Jarvis Jay Masters, Tibetan Treasures, 1997
Finding Freedom is a collection of prison stories — sometimes shocking, sometimes sad, often funny, always immediate — told against a background of extreme violence and aggression. Masters' commitment to nonviolence leads him more and more into the role of peacemaker as he tries to put compassion into action. We see Masters meditating amid chaos and squalor, touching the hearts and minds of those around him.
Finding Freedom is a deeply moving, life-affirming memoir written from the netherworld of San Quentin's Death Row. Offering us stories that are sometimes sad, funny, poignant, revelatory, frightening, soul-stirring, painful and uplifting, Jarvis Masters traces his remarkable spiritual growth in an environment where despair and death are constant companions. His book is a testament to the tenacity of the human spirit and the talent of a fine writer.
Jarvis Jay Masters' personal witnessing to life on San Quentin's Death Row is an inspiring, even exhilarating teaching on the life of a peacemaker in the midst of rage and despair, and in the shadow of the execution chamber. Masters is an extraordinary man, choosing to live a life of no harm, of service and of purity within a violent prison culture. In Finding Freedom he makes peace not just with himself and his family, but also with other Death Row inmates and guards, walking the path of liberation.
How many of us have wished that prisons could become monasteries, places of regeneration? This awesome memoir from Death Row proves that they can be so, whether there is administrative support or not. When Jarvis Masters choice to makes the transform himself , no prison can confine him; outward conditions lose their power to degrade and terrify the heart.
This book touches on all aspects of prison life but finally focuses on the process by which Masters reclaims himself, using Buddhist practice and writing to bring forth his own responsible, resolute, fearless, courageous and loving qualities. The book is beautifully written, simple and direct, a pleasure to read. The power of his practice and expression are such that those of us who live in what's relatively understood as freedom must say to ourselves, 'If Jarvis Masters can do this, then maybe we can, too.
It is a privilege and joy to read Jarvis Masters' account of his spiritual struggle to find freedom at the edge of life. Everyone should read this book.
In Finding Freedom: Writings from Death Row, we meet Jarvis, meditating on a folded blanket in his cell, on San Quentin's death row. His voice comes to us from the belly of the beast - it is a voice that has turned from violence and anger to love, spiritual activism and nonviolent conflict resolution.
As he brings his warrior spirit to the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, he makes connections with fellow prisoners, guards and friends around the world, in a place designed to sever all connection. And as he finds some measure of freedom inside a maximum security prison, he teaches me how to find freedom in my unfenced life.