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Aug 24, 2009

Global Pagoda and the Shining Star of Dhamma

In many ways, the original architect of the Global Pagoda is Sayagyi U Ba Khin (1899-1971). One of the foremost Vipassana teachers of his times, Sayagyi U Ba Khin was instrumental in Vipassana returning to India, the Dhamma land of its origin. In 1969, he sent one of his students Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka to India as his representative to teach Vipassana. In the following decades, the Ganges of Dhamma spread widely not only in India, but all over the world.

The Global Pagoda that is modelled on the famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, stands also as a monumental mark of gratitude to Sayagyi U Ba Khin and Burma, the country that preserved Vipassana in its purity after it had been lost to India for millennia.


The Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon, Burma. The height of the Global Pagoda in Mumbai, India, has been kept slightly lower than that of the Shwedagon, as mark of gratitude and respect to Burma that preserved the teaching of Vipassana in its purity for millennnia.
Sayagyi U Goenka describes his remarkable teacher as a 'Shining Star of Dhamma'. He writes: "Sayagyi U Ba Khin was one of the foremost teachers of Vipassana of our time-a source of inspiration to many, including myself. One of his unique contributions was that he gave much attention to foreigners and non-Buddhists in his teaching. Sayagyi's predecessors were Saya Thetgyi and Ledi Sayadaw. The other disciples of these teachers who were teaching Vipassana in this tradition used only the Burmese language for the most part and so had only Burmese students. Sayagyi, however, spoke fluent English and was able to explain Dhamma in English in a way that Buddhists and non-Buddhists, Burmese and non-Burmese alike could grasp and appreciate.

"Sayagyi's way was not the way of scholars. Every word that he spoke came from his own experience. Therefore his teachings have the life of experience within them, and this is why every word said by him was very powerful and encouraging to his students. He wrote little, and he spoke little; but still, many students were benefited by his teaching."

Below are some inspiring sayings of Sayagyi U Ba Khin, collated by the Vipassana Research Institute:

" The world is facing serious problems. It is just the right time for everyone to take to Vipassana meditation and learn how to find a deep pool of quiet in the midst of all that is happening today."

"The Dhamma can stand the test of those who are anxious to do so. They can know for themselves what the benefits are."

"The more one is attached to self, the greater is the suffering.

"To imagine that good can be done by the means of evil is an illusion, a nightmare."

"A balanced mind is necessary to balance the unbalanced mind of others."

"Only those who take to meditation with good intentions can be assured of success. With the development of the purity and the power of the mind backed by the insight into the ultimate truth of nature, one may be able to do a lot of things in the right direction for the benefit of mankind."

"Just as the light of a candle has the power to dispel darkness in a room, so also the light developed in one man can help dispel darkness in several others."

"For progress in Vipassana meditation, a student must keep knowing anicca as continuously as possible."

"Dhamma eradicates suffering and gives happiness. Who gives this happiness? It is not the Buddha but the Dhamma, the knowledge of anicca within the body, which gives this happiness. That is why you must meditate and be aware of anicca continually."

"What is happiness? For all that science has achieved in the field of materialism, are the peoples of the world happy? They may find sensual pleasures off and on, but in their hearts of hearts, they are not happy when they realise what has happened, and what may happen next. Why? This is because, while man has mastery over matter, he is still lacking in mastery over his mind."

"Anicca is inside of everybody. It is within reach of everybody. Just a look into oneself and there it is. Anicca (impermanence) is, for the householder, the gem of life which he will treasure to create a reservoir of calm and balanced energy for their own well-being and for the welfare of society."

"Anicca when properly developed will solve almost all your problems. It might not even be necessary for you to ask questions for answers. As the appreciation of anicca grows, so will the veil of ignorance fade away. When the way becomes clear for right understanding, doubts and fears will disappear automatically. You will then see things in the true perspective."

"Continuous awareness of anicca, and so of dukkha (suffering) and anattā (insubstantiality), is the secret of success."

