Paying Our Respects to Vipassana Meditation Leader Satya Narayan Goenka
The Vipassana Meditation Community this week said farewell to a great spiritual leader, Satya Narayan Goenka. The technique which S. N. Goenka teaches represents a tradition that is traced back to the Buddha: Vipassana has been handed down, to the present day, by an unbroken chain of teachers to S. N. Goenka, who said, "The Buddha never taught a sectarian religion; he taught Dhamma - the way to liberation - which is universal."
Vipassana, which means 'to see things as they really are', is one of India's most ancient techniques of meditation. It was taught in India more than 2500 years ago as a universal remedy for universal ills. The technique of Vipassana Meditation is taught at 10-day residential courses during which participants learn the basics of the method, creating a means of self-transformation through self-observation.
Many Wanderlust teachers have undergone these 10-day retreats, which focus on the deep interconnection between mind and body. These retreats disallow speaking, reading, or writing while on the 10-day journey. Wanderlust Yoga Director Chris Cuevas says, "What is great about the 10-day silent retreats as taught by Goenka is that they are so accessible to everyone. They are are completely donation-based. You can leave one dollar or a million dollars and they will take care of you just the same. 3 meals a day, with clean and simple lodging." Jonny and Bryan Kest, Anne Marie Kramer, Shiva Rea, Pete Guinosso, Eoin Finn, Liza Dousson, Mike Nichols, Maty Ezraty, Anya Porter and Melanie Fawer are a few in the Wanderlust kula who have been touched by the Vipassana tradition.
Cuevas elaborates on the effect that Vipassana and S. N. Goenka had on his own life: "The 10 day long silent retreats I did under the teachings of Goenkaji entirely changed my life. These retreats were some of the hardest and most rewarding work I have ever done. Through Vipassana Meditation I have become a more loving, patient, kind and compassionate human being. My reactions to situations are much wiser and beneficial to me and those around me. I wear the five retreats I have done like a badge of honor. I am truly grateful for the work Goenka has done in the world to spread the Dhamma. He will be missed."
Jonny Kest offers this sweet testament to the legacy of S. N. Goenka's life, "Infinite gratitude and joyfor receiving the triple gem Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. The passing of S.N. Goenka leaves me feeling waves of deep sadness and profound love…"
Liza Dousson describes her first Vipassana sit in Bangkok, "The course was being taught both in English and in Thai, meaning everything Goenka said was repeated twice. I had a profound experience there, and as we were allowed to do walking meditation during breaks and it was very hot for those 10 days, I would walk under a building on the property in its shade around noontime with 2 or 3 others each day. At the end of the meditation when we broke silence, one of the Thai women I had walked with came to see me with her translator. She told me how much it meant to share that time together and the bond we created without a single word. It was so true. And to connect in words at that moment was so touching. May Sri Goenka's spirit live on in all of us who have been touched by him and his method."
Pete Guinosso describes how, "Almost 10 years ago over the New Years Holiday, I travelled to the Mental Physics Center in Joshua Tree and did my first 10 day Vipassana meditation (1 of many now) as taught by S. N. Goenka. It changed my life. It was, at the same time, one of the hardest things I have ever done and one of the most powerful. Rest in Peace dear Goenka - your legacy lives on. You live in the hearts of all the people you touched. I have become a much more loving, understanding, compassionate, and curious human being through my work with Vipassana. Thank you for helping to get my light shining bright."
Mike Nichols shares that, "Goenka has been a huge part of my meditation practice, even though I've only done two 10-day sits. The teachings of Vipassana thru Goenkaji is infused in all of my teachings now as well. I am in deep gratitude for his transmission of the teachings and his work to rekindle this powerful Practice and share it with the world. In clarity, love and peace."
And Anya Porter offers, "I am very sorry to hear of his passing. I did a 10-day sit of his in Massachussetts about five or six years ago. It was something that I needed very much at the time and it was the first step on my path of Buddhist study and meditation. I now find myself enrolled and almost finished with a year long buddhist studies and meditation teacher training with IDP and am also very involved with the Shambhala Center, and while the styles and approaches may differ somewhat than his, the source and the fruit are very much the same. Goenkaji influenced my work as a teacher very much and I continue to be inspired by the simple practices of shamatha and vipassana every day. Breakti is also very influenced by the work of compassion and metta and the concept of openness and emptiness that the Buddha taught."
We at Wanderlust salute the work that S.N. Goenka has undertaken to have had such an immense effect on the spiritual development of millions around the world. To learn more about the Vipassana tradition, you can explore www.dhamma.org, the California Vipassana Center website, or fan up the Vipassana Meditation Facebook page.