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The Dhamma Brothers (2008)

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East meets West in the Deep South. An overcrowded maximum-security prison-the end of the line in Alabama's correctional system-is dramatically changed by the influence of an ancient ... See full summary »



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Credited cast:
Grady Bankhead Grady Bankhead ... Himself
Ron Cavanaugh Ron Cavanaugh ... Himself
Jonathan Crowley Jonathan Crowley ... Himself
Edward Johnson Edward Johnson ... Himself
Ben Oryang Ben Oryang ... Himself
Rick Smith Rick Smith ... Himself
Bruce Stewart Bruce Stewart ... Himself


East meets West in the Deep South. An overcrowded maximum-security prison-the end of the line in Alabama's correctional system-is dramatically changed by the influence of an ancient meditation program. Behind high security towers and a double row of barbed wire and electrical fence dwells a host of convicts who will never see the light of day. But for some of these men, a spark is ignited when it becomes the first maximum-security prison in North America to hold an extended Vipassana retreat, an emotionally and physically demanding course of silent meditation lasting ten days. The Dhamma Brothers tells a dramatic tale of human potential and transformation as it closely follows and documents the stories of the prison inmates at Donaldson Correction Facility who enter into this arduous and intensive program. Written by Balcony Releasing

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis



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Release Date:

11 April 2008 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Dharmatestvérek See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,710, 13 April 2008

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs



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Did You Know?


A band from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England took the name 'The Dhamma Brothers' in homage to the film See more »

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User Reviews

The Dhamma Brothers

"The Dhamma Brothers" is a documentary film directed by Jenny Philips. This film shows the prisoners' experience of Vipassana meditation at Donaldson Correctional Facility, which is located in Alabama state. This facility is a maximum security prison, where most of its inmates are serving life sentences. The introduction of Vipassana meditation in this prison, which is located far away from the origin of this Asian tradition, led to positive consequences and changes in prisoners' further life. In this movie review, I will analyze the influence of Vipassana meditation on prisoners whose behaviors were deviant until the introduction of this practice. In most cases, when a person is committing a felony, he feels hatred, which is one of the components of craving. The person who does not know Four Noble Truths does not know the true meaning of life. Feelings such as hatred, delusion and greed cause craving, which, in turn, is the origin of sufferings. Murdering is one of the consequences of craving. Therefore, murderers are true representatives of people who do not know the true meaning of life. In the moment of committing a crime, a criminal earns bad karma of course. After their death, this bad karma will lead to their rebirth in lower realms, maybe even in a Hell realm. However, the true meaning of life is to achieve nirvana and liberate yourself from sufferings. Therefore, criminals due to the commitment of a felony deprived themselves of escaping samsara and the attaining of nirvana. In prison, they have no opportunity to rethink their life, bad deeds. However, prisoners from Donaldson Correction Facility had this rare opportunity to practice mindfulness under guidance. It is a very amazing act, to introduce Vipassana meditation in prison, in the West. Not so many people, actually, would take an initiative to introduce a meditation which is commonly practiced by the Asian community, in such an insecure place, which is full of criminals. In 2002, Vipassana meditation was introduced in this prison. Although it is a Buddhist traditional practice, most of the prisoners agreed to participate in 10 days of intensive retreat, which is a surprising fact. The reason for such decisions can be interest in a new experience in their lives, as they do not have so many opportunities to diversify their life experience within the walls of this correctional facility. After practicing Vipassana meditation for some days, they experienced physical pain and they could not break the silence. Such conditions seemed to most of them to be harsher even than prison's conditions. For example, one of the prisoners, Grady Bankhead highlighted that practice meditation is harder and tougher in comparison with his 8 years of serving the life sentence. For a time, a life in prison seemed to them more comfortable in comparison with a retreat. However, after some time, after adjustment of the body and mind for a retreat, after coping with physical pain, they could concentrate on themselves. Their mind became concentrated, most of them concentrated it on their breath. With a flow of time of meditation, their behavior has changed to the good side, even guards highlighted that there was no such silence in a prison before the introduction of meditation. Such amazing perception by criminals of Vipassana meditation shows that Vipassana meditation can be practiced by people who are following other religions, or even by atheists. The reason is that the true meaning of practicing Vipassana meditation is to show the true nature of mind for its practitioners and to practice mindfulness. The Buddha itself achieved the enlightenment by the means of Vipassana meditation. So, Vipassana meditation is a technique by practicing which a practitioner will become aware of his life experience, will have a new insight into his life. The mindfulness is the most important component in humans' lives and they should practice it to understand the true meaning of life. After this meditation, many of the prisoners changed their behavior, some of them even were liberated from the prison, and were given a second chance to live their lives outside of the prison. From this, it can be concluded that Vipassana meditation, undoubtedly, had a positive effect on prisoners' mindfulness. Therefore, prisoners in need of practicing Vipassana meditation, as they have a chance to purify themselves and their karma. In conclusion, Buddhism is a humane religion, namely, it is widespread, and can be followed by anyone regardless of being a good or bad person, as prisoners, for example. Buddhism can be practiced by everyone, regardless of their social class, citizenship, age, gender, religious belonging. Buddhism shows its practitioners the true meaning of life and by the practice of meditation, people can liberate themselves from sufferings.

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