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?
Wonderful insight on that last paragraph! I like that idea! And agree with it if that's what an abbot or whomever decided. The term "adjustment" period in this topics beginning makes me think that one particular center sees it differently than that, but certainly your idea here has a lot of merit to it.
And I like the idea of a probationary period. I believe they do that in Plum Village, as well as the Theravada one I checked out. Interestingly the Theravada wouldn't let you do long term residential unless your main focus was Theravada.
I couldn't imagine taking in anyone without a probationary period, really. Never know. And before that period surely there'd be some past familiarity necessary between all.
Onegaishimasu, a good thing to keep in mind is that while some individuals can't fit in some communites, some communities can't fit into an individual's life. Plum Village didn't or wouldn't work for Claude Anshin Thomas, but he kept going and found a way for himself to share himself with others. A teaching that worked for me and still works is Koyo Kubose's admonition to: "Keep Going."
Onegaishimasu, I met a former catholic monk who now runs a print shop. One day he said to me: "If Jesus was here now on this earth, would you follow him? I wouldn't." I had to agree that I probably wouldn't follow him either. Each person finds their own way. What was difficult then is difficult now. I think this is the best way to understand the world situation.
Thank you for telling me about Prem Rawat. At this time, I do not feel that I would benefit from following his path.