Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

Reprinting the Engaged Zen Foundation's Chaplaincy Guidelines

I’m a big believer in prison work around spirituality.

I had both the fortune and misfortune of working with inmates in the Washington State prison system a bit over five years ago. This was with pagan inmates at McNeil Island. The head chaplain of this organization later became slightly infamous for his less than ambivalent relationship to non-Christian groups there (he has since retired). I found it to be very challenging and difficult, emotionally, even though it wasn’t difficult work in other ways. The only reason why it was unfortunate was simply because I was strongly transitioning to my developing Buddhist practice at the time, away from my existing pagan practice and history, but I was thrust into a role as a representative of Wicca and pagandom in general in trying to support the inmates. I had initially agreed to help a friend by acting as his support and backup and he was then, on fairly little notice, deployed to Iraq, leaving me with the bag. I maintained things for a while but had to eventually quit as my heart was no longer within that spirituality and I could not fairly represent it or teach it.

As part of my practice of Zen, I have been planning to work with inmates for some time. I’ve spoken briefly with a few parties about it and have at least one outstanding discussion with someone working at San Quentin waiting to happen as I write this.

For these men and women stuck in these institutions, there is a focus and an immediacy to aspects of life that is often missing in “normal” life. Spirituality comes into a sharp focus for some, with so much time to think, such limited circumstances, and an obvious reason to question what they have done before. I think it is very important to support these people as much as possible as they live an existence that brings so much obvious crap to the forefront. In this situation, even more than many other forms of Buddhism, I think that all forms of Zen have a lot to offer in its directness.

Earlier today, I received e-mail from Kobutsu Malone of the Engaged Zen Foundation. I had communicated with him a few times recently and in one of them, I had asked about the availability of the Prison Chaplaincy Guidelines for Zen Buddhism. This is a book that he produced a few years ago and I had been wanting to read it. Alas, it was well out of print, Rev. Kobutsu told me. Today, he sent out a missive to people to try to raise funds for its reprint. I want to share this with you and strong encourage everyone to give, even a little, to this effort. I have sent in a donation and I hope that others will do the same.

The following is what he sent:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

It has been a long time since The Engaged Zen Foundation has put out an appeal for funding. EZF has been surviving on the donations of a very small number of individuals and frequent infusion of funds from my limited, fixed income. Since most of the work of EZF now focuses on correspondence practice and providing Buddhist written materials to prisoners there has not been an urgent need for the solicitation of funding.

The EZF book; Prison Chaplaincy Guidelines for Zen Buddhism has been out of print and unavailable for a year now and numerous requests for the volume have gone unfulfilled. At this point in time EZF is determined to raise the necessary funds to reprint the volume and requires an infusion of $1800.00 to enable this endeavor.

We are calling upon our friends and supporters to assist us in raising the funds for a second printing of Prison Chaplaincy Guidelines for Zen Buddhism. Please assist us in this effort to help make this valuable text available to prisoners, volunteers and interested parties. Tax deductible donations can be made to EZF via credit card or PayPal by clicking here:

Alternately, donations may be made by check to:

The Engaged Zen Foundation
Post Office Box 213
Sedgwick, ME 04676 USA