Aug 15, 2009

Global Pagoda and the University of Dhamma

" This truth of aniccā (impermanence) can be realized directly only by the experience of bodily sensations. With this realization comes the understanding that one has no control over the changes constantly occurring in the body - aniccā. Therefore any attachment to what is changing beyond one's control is bound to bring nothing but suffering - dukkha. Knowing these facts now by personal experience, the meditator develops the wisdom of equanimity. By observing sensations he has reached the ultimate truth about body, and as a result his attachment to the body is shattered. He emerges from the folly of identifying with the body and develops real detachment, real enlightenment."
- Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka in 'Sensation, the Key to Satipatthāna'

The Global Pagoda exists as a towering University of Dhamma, to inform about and facilitate the practical learning of Vipassana - the universal path to gaining independence from bondages of all suffering.


A painting depicting an event in Gotama the Buddha's life, to be displayed in the Information Gallery of the Global Pagoda, Mumbai, India. Created by some distinguished artists in India and Burma, these intricate paintings accurately depict some important events in the Buddha's life. They would comprise the single largest thematic collection of paintings in the world.
Information and Vipassana meditation facilities made available through the Global Pagoda serve to remove one of the biggest misunderstandings of our times: equating the universal, scientific, practical teachings of the Buddha with any organized, ritualistic religion.
There is no record of the Buddha ever using the word 'Buddhism'. He taught Dhamma, the laws of nature applicable to us every moment in our life, to free ourselves from all suffering and to experience real happiness from moment to moment.

In the truest and highest scientific tradition, these truths can be directly experienced - gradually from the grossest truth to subtler truths leading to the subtlest truth - by anyone correctly and ardently practicing Vipassana. The practice involves objectively observing the arising and passing of bodily sensations within. The entire story of our life, and all its secrets, are in these impermanent physical sensations within.

One can call this process by any name. If not Vipassana, call it 'Tutti Fruity Ice-cream' or 'Strawberry Fields', the name won't make any difference. The truth of nature remains the truth. The most fundamental process of nature does not get altered with any name alterations. That objectively observing the impermanent bodily sensations is the pathway to experiencing the subtlest laws of nature - and leading to happiness and liberation from all misery - is a truth as simple as 2 + 3 = 5. One cannot argue that, "No, no, this sounds very dogmatic and narrow-minded. How can we say that 2 + 3 equals only 5, and not 7, 131 or any other of the infinite number of numbers?"

Similarly, one cannot argue with the truth that objectively observing the arising, passing of sensations (Vipassana)  is the only process of nature to purify the mind at the deepest level, where conditioning of habit patterns takes place.

With Vipassana practice, one experiences how the bio-chemistry of mind and matter works within, the various electro-magnetic forces that arise, interact and pass away every moment, within the physical-mental structure that we call 'I'. One can only objectively observe, understand, benefit. Vipassana enables gaining the experiential wisdom to understand the universe within us.

Ignorance, and forgetfulness, of this inner reality leads us to making mistakes that harm us and others in our lives. Vipassana cures this most deadly disease called ignorance - ignorance of the changing reality within.

The word 'Vipassana' in Pali language means insight 'to see things as they are in reality', in their tre nature, instead of apparent reality. This practice helps us develop the faculty to be aware and equanimous to the truth of what is happening within us 24 / 7. We learn to calmly face the truth, instead of diverting our mind from it.

As Principal Vipassana teacher Sayagyi U S.N. Goenka explains:

" Whatever truth is outside can be found within as well; whatever is within also exists outside. We may accept truth out of devotion or intellectual conviction, but in order to undestand it directly we must explore within, to experience truth within ourselves. By thus coming face to face with truth, we can develop experiential wisdom that will make a real change in our lives.

The meditator starts investigation from a superficial level at which gross, solidified truths appear. But as one observes the apparent truth objectively, one starts penetrating from gross to subtler truths and finally witnesses ultimate truth. This ultimate truth can be experienced only only by exploring reality within oneself.

