I found tears in my eyes multiple times while watching The Dhamma Brothers, a documentary playing on Netflix. And now, as I sit here to write, more come.
The story followed Bruce and Jonathan as they led a group of inmates at a high-security prison in the American South through an intensive ten-day Vipassanā meditation course.
The course is extremely regimented and requires a strict adherence to the guidelines: Absolutely no talking or communicating with others for nine days, total seclusion away from the rest of the prison population, a strict schedule of sleeping and eating, as well as long hours of meditation.
It was remarkable watching the transformations that happened with the men who participated. Even years after the course, the majority of them continued meditating on their own and were described by guards, counselors and wardens as drastically changed for the better.
These men spoke about facing the truth of their lives for the first time, accepting responsibility for their crimes, releasing hate and anger, forgiving themselves and others, as well as finding a sense of freedom even amongst their life sentences.
You could see the difference in their eyes, faces, and the way they spoke. To watch and listen as these men, with clear, bright eyes, discussed having their lives changed completely by a meditation practice was incredible.
I cannot recommend this film enough. It was a wake up call for me in regards to the prison system in the United States. We hear about the ridiculous nature of our judicial and prison systems, but to see these inmates as actual individual human beings, it really brought the subject to the forefront for me.
The technique of Vipassanā is taught at ten-day residential courses all over the world during which participants learn the basics of the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial results.
There are no charges for the courses – not even to cover the cost of food and accommodation. All expenses are met by donations from people who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassanā, wish to give others the opportunity to also benefit.
I just applied to be part of a ten-day course being held near Joshua Tree in December and have received word back that they are reviewing my application.