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The Gift of Dhamma
 
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The Gift of Dhamma
by S N Goenka

Goenkaji has often talked about the gifts of dāna, the mental volition of the giver and the many ways to give dāna. He talks about the supreme gift of Dhammadāna, the transmission of the Dhamma in its pure form from teacher to student through the generations. In addition, he points out that there are ways to share in the giving of Dhammadāna, even for those who are not teachers. Following is the concluding part of a selection of his words on this topic, drawn from various articles and talks and adapted for the Newsletter.

The Dhammadāna of Service

From a talk given by Goenkaji to Dhamma servers at Dhamma Giri in June 1986 and printed in ’For the Benefit of Many.’

What is the purpose of Dhamma service? Certainly, it is not to receive board and lodging nor to pass the time in a comfortable environment nor to escape from the responsibilities of daily life. Dhamma servers know this well.
Such persons have practiced Vipassana and realized by direct experience the benefits it offers. They have seen the selfless service of the teachers, management and Dhamma servers-service that enabled them to taste the incomparable flavor of Dhamma. They have begun to take steps on the Noble Path, and naturally have started to develop the rare quality of gratitude, the wish to repay this debt for all that they have received.

Of course, the teacher, management and Dhamma servers gave their service without expecting anything in return nor will they accept any material remuneration. The only way to pay back the debt to them is by helping to keep the Wheel of Dhamma rotating, to give to others the same selfless service. This is the noble volition with which to give Dhamma service.

As Vipassana meditators progress on the path, they emerge from the old habit pattern of self-centeredness and start to concern themselves with others. They notice how everywhere people are suffering: young or old, men or women, black or white, wealthy or poor, all are suffering. Meditators realize that they themselves were miserable until they encountered the Dhamma. They know that, like them, others have started to enjoy real happiness and peace by following the Path. Seeing this change stimulates a feeling of sympathetic joy and strengthens the wish to help suffering people come out of their misery with Vipassana. Compassion overflows, and with it, the volition to help others find relief from their suffering.

Dāna of Right Thought, Speech and Actions

The following message by Goenkaji discusses the opening of the first center in Europe, Dhamma Mahī. It was written for publication in Nouvelles de Vipassana, the French edition of the Vipassana Newsletter, appearing in June 1988.

The hour of Vipassana has struck in Europe. For many years, devoted students in France and neighboring countries have worked hard to make the Dhamma available to others. Now, with the purchase of a center, those efforts of so many students are coming to fruition. I am deeply pleased to see the good results of your work.

The establishing of a center marks a new stage in the growth of Dhamma. It is important to understand its significance.

A center for Vipassana meditation is not a commune where members of a sect can live in isolation from the outside world, according to their own peculiar rules. It is not a club designed for the enjoyment of its members. It is not a temple in which to perform religious ceremonies. It is not a place for socializing.
A center is, instead, a school which teaches one subject: Dhamma, the art of living. All who come to a center, whether to meditate or to serve, come to receive this teaching.

To ensure that the Dhamma is offered in its strength and purity, you follow the discipline in all centers. The more carefully this is maintained, the stronger the center will be. Many ordinary activities are forbidden by this discipline, not because there is anything wrong in them but because they are inappropriate at a center for Vipassana meditation. Remember, this is the only place in your country where one can learn this type of Vipassana. The discipline is a way of preserving this unique purpose of Dhamma Mahī; guard it carefully.

The foundation of the edifice of Dhamma that you will construct here is sīla (moral conduct). As you know, undertaking sīla is the essential first step in a Vipassana course since, without it, meditation will be weak. It is equally essential that all who serve at a center keep the Five Precepts as carefully as possible. The rule of Dhamma has been established at Dhamma Mahī. From now on, there should be no killing on this land, no stealing, no sexual activity, no wrong speech, no use of intoxicants. This will create a calm and peaceful atmosphere conducive to the work of self-purification.

