“Getting Religion” in Prison

nichiren buddhism, lotus flower, cause and effect
Sonni’s note: This is one of the early posts, from February 18, 2014.

Hi mom, I hope all is well with you,

For the last couple years you has been telling me about Nichiren Buddhism. At first I didn’t know what to think. Some dudes in here get religion. Mostly it’s Christianity because. Some do and some don’t. There is support for Christianity in here and also for Muslims. Some years back I got introduced to Islamic teachings. I really tried to understand it. I wanted to make sense of my life. Why did I do the things I did? In here many men want to do better when they get out. There is usually a group that practices it. Maybe it does help them in here. I don’t know. I really tried to do the things they said, but it wasn’t enough and I drifted away. You’ve been studying Buddhism for a long time. Twenty five years. You didn’t say anything about it for a long time but then a couple years ago, when I was going through a really bad time, you started to write to me about it. It made a lot of sense. It made me think of things in a way I hadn’t thought before. You talked to me about happiness, about what it is and what it means. Even though I’m in this place I can still find a place in my head to be happy, sometimes. I know I can change the way I think and what I do, and when I do that it will have an effect on the space around me. It’s about the law of cause and effect. This is what it says. Trying to make it work isn’t so easy when things come flying at you, but if I don’t do something different then how can anything be different when I get out. I guess being in here is as good as anywhere to try to make it work. It’s not easy. You said there was a reason why we met. I guess this is it, or maybe part of it. I really do want to have a better life and do the right things. I want to be a good father to my son and teach him the right things when I get out

People say things like, “What goes around comes around”, and Christians say, “You reap what you sow”. It’s all the same thing. But it’s supposed to be everything you say and do. All the good and all the bad. So I look at what I do and think about what would happen if I did something different. Like when someone tries to jumps me. I would right away defend myself, and I still need to. If I didn’t then other dudes would think they could run over me. But if I could find a way to not fight then I could raise up my level. So what is the best thing to do? Not fighting is not easy mom. Sometimes you have no choice. I can hold my own in a fight. When you want to change something then something else always comes up to challenge that, to make you do the thing you don’t want to do. It’s the things that make you not be able to change. The things that keep you down. I’m trying to learn to chant. That’s nam myoho renge kyo. It’s hard. I fight with myself sometimes. (Sonni’s note: translation is – Devotion to the mystic law of cause and effect through sound and vibration.)

The time that Megan came to visit last Oct she taught me how to say it just like you asked her to. I try to do it at 5:00 AM when there isn’t as much noise. When everyone wakes up they can get pretty loud. I wish I had someone to chant with me. I need to hear it again. This thing called gongyo. That’s impossible. You’ll have to teach me later. That’s in a whole new language. You sent me this little book with all these oriental words and a way of spelling it using abc, but it is still spelling out words in another language. It is really strange.

I’ve been reading this book, The Wisdom of Modern Life, and I love it. It has guidances for every day of the year. This is the one that was on January 17th, “When you devote yourself to achieving your goal, you will not be bothered by shallow criticism. Nothing important can be accomplished if you allow yourself to be swayed by some trifling matter, always looking over your shoulder and wondering what others are saying or thinking. The key to achievement is to move forward along your chosen path with firm determination.”

This thing that Dr Martin Luther King Jr said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others? Do not say you will do it “someday”. Do not say that “someone” will do it. You are the one. Now is the time for youth to take full responsibility and courageously pave the way for the people’s triumph.”

There is so much I’ve learned that I never thought about before. I have been so depressed so much at times. I need a way to make that better. I know now that my life is the effect of all the causes I made in the past. It is no one’s fault but my own I an here in prison, in ad seg. I really wish i was done with this, but I have to be ready when I get out. I have to be strong, and sure of myself. I will still have a lot of life when this is over. I will get out of here. I have to make the causes now for the kind of life I want have and what kind of person I’m going to be when I get out. I know their are parts of me I need to change. It isn’t going to happen just because I wish for it. I need to start now. I can’t wait until later. It’s gonna be hard but I think if I try I’ll be able to do it. I need to see what is important and do it no matter what happens, no matter what or who gets in the way.

Now I feel I have a chance. I do have a life worth living.

