A dreary, chilly, rainy Sunday morning at MA prison. I was delayed by 30 minutes from entering the inner prison as a result of a water overflow from a faulty pump. The admittance correction officer gave me my long lost inner ID badge that was missing for 4 months. I wrote the Director of Treatment about the situation two weeks ago and finally got a good result. The C/O said that they misplaced my badge, which I must admit made me chuckle on the inside as their constant refrain over 4 months was to suggest to me that I was the one who lost it. I sat with my self-satisfaction of having been right and others acknowledging my rightness until the water pump situation was cleared up :)
It was a Theravadin Buddhist class this morning and there were 16 guys present. We did the Theravadin chants and meditated for 15 minutes. I had planned on leading a discussion on the topic of distraction and fixation. However, the last chant we read was the Loving Kindness prayer. In that prayer it mentions our goodness and sharing it with others. I became distracted by this prayer, then fixated on it and finally experienced a deep appreciation of it! :) So I switched our discussion to the topic of goodness.
I immediately invited each of the participants to say something about their experience of what goodness is and sharing it with others. Each one had a valuable contribution! Like the many facets of a cut jewel, each person's contribution added to the attributes and splendor of goodness. I'll share just of few of these facets with you. One person said that goodness is genuine and complete when one helps others without expecting anything in return. He said that helping others anonymously is the purest form of goodness as well as not looking for others' confirmation or positive feedback. Another person said that goodness is innately within all of us and, through the practice of meditation and compassionate activities, we can learn to recognize our own unconditional goodness as well as others'. Another person said that the practice of meditation cultivates a peaceful and good mind, and sharing that peaceful and good mind with others is love and compassion. He then said that all of it; a peaceful mind, love and compassion for others is goodness, aka buddha nature. Another person said that the 4 immeasurables (love, compassion, joy and equanimity) are an expression of goodness. He said that through practicing these 4 immeasurables we can transform ourselves and others, thus fully recognizing our goodness. He said that putting others before ourselves is a natural expression of goodness. There was much more said.
I am paraphrasing what these guys said, but the meaning is all theirs. These prisoners are serious practitioners who study hard, practice well and share themselves with others in a most genuine, honest, direct and empathic manner. It was another one of those *holding back my tears* moments. I left my friends humbled, grateful and full of joy.