Ratna Peace Initiative (RPI) works with incarcerated men and women nationwide. It offers a study of Buddhist texts integrated with mindfulness meditation. The program and practice are first taught either in an onsite visit, by using a text, or by video. A dialog through correspondence with an MPP educator follows.
In 2014 we corresponded with over 360 inmates in 48 states, conducting on-going guidance for their spiritual practice and course work. Meditation is taught and practiced as a discipline for those interested in Buddhism and also is a useful secular way for anyone to develop peacefulness and understanding, regardless of their background or religious affiliation.
Many inmates fear the mental states which resulted in their present circumstances, and they are extremely appreciative of tools that allow them to tame their minds and increase stability and peace of mind in prison.
To the left is a drawing by an inmate who follows the Buddhist path. It is a protector figure of Vajrayana Buddhism, symbolizing the ferocity of the awakened state of wisdom which cannot be distorted or manipulated.
Traditional Mindfulness / Awareness Meditation
By Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche
The practice of mindfulness/awareness meditation is common to all Buddhist traditions. Beyond that, it is common to, inherent in, all human beings.
In meditation we are continuously discovering who and what we are. That could be quite frightening or quite boring, but after a while, all that slips away. We get into some kind of natural rhythm and begin to discover our basic mind and heart.
Often we think about meditation as some kind of unusual, holy or spiritual activity. As we practice, that is one of the basic beliefs we try to overcome. The point is that meditation is completely normal; it is the mindful quality present in everything we do.
The main thing the Buddha discovered was that he could be himself – one hundred per cent, completely. He did not invent meditation; there was nothing particularly to invent. The Buddha, “the awakened one,” woke up and realized that he did not have to try to be something other than what he was. So the complete teaching of Buddhism is how to re-discover who we are.
That is a straightforward principle, but we are continuously distracted from coming to our natural state, our natural being. Throughout our day everything pulls us away from natural mindfulness, from being on the spot. We’re either too scared or too embarrassed or too proud, or just too crazy, to be who we are.
This is what we call the journey or the path; continuously trying to recognize that we can actually relax and be who we are. So practicing meditation begins by simplifying everything. We sit on the cushion, follow our breath and watch our thoughts. We simplify our whole situation.
Mindfulness/awareness meditation, sitting meditation, is the foundation of this particular spiritual journey. Unless we are able to deal with our mind and body in a very simple way, it is impossible to think about doing high-level practices. How the Buddha himself, having done all kinds of practices, became the Buddha, was simply to sit.