(Sonni’s note: Change comes from within. Pray for the wisdom to know what to change. Chant to be happy and chant for the people in your life to be happy. Christianity and Buddhism say a lot of the same things. They both teach you to be a good human being if you apply the teachings to your life. This Buddhism is not what most people think it is. Most think of monks and depriving yourself or they think of the Dalai Lama or Zen or one of many other sects of Buddhism, but it isn’t that. There is just as many types of Buddhism as there are types of Christian sects. In Buddhism, God is not “out there” or deciding to fix things in your life. We believe the God nature – Buddhahood – is inside everyone. As we practice, chant, we are polishing the mirror of our life so we can see ourselves clearly. There is more than one way to find happiness and it starts with respecting each other’s faith, if that person is honestly trying to learn. In the few years of teaching Jamie I have seen a change – hope. Are there still good days and bad days? yes, we are human and we struggle through our lives to learn. Do a search on the http://sgi-usa.org, even if you are just curious. We should never stop wanting to learn if you are interested in finding out more.)

F**k it. I’m Tired of Starting Over

prison letters,inmate letters,ad seg,level G4
Jamie Cummings letter 2010

( Sonni’s note: This is not the letter below, but is instead the next letter I’ll post.  Jamie is from Nacogdoches, Tx and this prison is all the way across to the other side.  Texas is a big state.  For Megan with the kids and his mother to visit  it would take 3 days.  It seems quite often as though the prison system tries to separate the inmates from their family. It’s like another way to make it harder on them. I have read many times of this being done.  Mothers separated from their sons and daughters and husbands from wives.  Considering there are 110 prisons at last count in Texas. Quite a lot don’t you think? After a few years in that prison he was sent back across Texas, but to prison  far south, in Beeville.  After a few years there they sent him closer to home,  forty five minutes from his mother and a two hours away from his son, but still, visits have been minimal.  He hasn’t seen his son in a year and a half, but his mom did go visit him on his birthday in January. An SGI member -Melvin – from a Buddhist organization, visits every couple months to keep him encouraged to have a positive attitude and plan for is future.  I have hundreds of these letters.  They have been his life line, but my lifeline as well.  When I was so sick for a few years I always knew he cared, and it gave him someone to care about. Both of us were in prisons of our making.  Effects of causes we made.  It was time to make better causes – better choices.

At the end of your own day, how would you feel if there was no one who cared?  No one you could write to or call about your day?  Getting to know this man through these letters and knowing his mind is not that of a criminal, and knowing that someone has to be there to help him develop a life for himself, inside and outside, because when he gets out, society will not be waiting with open arms, ready to give him a second chance.  Quite the opposite.  And that effects their survival rate on the outside. 71% of all parolees end up back in prison within 5 years because they have no way to take care of themselves.  They never learned a new way to live and even though most parolees are determine it is going too be different when they get out they don’t have a way to make that work. No one wants to hire them or rent to them, so they resort to old habits to live.  they are looked at as worthless or dangerous, even if they weren’t inside for a violent crime. This is our fault.  The prison’s fault.  If an inmate serves his time he should be able to begin a life and not looked down on.  We do that – society This is why I am writing a book (first chapter)about him based on these letters.  The original title was “InsideOut” and recently changed to “Inside the Forbidden Outside.”  Please follow this blog to find out how he’s doing and/or  fill out the contact sheet below for the email list to only get posts about new chapters and to find out when it will be published. There is a media file on some posts that have original, improvised piano recordings of music I’ve composed for Jamie that I hope to have included with the book.)

Written 6/18/2013

Hello Mom,
Good morning.  How are you? Fine I hope.  As for me, Well, so far things are Okay.  Sorry it’s taken so long to write back. I’ve been moved to a different pod. I got my G4 so I’m waiting to be moved again to where the other G4’s are. I also had to find some paper.  I got this from an officer.  I was waiting on the paper you were going to send. Could you send me two pads of paper so it will last me for a while?

(Sonni’s note: Jamie did get a 12 pack of writing pads I sent before he was moved to another prison and an officer stole it from his belongings, along with books, letters and pictures.  He said there was no point in filing a claim because not only was he in a different prison, there was no proof he had these things in the first place.)

I read your letter a few times cause I wanted to understand everything. Yes, a lot of things happen in life. But who said we’re perfect?  We make mistakes.  It’s a part of life.  Learning from those mistakes is what counts. No, no one has a perfect life, but all we can do is try our best. A lot of people feel they have are supposed to have a perfect life only to find out later they don’t. Not everyone has the opportunity to live the life they want. but life, as some of us know is what hurt and kills them.  Challenges, we should try to overcome them.  Some do and some don’t.

