Episode 87

May 26, 2024


What is Prison? | Ajahn Brahm

What is Prison? | Ajahn Brahm
Ajahn Brahm Podcast
What is Prison? | Ajahn Brahm

May 26 2024 | 01:09:24


Show Notes

Ajahn Brahm talks about how to deal with the metaphorical prisons that we often feel trapped in, as well as tips on how to get out.

This dhamma talk was originally recorded using a low quality MP3 to save on file size (because internet connections were slow back then – remember dialup?) on 3rd December 2004. It has now been remastered and published by the Everyday Dhamma Network, and will be of interest to his many fans.

These talks by Ajahn Brahm have been recorded and made available for free distribution by the Buddhist Society of Western Australia under the Creative Commons licence. You can support the Buddhist Society of Western Australia by pledging your support via their Patreon page.

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Episode Transcript

What Is Prison? By Ajahn Brahm [Note: AI generated transcription – expect errors! ] Okay, there we go. The changeover has happened, and now it's the time for the dumber talk. And as usual, people have been writing letters, sending faxes for the subject of tonight's talk. And someone said effects somewhat something to do with, uh, Buddhism and prison issues. And I meant to read that fax before I came in here to actually to remind myself what those issues were. But I was so busy because people were talking to me all the time. So something to do with prison? I'm not quite sure what. So let's see what comes out. And not only that, but just we use these specific instances to, um, outline just basic Buddhist principles. So it's as if the idea of prison issues is a vehicle for getting some deeper understanding of how Buddhists deal with different problems in life, especially things which either specifically or metaphorically deal with the idea of being in jail. I know actually comes to my mind that many, many years ago. I might confess this as a confession here that I was visiting an old school friend and this old school friend. It was Christmastime, about this time, and this very old school friend. He had a couple of daughters. There were only about 5 or 6. And so there's at Christmas time and they were playing monopoly. And so I said, oh, why doesn't the market have a go as well? So I said, Mark, I played monopoly. The trouble was, after a very short time, I went to jail. It was very embarrassing for a month to go. It was only a game though. But my friend, my friend who had some idea of Buddhism. My friend who decided to make good karma. He paid the $50 and got me out of jail for free. But anyway. In the end, I lost. I'm not very good at such things. I should stick to being a monk. But the point is that sometimes that one of the first things about jail, the whole idea of it is sometimes in some traditions, especially in the Western tradition, the idea of a jail is to do with punishment. And I think the many of you who have been here for a long time, who understand some of the ideas of Buddhism, know that Buddhism doesn't have any concept of. You having to punish somebody else. Some great sayings of the Buddha to put aside to sore. Put aside the rot. People who have been abused and you want to abuse the abuser back. You know that the Buddha said he beat me. He abused me. He cheated me. The problem doesn't end with a person who thinks like that. If you actually let that go. If you forgive, you put that aside, then the problem finishes. So too often the idea of a person is to do with punishment, and the idea of punishment can summon a wrong way of looking at things. Think that the retreat is actually this is a story in the book. It was an event which changed some the way I looked at Crime and Punishment. Was that a passage from a book called error one? There was no West Spelled Backwards, a book written by Samuel Butler over 100 years ago. Where he just individuals envisaged a society in which people were punished. They were sent to jail. If there were sick. If they had some sort of disease. However, if they committed a crime like robbery, they just went to see a doctor. And they all said they were healed. The doctor gave them some sort of medicine, some treatment to heal their sickness. Crying was looked upon as being a sickness, and sickness was looked upon as being a crime. And it's fascinating because one of the the great little vignettes, little stories within the story was of this poor man who was being tried. He was in the dock. He'd already been convicted. It was an obvious case. His crime was he had a cold. And it wasn't the first time he had a call to Josh was berating him, saying, sir, this is not the first time you've appeared before me. You have a cold again. I warned you last time. You better look after your health because it was his problem. It's his fault he ate junk food. He never exercised. He never looked after his health. It is your fault. And he said, right, I forgive you enough times. Six years. Because he was a repeat offender having a car. Isn't it your fault having cars, having sicknesses because you. You because you don't come here on a Friday evening and meditate. That's the reason why you get sick. So the only God that we know was to blame. But yourself need the right food, the exercising, and you're costing our society billions of dollars. So you sick people, we're going to send you all to jail. Now, of course you look at that way, but there's some sort of logic behind that, isn't there? I don't agree with the logic, but there's some sort of logic behind it, because sometimes his statements show responsibility. Please don't look after yourself. Don't eat good food. Don't exercise. Worry too much. Push yourself too hard. The point he was actually saying there is. Why is it we use that argument? It's somebody for for crime. We don't use it for sickness. Using that juxtaposition made things quite clear, just as it would be, I think. Irrational, illogical or unfair. When someone's got a sickness, even if it's their fault. You don't punish that. We heal that. We give that compassion. We give that care. When somebody's sick, we look after them to heal their sickness. For their well-being as much as anybody else's. So why is it when somebody commits a crime? Do we feel that punishment is a necessary. Remedy. I've known in my time as a Buddhist that punishment doesn't really do very much at all. So I do remember at school, if I got punished because I got caught doing something wrong. The only thing I learned. Was not to get caught again. Just to be a bit more skilful, a bit more sneaky. That's what it taught me. It never taught me really, sort of that I shouldn't do something wrong because I didn't understand what was going on there. So punishment very often that all it does. Sometimes it makes the matter worse. And I go on to that in a few moments. But first of all, the idea of right punishments. Is that really what the point is of jails? Surely the point of a jail would be a rehabilitation? Sometimes you do need to sort of put people aside to actually to confine them, because they can be a danger to themselves as much as a danger to others, in the same way that we put people in isolation in quarantine if they've got a great sickness, that's very nice. So