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founded by S. N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin

 

 

 

 

 

Vipassana in Prisons-History & Spread

Challenge from Vinoba Bhave

In the first few years after Goenkaji came from Burma to teach in India, a course was arranged by the daughter-in-law of Mahatma Gandhi at Sevagram Ashram in which, fifteen of Gandhiji’s colleagues participated.

They were very pleased with the course. After it was over, they took Goenkaji to meet Vinoba Bhave, a saintly person of India, who lived nearby.

He was quite enthusiastic about Vipassana and said that if it was beneficial and result-oriented, it must spread in the country. But he added, “I won’t accept this Vipassana unless it gives good results to two segments of the society: hardened criminals and school children." Goenkaji replied, “I am certain it will be helpful. I am a newcomer to the country; I have brought this valuable jewel of Dhamma from outside. Now, let us make use of it for the country. Please make the arrangements.”

Vinoba Bhave arranged a course for teenagers. As with the many courses for children since then, this too was successful and he was very happy. Then he arranged for a course to be held in Gaya Jail. But the day before the course started, the jail officials informed Goenkaji would have to stay outside the prison. Goenkaji said, “This is not possible. Vipassana is a deep operation of the mind, and I am like a surgeon. I must be there twenty-four hours a day. Something might happen, and I am responsible. I must stay inside.” They insisted, “According to the prison rules, you cannot stay inside.” Goenkaji pleaded with them, “Then give me a prison sentence of ten days!” But they wouldn’t agree. Vinobaji wanted to make some other arrangements, but before he was able to do so, he passed away.

Fortunately, a few years later, the then Home Secretary of Rajasthan, Ram Singh, came to a course in Jaipur. He was very keen. He said: “This must be tried with criminals!” He also heard about the challenge from Vinobha Bhave. He organized the first courses, which were held in the Jaipur Central Jail; the rules were amended to permit Goenkaji to stay inside the prison for the full ten days. So this was how the courses in prisons began.

First Vipassana Course in Prison

(The following excerpt refers to the first Vipassana course in an Indian prison. The course was conducted by Mr. S.N. Goenka at the Jaipur Central Jail in October, 1975, and was arranged by Mr. Ram Singh, who was at that time, the Home Secretary of the State of Rajasthan. The following narration is written by him.)

The first course of Vipassana conducted by Goenkaji in a prison was in l975 at the Central Jail of Rajasthan. When I was the Home Secretary of that state, I had myself undertaken a Vipassana course, and experienced a profound change in myself. On the fourth day of my course, I felt that Vipassana was a technique which could solve not only individual problems but also problems of society, and could bring reform in government as well. On the evening of the fourth day, I met Goenkaji and shared my reflections with him. I asked him whether this technique could be a tool to change the system in government. He agreed, and I immediately asked whether we could arrange to hold a course in a jail. He was very positive and told me he would come if I arranged it. This was a big challenge!

I set about talking to the authorities concerned-the Chief Minister, the Chief Secretary, the jail officials. Initially everybody was very skeptical, but finally a decision was taken to make an experiment!

The real difficulty came when Goenkaji arrived in Jaipur for the course. I had to tell him that it would not be possible for him to stay in the jail; he was to stay in a beautiful bungalow outside the jail instead. He said he had to stay inside the jail twenty-four hours a day, because Vipassana is a deep operation, and he is like the surgeon. The difficulty was the jail manual. Only those who had been sentenced to imprisonment or those under trial or members of the jail staff could stay in the jail. I posed the problem to Goenkaji and he said, "Sentence me!" I was aghast, shocked; how could my Teacher be sentenced to imprisonment? The legal department was consulted and it seemed there was no solution. We issued administrative instructions and resolved the problem.

Goenkaji was allowed to stay in the jail, in a makeshift room in the jail dispensary. Another problem came when the course was just about to start. At that time ankle locks and handcuffs were used for hardened criminals. Four such prisoners were brought into the meditation hall bound in these iron handcuffs and ankle locks. Goenkaji was walking nearby and when he saw this, he was amazed. He asked me what was going on. I told him these were hardened criminals. He exclaimed, "How can people in chains be put before me? This cannot happen. Remove the chains!"