With the firm base of sīla, the practice of self-purification can proceed. Keep in mind that this is the most important task at the center-first, last and always. All who come to serve at the center, even for a few hours, must not neglect their duty to meditate here as well. By doing so, they strengthen the Dhamma atmosphere and give support to other meditators.

This is not, of course, the only place in Europe at which meditation and the teachings of the Buddha are practiced; but it is the only place devoted to this particular transmission of the teachings and this particular form of Vipassana. See that the center is kept at all times specifically for this purpose.

The final essential part of the technique is mettā, and this too must be practiced by all who come to the center, whether to sit or serve. For your meditation and service to be beneficial, you must perform it joyfully, selflessly, and lovingly. Whatever task you undertake, do it with the volition that by your action all beings may be happy. Whenever welcoming others to the center, whether meditators or visitors, do so with mettā. Permeate this land with vibrations of love and good will, so that all who come here feel that they have entered a sanctuary of peace.

From a talk given on March 14, 1982 at Dhamma Thalī to inaugurate construction of its pagoda.

There are so many ways to help. One can help physically. One can help by speaking. If someone has wealth, then one can help financially. These are essential; however, the best way to help is by meditating.

The more old students meditate on this land, the more their efforts will become instrumental in the welfare of many. During the lifetime of Sayagyi U Ba Khin, there were so many of his students who had reached the stage of nibbāna and could experience it whenever they wished and as long as they wished. One could ask, "How did they become free of their debt to the Dhamma, the center and their teacher?" Others might give dāna of physical effort or wealth or other kinds of help to become free of their debts. But for such good meditators, it is proper that at least once a week, they visit this place and sitting in some cell for an hour, they enter nibbāna. That is such a great service. The whole center will become suffused with those Dhamma vibrations. The Dhamma strength of the vibrations generated by each meditator will depend upon how much he or she has meditated and what stage has been attained, but all right effort will benefit those who come to the center.

Building meditation cells for students is in itself a very meritorious act. However, it is much more meritorious for every meditator to come here once a week to meditate. This is the dāna of our meditation. It is the dāna of our meditative vibrations that will purify the land, will ripen it, thereby making it easier for future students to gain more with less effort. Each person has to put in effort, has made an effort to fight the defilements within. However, if the environment around is charged with Dhamma vibrations, the effort becomes easier. If the vibrations at the center are impure, they hinder progress, making it more difficult for the student to face the defilements within. They prevent the student from working properly. If students receive the protection of pure Dhamma vibrations, they gain great strength, great help.

Meditators should generate mettā within. By meditating at the center, we certainly benefit ourselves. We cannot say how many others will also benefit by our meditation, will gain from our work. People will benefit for centuries. They will automatically become attracted to a place where Dhamma vibrations arise. So long as the Dhamma is maintained in its pure form, people will meditate and benefit for centuries.

S. N. Goenka has often said that Dhamma service is an integral part of an old student’s growth and development on this Path. Giving Dhamma service in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Dhamma Workers strengthens a student of Vipassana for living a Dhamma life in the outside world.

Over the years, thousands of young Vipassana meditators have benefited tremendously by giving Dhamma service during college vacations or soon after completing their studies. The training they receive during Dhamma service is an ideal preparation to begin a successful career. Serving in a Dhamma land is an essential part of one’s progress in Dhamma.

Those who wish to give Dhamma service, may contact the Course Manager, Dhamma Giri, Igatpuri 422 403. Tel: (02553) 244076, 244086; Email: info@giri.dhamma.org or the Course Manager of the Vipassana center in their area.

The Code of Discipline for Dhamma service and the Dhamma service application form are available at http://www.dhamma.org/os.

Mere sukha meṃ śhānti meṃ, bhāga sabhī kā hoya.
Isa maṇgalamaya Dharma kā, lābha sabhī ko hoya.
May my happiness and peace be shared by one and all.
May this munificent Dhamma benefit one and all.


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