-We have heard that a large pagoda is being built near Mumbai. What is the purpose of this pagoda? How is it related to our meditation?
Mr. S. N. Goenka: The pagoda is a pagoda, and it will be for meditation. You see, unfortunately during the last 2,000 years people in this country have lost, I will say really totally lost, the truth about Buddha and the truth about Buddha’s teaching. Not only lost, but distorted it in a way that misleads people. Unfortunately there have been some episodes of the Buddha’s life shown on TV here, which have created more confusion. Then how can we give people the correct information?
So an idea came to have a huge monument—and there are people to help to get it done—with a gallery where Buddha, his life and his teaching will be shown. People will come out of curiosity to find out what this monument is, and they will get all this information.
Moreover, it will be used for meditation. Fortunately we have been able to procure some genuine relics of Buddha. The Mahabodhi Society has agreed that they will give some part of the relics that they have. And some have been sent by the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka to be kept there. So all serious students can sit in that pagoda and meditate. And I know with my personal experience: The vibration of Buddha relics is so strong that the whole atmosphere will get charged with that. Moreover, it will be a huge area—about 350 feet in diameter, a circular hall under a 350-foot-high pagoda. About 10,000 people will be able to sit there. Quite possibly a time may come when people would like to have Anapana taught—even for a few minutes. All right, we might give mass Anapana.
Let me explain a little more about this pagoda project. This is not only for a pagoda. Now we have so much difficulty here at Dhamma Giri. Applications come in such large numbers and people have to wait sometimes for months to get their turn. I feel very sorry because of that, but we are helpless. If we allow more than 500 people here—if we construct more buildings—the centre will become so difficult to manage. But there is so much demand. What can be done? So along with this pagoda there will be a huge area—negotiations are going on now—of about 100 acres or more. Besides the pagoda, behind it, there will be a centre.
Here at Dhamma Giri we have simultaneous courses—30-day courses, 45-day courses, along with simultaneous 10-day courses. I know very well that students who are taking such long, deep courses are disturbed when the ten-day students come—vibration-wise it is not very helpful. So I feel it is necessary that we must have a centre where only long courses are given. Two courses should not be given simultaneously. Either here or there will be only long courses, or at a centre between Mumbai and Igatpuri—say about one or one and a half hours away from Mumbai and about one and a half hours from Igatpuri. At times maybe one centre will have only long courses, and the other will have regular courses. At times the other centre will have long courses, and this centre will have shorter ones. We will distribute the work like that. That is another reason.
A third reason cropped up: Your Teacher is getting old, white-haired. So he has sympathy for people who are getting old. Many elderly people want to spend the rest of their life in a Dhamma atmosphere. So we are going to have a Dhamma village. Between the pagoda and this centre there will be a Dhamma village where people will own their own residences. And in that atmosphere of Dhamma there will be residences for people who are comfortably off—they can have some small mini-farmhouses, some bungalows, two bedrooms, one drawing room, a kitchen, etc. There will also be accommodation for people who cannot afford that much but want to live there. There will be all sorts of facilities for people. They can come and stay there for one or two months, or stay for the whole life; there is no objection. There will also be an old age home where no money is involved. The whole atmosphere in this old age home will be suffused with Dhamma. In the Vipassana village and old age home only Vipassana meditators will stay, nobody else. The whole atmosphere must be a Vipassana atmosphere. In the old age home where no money is involved, you get your food, your residence and all facilities for meditation. There will be a Dhamma hall, perhaps a pagoda will be constructed, and you can meditate very easily.
Another important thing that is going to develop there is an institute on a big scale. Here at Dhamma Giri people come to learn Pāli. We know what difficulty they have to face. Even for their residence they have to keep moving from one room to the other. We don’t have sufficient residences for the Pāli scholars. And when they are living here for a long time, people expect them to be doing Dhamma service. Sometimes the management think they are just learning Pāli for one or two hours a day so they should be doing other things as well. It can put a big burden on them.
So there will be an institute where they can work and study Pāli, Sanskrit, Hindi, whatever they like, and the words of Buddha in detail; and they will get good accommodation, their own residences. The whole atmosphere will be such that meditators can work better and be their own masters. So the plan is also for this purpose. This is a dream of your Teacher. I hope it will be fulfilled.
-Guruji, there is an apprehension that the pagoda now being constructed at Mumbai may turn Vipassana into another sect
Mr. S. N. Goenka: Yes, yes. Well, if this teacher has at least a few more years of life you will see that he will not allow anything we do to turn to sectarianism. If the pagoda becomes a tool for making Buddha’s teaching a sect, an organized religion, then all our teaching has gone to mud—we have not understood what Buddha’s teaching is. If this pagoda is used for people who come and pray, “Oh pagoda, please give me this, I need this,” then the whole thing will become an organized religion, certainly.
How are we going to use the pagoda? It will be used in the proper way: For meditation and for the spread of Vipassana, so people learn what Vipassana is. Many people will come just out of curiosity wondering, “Such a magnificent building, what is inside it?” And when they go inside they will get some information, “Well look, this was the Buddha, this is what he taught, these things happened in his life, Vipassana made him a Buddha, and Vipassana made him a good Dhamma teacher for the whole world.” People will get so much benefit.
If they get the inspiration to enquire about Vipassana, we will give information. Out of say 10,000 people who come, if even 100 get inspired to take a course, well 100 benefit and at least the rest get the right message. So we will see that this pagoda is not allowed to develop into another sect. Otherwise our purpose will be lost.