, eating a bowl of food and watching Adventure Time, when my door bursts open and she enters enraged and frothed at the mouth. This time it was about me eating in my bedroom, which has never been an issue before, and she was absolutely infuriated that I wasn't using the kitchen table. My face goes completely neutral and my eyes glaze over as once again she begins to yell about some petty grievances that have never existed until this exact moment- and the bad part is this is totally normal behavior. So I sit there patiently and wait for her to burn out like usual, so that I can give her a hug and she'll go placid once again and go about her day peacefully. Like usual. As I said though, this is the very first time she surprised me.

Taking a few steps towards me, she continues to yell loudly, when all of a sudden the yelling in coherent words turns into incoherent shrieking as she simultaneously balls up his fists and begins bashing her hands on my computer tower and monitor. Breaking and pummeling the thing violently before me, all the while mere inches from my face and shrieking. In one single, reflexive motion my arms flash out and I push her away from me at the shoulders. She falls backwards and lands on her back right before the doorway in my bedroom.
At this point I feel quite a bit of rage radiating around my body, disgust and hatred inside of me that I should have to put up with such incredible nonsense this early in the morning. However looking at her I see that she's injured and all of my raw emotion immediately evaporates into compassion and concern for my grandmother sitting on the ground before me. She was silent for several minutes, reaching back to tenderly touch her back and it appeared that she once again urinated on herself. After another minute she asks me to go and get her a washcloth as well as the phone.

The washcloth was used to clean up the urine and the phone was used to call the police.

Within minutes several squad cars show up along with an ambulance. I was promptly handcuffed as she was loaded into the back of the ambulance and taken to the local hospital. The detectives ask me what happened, and I tell them exactly what happened. This was later considered to be a confession.

The police then take me to jail and I was charged with Aggravated Battery on a Person Aged 65 or Older- a first degree felony commonly punished by 5 years in prison, but possibly by a maximum of 30. I was in jail for about a week when one day I'm called out of my cell block and a phone is placed into my hand- a very unusual occurrence. It was my aunt on the phone, crying very hard and telling me between sobs that my grandmother just passed away in the hospital. It seems she suffered some broken ribs, one of which pierced vital organs, and she died while in surgery to remove the broken rib.
At this point I just felt completely and utterly dead on the inside, and I also knew fully well what was about to happen. Shortly after hanging up the phone several very large and burly guards show up and escort me into a new cell block. Permanent isolation- for those under investigation for taking the life of another human being, and also temporary isolation for the general shitheads of the facility who can't handle normal behavior.

My new cell was perhaps about seven feet across and nine feet long, and despite the heavy metal door to the cell it was very loud in there. The bad behavior inmates who were placed into the box temporarily typically couldn't handle themselves in an empty concrete cell and so they would just scream and kick the doors, or sing loudly, rap loudly, or shout to one another loudly. So despite being locked into a tiny concrete box it wasn't the least bit peaceful. This did fluctuate throughout the times of the day as some inmates slept and others remained awake, but overall it definitely wasn't a very fun spot to be and I was potentially going to spend years of my life in this little room as I underwent trial.

My plan was to hang on as best I could, and at least make it through sentencing. If they gave me up to 15 years I would then peacefully go off to prison and serve my time, then get out in my late 30s and finally become a monk somewhere. However if they gave me a single day over 15 years I was going to take my bedsheet, tie it around the top bunk, wait for the night time guard to finish making his rounds, then I was going to put my arms into my shirt and strangle myself off the top bunk. Anything more than 15 years was just too damn much and I figure it was much better to just pass on into the next life than do decades of putting up with bullshit in this one.

