A Place Of Practice
By Carlton Carr

By BIONA Director Stephen L. Klick
You are about to read a very special book. Mr. Carlton Carr is a remarkable man; in fact, he is one of the great Dharma heroes of our era although it is clear to the people around him that he does not think of himself in these terms. This book is exceptional because it tells the story of a courageous man but it is perhaps even more remarkable for the things the author doesn't choose to tell us. There is no bitterness to be found here and yet Carlton has fought the good fight against a system that has tried to crush him and break his spirit. He could have been freed much sooner if he had simply stopped trying to spread the Dharma but he decided instead to work for the sake of all sentient beings. It is not always easy or comfortable to do what is right, sometimes there is a price that has to be paid but it is essential that we follow our conscience and behave in what we consider to be a moral manner. Carlton decided that it was more important for the dharma to be taught than it was for him to experience personal freedom a little sooner and because he made that decision his personal ministry has flourished and blossomed.
I have experienced some of the same hostile attitudes that Carlton has been forced to deal with. BIONA is located in approximately the same geographic area, the North American Midwest, a region known to the rest of the United States as "the Bible belt." Our first few years here were quite dramatic; sometimes we received death threats, while other people offered to beat us until we saw what they described as "reason." We had the occasional phone call from sincere people who were genuinely concerned and wanted us to know that we were eternally damned for not attending the proper church. People felt entitled to knock on our door and tell us that we were not needed, wanted, or welcome in the area that we initially inhabited. There were times when I was concerned for the safety of my wife and child and we were occasionally nervous about opening packages that came to the office but we persevered and these unpleasant attitudes eventually faded away.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case so far for Carlton. He is living in a controlled environment; one that has made the deliberate choice to not play by its own openly stated rules. BIONA sends religious material to inmates all over the North American continent but we have never encountered an institution quite like the one Mr. Carr currently inhabits. The problems have been enormous and yet he has persevered and ultimately, he will triumph.
Authors Preface
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the numerous beings that have dedicated their time to teaching the Buddhas holy Dharma. This book deals with the reality of practicing the Dharma while living in prison because I am now, and have been for some time an inmate in the Western Missouri Correctional Center. I hope that this book will bring benefit to all who are imprisoned in facilities around the world as well as those that dwell in the prison of self delusion.
Chapter One
Maras Grasp
My mother was a deeply religious woman who devoted most of her married life to the vain attempt of instilling these same spiritual values into the mind and heart of my father. My father was not a bad or evil person, however, he saw himself as a 'worldly' man whose main concern was supplying us with adequate material comforts. Occasionally, for my mothers sake (and to keep peace in the family) he would devote a little time to religion but it was easy to see that he was never really interested in spiritual matters.
I was raised in the Christian faith so I was given a proper set of moral guidelines to live by. When I was very young I was especially close to my mother. At the age of twelve my father felt that my childhood was over so he started taking me with him to his job sites to teach me to prepare to take my place in the working world. When I wasn't at school, I was working with my father and I seriously began to resent him because I never had "free-time." I often felt that I was nothing more than his personal slave but later on into my teens I was able to work at various jobs such as an underwater salvage diver, a carpenter and even a mechanic. My father gave all of these skills to me and I am now very grateful to him for what he taught me.
I do not propose to talk a great deal about my early years because I have already discussed some of these events in my second book, "The Search Within." I will say that I honestly felt myself to be a moral person while growing up. The Christian religion was forced on me and I deeply resented it because it seemed to me to be irrational and impractical. When I felt in need of spiritual help I did all the things that I had been taught but none of them helped me. After calling on god to assist me on numerous occasions without the slightest benefit or result I became deeply disillusioned with the whole Christian Church. I gave up on the idea of god and experimented with different spiritual practices but none of them provided the support I needed. None of them seemed real to me. I finally decided that I could rely on no one and nothing but myself.
I had left home and found a fairly good job working as a diver. The pay was pretty good but I felt trapped. There was a void in my life and nothing seemed to help anymore. I was deeply disillusioned. In the past I could find peace in the outdoors, camping and spending days alone in the deep woods just thinking about things.
I began to battle severe depression; my life seemed to be upside down somehow. The harder I tried to struggle against these feelings the worse they became. I no longer felt satisfaction in the things that used to make me happy. I was simply going through the motions of daily life and nothing was important to me anymore. It was one of the most miserable times of my life.
It became apparent to me that some kind of change was essential so I returned home, thinking that a change of scene would doubtless benefit me. My father got me a job with the same company he worked for so during the week my dad and I worked out of town and spent the weekends with the family.
After the first few months I began to make new friends and through my connections to them I met a young woman and we began dating. She was quite different from anyone else I had ever met before. The plain truth is that we were not good for each other. Instead of supporting each other and being stronger together, we shared similar weaknesses and the resulting combination was more than merely unfortunate: it was potentially disastrous.

