Gain the Strength of Dhamma
- by S. N. Goenka
(The following is a condensed and edited version of a discourse given by Goenkaji on the concluding day of the Satipaṭṭhāna course.)
When you join a Satipaṭṭhāna course, the technique remains the same. You have been participating in a number of courses, practising the same technique: observing eight precepts, developing your samādhiṃ,
Go forth, O bhikkhus,
for the good of many, for the happiness of many,
out of compassion for the world…
The purity of the tradition was maintained from generation to generation. After five centuries it was lost in the country of its origin, though other countries maintained it for a longer time. Fortunately the neighbouring country of Myanmar maintained it for twenty five centuries. This is why you have it now. So a feeling of gratitude naturally arises.
Some students come and express their feeling of gratitude towards their guide. But the only way to express one’s gratitude is to get established in Dhamma, to get ripened in Dhamma. There cannot be a better way to express the feeling of gratitude. A father or a mother becomes happy and proud if their child surpasses them. In the same way, your Dhamma guide feels happy and satisfied when he finds: “These people who have taken Dhamma from me are developing so well. May they surpass my ability!”
So get established in Dhamma. It will be so good for you and good for so many others. Many others will take inspiration from your life. The revival of Dhamma has just started. You are fortunate to be born in a period when the Dhamma has arisen again, and is spreading around the world. May you become an instrument for the spread of Dhamma, for the good of so many, for your own good and also for the good of so many!
You are fortunate to get a human life. You have come in contact with Dhamma and have started practising Dhamma. All these factors are very fortunate. Now grow in Dhamma, glow in Dhamma, get ripened in Dhamma so that more and more people get inspiration and start walking on the path of Dhamma; more and more people come out of their misery and enjoy real peace, real harmony, real happiness.
May all of you grow in Dhamma, may all of you glow in Dhamma. May all of you live a Dhamma life, good for you and good for others; beneficial for you and beneficial for others. with the awareness of respiration, and then developing your paññā with the awareness of the sensations and equanimity with the sensations—that means equanimity at the deepest level of the mind. This is what you had been practising in all your courses and this is what you have practised now.
The only difference—and a very important difference—is that in this course you are working with the direct words of the Buddha. You were able to listen to those words and to understand those words at the intellectual level—and also at the actual level because you were practising. One gets more inspiration, one gets more confidence, and one works more diligently, more seriously.
This is the advantage of coming to a course like this: The essence of Dhamma becomes clear.
The more one practises, understanding the teaching properly at the intellectual level and at the level of paññā, wisdom—the clearer the essence of Dhamma becomes. There is no confusion about it. One starts giving importance to the essence of Dhamma and starts applying it in life.
Merely coming to a course doesn’t help if you don’t apply it in your life. It is applied Dhamma which gives all the fruits, all the benefits. Coming to a course is certainly not an escape from the responsibilities of life. One goes to a hospital to regain one’s health. One does not stay in the hospital all the time. Similarly, one does not come to a Vipassana centre to escape from the responsibilities of life.
Gain strength, and then make use of this strength to face all the vicissitudes of life. The vast majority of you are family men, family women, having responsibilities of the family, and of the society. Dhamma will give you the strength to face these responsibilities and to live ideal lives.
Anyone who comes and practises Dhamma has a dual responsibility. One responsibility, of course, is to liberate oneself from all the miseries and to start living a very happy, harmonious, peaceful life.
Another big responsibility is to live the kind of life that will become an example to others. Of course you cannot please everyone else but you have to be careful that you do not harm anyone. You don’t do anything which will hurt others and you start living a life which gives inspiration to others.
If people see a Vipassana meditator living a life full of misery and tension, they will hesitate to come to a Vipassana course: “Look, this is a product of Vipassana meditation. If I am also going to become like this, what is the use of my spending ten days at a course?” You become a barrier for others to take Dhamma.
On the other hand, if someone sees a person’s life changed for the better, if they see this person is now living a better life, facing various situations calmly, they will feel: “Wonderful. This person is developing such good qualities.” They will be inspired to take a course.
When someone comes to a course, the first to benefit are the members of his family. When one person comes to a Vipassana course, practises properly, and changes for the better, then the members of his family see this change and start coming to courses. Once they start practising Vipassana, there is a great improvement in the family.
Whenever there is misunderstanding or ill will among members of a family, if they sit together for Vipassana, one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening, followed by a few minutes of mettā-bhāvanā, they get up smiling. The entire atmosphere of the family changes. The tension is gone and cordiality prevails. The family becomes an ideal family.
When one family becomes an ideal family—happy, peaceful, and harmonious—this attracts the members of other families. They start coming to Dhamma. One family after another practises Dhamma, until the whole community starts enjoying peace and harmony. Gradually, the whole nation will start experiencing peace and harmony. Eventually, the whole world will start experiencing peace and harmony. It all starts with the individual.
So every individual who comes to a Vipassana course has a great responsibility, a dual responsibility: “My life must change now, not only for my good, but for the good of so many.” After twenty-five centuries, Dhamma has arisen once again. One feels, “I’m so fortunate that I have come in contact with Dhamma. Otherwise, in the name of Dhamma, I would have been involved in rites, rituals, philosophical beliefs and dogmas—in different sectarian entanglements. Now I have received the universal Dhamma. I am so fortunate. And the time has ripened for Dhamma to spread throughout the world. What can I do? How can I help?”
One may give service, contributions, assistance in different ways. But the best help is to be an example, a good example of Dhamma. This will generate inspiration in people’s minds so that they will also walk on the path of Dhamma: “Look this person has started living such a peaceful, harmonious, and wonderful life. Why not I?” This is the biggest service.
As this course comes to an end, the students have been purifying the mind and dissolving the ego. They start developing two rare qualities. One quality is: “How can I help others without expecting anything in return? How can I be helpful so that more and more people come on the path and come out of their misery?” One’s only satisfaction is to see others happy, peaceful, harmonious, without any expectation in return.
The second quality is a feeling of gratitude. One feels gratitude towards Gotama the Buddha. After his enlightenment, he did not just liberate himself—he started distributing it to others with infinite love and compassion. And he trained others:
Caratha bhikkhave cārika