Published on May 16th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan
Meditation in Prison
Innovative Polish organization conducts meditations and Buddhist discussions in prison. It is looking to do more now.
Prison is supposed to be a place where people go to 1. reflect on life in order to be able to one day return to normal, free society (while also being punished and prevented from harming others) or 2. to remain forever if it is deemed that someone can never be trusted in the free world again.
How much is really done in prison to help people reflect on life, the meaning of life, calm their mind and so on, though? Is it not mostly left up to the initiative and capabilities of the inmates?
I recently found out about a great organization that reaches out and provides a service to inmates here in Poland (where I now live). The lady who leads this program is a friend and former English student of mine. She goes into prisons here in Poland on a regular basis, free of charge (of course), and leads Buddhist meditations and discussions with prisoners. Sounds like a great service! How do the prisoners respond?
Giving Inspiration, Compassion and Hope to Prisoners
The prisoners must be liking it because attendance has been growing steadily. One participant in the program has stated, “I realized that I had the right to be,” the organization reports.
“We try to give them the light of hope, teach compassion and deep insight into their past and present lives. We believe that offering opportunities for rehabilitation through education and advocacy respect the dignity of people and honor their capacity to change, which brings benefit to each human person and the community as well.”
My friend, nun of Kanzeon Sangha Magda Wronecka, has been the coordinator of this project since 2004. In 2009, the organization was registered as a non-profit titled “Przebudzeni” (or “Awaken“).
Magda wrote to me, “You can always be sure that the inmates appreciate your efforts. We do the work with a spirit of joy, from the bottom of our hearts, and that comes when we realize that our practice is about compassion.”
Awaken Association Looking to Do More Now
The organization is looking to expand with new innovative projects and tools for solving prisoners’ problems now, while continuing its keystone weekly guided meditations and discussions.
In a truly inspirational way, the organization writes, “We would like to give a chance to people who lost their life way. We believe they will find it.”
Four basic programs they are now looking to implement are as follows:
*learning of foreign languages (correspondence courses, too)
*therapy by music, reading books, painting (art therapy)
*creating small scholarship for after leaving prison (driving licence courses, job courses)
2.”Things for daily life” program:
*buying of Buddhist books, films, CDs, newspapers and other such goods
*preparing of food, medical packages
*buying of stamps, phone cards, stationery
*preparing, collecting and sending educational materials to prisons
3.Legal support program:
*funding of legal documents
*funding of legal and administration fee
*funding of legal advice
4.”After leaving prison” program:
*temporary support in finding and funding accommodation (especially for homeless)
*funding of treatment
*reconstructing of documents (Identity Card, Driving Licence)
*support in therapist treatment
*completion of important documents (writing of job applications)
To help this innovative organization achieve its goals and implement these programs, it suggests that those with a compassionate heart and faith in these methods do one (or more) of the following:
1.give inspiration from different Buddhist sanghas (e.g. your advice, ideas, projects)
2.collect and send us: Buddhist books, films, accessories, and CDs
3.prepare and send packages (e.g. healthy food, natural medicines and cosmetics)
4.choose one of the association’s programs and donate to it
5.inform sanghas and friends about our activities and the ways of support
6.write a letter (or letters) and your opinions about our activities — (if you agree, we will put it on our website)
7.contact us by email so we can inform you about our ongoing activities
To find out more, you can email Magda (at firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the Awaken (Przebudzeni) Association website. The English version of the website is still being built, but Google Translate actually works very well to do this anyway.
Image Credit: premasagar via flickr/CC license