certainly that prisons or places of of confinement are necessary in our society, but not as a punishment. Because really, do you really learn from being punished when we do something wrong? How many times have you been punished and what do you learn from it? Sometimes you learn not to love your punishers anymore. This happened many times. The parents who punish the children think that they need to be told the many times of the children. I wonder how can my my father, my mother do that? And it doesn't really solve the problem. It actually takes away. The love, the care. There are other ways to deal with the problem. When we go to the idea that if you hurt me, I have to punish you back. We go for from looking after our children. That way we go to treating the offenders that way. In the end, we start wars. Now you've invaded my country, I'll invade yours. You've sort of blown up my brother. I'm going to blow up your family. You can see where that tit for tat comes from. Someone has done something terrible to our society, to our country, to my family, to me. Therefore, I have to do something back. That idea of revenge, which is at the core of punishment, I think really needs to be looked at and reflected upon deeply. Is that the way we want to live our world? Is that the way we want for our future? Cause sometimes. Do we deserve punishment as well then? Does anyone here who's been so squeaky clean in their life is something that they have never. They never done anything wrong. Punishment, I don't think, is the way in our world. It's just far too dangerous. It leaves. It generates too much ill will, too much bad feeling, and actually stops us progressing further in peace and harmony and prosperity in our world. So instead of actually punishment. And they tried to help to learning the rehabilitative sort of prison service, where rehabilitation rather than punitive measures are what's really needed. And so in such a situation that you would expect a person to maybe be put in jail for as long as it takes for them to learn. To grow, to understand what happened and why. So they could never do that again. In the same way a person is in hospital. For as long as it takes him to heal. Now that is a bit sort of radical, but sometimes people say, you can't do that. Some people are just so evil, so terrible. But why do we need to punish? What does that really do? What does that teach our children? I teach other people in this world. It just legitimizes violence. And it dismisses harm and legitimizes creating suffering for others. And of course. Most people who want such revenge on the people have hurt us. Sometimes this is because the way we've been brought up. Sometimes we really feel that that's what really needs to be done. The idea of its being a deterrent just does not work. There was a classic study which was done in. To the UK 100 years ago. Well, somebody went to one of the jails. They did a survey of all the people who were waiting in that jail to be hung. In those days, there was capital punishment for small crimes. And they found out that I think 95% of those who are waiting to be executed had themselves witnessed public executions. I'd seen somebody being hung there alone as he reading about it. This was in England. How did it occur? So much for the idea of deterrent. The problem is we want to stop crying. We want to stop hurt. We want to stop the suffering which some people cause and others. But is that really work? Can there be another way? Any person is really done the research. Who knows what goes on, knows that it does not work. It creates a huge it takes a huge amount of of resources from our society. And what do we get out of it afterwards? Not very much. But so there's another way of doing this. And that is actually rehabilitation. And just the same way that there's a Buddhist way of dealing with crime associated with punishment, rehabilitation rather than crime. It's the same way we deal with the the wrong doings in our family and the wrong doings in ourselves, or the wrong doings in life. Or if it's your wife or your husband who does something wrong. We don't condone domestic violence. We don't even condone verbal violence or shouting at each other trying to get your own back. They need to submit to me. I've got to really teach them a lesson that never works. That creates more violence. And the same way, when you've done something wrong and you try and punish yourself on what's that called? Guilt? That's what I've noticed many years ago. But trying to shout or punish another what do we call anger? Her trying to shout and punish yourself, which is called guilt, or putting people in prison because we want to teach them a lesson. They're all coming from the same place, the same idea, the same model of vindictiveness for society puts people in jail. They're a society who is motivated by anger. And a society whose individuals who feel a lot of guilt. It all goes together. The same attitude either. Um. Well, that attitude, which is focused on, uh, the criminals attitude, which is focused on your partners or other people who are just tantamount criminals or yourself, your own criminal activity, in other words, the wrong things you do. And the other way which you've heard here, which is encouraging Buddhism, whatever you've done which is wrong, you don't put yourself in jail. You don't punish yourself. You acknowledge, you forgive, you learn, afflict, acknowledge what you've done, forgive it and learn from it. That is a way to heal the problem so you don't do the same thing again. Your partner, a friend, does something. Acknowledge. Forgive. Learn. Whether it's a person who has done a crime. Acknowledge. They should acknowledge what they've done. Somehow, some sort of forgiveness. In other words, not to punish themselves or not other people. To punish him and learn from it. Trying to heal the reason why we do those things. I think that's the only way we're going to have a psychologically sound society. However, too often we put ourselves in what's called a prison of guilt. Sometimes we put ourselves in a prison of anger. This story, which was in one of the books recently about these two men who'd been in a prisoner of war camps in the Second World War under the Japanese. And one of them said to the others, have you forgiven those Japanese torturers yet? He said, I can never forgive those Japanese mate. That's what they did to me. And what I saw them do to some of my mates. I'll never be able to forgive them. What about you? He replied. I forgave those Japanese a long time ago, and some of them are my best friends now. I walked out of that prison camp about ten years ago. You're still inside. What he said was very profound. It's only when he forgave his torturers that he was free. The other fellow who kept their anger, their hate for all those years was still inside the torture camp. To understand what this means when we have anger towards somebody else, or when we have guilt towards ourselves, or when we try and seek revenge against some person who's done a criminal act. Isn't that the case that. We're allowing ourselves to hurt ourselves of in prison. The prison of guilt, the prison of anger, the prison of wanting revenge. So the idea of Buddhism is actually having more freedom and healing for some reason or