Prison meditation courses expand to Mandalay, Bago from Mayanmar Times

By Cherry Thein

PRISONERS in Myanmar jails, sometimes accompanied by warders and other prison staff, are studying meditation and Buddhist doctrine as more courses on Dhamma are being offered to inmates.

The first course, in 2008, took place at Insein prison and attracted 50 prisoners and was followed by a second course for younger prisoners.

In 2009, meditation courses were held for the first time at Tharyarwady prison in Bago Division. Four more have been conducted at Tharyarwady since then, while three courses have been held at Mandalay prison.

The instructors are provided by the Dhamma Joti Centre, on behalf of S N Goenka, a leading teacher of Vipassana (insight) meditation. The Vipassana method was preserved in Myanmar by the great teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin (1899-1971), long after it had been lost in India where it originated.

A meditation centre, the Dhamma Hita Thukha Vipassana Centre, has been set up at Insein prison, a Dhamma Joti Centre spokesperson said.

“Seventeen courses have already been conducted at the Dhamma Hita Thukha Vipassana Centre – 11 for males, four for females and two for youths. More than 1000 inmates have attended so far. The centre also offered a one-day Arnarparna course for children,” the spokesperson said.

Later this year, the Dhamma Hita Thukha Vipassana Centre plans to begin offering a course in Sitipattana – unremitting application of mindfulness – meditation.

“When there are enough students for a Sitipattana course, we will run it. The course is more intense than the regular ones. Students must already take a 10-day course three times and one-time Dhamma servicing,” the Dhamma Joti spokesperson told The Myanmar Times.

Jail wardens and staff from the Insein, Tharyarwady and Mandalay prisons also take part in the meditation courses organised by Dhamma Joti.

Goenka Gyi says jails are actually meant to bring people out of their misery, out of their mistakes. For this, Vipassana meditation is a wonderful tool for prisoners.

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