Book Review Essay Sample: Dharma in Hell

Published: 2019-08-15
Book Review Essay Sample: Dharma in Hell
Categories:  Psychology Punishment Buddhism
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1408 words
12 min read

Dharma in Hell was written by fleet maul is a book with a collection of writings that comprise nine chapters where the first five chapters were written by the author while he was still in prison. The sixth chapter was written by the author while he was out of prison after two weeks of his release from prison. The last three chapters featured the nature and experience based on his Buddhism practice.

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The first chapter of the book mainly focuses on the book's title and also features mainly on the books theme and subheading which is practicing in prisons and charnel grounds. In this chapter, the author mainly contrasts the experience of life and practice in prison with philosophy reasons and the main advantages of practicing in charnel grounds. The main theme of this being that both the prison and charnel grounds leads into a mental disorderly which indirect access to ignorance, anger and greed. This chapter starts by giving a description of what charnel grounds is all about. Through this description, it gets easy to give an explanation in Buddhist terms the meaning of a charnel ground practice about tradition and contemporary terms. This chapter also highlights on fleet mauls adventure in prison about physical and emotion that offered him an opportunity for charnel ground practice.

In the second chapter, Maull (2005) focuses on Buddhist practice while he was in prison as a way of monasticism relation to his application of monastic vows in prison. This chapter pinpoints out the difference of Buddhist practice in prison as compared to its counterpart in a monastery.

According to Maull and Prison Dharma Network (2005) noise and chaos are prisons most pervasive qualities (p. 41)

This mainly describes the importance of mind meditation in the day to day life in prison.

Chapter three mainly focuses on the issues of finances and life in prison. It shows how critical finance is in prison to the extent that there is an economy in the prisons. It also shows how people are earning money through business and trade through the black market. This chapter also shows how the author finds it important for him to practice livelihood with its attendant honesty about the pre-incarceration livelihood emerging from the drug smuggling business.

In chapter four, the author mainly focuses on death without dogma. The author describes his interaction with the dying inmates while performing his hospice work. The stories he describes are very emotional and personal and expound his writing on how he brought his Buddhist practice into interaction with other inmates of other different religious faith and believed.

Chapter five mainly focuses and describes the widespread phenomenon of depression problem. This problem is not entirely based on the prison or charnel grounds but based on the writing of this book. The prison is the main structure or platform of evaluating and grasping a good understanding of depression. Despite this chapter being the shortest chapter in the book, the author can make a quick job explaining and show how potent a steady meditation practice is at ending the life-sapping darkness of depression and hopelessness.

In chapter six, Maull (2005) gives a description and an explanation of the psychology of the incarcerated. The author gives a deeper emphasis on putting into consideration of the effects of penal methods which contrasts with the punishment and rehabilitation methods. These penal methods are contrasted for the inmates in terms to the relation of taking the responsibility for their lives. This chapter also shows that negative mental states abound are structurally encouraged in the prison life. The author also gives description through his suggestions on how real change can be brought about when the inmates learn to be of service to others. He also writes about the value that mediation offers in seeing inmates responsibility for their present situations.

In chapter seven, the author writes on a description of a taste of freedom. Maull (2005) focuses on the experience of getting outside the role of a prisoner for a three-day unescorted furlough. During the writing of this chapter, Fleet maull has already been in prison for thirteen years. Through his prison to a free man environment, change inspires him to reflect on his thirteen imprisonment years conditioning which he realized could meet with mindfulness and emotional receptiveness.

Chapter eight is based on the author fleet maul living a life out of prison. In this chapter, the author is embarking on life after his past thirteen years of imprisonment. He is addressing a Buddhist congregation about transforming obstacles into the path and also explains how he ended up seeing that whatever the challenges encountered can be met without reactivity and used as a positive energy for practice.

The ninth chapter which is the last chapter focuses on the path of service. In this chapter, the author describes how offering of services to the other prisoners in the prison was of high benefit to him and allowed him to go beyond is personal level. Fleet Maull also describes that offering free, and volunteer services deliver a great healing to those in prison. According to the author in conclusion to this chapter is that being able to help others makes it possible for us to let go of our self-perpetuated suffering as it is stated in the opening verse In Radhakrishnan, S. (1950).

Radhakrishnan (1950) pointed out that:

Mind precedes all mental states. The mind is their chief; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts suffering follow him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox .

The following chapter focuses on comparison and contrast of Fleet maulls journey and that of his fellow inmates about what has been discussed in class. The author describes prison as a place where people get used to being offered with services and also decisions made for them like on issues pertaining meals, medical services and also program and time management. According to the author, he says that this encourages the prisoners to fall into a dependent and consumerist mentality. The author compares and contrasts the same happens outside the prison where we are programmed since our childhood to become consumers as witnessed by the consumerism dominating modern society. The author explains that some of us are programmed to become consumers but at the end of the day, we are all prone to be consumers.

Maull and Prison Dharma Network (2005) describes that through establishing ourselves through the path of the Buddha, we are taught how to be independent on our own feet and to be also much more concerned with providing for the others. The author also explains how the Buddha helps people to work and independently on their resources and to also work with what someone has without having to depend on other people (Humphreys, 1962). The author believes that identification of creators and consumers is one major way to separate any society. The author contrasts real life to prison life on how most of the people take advantage of the things and services provided by others like the education and athletic programs.

Maull (2005) also explains that during working with the fellow prisoners and their authoritys one should never portray their selves as a more distinct individual as compared to the others. He also finally describes that in working to establish the dharma it is very important to emulate the Buddhist teachings and also avail to others the same principles like compassion, patience and friendliness

According to Maull and Prison Dharma Network (2005), if you have a spiritual connection with dharma, one should work towards becoming the individual who is ready to be available on a spiritual path without necessary having any experience. He also says that through making contact with organizations like prison dharma network one can get the essential dharma books from Tibetan, Zen or other traditions (Wangu, 1993). The author also explains how people can gain written mediations through reaching out to organizations, and this greatly helps individuals to start practicing sitting mediation which is the major and very core practice of Buddhism religion.


Humphreys, C. (1962). Buddhism. London: Cassell.

In Radhakrishnan, S. (1950). The Dhammapada. London, New York: Oxford University Press.

Kaul, K. (2007). The Dhammapada: with an introduction to the file and times of lord Buddha and his philosophy, New Delhi: Indialog Publications

Maull, F., & Prison Dharma Network. (2005). Dharma in hell: The prison writings of Fleet Maull. Boulder, Colo: Prison Dharma Ne[t]work.

Wangu, M.B.(1993).Buddhism. Newyork: Facts on File.

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