S. N. Goenka: A
Leading Master of Buddha's Teaching: To the increasing number of
people around the world who are awakening to the relevance of the Buddha's
eternal and non-sectarian teachings Mr. S. N. Goenka requires no introduction.
Since 1969 he has been conducting intensive 10-day meditation training courses
which have today grown into a large worldwide movement teaching the practical
quintessence of the Buddha's teaching, Vipassana meditation. Today he oversees
an organisation of more than 600 assistant teachers and more than 80
meditation centres and course sites spread across Asia, Europe, North and
South America, Oceania and Africa. This non-sectarian practice of mental
culture is being taught to tens of thousands of persons from all walks of
life. Its time tested practical applications are providing real answers for
people as they struggle to find ways to improve their own lives and the
societies in which they live.
Mr. S. N. Goenka was trained in Burma (Myanmar) by the renowned Vipassana teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin (1899-1971). After 14 years' training under his teacher, in 1969 he was appointed as a full-fledged Vipassana acharya (teacher) in this highly respected tradition of Ledi Sayadaw. In the course of his ministry Mr. Goenka has been highly successful in taking this ancient teaching to all corners of the globe thereby proving his deeply held conviction that humanity's problems are truly universal and will respond only to a universal remedy. His presentation of the practical, non-sectarian nature of the Buddha's teaching as the means to achieve world peace have earned him the epithet of Vishwa Vipassana Acharya, World Vipassana Teacher.
From a successful businessman to an internationally acclaimed spiritual master
Mr. Satya Narayan Goenka was born in Mandalay, Myanmar in 1924. He joined his family business in 1940 and rapidly became a pioneering industrialist establishing several manufacturing corporations in Myanmar. He soon became a leading figure in Myanmar's large influential Indian community and headed such organisations as the Burma Marwari Chamber of Commerce and the Rangoon Chamber of Commerce & Industry for many years. He often accompanied Trade Delegations of the Union of Burma as advisor on international tours.
In 1969 Mr. Goenka retired from all business activities and devoted his life to the spread of Vipassana meditation for the benefit of suffering humanity. In the same year he came to India and held his first ten-day meditation course. In a country still sharply divided by caste and religion, Vipassana was widely and easily accepted because of its non-sectarian nature. In 1979, he began travelling abroad to introduce Vipassana in countries of the East and West.
Mr. S. N. Goenka has personally conducted hundreds of 10-day courses around the world, in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Japan, U.S.A., Canada, U.K., France, Switzerland, Myanmar, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. In response to ever-growing demand, he started training assistant teachers to conduct these 10-day residential courses on his behalf. So far, he has trained more than 600 assistant teachers who have conducted courses, with the help of thousands of volunteers, in more than ninety countries including the People's Republic of China, Iran, Muscat, UAE, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mongolia, Russia, Serbia, Taiwan, Cambodia, Mexico and all the countries of South America. From the very beginning there has never been any charge for the teaching in these courses, which today have grown to over 700 courses annually around the world. Neither Mr. Goenka nor his assistants get any financial gain from these courses. He trains for the responsibility of assistant teacher only those senior meditators who are ready to volunteer their time without any material benefit.
In 1974 Mr. Goenka established the Vipassana International Academy at Dharmma Giri, lgatpuri, near Mumbai, India, where courses of ten days and even longer duration are held continuously.
A prolific writer and poet, Mr. Goenka writes in English, Hindi and Rajasthani. His works have been translated into many languages around the world. Mr. Goenka has been invited to lecture by institutes as diverse as the Dharma Drum Mountain Monastery (of Ven. Sheng Yen) in Taiwan and the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The Government of Burma (Myanmar) honored him by awarding him the title of Wunna Kyaw Htin and recently bestowed on him the title of Maha Saddhamma Joti Dhaja, which is the highest title awarded to any layman in Myanmar. India's Nav Nalanda Maha Vihar has conferred on him the honorary Doctorate degree of D. Litt.
