News - Farewell to a Bodhisatva
by Life Positive
S N Goenkaji: Guiding light to millions The world owes him a profound debt of gratitude, for in this cacophonous, conflict-ridden age, he has singularly blessed hundreds of thousands with the gift of peace. Today, the 10-day Vipassana meditation retreats are available in 90 countries. Around 1,300 teachers hold 1,500 courses annually across the world, attracting over 120,000 meditators every year.
At a time when the practice of spirituality is increasingly influenced by lucre, every Vipassana course is offered free of charge, the cost of board and lodging defrayed by old students. Goenkaji was born in 1924 in Mandalay, Myanmar, where his grandfather had moved from India in the late 19th century. After completing secondary school, he entered the family business in 1940. A leading industrialist of his time, Goenkaji’s advent to Vipassana arose out of his search for a cure for his severe migraines.
He subscribed for a course under Sayagyi U Ba Khin, a senior public servant as well as a meditation master. His headaches ceased, but more importantly, he discovered the mental peace he had always longed for. Eventually, he was entrusted by U Ba Khin to return the teaching of the Buddha to the land of its origin: India.
Goenkaji conducted his first course in India in July 1969. In the ensuing years he crisscrossed the country, teaching Vipassana to people of every background. After 10 years of this work, in 1979, Goenkaji travelled abroad to conduct Vipassana courses. He personally taught tens of thousands of people in more than 400 courses held in Asia, North America, Europe and Australia/New Zealand.
Goenkaji was a prolific writer. His books, articles and poems on spiritual themes have been translated into many languages. He was also a compelling lecturer, and was invited to speak at diverse venues including the Dharma Drum Mountain Monastery in Taiwan; the 2000 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland; the Millennium World Peace Summit at the United Nations, New York, in 2000; and the Spirit in Business Congress in New York and the Netherlands, 2002 He actively promoted interreligious harmony. Thousands of Catholic priests, Buddhist monks, Jain ascetics, Hindu sannyasis and other religious leaders have come to Vipassana courses. Goenkaji received many honours for his humanitarian work – including the Padma Bhushan from the Government of India. But the best way to honour him would be to take up the meditation technique he so painstakingly made available to the world, and use it to change yourself!
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