The Dhamma Brothers is a film that chronicles what happens when two Buddhist teachers enter Alabama’s tough William E. Donaldson Correctional Facility to teach prisoners an ancient meditation technique called Vipassana. In this update, find out how many prisoners have taken the Vipassana program since the filming. Plus, former inmate Charles Ice shares how meditation has given him a sense of peace since leaving prison.
The Dhamma Brothers tells a dramatic story of human potential and transformation as it closely follows and documents the stories of a group of prisoners as they enter into this arduous program. It will challenge assumptions about the very nature of prisons as places of punishment rather than rehabilitation. Despite the difficulty in obtaining permission to film inside a prison, the Alabama Department of Corrections allowed a film crew to document, not only the Vipassana program, but many other scenes and settings revealing the daily lives of prisoners and staff.
Before the Vipassana retreat, the men openly express fear and trepidation, wondering what they will find when they look deeply within and face the consequences of past actions and trauma. They are shown packing their scant belongings and preparing for the journey inside, a very short walk down the prison corridor but a sea change in their lives as prisoners. We observe the transformation of the prison gym, a frequent site for violent battles among inmates, into a monastery, a separate, restricted place in which the inmate students can eat, sleep, and meditate in total seclusion from the rest of prison society.
The Vipassana teachers, Bruce and Jonathan, prepare to live and meditate with the inmates. Teachers and inmates, men from culturally different worlds, are locked together in a dramatically revealing process. This is, most likely, the first time non-inmates have ever lived among inmates inside a prison.
Seated on meditation mats on a red rug donated by the Warden, wrapped in navy blue blankets, the men sit still in silence as they journey inside. Their days are punctuated by a strict daily routine of eating, sleeping and meditating.
After the Vipassana retreat, the men tell their tales of pain and self-discovery. The spiritual warriors of Donaldson Correctional Facility discuss their collective experiences and vow to try to maintain their nascent sense of solidarity. In the nameless, faceless anonymity of prison life, where daily life is organized around social control and punishment, Vipassana has offered an alternative social identity based on brotherhood and spiritual development.
The stories of the men at Donaldson Correctional Facility are those of the unseen, unheard, and underserved. This film shines a spotlight upon society’s outcasts and untouchables as we witness them on their Odyssean journey into their misery to emerge with a sense of peace and purpose.
Learn more about the film at – www.dhammabrothers.com
Winner of the Golden Spire Award at the 1998 San Francisco International Film Festival, this extraordinary documentary takes viewers into India’s largest prison – known as one of the toughest in the world – and shows the dramatic change brought about by the introduction of Vipassana meditation. In giving Doing Time, Doing Vipassana its top honour, the jury stated that:
“it was moved by this insightful and poignant exposition on Vipassana. The teaching of this meditation as a transformation device has many implications for people everywhere, providing the cultural, social and political institutions can embrace and support its liberating possibility.”
Winner of the 1998 NCCD Pass Awards of the American National Council on Crime and Delinquency. A distinguished panel of experts found Doing Time, Doing Vipassana to be worthy of recognition and deserving of special acclaim:
“..The National Council on Crime and Deliquency is honored to recognize your excellence in communicating the complex problems of crime to the American people. We hope this award will serve as a constant reminder that your work can make a difference..”
Be sure to view the entire film – catch all 4 segments post on Youtube.
Just returned from a 5-day work period and before that, a month ago, a 3-day sit, at the Ontario Vipassana Centre – an amazing retreat for working on you. The meditation technique was introduced to me by a good friend, Karen King, early last year. And it has literally changed my life – living and eating healthier, more conscious, and not taking everything to the panicked extremes I usually do. Guess that’s all part of life’s process anyway. But Vipassana let’s you see it as it is – as it really is.