Gateway Journal

Summer 1998-Journal of The Engaged Zen Foundation-Volume 1, Number 4
Peace Activist
Buddhism and Capital Punishment
New York Zen
Grazia Ciccio!
From The Editor
Journey to Zazen
Our Task is to Tell the Stories
Zen Karmics™
My Buddy Ed
Grants & Gifts
Prison Reading List
So-long Jusan...
Contributers to Gateway

Peace Activist

by Jarvis Masters

Death Row, San Quentin

When I awoke in the early morning to begin my meditation practice, I tried to envision myself as a peace activist in the rough neighborhood of my prison tier. The night before, the once-empty cell adjacent to mine had been filled with the raging of a new inmate. Although his loud voice had filtered into my deep sleep, I refused, as I did every night, to awaken, to lose that very comfortable place that finally made sleeping on a hard concrete prison floor easy.

Now, in the light of dawn appearing in the window opposite my cell, I quietly placed my folded blanket on the cold floor. My new neighbor began to scream again. “I kill you ... I kill you all, you damn sons a bitches, if y’all don’t let me out of here!”

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New York Zen

by Yogen Donald Wise

Elmira Correctional Facility, Elmira NY

My name is Yogen Donald Wise. I am a Zen Buddhist practitioner presently incarcerated by the New York State Department of Correctional Services. For me, Buddhism has enabled me to witness the transformation of my personality. Through the practice of zazen (zen meditation) I have been able to see a ray of sunlight in the depths of hell. I am grateful to several volunteer zen teachers operating in the New York prisons, Rev. Yoshin Radin, Rev. Kobutsu Malone, Rev. Saman Sodo and E-Kun Liz Potter.

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Grazia Ciccio!

by Adriano Sofri

I would like to tell you about a prison guard nicknamed Ciccio (Fatso) in Bergamo Prison, Italy.

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From the Editor

by Rev. Kobutsu Malone

Vice President, EZF

Gateway Journal is back! We have not published in over a year due to funding and personal illness. Hopefully with this new issue we will be able to begin regular publication on a more timely basis. The past year has been one of discovery and recovery for me personally. Experiencing Jusan Frankie Parker’s execution in the summer of 1996 was devastating. After Jusan’s death I was left with piles of unpaid bills and prison ministry work neglected in my absence. I was also faced with many uncertainties about what had happened, my part in it and the sense that I had been forced to accept the task of redefining my work. The issue of the death penalty arose through our contact with Jusan and our direct experiences with the death penalty process.

For me, there were many times I felt that I stepped beyond the bounds of “engaged” involvement into attachment. I have certainly learned to examine my activity somewhat more carefully. Indeed, learning is an integral facet of “engaged” zen practice. Just because we adopt an “engaged” attitude does not indicate that we have cornered the market on wisdom! For example, the other night, with some friends, I listened to a tape recorded at the news conference held minutes after Jusan’s execution. After the news conference, a radio reporter walked up to me privately and asked me if I felt any personal resentment toward Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee over Jusan’s execution. My answer was a sharp “no.” The answer defused the reporter’s “angle,” yet now, when I listen to it, that “no” seems to convey tremendous anger. So, for me, such things arise constantly, presenting living koans (instructive puzzles) in my life.
Engagement in social action perhaps can be related to enmeshment, as in the intermeshing of the teeth of gears, the interleaving of parts without restriction of motion. Engagement is a process of communication, of transmission of motion. Attachment, on the other hand, means that motion is blocked, even impossible, things are frozen, welded solid so that they can not move, they can not transmit motion. Likewise, detachment in the social realm prevents motion, because without contact there is no way that communication can take place.

At its root, social engagement involves risk, sticking one’s head out, standing naked in the street, so to speak. Engagement requires learning to move through situations with grace, while contributing wisdom and compassion, rather than being attached to, or avoiding, the world in all its manifestations.

The past year I became ill to the point that I was hospitalized and finally, after extensive testing, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia syndrome. The effects of this disease prevented me from working as an engineer, which is what I did to maintain my family and fund many of our EZF activities.

I have worked with my hands since I was 17 years old, starting out as a machinist and working my way into engineering and design. The disease has affected my ability to use my hands and perform physical tasks. It has affected me neurologically, such as difficulty with memory and dealing with numbers. My sleep has been severely disrupted often leaving me exhausted. Most significantly, I am unable to sit zazen with the physical stamina I previously had.

At first, the sickness was depressing and confusing. I indulged in feeling sorry for myself and slipped into real depression. Doctors have no answers and no cures. I have been given numerous drugs, none of which has been very helpful, and some of which have been downright nasty. There have been times I have just wanted to give up and die. And yet, as time has passed, it has become clear, or I understand in a different way, that life goes on...

E-Kun and many other friends have helped me gain a more balanced perspective and urged me to take a much closer look inside myself. It has become obvious that I am not meant to return to a full time engineering position. In a way, the sickness has forced me to realize that what I need to be doing is this, working for EZF: publishing Gateway Journal, answering your letters, sending out books, counseling death row prisoners and maintaining prison zendos.

When I first became ill I was able to work only a few hours each day. As time has progressed, I became able to spend more time working. I still require periodic rest during the day, but I am now starting to be able to meet all of the challenges of our work. What a magnificent feeling!

Grants and Gifts

The Engaged Zen Foundation has received grant funding from four sources for 1998. We have received a grant for office supplies from The Lynn Hogan Legacy through the efforts of Sister Helen Prejean. The Threshold Foundation has granted EZF $12,500, which has been used for purchasing a desktop publishing system and funding for publications. The Center on Crime Community & Culture of the Open Society Institute has granted $40,000 to EZF, to be used for salary and operating expenses. A grant from an anonymous source through The Tides Foundation for $10,000, directed toward salary and operating expenses, has just been received. We are profoundly grateful for these gifts, particularly at this time, when we have so many new ideas and such an incredible increase in interest from prisoners nationwide.

