Vipassana is hard work and it takes a long-term committment so what’s the upside? Why am is so motivated by the potential of this teaching? I’ve spent a number of years in a number of different occupations trying to figure out how to make people’s lives better. First with AmeriCorps where I helped with community gardens, food banks, housing projects and environmental protection. While I was contributing to some short-term needs I didn’t feel like I was getting to the root of the problem. I would spend a couple of months helping some community and then I would leave and I wasn’t sure if I actually helped anything or if I was just supposed to feel good that I was trying to help.
Next I worked at an outdoor school for troubled youth. This more clearly demonstrated the complexity of social problems. When I took kid who were having trouble in the world into the woods and became their mentor I was able to motivate them to behave in healthier ways but it became clear how difficult it would be for these children to stay motivated when they returned to the environment that raised them. It’s possible to help an individual change but how do you help transform the culture of an entire community?
So I moved into restaurant management so I could help provide some low-income families with a steady reliable income in a healthy work environment. I didn’t know how to transform a community but I knew a good starting point was financial security and a healthy supportive work environment. The measuring stick of success was profit and I didn’t really know how to move beyond that. Yet, to transform a community it would require everyone being on the same page which meant there needed to be a clear stated goal.
I was trying to tackle many different problems simultaneously and I wasn’t making much progress. Enter Vipassana meditation, stage right. So simple yet so profound. The goal: May all being be happy. The method: Purify the mind so you can experience nibbanic peace within yourself. The result: As your life becomes more peaceful and harmonious and less reactive to external influences, more people realize that they want to experience this peace and learn the technique themselves. No ones being taken advantage of, no one is being forced to change, and it takes very little resources for this teaching to spread. It’s so simple and it’s spreading. Goenka reintroduced the Buddha’s technique to India around 1970 and to the rest of the world around 1980. In those 30 years over 140 centers have been established around the world with donations only from old students and labor only from old student volunteers. In some ways this is slow progress but it’s amazing that this business model works at all.
I’m not sure if this practice has the potential the cure the worlds pains but it’s by far the best remedy I’ve discovered on my path. Therefore, I want to be a leader who helps these teachings spread by first living up the expectations of the practice myself. I’m fascinated to discover how the environment around me will change.