*The Buddha did not teach 'Buddhism' * Why no fees charged for Vipassana *Application for Vipassana courses *Beneficial power of Metta *Anapana for children
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Aug 3, 2009

Global Pagoda and the little puppy

The Global Pagoda serves as an lighthouse of Dhamma, pointing to the practical teaching of Vipassana. To troubled sailors in the ocean of misery, Vipassana serves as an experiential boat of awareness and equanimity. Wisely using the oars of daily, regular Vipassana practice, one can happily and safely sail through the dangerous rocks, storms, ups and downs of life.

Vipassana is taught in over Dhamma 147 centres and in many non-centre locations worldwide. Dhamma Pattana, within the Global Pagoda premises, is one such Vipassana centre.

Each Vipassana centre is a rare island of purity and real happiness, to serve beings for generations. Principal Vipassana teacher Sayagyi U S.N. Goenka has given many benevolent guidelines ensuring that the lighthouses of Dhamma function with complete harmony, unity, and peace among all those serving in Vipassana centres. One's ego becomes the greatest enemy to not only one's own peace and harmony, but starts harming others.

Sayagyi U Goenka narrates an inspiring little story:

" A bullock cart owner used to transport goods from one place to the other. This man had a small dog. When he travelled from one village to another, he trained the dog to walk under the bullock cart to avoid the sun’s heat.

Wherever they travelled, the farmer sat on the bullock cart but the dog walked below in the shade of the cart.

In time the small dog came to feel that he was carrying the entire burden of the cart,and he wondered why the farmer gave so much attention to the bullocks. He thought, "I am carrying the burden of this cart! Wherever we travel, it is over my back. More importance should be given to me!"

Actually, nobody is carrying the cart; the Dhamma is carrying the cart. Nobody should feel, "I am the most important person, it is only because of me that the Vipassana centre functions properly. It is only because of me that the teaching is given, that Dhamma spreads."

Come out of this madness! Understand that you are simply a vehicle, a tool, and Dhamma is doing its job. If you had not been given this responsibility, somebody else would have taken it and the work would go on. Dhamma is bound to spread now; the clock of Vipassana has struck. You have been given the opportunity to serve in one way or another, and this should not become a cause of inflating your ego.

A new centre has started and it should develop with the proper Dhamma atmosphere. It should be a source of inspiration not only to those who are on the Path, but also to those who are not, so that they will be attracted and come to Dhamma. This is a great responsibility for all of you.

Certainly you all have good merits and pāramīs (merits) from the past, which is why you have come on the path of Dhamma and now have the opportunity to serve Dhamma. Make use of this opportunity to increase your pāramīs so that you draw nearer and nearer the final goal of liberation. Help yourself and help others."

Below is the full text of Goenkaji's talk at the start of Dhamma Mahi, the first Vipassana centre in Europe, August 1988, on 'How to Strengthen a Dhamma Centre'. These protection-giving rules are most relevant and beneficial now, and in future.

"My dear Dhamma sons and Dhamma daughters:

Now that we have a centre in Europe, an important question has been raised about the need to maintain discipline here. Of course discipline was maintained in the non-centre courses, but it is even more important here because we want the centre to develop strong Dhamma vibrations so that the students who come here benefit far more than was possible in those camps.

Understand: A Dhamma centre is not established only for the benefit of the present students. Properly managed it will continue to serve this part of the world for generations, maybe for centuries.

You who are establishing the centre now are pioneers and have a great responsibility. If you maintain the purity of the technique, the purity of the teaching and the purity of the Dhamma vibrations, coming generations will imitate you and also do the same; and so from day to day, year to year, and generation to generation the vibrations will become stronger and stronger.

Some students may not like certain rules. It is the duty of the senior students, the trustees, the management and the assistant teachers to convince those people of their necessity. You can explain that discipline is necessary in a hospital for the well being of the patients, and similarly discipline is necessary in this Dhamma place,which is like a hospital for people who are miserable. In fact it is even more important in a Dhamma centre because if rules are relaxed here, the anti-Dhamma forces (Māra) will start to play games.

