Inside one of the nations toughest and most dangerous prisons, Donaldson Correction Facility, lies the heart of the Buddha.
Dhamma Brothers is an absolutely amazing documentary that follows dharma teachers Bruce Stewart and Jonathan Crowley as they lead a 10 day Vipassana retreat with 36 prisoners. Bruce and Jonathan “camp out” at the prison the whole time during the retreat.
Regardless of the wrongs these men committed they were all on the same playing field during the retreat. There were no murderers, no rapists, no burglars, just 36 men trying there best to truly change the way the live their lives, knowing full well they may never see beyond the prison walls.
The transformation the prisoners go through is awe-inspiring, proving that something is truly lacking in our prison systems. Rather than numbering and cataloging the men and women in our prison systems, given the option to truly change I believe most of them would choose that. Instead of going off on a tirade about that, let’s keep to Dhamma Brothers.
After the Vipissana project really seems to gather some steam in Donaldson, it is shut down almost as quickly as it came. It seems other chaplains, from other religious backgrounds, in Donaldson were complaining that their “congregations” were lacking behind, and more people seemed to be turning onto the Vipissana. So, being a prison in Alabama, an area mostly inhabited by Christians who don’t understand or care to understand anything other than their own religious background, the Vipissana group was extinguished.
Luckily, the administration changed some time after and the program was restored. We see some of the same men from the original retreat show up, years later and still practicing, ready and willing to take on another 10 day retreat.
The Dhamma Brothers has received many awards, as it fully deserves. It is more than worth your time to seek this film out. I went through various emotional changes while watching this, but it all began and ended with happiness. Dhamma Brothers give the viewer faith in humanity, that we all really do have Buddha-nature, regardless of the mistakes we have made. We wouldn’t be human if we didn’t make mistakes, unfortunately some of us make larger one than others, but who is the one to judge that?
I congratulate the teachers and the film makers for taking on such a significant task, you are all truly inspiring, please keep up the great work.
Please watch the trailer for Dhamma Brothers below…