not, some way we can do this. So that when a person actually is in a prison. And of course, many of you know that I spent a long time visiting prisons. When I was before I became the abbot. Sometimes I get too busy. These days. I haven't got much time to do much these days. 16 hour days. Sometimes I work. Has it not? Sometimes. Most times. But anyhow, when I used to go and visiting prisons, you actually saw what it was like to be a prison prisoner. And I was actually used to laugh when some other monks would go into jail. So some of the, uh, the lay supporters here, we got a very active group who goes to visit most of the prisons in Western Australia. I used to laugh when they would come back and say, hey, I don't run. I've just been inside the prison, you know? They're just like us. And. And of course, I laughed there because what did you expect? But because that was something which was repeated to me again and again and again. There was a reason. Why they would make that comment. And the reason they make the comment that there is a sort of racism or speciesism or gender ism, the same sort of thing which separates us was separating in our society. Those people who were in jail and those people were out of jail as if there were some sort of different species. We have a tendency to do that in our society. Those are not the same as us. They're not the same type of people. They're genetically flawed. They are inferior. There's something wrong with them. And the same way we've done that with races in the past, we've done that with genders, we've done that with religions. We've done that with. The free and the criminals. And of course, there is no difference between those people in jail and the people sitting here. Sometimes it's so easy to do what's called a crime, to be called for it and end up in jail. Sometimes it's just one moment. It's a lack of mindfulness. So sometimes all the causes and conditions which actually come together to get you into jail. It's amazing how karma works. I was reading this, um, article in one of the newspapers, which I do too, actually, to get more material for my talks. There was this guy in, I think it was actually in Los Angeles who as a young boy, he was very badly abused at home, thrown out when he was about seven years of age, if I remember correctly, and started living on the streets of L.A. from the age of seven. The very fact he survived was a miracle. When he got to his early teens, he couldn't really survive just on handouts. At that particular age, he started getting involved in crime, petty crime, and then going into juvenile detention centers and then progressing to big crime. He was in out of jail for a long, long time. And you can actually probably see why he just had absolutely no chance of survival at that time. But anyhow, this is amazing to how the law of karma works. And his back in his late 40s or maybe mid 40s, that he was um, he had a social worker. He was about to be released. The social worker was actually looking for some way that they can give him a proper job, so he didn't need to get into crime anymore to try and heal the problem. And it just happened that she knew someone who knew someone who was making a movie. And the person who's making the movie wanted to actually to make it more authentic. They wanted a consultant who actually knew something about how real criminals speak. And so she told you, I've got this guy in jail who's been a criminal, and I've been in and out since the time he was seven. He needs a job. Why didn't you get him as a consultant? And actually the producer was a fellow called Quentin Tarantino. The film he was making was called Reservoir Dogs. And this prisoner was the consultant. He actually amended the script to actually to say how real criminals actually stalk, and apparently was so good that he was actually put in the cast as one of the criminals. Now, I've never seen this movie. One of the monks said they have. And apparently all the criminals or the the gangsters, whatever they were, they were given different colors or something blue, red or yellow. Is that correct? I don't know. Anyway, that's what he said, but he was one of them. And they said that he was the one which everybody watched. Because he actually looked like a criminal. He wasn't the act. All these other guys. I mean, you could tell they were just actors. But this guy not only had the speech, he had the actions right down as well. And so after that movie, of course, this experiment made a fortune. And now he lives in Beverly Hills. He married his, um, is, uh, was a social worker, and it's. And it's amazing to see he just was writing this because I can't believe it. Now I've got this amazing mansion, this beautiful wife, a lovely relationship and heaps of body in the bank. But where I came from. And good luck to him. But the point was that you saw this poor guy, you know, being punished. Punished. Parish punished. He just wanted a way out. But sometimes there isn't a way out. And that's certainly the reason why there isn't a way out. Because what punishment does. In these towns where I used to go and visit. Everyone is called a crim. They wear the uniform of prisoners. The green uniform here in, uh, Australia or Western Australia, they are called criminals. Day after day after day, they're treated like a criminal. And of course, after a few years of that, they become a criminal. So one of the things which I taught criminals, and one of the things which I will teach you as well. I said, why on earth do you call yourself a criminal? It's not because of the clothes you wear. It's not because of the the place you're living. It's just like being a man. Just because you wear brown robes and you live in a monastery does not make you a monk. Something deeper inside makes you a monk. If you're a criminal, are you a criminal? Why are you there? Why are you wearing that? Those greens. Why are you living in this place? It's because one act, which you did, or maybe a few series of acts. I said, what else did you do that day? What else do you do the other days of the year? What else did you do all those years of your life? Can you really define yourself? Maybe a fraction of a percent of everything you've ever done? Why do you call yourself a criminal? The point was that when you focused or when those people in jail were focusing on the reason why they were there, while that was amplified by the dress, they were the place they were in a way that people looked at them and regarded them when that was the only thing they remembered. That's the only thing they were reminded of. Of course, that became who they were. Because we're focusing on their misdeeds. They became their misdeeds. They became criminals. It is very clear to me the psychology of why they would leave that place and go back soon afterwards as who they were. You know what it's like when a prisoner finishes their sentence and they get released. They're still looked upon as being ex crims. In other words, they are criminals. They find it very hard to find a job. To find work. Because what act is almost like a brand they wear in their forehead for the rest of their life. That's really unfair. Unjust, irrational. Why should we judge anyone for 1 or 2 things which they've done in the past? If you focused on the other things