When I found out about you being in the hospital I did something I really don’t do.  I prayed, but I didn’t know to who.  I was just doing it.  At the same time, I knew things would come out fine.  For you, and you are woman of faith.  Your faith in the teachings of Buddhism.  So yes, I worried,  just as the rest of the family did. The outcome of your surgery came out fine.  Don’t get me wrong, I chanted as well. Nam myoho renge kyo. Strange words but I try to understand the best I can what it means to practice with magazine and newspapers that come all the time. ( the World Tribune and Living Buddhism)  Try to keep faith. There’s a lot of people care and that’s what is good.  It hurts to know so many peoples lives are at stake because they have to wait a long time on a liver transplant.  It hurts to know so many people die, especially kids.  It’s not right.  You said you needed the confidence. Confidence comes from within., even during the surgery.  I wish I was out at that time.  I would have made sure to be there.  Everyone has challenges we all have to overcome.  This just happens to be your challenge.  This happens to be mine.

I haven’t overcome my challenges because I’m going up and down with my problems.  I’m waiting on the pieces in my life to come together.  You say, sometimes we really want something and it will make us happy.  I know if I can see my family, better yet, be with them, I’ll be happy.  But for some reason, I can’t have that.  I understand your situation.  Yes, it would be better if you only needed the transplant.  It hurts to know you are going through so much afterward.  The device sounds good if it will help with the pain. I know you are strong and independent as well. But I’ll do my best to stay away from the trouble.  I promise you.

Okay, here’s the difference between ad seg and G4.  In ad seg everything comes to you, like food.  You only come out of your cell for one hour a day or for medical, and you’re in hand cuffs everywhere you

chow in prison. Sanitary hair nets around food
Sanitary hair nets around food in the prisons

go.  In G4 they let us out to watch TV and go to rec with each other.  Say about 84 people. We get to walk to the chow hall, which is what I need to stretch my legs.  That’s really it, but now that I think of it, I don’t think I’m going to go.  There’s this lady feeding chow.  She’s mad cause I told her she needs to have a hair net on because it’s policy.  So, to cover her ass she told the Stg I threatened her.  So I might not go to chow.  But fuck it, I’m tired anyway.  I’m tired of starting over.

A couple days later – I went to the UCC today and talked to the warden.  He asked what happened and I told him.  He said he was going to give me another chance. Inmates are always wrong in every case.  There is no justice in prison. I thanked him and walked out.  It’s okay, as of right now I’m not in any trouble.  I’ll do my best to stay away from it. But as you know, I’m around a lot of other people (gangs).  From what I was told the officers trip about any small thing. Shoes not tied right.  Anything.

epileptic seisures,prison medical care, injustice system,prison letters
Epileptic seisures

I went to the doctor today. ( Sonni”s note:  I pay $100 a year for him to be able to see a doctor when he needs to, especially because of his epilepsy.  The quality of that medical is substandard.  I read of one doctor who wouldn’t get within 5 feet of any inmate for fear of “catching” something.  How can you diagnose anything with actually feeling the area that causes the symptom.  The remedy for chest pains is to drink more water.  medical care is costly and the more they spend on it the less money there is for the corporation supplying the care.  There are many lawsuits against these corporations like Corizon who owns many of the prissons across the country, but I suppose paying the lawsuit is less than what the care would have What little I can send him for commissary, they take half of it until it’s paid for. His family has never helped.) 

It’s my left leg and knee.  It swell up big.  It’s an up and down kinda thing.  The doctor says it’s my joints, Arthritis.  Would arthritis make my leg swell up, too? It hurts bad.  But I guess it’s just something I have to deal with.

Well, till next time, I love you.  Love always, Son

Matters of the Heart

 

matters-of-the-heart

(Sonni’s note: I received this letter four weeks before my liver transplant surgery in July 2012.  I was very sick.  I wasn’t capable of writing anymore letters because I couldn’t make a connection between my brain and my hand.  I was playing the waiting game.   I was at the point where I didn’t have a whole lot of time left.   I was told  later that I had come as close as possible to death without dying.   Jamie and I were in our own prisons. He was alone and yet his thoughts were for me. He was sitting in ad seg, solitary confinement, and I was confined to my bed.)

Hello mom, sorry this letter has taken so long to get to you. I pray that as this paper touches your hands it’s as soft as a dove and that you are in the best of health. I pray that this letter brings a smile to your face, and it takes a lot of pain and stress away. I know that things are hard on you right now. But hey, if there’s one thing I know about the women I love and care so much for, you, Megan and my mom, is that you the are strong women. I know the pain is hard to bare. I also know that you will pull through. So everything is going to be fine. It’s nice that several members of the SGI have come to visit you and keep you encouraged but I know you already have the courage.