I am not blaming anyone else for the mess that resulted. I could have turned away from an unsuitable relationship and I didn't have to spend most of my free time with bad companions. I knew that I was on a collision course with tragedy and I simply didn't care. The only people that I truly brought benefit to in this period of my life were the local breweries. I was very supportive of them!

Beer helped me to think of myself as a "tough guy" and my new girlfriend thoroughly approved of the change. If you could have met me a few years ago you probably would not have liked me; for that matter, I didn't like myself very much either. Like most people labeled "criminals" my worst crimes have been committed against myself.

The problem with being a "tough guy" is that there is always someone bigger, faster and stronger than you are. Throughout most of human history men have devoted their lives to the mastery of various weapons in an attempt to improve their chances of survival against opponents who might have natural advantages due to size and strength. It was an American inventor named Colt who developed what came to be known as the "Great Equalizer." The average modern revolver has a trigger pull of two and one half pounds; this means that a ninety-pound woman can kill a two hundred and fifty pound man quite easily, and still have four or five rounds left over for extra target opportunities. That's progress!

Looking back with the advantage of hindsight I clearly see that drugs or alcohol truly change a persons character. While I was under the influence of alcohol my entire personality changed. People often separate drugs from alcohol by putting them into different categories, but this is nonsense. Alcohol is a depressant and quite possibly the nastiest drug ever discovered by human kind. It's responsible for more disease, general sickness, and death than every other illegal drug, even when the numbers for all the other illicit drugs are combined together. Alcohol is more addictive than heroin and you can buy it legally all over the country as long as you have a few dollars in your jeans to pay for it. This is tragic for a lot of people, but there are also persons who can drink moderately over an entire lifetime and not have problems. I have no idea which category I fall into.

As a younger man the combination of beer and bad company led me to embark on a series of escapades that I considered merely rebellious, but that I now realize were stupidly criminal. All crime is basically stupid. Society exists so that human beings can flourish in safety. We band together for mutual protection against the hostilities of a planetary environment that can devour you if you make a single mistake.

I know this because I've spent time in the wilderness where one misstep can be the difference between life and death. So many of us live in cities now that we forget, or never learned how dangerous this planet really can be.

My first criminal act came as a result of my perceived need to be bigger and stronger than I was naturally. I decided to become 'dangerous' so that people who had as little judgment as I did at the time would respect me.

I became 'dangerous' by obtaining an arsenal of guns. Unfortunately I chose to acquire them by breaking into a store and stealing them. This was so easy to do that it stunned me. I felt that I had made an important discovery; I could take whatever I wanted with no consequences to myself.

This illusion was quickly shattered when I was arrested for the crime. I was placed on probation because I had no previous criminal background-this would have given many people the idea that personal reform was in order, but I had a great deal of pride and I became quite bitter at the way I was treated by the police authorities after I was released back into the community.

I honestly do not know if I would have attempted to change my life if I had been left alone, but I never had the chance to find out. I became one of the elements that must be 'policed' from society for the good of us all.

One year later I was more knowledgeable about police behavior and very bitter. It was not a great surprise to me when heavily armed men dressed in blue surrounded my house. It did surprise me that after a brief interval, they packed up, returned to their vehicles and left. What did this mean? I was soon to discover that new charges had been filed against me and that the police had left that day because they decided that I wasn't at home. I have no idea how they reached this conclusion. I suspect that they thought I would have shot at them if I had been present, although I have never shot or killed any human being.

I concluded that discretion was the better part of valor so I left the area, after thinking about it for a time I realized I did not want to spend my time running from this kind of trouble, so I turned myself in.

A few hours of 'police hospitality' quickly convinced me that I had been over hasty in my judgment so I escaped. It was easy enough, but I couldn't see spending the rest of my life running so I returned. Officially I was "recaptured."

I was sentenced to seven years in prison. The judge seemed to be telling me that I would be serving time not for what I had done, but for what I could possibly decide to do in the future.

I've been around law enforcement officers and criminals for some time now and to be honest, there isn't much of a difference between them. Both groups practice violence, both groups tend to see things from only their own viewpoint, both groups are feared and disliked and both groups are immature. No honest citizen seeks the company of either group because they're both feared for good reason. Socially they have much in common, probably because they spend so much time in each other's company. While criminals as a class honestly feel that they make more money, they seem to ignore the fact that they spend time in prison, and that convicts earn pennies per day, which pulls them back into the same class as the average law enforcement officer.