So while waiting on the court process to resolve itself, I figured being locked into a tiny little cell was the perfect place to finally get serious about meditation practice. And so every day multiple times I would go and sit down on my little folded blanket in half-ass half-lotus and focus on my breathing- sometimes controlling the breath with specific patterns, other times just letting it be. It brought a lot of tranquility into my life in isolation, but nothing particularly remarkable. One night however it was particularly bad. The inmates had been very loud, the guards were particularly mean, the food skimpier than usual, etc. It was just a tremendously shitty day, even for someone in the box in jail, facing a life sentence and contemplating suicide.
This particular night the guards were doing the showers for the bottom row of inmates. They had to open the cell up, handcuff the inmate, escort him over to the shower, handcuff him to the wall in the shower, give him five minutes to attempt to wash himself, then escort him back to his cell before repeating the process with the next inmate. I was in the top row so I wouldn't be getting a shower that day. It was a particularly foul day as I had mentioned, and so I decided that I would sit down in the half-assed half-lotus position and meditate until they finished doing the showers for that evening.

I don't know how long passed, maybe 45 minutes at best, but when the final shower turned off and I opened my eyes everything around me was absolutely perfect. I was very hungry (lost 33 pounds in the box), surrounded by a fortress of razorwire, thick concrete walls, shrieking and yelling inmates, rude guards, facing a life sentence and every single thing in the world was absolutely perfect exactly as it was. There was just this extremely potent, bone-deep sensation of serenity permeating my entire body. The noise was still there, everything was still there, but perfection is the only word I can use for it. All things were exactly as they were supposed to be.

This sensation lasted with me for the rest of the evening, and then the next day when meditating the exact same thing occurred and once again it remained with me for the entire day, vanishing only when I fell asleep later that night. I still don't know what to call it. Jhana, simulated jhana? In any case this marked the day when my practice became fully concrete and every since that night I've been doing at least one hour of meditation a day. It's not much, but for a busy laymen such as myself it's something at least.

Anyways, after about two months in the box my public defender showed up and presently me with a plea deal the state offered. In short it was to take three years mandatory (day for day) in prison, plus five years of probation and they'll only charge me with Aggravated Battery on a Person Aged 65 or Older instead of Manslaughter. Frankly this offer surprised the hell out of me. I expected to get metaphorically crucified by the state and hang myself in my cell, or at least to be doing some serious time in prison. Three years sounded like an absolute joke in comparison, so of course I swiftly agreed to the offer.

So it was off to prison.

In short, prison is mostly boring with periodic bouts of extreme terror. Lots and lots of idle time and occasionally witnessing acts of intense violence or insanity. My time in there was composed mostly of reading, meditating, taking mandatory classes and later on teaching class. After a few months of incarceration I learned that organizations will send free books to prisoners and with some finagling I got ahold of some Buddhist addresses. Advaita Vedanta was impossible to find, and so I chose to study what I had available. The Buddhist Text Translation Society, Metta Forest Monastery, and Wisdom Publications were particularly generous and I would like to thank them here for the kindness they showed to me and all inmates that write them with empty hands.

My third camp had a Buddhist religious service there conducted by an older laymen from a local Zen group and so I signed up for it. The class was composed of chanting the Heart of the Prajna Paramita, 25 minutes of zazen, then reading from a book of antiquated Japanese koans (which usually devolved into political arguments), followed by a final 25 minutes of zazen. It was interesting and often the only thing I ever looked forward to on a weekly basis, the service being once a week on Wednesdays.

After about a year and a half I was transferred away from this camp and to a new one. While at the new camp another inmate ended up seeing a Buddhist book I have in my locker (Mahamudra the Moonlight Quintessence of Mind and Meditation) and he walked over, reached inside of my locker (a horrible violation of prison ethics) and picked the book up. At the time I had been spending hours every single day meditating in full lotus position on a dictionary, every single day, for about a year and a half- so I'm rather calm and composed most of the time- but this was seriously a huge transgression here and I started to feel anger arising. However he then laughed and said he had a very similar book in his own locker about Mahamudra as well, and that he's glad to have another Buddhist at the facility. He was an older man, in his 60s, a Marine of almost 20 years who had some unfortunate incident with a firearm about 15 years ago and for that he'll be spending the rest of his life in prison. He became a good friend, and he mentioned that he knew one other guy at the facility who was "into this stuff" and so perhaps we could get a service going.

