by S. N. Goenka
Not long after I started teaching Vipassana in India, a course was organized at Sevagram. This is the village founded by Mahatma Gandhi as a place for people to carry out his ideal of a simple life of service. Among those who participated in the course were several who had been close to Gandhiji in his lifetime. Near the end of the course one of these people, an elderly man, came to me and said, “Now at last I understand what Gandhiji was doing, after all these years!” And he told me the following story.
It had been the custom of Gandhiji to hold mass prayer meetings to which tens of thousands of people would come. At these meetings he would tell all the people to chant prayers or hymns and to clap their hands. But while they did so he would sit silently in front of them, with closed eyes and hands folded in his lap. He did not clap his hands not utter a word himself.
“One day,” this man told me, “I asked Gandhiji, ‘Why don’t you chant and clap with everyone? What are you doing as you sit there with closed eyes?’ He replied, ‘I am witnessing God within me.’
‘You witness God within yourself! That is wonderful! Please tell me what form God takes in your inner vision.’
‘Well, throughout my body I can sense change taking place, a constant flux or flow. This is the true nature of this body. I observe this truth. And for me this is God. Whether it is really true that there is a supreme God I cannot say, but there cannot be any doubt that truth is real. For me truth is supreme, truth is God. I experience this truth moment by moment within me.’”
Gandhiji had never even heard the word “Vipassana”, but he had spontaneously started practicing the technique. After all, what is Vipassana except observing the truth about ourselves, the truth of our ever-changing nature? And whoever observes this truth is naturally transformed by it to become a pure-minded person who is fit to experience ultimate truth.