It seems to me that people of even moderate intelligence would do well to avoid both occupations. There is a great deal of mental suffering involved for people who engage in either choice. Nobody in their right mind wants to live or work in a prison. Police officers also have the same kind of health problems that the criminal class has to endure. They both abuse drugs and alcohol, and law enforcement officers have the added risk of one of the highest suicide rates for any job.

This is the story about how I ended up serving time in prison. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this and I do not want to mislead you. Would the officers involved in this tell it to you differently? You betcha! The version I heard in court was wildly funny for it's zany distortions, but maybe the men involved actually saw it that way.

As I said, police are very similar to criminals in many ways, they live in their own special world, however, there is one major difference; officers always seem to see themselves as heroes of their own personal movie scripts. They also write the reports that are considered "factual."

I broke the law and I deserve to be where I am. I don't worry about justice much anymore because cause and effect is quite impartial and things always even out. I want you to understand who I am and where I come from so that the rest of this book makes sense to you. The other chapters deal with practicing Dharma while being in prison. Of course, there are many kinds of prisons. Someday soon I'll be walking out of the door of my prison. I hope that you have the same good fortune.
Chapter Two The Prison Environment
The society within a prison is a direct reflection of the civilization that creates it. Time spent in a Missouri Prison means exposure to violence, hatred and ridicule from undereducated prison guards who firmly believe that all inmates require continual punishment for whatever crimes they committed or were at least convicted for. This goes a long way to explain why so many prisoners are dumped back into society only to re-offend and return to prison.
If your pet dog wets on your carpet, you might smack him with a rolled up newspaper and teach him that what he did was wrong. If you want to eradicate your problem you teach the animal to go outdoors to eliminate waste products. You do not lock the dog up for years and beat him every few hours during that time period or what you end up with is a crazy animal.

Most prison inmates are socially maladjusted to a certain degree, but many could be helped to return and become productive members of society if that were the goal of the prison system. At the present time, those inmates that successfully rehabilitate themselves do so in spite of the system that they are exposed to.

Some prison inmates simply don't belong here at all; they are innocent victims of social injustice. These persons suffer in ways that are beyond my poor descriptive powers. Society used to make a joke about this saying that, "Prison is full of innocent people," But the recent development of DNA techniques has demonstrated that, in fact, people are sometimes wrongfully convicted.

I've noted with some interest that prosecutors often fight to keep these people in prison anyway. After all, they had their trial and they lost their case-they were convicted. It seems strange to me that there is no public outcry against this kind of immoral behavior. I've also noted that prosecutors who are caught lying in court, or who are detected suppressing evidence receive no punishment for their actions, although it is considered a crime for a citizen to behave in the same manner.

Of course, some inmates are deeply disturbed beings and will probably never experience rehabilitation in this lifetime, but the current system we have in place seems perfectly happy to discard thousands of lives every year like so much unwanted trash.

Many of the people being discarded are poor, or belong to disenfranchised minorities. Oddly enough, there are no rich, powerful white male prisoners here; they have their own 'special' institutions. All of these factors play a big role in the mindset of the average Missouri prisoner. For instance, when President George Bush Jr. described his children's abuse of cocaine as merely "youthful indiscretions" the people here serving mandatory time for the same offence were deeply affected and embittered.

The first day a new convict arrives his life is changed forever. The first thing that happens to the new arrival is public humiliation. He is striped naked in front of hundreds of people, guards and prisoners, comments are made, many of them of a sexual nature. Many prisoners become sexual predators and this is their first chance to examine potential victims. Guards do not discourage this behavior, and often participate in the "fun." Nobody works in a prison for the money, which is negligible.

Inmates are placed in roughly three categories, violent, semi-violent and passive. Each group is housed according to the assessment of the guards, but these people are not kept separate from one another. This system encourages tragic abuse.

When I first arrived I was assigned to a "Level Five" camp, which is maximum security. We were locked into cells for twenty-two hours per day. We had one hour for meals, twenty minutes each for breakfast, lunch, and supper.

I will not inflict on your sensibilities a description of what passes for food here, but I will add that the entire community could greatly benefit if the basics of sanitation and nutrition were roughly understood and practiced.

The other hour was supposedly reserved for recreation, after spending twenty two hours in a cell that measured eight by twelve, this should have been the period of greatest happiness but the system seemed to be created to cause as much friction and violence as possible. Somewhere between two hundred and fifty to three hundred prisoners were released at a time into an area that held one television set and four phones. There was no supervision in this area and there was no time limit set on phone use. This inevitably led to violent confrontations, which amused the guards to no end. I soon realized that this was their period of recreation, not ours. The guards hugely enjoyed violence, as long as it wasn't directed at them.