The third guy did yoga-asana and taught a class on asana, but to say he was "into it" at all would be a great stretch and outright lie, but the three of us did come together and petition the facility to start a Buddhist service. I was the one who wrote the formal request, as well as the only once who seemed to sincerely study and practice at all, so I ended up as the de facto leader and teacher of the service. The blind leading the blind :wink: We had class once a week and for a time I would actually try to talk and teach about a given subject, something I felt my service at the last camp lacked, but after a few months of this I realized that what I was teaching was futile and nonsensical. Why speak of a subject when one can practice and taste the results directly? And so I ended up rearranging the class into one of primarily chanting and meditation practice at that point. I also wrote several letters to Buddhist organizations in the local area- Zen, Ch'an, Dzogchen- aiming at everything and everyone, trying to find a volunteer to help us out with our class but nobody ever responded. It was a huge pain in the ass dealing with the chaplain and prison structure and having a laymen from the outside world would have been a tremendous help. The prison chaplain was a fire and brimstone southern Baptist and he would blatantly call us all devil worshipers, tell us that we're going to hell, and try to shut us down on occasion. One time he even succeeded in getting the warden to stop our religious service for two weeks by accusing us of being a gang. We would have remained shut down permanently but I wrote a letter to the state government at the capital and they called the warden on the phone and told him let us have our service back.
So for about a year I taught a class on Buddhism despite only being a beginner laymen, totally disconnected from the outside world and without any greater connection to the larger Buddhist community. It was a joke really, I don't even consider myself a Buddhist, yet there I was teaching a handful of unruly inmates of the subject, none of whom really qualified as Buddhists either apart from the old man who started the class with me. Most of the others just wanted to escape other prison responsibilities for a bit, such as kitchen duty or mandatory GED class. On this note I suppose I should say that I do study and follow the words of the Buddha, however from my beginner perspective Buddhism is just one finger pointing to the moon. There are other fingers and hands pointing to the same place. Many paths, one hill, etc. Since my release I've continued my study of Buddhism, as well as Vedanta, Shaiva, Shakta and so on. To call myself a Buddhist, a Shaivite, a sadhak, or even a Buddha or Shiva would be selling myself short and missing the entire point. These are all just words and not the essence. The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
I'm getting off topic and rambling however.

So after three years of incarceration they released me. I didn't have a place to go in the world except with my gay hispanic friend from years ago who still lived with his parents, so that's where I went. It was a tremendous blessing moving in with them and for the kindness they showed me I am eternally grateful. My dad hooked me up with a motorcycle of his, and I began to deliver pizzas while trying to save money to get my own place and life going. After maybe five months of my release two different friends on the internet pointed me in the direction of the Cundi Dharani, and I began to do japa in addition to my daily practice of mostly anapanasati. At present I've done it 40,068 times. I find it a useful tool for settling the mind, but after doing it for several months I'm still not entirely comfortable with this bhakti practice dedicated to Cundi. I've heard it said many times over that one cannot worship a deity without becoming that deity, but this is another issue for another discussion.

To finish my introduction and bring some sort of resolution to my story, in three days I'll have been a free man for exactly one year now. I have a beautiful home I can easily afford even as a pizzaman, a nice car, some genuine friends, female attention, and my sadhana is still going strong. I feel tremendously blessed and that I came out of my experience in prison as a much stronger man than the one I was going in. I'm also pursuing higher education as well, not being content with merely delivering pizza of course. My life is on a great upwards swing, and I fully intend to continue practicing each and every day. Perhaps one day I'll be able to anuttara samyak sambodhi or jivanmukta despite being an excon, killer pizzaman :shrug:

If anyone's actually made it this far, thank you for reading my story :namaste:

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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:26 am

Thanks man, what a story.

