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Feb 22, 2011

Making of the Global Vipassana Pagoda - the first phase

Sukho buddhānam uppado
Sukhā saddhammadesanā.
Sukhā sanghassa sāmaggī
Samaggānam tapo sukho.
- Dhammapada 194

Happy is the arising of the Buddhas in the world.
Happy is the teaching of pure Dhamma.
Happy is the coming together of meditators
Happiness is meditating together.

Nearly 10,000 meditators practicing Vipassana together is a rare Dhamma event. Even more so is nearly 10,000 Vipassana practioners in a Dhamma pagoda, under the relics of a sammasambuddha. The Global Pagoda that has enabled such beneficial gatherings is a rarity. Such a monument does not exist anywhere else in the world, and has not existed before in human history.

At the apparent level, over three million tonnes of basalt and Jodhpur stones fill the historic structure and foundation of the 325-feet high Global Pagoda. At the actual level, each of the voluntarily donated stones is filled with deep gratitude - gratitude to Dhamma, the sammasambuddhas leading up to Gotama the Buddha, the Sangha, and the chain of teachers leading up to Sayagyi U Ba Khin and Sayagyi U Satya Narayan Goenka.

From its foundation ceremony in 1997, completion in 2008 as the largest hollow stone dome in the world, to its inauguration by the President of India on February 8, 2009, the Global Pagoda has reached the first milestone in its destiny to serve all beings.

"No force on earth can stop this Pagoda from being completed," Goenkaji had declared over ten years ago at the Global Pagoda site. His compassionate Dhamma prophecy has inevitably come true, while being an inspiring guidance. The next phase of the journey begins to share the priceless benefits of Vipassana.

The next Global Pagoda phase continues with gratitude to Burma, the land of Dhamma where Goenkaji took his human birth in Mandalay and Dhamma birth in Rangoon by learning Vipassana from Sayagyi U Ba Khin. The Global Pagoda in Mumbai connects the Dhamma history of Vipassana returning to India, the land of its origin, when Goenkaji arrived from Burma and began teaching Vipassana in Bombay in 1969.

As in the initial phase, Burma continues beings deeply involved in the Global Pagoda: including donating teak wood for flooring and doors of the main and two small pagodas, special marble for the pathways, a ‘Burma Guest house’ to house 75 visitors, and the jeweled umbrella atop the Pagoda.

From the project phase, the Global Pagoda has moved into the developmental phase to serve each of the thousands of visitors now arriving every week. Pure drinking water, clean toilet and bathing facilities are available. Landscaping and gardening works are underway. Parks, roads and water lines are being laid.

Governmental agencies such as the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) are participating in this developmental phase of the Global Vipassana Pagoda project.

Besides the main pagoda, two small pagodas 60-feet high (the height of the Dhamma Giri pagoda) exist beside the Global Pagoda. The smaller South Pagoda houses 108 meditation cells and the central cell for Goenkaji and Mataji. These cells are ready and being used by meditators taking Vipassana courses at the adjacent Dhamma Pattana.

A 70-feet parikrama, or circular pathway around a Dhamma pagoda, is surfaced with a special marble stone donated from Burma. This marble changes in temperature - turning cool in hot weather and warm in cold weather - to ensure the comfort of visitors walking barefeet in the parikrama.

While Gotama the Buddha’s relics are enshrined atop the Global Pagoda, the basement celebrates his life. A vast, information gallery houses the world's largest collection of paintings accurately depicting some important events in the Buddha's life.

All artwork in the Global Vipassana Pagoda were created by distinguished artists from Burma, Thailand and India.

A splendorous 'Burma Gate' is being constructed at the outer entrance to the Global Pagoda. Besides the ‘Burma Guest House’, similar accommodation facilities are being built. 1.5 million-litres rainwater harvesting tanks are already functioning, and additional 600,000-litres under ground tanks are being added.

Since October 2007, the Dhamma Pattana meditation centre has been functioning adjacent to the Global Pagoda. The twice-monthly 10-day Vipassana courses conducted here for business executives and government officials are fully booked weeks in advance. Since 2008, Goenkaji and Mataji have also been sitting their annual 15-day Teacher's Self Course in Dhamma Pattana.

