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The Buddhist on Death Row
How One Man Found Light in the Darkest Place
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About The Book
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Boy explores the transformation of Jarvis Jay Masters who has become one of America’s most inspiring Buddhist practitioners while locked in a cell on death row.
Jarvis Jay Masters’s early life was a horror story whose outline we know too well. Born in Long Beach, California, his house was filled with crack, alcohol, physical abuse, and men who paid his mother for sex. He and his siblings were split up and sent to foster care when he was five, and he progressed quickly to juvenile detention, car theft, armed robbery, and ultimately San Quentin. While in prison, he was set up for the murder of a guard—a conviction which landed him on death row, where he’s been since 1990.
At the time of his murder trial, he was held in solitary confinement, torn by rage and anxiety, felled by headaches, seizures, and panic attacks. A criminal investigator repeatedly offered to teach him breathing exercises which he repeatedly refused. Until desperation moved him to ask her how to do “that meditation shit.” With uncanny clarity, David Sheff describes Masters’s gradual but profound transformation from a man dedicated to hurting others to one who has prevented violence on the prison yard, counseled high school kids by mail, and helped prisoners—and even guards—find meaning in their lives.
Along the way, Masters becomes drawn to the principles that Buddhism espouses—compassion, sacrifice, and living in the moment—and he gains the admiration of Buddhists worldwide, including many of the faith’s most renowned practitioners. And while he is still in San Quentin and still on death row, he is a renowned Buddhist thinker who shows us how to ease our everyday suffering, relish the light that surrounds us, and endure the tragedies that befall us all.
About The Reader
Michael Boatman spends his days and nights pretending to be other people. For a living. He’s acted in television shows such as The Good Wife, China Beach, Spin City, ARLI$$, Anger Management, Instant Mom; films such as Hamburger Hill, The Glass Shield, Bad Parents; and Broadway plays. MichaelBoatman.us, Twitter.com/MichaelBoatman
Why We Love It
“Of course, it’s exciting to publish the next narrative nonfiction book by an author whose last one was a #1 New York Times bestseller. Those who have read other works about mindfulness will also marvel at how much more clearly and dramatically this one describes the process and effects of meditation, dharma, satori, and more.” —Eamon D., VP, Executive Editor, on The Buddhist on Death Row
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (August 4, 2020)
- Length: 320 pages
- Runtime: 7 hours and 32 minutes
- ISBN13: 9781797103044
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Raves and Reviews
"Jarvis Jay Masters was an angry and anxious inmate on death row in San Quentin when an investigator urged him to try meditation as a way to find calm. Masters becomes a Buddhist and a peacemaker in the prison, and in those finds a sort of liberation. Narrator Michael Boatman's graceful, gentle tone and deliberate pacing are compelling as he masterfully guides us through Jarvis's emotional journey. Through his Buddhist teachers and constant, striving practice, Jarvis comes to terms with the violence that he has experienced and perpetrated, and copes with multiple emotional tests as he loses court appeal after court appeal, a teacher dies, and his marriage fails. Jarvis may be serious about his purpose in life, but his sense of humor and humility lighten the load, and Boatman is right there to capture the right mood for every word."
– AudioFile Magazine
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