One the hardest tasks a human being can face is to change him or herself, to change some fundamental aspect of his own character. For some, bad habits are hard enough to change but for a lifelong criminal seeking rehabilitation it means profoundly re-building your character -— virtually turning yourself inside out. The ancient scriptures include many stories of transformation and redemption, teaching us that it is indeed possible. In this symposium, we will consider the concept of redemption and how through spiritual practice we can turn ourselves from sinners into saints.
In one of our sessions, we will watch the Emmy-winning documentary The Lifer and The Lady, by director John Kastner, which portrays the long struggle of convicted killer Ron Cooney to master the violent impulses in his character through yoga and meditation. Filmed partly at the Sivananda Ashram in Val Morin, Quebec, the film also features a cameo appearance by the late blessed Swami Vishnudevananda. Director Kastner will present the film and discuss his long experiences with criminals trying to “go straight.” We will also hear from Kenny Johnson, who began to practice meditation while in jail and underwent a complete transformation, emerging as a spiritual teacher and leader, and explore the yogic teachings on overcoming negative karma.