Serving Yourself and Others
- by S. N. Goenka
(The following talk was given by Goenkaji to Dhamma servers in Kaoshiung, Taiwan in July 1996. It has been slightly adapted for the Newsletter.)
My dear Dhamma servers:
During the last year, many of you have given such worthy service that Vipassana has started to spread on this island of Dhamma. For a Vipassana meditator to progress on the path of purification, Dhamma service is important. The Buddha’s teaching is that you should serve yourself first to be able to serve others. If you want to purify your mind but do not make efforts to generate love and compassion for others, if you do not try to help them to come out of suffering, you are certainly not progressing on the path of Dhamma.
Continue to purify your mind and also help others to purify their own minds. You should not forget others while purifying your mind, but it is not healthy to try to help others without purifying yourself. If you are not strong, how can you help another weak person to become strong?
I know from my own experience and from the experience of so many of my students that when you serve others in Dhamma, your own meditation becomes stronger and the process of purification becomes more effective. When you help others to progress in Dhamma, you develop your pāramī of dāna. Of all the gifts, the gift of Dhamma is the highest. Every donation you make is helpful to you, no doubt, but this donation gives you the maximum benefit because you are giving something of maximum value to the recipient. Someone who receives the gift of Dhamma gets the path of purification and starts to come out of all the miseries of life. Therefore, the Buddha announced, Sabba dānaṃ dhammadānaṃ jināti-The donation of Dhamma is the highest donation.
During a course it appears that only the Teacher is giving the dāna of Dhamma but actually Dhamma cannot be given unless there are servers to help, so the servers share in the process. If there were nobody to manage or to prepare food, how could a Vipassana course be held? The dāna of Dhamma is a cooperative effort by the Teacher and the servers, and the servers also receive the fruit of Dhamma dāna.
Sometimes, people tell me, "It is wonderful that you have been successful in distributing Dhamma single-handedly to so many people around the world." I reply that I have not done this single-handedly. I have only two hands but Dhamma has thousands of hands-the hands of the Dhamma servers.
When I first went to India, I was unsure whether I could teach Dhamma there. This technique makes a deep operation and purifies the mind at the root level. To learn it, residential courses are essential, but I had no one to help me arrange the necessary facilities. Fortunately, a distant relative of mine from Myanmar offered to assist, and it was because of his great service that the first course was arranged. And then, the Wheel of Dhamma started rotating once again in the country of its origin. Later on, others who had participated in courses offered their services, and thus, courses could be held not only in India but around the world.
Whenever I remember the man who managed the first course in India, I feel very grateful to him. Can anyone measure the merits that this person acquired in arranging the first Vipassana course outside Myanmar? Then, a large number of meditators around the world started helping. Can anyone measure the merits that these servers have acquired by organizing Dhamma courses for suffering people? That is why I say that every Dhamma server participates in this great donation of Dhamma around the world.
In daily life, there are many ups and downs. To maintain equanimity despite these vicissitudes and to generate love and compassion is the training of Vipassana. When Vipassana meditators give Dhamma service, they learn in a healthy atmosphere how to apply Dhamma in life.
While giving service you come across different types of meditators. Some may be lazy or talkative or rude. Sometimes an immature Dhamma server reacts in kind and replies rudely, or behaves like a jailer. But you are trained not to become angry in spite of any mistakes made by the students. Instead, you try maintain a balanced mind filled with love and compassion. You keep making mistakes and correcting yourself, and in this way you learn how to face unwanted situations equanimously. In the atmosphere of a Dhamma centre or course it is easier to learn how to face various situations, and then, you can start to apply this wisdom in your daily life. This is a training ground for each Dhamma server to learn how to live a good life.
The Buddha said that a good Dhamma person has two qualities: the quality of selflessly serving others and the quality of gratitude for help received. These two qualities are rare. A Dhamma server has the opportunity to develop both. You practice serving others without expecting anything in return; and you start to develop a feeling of gratitude towards the Buddha, who discovered this wonderful technique and gave it to the world, and towards the chain of teachers, who maintained this technique in its pristine purity. One feels like repaying the debt of gratitude by serving others in order to fulfil the mission of the Teacher.
One feels so happy and contented serving others and helping them to come out of their misery. Therefore, Dhamma service works both ways: It helps others and it helps the Dhamma server too.
May you all gain strength in Dhamma for your own benefit, and may you continue to serve others for the good and benefit of so many.
May the Dhamma of purification given by the Buddha spread not only in this island of Dhamma, the island of Taiwan, but may it also arise and spread in the country of its origin and from there may it spread around the world.
May the island of Taiwan become a beacon of Dhamma and spread the light of wisdom throughout the world.
May all be happy, be peaceful, be liberated.
Bhavatu sabba maṇgalaṃ!