I remember the case of one of the first centres in the West where some of the senior students told me that the rules of segregation are appropriate for Eastern culture, but not for the West. They said, "If you impose such rules it will be too much for the students. When we meet here in our country we shake hands, hug, or kiss each other on the cheek, so physical contact is unavoidable. If this is stopped, people will think that we are too harsh and regimented."I was not happy, but because the students were pressing hard and they were honest, sincere and respectful, I said, "All right, let us give this a trial. Don’t encourage physical contact, but where it is unavoidable this guideline can be relaxed." It wasn’t long before Māra started playing games and after about a year a married couple, both of them very old students, separated because they had developed relationships with two other serious students at the centre. The Vipassana centre had become a place of courtship, and this encouraged other students to play the same game. The atmosphere became unbearable, and the senior students themselves realized that strict discipline must be maintained; otherwise the centre would be spoiled.We can learn from one mistake; we do not have to make the same mistake at every centre.

So be very careful, don’t allow Māra to find even a small entry on to this Dhamma land, or it will spoil the spread of Dhamma.

Now at Dhamma Mahi, just as at that early centre, some of you want a relaxation of the discipline. There have been objections that people here cannot sing or socialize,at least between courses. No, that would not be healthy at a Dhamma centre. There is nothing wrong with Vipassana students socializing, but that should not take place on Dhamma land. On this land only Dhamma is to be practised. Whether or not there is a course running, strict discipline must be maintained.

Remember that although you apply the rules firmly, you should not become negative. If, with negativity in your mind you ask a student to work properly, then you yourself have started to spoil the atmosphere; you yourself have broken the discipline. If somebody is breaking discipline, there must be immense compassion and infinite love towards this person. You have to be firm, but with deep love and compassion.

Before speaking to a wayward student, first examine whether your mind is balanced and whether you are generating love and compassion towards the person. Only if this is so may you speak to the student; otherwise not. If you are not fit it is better to remain silent and let things take their course.

First correct yourself before you try to correct anybody else.

This is so important on Dhamma land; otherwise not only will you defile the atmosphere but you will also drive people away.When students see an experienced server, trustee, manager, or assistant teacher speaking harshly, will they be encouraged to walk on the Dhamma path? They will think, "If these people who have taken so many courses and are here to help others have no love or compassion, what sort of technique is this? What will I learn here?" Instead of helping people to get established in Dhamma, you will drive them away.

It is better to sacrifice one point in the discipline than to spoil the atmosphere of the Dhamma land with negativity. Everyone must be cautious about this.Also, never go to extremes. It is true that we do not want Dhamma buildings to be painted black or red, but don’t go to such an extreme that you say, "Because red is not permitted, we won’t use pink either, nor will we allow people to wear red or pink sweaters."

Now, what is this discipline that we have to maintain? Segregation is essential of course. Also, at a Dhamma centre as on a course, there should be no singing or chanting, not even chanting words of Dhamma. Convince questioners of the value of this rule by explaining that when one chants or sings one generates vibrations, and only those who have been properly trained should do that at a centre. One who has been trained to chant goes deep inside with equanimity and feels sensations whenever there is a pause. This kind of chanting generates healthy vibrations. However developed a student may be, he or she has not been properly trained to chant and should refrain from doing so. Singing is out of the question.

Between courses, gossip and chatter should be discouraged. You do not have to maintain silence but there should be only such talk as is necessary. There are four kinds of verbal impurity: telling lies, backbiting, slanderous talk, and indulging in idle chatter. Although you don’t have to be silent, be careful that this fourth impurity is avoided along with the others.

Students who wish to bring their children here should understand that there are not enough servers to look after the children. If families come, the father can stay in the outer compound and look after the child while the mother meditates, and vice versa;this is acceptable. Fortunately there is plenty of land here; some arrangement can be made so that these children are kept far away from the meditation compound and do not disturb the students.

Understand that when a meditator practices mettā, the positive vibrations are very strong; and similarly if a meditator directs negativity at a child, it would also be strong and would harm the child. In the interest of the children, parents should not let them cause any disturbance in the meditation compound.

Under no circumstances should a student or server bring any kind of animal with them. This is totally prohibited in a Dhamma centre. If anybody brings an animal, politely request them to take it away. If they can’t, it is better that they leave with their animal.

