In early Buddhism we see that characters like:

In recent times we have seen S.N.Goenka doing prison courses. Also there are new perspectives in correction discussed in talks like: The neuroscience of restorative justice.

So how can Buddhism be used for the correction of people, and how does this compare with other developments in this area using lessons and teachings from within the Tripiṭaka?

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    I wonder why someone downvoted this question, I thought I was quite an interesting one. I do believe there are meditation courses set up for inmates in Europe and America, so this does seem apt and relevant.
    – DirkM
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 12:17
  • I am also trying to figure why the down votes. Some comments could have helped. If improvements are needed you can edit the question. Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 13:37
  • I know nothing about the topic, so I couldn't tell the difference between this question and google.com/search?q=prison+buddhism ? Because the question is open (apparently any answer related to Buddhism and prison might be on-topic) therefore it's "too broad". The only difference between a google search and positing here is that here you're only polling for opinions of the people who happen to use this site, and to that extent you seem to be looking for answers that are somewhat subjective or opinion-based.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 14:30
  • So is the question, "What does the historical Tripitaka say about how to reform killers and criminals? Does the Tripitaka contain relevant advice and/or stories?" And/or are you looking for stories and/or lessons from modern practical experience?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 14:47
  • I am looking for application from the Tripitaka to reform people. Also how this comparer with modern developments. Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 15:38

2 Answers 2


I didn't down vote! I would say that the Buddha and the Buddha's system are not ways to reform people, they are ways for people to reform themselves.

What the Buddha did in cases like Angulimala was to perceive the particular approach which would be met with a comprehension that lead to their change or understanding of the goal. And this also usually under circumstances of compassion specific to the individual.

The idea of reforming people involves ambition, desire, wanting, etc. I think the distinction applies especially in cases such as prison reform. The lack of a specific target and certainty that one is providing an approach that will lead to attainment of the reform tells me that what is at work in a case like that is personal ambition rather than compassion.

When the Buddha speaks of the good man being of benefit to gods and men, he is speaking about the example they set. From the good example people reform themselves.

So, I suppose I would give as answer to this question: the best method for providing an opportunity for people to reform themselves is by being a good example.

  • Is there any reason to imagine that people are aware of your good example, and motivated to believe that they can and should follow your example? Does "compassion" suggest that you essentially ignore these people, and go about your own life, until or unless they want to ask how to follow your example?
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 17:55
  • I object to having my comment limited in length! Apologies if it is against the rules, but I will break it up into three comments. The individuality is an illusion. What that illusion is founded on is mind. That mind is omnicient. People, individuals, have been seeking an escape from rebirth since the beginning of time. Unconsciously they will be aware of the individual who has found a solution to this problem. Another way of saying that is that people are aware of everything at one level.
    – user2418
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 18:28
  • I would not say compassion suggests ignoring people, but it is definately a different thing than trying to mess with other people's lives. Crusading for the benefit of the world. Etc.
    – user2418
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 18:28
  • What you definately see in the example of the Buddha as we find it in the suttas is that he responds. To questions and to situations where he perceives 'the ripeness' of an individual to receive a custom-tailored instruction. Within the sangha and at 'meetings' he will give a spontaneous dissertation, but here there is an implicit request for him to teach.
    – user2418
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 18:28
  • Thank you for your explanation. One way I like to deal with the comment-length limitation can be to edit/add to the answer, instead of trying to reply in comments.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 18:43

I guess it can be difficult to make a connection with people. Maybe they're not interested in Buddhism. How then can you talk with them?

Here is a short story of a venerable teaching blues harmonica to the people at a juvenile detention centre ("juvenile detention" implies "young criminals"):

In addition to his other duties Kusala Bhikshu gave presentations in the Los Angeles County Central Juvenile Hall on Buddhism, and meditation for four years, and for a year taught Blues Harmonica at a juvenile probation camp in Malibu, CA. Before his work in juvenile hall, and the probation camp, he spent one year as a volunteer at the Los Angeles County State Prison for men. In December of 1998 Kusala was given the “Good Samaritan of the Year” award for his work in juvenile hall by the Los Angeles County Probation Department.

In March of 2000 Kusala ended his volunteer work at Central Juvenile Hall, and accepted an invitation from the Garden Grove Police Department to become a police chaplain. Meditation, and yoga are still being taught at Central Juvenile hall thanks to the dedicated effort of various Buddhist volunteers and yoga teachers.

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