The exploration of the truth within is Vipassana meditation. In the course of this exploration the meditator must investigate two fields, two aspects of reality: matter and mind. Investigation of the physical reality is called in Pāli kāyānupassanā. Investigation of the mental reality is called cittānupassanā. In fact, however, matter and mind cannot be experienced separately from each other because they are interdependent, interconnected.

Exploring one is bound to involve an exploration of the other. Neither can be fully understood without the other."

The inspiring way Vipassana unites all humanity can be found in in every Dhamma centre and in every Vipassana course location worldwide. People and leaders from all religions, language, nationalities, social strata come together, in the same Dhamma hall and meditation cells in a pagoda, to practice the quintessence of the practical teaching of a super-scientist, Gotama the Buddha. He taught Dhamma, the laws of nature that exist whether a Buddha exists or not.

That the objective observation of bodily sensations - call this practice by any name, Vipassana or Bugs Bunny Bonus - is the heart of all religions, the actual practice of leading a wholesome life, as taught by all religions. This is  why many religious leaders from all faiths have taken Vipassana courses - including thousands of Christian priests and nuns, Islamic religious leaders including senior Ayatollahs in Iran, Hindu religious leaders, and venerable monks and nuns.

When we experience the reality as it is, our actions and decisions are based on truth, not delusions. So our life becomes happier, not torn apart with tension, stress, conflict, fear, insecurity - and every other variation of suffering that are all born out of a central disease: a big ego.

Any 'University of Life' has to teach this science of mind and matter, the technology of destroying our own ego, and thereby defeating all inner negative forces that lead to suffering.

The Global Pagoda, through its various facilities such as the world's largest meditation hall and a vast information gallery, is such a Dhamma university of happiness - and of sharing this happiness with all beings.

* Special One-day Vipassana [refresher] Course on Oct 4, 2009
* Global Pagoda developmental projects

Aug 10, 2009

Global Pagoda, Time Machine and Death

" As you would pluck out a poisonous weed,
Pluck out the arrow of desire.
For he who is awake
Has shown you the way of peace.

Give yourself to the journey.

'Here shall I make my dwelling,
In the summer and the winter,
And in the rainy season.'
So the foolish make plans,
Sparing not a thought for death.

Death overtakes one
Who, giddy and distracted by the world,
Cares only for their children, their property,
Death fetches them away
As a flood carries off a sleeping village.

Nobody can save one from death,
Not the father nor the sons.
Know this.
Seek wisdom, and purity.
Quickly clear the way."

- The Dhammapada

The Global Pagoda stands as inspiring reminder to getting our priorities in life right. For over ten years, many people from many busy walks of life have devoted their priceless time - including voluntary full-time service - towards realizing this Dhamma project, sharing with all beings the benefits of Vipassana and Dhamma service. The more time one invests in Dhamma service, more benefits one gains. By serving others, we serve ourselves.


View of inner dome of main pagoda, in October 29, 2006, with participants worldwide during the function in which the bone relics of Gotama the Buddha were placed in the central locking stone of the dome. As the largest hollow, stone monument in the world, the inner dome serves as the world's largest meditation hall that can seat over 8,000 students in one-day refresher Vipassana courses.

The Global Pagoda stands as a Dhamma symbol of compassion, of serving all beings on the universal, practical path leading to liberation from all misery.

There is no force on earth that can stop this Pagoda from being built, Principal Vipassana teacher Sayagyi U Goenka had declared over a decade ago at the Global Pagoda construction site. This Dhamma conviction has inevitably come true. The Global Pagoda is coming to life. Already many hundreds of visitors are flocking to see it. This number will soon turn into thousands daily.

In its life, expected to last for a thousand years, the Global Pagoda will be one of the most visited places on Earth. Where there is suffering, the way out of suffering will be an irresistible Dhamma attraction in life.

Where there is life, there is death. That life does not end with death, becomes clear to a Vipassana student.

