Amituofo! Just read
this short local article below and thought it might inspire you by knowing that
establishing the prison library programs is so much appreciated and considered
a very worthwhile cause. Although the story does not pertain to dharma
literature, it does show that distributing books in general does make a
profound impact on many lives.
Title: A Book is a
Treat in Prison
"Emerald Oil, a
gas station on the corner of Lake Murray Boulevard and Baltimore Avenue, not
only boasts about having the lowest gas prices in La Mesa, but it also has a
wide variety of free books and magazines!
The owner of Emerald
Oil said that some books were donated by a 'mystery man' about a month ago.
Then, last week, the man showed up and unloaded a truckload of books and
left. He has since shown up with more, leaving them on a table outside
the store and including a 'donations' jar. The only downside is that people are
allowed to take one book per visit.
In this instance, the
books were a present to the community from a man who wanted to do something
The man's name is
Larry and, in a way, he went from zero to a hero. A fit man of about 42,
Larry said he had spent some time in prison for doing drugs. He said that
the prisoners used to fight over books. In prison, a book was Larry's big
treat. After he got out 20 years ago, Larry said he started grabbing as
many books as he could.
When asked about his
dreams, Larry said he wanted to open a thrift store one day and keep supplying
On March 13, 2014, on
the first anniversary of its formation, the Shanti Sangha, a small group of
dedicated Buddhist Practitioners, was blessed to convene its first annual All
Day Meditation Retreat.This special
event was open to persons of all faiths and practices.It is very rare to have such quality
events such as this in prison and we are all very grateful to have had this
opportunity to learn meditation from Venerable Xian Zhong.This event was organized by Venerable
Xian Zhong and Shirley Tam of the International Bodhisattva Sangha.
Venerable began the
meditation retreat with a discussion on virtue, that is, he discussed with us
the value in maintaining a set of personal rules.These are very important.Without these rules for ourselves our meditation will be
unstable.While our minds are
becoming concentrated, even slight memories or residual feelings associated
with bad behavior can disrupt the meditation.A mind that is undisciplined is weak.A mind that willingly undertakes
personal rules of conduct becomes strong and the concentration becomes more
productive.Virtue is the basis of
integrity.Integrity is keeping
the promises you make to yourself and others.As integrity relates to our meditations, we need to set
specific periods of the day for them, keep the lengths of our practice times
consistent, and practice each and every day without fail.This is integrity in practice.
Venerable Xian Zhong
then explained to us some of the many benefits of a regular meditation practice.These include having no worries,
finding contentment and realizing true happiness.Worries, he explained, come from thoughts of past and
thoughts of the future.When we
focus on our meditation objects, these thoughts are less and less likely to
arise, and after some practice, they don’t trouble us much.Contentment comes when, during
practice, we realize that all we really need in this moment is this
breath.Letting go of everything
else gives us a deep sense of freedom.Meditation will help you understand the true essence of life, and that
with this understanding, you will be free from all dissatisfaction.This is true happiness, not the kind of
happiness that is temporary.There
are, as well, many other bonuses received from meditation.They include: sleeping well, relief
from daily stress, and having more mental clarity in our daily lives.The ultimate goal of our overall
practice is to be free from all mental afflictions, and meditation is one of
the major tools available to us as we work towards that goal.
instructed us on the basics of breath meditation.This form of
meditation, he explained, “is not strictly a Buddhist practice.There are many religions, paths and
practices that use various forms of meditation for various reasons.Everybody breathes from the day we are
born to the day that we die, we breathe.A breath meditation, therefore, can be done by everyone.However, many different meditation
forms that you might take up in your own personal practice, breath meditation
is the most fundamental and forms a solid foundation for all of the other
techniques.At the heart of it,
this not a breathing exercise.We
are only going to watch the breath.We are going to label each breath with counting, say from one to ten, or
simply with the word “Breath’”.Each time that we catch the mind wandering we gently bring our attention
back to the breath, again and again.We soon find that our focus is stable, our breathing becomes slow, deep
focused activity should last for the entire period of breath meditation.Exiting the meditation should be
performed mindfully without sudden motions.”
The eating meditation
instructions, that Venerable gave us, were very simple: be silent while eating,
take up one mouthful at a time, and chew each mouthful many times before
swallowing.Venerable promised us
that if we all took up an eating meditation that, in addition to the benefits
and bonuses of a basic mindfulness program, we would all lose weight and
experience fewer intestinal problems.
After our lunch meal, we
practiced walking meditation.Venerable instructed us on the three main aspects of this meditation
which include the “step” itself, which is the object of focus, our “posture”
during this meditation, which is upright, our hands in a comfortable position
and our gaze on the shoulder of the practitioner ahead of use, or if we were
alone, on the ground about six feet ahead.Our “attention”, the third aspect, where we are mindful of
is on the pressure of the ground on the soles of our feet.We are to be aware of “lifting”
“moving” and “placing” of each foot, making smallish half-steps to maintain
Venerable then gave us
instruction on sleeping meditation.He explained to us the reasons for sleeping in the “lion’s position” on
the right side:The heart is now
on top, which aides in circulation, and breathing while asleep.We were instructed on the proper thoughts
to have while we fell asleep:thoughts of gratitude, thanks, and being mindful to transfer the merits
of all of our skillful efforts to all others, so that they too might
benefit.We should fall asleep
with thoughts of compassion for others, with the thought that we rest so that
we may serve others better, and have thoughts of loving-kindness for all
beings.Venerable instructed us on
the specific signs that our sleeping meditation is successful.We would feel refreshed upon waking,
energetic with sharpened senses we would note that our sensory perceptions are
heightened.We would not be grumpy
or irritable. Our first thoughts would be on the welfare of others and we would
be awake and ready to be of service.