But the Inspector General of Prisons (IG) said that the security in the jail was his responsibility, and he could not remove the ankle chains or the handcuffs. However, Goenkaji was firm. He said he could not give Dhamma with people sitting before him in chains-he had come to remove the chains. The IG told him he could remove the chains from within, but not the outside chains! Goenkaji insisted that those who were meditating must not be in chains. This was a big dilemma, a big problem!

The IG was a very experienced officer. He asked me not to force him to relax security requirements for those prisoners. He said any one of them might try to be a hero, and strangle me or Goenkaji to death in a split second. We discussed the problem and finally came to an agreement to remove the chains and fetters. An armed guard would be kept ready at a strategic point to shoot the criminal if he started to advance menacingly. I told the IG to ensure that any mishap or panic shooting did not take place.

The chains and locks were removed. Goenkaji was pleased. The course started. I sat close by. The IG stayed out of the hall but remained very close. My eyes were fixed on the "Four", heart throbbing and deep anxiety within! But every passing moment was a relief unbounded. As Goenkaji started chanting, his metta [loving kindness] was flowing profusely. The red-hot eyes of the criminals who were the cause of so much turmoil changed and their faces beamed; tears streamed down their cheeks. Tears rolled down my face also; it was a rare moment filled with joy after such high tension. The efficacy of Vipassana was established! Goenkaji's narration of Angulimala's story flashed in my mind.

There was another event which was deeply moving. There were two condemned prisoners awaiting execution of the death sentence. They couldn't be accepted in the course. During his morning round, Goenkaji passed through their cells and decided that they could be given Anapana and Vipassana in the cells by loudspeaker from the hall and we agreed. They started meditation, made great progress, and felt happy. They listened to the discourses in the cells, as did many others. We had arranged the relay of the discourses throughout the entire jail campus.

After the course was over, one of the condemned prisoners sent me a message that he had decided to withdraw his mercy petition to the President of India. He was ready to die. He now had Dhamma and felt totally fearless of his impending death! In the meantime his petition had been rejected, and the day of execution by hanging had been fixed. I was invited to witness the sad event. The prisoner came out of the cell smiling and in high spirits. He thanked the jail staff and went to the gallows with a cheerfulness never witnessed before.

Spread of Vipassana in Prisons around the World

India

The story began nearly 30 years ago in India. The first Vipassana courses in jails were conducted by Goenkaji in 1975 and 1977 for 120 inmates at the maximum-security Central Jail in Jaipur at the invitation of Mr. Ram Singh, then Home Secretary to the Government of Rajasthan. A third course for senior police officers and jail officials was also held at the Police Academy in Jaipur. Despite these first successful courses, no further prison courses were taught for nearly 15 years. Then in 1990 and 1991, seven more prison courses were held in the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. These courses were the subject of several sociological studies conducted by the Gujarat State Department of Education and the University of Rajasthan. The research indicated definite positive changes of attitude and behavior in the participants, demonstrating that Vipassana can help criminals become wholesome members of society.

In November 1993, a ten-day course was conducted for 96 inmates and 23 jail staff at Tihar Jail in New Delhi, one of the largest jails in Asia, housing approximately 10,000 inmates. The following January, a second course for 300 inmates was conducted by six assistant teachers. Three months later in April 1994, the largest Vipassana course held up to then was conducted by Goenkaji and ten assistant teachers for over 1,000 inmates. After its successful completion a permanent center for Vipassana was established inside the jail itself. Since then, ten-day Vipassana courses have been conducted twice monthly at Tihar Jail and less regularly at more than 15 other jails in India.

In 1997, 75 Vipassana courses were conducted in Indian jails. At one point there were two permanent Vipassana centers in Indian jailsone at Tihar and the other at Nasik Jail in Maharashtra where Mohandas Gandhi had once been imprisoned. Because of administrative changes, the Vipassana program at Nasik Jail has been cancelled. However, in Delhi , Dhamma Tihar thrives and twenty-day courses are being held there on a regular basis. In 2001, there were a total of 39 jail courses in India with 1,420 inmates attending: 978 new and 442 old.