If you don't intend to be sexually molested, you must fight to defend yourself. After this has happened four or five times the predators leave you alone. The punishment for fighting another inmate is one day in "The Hole" (Solitary Confinement.) However, if you choose to sleep through 'head-count' you are locked away for one or two months in solitary confinement. The message is soon absorbed; Violence is good, passive resistance is very bad.

I watched people change in appalling ways over a period of time as this system took hold of them. It really surprised me that those persons who actually tried to change in a positive manner were actively discouraged. The problem wasn't the inmates, people settled into groups where they were accepted and understood. However, the guards seemed to have a vested interest in keeping people unhappy. There are some deeply disturbed men currently working in the prison system. Anyone who changed very much in a positive way soon found himself in trouble. A little bit of religion was all right if you didn't take it too seriously, and if it was the right kind of dogma.

My first year locked up was spent observing prison life and battling severe mental depression. I read, lifted weights and tried to cope with a system that dehumanized everyone involved with it on either side of the bars.

Things kept getting worse for me; I found no joy in anything at all anymore and soon even my friends began to notice the difference in me. My best friend tried to preach the Bible to me in an effort to instill some hope in me but that had absolutely no effect at all.

I didn't know it yet, but I was about to hit my psychological 'rock bottom' point. From here there would be nowhere for me to go but up. I was about to discover who I really was and why I was here in the world. In a short time I would discover my mission in life and everything would change.
Chapter Three
The Unfolding of the Lotus

There are many possible entrances to the path of truth. During the early days of my prison life I had learned that I could turn my talent for drawing into a profitable sideline by tattooing inmates.

Every convict has some kind of side-job or scam that allows him to earn extra "money." Of course, actually money is not permitted so a kind of barter system has developed over time. Cigarettes are a valuable form of currency so everybody uses cigarettes, even if they don't smoke. Anything of value can be and is used for barter.

If you work in the laundry, even clean uniforms can become part of the complex deals that exist. Most inmates get fresh clothes a few times each week, but some convicts are higher in the prison social order and want clean clothes every day. Having these clean clothes pressed and starched of course sets the individual apart. It is a mark of distinction that proves his special status and demonstrates his power.

To get these uniforms many things can be exchanged, candy bars, cigarettes, illegal dope, weapons, or possibly even simple intimidation. This is only one example of the jailhouse economic structure.

I mention all of this because it was my talent for tattooing others that led me to the Dharma. It seemed like more misfortune when I was caught in the middle of performing my art-the result was sixty days in the hole.

I was now at one of the lowest points in my life-I seemed to be living in the blackest pit of despair. I seriously began to consider suicide as a solution to my endless problems. Many people envision the hole as a place of quiet solitude-it's more like an angry war zone. Inmates spend their time yelling abuse at the guards, flooding their cells by deliberately backing up the toilet in their cell, ripping up paper and throwing it about, or the big favorite, keeping milk until it sours and then throwing it all over the unit's floor.

I didn't really need sixty days of this nonsense to drive me even crazier than I was already. I now realize that there is a point in the human mind that represents the lowest possible state. Sometimes it's necessary for us to reach this condition before we began to fight back. I hit my personal bottom during my first week in the hole and stayed there, exploring the depths until the end of week three.

It was in my last week that something amazing happened to me. I had a dream. It was a peaceful dream about walking on a road, the details aren't very important really; it was the amazing tranquility I experienced that so impressed me. The dream ended with my discovery of some kind of flower that I had never seen before. While the memory of the flower stayed in the back of my mind, it was the peace I felt that really impressed me at the time.

When I was returned to the population my best friend approached me because he wanted a tattoo for his birthday. We had seen a program on the Discovery Channel that showed a picture of an oriental dragon and he wanted that dragon badly.

I tried to draw it on paper, but couldn't get it right, so we went to the library to look for oriental artwork. We searched through numerous books but had no luck. I then decided to try the encyclopedia and to my surprise I discovered the flower that I had dreamed about. This was kind of a weird experience but it was also exciting.

The flower was a Lotus Blossom, which in Buddhism is the symbol of cause and effect. I knew a little bit about Buddhist koans from my friend, Winston, (See, "The Search Within") but I had never encountered a Lotus Flower.

I now became intensely interested in Buddhism and quickly read all of the books available on the subject. However, there wasn't a great deal of information. I did learn about the four noble truths and the eightfold path, as well as the basic teachings on Karma and Rebirth.

Since I had exhausted the teachings available in the library, my next step was to visit the chapel in search of more books. I found one. It was written by a professor who studied Buddhism from the outside as academic research, but it did contain some sutras, which I gleefully copied and studied.

