“Doing Time, Doing Vipassana”…

Is an incredible, award-winning documentary that tells the stories of hardened criminals who transformed their lives through the practice of Vipassana meditation, as taught by Siddhartha Gotama (the Buddha) in ancient India. Today, Vipassana has become a tool for international prison reform. A new film, “Dhamma Brothers: East Meets West in the Deep South,” illustrates the experiences of American prisoners with the same technique.

One March day in Delhi, I decided I would visit Tihar Prison to investigate this international phenomenon. I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Rajinder Kumar in his home on Jail Road 4. A superintendant of Tihar prison, known for its unbearable living conditions, extortions and widespread violence, Kumar was Kiran Bedi’s catalyst to introduce Vipassana in Tihar, as part of her efforts to transform the prison into an Ashram (a secluded place designed to nurture spiritual growth). Once a very angry man, I found Kumar a soft-spoken, slight man who spoke about his prison inmates with a kind of compassion that made me feel as though they were his children. After asking many thought-provoking questions about my vision, he encouraged me to take additional Vipassana courses as part of my personal preparation and training. “I am a lean and thin man,” he shared, “yet I have a great amount inner strength thanks to the practice of Vipassana.”

Rajinder showed me around his ward, where two Vipassana courses are conducted per month for prisoners, including housing for prisoners who have taken a course and wish to help ensure others have a positive experience with it. Instead of responding to the experience with fear at what could happen to me in such a dangerous place, I felt great inspiration emanating from the prison, the powerful energy of transformation that continues to motivate me to practice Vipassana myself, and share the practice with those most in need of it.

In what other context can you find this scene, of a prisoner weeping in the arms of his jailer?


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