they've done, then they can actually. Beyond their crime. They can acknowledge, forgive, learn and grow away from it. The story which comes up next is in that book. It's a story of psychology, which I'm going to repeat here, because it makes the point of how what we believe we are, we actually become. It was a story which I learned as a school teacher in psychology, that there were two classes of children the same year, a given exam at the end of that year. Instead of grading the children into the top half when in one class, the bottom half within the other class, they split the classes up absolutely equal. The way they did it was the top child, plus the one who came fourth and fifth, the one who came eighth and ninth, the one who came 12 and 13, and so on. Winning one class or one who came second and third, sixth and seventh, uh, 10th and 11th. When in the other class they split them up as evenly as possible. Two classes of children. They gave teachers who were equally able classrooms which had equal facilities. Everything was made equal as they possibly could, except for the one thing they called one class A, the other one class B. That was the only difference. There were children of equal ability. Imagine what would happen if your child were into class A? You think, well done, because you assume that class A is superior. The children who did well. The analogy exams. Many of the parents were quite surprised that their child had made it to class A. We haven't been doing any homework, but you must be doing something right. He has some extra pocket money. Ah, the kids had gone into class. B no TV for you. You have to do better next. Next year. And even the school teams, the school teachers. If you thought you had the best class, you'd actually teach in a different way. And if you thought you had the bottom half. So even the teachers taught differently to those children. And the children themselves. So I'm a class, I kid. I'm a class B kid. The point was after 12 months when they gave an exam again, the children in class, they did so much better than children. Class B in fact, they did, just as you would expect, just as the statistics had shown. As if they were the top half from the year before. The class A children, even though there were no different class B children the year before. Had become class A children and a class B children because they had been told they were class B, because they were treated as class B because they thought they were class B became class B children. It's a classic experiment in educational psychology, which I use to explain why people go back to jail again and again and again. If you're in jail, you're called a criminal. You dress as a criminal, you're treated as a criminal. You start to think you're a criminal. You become a criminal. The same way if you think that you are hopeless. Can you believe you're hopeless and your husband tells you you're hopeless? Then you become hopeless. It's not your fault. It's his fault. You see how we condition each other and how we become that conditioning. So I made a big thing when I was visiting prisons to say, you are not a prisoner. You're a person who's done a crime. There's another difference between your a criminal and you are person. Your person person person. Is that a crime? You're a person first. Your mistake is second. When you acknowledge you're a person first, there's an opportunity to go away from that crime. The same as your wife. Your wife may have done some terrible, terrible things, but she's a person first, a wife first, before those mistakes. How can we actually stop focusing on the mistakes? And becoming mistakes. If we focus on not the mistakes but the other things, the good things, then there's a way out of anger. There's a way out of guilt. There's a way out of punishment. How can you punish anybody anyway? I could have made a mistake. But how many good things have they done? Sometimes when you look rationally at these things, there's no way of punishing at all. That story I did when I was visiting Malaysia at a university. What a question time. This lady put her hand up and said, my husband is just lied to me. I've called him out lying. Should I get divorced? I'm contemplating divorce. And I said, madam, what are you doing at this university? And she said, I'm a lecturer. What subject? Maths. Okay, let's do some statistics. How long you've been married to the guy? About three years. Just for easy calculation, let's call that 1000 days to be married to him. Let's make an assumption, a reasonable assumption that every day, on average, you said 20 things to you which could be right or could be wrong. So at the time we've been married, he said 20,000 things to you. And now he's lied for the first time. According to probability theory. That means the next time he says something to you. The 20,000 to 1 chance, he's telling the truth. I think that's trustworthy. Don't get divorced. That's the reason. Isn't that some logic? But for her, the lie was the only thing she saw. And that's why she wanted to get divorced, because she only saw one line. She was blind to 20,000 true statements she saw. I can't stand the guy anymore. I can't trust him. Get rid of him. Sometimes a person may have done 20,000 kind acts, and now they've stolen or they've killed. Does that make them a criminal? Does that make them untrustworthy? It's the same psychology there. Sometimes we forget the 20,000 good things somebody has done. We think they're evil. They're bad. Put them in prison and never let them come out. That is wrong thinking. That's where punishment comes from. That's where anger comes from and just feels judge is the person to say they don't deserve any kindness. There's no goodness in them at all. In Buddhism, we have this wonderful thing called Buddha nature. Every being has got Buddha nature. How I understand that is everybody who's got this beautiful potential to be the most wonderful, caring and compassionate, wise saint. Everybody. Without exception, he would. Osama bin laden has got put in nature. Mr. Bush, he's got lots of Buddha nature. It's a bit hidden, but it's in there somewhere. What that means is that you cannot sort of get so upset and angry at a person. You want to punish them, throw them away, kill them, destroy them or whatever. Now when you actually start. I practice that. When I went into jails, the idea of put in nature was to try and see something in that person in jail, which I could really respect and care for. Really respect. And a wonderful thing happened when I went to visit us because I never saw the crime, but I saw the person because I tried and saw the beauty in every prisoner, because that's what I was looking at. That's what they showed me. So wonderful experiences in prison. Remember once, this prisoner, who was one of the tough guys in jail, was in Canning World, I think, and this was it called hey, cure case or something, I forget. What's it called now? The old Canning Vale tell. I went in there and then had a series of violent attacks on staff and visitors, especially visitors, because visitors weren't really protected. The staff had some training. People like me and someone attacked me. What I do. They can only come back and it's a waste of time running. Can you run in these ropes? It all drop off