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Lions Roar : May 2016
BEGINNER’S MIND I have been visiting an inmate in prison who has no one. He seems serious about studying how to live more peacefully. Are there Buddhist organizations that address the spiritual needs of inmates? There are a number of programs that offer Buddhist meditation practice, study, and chaplaincy to prisoners. These include: the Liberation Prison Proj- ect, which has connected some 20,000 prisoners with practice materials and non-prisoner pen pals since 1996; the Prison Mindfulness Institute, which offers prisoners donated books as well as non-sectarian training in mindful- ness meditation, emotional intelligence, communication, and conflict resolu- tion; the Thich Nhat Hanh Foundation’s “True Freedom” program, which con- nects inmates and non-inmates practicing in the Plum Village Tradition; the Rangjung Dharma Prison Project, which makes in-person meditation teach- ings available to the female population at Rikers Island Correctional Facility, and more. We at the Lion’s Roar Foundation regularly send magazines and books to the Los Angeles County penal system, where they are shared among chaplains and interested inmates there, and send free subscriptions to Lion’s Roar to prisoners who write to use requesting them. The book publishers you’ll see in the magazine often send books directly to prisoners when possible. I understand it’s common for Buddhists to start and end the day with some meditation or readings. I’m new to Buddhism and don’t follow any particular tradition. Is this something I would benefit from doing? You’ll be amazed how much it changes your day to frame it with some medi- tation practice, even if it’s just ten or fifteen minutes in the morning and DHARMA FAQS We answer your questions about Buddhism & meditation. BUDDHISM BY THE NUMBERS THERE’S A GOOD REASON that Buddhists seem obsessed with suffering. Suffering is the central problem that Buddhism addresses, and recognizing our suffering is the first step to its solution. Suffering is a universal truth—along with impermanence and nonself it’s one of the three basic qualities (marks) of existence—but it comes in many forms. To help us recognize our suffering—and so begin to seek its cause and cessation—Buddhists have broken it down into dif- ferent categories. While there are many subcategories, we are asked to contemplate three basic patterns of suffering in our lives: 1. The suffering of suffering. This is the one we’re all familiar with: the pain of birth, old age, sickness, and death, as the Buddha described it. 2. The suffering of change. When you do get what you want, you can’t hold onto it. Even if things are going great now, it’s just a matter of time. The richest, most successful person in the world will eventually lose it all (see 1). 3. All-pervasive suffering. This is the type of suffering we are most likely not to recognize, yet the most instructive when we do. It’s the general background of anxiety and insecurity that colors even our happi- est moments. Deep down, we fear that life doesn’t offer us solid ground and that our very existence is questionable. From a Buddhist point of view, these doubts are well-founded, and exploring them offers us glimpses of wisdom. PAULHAMMONDILLUSTRATIONSBYNOLANPELLETIER LION’S ROAR | MAY 2016 30