Mind Without Borders is a prison dharma program organized by the New York City Nalandabodhi sangha. We provide Buddhist study through correspondence courses, dharma pen pals and practice instructors. We are able to nurture Buddhist study and meditation groups within some prisons and send DVDs for the inmates to view and discuss together. When possible, we make personal visits to the prisoners with whom we are working.

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche has told us, in general, that those of us who have been fortunate enough to hear, contemplate and meditate upon the Buddhadharma have a responsibility to share it with others, especially those who are in the greatest need. Specifically, in respect to prisoners and the dharma, he says, “Prisoners should have the same opportunity as any one of us.” He considers prison outreach work to be very important social justice work.

The mission of our program is to provide prisoners personal and structured support in the Tibetan Buddhist path. We work with those inmates who are drawn to us karmically rather than by advertisement. We are also committed to working with those most hidden and difficult to reach prisoners, those inmates in Solitary and those serving life or other long terms. We aspire to benefit these most stigmatized members of our society, so that they in turn will benefit others, and that, together, we may spread harmony and happiness in our shared and interdependent worlds — because heart and mind know no prison walls or borders.


Tara drawing by Prisoner

Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche gave the program its name and blessing during the summer of 2007, a year after the program began germinating. Mind Without Borders originally developed out of a personal correspondence between an inmate in Solitary Confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison (a level IV super max in northern California) and a member of Nalandabodhi New York, the late Julia Grace who is the founder of the program.

Today MWB has over 300 active members, from 110 prisons and 35 states across the US. Thirty-five inmates have graduated from the intense correspondence course. And five inmates are official students of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche.

Getting Involved

We are looking for meditators who are open to becoming a dharma pen pal with one of our many excellent inmate dharma students. In addition to the study program, MWB has shown that our students highly benefit from having an exchange with other meditators about their practice experiences on the path.

We are also looking for volunteers to help with various aspects of the MWB program. For more information please contact co-directors Isabel Kirsch or Jonathan Swann. Visit the Mind Without Borders Facebook group by clicking here.

We need donations to further our work. Printing and shipping study materials is expensive, but every book we are sending represents a seed of dharma with great potential to grow and flourish.

"This has been a very life changing journey. I have gotten more patient, understanding and I have a higher level of compassion. And I have been influential in bringing others forward to learn about this path and I have seen how helpful it has been to them. We are in tremendous gratitude towards you all for helping us be better people. You are making a big difference and not just in our lives."