Gateway Journal

Winter 1996-Journal of The Engaged Zen Foundation-Volume 1, Number 3

Death Row Practice: Walking The Last Mile
An Interview With Jusan Frankie Parker
Letters To The Editor
Zen Karmics™
Facing The Storm
Sitting Alone

Death Row Practice: Walking The Last Mile

by Rev. Kobutsu Malone

On August 8th, 1996 I witnessed the killing of my friend and brother monk, Rev. Jusan Fudo Sifu Frankie Parker. This is the reason the publication of this issue of Gateway Journal has been delayed for so long.

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An Interview With Jusan Frankie Parker

April 11, 1996

by Jean Crume

Jean: As I recall, you received a copy of the Dharmapada from a Corrections Officer when you had asked for a Bible? Could you tell us that story and the effect it had on you?

Jusan: I discovered the Dharmapada in December of 1988 while in "the hole." I was a mad, mean and very cruel inmate...

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March 20, 1996

Dear Reverend Kobutsu,

Hello friend. Thank you for the Gateway Journal which I received today for the first time. I was hoping someone would do this for people who are locked in cells around this country. I'm a death row inmate in Arkansas who has practiced Mahayana Buddhism for a few years after a friend helped me get books on it, which in this state was pretty hard to do. In this area there are a lot of fundamentalist Christians who didn't like those devil books coming in here. But I kept trying and eventually things slacked up.

There is an Ecumenical Buddhist Society in Little Rock, not far from here that has helped me out. On February 10, 1995, Lama Tarchin Rinpoche visited Death Row and gave me the Refuge Vows. I'm the first person to become a Buddhist while incarcerated in the Arkansas prison system.

Being convicted of killing two people caused me to seek some way of trying to understand my actions. It led me to Karma and the Karmic winds that blow us through life, winds that we generate ourselves.

This week I found out that I have an execution date set for May 29th. I'm out of appeals as of February 8th. I could be executed earlier but our Governor is on trial now for Whitewater related crimes and the attorney general thinks it would look bad (smile!) if he tried to kill me now.

Death is not the end. It is an everlasting and unchanging rule of this universe that everything is created by a series of causes and effects and everything disappears by the same rule. It was my deluded ignorance that caused my death. If one understands the law of Karma one must accept his fate. Everything we do or say or is said and done to us is Karma. What I have coming in May is simply a result of what I have done.

The Buddha referred to "The fiction of life and death." This world is a house on fire and I have been trying to flee. Now I'm on my way out I see everything a little more clearly (once the world dissolves you see everything clearly.) I would like to say to all the people incarcerated in this country, "Seek enlightenment." The Buddha is enlightenment itself, the way to know the Buddha is to become enlightened. Seek . . . in seeking you will find the Buddha, residing in your own heart!

In the Dharma,

SiFu Frankie Parker
Death Row, Arkansas

Zen Karmics ™

© 1995-1996 by G. Duncan Eagleson & Kobutsu Malone

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Facing The Storm

by Rev. Kyogen Carlson, Sensei

In May, Kyogen Carlson, Sensei and Sallie Jiko Tisdale from the Dharma Rain Zen Center in Portland, Oregon, visited the Airway Heights Correctional Facility in Spokane, Washington, to attend the inmate's "Buddhist Freedom Celebration." The "Buddhist Freedom Celebration" is the annual special event permitted by the prison authorities for the Buddhist inmates. The celebration focuses on freedom from grasping, aversion, delusion, ego and from suffering. Credit for the idea goes to inmate Calvin Malone, (no relation to Kobutsu!) and a forward thinking and supportive chaplain's office and prison administration.

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Sitting Alone

by Rev. Zenrin

There's actually no such thing. For one thing, there are always the things you see around you and meditate with: the air you're breathing, the ground you're sitting on, your bed and sink and so on. And sounds. I'm a "morning person" - something makes me want to get to sleep early and get up early. So when I was in a big city with a lot of dawn-to-dusk noises, I got in the habit of sitting way early, like 3 or 4 a.m., when the city'd forgotten all about yesterday's noise and haste and hadn't got going on today's. Sit nights, early morning when it's quiet. When you're sitting still doing nothing your mind's used to, it reacts by running "movies" - imaginary experiences with a lot of hope and fear about the future or nostalgia and regret about the past. Sudden sounds around you can help snap you out of it: cut through those streaming distractions in your mind. So if you let them, they'll work for you, not against you.

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GATEWAY JOURNAL edit of March '99
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