I understand about bad choices. You aren’t the only one who’s made a bad choice in life. We’ve all made one or two or maybe even three! Look at me. I’ve made lots of mistakes. We all make them. It’s part of life. Some of us turn our life around and some don’t. I wish I could have turned mine around.

I read the World Tribune newspaper and the magazine, Living Buddhism, that you got me. I understand some of it and some I don’t. I try to do the chanting. I do my best and it helps me when I’m mad. So there, I pray for you and everyone I love the only way I’ve known how. I pray for me and Megan’s happiness. But the more I think about it, I know she’s tired.

 

MATTERS-OF-THE-HEART

I was going through my letters and ran across the first few that you wrote me. I’m not trying to make you feel bad or nothing. I just feel it’s the truth, but it just took a little time for me to understand. You stated that Megan would move on and find someone else. It hurt at that time and it really still hurts at just the thought. I have so much hurt inside sometimes I wonder if I should leave this place. Because as time passed I asked myself, why go home? Family showed they really don’t much care. The woman I love has hurt me as well. I know that by me getting locked up that I hurt her. But never would I have stopped my love for her. Never. If the shoe was on the other foot I would have never done anything like that. Why? Because when you find the love you know you have, you don’t. I have never found anyone to love me like Megan. I know she loved me more than most of my family. However, I see that when someone is not around, the love isn’t either. It’s lost. I have some deep scars, just like you mom.

I’m going to let you in on something I never understood. Why is it that you wanted to help me? 670px-Cope-With-Holiday-Stress-and-Depression-in-Prison-Step-05I never understood, although I am very thankful and always will be. We didn’t really get much of a chance to know each other in person except those couple times. However, we have learned a lot about each other over the years. I’m glad to have someone like you and Megan, even though she hardly writes, but I promise you, the day I’ve had enough, everyone will know.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

lotus flower art

(Sonni’s note: This is one of the early posts, from February 18. Sometimes the things Jamie writes about will come in several letters. I go through them and find the pieces and put it together into one. Sometimes I’ll add a sentence so you’ll understand.   I’ll go back into a post and add something else he wrote about the same thing.  Sometimes I have to change the way it is written but I never try to write his spirit out of it.  When he gets the chance to read this when he gets out, he’ll be able to see how much his life has affected other people in a positive way.  Please leave a reply on a post or two if you like what you read. It only takes a minute and would mean so much. Also, come back and read again. Start at the beginning. Get to know him – and me, too.  Thanks)

For the last couple years mom has been telling me about Nichiren Buddhism. At first I didn’t know what to think. Some dudes in here get religion. Mostly it’s Christianity because there is support for that in here. Some years back I got introduced to Islamic teachings. I really tried to understand it. There is usually a group that practices it. Maybe it does help them in here. I don’t know. I gave it a good shot but it wasn’t enough and I drifted away. Mom has practiced Buddhism for a long time. Twenty five years. She didn’t say anything about it for a long time but a couple years ago, when I was going through a really bad time, she started to write to me about it. It made a lot of sense. It made me think of things in a way I hadn’t thought before. She talked to me about happiness, about what it is and what it means. Even though I’m in this place I can still find a place in my head to be happy, sometimes.  I know I can change the way I think and what I do, and when I do that it will have an effect on the space around me. It’s about the law of cause and effect.

People say things like, “What goes around comes around”, and Christians say, “You reap what you sow”. It’s all the same thing. But it’s supposed to be everything you say and do. All the good and all the bad. So I look at what I do and think about what would happen if I did something different. Like when someone tries to jumps me. I would defend myself. If I didn’t then other dudes would think they could run over me. But if I could find a way to not fight then I could raise up my level. So what is the best thing to do? Not fighting is not easy. When you want to change something then something else always comes up to challenge that, to make you do the thing you don’t want to do. Buddhism calls it obstacles. It’s the things that make you not be able to change. The things that keep you down. I’m trying to learn to chant. That’s nam myoho renge kyo. (Sonni’s note: translation is – Devotion to the mystic law of cause and effect through sound and vibration.  The translation is really much longer but it’ll do for now.)

The time that Megan came to visit last Oct she taught me how to say it. I try to do it at 5:00 AM when there isn’t as much noise. When everyone wakes up they can get pretty loud. I wish I had someone to chant with me. I need to hear it again. There is something else called gongyo. Mom sent me this little book with all these oriental words and a way of spelling it using abc, but it is still spelling out words in another language. She said it didn’t matter if I did it right or wrong as long as I tried as best I could.