gonna be even worse. So a lot of attacks in the prison. And so when I went in there for a weekly visit at this sort of the place where you go in there, they told me, said, look, there's a new security system. It's top secret. They have these little like pens, like Biro pens. You're supposed to put them in your little pocket, on your jacket or in your shirt, like each one of you go. I said, help, I haven't got any pockets, so I just carry it, put it somewhere. And so they said that if there's any trouble. You might see on the ceilings. Those as little. They look like ham. Like the fire extinguishers. Is that they're not fire extinguishers. The security system. You put it in that pen, press the top. And then the alarm will go off. And we'll also see exactly in the prison where you are and will come for you, get you within a couple of minutes. We'll save you. And there was, you know, some people had been, uh, beaten up, uh, women had been raped inside the church because some of these guys had so long sentences, they'd never get out. They had nothing to lose. So they gave me this pen and said, don't tell anyone this is top secret. So as I went into my class. This. This guy, one of the tough guy, said, you got one of those as well. They all knew exactly what was going on. There's no secrets there. And they looked at me, this huge guy who said, problem? Do you think you could even get your finger to the top of that pen? Before we rushed you. How about Solomon said? Probably not. He said. No, you wouldn't. But he said, if any of these guys back here tried it, I would get them first. We like you. It was. It was a goodness which protected me. Not that pain. The kindness that was the best protection. Because there's no way you could actually be protected. Those guys were some very, very tough guys. And because I saw the little Buddha nature, their kindness is amazing. Just how they would protect you and care for you. I was probably one of the safest people in that jail. If the guys, they would protect me. Even some years ago. There's another thing going on the tangent here. This Vietnamese guy came just in the front by the door one morning and said, I'm from one of the triads in Perth. He said, I thought, ah. He said, but don't need to worry. You know, you monks, you like Asians, so have any trouble. Just give me a call, we'll sort it out. If. I didn't take his number. But what is AI? Goodness and kindness? When you see Buddha nature living in these, these, these homes, these hooligans, they never harm you. I remember being in England once and there was a time with the punks. Now. I remember the punks and they had all these amazing sort of hairstyles, and they were actually seeing one the first time I had a mohican, and it was all sorts of weird stuff all over his body. And I saw him at the Perth airport many, many years ago. And I turned around to somebody and the person who was me and said, look at him. Don't some people wear strange clothes before I realise what I was saying? And then I saw my own robes and board hat and only saw somebody else's. Anyway, this particular time, this bunch of, like, skinhead punk rockers and what they're called came out to me and I thought, oh, I'm in trouble now. And actually, they just came up to me to actually ask for advice on how to shave your hair. There's a sunscreen card in your card. Can you say put it out there? I give you the Buddha nature back. So. You know, we know a lot about shaping hair and do it all the time. Anyway, this particular occasion that when you actually look at people with Buddha nature, the jails, you know, not criminals, their people, you see the good part. Then I found that they saw it themselves. That is one of the greatest ways of actually healing the problem. If you focus on the crime. Then people sometimes get so depressed and upset. They just give up hope. They don't try and change. To sound as if you're always arguing with your husband, with your wife, about all the terrible things they've done. They're never going to change that way. Focusing on the faults. The fault square. And I know from psychology don't focus on the faults. You focus on the good qualities. You don't learn by remembering the mistakes. You learn by remembering the successes. By focusing on them and by focusing on the good qualities in those prisoners. The good qualities were the ones which grew. I call this watering the garden. If you water the weeds, let's try to learn from the mistakes or the rotten things which happened. Just the weeds grow. If you water the flowers. Remember the good things. Focus on the good things. Learn by the good things. You find the good things grow. Some years ago. I wrote this in the book, but I can repeat it again. I got this beautiful phone call. I was in my office at serpentine in the monastery. The phone rang. I picked it up. He was one of the senior prison officers from Cardiff. The. The chair which I used to visit the most in those days. They said you haven't been for a long time. Can you come back? He said that I like him now, but now it's just so busy. So now, please, can you come back? Just to increase morale, he said. I've been in here all these years. One thing I've noticed, he told me that all of the people who went to your group have never come back to jail. Can you please come back? That's one of the most wonderful compliments I've received. People in the meditation groups. And they put the screws, which I took for many years and never went back into jail. And that was what he told me as a prison officer. He should know, and I treasure that. So this is what we mean by rehabilitation. So let's keep that going for revenge. You know the story. What I say about revenge is someone has hurt you and harmed you. The Buddha said, don't think like that. Don't try and punish them. If they're a Christian, then God will look after that when they die. If they're a muslim, Allah will take care of it. If they're a Buddhist or a Hindu, karma will look after it. And if they're an atheist and there are many atheists here. Then there will have to go through psychotherapy for many years, which is very expensive. What? Whatever. I'd never get away with it. So why do you have to sacrifice your own happiness to be the punishment executioner? You can't forgive. They're not going to get away with it. So you don't need to be the one who teaches them a lesson. Life will teach that lesson. Your responsibility. Your duty is to forgive. So that way the whole idea of being in a prison or teaching, looking after prisoners is to try their people first. So that the prisoners second. To remember that. So they risked a bit of self-respect, a little bit of. Um, focused on what they're doing in there, who they are. They're not the crime, they're just the person. So that way they have this Buddha nature. People can treat them well. When they're treated well, they will become good people. People become just the people you expect them to be. And that way there's a huge amount of of growth. All right. One of the other stories which comes to mind when I was teaching in jail, these two fellows. One of them was Nick. I think he was actually involved in the Argyle Diamond would be some time ago. And he was one of those guys somewhere involved in any way. Nick. He was a Greek fellow. I