by S. N. Goenka
(An autobiographical narrative)
In the early days of the spread of Dhamma, year after year, I continued to give Vipassana courses throughout India. Time passed. During this period the meditation centres of Dhamma Giri, Dhamma Thali and Dhamma Khetta were established.
By now the number of western students had increased greatly and they were very persistent in inviting me to teach Dhamma in their own countries. But what could I do? I was helpless because my Burmese passport was not endorsed to travel outside India. Even my appeal to General Ne Win had proved fruitless. Therefore I again contacted my good friend U Thi Han in Yangon but the government policy on passport endorsements had not changed during these past years. He advised me to take refuge in Dhamma, and make a Dhamma adhiṭṭhāna (strong determination). This was the only way left to be successful.
I saw that Vipassana was establishing roots in India, the country of its origin. Now it was necessary for me to take steps to fulfil the other Dhamma desire of my teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin: to spread the Dhamma around the world. For this purpose, I felt I had to go to foreign countries to carry on the Dhamma mission.
This apart, a situation occurred that caused great confusion in Western countries and drew my attention and urgency to go there to spread the Dhamma, in its pristine purity, as taught by my teacher. Some of my American students had taken a few Vipassana courses with me in India, and before getting fully ripened in the technique, out of overenthusiasm, they had established a Vipassana centre in the USA.
Due to their own weakness in Dhamma, these students had very wrongly stopped giving due importance to sīla, the foundation for Vipassana. Secondly,they had made teaching the Dhamma a profession, a means of livelihood, and this is totally against the tradition of pure Dhamma teaching. Thirdly, they had started mixing Vipassana with other techniques, and had thus polluted and diluted the purity of Dhamma. Seeing all this, a great sense of urgency arose in my mind to go to the West to teach Dhamma with the purity intact.
In spite of the fact that the Prime Minister of the Myanmar government was a good friend, he was unable to give me endorsements for the countries I wanted to visit. So the only alternative left for me was to forgo my Myanmar nationality, accept Indian nationality, and acquire an Indian passport. Thus I could travel to any country in the world to teach Dhamma.
I hesitated for an emotional reason. It is true that India is the land of my forefathers and is also the holy land of all the Buddhas. Therefore I greatly respected and honoured this country. But Myanmar is my motherland and definitely there is a special honour for Myanmar in my heart.
There is a famous Sanskrit saying, "Janani Janmabhumisca Svargadadi Gariyasi," which says honouring the motherland is far superior to honouring even the celestial world. And mine was a special motherland where I was born not only once, but twice: first, I emerged from the womb of my mother and secondly, I came out of the womb of ignorance by practicing Vipassana.
So, on one hand there was this emotional pressure not to give up Myanmar citizenship, and on the other, there was the call of duty to fulfil the Dhamma desire of my teacher.
A few days of this tug-of-war in my mind passed. Ultimately I decided to accept my friend U Thi Han's suggestion and I made a Dhamma sankappo with the adhiṭṭhāna of sacca kiriyā (a strong determination made with the base of a statement of truth) as follows:
"Whatever Dhamma service that I have given till now is totally free from any selfish interest and it has only been given with the sole motive of helping others. I have acted thus to fulfill the Dhamma wishes of my revered teacher. May my teacher feel free from the debt of Dhamma received from India. May I feel free from the debt of Dhamma I received from my teacher. It is only with this motive that I have given Dhamma service. These are words of truth and with the strength of these true words I leave the decision to Dhamma. If Dhamma wants me to carry on my Dhamma duties only in India then may I remain a Myanmar citizen, and if Dhamma wants me to travel the world for the spread of Vipassana, then at the completion of ten years of my Dhamma service in India, may I receive Indian citizenship."
When the end of this ten year period was nearing, I submitted my application for Indian citizenship. I did this with the determination that if Dhamma wanted me to go around the world as an Indian citizen may it so happen.
At that time, the thought arose that the geographical boundaries between countries were merely for political and business purposes. Dhamma cannot have geographical barriers. Definitely, I am not changing my nationality for any political, commercial or financial gain. Even if I adopt Indian citizenship I will continue the same Dhamma work around the world. My motherland Myanmar and my ancestral holy land of India will both feel honoured with the credit of spreading Dhamma. One country is where Dhamma originated, and the other is where Dhamma has been preserved in its purity. May both enjoy this honour.
"My only aim is to spread Dhamma for the good and benefit of suffering humanity around the world. My love and feeling of gratitude and honour for my motherland will not diminish even a little by changing my nationality for this good cause."
After submitting my application to the Indian government, I was quite confident I would soon obtain the citizenship. But my experience was that whenever an important step was taken on the path of spreading Dhamma, an unexpected obstacle always raised its head. But the obstacle could not stand for long. The obstacle this time: I was informed, later, that my application was stuck in the Intelligence Department of the government of India.
I knew very well that some years before, the Intelligence Department had started making serious enquiries about myself and my activities. The Indian members of our family, specially two of my brothers and one nephew, were intensely involved in the Ananda Marga.
This organization was looked upon very suspiciously by the government of India as its activities were designed to gain political power by violent means. During the days of Emergency both of these brothers were put behind bars for a number of days. So it was natural that the government was suspicious that perhaps I too was indirectly working for Ananda Marga, while conducting the courses under the name of Vipassana.
I knew that the Intelligence Department of India had made exhaustive enquiries about my activities and a few officials had also interviewed me on this subject.
Some of them had even attended a 10-day course in disguise. One such high official had revealed his identity at the completion of the course he had attended. He had told me that he was highly impressed by my selfless service and had seen for himself how this non-sectarian technique was spreading for the good of others. He also revealed to me that a few junior officials had made enquiries and had reported that my work was free from any ulterior motive. Now he said he personally had been able to observe this and he was fully convinced that it was faultless and had no connection with the Ananda Marga movement.
But it was only at the time of my application for citizenship that I came to know that my file had not yet been closed in the Intelligence Office. Perhaps the top people in the Intelligence Department wanted to keep further watch on my activities for sometime. Or because, although I had totally retired from all commercial activities, my sons were doing business jointly with the members of the family who were followers of Ananda Marga. Maybe this was why they wanted to keep a watch on my activities for a few more years.
But in spite of this gloomy situation, I was fully convinced that because of the adhiṭṭhāna I had made, I surely would attain Indian citizenship and an Indian passport as soon as the period of ten years service was completed. I could then freely go to foreign countries to teach Dhamma.
With this strong confidence I had given consent to my students in the West to arrange 10-day Vipassana courses in Guyon, France, from the 1st to the 11th of July, in Plage, France, from the 14th to the 24th of July, in Montreal, Canada from the 26th of July to the 6th of August, and then in Godalming, England from the 9th to the 20th of August, and from the 21st of August to the 1st of September. Thus I had committed myself to five Vipassana courses in the West and sites had been reserved for them.
The biggest problem was the first course in Guyon, France, where the meditators had booked a very costly youth hostel, and had paid the whole rent in advance. Most of those who had registered to join the course were from the higher strata of society. One of them, from Switzerland, was a diplomat. All of them had arranged their holiday to cover the course dates. If the course could not be given on schedule the organizers would have to face great difficulties.
What could be done? The anti-Dhamma forces had erected barriers to prevent the spread of Dhamma through the world - the Myanmar government was not able to give endorsements in my passport due to their strict policies, and the Indian government was not giving me citizenship. My application was stuck in Delhi. There seemed to be no hope. The only confidence I had was from the Dhamma adhiṭṭhāna that I had taken with the base of sacca kiriyā. I had great confidence that the forces of Dhamma would ultimately help.
... to be concluded