A replica of the Asoka Pillar stands to the east of the main Pagoda. The four lions in Emperor Asoka's emblem, that is also India's national emblem, depict how the Buddha's rational, non-sectarian teaching of Dhamma resoundingly reaches out in all four directions of the world as a lion’s roar. The Dhamma wheel in the Asoka emblem, and in the heart of India's national flag, depicts the wheel of Dhamma rotating to liberate suffering beings from the wheel of misery.

As a lighthouse of liberation from misery, the Global Pagoda now shines forth in the morning and evening rays of the sun with the gold paint (donated from Thailand), just like the famous Shwedagon Pagoda, Rangoon, on which the Global Pagoda is modeled.

 The President of India at inauguration of the Global Vipassana Pagoda, February 8, 2009

Early years of the Global Vipassana Pagoda :

The journey to this present moment in the Global Pagoda was through many hurdles, financial, technical and legal challenges. The problems were multiplied with no knowledge or prior reference for a project of this magnitude.

When principal Vipassana teacher revered Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka first declared the Global Pagoda project in 1997, the biggest stone dome worldwide was India’s dormant Bijapur dome 130 ft. diameter high. The 280-feet diameter, 90-feet high Global Pagoda dome is over twice its size - and with no supporting pillars. Top architecture experts had declared this impossible.

An Indian Institute of Technology study (IIT, Mumbai), a technical team and Gujarat-based architect Chandubhai Sampura started the project. Sampura devised an interlocking system with grooves cut in the stones, whereby each stone supported the weight of the pillar-less dome.

While thousands of Vipassana students inside the Global Padoga dome support each other by meditating together, the thousands of stones over them support each other in an inter-locking system. The architectural wonder has been achieved of the stones - each weighing nearly a tonne and the 4-tonne central locking stone - seemingly floating in the air unsupported by any pillar.

3.87 million man-days needed to complete the Global Vipassana Pagoda.

The first phase of the Global Pagoda involved other unprecedented logistics: a foundation 24-feet deep with a 20-feet wide wall; 2.5 million tonnes of Jodhpur stone whose source is 1,200 kms away from the project site; 3,000 truck loads of sand and 90 million man hours.

If conventional construction methods were used to carry and lift the millions of tonnes of stones, it might have taken a generation to complete the Global Pagoda. But an alert meditator discovered an abandoned three-storey high construction crane. It was refurbished at a cost of a few hundred thousand rupees, and served to complete the first phase.

Other problems were resolved in time. Litigation by a few environmental activists (the Mumbai High Court declared that the Global Pagoda conforms to all laws), echo problems in the sound system of the main dome, ventilation for thousands inside the Dhamma Hall, lighting of the pagoda were among challenges that were successfully faced.

Vipassana students in Burma have a conviction that an opportunity to be involved in a Dhamma project of this magnitude, such as the Global Pagoda, comes once in a million years.

For this rare opportunity to serve, we express deep gratitude to the Buddha, the lineage of Vipassana teachers and Sayagyi U Ba Khin. Our gratitude particularly goes to our most compassionate Dhamma father Goenkaji from whom we received the priceless path of real happiness. All the merits earned belong to revered Goenkaji and Mataji.

But most of all, one expresses deepest gratitude to Dhamma, the omnipresent law of cause and effect that brought the Global Pagoda and each of us to this moment in time.

May all beings be happy, be liberated from all suffering.

(This is updated from the original article in January 2010 by a senior Vipassana teacher serving in the Mumbai-based Global Vipassana Foundation,  and written on behalf of all Dhamma brothers and sisters serving worldwide in the Global Vipassana Pagoda Dhamma project.)
*  The Global Vipassana Pagoda has been built at an estimated cost of US $ 22.3 million (Indian Rupees one billion), with the entire cost and the land for the project from voluntary donations from Vipassana meditators and yet-to-be meditators from across the world.
Costs for the Global Vipassana Pagoda project have been considerably reduced by voluntary services of many Vipassana teachers and Dhamma workers selflessly donating their professional expertise for over ten years - for the happiness, benefit and liberation of many.