Teaching for all sections of society: from prisoners to civil servants
Vipassana meditation has been taught to prison inmates and staff in many parts of India as well as the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Taiwan and Nepal. There are permanent Vipassana centres in two Indian prisons. More than ten thousand prisoners have attended ten-day Vipassana courses in prisons around the world. One thousand prisoners participated in a 10-day course conducted by Mr. S. N. Goenka in Tihar Jail, Delhi in 1995. What started in a big way in Tihar has now spread all over India. In February 2000 there was a course for about 500 prisoners in Yerawada prison in Pune. Convinced of its positive results the Government of India has recommended that every prison in the country should organise 10-day Vipassana courses for inmates. As a result hundreds of prisoners continue to participate in Vipassana retreats every month. Thousands of police officers have attended Vipassana courses in the centre at the Police Academy, Delhi and in other centres throughout India.
Men and women of all walks of life have practised Vipassana. They include the highly educated and the illiterate, the wealthy and the impoverished, aristocrats and slum-dwellers, devout followers of every religion and followers of none, the powerful and the powerless, the aged and the young. Courses have been set up for the disabled, including the blind and leprosy patients. Other programs have focused on school children, drug addicts, street urchins, college students and business executives.
Governments of Indian states of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, giant corporations such as Oil and Natural Gas Commission, apex research institutes such as the Bhabha Atomic Research Institute, national training institutes such as Indian Institute of Taxation encourage employees to attend Vipassana courses as part of their ongoing job training.
Principal centre for ancient Pali Buddhist scriptures
In 1981 along side the main
center at Dhammagiri, Igatpuri, Mr. S. N. Goenka established the Vipassana
Research Institute (VRI) to conduct research into the ancient Pali literature
and the benefits of Vipassana practice. He attracted leading Pali scholars of
India and Myanmar to collaborate in a project of epic proportions.
Pali is the language in which the Buddha taught to the masses of north India. The compiled teachings of the Buddha are contained in the Pali Tipitaka canon. Under the guidance of Mr. S. N. Goenka, VRI took on the monumental task of publishing the entire Pali Tipitaka canon and related literature, a publishing effort which amounts to more than 140 volumes and includes canonical as well as commentarial texts. This eight-year effort was the first successful publication of this comprehensive literature since the Sixth Buddhist Synod (Chattha Sangayana) in 1956 in Rangoon (Yangon). To cap this achievement VRI entered the entire text into computers and produced software to enable the viewing in a variety of scripts: Devanagari, Roman, Sinhalese, Burmese, Khmer, Mongolian and Thai. Computerising the Pali canon has enabled research on a scale heretofore unimaginable with the use of the powerful search features of the software. Furthermore this priceless heritage of Asia has been made freely available to scholars around the world without any charges whatsoever thus giving renewed impetus to the study and research of the Buddha's words. Now with the availability of the Pali canon on the Internet VRI has truly given Pali literature to the world at large.
A historic monument of the Buddha
To reverse centuries of misunderstanding concerning India's greatest son, the Buddha, Mr. S. N. Goenka has taken up the construction of a huge monument in Mumbai to spread the truth about the Buddha and his teaching. This 325 foot tall monument will be modeled after the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. It will include a meditation hall for more than 9000 Vipassana meditators with a circular gallery around it featuring depictions of the life of the Buddha and his teachings. This monument will also enshrine authentic relics of the Buddha, which were entrusted recently to Mr. S. N. Goenka by the Maha Bodhi Society of India. These relics are recognized by historians as the most authentic ones discovered by archeologists. They were originally given to the Maha Bodhi Society of India by the British Government during the British Rule over India.
Commitment to Peace
Mr. S. N. Goenka believes and teaches that for peace outside (among nations, among different communities) there must be peace inside. Individuals must learn the Art of Living in order to live peaceful lives. This is the heart of his teaching to people from different backgrounds in his workshops.
One important consequence of his work in India has been his subtle but telling influence on inter-religious harmony. Thousands of Catholic priests, Buddhist monks, Jain ascetics, Hindu sanyasis have come and continue to come to his courses along with other religious leaders. The universality of the Buddha's teaching of Vipassana is providing the platform for bridging ideological spans without any threat of conversion.
Mr. S. N. Goenka recently made history when he and a top Hindu leader, H H Shankaracharya Shri Jayendra Saraswati of Kanchi met and together exhorted Hindus and Buddhists alike to forget past differences and live in harmony. But mere exhortations cannot alone bring the desired result. Only when individuals undertake to remove from within themselves the blocks to peace and harmony can it begin to flower outside and affect society. For this reason Mr. S. N. Goenka remains emphatic on the practical application of meditation to empower man to achieve inner as well as outer peace.