I'm actually volunteer for prison Dharma stuff for the last few years. By and large, I was pretty impressed by the dedication of the men in the group to practicing, There is a a seriousness there (while still some good humor:) that I haven't seen in many sangha on the outside, other than a few people. So it's kind of ironic, I've been around guys in the group who could care less about being associated with Buddhism, but who have real meditation chops because well, they actually do it consistently.
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Re: Man in the Box

Post by MiphamFan » Thu Oct 25, 2018 2:26 pm

Intense story. Hope everything turns out for the better for you from now.

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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Thu Oct 25, 2018 9:42 pm

Welcome, Injrabodi.
namu amida butsu
OṂ  HRIYADHE  SARWA  TATHĀGATA  HRIDAYA  GARBHE / DZOLA  DHARMADHATU  GARBHE  /  SANG  HARANA  ĀYUḤ  SANGŚHODHAYA  /  PĀPAṂ  SARWA  TATHĀGATA  SAMENDRA  UṢHṆĪKHA  BIMALE  BIŚHUDDHE  SWĀHĀ

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Everything is in their presence; and I stand in front of them. -- Shantideva

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Re: Man in the Box

Post by smcj » Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:40 pm

I suggest that whatever you were doing when you saw everything as perfect, go back to doing that.

Welcome.
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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Admin_PC » Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:45 pm

Welcome to DharmaWheel!
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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Wayfarer » Fri Oct 26, 2018 12:12 am

Welcome to Dharmawheel. Great story, and I'm impressed with your resoluteness and optimism, considering the difficult circumstances.
Indrabodhi wrote:I don't even consider myself a Buddhist, yet there I was teaching a handful of unruly inmates of the subject, none of whom really qualified as Buddhists either apart from the old man who started the class with me.
Reminds me of this piece on Slate In Praise of Distracted Meditation.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Man in the Box

Post by DNS » Fri Oct 26, 2018 3:25 am

Welcome to DW!



Check out the Prison Mindfulness Institute, if you haven't done so already:
https://www.prisonmindfulness.org/

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Re: Man in the Box

Post by SonamTashi » Fri Oct 26, 2018 10:35 am

That's a hell of a story! Welcome to Dharma Wheel. It is always good to see another ex-Mormon :smile:
:bow: :buddha1: :bow: :anjali: :meditate:

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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Kunga Lhadzom » Sat Oct 27, 2018 2:20 am

:heart:

This would make a great Netflix series !

I loved reading every sentence !!!

:bow: :bow: :bow:
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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Empty Desire » Sat Oct 27, 2018 9:22 am

Keep practising the Dharma whatever form that takes.

I used to go to Prisons in the UK as a Monk as my former teacher ran the Buddhist Chaplaincy in the UK.

I used to inaugurate the shrines with other Bhikkhus and chat to the Prisoners. Some of them were big walls, barbed wires, alsations, lots of security, Cat-A Prisons.

Others were more relaxed called open-prisons - Cat-D.

I look back on it as a great activity I was only around 20-23 at the time.

There were some great practitioners also!!!!
No Beginning, No End, Just Mind......

Attachment's True Face is Aversion....

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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Empty Desire » Sat Oct 27, 2018 9:25 am

Also, my old Preceptor used to say We're all in Prison. The Prison of Greed, Hatred and Delusion.

He was Theravada - Thai Forest.


So True Freedom comes through Freedom of the Mind!
No Beginning, No End, Just Mind......

Attachment's True Face is Aversion....

