Vipassana: The Ancient Meditation Technique of India

Vipassana is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. 2500 years ago it was re-discovered by the Gotama the Buddha and taught by him as a universal remedy for universal ills. At first the technique flourished in India but gradually it became corrupted, lost its efficacy, and disappeared from the land of its origin. Fortunately the neighbouring country of Myanmar (Burma) preserved the original form of Vipassana through the millennia. Since 1969 it has been re-introduced to India, where it is now striking deep roots.

The gates of the Vipassana Meditation were opened to India in 1969 when Sayagyi U Ba Khin authorised Shri Satya Narayana Goenka, an industrialist of Myanmar as teacher of Vipassana Meditation. Goenkaji conducted courses in temples, churches, mosques, pilgrims' resthouses, monasteries, schools, and hotels. These "gypsy camps" (non-centre camps) were invaluable in the spread of Dhamma, but obviously it would be still more valuable to have a place specifically for the practice of Vipassana meditation. The importance of establishing a centre was stressed by Sayagyi U Ba Khin when, in the early seventies, he was visited by the first of Goenkaji's students in Myanmar.

There were, however, formidable obstacles, not all of them financial. One was that while the Buddha is held in high respect in India, his teaching is widely regarded with suspicion. If a centre was founded to spread the teaching of the Buddha, it might be regarded as a sectarian institution, in which case its appeal would be limited only to a small group of people. Aware of this danger, Goenkaji emphasized strongly the non-sectarian, universal nature of Vipassana meditation. He made it clear that Vipassana Centres were not to be the property of any group, but was for the benefit of all who sought a way out of suffering. The first Vipassana Centre, Dhamma Giri, was established in 1976 with same motive!

Goenkaji recalled his Teacher's own policy. Sayagyi had written, "There is no admission or subscription fee or fixed donation payable by my disciples…. We accept aid only from disciples who have purified themselves with Vipassana meditation…. If one can help the people to enjoy the fruits of meditation and if they know that the results obtained are for their well-being, tangible, here-and-now, and concrete, you cannot prevent them from doing their mite to give better facilities for the promotion of the Dhamma."

The starting of a centre was thus not just a matter of finding the right piece of land and the money to pay for it. There must be the proper foundation: the wish to experience and share with all others the benefits of Vipassana meditation.

However, Goenkaji was confident that the Dhamma would overcome these obstacles. He worked tirelessly to realize his Teacher's goal of establishing a centre from which the Dhamma could spread not only in India but around the world. And that effort has turned in the form of more than 55 Vipassana Centers in India and 80 other in rest of the world! Dhamma Vahini is one of them! Many Vipassana meditators have been involved in the development of this great project.

To maintain its purity, Mr Goenka insists, meditation must never become a business. Courses and Centres operating under his direction are all run on a totally nonprofit basis. He himself receives no remuneration for his work directly or indirectly, nor do the assistant teachers whom he has authorised to teach courses as his representatives. He distributes the technique of Vipassana purely as a service to Humanity, to help those who are in need of help.

May all beings be happy!