It was at this point that I began my practice of reciting the three jewels (See, "The Search Within") and I made a small shrine in my cell with a picture of the Buddha as the centerpiece. I began to seriously practice everyday and my mind began to heal.

I was discovering that I could exist in this unpleasant environment in a state of mental peace. In a short time my friends began to notice a big difference in me and they wanted to know what had happened. This simple beginning was the start of my teaching ministry.

However, I was hungry for more information and there was nothing available. I looked in a Kansas City Phone Book and found the address for an organization called SGI. I wrote to them asking for books or material that they could give me so that I could continue my studies. I never heard a word from them.

Weeks later, a group in Kansas City called Buddhist Information of North America (BIONA) sent me a letter saying that the SGI had forwarded my letter to them and that they would send me all the material I needed. I requested a few Suttas that I had heard about and later that week I received them!

The person I was writing to at BIONA turned out to be the director, a man named Stephen Klick. I wrote to him asking for more teachings, and he sent me The Heart Sutra and The Diamond Sutra. This was the beginning of my studies of the Mahayana Teachings and they had a dramatic effect on my life and practice.

Of course all students should study both Theravada and Mahayana texts because they are the profound teachings of the Buddha and we need both kinds of teachings to become successful practitioners.

At this point I received another letter from Stephen telling me that he would start a continuous study course for me that would be centered on the teachings of The Threefold Lotus Sutra and the writings of his teacher, Nichiren. He sent me a copy of "The Threefold Lotus Sutra" and some writings of Nichiren called Gosho.

As I studied and practiced my faith began to become strong and I was resolved to follow this path. I became determined to attain enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. I was beginning to transform inside from a hardened convict into a golden lotus flower blossoming in the new morning sun.
Chapter Four
The Tattooed Bodhisattva
After a few months I had acquired a fairly extensive Buddhist library in my cell. I devoted all of my time to the Dharma. Even my art reflected this as I drew nothing but Bodhisattvas or Dharma related symbols. My teacher will not take money from students, nor will he accept donations. I wanted to offer something back to him to show my gratitude and he told me that an example my artwork would be an appropriate gift.

I've sent him two handkerchiefs, which I spent a great deal of time on and he was very grateful. [I've seen them, and they are very beautiful! I am going to ask him to do some artwork for the website - BIONA Webmaster]
It was enormously difficult to practice in a situation where noise and distraction was the rule, rather than an exceptional occurrence. My teacher lives in a world of silence but it was seldom quiet here. I now believe that overcoming this hardship has made my mind and practice stronger.

I learned that noise is not a distraction unless you allow it to disturb your mind. Noise simply is. You can learn a great deal from observing sound. It has a beginning, middle, and end like all phenomena. The sounds that once annoyed me actually helped me to advance in my Dharma practice.

The things my teacher had begun telling me about the four noble truths suddenly became clear to me. The first noble truth is that life is suffering because it is not satisfying. It is fragile and temporary. This is an easy thing to understand in the situation I was in. However, the noise factor suddenly made clear to me what Steve was telling me about the second truth.

The Second noble truth is expressed as the origin of suffering, but what I now directly realized is that extra pain is caused in the mind because we struggle against the nature of whatever reality we experience. Yes, life is inherently suffering, but we make things worse because we cling to mental fantasies and become attached, instead of accommodating ourselves to things as they actually are. The third noble truth is that peace or happiness is not dependant on our environment. You can be happy anywhere because, as my teacher explained to me, "It is not what happens to us, it is how we respond to the things that happen to us that makes us happy or miserable." The fourth noble truth is the eightfold path that shows us how to practice if we truly want to end suffering.
As my understanding of the Dharma grew, Steve made it clear to me that teaching is not an honor it is a responsibility. It is really the next level for any advanced student that wants to continue to learn and develop spiritually.

I accepted the fact that helping others to free themselves from the morass of suffering was my next task, but how was I to accomplish this in such a hellish environment? I had to find a method that would allow me to reach others, but prison is a completely different kind of society so methods considered 'normal' on the outside simply wouldn't work here.
I tried talking to inmates who were obviously in deep states of suffering, but my first efforts met with little success. I decided that I needed something solid that would show I knew what I was talking about before anyone would take me seriously.

So I focused my energies on writing a book, which my teacher promised he would make available to others if it turned out. My efforts were well rewarded when BIONA published "Walking on the Path." The book did well in the world outside of these prison walls and has now been read by thousands of people.

I'm glad that it was able to bring benefit to English speaking people all around the world, but my ministry needed to be centered on the prison population because these people are societies discards, and to me this was intolerable.

My first book gave me a voice that other inmates could suddenly hear. I had something substantial that I could place in their hands. It also showed them that they could accomplish things while sitting in a cell.

