S.N. Goenka brought the Buddha's teaching of ‘living wisdom’ back to the country of its birth.
By Zarina Mehta Screwvala
On September 29, Vipassana acharya S.N. Goenkaji passed away. He died as he lived, aware and smiling. It is impossible for any student to express the sense of gratitude one feels towards their teacher. I wrote this as his funeral procession was taking place, spending this time practising Vipassana and co-ordinating some details for the Vipassana PR committee I’m on. I know he will approve.
At some point in all our lives, no matter how happy or sad, we come to a point where a vague dissatisfaction creeps in. It’s the “I’m missing something” feeling. This happened to me seven years ago and the funny thing is, I was so happy in my personal and professional life. But I still felt that I hadn’t done anything meaningful with my life or really helped anyone. I felt that I was missing the real meaning and purpose of my life.
To me, Vipassana was like coming home. Taught by Goenkaji in the tradition of his teacher, Sayagyi U Ba Khin in Burma, Vipassana meditation is a practice that can be traced back to the Buddha. Goenkaji learnt under his teacher for 14 years and then came to India in 1969 to conduct a Vipassana course in Mumbai for his ailing mother. Despite the fact that he knew barely 50 people in the country, hundreds of people started coming to him. Sayagyi U Ba Khin’s dream of re-establishing Vipassana in the country of its birth was thus realised.
In 1976, Goenkaji established the first permanent Vipassana centre in the country at Igatpuri, where I did my first course. Today, Vipassana is taught at more than 170 centres in over 90 countries around the world. More than 100,000 students learn Vipassana each year in 59 languages. Vipassana courses, which are free of cost, in keeping with Goenkaji’s wishes, are also held in schools and jails, temples and mosques. Everything is paid for by the dana (gift) from past students.
A prolific writer and poet, Goenkaji composed in English, Hindi and Rajasthani, and his works have been translated into many languages. He was invited to lecture at forums