Doing Time, Doing Vipassana : Vipassana Meditation in Prison

In the mid-1970s Vipassana was first tried within a prison environment with two 10 day courses being conducted for jail officials and inmates of a prison in Jaipur in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Despite the success of those courses, no further jail courses were conducted in India for almost 20 years. In 1993 a new Inspector General of Indian prisons, Kiran Bedi, was appointed and in the process of trying to reform the harsh Indian penal system, she learned about the earlier Vipassana courses and requested that additional courses be conducted in the largest prison in India, Tihar Jail outside of New Delhi.

The results were dramatically successful. Based upon the success of these courses, another course was conducted in April 1994 by Goenkaji and a number of his assistant teachers for over one thousand inmates of Tihar prison with wonderful benefit for all of those who participated.

During the following winter of 1994-95, the Israeli filmmakers traveled to both Tihar and to the Baroda Jail in the India state of Gujarat, at which Vipassana courses had also been conducted. There they conducted and filmed extensive interviews with jail officials, including Karen Bedei, and inmates from many different countries who participated in the courses. The result of these efforts was an extremely powerful 52-minute documentary film entitled Doing Time, Doing Vipassana. The film describes the way in which Vipassana has been successfully used within the Indian prison system to dramatically change the behavior and attitude of the inmates and jailers who participated in the courses and, thereby, improve the entire atmosphere of the prisons.

Doing Time, Doing Vipassana has been broadcast in many diverse international markets including the following stations and networks: PBS  USA; NHK  Japan; YLE  Finland; TSI  Switzerland; DR TV  Denmark; Channel 8 ? Israel; and TV Poland. The film also won the prestigious Golden Spire Award at the 1998 San Francisco International Film Festival. The Festival’s management wrote as follows about the jury’s decision:

In giving Doing Time, Doing Vipassana its top honor, the jury for the category stated:

The jury was moved by this insightful and poignant exposition on Vipassana. The teaching of this meditation as a transformation device has many implications for people everywhere, providing the cultural, social, and political institutions that can embrace and support its liberating possibility.

Doing Time, Doing Vipassana is also proving to be a very effective tool in bringing about the introduction of Vipassana meditation courses into the prison systems of other countries. Such courses have now been given in the prisons in the United States and in other countries with wonderful results.


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