Letter from Prison Inmate

This letter came January 15, 2014, addressed to the Dharma Rain Sangha.

millcreekI’m not certain who to address this letter to, but currently I’m serving the last 9 months of a 40-month prison term for robbery in the third degree.

I spent the last 13 months at Oregon State Penitentiary where I became a regular attendant in the Zen Service and meditation retreats facilitated by your center. After accumulating a year of clear conduct I was moved to a minimum security prison a few miles from OSP called Mill Creek.

At Mill Creek we have a weekly Shambhala meditation group which is nice when they can make it. However I miss the services with you guys. Getsushin and Gyoshi and the younger man with the crazy laugh (the one who teaches your preschool) are truly missed. I hope this letter will find them.

I came to OSP with some previous study of dharma. I was also scared, broken, and wanting to transform my life. Knowing the light of Buddhism, I was pleased to see there were a few Buddhist services available, so I signed up and it became my refuge. Prison is unpleasant. I do not recommend it At All, just skip over that one. Maybe shoot for a nice stay at Breitenbush Hot Springs, because I can’t say I found my experience enjoyable while lodged at the heartbreak hotel.

Nonetheless, in the midst of suffering I found a beautiful opportunity grow as a person. Dharma Rain facilitated a safe place for me to get to know myself. Every week when you guys came in there was a reminder that humanity is good, that we indeed all have buddha nature — even if many choose not to encourage it. I meditated and studied Zen in an incredible environment. I looked at the habitual patterns that found me addicted to heroin squandering my life. I had experiences words can’t adequately describe. These are good things!

Thank you for the work you do. My life was changed. It made a difference for me. My life’s love is now also interested in attending some of your services. She mentioned contacting DR via e-mail and phone calls to inquire about your services and was happy to be so warmly welcomed. I would be so happy to be a part of your sangha with her.

At any rate I wanted to write to check in with the people who I came to know through DRZC. The work you do matters. Thank you very much. I miss you.

I am looking forward to my release come November. When I get home to Portland I would love to get to know the Dharma Rain Sangha outside of prison. I feel tears just imagining the day. I just can’t tell you enough how much I needed you guys. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I love you.

Your Friend,

PS — Mill Creek is a very nice change from OSP. Beautiful farmland views and NO cells or iron bars! There is next to no gang “politics,” and I feel much more human here. Thank you for helping me get here. My work with Dharma Rain has just begun.