It was during my study of "The Lotus Sutra" that I started thinking about expedient means. The Buddha taught people according to their level of understanding. How would Shakyamuni have reached the men in this prison? He would have had to take a unique approach to this particular segment of society, as conventional methods probably wouldn't have worked well. He would have been interested in seeing results, not in whether or not the methods he used broke the conservative teaching mold. I now had an intellectual approach to reach inmates, but very few of the men in here are actually the cerebral scholarly type.

I decided that I must find a way of planting the seed of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo into their lives because it would eventually come to fruition in one lifetime or another if they would only sincerely make the effort to chant even one time. This Buddhism is the doctrine of planting as well as of the harvest. The lotus flower is used as the symbol of this teaching because the lotus produces seeds and fruit simultaneously.

Many Buddhists believe that you create a cause and then later receive an effect. This is simply not the case. Cause and effect are simultaneous; once you make a cause the effect immediately results, although the effect is often stored away as energy until the proper circumstances prevail.

Once again it was tattooing that gave me the opening I needed. I had the mantra tattooed on my back and the results were immediate. Inmates would stop me and ask what the words meant and I would then have the opportunity to talk to them about it. It wasn't hard to get them to repeat the phrase, especially after I explained that they could get good things just by respectfully chanting the words.

I do not recommend this course of action on the outside world, and there are probably teachers who will hear of this and feel that what I did was wrong or disrespectful. My best response to this is that the tactic fit the environment and it worked. It was results I was looking for and I got them. My personal ministry began to grow. When I leave prison I can always preach dharma with my shirt on, so this won't really be a problem.

Tattooing also brought me what I really wanted most, a student who would continue my work when I left here. I met another young man who did tattoo work and we became close friends. At first it was only the tattooing that we shared in common that brought us together but soon he was asking me about the phrase on my back and he became a sincere dharma practitioner. His faith and resolve were soon tested when his beloved father died. His father's death proved a valuable dharma lesson about the transitory nature of all phenomena.

The prison Dharma movement continues to grow at a rapid rate all over the North American continent. While there are some organizations that are supporting this movement the sad truth is that very few teachers are willing to make themselves available to students in prison and that Dharma materials are difficult to come by. It is my hope that books like the one you are currently reading will open the minds and hearts of Dharma practitioners everywhere so that this challenging situation can be overcome.
Chapter Five
Climbing the Mountain
As the Buddhist Movement in our 'home away from home' grew larger we suddenly began to encounter difficulties. At first, we were told that having a room to meet and practice in was not a problem, and then suddenly it proved to be impossible. This certainly was not due to a lack of space, for other religious groups had rooms they were permitted to use.

We began to meet in various cells for practice and study. Initially, this was not a problem. Then we were told that this would have to stop. We held smaller meetings in different places but this was also somehow wrong.

The men who showed serious interest in Buddhist practice were suddenly moved into widely separated locations in different buildings. Books that my teacher mailed to me were now being returned to him, although they had been previously approved.

Several of our members wanted to contact the American Civil Liberties Union and complain about this repressive behavior but I talked them out of it. Buddhism is a way of life and anger didn't seem like an appropriate response to me. When you encounter hatred the best way to respond is with love and tolerance.

Steve told me that if you practice "The Lotus Sutra" and truly propagate it's teachings then you were certain to encounter persecution. However, the prison communally is like a small village and it soon became known that we were talking about the ACLU.

I don't know if that was the reason for the sudden change, but we were told that we could now form a prison Sangha. I immediately set to work on forming a set of guidelines that we could follow. We decided by vote to call ourselves the "Good Virtue Sangha." This was a name that I thought could have been improved upon but doubtless it would have changed over time.

We decided that we would follow the teachings of Nichiren and "The Lotus Sutra." It was also decided that I would create a set of principles for the members of the community to live by.

This was the outline that I came up with.
1. Following the Three Conditions--
Each Member must undertake to:
a. Be Filial and respectful to their parents and Teachers. Further, each member should develop compassion, vow not to kill any living thing, and observe the ten wholesome actions.
b. Take refuge in the triple gem, obey the laws of the land, and always behave in a proper and dignified manner.
c. Generate the Mind of a Bodhisattva, properly understand the law of cause and effect, and encourage others to advance on the path to enlightenment.
2. Follow The Six Principles of Harmony:
3. Following the Three Learning's:

For the next few months this projects was approved several times and then "totally out of the question." By the time the Chaplain took the names of those who definitely wanted to participate the number of men willing to put their name on such a list had dwindled to ten. Convicts can be foolish about some things but if you have not yet developed a sense of survival by the time you enter prison, you are quickly devoured.

