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Aug 20, 2014

Serve in Dhamma without Expectations

 
Message from Principal Vipassana Teacher Sayagyi U Goenka
Annual Dhamma service meeting, Dhamma Giri, India, January 13, 1991


My dear Dhamma sons and Dhamma daughters:
We have undertaken very serious work. It is a very serious responsibility to serve others in Dhamma. If there is any impurity in our intentions, even a trace of desire that, "I must get something in return for all this service that I am giving," then our whole purpose will be lost. People who expect some material gain for the teaching of Dhamma can never teach Vipassana; they are totally unfit. 

On the other hand, there are those who understand they are not serving people in Dhamma for any material gain, and yet there will be some expectation of getting respect from others. "Well look, I am doing such a good service. I am giving such an invaluable jewel of Vipassana, so I have every right to be respected." If even a trace of expecting appreciation or recognition, respect from others remains, understand that one is not yet fit to serve others. First serve oneself - that is, first dissolve one's ego - and only then one is fit to serve others in Dhamma. 

The Enlightened One exhorted all those he sent for Dhamma service:
Caratha bhikkhave cārikam—Go forth, O monks
 Go forth for what?
Bahujana-hitāya—for the good of many; bahujana-sukhaya—for the happiness of many;
lokānu-kampāya—out of compassion for all beings.

Beginning of Vipassana journey in this life. Meditation Hall, Dhamma Thali, (Jaipur), Rajasthan, India.

There is suffering all around us, rich or poor, young or old. More people should come out of their suffering. That is the aim of sharing Vipassana - to serve others. Your gain is automatically involved. To reach the final stage of full enlightenment you have to develop your paramīs, and everything that you do for the good of others helps to develop your pāramīs.

If someone thinks even for a moment, "Let more and more people start calling themselves Buddhists, let there be a strong Buddhist sect, let people who are in the courtyard of other sects come into my courtyard so I have a larger number of followers," then one has not understood Buddha, has not understood Vipassana. The Buddha's teachings are universal; he did not start a sect or a religion in his name.

An incident in the Buddha's life: he went to a place where he gave a discourse to large numbers of recluses and followers of a particular sect. They were hesitant, thinking, "This fellow may convert us away from our sect."

The Buddha explained, "I have not come here to gather students for myself. I am not interested in making you my disciples. Don’t become frightened of that. I am not here to break your relationship with your teachers; may that continue. You have received something from your teachers, and you have respect for them as you should have. You give donations to these teachers; keep on giving to them. I am not here to stop you from achieving your goal of coming out of suffering and reaching full liberation. Whatever I will teach you to practice will help you to reach that goal. Give me seven days of your life, just try this."  

This should be our attitude in sharing the Buddha's teaching of Vipassana: "Just try this universal, non-sectarian practice to remove impurities in the mind, to change the habit pattern of generating negativity. We are not interested in converting you from this or that religion. Give just ten days of your life to learn Vipassana, and after that if you find it good, accept it. Otherwise, leave it." Then we are not expecting anything in return. We are just on the giving end. 

My teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin used to say, "I am on the giving end, never on the receiving end. If people want to take, they take. If they don’t want to take, they don’t take. With all my compassion, I just humbly give."

This should be the ego-less attitude of everyone who takes the most beneficial responsibility of giving Dhamma service. We are simply giving, without any kind of expectation. 

There is only only one motive—compassion, with the wish that more people benefit from practicing Vipassana in its purity. We benefited when we sat Vipassana courses through the Dhamma service of many others. May others too benefit from our Dhamma service.

And if people do not benefit, what can we do? We serve, but sometimes there may be some who do not work correctly and do not get the benefits. Again compassion, again give Dhamma service, that’s all.  Never become disappointed when people do not work properly and do not get what they should. If we become irritated with students, then it shows we have expectations, attachment to one's efforts. When ego arises, the Dhamma service becomes impure. Nobody benefits from Dhamma service given with ego or wrong volition.

Of course we wish that all benefit from practicing Vipassana, this universal path taught by the Buddha, and so we do our best. We keep practicing Vipassana, give Dhamma service - without expecting anything. Certainly this gives its own good result. 

Initial difficulties are bound to occur (remember the difficulties, confusion in one's own first Vipassana course!), because beginners have their own mental conditioning. So a new student may see things through coloured lenses. I too was initially hesitant in taking my first Vipassana course in Burma, thinking, "I am a staunch Hindu, a leader of the Hindu community here, and these people might convert me to Buddhism." However, all such fears vanished when I actually took my first Vipassana course.

Later, when Sayagyi U Ba Khin instructed me to take the priceless jewel of Vipassana to the Dhamma land of its origin, I faced a lot of suspicion when I first started teaching Vipassana in India. Some thought, "Look, this person’s motive certainly is to convert people." If one has a sectarian mind one will always see everything as sectarian. There are people in this country who come and establish hospitals, schools and different social institutes, and then after a few years of service they start to convert the people who come there to their religion.

