This was the first and probably the best of the films that have focused on the introduction of vipassana meditation as taught by SN Goenka into the prison service.
The first courses in prison in India were held at Jaipur in 1975 and later in Baroda, mainly owing to the participation of prison staff on courses, and their seeing the potential the meditation holds for reform, and there is some archival footage from those retreats.
But this film focuses on Tihar Prison in Delhi, which is one of the largest prisons in the world, actually split into four prisons, it holds around 10,000 prisoners, 9,000 of which are still awaiting trial.
In 1993 Kiran Bedi was the first woman to be appointed as Inspector General at the prison, and she was looking for ways in which to do something for the prisoners, apart from incarceration.
One of her staff attended a vipassana course, and came back a changed man, and he recommended the course to Kiran. The first courses were then held, and proved to be a great success.
Later the largest vipassana course in modern times was held in the prison, with over 1,000 prisoners attending, and since then regular courses are held at the prison twice a month.
The documentary includes interviews with SN Goenka; one of his leading teachers Ram Singh; Kiran Bedi, who has since become one of India’s best known activists; and prisoners, both Indian and foreign, who testify to what the course has meant to them.
There are some very moving scenes in the film, and the whole film is very well edited and produced, leading to a really inspiring experience.
Next week I will show another film about the introduction of the same meditation technique into the American prison service.
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Warden and Prisoner