A Journey to Zazen

by Thomas Haney

ADTC Avenel, NJ

I cannot remember ever feeling whole and good about myself, or a time when I felt that there was not something wrong with me. As a child I always felt different. By the time I was ten years old I was having violent and deviant thoughts regularly. I have been hurting people and destroying things ever since. Part of me enjoyed what I was doing. Part of me hated what I was doing. I started thinking of myself as two people and as crazy. I did not know how to stop the violent thoughts and felt that it was my lot in life to be a violent, disgusting person.

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Our Task is to Tell the Stories

by Sister Helen Prejean

author of Dead Man Walking

The deepest message of all faiths is that we are all brothers and sisters. The death penalty says to us, "except for him, except for her."

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Zen Karmics™

art © 1995-1998 by G. Duncan Eagleson
text ©1995-1998 by Kobutsu Malone

Click on these small graphics to view the full size images

Buddhism & Capital Punishment

by Damien P. Horigan, Esq.

There is a global trend against capital punishment. Most nations in the developed world and an increasing number of nations in the developing world have officially abolished the death penalty. Similarly, there is an abolitionist movement in the realm of international law. However, matters are quite different in the United States where the United States Supreme Court in Gregg v. Georgia permitted the resumption of executions by the states after the hiatus brought about by Furman v. Georgia.

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My Buddy Ed

by Steven W. Hawkins, Esq.

I first met Edward Horsley in 1989 as a young attorney nearly fresh out of law school. I had been at my job for less than a month when I found myself on a plane to southern Alabama to represent my first client on death row. As I drove up to the prison and presented myself to the visitation officer, I had no idea what to expect. The local papers had described the person whom I was about to meet as a hideous fiend, someone beyond the reach of civilization. I knew that a sixteen-year-old white female had been killed and that two African American youths were involved. Both had received the death penalty and, after many years of litigation, were entering their last round of appeals in federal court. I had been asked to represent one of them.

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Contributers to Gateway

Thomas Haney is a prisoner in the Adult Diagnostic and Treatment Center in Avenel, New Jersey. He has been incarcerated for 16 years. Tom is a sangha member of the Flowering Dogwood Zendo at ADTC and has just recently taken part in the Three Refuges ceremony.

Steven W. Hawkins is an attorney-at-law and the Executive Director of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in Washington, DC. He has served as an associate counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Mr. Hawkins has represented persons under sentence of death in state, federal and military courts. He was recently selected as a Next Generation Leadership Fellow by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Damien P. Horigan is an attorney-at-law and a college instructor in Honolulu, Hawaii. He grew up mostly in the Hawaiian Islands, but he has also lived in other parts of the world including Seoul, South Korea. Although aware of Buddhism from his childhood in Hawaii, it wasn’t until his late teens that he felt seriously drawn to Buddhism. Mr. Horigan is most comfortable with the Korean Buddhist tradition which mixes Zen, Pure Land, and other elements.

Jarvis Jay Masters is a death row prisoner housed in San Quentin’s Adjustment Center, a maximum-security housing unit for both death row and other high-security prisoners. Jarvis has recently completed a collection of essays on his practice, published as Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row by Padma Publishing, Junction City, CA. This article is reprinted from Finding Freedom with permission from Jarvis and Padma.

Helen Prejean, C.S.J. is the author of Dead Man Walking, which was released as a major motion picture in 1996. Sister Helen has recently been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. A writer, lecturer, and community organizer, she has lived and worked in Louisiana all her life. Sister Helen has witnessed the executions of four people. She is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille.

Adriano Sofri is a prisoner in Pisa, Italy. “Grazia Ciccio!” is an excerpt from a speech he made in 1993 on prison conditions in Italy.

Yogen Donald Wise is a prisoner in the New York State Department of Correctional Services. He is serving his 19th year of a 25 year-to-life sentence. Yogen has been practicing zen in prison for 15 years.

Prison Reading List

The following list of books are suggested titles that we have found most helpful to incarcerated practitioners.

Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism by Chögyam Trungpa.
Meditation in Action by Chögyam Trungpa.
The Path to Bodhidharma by Shodo Harada
What The Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula.
Zen Mind Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki.
The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau.

So-long Jusan...

At Sangha Meadow, Dai Bosatsu Zendo Kongo-Ji in Livingston Manor, New York, a funeral service for Jusan Frankie Parker was conducted on October 20, 1996 by Ven. Eido Shimano, Roshi. Numerous friends from The Engaged Zen Foundation and DBZ Sangha were in attendance. Frankie Parker was executed on August 8, 1996 in Arkansas, after serving over ten years on death row despite efforts to have his sentence commuted to life imprisonment. He discovered the Dharma in 1988 while on death row, became a devout practitioner and was given the Dharma name Jusan (Mountain of Endless Life), shortly before he died by Ven. Eido Shimano, Roshi. This is an excerpt from Jusan’s final statement before his execution:

I pray that others who have committed heinous crimes may find the small light that I have kindled an inspiration, and spread the flame of compassion to illuminate the entire universe, so that all beings may realize the fundamental compassionate nature that resides within all of us.

GATEWAY JOURNAL edit of April '99
The Newsletter of The Engaged Zen Foundation, Inc.
All contents Copyright ©1995-1999 The Engaged Zen Foundation, Inc.