In accordance with the Austin Zen Center’s endeavor to relieve suffering through social action based on practices that develop mental resilience and altruism, we help inmates cultivate wholesome changes of mind and behavior that facilitate a more positive experience during incarceration and a successful re-entry into society. This is done through two different programs: Prison BuddhaPals and Prison Instruction.
If you feel that you may be interested in participating as a volunteer or a pen-pal please email using our Contact Us page.
One of the easiest ways to participate in prison outreach is to become a BuddhaPal. This involves corresponding with an inmate who has requested a Buddhist pen-pal. Letters are sent to the Austin Zen Center and picked up at the Center so as to ensure everyone’s safety. There are guidelines for this relationship.
This relationship has often proven to be beneficial both for the inmate and for the BuddhaPal Pen-pal.
Many interested inmates have been practicing for several years, and some have taken the precepts in prison. They are wonderful people who have some problems, much like the rest of us. As prisoners they are very connected to their suffering, which can be a fruitful place of practice.
For those interested in writing to prisoners who are interested in learning more about Zen Buddhist practice, contact Daniel. Donations of Dharma books for prisoners are also welcome.
For those looking to become even more involved with the prison population, AZC has had members who functioned as volunteer meditation/Buddhism teachers in area prisons and the center has an ongoing interest in supporting this sort of work. For the right practitioner, teaching in prison can be a wonderful form of practice and service.
That said, although many people feel called to serve this community, it is not for everyone. We ask that everyone who considers volunteering to serve in this way has the resources and resiliency required for this work, including having a daily meditation practice, a basic understanding of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, and the availability to check in regularly with AZC Leadership or with designated members who have experience in this sort of work.