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Right Volition of Dhamma Service
 
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Right Volition of Dhamma Service
- by S. N. Goenka

(The following is a translation of a talk by Goenkaji for old students at Dhamma Nāsikā on 5 March 2005. It has been adapted for the Newsletter.)

My dear Dhamma sons and Dhamma daughters,

I am filled with great happiness to see so many meditators at this Vipassana centre at Nashik. May the entire centre continue to be suffused with the vibrations of Dhamma, the vibrations of purity.

Those who come here to meditate must ensure that they do not perform any physical or vocal action that will pollute the purity of the meditation centre during their stay. Such meditation centres will benefit innumerable people for centuries to come. So many people from all over the world will benefit on this land because they will gain the path of liberation here.

Those who manage the centre have an immense responsibility. This is a Dhamma-land; it is not a commercial organization. The managers of these centres should ensure that these centres do not become commercial organizations. Dhamma is invaluable; it should not become a commercial commodity.

Dhamma is open to all. No fees should be charged from students. As soon as the feeling arises, “The students should give something for the food, accommodation, and teaching of Dhamma, otherwise how can we run the centre?” it becomes a commercial organization. What price can anybody pay for learning Dhamma? Dhamma is invaluable. As soon as a fee is charged, it will become the Dhamma of the rich. Those who have money will try to gain peace by paying the highest price. But they cannot gain peace because when Dhamma becomes a commercial commodity, it fails to bring peace. No one should make the mistake, now or in the future, of turning a Vipassana centre into a commercial organization.

The voluntary donation by a meditator after completing a course is not a payment for the expenses of one’s own course. Donations should never be given with this volition. Instead, one donates with the wholesome volition: “I have gained so much benefit, I have gained so much peace by meditating for ten days, I have learned the art of living. Now I shall live happily, peacefully all my life. May others also get the same benefit! People are so miserable all around. The have-nots are certainly miserable but the haves are also miserable. Literate or illiterate, men or women; all are suffering due to one reason or the other. If they get this technique to eradicate suffering, they will learn to come out of their suffering. May more and more people be benefited! May more and more people get Dhamma! May more and more people get the art of living!” The donation given with such volition is pure and wholesome because it is full of goodwill.

There should never be any kind of discrimination at any Vipassana centre. One may be rich or poor, literate or illiterate, one may belong to this race or to that race, this clan or that clan, this lineage or that lineage. A human being is a human being. One who is born from a human womb is a human being. Such discrimination should not be practised anywhere in this country. This may happen in this country sooner or later but at least in Vipassana centres, there should not be any trace of discrimination.

The path of liberation is open to all. Dhamma is universal. Dhamma is the same in all countries. Whoever meditates anywhere is bound to benefit. It is eternal; it is Dhamma because it is always beneficial. Do not let Dhamma become a sect. In future, Vipassana meditators should not say, “We belong to Vipassana sect, we are different from others.” This should never happen. Society is made up of all kinds of people; the world is made up of all kinds of people. “May all be happy, may all be peaceful! May all learn the art of living! May all improve their present life as well as their future life!” We should develop such feelings of love and compassion.

All those who come to learn Dhamma should develop such feelings. It is even more essential for all those who teach Dhamma, those who manage the centres, and those who serve Dhamma to develop such wholesome feelings. If one does not have love, compassion, and goodwill, how can one teach Dhamma? One will merely inflate the ego, “I have given Vipassana to so many people. I have built so many rooms. I have given so much donation.”

What are you doing? The purpose of Dhamma service is not to inflate the ego. If you are free from ego, then the work you do will be Dhamma work, Dhamma service. Whoever works here—whether one is a teacher or a trustee—all are Dhamma servers. Whoever works in a Vipassana centre must work with the volition to serve, not for the sake of financial remuneration or livelihood. Each person who works in a Vipassana centre is a Dhamma server. They come here with this volition of service, the volition that their service may benefit others. They serve with this wholesome volition full of love and compassion.

