The Buddha in Jail, Cuong Lu
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Cuong Lu

The Buddha in Jail

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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.

“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
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happiness is available when you know who you are and no longer have the illusion of a separate self, when you recognize the penetrating interconnection between yourself and all of life
Facing suffering, he says, getting beneath defenses and resistance to non-denial of even our most painful memories and experiences, can in itself be a source of happiness.
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