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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Injrabodi » Sun Oct 28, 2018 4:39 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:26 am
I'm actually volunteer for prison Dharma stuff for the last few years. By and large, I was pretty impressed by the dedication of the men in the group to practicing, There is a a seriousness there (while still some good humor:) that I haven't seen in many sangha on the outside, other than a few people. So it's kind of ironic, I've been around guys in the group who could care less about being associated with Buddhism, but who have real meditation chops because well, they actually do it consistently.
It is a very eclectic mix of practitioners in prison. My Zen group in the first camp had some older gentlemen who more or less spent all day studying and practicing, treating incarceration as its own form of monasticism.
smcj wrote:
Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:40 pm
I suggest that whatever you were doing when you saw everything as perfect, go back to doing that.
After this experience of mine I spent some time "chasing the dragon" and trying to recreate the conditions that produced that particular sensation. However apart from those two nights several years ago that experience has never returned. Long ago I let this particular craving go. If it ever returns, or if anything else should arise during my meditation practice, it will be in its own time and own place. I now sit to sit, not to have mystical experiences.
DNS wrote:
Fri Oct 26, 2018 3:25 am
Check out the Prison Mindfulness Institute, if you haven't done so already:
https://www.prisonmindfulness.org/
That was one of the organizations on my list and an address I had for quite some time, however I never got around to writing them. The City of 10,000 Buddhas and their translation group sent me the Platform Sutra and a number of texts by Venerable Master Hsuan Hua. Metta Forest Monastery sent me a good bit of the Pali Canon and a ton of stuff by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Then Wisdom Publications sent me a couple of massive texts, one concerning the Kagyu tradition and another on Dzogchen. So in short I was already loaded down with study material, plus whatever I could find around the prison which was a surprising amount at times.

I always felt guilty about writing the monks though. They're such good and generous people. I recall one group (City of 10,000 Buddhas I think) sent me a nice letter along with the books and said it was a privilege providing me with materials on the Dharma and if I need anything else to write them at any time.

It's absolutely remarkable to be faced with such benevolence and generosity when in the horrible world of prison, where people stab one another over ramen noodles or instant coffee.
SonamTashi wrote:
Fri Oct 26, 2018 10:35 am
That's a hell of a story! Welcome to Dharma Wheel. It is always good to see another ex-Mormon :smile:
Thank you. I've never considered myself an "ex-Mormon" though, in fact recently I called myself an "ethnic Mormon" :wink: because it even came up on the ancestry DNA test I took recently. The church and its members have always been quite kind to me, and I think it does play a role for good in this world, however it would simply be dishonest for me to participate in an organization I don't believe in. The doctrine of God being a corporeal entity living on the planet Kolob is just too much.
Kunga Lhadzom wrote:
Sat Oct 27, 2018 2:20 am
:heart:

This would make a great Netflix series !

I loved reading every sentence !!!

:bow: :bow: :bow:
Thank you very much, that's very kind of you to say.
Empty Desire wrote:
Sat Oct 27, 2018 9:25 am
Also, my old Preceptor used to say We're all in Prison. The Prison of Greed, Hatred and Delusion.

He was Theravada - Thai Forest.


So True Freedom comes through Freedom of the Mind!
Very true. Physical chains and walls are the least form of bondage we place onto ourselves.

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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Grigoris » Sun Oct 28, 2018 9:39 am

That's quite a story you have there my friend! Keep up the good work!
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
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"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
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Re: Man in the Box

Post by shaunc » Sun Oct 28, 2018 10:48 am

Good luck and best wishes.
Shaun.

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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Jeff H » Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:08 pm

Injrabodi wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 4:39 am
I always felt guilty about writing the monks though. They're such good and generous people. I recall one group (City of 10,000 Buddhas I think) sent me a nice letter along with the books and said it was a privilege providing me with materials on the Dharma and if I need anything else to write them at any time.

It's absolutely remarkable to be faced with such benevolence and generosity when in the horrible world of prison, where people stab one another over ramen noodles or instant coffee.
Venerable Robina Courtin started the Liberation Prison Project because of a letter she received from a prisoner in 1996, when she was the editor of Mandala at Wisdom Publications. She says that it arrived out of the blue and she didn't know how to respond but it came to her desk, so she accepted the responsibility.

She wrote back and also visited the man in prison. Soon his cellmate was interested and within a year she was writing to 40 prisoners across the US and visiting many of them. In 2000 it became a non-profit and it's still going with 9 staff and 200 volunteers.