All are Dhamma servers. Dhamma service means to serve those who come to meditate. You should serve them with love and humility, not like a paid employee. It is possible that the Vipassana trust may give an honorarium to some Dhamma servers who are serving fulltime. This should not be considered as salary. There are no salaried employees in a Vipassana centre. Everyone is a Dhamma server. The volition is to get an opportunity to gain the merits of service. The merit of service is invaluable.

When we give food to the hungry, their hunger is appeased. It is a meritorious act. When we give water to the thirsty, their thirst is quenched. It is a meritorious act. Similarly, when we give medicine to the sick, they are cured. This is a meritorious act.

All these meritorious acts are good but they cannot be compared to the merit gained by giving Dhamma. Certainly we should give food to the hungry but they will be hungry again. We should give water to the thirsty but they will become thirsty again. We should give medicine to the sick but they will fall sick again. They do not gain lasting benefit.

But anyone who gets Dhamma and starts walking on the path of Dhamma gets eternal benefit. One is able to face all the ups and downs of life, all the pleasant and unpleasant situations. One will never be miserable and will remain peaceful and happy within because the mind will remain balanced, equanimous. One will be able to fulfil all responsibilities properly.

Sabba dānaṃ dhammadānaṃ jināti—the gift of Dhamma excels all other gifts. The gift of Dhamma is superior to all other gifts because when one gets the gift of Dhamma, both the present and the future get better.

One who teaches Dhamma is certainly giving the gift of Dhamma (dhammadāna). But all the Dhamma servers are also giving the gift of Dhamma. How can a Dhamma teacher teach Dhamma without the help of Dhamma servers? How can courses be organised without the help of Dhamma servers?

At so many places, I see how the cooks prepare food with so much love, so much mindfulness. They work with so much dedication. The food for so many persons has to be prepared in time. How can they be so devoted if they are working only for a salary? Likewise, the others also perform their duties with love, goodwill and compassion. If the Dhamma servers serve selflessly, then the Dhamma land will be a true Dhamma land. Otherwise, it will become the industry of an industrialist; it will become the business of a businessman.

This is a Dhamma centre. It is not a commercial or business centre. Nobody is master or servant; all are servers. Someone may be given the responsibility of teaching Dhamma, teaching the practice of meditation. Another may be given the responsibility of looking after the management of the centre. Whatever responsibility is assigned, one should perform it with the volition to serve.

The teachers, organizers, trustees and servers of the present generation as well as those of future generations should be very mindful about this. Pure Dhamma has returned to our country after such a long interval. It should be preserved and should benefit people for a long time. How can this be achieved? Even if one receives some honorarium for subsistence, the principle that should always be followed is that he or she must be a meditator. He should have completed at least one ten-day course and should take courses from time to time. He should meditate regularly, morning and evening.

When I bring to mind memories of the meditation centre of my teacher I feel so inspired by the purity there. It was such an ideal centre. People served with so much dedication!

An assistant professor at the University of Burma, a very learned person, used to come to meditate when the courses were held at the centre. When there was no course, he would come very early in the morning to clean the whole centre and to clean the toilets. He did not do this work at home. But here, at the centre, it was his way of serving: “May everyone be healthy, may they enjoy all facilities!”

One serves with the volition that people should be able to meditate without any hindrance. This is a place for service, a place for Dhamma service. One should always be very heedful about this. We should not allow the purity of Dhamma to be lost. Dhamma is for all. One should serve everybody with the same love and goodwill.

People will be reborn on this Dhamma land. I was also born twice. The first time I was born from the womb of my mother. And the second time, when I received Dhamma, it was like the second birth of a bird. A bird is born twice. The first time it is born in the form of an egg. The second birth is the real birth when the shell of the egg gets broken.

Similarly, people will be born here in the real sense by breaking the shell of ignorance. Dhamma will arise in them; wisdom will arise in them. Just as in the meditation centres all over the world, one must serve here with right understanding and the volition to serve so that more and more people get maximum benefit! This should be the sole purpose of Dhamma service. It makes no difference whether the Dhamma servers are rich or poor, learned or illiterate, men or women. What is most important is that their mental volition must be full of love and compassion.

May all those who have come to meditate on this land be happy! May they be peaceful, may they be liberated!

Bhavatu sabba maṅgalaṃ—May all beings be happy!


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