Prison Dharma Network

For a while now I have been hearing about the Prison Dharma Network. The PDN (you get the pseudonym so from here on out that’s how I’ll refer to the organization) has been around for many years and was founded by Fleet Maul. I’d go more into detail, but that’s why there’s links, go ahead click them and read more. The basic idea behind PDN is to reach out to those who may not have a direct link to Dharma teachings and that would like to be. People that want to get involved are pre-screened and than given information about prisoners looking to correspond with someone.

At first I was a bit unsure whether or not to get involved, but than I thought, why not? Why shouldn’t I? As someone who sees the value and effect the Dharma has on someone, me being that someone, why should others not be able to access the same information and benefit from it? We are all human, we all make mistakes, I’ve even made a few.

It took me some time to come to terms with the fact these guys or gals, were incarcerated. Some of them for crimes we as a “society” find deplorable by “moral” standards. And while we may think these people cannot possibly seek a transformation to basic goodness, the fact of the matter is, as a civil society they should be just as able as we are to turn their lives around. Like I said, yes they have done things our court system has found them guilty of doing, particularly things that are against the “law”. Mahayana Buddhists believe that we all (every sentient being) have “buddha nature“, or the potential to become enlightened beings. I don’t lean on one particular tradition, but I really like this teaching from the Mahayana tradition. I truly believe that we all do have this ability to awaken, we just have not woken up. Some of us are so deeply asleep we commit actions we regret. Maybe, we need to fall asleep in order to wake up. Like the saying, we all fall down it’s the one’s who get back up that are the strong. So do I believe we all can awaken, and want to awaken, but don’t know it? Yes I do.

So after reading up on it a bit more I decided to apply. I received word that my application was accepted and was given a list of people who were looking for Dharma “pen pals”. I picked one to correspond with and wrote a letter that day. Basically I just said who I was, how I got their name, added a little personal background (but not to much) and asked if they were interested in starting a correspondence course. The PDN will send the “prisoner” and “volunteer” the same material/books to read and discuss. After a while I received a response. I honestly got impatient, thinking this perso was not interested in corresponding, it took nearly 2 months for the reply. What I didn’t take into account was the fact, maybe he didn’t have any stamps? And that was the case. So from now on, it’s a self addressed stamped envelope with every letter, which is just fine by me.

I picked a book I thought might be interesting to go over with my new Dharma “pen pal” and am now working on a reply letter to him. I hope to fill you all in more on how it goes, recommend that you do the same thing. It doesn’t take much effort to write a letter to someone, maybe they don’t have anyone to write to and feel like noone cares. Well, we all do right? So why not get involved! I’d be interested to hear who takes on the task and how your experience goes. And if you have already been involved in something like this, please tell your story, I’d love to read it.

So until next time, be well and safe.


  1. Kelly, thanks for the great comment. The last part you wrote got me, “…we didn’t live through what ever it was that took a perfect, innocent baby and turned him or her into a broken individual…” That is absolutely true, to it’s deepest core.

  2. I certainly agree that everyone has the ability to awaken–some are just more deeply asleep than other. Others have been so damaged by society and their upbringing that it is like they are in a coma. It is easy to feel compassion for someone who is more easily lovable–but I do believe in the inherent goodness of humanity and see people who commit crimes as having been damaged, hurt. We weren’t there for their lives, we didn’t live through what ever it was that took a perfect, innocent baby and turned him or her into a broken individual lashing out at people and society.

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