(Photographs from Dhamma Pattana Vipassana centre and Global Vipassana Pagoda websites)
* Directions to reach the Global Pagoda
* Vipassana meditation courses worldwide, course venues, online application for beginners' 10-day residential Vipassana course
*Serving in the Global Vipassana Pagoda

* Gaining boundless Merits of Dana

Feb 17, 2011

How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda, Gorai / Borivili, Mumbai

Global Pagoda Timings: 9.00 am to 7.00 pm. Open all days of the week.
(The last ferry leaves Gorai jetty to the Global Pagoda at 5.25 pm)

Visiting the Global Pagoda is free of charge. There is no entry fee.

* Vipassana students - those who have taken one or more 10-day Vipassana courses as taught by Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka - are permitted to meditate inside the main dome Dhamma Hall of the Global Pagoda.

How to reach Global Vipassana Pagoda, Gorai / Borivali, Mumbai, India:
The Global Pagoda can be reached overland by car, as well by ferry. Pre-paid taxi services are available at the Mumbai domestic and international airports. Ask for "Esselworld", if "Global Vipassana Pagoda" draws a blank stare. The Global Pagoda is adjacent to Esselworld Park.

Reaching Global Vipassana Pagoda by Road from Mumbai City / Domestic Airport / International Airport / Railway Stations in Mumbai
  1. Reach Western Express Highway and go North towards Dahisar/Borivali/Ahmedabad.
  2. Cross the Dahisar Toll Booth and keep going straight.
  3. When you reach the Mira-Bhayandar crossing, turn Left towards Mira-Bhayandar. The crossing has a statue of Shivaji Maharaj positioned at the centre.
  4. Keep going straight till you reach Golden Nest Circle. At the Golden Nest Circle, take a left turn and stay on the main road.
  5. Keep going straight till you take a hard right turn at the end of the road. This point will come after Maxus Mall, which comes on your right. After the hard right turn, take a left at the T point junction.
  6. Keep following directions to Esselworld or Global Vipassana Pagoda from this point forward.
  7. When you reach the Esselworld Parking Lot, go ahead a few metres and take a right turn towards Esselworld. Tell the guard at the security post that you want to go to the Pagoda.
  8. Keep going straight till you reach the Helipad. At the Helipad, take a right turn to the Global Pagoda Road through the Sanchi Arch.
The Pagoda is about 42 km from the Domestic Airport Terminal.
Hiring a car for airport pick-up to Global Vipassana Pagoda:
Private taxis and vehicles can also be hired from many car rentals in Mumbai, besides the airport pre-paid taxi service. Rates may vary. Many Vipassana students make use of the services of private taxi operator Mr Jagdish Maniyar. Contact : Tel (Res): 91-22-26391010 or cell phone 09869255079. As of February 2011, Mr Maniyar charges Rs 800 ( approx US $17, 13 Euros) for airport pickup to Global Pagoda (inclusive of road taxes). From Mumbai airport to Dhamma Giri Vipassana centre, Igatpuri, he charges Rs 2,550 (approx US $56).

From Borivali Railway station:
From Borivali Station (Western Railway, Mumbai) please use the western exit gates of the station (for the train from Churchgate, the exit is on the left). One can take Bus number 294 or hire an auto rickshaw (tuk-tuk) to Gorai Creek. The bus fare is Rs. 6 and auto rickshaw fare is approx Rs. 25 (approx US $0.50) to Rs 35.
For the auto-rickshaw, please take one heading to your right, after crossing the road from the western exit of the railway station. The Gorai jetty is approximately 10-15 minutes-ride from Borivili station. Please take the ferry for Esselworld from Gorai Jetty. The return fare for the ferry is Rs. 35/- per person.
On arrival at Esselworld, you will see signs guiding to take you to Global Pagoda (which anyway is too big to be missed !).
The Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Centre is less than five minutes walking distance from the Esselworld Jetty gate.