A research study entitled Psychological Effects of Vipassana on Tihar Inmates was conducted at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi in 1997. This study determined that Vipassana meditation helps increase inmates control of their emotions resulting in a reduction of feelings of anger, tension, hostility, revenge and helplessness. Drug addiction, neurotic and psycho-pathological symptoms also diminished. (Chandiramani, Verma, Dhar & Agarwal, 1995; Kumar, 1995; Vora, 1995) In addition, inmates practicing Vipassana have shown an increased willingness to work, to participate in other treatment programs, to abide by prison rules and to cooperate with prison authorities. (Vora, 1995)

The sheer number of inmates who have benefited from Vipassana is nearly matched by the number of police cadets who have attended courses at the Police Training Academy in New Delhi. By 2001, 17 courses, some of them for as many as 1,265 police cadets at a time, had been conducted.

With India as the exemplary leader in bringing Dhamma to prisoners, meditators began the work of spreading Vipassana into prisons around the world. Sometimes the efforts brought only one course, but the seed was sown. At other times programs continue with great success.


Police cadets meditating (credit to Newsline Photo by Cherian Thomas)

Taiwan

In 1996, Goenkaji met with the Taiwanese Minister of Justice in Taiwan. As a result of this very brief meeting, a ten-day course was held at the Ming Te Branch Prison near Tainan on the southwestern coast of Taiwan. Ming Te Prison is an experimental drug rehabilitation institution situated in lush, wooded mountains, housing inmates convicted of narcotics use. It implements religious programs to help substance abusers in their recovery. In a move unprecedented in Taiwan penal history, Goenkaji was invited to give the closing address to the group of 24 prisoners attending the course. Since then, nothing further has developed in Taiwan.

Europe

Until 2003, the only Vipassana course to be held in a European prison was conducted at the HMP Lancaster Castle Prison in the U.K., November 1998. The course took place after two officers learned Vipassana and, encouraged by their own experience and the knowledge of prison courses being held in other countries, decided to explore the possibility of running a course in Lancaster. Eight inmates started and completed the program.

The Prison Journal Service, issue 127 reported that Lancasters Education Department had noted: There was a marked change for the better in personal discipline, willingness to learn and quality of output from the incarcerated students.

Now, four years later, a second course has taken place in Europe. The Spanish government gave approval for the first prison course in mainland Europe which took place in April 2003 at Can Brians high-security facility near Barcelona. The story behind the approval for this course and its preparation is insightful.

About two years ago a retired man came to sit his first course at Spains Vipassana Center, Dhamma Neru, near Barcelona. He was so enthusiastic about the technique that he decided to take up voluntary work in Can Brians with the intention of having Vipassana introduced into the jail. He chose this jail because it is charged by the government to experiment with new ways of transforming prisoners, and is at the cutting edge of the Spanish prison service. There are 600 staff to 1,400 inmates.

Last summer the director of the prison invited some trustees to make a presentation to prison staff and visiting professionals. About 30 attended, including a senior judge whose wife had previously sat a course. The response was positive. Some trustees and the area teacher met with the director, staff and prisoners on several occasions, and in October four staff members and one male inmate, out on a ten-day release, sat a course at Dhamma Neru. Then, a detailed report in Spanish, showing all the guidelines and requirements, was prepared and submitted to the government.

During the eight weeks prior to the course, there were many preparations. Five orientation classes with interested inmates were held over a period of about a month. The separate facility within the prison that would be used for the course had a capacity for about 25 students; this was checked and approved. Special permission from the government was required for the teacher and servers to stay at the prison for the duration of the course. As well, a system was needed for preparing course food in the prisons main kitchen.

Interest has also been expressed by prisons in Madrid and Granada, but the trust decided not to move forward with presentations until the course was completed at Can Brians. The Director indicated that if the April course was successful, he would give support to these other initiatives.

With well-thought-out plans in place and only a few last minute hitches that made the start of the course look dubious, it started on time and was a great success. Eighteen smiling students completed the course. They shared their experience with other prisoners, family and guests at a Day 11 reception. One student requested the teacher of the course to write an article about Vipassana for a prison magazine that is distributed to 7,000 inmates throughout Catalunya. The director was clearly struck by the change in the inmates. He arranged for daily sittings for them and asked for another course of 30 students in autumn 2003.

New Zealand

Since 1999, Vipassana courses have been held in New Zealand at Te Ihi Tu, a rehabilitation center run by Maoris (the indigenous people of New Zealand), for Maori pre-release prisoners and parolees. Although a private initiative, it is funded by the Department of Corrections. The center is Maori Kaupapa, i.e., based on Maori values and culture. This three-month pre-release program starts with a ten-day Vipassana Meditation course. The staff at Te Ihi Tu are 100% supportive of Vipassana for they have seen that it helps prisoners participation in other programs.

