The Buddha in Jail
“Read these stories carefully, a few at a time, and apply them to our encounters with those who have acted badly, those we don’t particularly like, and ourselves, for all these dialogues are taking place within each of us all the time.” ―Roshi Joan Halifax
“In The Buddha in Jail, Cuong Lu demonstrates how to be in a helping relationship without getting caught in roles. As a prison chaplain, he did not attach to the idea of being a helper, or even of ‘helping.’ He sat quietly, deeply present with each inmate, and saw each of them as a soul, not just their personality or their troubled past. By dwelling in love with each person, accepting them without judgment, one by one they transformed, and their recidivism was close to zero. I congratulate Cuong Lu for the depth of his prison ministry and this beautiful book.” ―Ram Dass, author of Be Here Now and Walking Each Other Home: Conversations on Loving and Dying
“To free ourselves, we have to unlock the doors from within. Chaplains like Cuong Lu play an essential role in freeing those in prison from their inner demons, offering guidance, support, and loving kindness, teaching stillness and self-reflection, learning to connect with their fierce and loving hearts. I highly recommend The Buddha in Jail, a good read and a great resource for understanding prisoners and for finding the keys to the prisons in our own minds.” ―Spring Washam, author of A Fierce Heart: Finding Strength, Courage, and Wisdom in Any Moment
A Buddhist teacher shares insights into the prisoner’s mindset, something with implications for us all, whether or not we are in a conventional jail
As a prison chaplain, Cuong Lu discovered that when the men inside allowed themselves to feel their pain―including remorse for committing crimes―knowing and feeling the truth became a source of strength for them.
This is a book of fifty-two vignettes―stories and teachings about Lu’s six years as a prison chaplain. He found that when the inmates felt listened to, understood and not judged, it transformed their sense of who they are, and as a result changed their attitudes and their behavior.
Cuong Lu opens our eyes beyond prejudice to see others―and ourselves―in a larger perspective. When we look at prisoners without judgment, we connect with those we might never know, and with our own basic goodness. The message of The Buddha in Jail is one of redemption.
This book is not just about the prisoners. It’s about all of us. We’re all caught in distorted and limiting ideas of ourselves. We don’t believe freedom and happiness are attainable. But when we come to believe in ourselves, we discover the freedom and happiness already within. Cuong Lu shows us that this approach works. It can be applied to all prisons, and also to our own lives.