When you hit rock bottom,
the only way is up –
or to stay sunken.
– Extended saying
I’ve been a Dharma teacher for twenty years, and I’ve observed that prisoners, war veterans, refugees, and others who have been through extreme difficulties are often able to understand the Dharma more quickly than those whose lives have been easier. Sometimes I witnessed a deep understanding of the Dharma at our first meeting.
In just twenty minutes, they tuned in to a profound happiness, a joy in body and mind they’d never felt before. These are people who had touched the bottom of their suffering. Once they could see the suffering they were clinging to, thanks to remaining still in the presence of trauma, many were able to release the hold their suffering had on them and experience a profound happiness.
Once you taste that depth, you will never forget it. It changes you. One prisoner told me, “I’ve never been as happy as this. If I had discovered the Dharma earlier, I wouldn’t be in prison now. I had no idea happiness was this close. I’ve been looking for relief my whole life, and the more I looked, the more I suffered. I made many mistakes – running after suffering thinking it was happiness.‘
The Buddha In Jail: Restoring Lives, Finding Hope and Freedom