In one of the most significant, most beneficial Dhamma articles written in our lifetime, Sayagyi U Goenka explains 'What happens at death?':

"To understand what happens at death, let us first understand what death is. Death is like a bend in a continuous river of becoming. It appears that death is the end of a process of becoming, and certainly it may be so in the case of an arahant (a fully liberated being) or a Buddha; but with an ordinary person this flow of becoming continues even after death. Death puts an end to the activities of one life, and the very next moment starts the play of a new life. On the one side is the last moment of this life and on the other side is the first moment of the next life. It is as though the sun rises as soon as it sets with no interval of darkness in between, or as if the moment of death is the end of one chapter in the book of becoming, and another chapter of life begins the very next moment.
Although no simile can convey the exact process, still one might say that this flow of becoming is like a train running on a track. It reaches the station of death and there, slightly decreasing speed for a moment, carries on again with the same speed. It does not stop at the station even for a moment. For one who is not an arahant, the station of death is not a terminus but a junction from where thirty-one different tracks diverge. The train, as soon as it arrives at the station, moves onto one or another of these tracks and continues. This speeding "train of becoming," fuelled by the electricity of the kammic reactions of the past, keeps on running from one station to the next, on one track or the other, a continuous journey that goes on without ceasing.

This changing of "tracks" happens automatically. As the melting of ice into water and the cooling of water to form ice happens according to laws of nature, so the transition from life to life is controlled by set laws of nature.
According to these laws, the train not only changes tracks by itself, it also lays the next tracks itself. For this train of becoming the junction of death, where the change of tracks takes place, is of great importance. Here the present life is abandoned (this is called cuti-disappearance, death). The demise of the body takes place, and immediately the next life starts (a process which is called patisandhi - conception or taking up of the next birth). The moment of patisandhi is the result of the moment of death; the moment of death creates the moment of conception. Since every death moment creates the next birth moment, death is not only death, but birth as well. At this junction, life changes into death and death into birth.

Thus every life is a preparation for the next death. If someone is wise, he or she will use this life to the best advantage and prepare for a good death. The best death is the one that is the last, that is not a junction but a terminus: the death of an arahant. Here there will be no track on which the train can run further; but until such a terminus is reached, one can at least ensure that the next death gives rise to a good birth and that the terminus will be reached in due course. It all depends on us, on our own efforts. We are makers of our own future, we create our own welfare or misery as well as our own liberation."

( full text of article at: What happens at death? )

At the point of death - and as we know, death can arrive any moment - the only wealth we carry with us is the wealth of goodwill. What is there in our Bank of India account stays in this world. What is there in the Bank of Dhamma account comes with us.

A billionaire industrialist in Mumbai may be building a US$ 3 billion dollar home for him and his family. But when death takes him away, would he be able to carry with him even a single pillow cover from this $3 billion house? So it's wise to also invest in good will, in whatever little way we can, in sharing in whatever way possible the benefits we have gained.
The best investment is a Dhamma investment. The benefits of any Dhamma investment are timeless.

In time, like the great architectural wonders of the days of old, the Global Pagoda too will age, wither and die. Everything is impermanent. Anicca. A few thousand years from now, awe-struck people will gaze at its vast, fallen ruins and wonder, "From the size of these ruins, we can see thousands of people came here every day. What is it that brought them here?"

By probing further, they would know - like archaelogists of today discover the greatness of yesterday - that many from all across the globe had come to the Global Pagoda to practice Vipassana meditation, or to know more about this universal, practical quintessence of the teachings of a Buddha.
If by giving up a lesser happiness,
one may experience a greater happiness,
one is wise to give up the lesser happiness
for the sake of the greater happiness.
- The Dhammapada

Aug 6, 2009

The Inner light of Dhamma

The architectural wonder of the Global Pagoda, the lighthouse of Dhamma, aims to create awareness about the inner light of Vipassana. This inner wisdom gained from practice of Vipassana becomes our guiding light in life, best friend, most beneficial companion.

Bird's eye view of the Global Pagoda, Mumbai, India. Dhamma Pattana Vipassana centre is in foreground. Image source: forum.skyscraperpage.com
Nothing in the outside world is responsible for our happiness or misery. This truth of nature becomes clear, by direct experience, to a Vipassana practitioner.

