The Dhamma Brothers: How Vipassana Meditation Transforms Lives

meditation quote

The Dhamma Brothers is a documentary film about the first maximum-security prison in the USA to use a Vipassana meditation program (Vipassana means insight or clear-seeing) to rehabilitate its prisoners. (There is also another prison documentary called Doing Time, Doing Vipassana that shows how this program works. The program is Indian in origin.)

In the film you learn about the 10 day Vipassana meditation program, as well as what its like to be part of the program. You will also witness the results. At the bottom of this blog post is a recent letter that one of the prisoners sent to the film’s director Jenny Phillips. The prisoners continue dhamma brothers meditationtheir meditation practice to this day (it’s been over 10 years). The program truly transformed their lives, it gave them a life long practice, a tool for not only understanding the self, but for greater awareness & peace.

I won’t say much more about the film, other than to see it. As far as Vipassana programs go — I recommend them. I’ve participated in several Vipassana programs over the years (at Spirit Rock & Insight Meditation Society). The basic program is outlined in the documentaries: 10 days of silence & meditation — no talking, no reading, no music, no phone, no entertainment, no vigorous exercise, no computer — just 10 hours of meditation daily (plus eating & sleeping & walking, of course) — while you learn to observe the sensations in the body (observing without a reaction). During that time, deep feelings that have been suppressed begin to surface. Not being able to mask or dull oneself with daily distractions (like entertainment, constant chit-chat or obsessive busy-ness) can become difficult. Many people have no idea what it’s like to just be with oneself. The 10 day Vipassana program provides the support & facility to do that.

Dear Jenny,

I once said of Vipassana meditation, “This feels like freedom”. I spoke only of what I was feeling at that time. I had no reason, not even the idea that has attached itself to me these last six weeks. During that time, I have been meditating in my cell four hours a day. It is all so very clear to me now. Vipassana is freedom. It is the freedom – I believe with all my being – that very few people attain.

I have none of those longings to be out of here. At the same time, I don’t have the desire to be here. Everything is just so right. All things are connected, and I am just a tiny part of the universal beauty. I am not always able to maintain this level of pure contentment. I sometimes become sad until I realize I’ve developed attachments, and I quickly find balance. It is so wonderful to be detached while at the same time to be a part of a stream that flows through everything.

Jenny, I don’t know that words could really communicate these feelings, but I simply have tried to tell you about them. I think that I am missing something, but even that is okay.

Much metta,
Johnny Mack

If you have a direct question about Vipassana programs or other meditation practices, you can email me (my address is above, in the blog header menu) or leave a comment below. I teach meditation & I practice it in various ways. Meditation is not only a big part of my life — it is my life. I realized that the most important thing I could do is be. You can read more of my thoughts on being in The Tao of Disasters & How I Practice Meditation, as well as my website



Filed under art & film, awareness, spirituality, tv & video

3 responses to “The Dhamma Brothers: How Vipassana Meditation Transforms Lives

  1. Khalid

    Thanks for another wonderful blog post. I have been having a hard time meditating lately, for some reason, and this post has helped me to take a look at that. Thanks again.

    • You’re welcome. Thank you! :) ..And no worries if you are having a hard time meditating lately, just make it easy. Find a way that suits where your energy is today, at this point in your life. Then, you might be able to return to the former way at some point later when your overall energy has changed again. It never has to be one way. Meditating is like being. Being itself is the silence/stillness/awareness, but along with that, there is being in action, being something, etc. Maybe now is the time for you to meditate in the grocery line, or meditate as you dance, or meditate as you sing, or meditate as you workout or walk, or meditate while you bathe, or meditate while you pound a pillow in anger. Really, meditation can be a non-stop practice. Just simply being. Being fully present to the moment, to what is happening now (not yesterday, not tomorrow). The structured meditation practice (like Vipassana or TM or Zen) is just a reminder of who you already-always are. The freedom & awareness is always there. Meditation is just a reminder of that. In meditation, it usually starts as a structured reminder (like a daily alarm clock), but then one can also move to living the reminder (and no longer needing the clock or routine). Just having fun with the reminder, or being spontaneous with it, or BEing the reminder! You are boundless. So is meditation. You both are one & the same. :) Be creative with it. See what you can see — inside & out.

  2. Pingback: Best Friend Emergency | Sunday Is For Lovers by AimeeLovesYou

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