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Farewell Brother Radhe Shyam
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Farewell Brother Radhe Shyam
- by S. N. Goenka

(The following is a translation of an article by Goenkaji published in the March 2007 issue of the Hindi Vipaśyanā Pātrikā. It has been adapted for the Newsletter.)

My father had great respect for his elder brothers. His elder brother and my uncle, Shri Dwarkadas, was advancing in age and his health was also deteriorating. He had eight daughters but no son. My father was worried about him. He had already given his eldest son, Bal Krishna, for adoption to his other elder brother who was childless. So my father decided to give me for adoption to Shri Dwarkadas.

This was in the year 1937 when I was thirteen years old. It is easy to separate an infant from its mother and father. But, at thirteen years of age, even the thought of separation from my parents was unbearable. My elder brother, Babulal, was about two years older than me but we were always together like twins.

My mother and I were deeply attached to each other. Even at that young age, I was afflicted by excrutiating attacks of migraine, once or twice a year. During such attacks, my mother would lay my head in her lap and massage it with fresh butter or almond oil. Within a short time, because of my mother’s loving touch, a tingling sensation would start in my head which would soon spread through the entire body and all the pain would disappear. This was a foretaste of the experience of Vipassana. Then I would fall asleep with my head in her lap. Even a discussion about separation from my loving mother was unbearable for me.

My uncle was much older than my father. He taught my father the skills of the trade and personally resolved all his business difficulties. He gave my father easy chores to keep him satisfied and did all the difficult jobs such as touring the northern towns in Myanmar to sell clothes.

One day, my father explained my responsibility to ease his elder brother’s burden. “My brother needs a son to help him. He will be happy to have you as his son. Since we all live together in the same house, you will not be living far away from us even after he adopts you as his son.”

Seeing my father’s boundless devotion and gratitude towards his elder brother, I could not oppose his wishes and accepted his decision. My uncle and aunt were very noble. I never ever heard my aunt raise her voice throughout her life.

About a year or so after my adoption, my aunt and adoptive mother gave birth to Radhe Shyam. I was filled with joy. At the same time, I felt a strong urge to return to my biological parents. I went to my father and requested him to allow me to return. I was not unhappy in my adoptive home but I found it very difficult to stay away from my mother.

This time, my father was a little harsh. He said, “You know very well that my brother is very ill and may pass away soon. (As a matter of fact, he passed away after a year.) It is now your responsibility to look after his family and you should not shirk this responsibility. I have made this decision after considerable thought. It is your duty to fulfil it.”

I had been deeply influenced by Ramcarita Manas since childhood. I was inspired by Lord Ram’s filial devotion even after being exiled. It is not easy to renounce the throne and live in the forest. But Lord Rama accepted his father’s decision willingly.

Rājīvalocana rāma cale,
taji bāpa ko rāja baṭāū kī nāhī.

The lotus-eyed Rama goes,
leaving behind his father’s kingdom like a (unattached) pilgrim (who leaves one place for another without any attachment).

I would sing this verse and be overcome by emotion. Similarly, my father has ordered me to serve his elder brother’s family. I would respect it and consider it my good fortune to fulfil his wishes. After this, I never again harboured the thought of returning to my parents.

In 1940, I passed the tenth class and joined the family business. Within two years, we had to leave Myanmar because of the invasion by Japan. We had to face many hardships in India because we were forced to leave behind all our possessions in Myanmar. I sought business opportunities in India and at the same time, looked after my adoptive family and Radhe Shyam’s education. He was good in studies and progressed well. We started a business in South India and settled there. Radhe Shyam continued his education there. After the war, we returned to Myanmar. Radhe Shyam had a strong desire to become an engineer. I always regretted that I had been unable to study in college even though I had stood first in the tenth class and had received a scholarship from the government. Therefore, I decided that Radhe Shyam’s education would not be hindered. He would be allowed to study as much and as long as he wished. Radhe Shyam duly completed his engineering studies at the Birla college in Pilani and thereafter joined the family business.

We had to leave Myanmar again. Radhe Shyam continued to be a part of the family business. In 1969, I came to India with Sayagyi U Ba Khin’s blessings to teach Vipassana and started conducting Vipassana courses. But I had doubts about successfully carrying out this great responsibility.

While conducting a course in Bodh Gaya, I received the news that my revered teacher had passed away. I did a ten-day self-course at Bodh Gaya and then decided that I would free myself from all family and business responsibilities and devote the rest of my life to Vipassana. I wrote to my brothers about this resolution. The rest sent encouraging replies but Radhe Shyam and my younger brother, Gauri Shankar, immediately came to Bodh Gaya to assure me that I need not bother about my worldly responsibilities and should devote myself completely to teaching Vipassana. Thanks to their encouragement, I devoted myself to my Dhamma mission.

Radhe Shyam wholeheartedly supported my Dhamma mission. He helped as much as possible in every sphere of Dhamma while looking after his business responsibilities. His biggest contribution, which I will always remember, is in helping me to achieve my strong desire: Just as Vipassana, which had been lost in India, had returned from Myanmar and had become established here, the Buddha’s original teaching, the Tipitaka with its commentaries, should be published in India and benefit more and more people. The Vipassana Research Institute was founded to accomplish this and Radhe Shyam undertook the responsibility to look after its functioning.

The entire literature of the Tipitaka was ready but it could not be published and printed. All the people who took up this work were unsuccessful. Finally, Radhe Shyam undertook this responsibility to publish the entire literature of the Tipitaka in 140 beautifully bound books. This is a great contribution from him to India.

He also successfully accomplished the production of the CD-ROM containing the entire Tipitaka and allied Pali literature. He helped to create software with the help of which it was possible to view the Tipitaka in seven scripts—Devanāgarī, Roman, Myanmar, Sri Lankan, Thai, Cambodian, and Mongolian. He also helped to create a search engine that could be used to search the text in the CD-ROM in different ways. Radhe Shyam also helped in printing many Vipassana books and CDs. He lived with me so he worked under my guidance about all aspects of publication work.

Recently, it was necessary to publish two books within a week. I was writing the books but because of ill health, I was unable to complete them. How could they be published in time? Radhe Shyam took the responsibility of printing these books. He had to go to Bhopal due to earlier plans. Before going, he again assured me that I should send the material to the printer and the books would be ready in two days. I found it difficult to believe this. Radhe Shyam passed away in the train before reaching Bhopal. He had assured me that the books would be ready. And in fact, the printer printed and handed over the books two days after Radhe Shyam’s death.

Radhe Shyam passed away while fulfilling his responsibilities in Dhamma. The Dhamma service that he rendered will be of great help in his future journey. May he keep progressing on the path of liberation!

Shri Radhe Shyam Goenka, a senior Vipassana teacher and younger brother of our Principal Teacher, Goenkaji, expired on the night of 1 February, 2007 due to heart attack. He gave invaluable Dhamma service for many years in various fields including Vipassana Research Institute, Dhamma Tapovana, Tipitika Project, publications and conducting courses worldwide. He was active in Dhamma service until the very last day of his life.

His wife, Vimalaji, also a Vipassana teacher, passed away a few years ago. The worldwide Dhamma family shares the deep sense of loss of Goenkaji and Mataji.

May Radhe Shyamji be happy, peaceful and liberated.

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