Since such things have happened, people started feeling, "Look! This fellow has come from Burma and says he is here to serve people. Yes, people get peace and happiness, they come out of drugs or alcohol or other problems. This is wonderful. But his ultimate aim is to convert everybody to Buddhism."

Well, one smiles. If this was really the intention, one would become agitated, thinking, "Look, my clever scheme has been discovered. Now how will I be successful?" But if the mind is pure one feels, "Let people talk. If not today, they will understand tomorrow." The pure teaching of Vipassana spreads only in this way.

Similarly in Western countries, there is some initial hesitation about accepting Vipassana. Some think, "Look, a foreign religion is coming to our country." The initial doubt is there. But our intentions are purely to serve, to share with people an universal practice to purify the mind, and be happy. And if this aim is not polluted, success will eventually come.

A time is bound to come for the wider sharing of Vipassana - despite initial difficulties, provided the practice of Vipassana is kept pure, and the intention of those giving Dhamma service is pure. The volition is very important. We are merely vehicles of Dhamma, and if the volition of the vehicle is good more people will benefit. But if somebody plays an ego game in the name of Dhamma service, naturally Dhamma will drive this person away.

Pure Vipassana is bound to benefit millions around the world. The time has ripened. There is so much suffering all around. In the name of religion and sects, people are fighting with each other, killing each other. People keep getting agitated about "my religion, my religion," without understanding at the actual level what their religion is. A universal, practical remedy such as Vipassana is the need of the day. Anger and hatred can be conquered only with metta, not by reacting with anger.

Animosity, violence and suffering increase when people do not experience the actual benefits of living a wholesome life - just as every religion teaches. People correctly practicing Vipassana experience the actual benefits of their own religion. This inner peace makes this a much better world. In spite of all the darkness, there is this light of Dhamma, this small, growing light of Vipassana. This pure light of Vipassana is bound to glow brighter in oneself, and around the world.

Just as it is essential to have schools, colleges, hospitals, gymnasiums etc, similarly a time is bound to come when there will be a Vipassana centre in every village in the world. More people worldwide will start understanding the necessity of Vipassana practice, to keep the mind healthy and free from impurities. As we learn physical exercise by going to a gymnasium, we learn this mental exercise of Vipassana at a meditation centre. This has nothing to do with any cult, or any sect. Vipassana is an exercise to keep the mind healthy, wholesome and pure so that we live a good life - and share the benefits of Vipassana with others. This is the purpose of Dhamma service.

If the aim of serving others without expectation remains clear, and the practice of Vipassana is kept very pure, the suffering within and all around is bound to be dispelled, eradicated. Real peace will come, real harmony, happiness - within oneself, and in one's world. 

May all enjoy real peace, real harmony, real happiness.
May all beings be happy. May you be happy.


Sayagyi U Ba Khin on Vipassana (26.5 min); followed by Sayagyi U Goenka answering questions on Vipassana

 Steps to meditation cells in the Pagoda, Dhamma Giri, Igatpuri, India.
May all beings be happy, be liberated from all suffering. 
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Aug 8, 2014

Change Habit Pattern at Deepest Level of Mind

With Vipassana practice, you start changing the habit pattern of your mind by observing sensations and understanding their nature of impermanence. This equanimity stops the blind habit pattern of reacting to the sensation and multiplying the vicious cycle of misery
-- Principal Vipassana Teacher Sayagyi U Goenka

Q: Can you describe in practical terms what is happening in the body and in the mind, how this law of cause and effect works, and how this change can help us?
  
Sayagyi U Goenka: The Buddha said that understanding the Dhamma is nothing other than understanding the law of cause and effect. You have to realize this truth within yourself. In a ten-day Vipassana course you have the opportunity to learn how to do this. This investigation of truth pertaining to matter, pertaining to mind and pertaining to the mental concomitants, the mental contents, is not merely for the sake of curiosity, but to change your mental habit pattern at the deepest level of the mind. As you keep proceeding you will realize how the mind influences matter, and how matter influences the mind.
  
Every moment, within the framework of the body, masses of subatomic particles (kalapas) arise and pass away. How do they arise? The cause becomes clear as you investigate the reality as it is, without influence from any past conditioning or philosophical beliefs. The material input, the food that you have taken, becomes a cause for these kalapas to arise. You will also find that kalapas arise and pass away due to the climatic atmosphere around you. You also begin to understand the formation of the mind-matter structure: how matter helps matter to arise and dissolve, arise and dissolve. Similarly, you understand how mind helps matter to arise and dissolve. You will also notice that at times matter arises from the mental conditioning of the past, that is, the accumulated sankharas (conditioning) of the past. 

By the practice of Vipassana all of this starts to become clear. In a ten day Vipassana course you do not become perfect in this understanding but a beginning is made. You learn to observe: At this moment, what type of mind has arisen and what is the content of this mind? The quality of the mind is according to the content of the mind. For example, when a mind full of passion has arisen (or a mind full of anger, or a mind full of fear), you will notice that as it arises it helps to generate these subatomic particles.

When the mind is full of passion (lust, sexual desires), subatomic particles of a particular type arise within this material structure; there is a biochemical secretion that starts flowing throughout the body with the stream of the blood or otherwise. This type of biochemical flow, which starts because a mind full of passion has arisen, is called kamasava (sensual flow).
    
