50 years of Vipassana as taught by S.N. Goenka
This year marks the 50th anniversary since our late teacher, Satya Narayan Goenka (1924-2013), brought Vipassana meditation back to its country of origin, India.
Although Indian by descent, S.N. Goenka was born and raised in Burma (Myanmar). While living there he came into contact with Sayagyi U Ba Khin and learned the technique of Vipassana from him in 1955. After receiving training from U Ba Khin for fourteen years, Goenkaji went to India in 1969 and began teaching Vipassana.
As Goenkaji explains in the evening discourses of a 10-day Vipassana course: the initial idea was to teach the Dhamma to some close relatives, but —although he knew only a handful out of the millions of people in India— other people kept coming, also wanting to participate in a course. Goenka delayed his return to Myanmar indefinitely and traveled across India for years, conducting course after course.
The first year Goenkaji only taught in Hindi, hesitant to teach in English as he wasn't sure his ‘businessman English’ was suitable for teaching the Dhamma, but after a year he began to conduct courses in English as well. In those days many Westerners had come to India in search of a spiritual approach to life and some of them became very dedicated Vipassana meditators. When in 1974 land was bought for the first Vipassana center at Igatpuri, a handful of Western students immediately began the work of meditating on the site and the building of the future Dhamma Giri.
When Western meditators returned home from India, demand for courses started to come from nearly every corner of the world. We at Pariyatti can’t help but feel such gratitude towards Goenkaji.
Goenkaji and Mataji (his wife) in 2002, in front of the motorhome they toured in during the 'Meditation Now' Tour, spreading the Dhamma across the West.
It is hard to envision the amount of work done by him, due to which we all could come into contact with the Dhamma. For many years Goenkaji conducted course after course, chanting live in the mornings, giving all instructions and discourses himself, and holding interviews at noon and Q&A time in the evenings. He traveled outside India to teach in many locations, including Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
As a Vipassana teacher, Goenkaji personally conducted over 500 courses!
In late 1981 Goenkaji appointed the first assistant teachers — giving them the responsibility of conducting courses as his representatives. At first, the aim was to train the AT’s in giving instructions and discourses live, but this was later changed and recordings of Goenkaji were played instead. There were audiotapes of the discourses, the morning chantings and some of the meditation instructions, going back to the early 1970s. In 1979 the first videotapes were made. The full teaching —day by day, from beginning to end of a course— was finished in 1982, after recordings having taken place over the span of several years. Work then began on translating everything into most of the major European and Asian languages.
Today many of the seeds Goenkaji scattered have come to fruition. There are currently 200+ Vipassana Meditation Centers in the world, and courses are held at another 135+ off-center locations.