Winter Feast for the Soul Prison In-Reach Program (www.winterfeastforthesoul.com) is dedicated to creating a global community through a shared 40-day commitment to a daily spiritual practice of meditation or prayer. The 40-day period runs from Jan. 15 – Feb 23.
In 2009 a small Buddhist Sangha in Boise, Idaho brought Winter Feast brochures to the local men‘s incarceration center, where they were teaching meditation. 10 prisoners signed up for the Winter Feast that year. This started us thinking about how we could support incarcerated individuals with finding inner peace by developing a spiritual practice. Since then, we have expanded our outreach through a journal for prisoners known as Freedom Inside and individual coaching. Our outreach program now includes about 50 volunteer spiritual practitioners or coaches who correspond regularly with prisoners who would like support with their spiritual practices during the Feast and year-round.
Prisoners are offered a free copy of the Bhagavad-Gita and accompanying correspondence course, with personal help and guidance from Dr. Ramanand Prasad, director of the American Gita Society. The hard-cover edition of the Gita is available free to prison libraries.
A small group of volunteers who serve as Buddhist Chaplains in the Los Angeles County Jails and the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo.
In 2001, the Arcata Zen Group was contacted by an inmate incarcerated in Pelican Bay State Prison, near Crescent City, for help in establishing a Taoist/Buddhist Study Group. AZG members travel to Pelican Bay every Saturday to sit with this sangha. Locally, AZG members lead meditation in both the men’s and women’s
sections of the Humboldt County Correctional Facility on Thursday
Prisons Served: Pelican Bay State Prison, Humboldt County CF
Started in 2002, our Restorative Justice program promotes healing, and supports skill-building by offering ongoing, weekly NVC trainings in San Quentin State Prison, and in jails in Sonoma, Mendocino, and Santa Cruz counties. We have wanted an active Restorative Justice Program since we first began, and were delighted when San Quentin Prison approached Diana Lion of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship about being part of a new program at San Quentin, the Success Program. Diana contacted us asking if there were trainers available, we in turn asked the members of our first Leadership Program year if they would be willing to provide trainings inside the prison; six people volunteered.
Since 1997, Buddhist Pathways Prison Project (BP3) – formerly known as Folsom Pathways Sangha – volunteers have been dedicated to bringing Buddhist philosophy, religious services, mindful movement and meditation instruction into Northern California prisons. Buddhist philosophy emphasizes ethical behavior and a regular meditation practice which allows insight to arise. Insight for many inmates takes the form of understanding one’s own suffering and the suffering inflicted on others. Our program provides prisoners with the tools, resources and daily life skills necessary to create durable life changes both while incarcerated and when released. The California prison system, the second largest prison in the world, does not provide inmates Buddhist services or meditation instruction through a state-sponsored chaplaincy program. BP3 volunteers — along with other dedicated volunteers throughout our state — fill that void.
Serves 5 prisons in northern California: CSP-Folsom (Men’s and Women’s facilities), CSP-Sacramento, CSP-Mule Creek, CSP-Jamestown, and CSP-Deuel Vocational Institution.
The Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai (BDK) (Society for the Promotion of Buddhism) was founded by the Reverend Dr. Yehan Numata in December 1965, one year after the Mitutoyo Manufacturing Company celebrated its 30th anniversary. With the worldwide success of his company, Dr. Numata decided that the time had come to realize his dream of making the Buddhist teachings more widely available. Working with a community of like-minded people, including leaders of each Buddhist sect in Japan and eminent Buddhist scholars, Dr. Numata established the BDK in order to “to transmit the Buddhist religion to as many people in the world as possible, without expounding the doctrines of any particular sect or denomination.” To achieve this goal, the BDK promotes a wide range of activities and projects in the hope of contributing to world peace and mutual understanding among humanity.
Currently there are two other major publication projects handled by the BDK America Berkeley Office. The first is distribution of the popular introductory Buddhist book entitled “The Teaching of Buddha” which has more than 8 million copies in circulation throughout the world, in more than 42 languages. Secondly, BDK has published a Buddhist anthology called Buddha Dharma, which is an expanded version of “The Teaching of Buddha,” and comes with a detailed index and accounting of the Buddhist teaching presented with each story.
Prison Outreach is an on-going, integral part of the Contemplative Outreach family. This important ministry is committed to support volunteers and organizations willing to serve the prison population.
Support consists of consultation, resources and access to a central database of all prison ministry activities nationwide involving Centering Prayer. We hope to encourage and assist those interested in beginning a prison ministry or to provide connections between practitioners already in the ministry who want to share and learn together.
Mary Wyman – CO Chapter Coordinator
San Francisco CA- development of Prison Outreach Conference/Retreat.
Barbara Cook – prison ministry
Hobby Unit- (women) Marlin TX, experiences with conferences and workshops
Douglas La Plant – prison ministry
SCI Rockview, Bellefante PA
Teaching “A Pathway to Freedom” course to men.
Khalilah Bilal – prison ministry
Bexar County Jail- San Antonio TX
Teaching “A Pathway to Freedom” course to women
The Dharma Bums are a group of people dedicated to the practice of Buddhism in America. We do not advocate one particular school of Buddhism. We are simply a bridge for Western people to enter into a Buddhist practice. When one enters the stream of Buddhism, it can be confusing; so we help make it simple. We focus on the Four Noble Truths, Eightfold Path, and Six Paramitas. To speak about Buddhism is not enough. One must practice these basic Buddhist principles. Through diligent practice, one will begin to realize the cause of their suffering, thus moving beyond suffering and into Nirvana.
Prisons Served: Metropolitan Correctional Center
Noah Levine is a Buddhist teacher, author and counselor. He is trained to teach by Jack Kornfield of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, CA. He teaches meditation classes, workshops and retreats nationally as well as leading groups in juvenile halls and prisons. Noah holds a masters degree in counseling psychology from CIIS. He has studied with many prominent teachers in both the Theravadan and Mahayanan Buddhist traditions.
Noah currently teaches in Los Angeles, CA at his center – Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society.