Vipassana Meditation was incorporated into the Te Ihi Tu program in September 1999 after two staff members sat a ten-day course at the Vipassana Meditation Centre, Dhamma Medini, near Auckland. The other staff members became quickly convinced that Vipassana Meditation would be beneficial and decided to give it a trial at Te Ihi Tu. There have now been nine courses at Te Ihi Tu and it has become an integral part of their program.

The Department of Corrections only permits a maximum of 10 prisoners to participate in each Te Ihi Tu Vipassana program. It is difficult to get even 10 prisoners, as the Department is cautious about releasing the prisoners to the Te Ihi Tu rehabilitation center. There has been an average of 4 to 7 prisoners finishing each course. Male and female students from the community who have an association with Te Ihi Tu also attend these courses. Since Vipassana has been introduced to the Te Ihi Tu program, the recidivism rate among prisoners has decreased.


 A still from the award-winning film 'Doing Time, Doing Vipassana'
(credit: Karuna films)

Thailand

After an Inspector General from the Thai Department of Corrections read about the film, Doing Time, Doing Vipassana, she arranged for local assistant teachers to make a presentation to her staff. But after learning that the Vipassana volunteers would need to reside at the prison with the inmates, her staff tabled the matter.

Then, five years later, an old student involved with one of Thailands television stations arranged to have the film dubbed in Thai. The Director General for the Department of Corrections watched the video on television, and afterwards felt enthusiastic about giving Vipassana a try in a Thai prison.

In May 2002, a Vipassana course was conducted by a Bhikkhu Achaya (a member of the centuries-old order of monks established by the Buddha, who also teaches Vipassana in this tradition). Forty-nine male drug offenders and two prison staff attended tiis course at the Kolong Pai Prison in Sikhiu District, northeast of Bangkok. A second course for 50 women at a separate womens facility was held two months later. The Inspector General who had originally proposed having prison courses, attended this course as a student, choosing to occupy a prison cell with basic toilet facilities just like the other students. At the end of this course the Director General announced that both of these course sites would be turned into permanent Vipassana centers.

On the eves of both the third mens course and the third womens course, many inmates from another prison unexpectedly arrived. They were sent by an administrator who thought Vipassana Meditation would magically turn unruly inmates into angels! Unfortunately many of them were not processed in time and were sent back.

All in all, six courses for 377 men and women were conducted in 2002, and six more are planned for 2003. Last August, the Bangkok Post reported that the Corrections Department planned to turn three prisons into meditation centers for inmates after the retreats at Klong Pai proved such a success. In the North, a center would open at Phitsanulok prison; in the South, at Koh Taew prison in Songkhla and in the Central region, at Rayong prison. Klong Pai prison would be the center for the Northeast. However, since then the Department of Corrections has undergone recent changes and it is uncertain whether current reform policies will remain in place.

Mexico

Events leading to a course in Mexico began when an employee from the correctional system took a Vipassana course and told her boss about it. Her boss, the General Director runs 20 facilities in the State of Mexico; and after seeing Doing Time, Doing Vipassana, she became very inspired and eager to organize a course. This was followed by three meetings with her, and a conference given by a Vipassana teacher. Eventually, 12 people from different penal system departments joined Vipassana courses. This was the critical prerequisite for holding a prison course. After two more meetings with the authorities, a date and site were decided for the course.

The course was held in March 2003 at Penal de Santiaguito, Mexico States facility in Almoloya de Juarez. This facility, housing about 1,500 inmates, has been a model for Latin American prisons; and now once again has shown itself a pioneer by implementing a Vipassana course. The course actually took place in a small separate facility just in front of the main one. It was a totally independent space where each inmate had his own room and there was a large open walking area.

After interviews with more than 30 inmates (all within weeks of release), 18 were chosen for the course. The group which included murderers, kidnappers, robbers, and drug and arms dealers, were all highly motivated and worked seriously. There were few disturbances and none of the students asked to leave the course at any time. During and after the course all expressed their gratitude and their determination to change their lives.

TV and press attended a reception on Day 11 and the next day at least five newspapers reported the successful end of the course. The authorities are very happy that everything went smoothly and want to establish a more continuous and permanent Vipassana program in the Almoloya facility as early as this year. Mexicos Vipassana Association will soon have a meeting with the authorities to decide how to implement the program.

