Buddhist meditative practices have started to take root in U.S. prisons, reports the New York Times (May 30).
Buddhist monasteries and other organizations have established networks and other ways of corresponding with prisoners who find Buddhist teachings and practices well suited to their confinement and other harsh conditions of prison life. Leading the way in providing Buddhist support and services is the Prison Dharma Network in Boulder, Colo., which has 250 prisoners to which it corresponds.
As many as 5,000 prisoners seeking information about Zen Buddhism have contacted the Zen Mountain Monastery in upstate New York. After holding meditation sessions at Green Haven Correctional Facility, the word spread far beyond that prison and inmates from around the country began to write the monastery asking for information.
The monastery established a database with the names of 1,000 male and female inmates, linking each to a volunteer committed to at least three years of offering advice and encouragement to such seekers.
Meditators say that Buddhism helps them find solace in the midst of suffering. Interestingly, these meditation sessions tend to draw prisoners from all ethnic groups, in contrast to the overwhelmingly white Buddhist convert phenomenon found outside of prison.