mean, the Greek. But he's a really nice guy and he's with one of his mates and this was actually the time. I love telling this story because it's a very beautiful, wonderful story. This was the time when I visited one day and I immediately on Nick especially, took me by the arm. Come and have a look at this. It was in the schoolroom. Incarnate. And on the the wall there was all these beautiful cards. Dear Nick, I hope you get out soon. Amanda ASAP. Dear Nick. It's so wonderful you visited our school. Now, Thomas, age nine. What actually happened the week before? One of the. Teachers said a nearby school. Wanted to do some drug awareness program. And they were talking and thinking. How can we help our children to keep clear of the danger of drugs? First of all, they thought, let's get some. Professor from the university said, no, no, let's just no words, concepts. Let's get some expert from social work department or the education department. Now someone had the brainwave. Let's get one of the criminals who's in jail for drugs. Let's get him there. How better to teach about the danger of drugs than to get someone who's actually walked that path. And no, in the pain of what actually happens if you get into drugs. What happens if you get caught and get sent to jail? Who invited. So it must have been there for drugs, because he was one of the ones who went to this school with somebody else, who spent the whole afternoon with his primary school children. Say what it's like. Some experience from bitter experience. They were the experts. And so that was a brilliant strategy. Not only for the children, but it's here. What it's really like. Not as a theory, but from practice, from experienced, terrible experience. But for these two prisoners. They had a chance to give, to serve, to do something for others. To somehow pay off their debt. You don't just pay off your debt by sitting in a cell. A lot of that debt is paid off by contributing, giving back something of what you've taken. And those two prisoners had a chance to give. They realize that what they given was something quite huge, influencing many kids not to ever get close to taking drugs. And so when he took me and showed me these cards. Nick just burst out crying. This weeping. You can see what that meant to him. He had the opportunity at last to do something, to pay something back. I think it's wonderful when those people who have committed crimes have the opportunity. To become people again. One of the things I've seen in jail. There's nothing you can do to take care. In menstrual, sir. No females. Usually no kids. It's not a really sort of conducive environment for the men in jail. They need those children to make them feel soft. They need the wives or women there to to get the feminine side. Otherwise, it's just such a macho, sort of testosterone filled place. It's a loss. They need nursing. They need. So they went to see children one day. And they helped. Few years later I was at Perth Airport again. I was waiting for a month to come. Someone put their hand on my shoulder. I looked round, it was Nick in a nice suit. And he smiled at me and I remember his words. He said. I'm still meditating. I still meditate every day. This is wonderful, actually, to see that it actually worked. So that did we have like kindness, non vindictiveness, not wanting to punish but giving people an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves to heal the sickness which is crime, to try and find a way out. And to give them that way out. And in the end is the classic win win situation. Those children learn so much, and those prisoners had a chance to abandon their feeling of guilt, to give up the harm which they've committed by helping and focusing on. That was probably one of the main reasons why they never be offended. And it's the same way why, if we've done something wrong or bad, we have to forgive ourselves or at least find some way of giving back if we have actually hurt somebody else. Well, if we've had our family some way that we can balance our accounts. Buddhist said that with bad karma you can never get rid of bad karma. It's always there. If any thoughts you've done, but you can dilute it with good karma in just the same way. A spoonful of salt was the Buddha's simile. Put in a glass to make the whole thing salty. If you put a spoonful of salt in your swimming pool at home and stir it up, you won't be able to taste the salt. The same way, if bad karma is diluted with lots and lots of good karma, you don't even taste the result. So if prisoners have done some bad karma, isn't it wonderful to give them opportunity to make lots and lots of good karma? That is a wonderful way of rehabilitating hearing the sickness of our bad actions. And put them in jail. They got an opportunity to make good karma if they are in confined into place at least to try and have some way of doing something, some way of caring, some way of giving, some way of doing something for others to heal the badness. And that way I think that most people will not re-offend. People will be in jail for a time until they heal themselves and they can become free again. But that's only one part of prison. And can I also mention that sometimes we segregate prisoners who think they are some sort of subspecies? But they're just like you and I. Just in that way that we never look upon prisoners as being something different. They are the same as us. Therefore we can be compassionate. Therefore we can be kind. The last thing is this not just the prisons which are incarnate or casuarina, what we usually call prisons, because each one of us has our own little prisons. And sometimes, I don't know, sometimes some of you have been in prison who are sitting here. Sometimes it's waiting in front of you in the future, who knows? But last week I got a letter from the police. It was in this brown envelope with his little checkered pattern on the outside is addressed to me. And straight away I thought, or what am I up for? But actually, no, what I found inside there was a thank you note because our local police has helped them, helped us on something. So we wrote this letter back sort of placing them, which is often what we do. We say thank you for these two constables. We sent a letter off. We got the letter back from the the police headquarters. This is the southern region which is based in Mantua, the peel region, saying, oh, it's so nice to have somebody actually thanking the police. So I didn't need to be afraid. When you do good things and you recognize good things, I think those plays would probably help us even more next time. They got some people actually on their side, some people praising them. So if you want some help from the police. Help them out. Place her. So for each one of us, sometimes we're not going to go into our. A physical tear. Isn't it sometimes that we feel that sometimes our life is like a prison? Remember I told this story to someone just before I came in here? It's a story about that monk who's teaching in jail. And I told them I'd just go very quickly through this. Tell them about what it's like in a Buddhist monastery and how hard it is. They're getting up at 4:00 in the morning. Voluntary, of course. You can always get up earlier. And this one, Miller Day, ordered the same bowl with