At the apparent level, external objects seem to produce varying responses in us through our sense organs. We like, dislike or are indifferent to various experiences in the outside world. But in reality, the mind is actually in contact with various bodily sensations, the inner bio-chemical flow caused when we come in contact with sensory objects - pleasant or unpleasant vision to the eye, sound to the ear, touch to the body, taste to the tongue, smell to the nose, pleasant or unpleasant thought in the mind. This is the apparent reality.

But the deepest part of the mind has nothing to do with these external, worldly objects, says Principal Vipassana teacher Sayagyi U S.N.Goenka. He has often reminded that the root of the mind, where the actual conditioning takes place, is constantly in touch with the bodily sensations. In reality, one is reacting with craving and aversion to the bodily sensations, not to external objects.

Vipassana practice involves experiencing this deeper reality, and coming out of delusions.

The actual story of our life is the actual reality of bodily sensations, and how we respond to it.
Blind reaction to this impermanent, changing bio-chemical flow within the body is impurity and suffering. Equanimity is purity and happiness. When we carelessly and heedlessly forget this truth of nature, we fall and suffer. Then we remember, get up and start walking on the Dhamma journey again.
In the seven-day Satipatthana course, the Dhamma discourse of Day One says:
"Practising with paññā (experiential wisdom), you will understand dukkha (suffering) with your own experience. Every pleasant experience, every pleasant situation is anicca (change).
Everything within the framework of the body changes into something unpleasant, so it is nothing but dukkha. The law of nature is such. Yet the tendency of the mind is to get attached and cling to a pleasant experience, and when it is gone you feel so miserable.

This is not a philosophy but a truth to be experienced by pattivedhana: dividing, dissecting, disintegrating, dissolving you reach the stage of bhanga (or total dissolution, in which the Vipassana student experiences the physical structure of one's body as subtle sensations, very rapidly arising and passing away as wavelets, as a free flow). You witness the solidified, material structure, the body, as actually nothing but subatomic particles, kalāpas (sub-atomic, indivisible, building block of matter), arising and passing.

Similarly the mind and mental contents manifest as very solidified, intensified emotions—anger, fear, or passion—which overpower you. Vipassana, pattivedhana, helps you. With piercing, penetrating paññā you divide, dissect, disintegrate to the stage where this intense emotion is nothing but wavelets. The whole material and mental structures and the mental contents are nothing but wavelets, wavelets, anicca, anicca.

Then the reality about this "I" or "mine" or "myself" becomes clear. They are just conventional words. There is no "I" to possess this mind-matter structure, these material and mental phenomena. Mere mind and matter constantly interact, constantly influence each other, and become a cause for the arising of each other, resulting in currents, cross-currents, and under-currents going on in what you call "I." Anattā becomes clear at the experiential level.

Anicca, dukkha, anattā—that is, impermanence, misery, and egolessness—should not just be taken as a sectarian philosophy. They don’t apply just to Buddhists. Everyone, man or woman, of any colour or religion, is merely a constant interaction of mind and matter. Out of ignorance, enormous attachment develops to this false ego, this "I," which brings nothing but misery.

The law of nature becomes so clear with pattivedhana, with piercing, penetrating paññā. Without this, mere awareness will not help because you will always remain with the apparent truth, and you won’t understand the real, ultimate truth. A circus girl on a tightrope is very aware of every step she takes. Her life and parts of her body are in danger. Still she is far from liberation, because she is only with apparent truth, not with paññā inside."


This penetrating wisdom of Vipassana practice, or pattivedhana, is the laser-beam like powerful inner light of wisdom that is our real refuge and safe harbour in the voyage through life - from day to day, moment to moment.

Nothing in the outside world can help us as much as the penetrating inner Dhamma light of being aware and equanimous to bodily sensations. The closer we live with this truth, with Dhamma, the more happy and beneficial our lives will be.
The Global Pagoda is a towering, inspiring reminder that one's real work is to develop this inner light of purity and wisdom, be one's own lighthouse, and share, with all beings, all the benefits thereby gained.

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

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