Venerable instructed us
lastly on Metta, or Loving-kindness meditation.He pointed out to us the vast connections that we actually
have with everyone else, using the example of the clothes that we wear and all
of the good, hardworking people who make our clothes a reality:from the famer, to the factory workers
who make the cloth, to the seamstresses and tailors who cut and sew our
clothing for our benefit and welfare.There are thousands of people who are directly invested in the
manufacture of our clothes.This
example involves just our clothing – the same applies to those who make our
food, our energy, our transportation, our medicine, our public safety –
everyone.Everyone alive right
now, directly or indirectly, is invested in our benefit and welfare, and we
should repay them in kind.Our
loving kindness meditation began as a repetition of a simple phrase, “May I be
happy”.This feeling of
self-happiness was then extended to our family, our friends, our teachers, our
co-workers, all the people we knew, all the people we know of but don’t know
personally, all of the people in our country, all of the people on the planet,
all living beings on the planet and finally, extending this simple wish to all
living creatures throughout the universe wherever they may be, without
discrimination.This was a very
deep, powerful meditation.
We are all very grateful
to have had this rare opportunity to be taught meditations by Venerable Xian
Zhong, and we take our responsibility to practice these instructions
seriously.We thank him and
Shirley Tham for all of the good that they do.
Thank you very much for your visit to C.C.I. Tehachapi on Sunday, February 9th.
I enjoyed your visit very much, and it was very meaningful to me. I
already look forward to the next time you have the opportunity to visit.
I have been studying Buddhism for only the past 9 months. Initially, I
was only interested in learning mediation practice. However, as I
learned more about Buddhism, the more I found a sense of spirituality
that I could identify with. I grew up in Protestant Christianity. I went
to Christian schools, graduated from a Bible College, and served in the
ministry for several years. In Christianity, I always felt like I was
trying to be someone different whom I was never able to be no matter how
hard I tried.
What I find so refreshing in Buddhism, is complete acceptance of
ourselves exactly the way we are. I find the practice of mediation to be
a more practical way of dealing with the mind, than relying on some
supernatural. Force to change our minds for us.
I have been in prison since 2002, and my expected release is in 2022. I
truly believe that the practice of Buddhism can be very beneficial for
me during the last 8 years of my incarceration. I have recently started
doing my chanting and mediation practice every morning from 4 am to 5am.
It is a time when the dormitory is always quiet, and, after a night’s
sleep, I am alert and ready for meditation.
My predominate source of information about Buddhism is from the books we
have in our Chapel. Every Sunday afternoon, our sangha meets for
meditation and Dharma talks. Every week I check out books and CD from
the Buddhist Library. Every day of the week I spend time reading
Buddhist literature and listening to Dharma talks on CD. The information
I have gotten from books has been an invaluable help in my meditation
practice and in understanding the Dharma. With the information I have
read, I have been able to choose a practice for myself.
After your visit to C.C.I, I was very encouraged to continue in my study
and in my practice. I hope to stay in contact with I.B.S. throughout my
incarceration and be an active member of your sangha.
2 years ago, I took my vows as a Buddhist, by
vows I mean take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha.It has changed my life forever.Before I took my vows I had a crazy
monkey mind, reaction to everything was impulsive.I lived in constant anger and I got angry one night and I
hurt someone.I lost control and I
had no compassion.I allowed my
anger to dictate my life.I played
a lot of sports in my youth and had a good time.It was an escape to an abusive situation I found myself IN.
So what is my current understanding of
Buddhism.As luck would have it, I
already had a wide understanding in Buddhism, without knowing it.I know thus far that Buddhism is more
than a religion, my understanding of Buddhism was that it was just different I
really had no formal idea of what it was.I was drawn to it because of the quiet aspect of meditation.It seem as those who practiced Buddhism
had a certain calm in them.I for
one love the quiet,loud noise is
a distraction for me.Unfortunately, I learn about Buddhism in prison, some how it was not so
Since I took my vows 2 years ago, I found it to
be so much more.My personality is
such that I had already detached myself from the “world” by default, by my
incarceration.What I’ve come to
find out is that “prison” is a defacto Monastery.Within the last two years I’ve been a real fan, the logic,
the nonlinear dynamic of Buddhism, The Dept.My understanding is like a vast ocean
and I could only hope to grasp it like a true Bodhisattva.
Thanks to IBS, Shirley
Tam, Danny Tam, Ven Hueiguang and Ven Xian Zhong.I am a better person.