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Feb 20
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What is the Ratna Prison Initiative?
Meditation group, Limon Correctional Facility, Colorado

Gary Allen leads prisoners in chanting, Limon Correctional Facility, Limon, Colorado

With 2.2 million people incarcerated in the US and a 60-70% recidivism rate, the fate of criminals impacts us all, though we may not realize it ourselves until we become more directly victimized. Before that happens, Ratna Prison Initiative tries to replace active ignorance of the plight of the incarcerated with active compassion. That process begins with the inmates themselves. Many inmates become stranded and embittered, blaming anyone but themselves. Some wake up, examine their pain, confusion, and failure, and seek transformation.

Ratna Prison Initiative has provided dharmic resources to those seeking transformation since its inception in 2004. RPI offers personal guidance, veteran meditation instruction, and friendship to support an inmate’s reawakening of basic goodness. Much work is done through personal letters and donating dharma books to inmates. RPI spends $13,000 a year on books and postage alone, also sending out DVDs and tapes, particularly those of Sakyong Mipham, Pema Chodron, and Ponlop Rinpoche. RPI now maintains a video lending library for prison Buddhist groups.

Inmate bows at the conclusion of a group meditation and study session, Limon Correctional Facility, Limon, Colorado

RPI provides three popular correspondence courses: “Turning the Mind into an Ally,” using Sakyong Mipham’s book on shamatha and contemplation; “The Myth of Freedom,” which studies Chogyam Trungpa’s classic book of the same name; and “The Power of Patience: Healing Anger,” which works with the “Patience” chapter of the Bodhicharyavatara, using a commentary by the Dalai Lama. The courses give prisoners authentic, personal instruction—of particular value to isolated inmates who have no Buddhist resource other than the mail.

In a little more than four years, over a thousand prisoners have contacted RPI from 43 states. All of them received meditation instruction and Buddhist literature.

RPI volunteers also visits prisons, running on-going Buddhist groups in Colorado, occasionally visiting institutions in other states. The intention is to provide personal contact so that the dharma is transmitted live and tailored to the people it serves.

RPI volunteers are paid only in gratitude, gratitude for replacing active ignorance and victimhood on both sides of the wall with human compassion, connection, and a dharmic helping hand. Here’s one example:
“You and the programs you’ve made available to me over these past few years have allowed me to begin to grow into a better man. For many years I have wanted a positive change, but I kept allowing the fear of repercussion in the negative life-style to keep me trapped. Through the Dharma and your foundation’s support, along with my practice, I learned to have the courage to stand up to the negative individuals in here and say, ‘No more.’ I openly renounced them about 7 months ago. While I am at odds in here now and stand alone, I have never before begun to feel the peace of mind I’ve gained in recent months. And while my journey is long from over, I take it just a day at a time. I only have 2 more years until I get released, but I’ll being doing so with a positive readiness I’ve been building and will continue to work on. From the bottom of my heart, thank you! You have made an impact on my life and I look forward to working with you in the years to come.”

For more information visit www.ratnaprisoninitiative.org.

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1 response to “ What is the Ratna Prison Initiative? ”
  1. I appreciate, cause I found just what I was looking for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

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