Letter from Prison Inmate
This letter came January 15, 2014, addressed to the Dharma Rain Sangha.
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.
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.