It had not escaped their notice that bad things were happening to people considered Buddhist Leaders. Many of the men were quite positive that I was doing extra time because of my activities. They are not the only people who have expressed that opinion.

I wasn't worried about it. Steve pointed out that cause inevitably led to effect and that the people who were behaving in this way would suffer for what they were doing. Why should I be angry or resentful under the circumstances? I honestly wish that they wouldn't have to pay any consequences at all for the things that have happened. I don't want anyone to suffer because of my actions anymore. If there were some way for me to take this evil karma onto my own shoulders I would do so. My earnest wish is that all the people connected with this prison grow into the best people that they can possibly become.

The department of correction was supposed to have made a decision about inmates being allowed to practice Buddhism at their last meeting. They felt that it would be impossible for our faith to be practiced because of a lack of funds within the prison system. When I pointed out that BIONA and other groups would provide all the needed materials free of charge this objection became somewhat silly. None-the-less this argument is still advanced.

After the meeting I was told that no decision had been reached. They intend to discuss this topic again and a decision will be announced sometime near the end of summer. Since my release date is shortly before that time I now suspect that they hope that this problem will leave with me.

It is possible for a lazy man to sweep dirt under his own rug for a time. He then mistakenly believes that he has solved his problem and won't have to make the effort to bend down and remove the mess. Of course, eventually, what he ends up with is a huge mound that must be climbed if he wants to cross the affected area. In essence, he has saved the energy he would have used bending over just so that he can expend even more effort to climb the mountain he created himself. The Dept. of Corrections is smarter than the foolish man in this story; they simply lock the door of the room and convince everybody that there is no reason to go in there anyway.
Chapter Six
Final Thoughts
No conscious self-aware being wants to spend time being unhappy. The quest for happiness is so basic that all people unconsciously live by this philosophy. I've spent a great deal of time reading about philosophic schools of thought and it seems to me that this is the heart of all human and animal behavior.

My teacher laughingly assured me that this makes me an adherent of John Stuart Mill, a philosopher born in 1806. From my reading of the works of Mr. Mill it seems that Stephen is correct, although it struck me rather forcibly that John Stuart Mill did not write for the common man. He seemed to delight in long, obscure sentences that demanded continuous re-reading and the friendly assistance of a good dictionary.

Stephen told me that his works were written more for fellow academics and were not intended for casual reading. This is most assuredly the case.

It had always seemed to me that if you have something to say you can always find a simple way to say it, assuming that you truly understand what it is you're talking about in the first place.

There is enough confusion in the human mind and heart without people deliberately making things more complex then they need to be. It was Alvin Toffler who suggested that modern society is suffering from too many changes coming at us much too quickly. Our species is at a crossroads and whether we climb to the heights or disappear into historical oblivion and vanish from the face of the Earth depends upon the choices we make in the next few decades.

The first chapters of this book dealt with my life and some aspects of my Dharma practice while engaged in a battle against social injustice. I freely admit that I broke the law and should pay some sort of serious penalty for my actions. However, convicts are human and should not be treated like demented animals. If you're going to support or endorse this kind of institutionalized brutality then it should not surprise you when these men and women actually turn into mad beasts that return to severely bite you as often as possible.

Right now our 'free society' sends more people to prison than any other comparable social system by a huge margin and we are not helping or protecting these men and women at all. In fact, we're building more prisons.

While it is true that some people need to be locked away from everyone else that is not true of the majority of prisoners. Prison should be a place where you are trained to be a good citizen and taught how to make an adequate living. When a person is freed, he should repay society for the time, effort, and money we've spent teaching them to behave in a human fashion. Society should not pay for prisons, convicts should.

Why are there television sets in prison? People need to learn to read and understand fundamental things, like basic arithmetic. It is downright simple to let people who already have behavior problems just sit and mentally vegetate.

The current prison system is only one of the many things in our society that does not make sense. Our food supplies are being heavily tainted, our good drinking water must be purchased in bottles because of pollution and global warming is no longer a theory. You can see for yourself how our climate is changing.

The quality of life for the average citizen in the United States is decreasing. Our industries have all emigrated. If World War Two happened today we would be reduced to sending inferior hamburgers and assorted junk food to aid our allies, because that is what our country now produces. Of course, if we could have induced the fascists to eat these things we would have ended the war in a bloodless fashion, probably on our own terms, simply by broadcasting something like, "Surrender now and we'll provide you with all the antacids you need!"

Seriously, our society is drifting aimlessly into major trouble and nobody seems to actually be in charge. Half the population won't take part in elections anymore, mostly because they don't believe that their vote matters.

This kind of apathy is merely a symptom; it is a reflection of the life condition of the people who live in our society. There is an intimate connection between the individual and the environment. This is why my first two books talked about the concept of Ichinen Sanzen. If the hearts and minds of the people who live in North America were healthy, then our environment would reflect this.

