National Buddhist Prison Sangha

A Nationwide Network of Buddhist Volunteers

The National Buddhist Prison Sangha (NBPS) is a nationwide network of Buddhist volunteers. NBPS’s mission is to sustain a correspondence program in Zen Buddhist practice with inmates across the country in prison facility settings. In addition, NBPS also supports and leads Buddhist meditation practice groups in New York State.

NBPS came about in response to a New York State prison inmate’s request to practice Buddhism inside. The Mountains and Rivers Order established the National Buddhist Prison Sangha in 1984, following a court victory on the right to practice religious freedom in prison. NBPS was the first Zen practice group started in New York State correctional facilities.

NBPS activities include:

  • Personal, one-on-one correspondence on Zen practice and training–including support materials–between experienced MRO practitioners serving as practice advisors and people seeking the dharma in prisons throughout the United States
  • A series of training manuals that introduce basic Zen Buddhist teachings on zazen, liturgy, precepts, and art pratice
  • Formal groups in NYS prison facilities led by MRO senior monastic and lay practitioners that include conducting liturgy services, zazen meditation, and talks on Buddhism
  • Weekly prison visits by senior monastic and lay students who lead zazen and give talks
  • Periodic intensive meditation retreats led by MRO senior monastic and lay practitioners
  • Face-to-face teaching and liturgical ceremonies (including precepts, weddings, and memorial services)
  • Assistance to chaplains and inmates in initiating Buddhist meditation groups inside prisons across the country

Prison SanghaNBPS participates in the religious advisory committee initiated by the New York State Correctional System’s Commissioner on Prisons.

As of 2013, NBPS is now formally the “Right Action” work of Dharma Communications (DC), the Mountains and Rivers Order’s educational and outreach arm. NBPS and DC provide teaching materials and practice supplies, including discounted or free cushions for inmates and sitting groups; ship all packages and letters from their facility; and receive the correspondence that makes up the bulk of the NBPS staff’s work.

If you would like to donate money, books, CDs, malas or cushions to the prison program, contact us at 845.688.7993 or