Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Dhamma Brothers

This documentary tells the story of a Vipassana meditation program in an Alabama correctional facility, focusing on a small handful of inmates, all convicted of murder, who undergo the intensive training. Ten days of silence and meditation has a significant impact on many of the inmates, who give themselves the title 'The Dhamma Brothers'. The film also explores the presence of this Eastern philosophical program in the Deep South and the resistance the program receives from the prison administrators (including the outright banning of the program at one point).

My Thoughts:
It was quite moving to see these big tough men settled down on their cushions for their meditation practice, and very arresting to hear them speak openly about their crimes and lives before prison. The program did seem to create real and lasting change for at least some of these men, at least in the time frame where they were followed by the documentary. It seems to me like this program could be very helpful to other inmates, and I hope things like this spread to other correctional facilities.

Discussion Points:
  • Describe the relationship between a program like Vipassana and religious traditions like Christianity or Buddhism.
  • Why was the program banned in the prison? Do you think this was a fair thing to do? Is this an example of ethnocentrism?
  • Do we as a society have a responsibility to treat prisoners' emotional problems? Do we have a responsibility to provide rehabilitation?
  • How do we view violent offenders in our society?
Website here
Runtime: 76 minutes
Streaming on Netflix: yes

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