Razor-Wire Dharma is an eloquent, enlightening, and utterly inspiring personal story of how one man found Buddhism—and real, transformative meaning—despite being in one of the world's harshest environments.
Some of these stories are hilarious, some are harrowing, but all express Buddhist wisdom as vividly as any practitioner could hope to do—in the unlikeliest of places. In prison, the choice of staying true to principles often requires jeopardizing life, safety, and the few small comforts available to try to do what's right.
Calvin Malone was born in Munich, Germany in 1951 to a German mother and an African-American father. At the age of seven he and his family moved to Monterey, California and Calvin entered the second grade, speaking only German. Within a year he was fluent in English. Calvin attended Walla Walla Community College and studied European History. He also traveled extensively throughout Europe. Calvin began practicing Buddhism soon after he entered prison for aggravated assault in 1992 and started writing about his prison experiences shortly thereafter. He has published numerous articles in Buddhist magazines and newsletters. He was instrumental in developing a post-prison transitional program and makes malas (prayer beads) for Buddhist prisoners around the country.
"Through these stories of a committed Buddhist places under great pressure, Malone asks us to reflect on the nature of difficult circumstances and the obstacles to practice. This book illustrates that, however narrow or broad our freedoms, we all make choices that will either imprison or liberate us."
– Shambhala Sun
"Calvin Malone has an incredible ability to apply the teachings in the most difficult of circumstances. Razor-Wire Dharma is an essential read for incarcerated individuals who may find Calvin's stories all too familiar (and will find his resource guide in the back invaluable). Those on the 'outside' would benefit from hearing this authentic Buddhist voice. A pleasurable read."
"Calvin Malone's bravery, grace and selflessness is so inspiring I could not help but smile as I flipped each page. If I were to recommend one book that stands out from the endless sea of Dharma books, one that will not only make you smile but will also tug a bit at your heart strings, than I would tell you to read Razor-Wire Dharma."
– Precious Metal Blog
"Razor-Wire Dharma is not just for Buddhists, it is for anyone who values cultivating patience, forgiveness, tolerance, and a kind heart. Calvin shows us; in short, engaging anecdotes about his life in prison how to do this in even the most difficult of situations. This book is also for anyone who wants to learn more about America's criminal justice system and why, instead of helping people become productive members of society, it encourages recidivism. The ways to improve the prison system in order to benefit society as well as individuals become clear when you read Razor-Wire Dharma."
– Thubten Chodron, author of Open Heart, Clear Mind
"I count Calvin Malone as one of my teachers."
– Lin Jensen, author of Bad Dog!, Pavement, and Together Under One Roof
"Calvin Malone is, if not the most remarkable practitioner, certainly one of the most remarkable. He sits his practice, he walks his practice, and he lives his practice in an environment where practice is beyond difficult. Calvin knows when to speak, how to speak skillfully, and when to remain silent. He knows when to lead, and when to make way for others to exercise and develop leadership. He is a 'teacher without portfolio' in an environment that desperately needs teachers."
– Ven. Rowan Conrad, Ph.D, Dharma Teacher in lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh
"Does it take a special person to live 'a Buddhist life' in prison? Though Malone may be 'special' in the depth of the personal transformation he's achieved after two decades of practice, stories in Razor-Wire Dharma reveal that even the most jaded or damaged individuals--the rage-filled and the greedy and even the delusional--can benefit from the Dharma, through the teachings per se or through exposure to those who have been altered by them."--
– Northwest Dharma News
"Calvin Malone's compelling, beautifully written memoir goes beyond his experiences as someone whose life in prison was transformed by Buddhism. With vivid descriptions of his life and practice behind bars, he show us that anyone, in any circumstances, can make a positive change in his or her own life and in the lives of those around them."
– Carol Schneck, Schuler Books & Music
"Razor-Wire Dharma is both a candid personal narrative and an inside take on the fast-growing Buddhist movement behind bars. In a series of captivating anecdotes, Malone introduces a diverse cast of cellmates, guards, and family members, reflecting on the challenges-and strategies for skillful means-that each interaction brings. This book is an inspiration, revealing the great potential that meditation holds."
"Besides providing a glimpse into the world of prison, this is also a serious book about Buddhism with no axe to grind or product to sell. In addition to the entertaining stories, there is also an excellent overview of the Four Noble Truths, a guide to meditation, and a worthy list of recommended reading and resources."