Then there is the important question of old students and assistant teachers living and working together harmoniously at the centre: The old students and the assistant teachers are the representatives of Vipassana to all others. What sort of example are they if they quarrel and find fault with each other? The Buddha wanted Vipassana meditators to behave in such a way that they establish confidence in Dhamma in the minds of those who have no confidence in Dhamma, and increase confidence in Dhamma in the minds of those who already have confidence in Dhamma.

Responsible meditators have to be very careful. Nothing should be done that would decrease the confidence and devotion of students towards Dhamma, or would drive new students away from the path of Dhamma. Everyone comes here to serve, not to build up egotism.

An assistant teacher should never feel, "I am superior to all other students." You are not superior; you have been given a responsibility to serve in this way, and if tomorrow you are asked to serve in a different way, you will serve in that way.

Understand that there are old students who are capable of teaching but for one reason or another they have not been appointed.The old students should also be careful; on their part they should always have a feeling of respect towards those who have been appointed assistant teachers. When somebody sits on the Dhamma seat they represent Dhamma, they represent your teacher; so showing them respect is respecting the Dhamma, respecting your teacher.

If both assistant teachers and students have this attitude, automatically the relationship will be harmonious. But perhaps an assistant teacher feels, "Everything must be done according to my orders," or the management or the Dhamma servers feel, "We don’t care what the assistant teacher says, we will work as we like. Who is this person to give us advice?" If such attitudes develop, the atmosphere would be spoiled.

It is very important that there be harmony in a Dhamma centre.

Everyone has to help each other to help the Dhamma help the students who have come here. No one should feel that they are superior or inferior. You are here simply to serve people. The best way to serve people is to generate as much love and compassion as possible, and dissolve your ego as much as possible.

This is not only in the students’interest, it is in your interest also. If you build your ego as you serve people, you have started to harm yourself in the name of Dhamma, in the name of serving others. One who cannot help oneself can never help others.

At the start of one or two of the centres there was a tussle between the assistant teachers and the management or trustees. That fire started, but soon it was extinguished; now don’t repeat that bad example here. From the beginning make sure that there is no fire; only cordiality and goodwill should prevail.Whenever there is a problem the management, trustees and assistant teachers should sit down in a cordial atmosphere and make a decision. If you can’t make adecision because there is a difference of opinion, try to understand the others’ point of view and then inform the teacher; let him take a decision. But don’t run to the teacher for minor problems; you should be able to discuss things and settle the matter amongst yourselves.

Here is a little story: A bullock cart owner used to transport goods from one place to the other. This man had a small dog. When he travelled from one village to another, he trained the dog to walk under the bullock cart to avoid the sun’s heat.
Wherever they travelled, the farmer sat on the bullock cart but the dog walked below in the shade of the cart.
In time the small dog came to feel that he was carrying the entire burden of the cart,and he wondered why the farmer gave so much attention to the bullocks. He thought, "I am carrying the burden of this cart! Wherever we travel, it is over my back. More importance should be given to me!"

Actually, nobody is carrying the cart; the Dhamma is carrying the cart. Nobody should feel, "I am the most important person, it is only because of me that the Vipassana centre functions properly. It is only because of me that the teaching is given, thatDhamma spreads."
Come out of this madness! Understand that you are simply a vehicle, a tool, and Dhamma is doing its job. If you had not been given this responsibility, somebody else would have taken it and the work would go on. Dhamma is bound to spread now; the clock of Vipassana has struck. You have been given the opportunity to serve in one way or another, and this should not become a cause of inflating your ego.
A new centre has started and it should develop with the proper Dhamma atmosphere. It should be a source of inspiration not only to those who are on the Path, but also to those who are not, so that they will be attracted and come to Dhamma. This is a great responsibility for all of you.
Certainly you all have good merits and pāramīs (merits) from the past, which is why you have come on the path of Dhamma and now have the opportunity to serve Dhamma. Make use of this opportunity to increase your pāramīs so that you draw nearer and nearer the final goal of liberation. Help yourself and help others.
May Dhamma grow. May Dhamma spread in its pristine purity. Help yourself and help others.May Dhamma grow. May Dhamma spread in its pristine purity.May this first centre on the continent of Europe prove to be an ideal centre. May it be a source of peace and harmony to many—not only of the present, but also of future generations. May countless people benefit on this Dhamma land and come out of their misery.

Bhavatu sabba mangalam (May all beings be happy) "

* Global Pagoda development projects
* Special one-day course on October 4