United States of America

Public opinion and policies about incarceration in the United States are varied and contentious. Advocates of rehabilitation are perceived as naive and indulgent while proponents of more punitive measures are accused of being cynical and vindictive. Even those facilities that do view rehabilitation as a viable alternative or adjunct to punishment are often hesitant to try programming that falls outside of the kinds of interventions typically used in the West. However, there is almost universal agreement that the system, as it is, does not serve us well. At this time, nearly 2,000,000 prisoners are held in Federal or State prisons or in local jails. In all, nearly 6,600,000 people in the United States are on probation, in jail or prison, or on paroleabout one in every 32 adults. Although prison sentences have become increasingly severe, recidivism rates are alarmingly highabout 67.5% within three years of release according to a study of almost 300,000 prisoners released in 1994. (U.S. Department of Justice)

Vipassana has brought to the American correctional system a way out of the debate about how to administer change from the outside, by directly giving to the inmate, the responsibility and means to change from within. As of this issue of Vipassana Newsletter (May 2003), only a few correctional facilities in the US have opened their doors to Vipassana, but these have created a strong foundation for the future. Following is an overview of the history of Vipassana courses in correctional facilities in the United States.

King County North Rehabilitation Facility, Seattle, Washington

The King County North Rehabilitation Facility (NRF) was the first correctional facility in North America to hold Vipassana courses in this tradition and the only facility to hold ongoing courses. Already committed to rehabilitation as a form of enlightened self-interest, NRF was a receptive site. Nonetheless, there were many concerns on the eve of NRFs first course in November 1997. Recidivism rates are typically very high in jail populations, and cynicism among inmates and staff alike can be pervasive. Many in the institution lacked confidence that the inmates would be able to sustain silence, long hours in a sitting posture and the rigorous course schedule. Moreover, the course would bring them into a different cultural milieu that some might find difficult and alienating. For those inmates with limited reading skills, even the routine course signs presented a barrier.

One can only imagine what it was like for this first group of inmates as they gathered up their bedding and walked down the long hallway into the course area. At the end of the course, prison staff, other inmates, and family and friends of the 11 men who had completed the course gathered in the gymnasium to greet them. As the men filed in, the assembled inmates and staff stood and cheered. One felt that they cheered not just for the men who had completed the course, but for the possibility for change and hope that they represented.

From November 1997 to August 2002, a total of 20 courses were held at NRF at intervals of every three to four months. Courses were served by Dhamma workers from all over North America, including several NRF staff members who had taken courses. In all, 130 men and 61 women completed at least one course at NRF.

Over time, pre-course orientation classes were introduced to familiarize interested inmates with course requirements and protocols. This greatly reduced barriers associated with illiteracy and learning disabilities, cultural and religious identification, and general feelings of distrust and doubt. Vipassana courses and daily meditation at NRF became a part of the institutional routine and an ongoing exercise in teamwork across all staff disciplines. The receptions on Day 11 were often attended by staff on their day off, including the head of security who always just happened to be in the neighborhood.

Knowing the limitations of anecdotal accounts, NRF personnel began to collect objective data on the effects of these courses. In 2002, the NRF Programs Manager completed a Vipassana Recidivism Study which included data collected from courses one through eight. Final outcome results from this study revealed that approximately half (56%) of the inmates completing a Vipassana course at NRF returned to the King County Jail (KCJ) after two years, compared with 75% in an NRF General Population Study of 437 inmates. In other words, 3 out of 4 NRF inmates were re-incarcerated within two years, while only 2 out of 4 Vipassana inmates were re-incarcerated. Moreover, the average number of bookings declined from 2.9 pre-Vipassana to 1.5 post-Vipasssana/post-NRF release.

Using the encouraging indicators from the early stages of this study, and their experience studying meditation, alcohol problems and criminal conduct, a team of researchers at the University of Washington received funding in October 1998 from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to conduct a two-year study of the effects of the NRF Vipassana courses on relapse, recidivism, psychosocial functioning and spirituality. The preliminary results of this study indicate that all study participants improved from their baseline measures but that Vipassana course completers had a significantly better outcome than the comparison group. For example: reductions in drug use, anxiety, depression, and hostility. Additional information from this study will be released in the near future.