The crisis we are experiencing is a direct result of our lack of moral behavior. It is crucial for each one of us to wake up and develop into proper human beings.

The actions that you take after reading this book will have a direct impact on the future of the entire human species. If you do nothing then your lack of effort will greatly contribute to the decline of human kind. Please don't think that what you do is unimportant. Every single one of us must reform their lives if we are to have a viable future on this planet. Everything you do matters because every action has some kind of effect on all of us.

I'm not urging you to do something dramatic, like run for congress. People are overly critical of politicians, but these people are also a reflection of our society. As my teacher points out in his books, political leaders are a product of our society, they aren't a different species, nor do they come from other planets. They are literally representative of what we have created in each district, city and state. They are "we the people." As Walk Kelly wrote, "We have met the enemy and he is us!"

The change that you do need to make is to develop a loving heart. Bart Klick, (the doughnut king himself!) wrote a wonderful book that bears the title, "The Loving Heart," and all of us would do well to read it. If you develop a loving heart this will be reflected in the environment around us.

I remember a story my teacher told me about a young lady who listened to him preach the Dharma one evening, she approached him afterwards and said, "I believe in all the things you were saying tonight, but I have trouble with the concept of karma." Steve asked her why that was, and she said that most of the time cause and effect made perfect sense, but that she couldn't stand the idea of blaming Jewish victims of the Holocaust for the suffering that they had endured. He asked her, "Is it somehow better that they were totally innocent? Why is that better?"

Of course, she was looking for someone to blame, someone she could be angry at, and if the Jews that died had made the causes that led to that particular effect, it changed everything.

Steve emphasized to me that this was why it is important to do more than merely believe in the Buddha's teachings. We must go beyond mere belief to the state of direct realization. When we realize that victims don't just happen then our mind is capable of being clear and we are open to loving everyone.

If we cling to past horrors we could all be angry all the time. Why limit your anger to the Holocaust of World War Two? Many groups were slaughtered before and certainly acts of genocide have been perpetrated in our own lifetime. I've met southern people who still despise 'Yankees' for acts committed during the American Civil War. I've talked to black men who are still angry because their distant ancestors were sold into slavery right after the American Revolutionary War.

If we all look back far enough into history we can find some reason to hate somebody for something! We need to let go of hatred and anger if our species is ever to know peace. Has there ever been one day on this planet when no one was killed?

The day that this happens our species will have taken the next evolutionary step and will have become mature. You can make this happen by eliminating anger and violence from your own life. When enough of us have developed loving kindness as a way of life our entire environment will change. This is so simple and the process begins with you. If you close this book and walk away you are turning your back on all of us. You really are responsible for the future of the human species.


My books seem to be getting smaller all the time. I tell myself that this is because I'm more concise. Probably this is merely a symptom of my inherent laziness. Other writers turn out books with hundreds of pages; perhaps they simply have more to say. I tried to pad this one with lots of extra punctuation, but the BIONA Editors will undoubtedly remove the superfluous additions. Before I end this book, I would like to point out that you can be supportive of the Dharma work that is being done within the prison system.

If you would like to support the growing Dharma movement in prisons, there are practical ways you can assist the people doing this work. To help prisoners in the United States you can contact:

Betty Lu Buck
Buddhist Inmate Sangha
P.O. Box 16
Culp Creek, Or 97427-0016
Betty Lu Buck is the founder of the Buddhist Inmate Sangha and is doing wonderful work. You can send her money, dharma books, dharma tapes, dharma magazines or dharma equipment and she will see that grateful inmates receive them and make proper use of them.

You can help inmates all over the world, including the United States and Canada by supporting the organization I belong to, BIONA. If you wish to support the BIONA Prison Programs please contact:

Stephen L. Klick
12119 West 66th Street
Shawnee, Ks 66216
(913) 268-5722 (Kansas City Area)
(866) 725-0900 (Toll Free in North America)

{These numbers are subject to change because BIONA grows larger all the time and then requires more space, however, you can always find the current numbers on the website, which is always: www.buddhistinformation.com}

BIONA Accepts Dharma Books, which are then promptly mailed to inmates. You can send money by arrangement if you talk to my teacher, Stephen L. Klick, provided that you make it clear that it is for the inmate program. Otherwise, BIONA does not accept donations. You can also send gift certificates for local bakeries in care of "The Doughnut King," Bartholomew M. Klick.

I would like to dedicate any merit attained by the writing of this book for the sake of all sentient beings. My earnest prayer is that all beings become awakened and that they discover the path to peace and happiness. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo - May all beings benefit.