ice cream on top of curry custard on top of spaghetti. That's happened to me many times. Or mixing the same bowl. I have to work really hard. Sleep on the floor. No TV, no radio, no music, no sex, no sport. Even in prison we can have a T.V. even in prison we have a menu. We have a choice of food. We have separate plates, not in a monastery. And we have beds in jail. Not in a monastery. And this, this particular time, these prisoners were so upset that their friend, who was visiting them every week and was caring for them, was living in such a terrible situation that one of them losing their mindfulness, forgetting where they were. So that's terrible in your monastery. Why don't you come in here and stay with us? Yeah, I said. And of course everyone cracked up at that time, but. You started thinking afterwards. Why? Is the monastery down a certain time within the nuns monastery, getting up much harsher than any prison in Western Australia. But you, sir, have such a hard time trying to get in to one of our monasteries. There are waiting lists in both monasteries. Are people trying to join? No one was to escape from a monastery. So I think so. I did count the months before I came here. I had to count them again. When I go back, no one's to escape. Why? And the point is that the month since they're up in Thailand dancing the Messiah, they want to be there. That's why you never feel it's a prison. You feel you're free. Inside a prison. Doesn't matter how comfortable it is. Even if they have takeaway dial service. If I have a butler that comes and feeds them or their their meals every day. Still because I don't want to be there. That is called a prison. And from that, I got this wonderful way of looking at life. That any place you do not want to be is called prison. If you are in a job which you hate. It's called prison. If you are in a relationship which is not really quite happy about, you are in a prison. If you're in a body which is causing you pain and sickness. That is a prison. If you're in a life, this life which you're not really happy with, your life is a prison. The point is, it doesn't matter what that life is. It doesn't matter how your body is. Doesn't matter what your relationship is like. What they're doing doesn't matter what your job is. If you don't want to be there, that is a person. You can change and escape from prison so easily just by changing your attitude and wanting to be here. One of the monks I really respect. He's passed away. Now was a time when he was put in jail for two years. He was a wonderful monk, very knowledgeable, good meditator and also very skilled in administration. So has given all these posts in the hierarchy of the Sangha, the group of monks in Thailand, until he was the deputy. West coast and Raja, the deputy chief monk. He was next in line to take that position. Of the chief monk of Thailand. However, there was another monk who was also third or fourth in line, who is jealous. He wanted to become the senior monk himself. So listen to some of these monks sermons. This was 30, 40 years ago. He listened to some of these monks sermons. And of course, if you listen long enough, it always be something you say which is wrong. In this particular month. Was was accused of being a communist, which at that time was a crime in Thailand. And they took him to court. He was convicted and put in jail for two years just because of something he said in some of the talks was construed as being pro-communist. As far as his mug was concerned, and he wrote a little biography. He said, I was at a wonderful thing which happened to him. Because all being a senior monk, being an apple, there was all these people coming to him with their problems and asking them to give talks and asking them to bless their babies, or to bless their marriage, or to try and heal their divorce. And talking about this and thought, oh, it's just so much headache now. It's insane. It was free to meditate all day. And he said it was the best time of his life. Two years is like being on a retreat. You know, sometimes we have these people actually pay for these nine day retreats. I had to work so hard to get six months retreat a few years ago. So it was two whole years. Oh. It's wonderful. And that's actually his little serve in the jail. And Tyler was actually more comfortable than the cell in his monastery. So it is a wonderful time. And actually after two years, he was completely exonerated. They found out exactly what had happened. So they released him from jail, reinstated him. Now with all of his robes and everything, said, sorry, but it is. I don't have to say sorry. Oh, thank you so much for giving me two years of peace. So even though he was in a jail in Bangkok, for him, it was freedom. He was happy to be there. Actually see, this is how it's the change of attitude. Which actually gives you that freedom. Now I say that because that's something which is not just a social commentary on prisons and crime and punishment in our society, but it goes deeper into just your life and why it is that sometimes you feel you're uncomfortable, you're being tortured. Are you in a prison? You confined, you got no freedom. Are. You don't need to change your wife. You don't need to swap your husband. You might get a worse one next time. Who knows? It's so nice to be grateful for what you've got. You don't need to change your body. It's the same thing. My goal was when the next time you don't need. So to change your life. This one is good enough. So change the attitudes. Are happy to be here. Happy to be with that woman who married many years ago. Happy to be with that man, happy to be in that job, happy to be and always make something out of it. If it's a hard job, you got more to learn. It's wonderful if it's a difficult situation for you in a bad body which is sick and dying. What a wonderful occasion it is to really learn and grow. Growing pains. Remember, I always call it so when one is happy to be here, then one is free. We are all. We all make our own prisons. We can all make our own freedom. And that actually is the deepest teaching of the Buddha of how to be free. It doesn't matter what situation you're in. Doesn't matter. Even when you're meditating, you think, oh, my mind's all over the place. It feels like a jail when you don't want your mind to be all over the place. If you're happy to be here, then you become free. And the mind stops moving then. Be happy to be here. Then you'll have all the freedom you want. Want it to be different. You are in jail. So each one of us is in prison is called the prison of samsara. The wheel of being born, growing old and dying. Doing all over again the weight of suffering. Why do we suffer? It's cause of craving. It means I don't want to be here. I want something else. Give me something more. I want to be rich. When you reach. I want to be poor when your life is. I want to be a monk. When you're young, you want to be a layperson. When you say you want to be married. When you're married, you want to be single. When you're old, you want to be young. When you're young, you want to be old. Oh. Come on. Right. I'd be happy to be here. If you're a monk, you're a monk. We have to be a monk, Lopez. We have to be a nice person. You may be happy to be married. You're saying we'll be happy to