I’ve been reading this book, The Wisdom of Modern Life, and I love it. It has guidances for every day of the year. This is the one that was on January 17th, “When you devote yourself to achieving your goal, you will not be bothered by shallow criticism. Nothing important can be accomplished if you allow yourself to be swayed by some trifling matter, always looking over your shoulder and wondering what others are saying or thinking. The key to achievement is to move forward along your chosen path with firm determination.”

This something that Dr Martin Luther King Jr said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others? Do not say you will do it “someday”. Do not say that “someone” will do it. You are the one. Now is the time for youth to take full responsibility and courageously pave the way for the people’s triumph.”

There is so much I’ve learned that I never thought about before. I have been so depressed so much at times. But I know now that my life is the effect of all the causes I made in the past. It is no one’s fault but my ownI an here. But I will still have a life when this is over. I will get out of here. I have to make the causes now for the kind of life I want have and what kind of person I’m going to be when I get out.  I can decide the parts of me I need to change. It isn’t going to happen just because I wish for it. I need to start now. I can’t wait until later.  It’s gonna be hard but I think if I try I’ll be able to do it. I need to see what is important and do it no matter what happens, no matter what gets in the way.

 (Sonni’s note: Chanting for these things is praying but it is not the same as those that pray to some entity that is out there somewhere. You don’t chant for something else to fix things in your life. That never works anyway. Change comes from within. Pray to have the wisdom to know what to change. Chant to be happy and chant for the people in your life to be happy. Christianity and Buddhism say a lot of the same things, but are far apart in the reasoning of how to get to the place you want to be. This Buddhism is not what most people think it is. Most think of monks and depriving yourself or they think of the Dalai Lama or Zen or one of many other sects of Buddhism, but it isn’t that. There is just as many types of Buddhism as there are types of Christian sects. I find that this makes sense to me. Here ends your lesson in Nichiren Buddhism. (smile) Do a search on the SGI-USA if you are interested in finding out more.)

Now I feel I have a chance. I do have a life worth living.

Melvin and Nichiren Buddhism

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I’m sitting just thinking about that wonderful breakfast of yours. I wish I was there, it sounds so good. Breakfast here is not one I look forward to. They serve pancakes at least four or five times a week, often with just a half spoon of peanut butter. Sometimes they have little sides of oatmeal or grits or a piece of fruit. When we’re on lock down they serve us less. Just enough to keep us alive. You’ve seen how much weight I lost. Oh well, I’m doing everything in my will power to change that. I will change it. I will.

We just got off lockdown. I had to wait to get stamps to send letters off. I got the books you sent. I don’t know why it took so long. I could see when you ordered it. I also received a book from Melvin. It is called, The Buddha in Your Mirror. It’s a real good book with lots of knowledge in it. Is hard to put down when I start to read it. I love it. It breaks things down where I can understand it. Please give my greetings to the members when you go to your next SGI meeting.

In this prison I’m only allowed to have two visits per month as a G5. I come up for my G4 in a month. I hear they aren’t letting a lot of people have their G4.
(Sonni’s note: G5, Ad Seg and solitary are all the same thing. At least 23 hours a day locked up with no privileges of any kind. He can’t make a phone call or have a visit that isn’t behind glass until he is G2. He is served food through a slot in the door. Exercise in the yard is in a cage) They are making me do an extra six months. The thing about that is, when I do come back up I might be coming up for my G2. We’ll see. That hasn’t happened so far. Things have away of not not working out the way you want them to

As much as it hurts me I have to say this. I love Jamie and the kids with all my heart. I do. However, I’m starting to feel like I am no longer a part of their lives. It hurts. Megan still don’t try to bring Jamie or try to talk to my family. So that’s why I hurt. As his father, I’m not able to be there for my son so he will know that I love him. I’m being stopped from doing that. Any other dad might be glad he didn’t have to worry about his child or children. The men who don’t care have women who drive them crazy trying to get them to be interested in their kids. However, the ones who do care have so many problems trying to spend time with their kid. I don’t why.
A lot of things are changing as life goes by. Change is a good thing. We all need change sometimes. I’ll know things are changing for me when I am able to see my son when I want to – and when I am home.

