Rehabilitation of Prisoners through Vipassana Meditation

M. W. Jayasundara

Abstract


The prison authorities in Sri Lanka as well as in other countries such as Indiahave emphasized the use of religious practices and religious teachings in discipliningand rehabilitating prisoners. As most of the individuals tend to commit crimes owing tosome mental problems, meditation can be the best remedy for the mentally andspiritually sick prison inmates to get rid of their wrong perceptions.

Vipassana is the method of meditation often practiced in prisons. Vipassanameans “insight” into the impermanent nature of mind and body. It is a way of selftransformation through self observation and introspection. It deeply focuses on theinterrelationship between mind and body, which can be perceived directly bydisciplined attention to the physical sensations of the body that continuouslyinterconnect and condition the state of the mind. In Sri Lanka, where Buddhism is themain religion of the majority, the Buddhist teaching and practices have made aconsiderable impact upon prisoners for their rehabilitation. This study explored theimpact of Vipassana meditation practices in changing prisoners‟ behavior and theirwrong attitudes. During the months of June and July in 2011, the data were gathered byinterviewing 48 prisoners who had been imprisoned in Bogambara prison in Kandy, SriLanka. The data were concerning the perceived changes in behavior and attitudes ofprisoners caused by the practice of Vipassana meditation.

The majority of prisoners said that they were able to sleep peacefully withouthaving nightmares and physical pains and with increased appetite after meditationpractices. The other beneficial effects of meditation were that it helped prisoners to getrid of their addiction to smoking, drugs and alcohol, improve their discipline,experience in spiritual and behavioral changes, giving up hatred and revenge, andbecoming vegetarians.

Key words: Vipassana, Meditation, Prisoners, Rehabilitation, Mind


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