One City

A guest post by Damaris Williams.
On February 6, IDP premiered its first Salon night, featuring a showing of the Dhamma Brothers film. I quickly asked Ethan if I could write something about it. I hadn’t seen the movie, but I knew I could easily relate to those men in prison. I had grown up in the South Bronx during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and had experienced as well as witnessed enough violence and confusion to understand the pressures and limitations these men have faced.

I also knew it would be tough to watch because people I love have been incarcerated and some still are. I have spent many nights wondering if they would take to meditation and the Buddha. If they would be willing to step out of their social and cultural boundaries to enter in a place that mainly consists of very different people.
So sitting there next to Stillman, David, and the other good sangha folk I found myself unprepared for what I would experience. What I felt was a continuous sadness and an unbounded sense of gratitude that has lasted through today.
The sadness comes from knowing how lost a soul can be, and the desperation that arises in an effort to relieve the suffering. From OB’s story to Rick’s, each of those men told a story that reverberated into my heart, my past, and my family.
I can’t tell you about the lives of people who have done great harm. That is something they must share with people who can understand. It’s their choice to tell. I also can’t tell you to forgive or understand. There have been many moments in my life when I simply could not forgive the ignorance, the stupidity, and simply put…. the crime. That is until one day I found myself lost, and by a miracle… yes you heard right… a miracle, I was spared. I had IDP to go to.
Seeing those beautiful faces brought me back to my own choices. The enormous gratitude for the moments and people who brought me to a place where I could walk through the sangha doors. Gratitude for this mind which somehow, without really knowing, remained faithful to this heart despite any indication it just might be a lost cause.
The effort to get here wasn’t easy, and it takes a lot of work to remain.
(Please see my first blog for a sample – But before you do; practice some Metta. I’ve been told it has impact.)
So I wonder, will those men hold out? Will they quietly work to find the dharma?
And my questions to you:
How do you feel about prisoners learning the dharma?
Do you think you can you can let them in your sangha, your space?
Can you see the wisdom in the words of that uneducated, possibly illiterate man or woman?
Because truthfully, I’ve been with many different people and have learned wisdom is sometimes in the most unlikely people.
What I learned in my life and after watching the Dhamma Bros is that I need them here with me. Just like I need you.
The Rising – Bruce Springsteen
Cant see nothin in front of me
Cant see nothin coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I cant feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far Ive gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my backs a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile of line
Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

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