So I have a question... (which I hope might stir up some discussion)
It seems a very 'nice' thing to do to go in & be with prisoners, or to write to them & help them to deal with a life of (for many of us thankfully) unimaginable stresses. ...seems humane, compassionate and all that. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for it (& personally derive great satisfaction & personal benefit).
But I'm concerned. What happens when people get out, or get ready to get out. I know that at least in my area, the residential dharma centers require folks to be 'out' and 'readjusted' (for a period of at least 1 year) prior to applying to be residents in a practice environment. I'd hazard that most of the folks I know currently or recently um 'released' from residential dharma facilities entered from very unstable places [recent divorces, depression, job transition etc.].
While I don't imagine that dharma centers could HOLD all of the folks who are making the transition from the 'inside' to um, the 'inside', I believe we have a responsibility to the folks with whom we have cultivated relationships. If you have been working with a serious practitioner over the course of YEARS, isn't there a commitment that could extend beyond the confines of the institution?
Folks need our support even more as they make the transition to the so-called 'free world'. (And honestly, I imagine that making the transition from prison life to monastery life might just be EASIER than making the leap from the corporate world to monastery life. I'd like to see more openness to welcoming a well grounded member of our prison sanghas into our outside institutions with the same rigor and questioning that we might have for other residents (rather than the flat policies I've seen). Is having a prison record enough for you to want to exclude someone from YOUR local sangha? Do you know?
Are there practice environments out there in the rest of the US that have less strict policies than the ones I've run into?
What responsibility do we as a community have to the people we as individuals and 'vassals' of institutions support?
Does YOUR community have a 'policy' on parolees and/or recently released? Are you in alignment with this policy?
Great discussion, I have been teaching in Aus prisons for quite awhile now and I have to say that for many inmates that I meet there is only a very small handful that wish to study Buddhism. But what is very interesting is that many inmates are jumping with joy that they are practicing Mindfulness. One class in particular are coming together every night and practicing sitting meditation for 45 min.
So when it comes to centers that are teaching the Dharma and they are concerned what type of people turn up, they may neeed to check up what they are really trying to do.
What about Those of us who are dealing with the "root causes" of our "Disease of addiction" is allegedly "Child abuse". What part does that play in bringing stability into our lives?
I guess this came up for me b/c a local 'biggie' has a /policy/ against taking newly released folks.
I have no thought that a dharma center would be 'obligated' to choose to live with all of ANY category of people. We have interview processes and make informed choices. I am concerned when policies are made that don't take into account the individuals in front of us.
Onegaishimasu, you asked how buddhist followers follow. As with other religious or spiritual traditions, followers follow by studying the teachings, taking what they need, applying what they can. Maybe politicians do the same thing with politics. Your book that you wrote of your experiences is a wonderful effort to share understanding, I hope to read it one day. You are right in your thinking that a whole host of others have passed into death and are not here to help, but a whole another host of others is here listening and learning to make some effort. Best of luck to us all.
I think that we all have a responsibility to other people whether they are ex - prisoners or not. At the same time, we need to both understand what our resources are and what we can do to guide or assist them. We can not nor should not weaken or compromise ourselves and our own resources as individuals or as organizations to assist others. I also think we need to see what kind of an effort the individual or individuals that we wish to assist are making on their own. When I was released from prison I found that the local Catholic priest in the town where I was paroled to helped me a lot as did my parole officer and the counseling sessions that I went to once a week. In addition my employees were very understanding of my situation and helpful to me. This is because I went to work on time and also was a good worker who minded my own business. The halfway house that I lived in and the ex- cons that managed it were not helpful in any manner. In fact they caused me a lot of trouble. We need to help others but we need to be mindful about what we can do to help them both as individuals and as organizations.
Onegaishimasu, I would like to simply add this to this discussion: that upon his enlightenment, the Buddha exclaimed that the whole world was also enlightened, so he was glad. When asked whether he was a man or a god, he replied that he was neither. Pressed further, he simply said: "I am awake..." The Dharma too, is simply all of the eternal laws that are there.