(after the visit) Hello mom, I’m back. I just had a visit with Melvin. He’s a real good person. He’s funny, too. He encourages me a lot and that’s pretty cool and it’s what I need. We talked about a lot of stuff. You know, about his life at their restaurant. We talked a lot about his life. He calls it ‘back in the day’. He’s a wonderful person. We had a good time at our visit. He caught me on a bad day. I want feeling well and I was tired. I made the best of it because I knew it was for a good reason he was here that day. We enjoy each others company. We laughed, talked and changed together.

He told me about a group of four that gets together to chant. Of course, one of them is him. However, the group of four added another person yesterday. Guess who that person is? (smile) It’s me! We are called the Onalaska group. We are having our first meeting on the 27th of April at Melvin’s restaurant. I will be here but not in my mind.

He asked me about the food. I told him that T.D.C.J (Texas Department of Criminal Justice) has some units that butchers their own pigs. This place happens to be one of those units, so they serve a lot of pork. Too much pork. I just have to deal with it the best I can. Then we chanted for five minutes. I was tired. He could see it in my eyes. He told me to get some rest. please call him and tell him I will continue to chant and encourage others. Ask him, how did the first meeting go?

There was a problem that day, I found out. My mom tried to visit and they turned her away because I already had my two visits for the month. I go for years without having a single visit from anybody. Now I had too many! Yes, life is changing.

I’m going to go for now, but not forever. Till next time. Love you always, Son

(note from Sonni: SGI stands for Soka Gakkai International. The words are Japanese and translate into Value Creation Society. This letter is different from other letters. It was filled with hope and determination. It had laughter. His mind was outside of the prison in a positive way. I told him if he studied the causes he made throughout his life, and learned to make new ones, better ones, and if he was able to make the changes he needed and begin to learn what cause and effect is, and what the word consequence means, and gradually make the right causes, he could be happy, even in a prison. Today I saw change. Today I could hear happiness in his words)

(additional note from Sonni: This was originally posted on May 18. I decided to add these words and reprint it today because Melvin has been to see Jamie recently, four times total. It has been such a lifeline for him. I have overwhelming appreciation for this man whom I have never met in person, but feel there is such a heart to heart connection. The cause was made by Jamie to have this man enter his life. There are no coincidences in life. No luck and no miracles. Only causes we don’t understand. You cannot have an effect without a cause. It isn’t logical. Buddhism is reason, not fantasy. Fantasy isn’t real no matter how much you want it to be.

I know they chant together which is important for someone who is just learning. You need to hear how it sounds. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Melvin has encouraged him to keep going. Two weeks ago he told me that Jamie found someone else in the prison who also chants and they’ve been chanting together in the yard. Jamie has told me that most all the inmates make determinations to be better when they get. They want to have a better life. But just wanting a better life is not enough. They need to change the way they process their environment. Because they can’t, they get sucked back into the life they lived before and many end up right back inside. I realize that there are inmates that don’t go back in but far too many do, and the next time is usually worse. After that, they lose all hope of having a life outside the prison with people and events they can be proud of.

Jamie has never had a life. His karma was set before he was born. If it hadn’t happened then, something else would have happened. It was going to happen. I know that anyone reading this who doesn’t understand what Nichiren Buddhism is and what it does for you, wouldn’t understand how it is affecting his life, but little by little things are changing and you can see that change as you look back. I want so much for him to be able to change things for the better and that when he gets out he will be able to change the direction of his life. He will understand himself better and know that there is value in his life. Nichiren Buddhism gives you hope. It gives you the power of determination and it gives you the power to change the things that make you unhappy. You also learn that by helping other people you are helping yourself.

Most faiths try to teach you how to be a good human being and how to live your life right. In Christianity there is the phrase, you reap what you sow. In the secular world the phrase is, you get back what you dish out or what goes around comes around. In Nichiren Buddhism it is the law of cause and effect. But in Nichiren Buddhism we take that phrase very seriously and consciously try to make good causes because there is an effect for every cause that is made. Good and bad, by thought word and deed. And why do we believe in this? Because we want to be happy.

The law of cause and effect is absolute even if we don’t understand or realize that we even made a cause. It is absolute whether you believe it or not. Being in prison is being in the state of hell. But even in prison you can find the state of happiness, even if that state is only there because you finally understood something about yourself that has caused you unhappiness. Every change on the inside shows on the outside. If this change caused you to react to your environment in a different way you’ve made a change.

There is a saying, ” If you continue to do what you’ve always done then you will continue to get what you’ve always got.”

This is my prayer for Jamie. End Sonni’s note.)