No further courses will be held at NRF. On November 1, 2002, the King County North Rehabilitation Facility closed its doors after 21 years as an alternate detention site.

San Francisco Jail #7, San Bruno, California

The first ten-day course at the San Francisco County Jail was held in January and February 2001. This was the second corrections facility and the first medium-security jail in the U.S. to undertake a Vipassana course.

The course started with 14 students, four full-time Dhamma workers, plus Sheriffs staff of one deputy and one sergeant, who had each sat one ten-day course. The course was held in a small building next to the main jail, normally used as a computer-learning lab for prisoners and staff offices. Staff moved out of their offices to create a Dhamma center with three dormitories, servers and teachers quarters, and separate dining and walking areas. A Deputy Sheriff was assigned to a locked control room 24 hours a day to open and close doors and provide general security. Both sworn and civilian staff worked closely together in the planning and implementation of the course. The Sheriffs staff stopped at nothing to make the course a success. They realized that these inmates were doing very hard work and felt the more support they got the better they could work.

The Dhamma community provided critical support by providing daily hot lunches to augment the jail food that was quite limited. They also provided much support in setting up the course site, bringing in things needed during the course, arranging for Metta Day, the Day 11 reception, and the clean up.

When silence was broken, the 13 students who completed the course expressed their gratitude to Goenkaji, to the Buddha and to Dhamma. During Day 10 and at the Day 11 reception they described the technique and how they found it helped with their problems and with their ability to make good choices in their lives. Short interviews with students and the Day 11 reception were videotaped for future use within the facility.

The jail arranged for weekly post-course sittings and allowed established meditators from the community to come and meditate with the inmates once a week. As well, the inmates were accommodated so that they could maintain their daily meditation practice.

The first week, all 13 meditators came to sit and discuss their experiences. They all felt that now they have a tool to help them in their lives. Most had used their new wisdom to handle difficult situations in a positive way and to avoid problems. One or two had slipped but were happy to learn that they could start again.

This first course was a very strong beginning and the Sheriffs staff was clearly impressed with the ability of inmates to learn and benefit from Vipassana. The staff seemed particularly impressed with the fact that the Dhamma community had no agenda other than to help inmates learn Vipassana Meditation. Although by all accounts the course was a great success, no further courses have been planned at this time. The facility has faced some extraordinary challenges since that first course, but there is confidence that they will have additional courses in the future.

W.E. Donaldson Correctional Facility, Bessemer, Alabama

The first ten-day Vipassana course to be held in a U.S. state prison and a U.S. maximum-security facility was held in January 2002 for 20 inmates at the W.E. Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer, Alabama, just southeast of Birmingham.

There are approximately 1,500 inmates at Donaldson, which also houses a death row. The W.E. Donaldson state prison is the highest security-level prison in Alabama and has a history of being Alabamas most violent and brutal prison. Once known as the West Jefferson State Prison, it is now named after a correctional officer who was stabbed to death a number of years back. Approximately half of the 20 inmates taking the course were under a life sentence, some with the possibility of parole, others without hope of parole. Most of them had been incarcerated for violent crimes while a number were in there for non-violent crimes such as robbery and drug trafficking. Among the students were two Imams (prayer leaders) of the Shiite and Sunni Muslim traditions as well as two devoted Gospel and Baptist followers. For an inspiring account of this course, see the May 2002 issue of Vipassana Newsletter.

The second ten-day course at the Donaldson facility was held in May 2002. Eighteen men started and 17 completed the course, one of them a returning student from the first course. At the conclusion of the course, Goenkaji visited the correctional facility as part of his North American Meditation Now Tour and concluded a group sitting attended by students from both the prison courses. Goenkaji spoke to the men expressing how happy he was that they had taken the ten-day course, telling them that they now had a big responsibility to be examples of Dhamma to others in the prison and to help them purify their minds. After meeting with prison managers, Goenkaji gave a longer talk about Vipassana Meditation to both groups of inmate students, Department of Corrections officials and Donaldsons' administration as well as a group of 20 inmates interested in attending the next course. At the end of the question and answer session, one inmate asked about the singing that he and his wife do at the end of the morning chanting. After a brief explanation, Goenkaji concluded his talk and immediately began chanting sabbaka mangala, sabbaka mangala… (May all be happy) as he walked out of the gym.

(Excerpted from an article published in the International Vipassana Newsletter in the month of May 2013)