In 1973 Ram Dass was sending his spiritual book, Be Here Now, into prisons and receiving countless letters back. People wrote about their personal transformations and also asked tough spiritual questions:
How can you meditate when negative thoughts of anger, shame and guilt engulf you? How can you be loving in such a dangerous place? How can you forgive yourself and others? How can you create inner peace in a noisy, violent and chaotic atmosphere? How can you find freedom behind bars?
Bo and Sita Lozoff felt a personal connection with Ram Dass’ book as well as with the prison populations because of their own brother-in-law who was incarcerated. They teamed up with Ram Dass to help him reply to mail from people in prisons all over the country. Thus the Prison-Ashram Project was born. In 1987, Human Kindness Foundation was founded to operate the Prison-Ashram Project.
‘Ashram’ is a Sanskrit word meaning “House of God.” An ashram is a place where people live for a period of time to strengthen their spiritual practice and self-discipline. Many ashrams are very strict. Residents follow a rigid schedule and live very simply.
We never imagined that hundreds of thousands of people doing hard-core prison time would be interested in such an idea. But within the first couple of years, the letters began pouring in and have not stopped to this day.