Now, as a very objective scientist, you proceed further, simply observing the truth as it is, observing how the law of nature works. When this secretion of kamasava starts, since it is the biochemical flow produced by passion, it influences the next moment of the mind with more passion. Thus this kamasava turns into a craving of passion at the mental level, which again stimulates kamasava, a flow of passion at the physical level. One starts influencing the other, starts stimulating the other, and the passion keeps on multiplying for minutes together, at times for hours together. The behavior pattern of the mind of generating passion is strengthened because of the repeated generation of passion.
    
Not only impurity of sexual desires but also fear, anger, hatred, and craving - every type of impurity that comes in the mind simultaneously generates an asava (biochemical flow) in the body. And this asava keeps stimulating that particular negativity, that particular impurity, resulting in a vicious cycle of suffering. You may call yourself a Hindu, or a Muslim, or a Buddhist, or a Jain, or a Christian - it makes no difference - the process is such, the law is such, that it is applicable to one and all. There is no discrimination.
   
But mere understanding at the intellectual level will not help to break this cycle, and may even create difficulties. Your beliefs from a particular tradition may look quite logical, yet these beliefs will create obstacles for you. The intellect has its own limitation. You cannot realize the ultimate truth merely at the intellectual level. The ultimate truth is limitless, infinite, while the intellect is finite. It is only through experience that we are able to realize that which is limitless, infinite. Even those who have accepted this law of nature intellectually are not able to change the behavior pattern of their minds. As a result, they are far away from realization of the ultimate truth.
   
The behavior pattern is at the depth of the mind. What is called the "unconscious mind" is actually not unconscious; at all times it remains in contact with this body. And along with this contact of the body a sensation keeps arising, because every chemical that flows in your body generates a particular type of sensation. You feel a sensation - pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, whatever it is - and with the feeling of this sensation, you keep reacting. At the depth of your mind you keep reacting with craving, with aversion. You keep generating different types of sankharas, different types of negativities, different types of impurities, and the process of multiplication continues. You cannot stop it because there is such a big barrier between the conscious and the unconscious mind - or rather between the surface of the mind and the depth of the mind. When you practice Vipassana you break this barrier. Without Vipassana the barrier remains, barrier of ignorance of what is happening within.
   
At the conscious level of the mind, at the intellectual level of the mind, one may accept the entire theory of Dhamma, of truth, of law, of nature. But still one keeps rolling in misery because one does not realize what is happening at the depth of the mind. Sensations are there in your body every moment. Every contact results in a sensation. Every thought, a memory, a desire arises with a sensation, a biochemical flow. This isn't a philosophy, it is the actual truth which can be verified by one and all.
     
On the surface the mind keeps itself busy with outside objects, or it remains involved with games of intellect, imagination, or emotion. That is the job of the paritta citta - the small, surface level of the mind. Therefore you do not feel what is happening deep inside, and you do not feel how you are reacting to what is happening at the deeper level of the mind.
     
With Vipassana practice, when that barrier is broken, one starts feeling sensations throughout the body, not merely at the surface but also deep inside because throughout the entire physical structure, wherever there is life, there is sensation. And by observing these sensations with equanimity you start realizing the characteristic of arising and passing, the impermanence in everything. With this experiential understanding you start to change the habit pattern of the mind.
     
Say, for example, you are feeling a particular sensation which may be due to the food you have eaten, which may be due to the atmosphere around you, which may be due to your present mental actions, or which may be due to your old mental reactions that are giving their fruit. Whatever it may be, a sensation is there, and you are trained to observe it with equanimity and not to react to it; but yet you keep on reacting because of the old habit pattern. 

You sit for one hour of Vipassana meditation, and initially you may get only a few moments when you do not react, but those few moments are wonderful moments. You have started changing the habit pattern of your mind by observing sensation and understanding its nature of impermanence. This stops the blind habit pattern of reacting to the sensation and multiplying the vicious cycle of misery. 

Initially in an hour you get a few seconds, or a few minutes of not reacting to sensations. But eventually, by patient, persistent practice, you reach a stage where throughout the hour you do not react at all. At the deepest level you do not react at all. A deep change is coming in the old habit pattern. The vicious cycle is broken: your mind was reacting to the chemical process which was manifesting itself as a sensation, and as a result, for hours together, your mind was flooded with a particular impurity, a particular defilement. Now it gets a break for a few moments, a few seconds, a few minutes. As the old habit of blind reaction becomes weaker, your behavior pattern is changing. You are coming out of your misery.
   
Again, this is not to be believed because the Buddha said so. It is not to be believed because I say so. It is not to be believed because your intellect says so. You have to experience it yourself.

People regularly practicing Vipassana - i.e. observing with equanimity the impermanence of the biochemical flow of sensations - experience a change for the better in their behavior, in their attitude, dealings with others and in their lives.

May all benefit from practicing Vipassana. May all beings be happy, be peaceful, be liberated.

(From the Vipassana Research Institute article)
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