Of the Last and Lasting Breath: Two Accounts of Mindfulness in the Face of Death Sentence


This presentation offers two insightful accounts of the (former) prisoners on the brink of their death sentence. This illuminates how both of them went through self-transformation process in the context of Buddhist meditation. The sharing is based on the reflection of a memoir by a Thai man on his last moment at San Quentin in 1999 along with an ethnographic account I conduct over the last ten years with a Cambodian woman who witnessed the atrocities under the Khmer Rouge regime in the late 1970s.

Questions for reflection

How do these stories inspire us to rethink about the meaning of ‘prison’ and ‘prisoner’ in Buddhism?

How do these breath-related stories illuminate our understanding on the air-borne pandemic we are all now facing?

How does breath reveal the dharma? 

Further reading

Kittisenee, Napakadol., “Buddhist Meditation.” In Bloomsbury Religion in North America. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021. Accessed September 8, 2021.

I first subscribed to my Teochew Chinese immigrant identity from the periphery of Thai-Lao polities before acquiring academic uniforms of anthropologist and historian of Theravada Buddhism and mainland Southeast Asia. This background encompasses my primary attention towards border, migration, religion and ethnic identity. My extensive fieldwork experience at Buddhist sites in India and within Greater Mekong Subregion as well as a decade-long engagement with peace movements in post-genocidal Cambodia encourage me to reflect on Buddhist responses to atrocities created by human and non-human agents in different historical timelines. My broader interest also includes the predicament of spirituality in the face of contemporary uncertainties and global/cosmological disruption.