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Grateful Centenary Commemoration
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Grateful Centenary Commemoration
- by S. N. Goenka

The Buddha said that two qualities are rare among humans: kataññutā, that is, gratitude and pubbakāritā, that is, initiative to help others without expecting anything in return. These two qualities are the true yardstick of measuring progress on the path of Dhamma of any person devoted to Dhamma.

Gratitude is more important of the two qualities. Whenever we remember the help given to us by any saintly person and generate gratitude towards him, we naturally feel inclined to give selfless service to live up to that ideal. Thus selfless service is strengthened. Gratitude and selfless service complement and support each other.

We feel grateful towards Myanmar (Burma). The words of the Buddha were preserved for centuries in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos in addition to Myanmar, but the benevolent Vipassana that gives results here-and-now was preserved in a live tradition only in Myanmar. It is natural to have gratitude towards this sacred land. It induces a strong determination to strive to preserve Vipassana and the words of Buddha in their original form for centuries to come.

Sayagyi U Ba Khin is the shining star of the chain of saintly teachers who preserved Vipassana from generation to generation over the millennia. We naturally have infinite gratitude towards him. It is because of him that hundreds of thousands of meditators across the world are benefiting from Vipassana. It was his compassionate resolution that the technique of Vipassana, which India had lost for almost two millennia, should return to India, get established there and then spread to the rest of the world for the benefit of many. The feeling of gratitude among those who have benefited from this technique will give them a strong sense of commitment to do everything possible for the spread of Vipassana all over the world so that millions and millions of people get benefits. They will also feel that it is their conscientious duty to preserve the purity of the technique for centuries to come. There are now, and there will be in future, some ungrateful and depraved people who, having taken just a few steps in Vipassana, make it a means of their livelihood and who corrupt it to strengthen the sectarian fetters of their sects. But those who remain steadfast in Dhamma with gratitude in their heart will not alter the technique even slightly. They will never make it a profession to earn livelihood and certainly will not perform the evil act of making it a tool to promote a particular sect. They will never allow a blemish on the glory that Dhamma is kevalaparipuṇṇaṃ-parisuddhaṃ (so pure that there is nothing to remove, so complete that nothing needs to be added) and beneficial to one and all irrespective of caste and creed.

The auspicious centenary year of this outstanding saint of our era is of great significance. India is entering the new millennium with newly rediscovered Vipassana that she and the rest of the world had lost for centuries. When we see how so many diverse sects and traditions have accepted Vipassana in the last three decades, it does not seem an exaggeration to say that the next millennium will doubtless be the Vipassana millennium.

It is an inspiring coincidence that the Vipassana millennium will start with the commemoration of the birth centenary year of Sayagyi. This Dhamma festival will be celebrated on the sacred land of Myanmar at Dhamma Joti Vipassana Centre in Yangon from 9 to 11 January.

We will salute the Dhamma land of Myanmar and will pay a grateful tribute to the sacred memory of our great teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin. Hundreds of meditators, from all over the world, are showing eager enthusiasm to take part in this historic pilgrimage.

We will return from this commemoration soaked in the infinite mettā of our revered teacher Sayagyi. We will return with the firm resolve to complete the benevolent tasks we have undertaken to mark the centenary year of Sayagyi and will certainly complete these tasks.

1. Establishment of Sayagyi U Ba Khin Village near Dhamma Giri, Igatpuri to provide an ideal peaceful atmosphere for serious meditators to live in.

2. Establishment of Dhamma Tapovana, near Dhamma Giri, to provide facility for serious long courses of 20, 30, 45, 60 and 90 days’ duration.

3. Establishment of an international university near Dhamma Giri to give a worldwide impetus to the work of research in ancient literature related to Vipassana. In this university Pāli, Prakrit, Sanskrit, Hindi and other Indian languages as well as foreign languages such as Myanmar, Sinhalese, Thai, Cambodian, Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Tibetan and Mongolian will be studied.

4. And much more important than the above is the construction of the Grand Vipassana Pagoda at Gorai island in Bombay. This memorial will, while respectfully treasuring the authentic relics of the Buddha, declare our gratitude to Sayagyi U Ba Khin and the sacred land of Myanmar for centuries to come. This pagoda will have a meditation hall seating about ten thousand meditators where they can take one-day courses in an atmosphere charged with Dhamma vibrations from the relics of the Buddha. The halls in the semi-circular gallery around the pagoda will display information about the life and the teaching of the Buddha using state of the art audio-visual equipment. Misconceptions about the Buddha and his teaching have spread in India over the last one and a half to two thousand years. The display at the pagoda will help in removing mythological misconceptions. People will learn historical truths. Many will get inspired and will be attracted to the universal technique of Vipassana meditation.

Though the construction project of the Grand Pagoda costing crores of rupees (millions of dollars) seems a daunting task, seeing the unwavering enthusiasm of meditators it does not seem impossible. Just like the historical donation of Jetavana by Sudatta Anathapindika, a devout meditator and his generous family has donated land worth crores of rupees (millions of dollars) for the Grand Pagoda. Meditators are donating Rs 10000 to provide space for a meditator in the Pagoda, and Rs 100,000 to cover the cost of 100 sq. ft. of the structure of the Pagoda with matchless volition. Apart from this, many meditators from abroad are donating thousands and hundreds of thousands in keeping with their devotion and resources. But even more valuable is the donation from the meditators working on daily wages who even while living a life of material poverty are donating their earnings of one day with so much devotion and confidence. Seeing this, one feels certain about completion of the Pagoda symbolizing re-establishment of Vipassana in its motherland.

May we fulfil these wholesome aspirations so that the benevolent technique of Vipassana continues for 2500 years to help suffering humanity come out of suffering! This is how our gratitude will bear fruit and this is how the expression of our gratitude will benefit others! May all beings, all around the world, be happy, be peaceful and be liberated.

Benevolent friend,
S. N. Goenka

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