The Buddhist Prison Fellowship (BPF) is a non-profit national organization, founded in 2010, by the Buddhist Faith
Fellowship, the flagship sangha and headquarters of the North American Shin Buddhist Association (NASBA), located in Middletown,
Our mission is to be a catalyst for spiritual healing and transformation through the power of Great Compassion as conveyed
by the Shin Buddhist teachings and practices. Our ministry assists incarcerated
men and women to uncover their inner potential of understanding and compassion, through the Light of Other Power and also
to give them the support in handling the spiritual struggles and challenges of prison life as well as their eventual release
into the community.
WHAT DO WE DO?
Our Fellowship works with incarcerated men and women throughout the United States so that they may understand the deep
roots of their suffering and resulting choices, and to experience the transformative Light of the Great Compassion and Love
that ceaselessly seeks to liberate all of us. This light is not of our own design
but is the graceful and liberating Light of Other Power, symbolized by Amida Buddha, Through exposure to the teachings and
deep listening to the Light within, prisoners will be enabled to cope with the challenges of incarceration and be better prepared
for release back into the community so that they think, act and live in a new way, from their authentic selves, for the benefit
of all sentient beings.
In order to carry out our mission, the Buddhist Prison Fellowship uses the successful courses from our affiliated educational
organization, the New England Institute for Buddhist Studies, located in Middletown, Connecticut. The courses run sequentially
starting with Be Free where You Are, a small booklet that tells how to be free even behind walls. The courses create the environment to let the transformative Light of Other Power shine forth and to help
prisoners develop the spiritual tools and life skills that can increase their chances to become fruitful citizens in and outside
the correctional system.
After prisoners are released, the Fellowship continues to help them walk the lay Buddhist path while facing the stigma
and challenges of the outside world. In this phase, our ministry freely offers spiritual support to Fellowship members by
helping them maintain and grow in their faith and practice with the goal of preventing relapse.
The importance of a teacher or guide is paramount to successfully walking the Buddha’s path. In the spirit of
the Pure Land (Shin) tradition, prisoners are given a kalyanamitra, good spiritual
friend, who serves as a trusted guide and contact, who gives compassionate support and assists in promoting the inner spiritual/religious
growth of the prisoner.
Volunteer mentors are all certified instructors from our affiliated organization, the New England Institute for Buddhist
Studies. BPF mentors are dedicated to take the compassion of Amida Buddha, and
the teachings of the dharma behind prison walls.
All courses come from the New England Institute for Buddhist Studies. After reading Be
Free Where You Are, we start our prisoners off with the Buddhism 101 Course in which they learn about the life of the
historical Buddha, the examples of his disciples, the Eightfold Path, mindfulness and prayer practice, Zen meditation and
the teachings of Shin Buddhism which are geared for lay people. Later, if the
student wishes, there are other courses to take that will deepen the knowledge, practice of and experience with the dharma.
Courses are via correspondence only. Mentors send the assignments via mail or email (if available to prisoners). Once completed, prisoners send back the finished assignment to the mentor and the
process continues until all of the books and assignments are done. The Buddhism
101 Course has a 6 month duration but due to many challenges in prison life extensions are accepted
To learn more about the Buddhism 101 Course and other courses offered at the New England Institute for Buddhist Studies,
visit its web site at http://dharmaquest.bffct.net/
For our prison community, the courses are free of charge. Mentors are
certified volunteers from the New England Institute for Buddhist Studies. Course books are donated by family members, friends
and/or our prison fellowship.
HOW TO GET STARTED?If you know of an
incarcerated man or woman who is open to learning and practicing the teachings of the Buddha, please have them contact us
directly and/or through your generous support. In addition, if you wish to know
more about our prison ministry, feel free to contact us. We will do whatever we can to help your friend or love one get started
in receiving the transformative teachings of the Buddha. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org