Prefer a shorter sea trip? One can take the more frequent (and humbler) ferry to Gorai Village (Rs 5 one way - actually it's only a jetty, the village is not in visible distance). From there, shared autorickshaws (Rs 15 a seat, or Rs 40 for 3 passengers) and the more quaint horse-drawn carriages (Rs 10 a seat) are available for a nice ride to the Essel World entrance through the flat landscape of marshlands. The Global Pagoda, a brief walk from the gates, is of course visible throughout the 10-minute ride from the Gorai Village jetty.

Other Bus Numbers to Gorai: From Kurla railway station (West) - 309 L; From Mulund station (West) - 460 L;From Ghatkopar Bus Depot - 488 L (please re-confirm before boarding bus)

Wishing you a very happy and most beneficial visit to the Global Pagoda.
For any further details and assistance, please contact:
Global Vipassana Pagoda
Telephone: 91 22 33747501 (30 lines)
Email: pr@globalpagoda.org
Pagoda Address:
Global Vipassana Pagoda
Next to Esselworld, Gorai Village,
Borivali (West), Mumbai 400091
For sending any post/courier, please use this address:
Head Office Global Vipassana Foundation
2nd Floor, Green House, Green Street, Fort
Mumbai – 400 023
Telephone: +91 22 22665926 / 22664039
Fax: +91 22 22664607
Dhamma Pattana Vipassana Centre
Inside Global Vipassana Pagoda Campus
Next to Esselworld, Gorai Village,
Borivali (West), Mumbai 400091
Tel: [91] (22) 3374 7519
Fax: [91] (22) 3374 7518
Email: info@pattana.dhamma.org

* Vipassana meditation courses worldwide, course venues, online application for beginners' 10-day residential Vipassana courses
* One-day Vipassana courses at Global Pagoda (for those who have completed a 10-day Vipassana course)

Feb 11, 2011

Serving in the Global Vipassana Pagoda

The Global Vipassana Pagoda offers a very rare and invaluable opportunity to serve in Dhamma, to share the benefits of Vipassana and to gain immeasurable merits.

Committed Vipassana students may offer Dhamma service for the special one-day courses held periodically in the presence of Sayagyi U S.N. Goenka.

Dhamma service can also be offered in one-day courses conducted every Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm in the Global Pagoda main dome Dhamma Hall.

For more details and registering for Dhamma service at one-day courses at the Global Pagoda, kindly contact:
Mobile no.: 98928-55692, 98928-55945;
Tel: (022) 2845-1170, 3374-7543, 3374-7544
Email : oneday@globalpagoda.org

Dhamma service may also be offered for the various developmental projects being implemented by the Global Vipassana Foundation.
For details of other Dhamma service opportunities presently available at Global Pagoda, kindly contact:
General Manager, GVF, Global Vipassana Pagoda, Next to Esselworld, Gorai, Borivali (W) Mumbai 400 091. Tel: (022) 3374-7501, 2845-1204.
Email: hr@globalpagoda.org

Website: www.globalpagoda.org


* The Significance of Dhamma Service
* Vipassana meditation courses worldwide, course venues, online application for beginners' 10-day residential Vipassana courses
* Introduction to Vipassana, Code of Discipline and Daily Time-table in Residential Courses

Feb 4, 2011

Global Pagoda photographs (January - February 2011)

Near one of the entrances (with white posters outside, on the right) leading to the inner dome meditation hall of the Global Pagoda. Also seen on top-left of picture is one of the two small pagodas. Photographed on February 6, 2011 by Ashish Disawal. More Global Pagoda photographs from this album


Photograph by Amit Kumar

Main entrance to the Global Pagoda structure. Picture shows the wide marble staircase, with people in it, that leads up to the Global Pagoda, after the brief police security checkpoint. Photograph by Paul Sonnerblick

Global Pagoda is lit up by flood lights at night. Photograph by Hitesph

The Global Pagoda can also be seen from air, when civilian aircrafts hover over Mumbai due to air traffic congestion at the Mumbai airport, and particularly seen on the New Delhi - Mumbai air route.