What could be a more worthwhile endeavor than helping to alleviate the suffering of those in prison? This organization does just that, under the guidance of an amazing nun, Venerable Robina Courtin. Last November, they also put on a remarkable conference, Happiness & Its Causes. I’m grateful for the chance to contribute to this most worthy cause, to work (& laugh) with lovely people, & to be immersed in auspicious Buddha energy. By the way, you don’t need to be Buddhist (I’m not).
Letter from prisoner: I would sincerely like to thank you for the book you sent me “The Peaceful Stillness of the Silent Mind”. It was very though provoking to me in my inner quest for understanding and self-inquiry. It also lets me know I have a long way to go in my daily meditations as I seek to learn more about the world both without and within by being. I am still using this book to help me as I sit and ponder all life offers to us as we seek greater awareness. I would like to request any other book think might be helpful as I am trying to get more into the spiritual understanding of Buddhism. I am a novice and here on maximum security I find I am the only one out of 33 females who is seeking spiritual knowledge and guidance outside of Christianity. It makes the practice harder in some ways because there is no outside support or meditation in here. However, my single cell status is almost like being in my own apartment in the city. I’ve started calling it my condo and just that change of thinking lifts me from the prison walls I’ve erected in my mind, and lets me begin to see prison as a stop on my journey in life. I sincerely appreciate all that you do.
Imagine that you have totally messed up your life, you are at the very bottom of society and have no hope. Imagine you have been in prison for years...fearful, angry and depressed and trying to be tough. Imagine that you found the address of an organization that was offering to help you get your mind together, was willing to listen to and communicate with you, and was willing to say that you had potential. This is what the prisoners write to me about LPP. They are amazed that anyone cares. Of course it takes time. Slowly, slowly, they learn to trust and begin to turn around. One prisoner wrote, “I have never, my whole life, had such encouragement to change and to think throuh my life.” When I read that statistics say that prisoners who have a steady positive outside contact are the ones that stay out when they get out I was clear that this was the work I wanted to do. I am a retired teacher and I was looking for something truly worthwhile to do. I have been a volunteer at LPP for six years now.. LPP is not only a visually beautiful place to visit, it is staffed with people who have amazing vision of what a human can be.And they never seem to flag. Long hours, low end salaries and good nature are not generally associated! I feel very fortunate to have been taken on by these folks. They are so supportive. Recently a prisoner wrote me telling about being raped. He was in danger and was receiving death threats because he had snitched. Within in days LPP had called the warden and had that man placed into a more secure section. It is wonderful to order a book for a prisoner and have it taken care of swiftly and gladly. I always think how great it is for the prisoners to get those packages.. My greatest hope is that LPP can remain solvent and continue their work without having to worry all the time. I want very much for this excellent work in very dark places to continue.
Liberation Prison Project provides much-needed support, guidance, and spiritual materials to so many people who have been given up on by society and their families, who have been locked away and forgotten. These prisoners are given the tools and opportunity to make something of their lives, to turn it around, work with their minds, develop more love and compassion for others and sincere regret for their past negative actions, and develop forgiveness for themselves. The staff and volunteers are wonderful and so committed, kind, generous, and supportive towards these guys.
I was delighted to receive your letter last week. Since I last wrote to you I have had the great fortune to have moved into a single cell and I am able to meditate at my leisure which is a great change. When I was sharing cells I had to make an extra effort either to get up early and make the most time when the cell was empty which was good practice of discipline. I now meditate twice daily. The first session (20 min) before work and then in the afternoon (30 min). I also study and read in all my spare time. I have read both modules you sent and the how to meditate book. When I first started meditating I found it extremely hard to concentrate for more than a few seconds without my mind wandering, but the advise in the books about not being attached to those thoughts and let them go and bring the concentration back to the breath. What have I thought? Well I think I’ve experienced all kinds of thoughts and feelings. When I first started I noticed on the out breath was when my mind usually started to wander and was a constant battle to keep concentrating. Through time and continued effort I don’t see to battle any longer and just let go. Some days are better than other but generally I feel sense of peacefulness that I can’t remember ever feeling before in my day to day existence. I find that through effort I am becoming more mindful of my actions and thoughts and I often question my motivation behind these thoughts. I try to keep life as simple as I can and it feels good not to be wanting all the time and being more aware of others needs. I have been reading ‘Heart Sutra’ and I am slowly gaining a better understanding of emptiness. I also have been studying the law of dependent origination and the Four Noble Truths. It is a great relief to be able to have some understanding why I was compelled to keep taking drugs and drinking when clearly they were making me unhappy and do things that I felt I couldn’t control. I had become a very selfish and self centered person that was clearly very unhappy and angry which now seems like a lifetime ago. It’s nice when your parents start commenting about the change in my attitude. Its also amazing that I’m feeling that most content I’ve felt in all my life and I’m in jail, which I now understand is quite irrelevant.
Hello. I received the two books you mailed me, today, thank you. I began reading ‘How to Meditate’ today, and am so grateful for this book, its very instructive and easy to understand. I am new to Buddhism, its only been two months since I chose to live a Buddhist life. The particular Buddhism I’ve been practicing is ‘Pure Land’ Buddhism. (Amitabha) The books I’ve received from various places are all teachings, history, etc.. which is of great importance. But the book ‘How to Meditate’ teaches me about how to properly meditate and meditation is of great importance. This was something I was missing, the prayers and step by step teachings. You have blessed me more than you know and may the blessing return to you tenfold. It’s hard a lot of times in prison to do what is right because people here can be very unkind and inconsiderate and on top of that my own delusions make it hard for me also. I’ve really noticed a lot lately how I get upset or angry over nothing and the more I see this in me, the more I want to do better. Maybe you can understand why I am so grateful to you and everyone else, who shows your Buddha nature by helping me and so many others. P.S.- I send my blessings with thanks.
It's difficult to put words on paper my thoughts and feelings about all the good that the Liberation Prison Project does for men and women in prison in the US and around the world. With a handful of dedicated staff and volunteers, LPP provides Buddhist prisoners with books, materials, as well as ongoing letters answering various questions. Many prisoners, because of their crimes, have been disowned by their own families thus leaving a huge void that is oftentimes filled by the loving support from the many LPP teachers & staff. Through word of mouth, or by finding the address of LPP in a Buddhist book that had been sent to their prison library, each individual writes a letter stating their interest and the process begins.
I have volunteered for a number of non-profit organizations over many years and have never found one as beneficial or important as LPP who serve many prisoners incarcerated around the world by providing Buddhist books and support through correspondence. The volunteers and small number of paid staff work tirelessly on behalf of the clients, ensuring they receive the resources and support they request and constantly working to improve services. I see firsthand how beneficial the services are for the inmates because of the wonderful feedback received from them in letters they write. I also visit inmates and they are so inspired by the LPP Newsletter and books they receive, reading them over and over again. Never have I witnessed so much overt appreciation for what someone has been given, whether it is gratitude for books or support in letters sent to them by corresponding teachers. LPP is devoted to providing the very best service and resources to a population largely overlooked in our society. Often, the only foundation for a positive return to society for our clients is the support and assistance provided by LPP. The inmates are given real tools to deal with the problems they face in handling adversity with a positive attitude and outlook in prison and once they return to the community. Frequently, the only support the prisoner receives is from LPP, as many are abandoned by friends and family.