Robina considers that letter to have been a great gift to her. She has been traveling the world teaching, almost non-stop for many years, and even after leaving the LPP she still visits many of her friends in prison whenever she passes nearby.
Ven. Robina wrote:It was as if there were no choice but to allow it to grow. Here are people whose needs are strong, if not desperate, who are clearly in situations where they have little power to control their own lives. Most, it seems, have nothing, and have no one to turn to. How could we not help?
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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Oct 28, 2018 7:08 pm

Injrabodi wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 4:39 am

It is a very eclectic mix of practitioners in prison. My Zen group in the first camp had some older gentlemen who more or less spent all day studying and practicing, treating incarceration as its own form of monasticism.
Yes, for sure, a ton of dedication to practice.


If I may be so bold as to offer one observation from the outside: The downside is that because in prison your main resource is books, often from disparate traditions, it is harder to cultivate a genuine relationship with a teacher, sangha, or practice lineage. The downside of this is that (necessary, from a Buddhist standpoint) features of these kinds of relationships are not as present, which traditionally have been a part of Buddhist practice.

That, and the transience of participants in groups (in my experience at least) makes it harder for people to get "rooted" into anything, if that makes sense.
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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Injrabodi » Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:27 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 7:08 pm
If I may be so bold as to offer one observation from the outside: The downside is that because in prison your main resource is books, often from disparate traditions, it is harder to cultivate a genuine relationship with a teacher, sangha, or practice lineage. The downside of this is that (necessary, from a Buddhist standpoint) features of these kinds of relationships are not as present, which traditionally have been a part of Buddhist practice.
Agreed. From what I've gathered a direct teacher student relationship isn't mandatory for the standard sutrayanic path, but it sure as hell helps. Most incarcerated practitioners practice in total isolation from the outside world, and often they face harsh opposition from the facility in which they're housed. In my own case it was always the staff and chaplaincy that gave me issues, whereas the other prisoners were always pretty accepting of things they found unusual.
I don't know how it is in other states, but having a cell is an expensive way to house prisoners, and so 90% of the prisons in my state use "open-bay housing" which is one large room jam-packed with bunkbeds. One single room with 84 men locked into it.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 7:08 pm
That, and the transience of participants in groups (in my experience at least) makes it harder for people to get "rooted" into anything, if that makes sense.
The common sentiment among inmates is that the prison system intentionally keeps prisoners transient in order to keep bonds of any sort from forming.

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Re: Man in the Box

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Oct 29, 2018 8:08 pm

Injrabodi wrote:
Mon Oct 29, 2018 7:27 pm

Agreed. From what I've gathered a direct teacher student relationship isn't mandatory for the standard sutrayanic path, but it sure as hell helps. Most incarcerated practitioners practice in total isolation from the outside world, and often they face harsh opposition from the facility in which they're housed. In my own case it was always the staff and chaplaincy that gave me issues, whereas the other prisoners were always pretty accepting of things they found unusual.
I don't know how it is in other states, but having a cell is an expensive way to house prisoners, and so 90% of the prisons in my state use "open-bay housing" which is one large room jam-packed with bunkbeds. One single room with 84 men locked into it.
Familiar with the hostility part, from the outside at least. The Chaplain who we have to go through for our program begrudgingly tolerates it, but i'm pretty sure thinks we're all damned idolaters or something, and acts accordingly sometimes. All I know about the facility our program is that is that it is a transitional facility, people get held there before going somewhere else, and there is only a small percentage of permanent prisoners, which adds to the transiency problem. Additionally I know it also means that sometimes overcrowding is an issue. One thing that the ordained person who runs our program does is really try to get the prisoners involved in steering activities themselves, so it's not like we show up and go "learn this", we are trying to provide whatever they think they would benefit the most from, and help them establish their own practice, so we have a few prisoners over the years that really have stepped up and become sort of community leaders.
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 7:08 pm

The common sentiment among inmates is that the prison system intentionally keeps prisoners transient in order to keep bonds of any sort from forming.
I always guessed as much. The prison system is, in so many ways, incredibly awful.
"it must be coming from the mouthy mastermind of raunchy rapper, Johnny Dangerous”

-Jeff H.

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