be single? Yeah. You're gay, you're happy to be gay, a heterosexual, you're happy to be heterosexual. You're sort of whoever you are, just happy to be who you are. And then you're free. And now that's the ending of all prisons. Are you a craven? Have you a person who's committed a crime. He sure. Crime. Stupidity. Yeah, that's a crime which you can forgive yourself any moment by learning how to be free. So I've gone over time now. So those of you happy to be here, I hope you're happy to be here because you were here. You might as well like it or lump it. So that's the talk of this evening on prison and freedom. How can I say anyone? Got any questions? Comments? Complaints? Yes. Yeah, it'd be great to be able to do that. Certainly it's not only myself. We've got a lot of other monks and also like community here. Many have actually been trained to go into those, uh, centers to visit the young people, not the criminals. I would never visit a criminal. Or if he's a young person who's done a crime. So yeah, sure, we'll do that. But I think the main thing is actually to get that message out to our society, because I do read the newspapers. And one of the first things I need to actually the second thing I read in the newspapers, the first thing I read is the comics. Conservative newspapers. That's the best part of the comments. That's really the good news. People say the coming of the newspapers all gloom and doom, but not the comics. The second thing is that the letters page, and it is so much vindictiveness, and because of so much vindictiveness in our society and wanting revenge, sort of our politicians, they have to respond accordingly. And there's all this idea of like increasing sentences, making it more harsh. And you see that happen in all other many, many jurisdictions. I must admit, I read about the the, uh, penal system in the Netherlands. And I must admit, that's the one I admired the most. I really. I was very much looking at scribe as being some sort of sickness to be healed, not to be punished. And the recidivism rate was very, very low. They forgave very quickly rather than punished. That was so inspiring to see. And it works. Everybody knows that the prison system in countries like Australia or the US, it doesn't work at all, especially in Britain. They're always having to build more and more prisons because more and more money doesn't really heal the situation at all. So it's like an epidemic, which gets worse and worse and worse. So, Claire, you have to stop crying. But deterrents don't work. Hearing does. So yeah, be great to be out of that. But I think the real message needs to go out to society. So you have a different way of looking at these problems. Please. Sorry. Yeah, I think so too. Yeah, especially into our society and a large. Any other questions? Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, indeed. Sort of. Um. One personal experience with that is, uh, some disciples some time ago get it quite a few years ago or ten years ago now. Who is a very interesting case. There were Buddhists who came to one of our meditation groups, and they came to me one day and they said it would be trouble. I wonder what it was this time. And apparently that they'd found out that her husband was sexually abusing her two kids. They're both 11 years old. Two twins, boy and a girl. So, uh, because she was a Buddhist and talked to her at length in a very short time, she came to a state of forgiveness. To her husband. Now. That didn't mean she could ever love him at all. There's no way he could continue being a husband. But forgiveness meant she was not wanting to seek revenge, to have him punished. She was not angry at that man. Sometimes when we say forgiveness, people misunderstand me. Oh, you know, just it didn't happen. You can just carry on as normal. You can't carry on as normal. These things have their karmic results. Consequence. So the marriage was over. So you can never even like that person again. But she did not want to punish him or hurt him. And when she took that attitude, her to 11 year olds followed very, very quickly. The travel. Interesting part of this was. In those days, as now, there was compulsory counselling for the whole three of them. And she had to come to me to complain about her. Um, psychologist. Like a psychologist. Because she said, in all those meetings sessions with a psychologist, the psychiatrist said, you're angry. Your husband, aren't you? You want revenge, she said. No. Not forgiven. That's denial. And so she was very patient with psychologist. But in the end she came to me. Please, I, John Brown, write a letter to her because she will not let me go until I admit something which I haven't got, which is anger. And so I had to actually, uh, write this letter to the psychologist explaining in detail the Buddhist response to such problems and how forgiveness can come very quickly and how healthy such forgiveness is. And because of my letter, the psychologist freed her from the counselling. And I've kept in contact with that family. They moved to England, to Essex. I kept in contact, although she is one of the daughters now. His. Her mother. Intense. It's completely okay. Because of that forgiveness, the trauma, the scars of the so-called victims healed very quickly. I'm not sure what happened to the to the father. I know he went to jail. I'm not sure what's going on now. That's for the victims. If the victims can give forgiveness for their sakes, it's a wonderful way of healing quickly. If they don't give that forgiveness, they are traumatized. Maybe for life. So don't give that forgiveness to victims. The kids are traumatized for life. They actually feel guilty. These people have been the subject of abuse. They feel that somehow it's my fault that I was raped. Sometimes I did something wrong. That guilt again is the same attitude. Instead of punishing someone else, you want to punish yourself. Snow. Way to go! And again, for those people who have done that, which I must admit, I find it impossible to contemplate how someone could do that to a kid. But it's obviously some sort of people actually called him. You're sick to even think of something like that. If they do that, it's not something which punishment will help, but some sort of therapy, some sort of healing, some sort of way of making sure that never happens again. Punishment is not the way. And should be. Basically doesn't matter. What you do should be confined to protect children as long as it takes until that sickness is truly healed. We don't put people in jail because of punishment. You put it in people in the prison, back in the hospital, however long it takes. Until they're free of that. But I know what you call it. That syndrome. I mean, does that make sense? And back. Okay. But quarantine about a year. And it doesn't. Correct and only give the sentence not because of you know that. Not saying that you've heard a kid 30 or 40 years. Or, you know, even first time I did two years or whatever is however it takes, just like a sort of a disease. If you take ten years to get rid of that disease in the hospital, and that's been there for ten years, if you can get rid of that disease in two weeks, fine. If you really be sure you feel that disease, fine.

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