Remembering Goenka


I look at this picture and cannot help but smile. From it, the sensations I feel remind me of the warm feeling of love I had as a young boy looking at my grandfather. It makes me think of the time when everything was new and an adventure. I remember during this time recognising how different my grandfather’s skin was to mine, how it hung loose enough on his hand to fold into flaps. I also remember his hair snow white and always neatly combed, and his walking sticks that we would use to play sword fights in his hall. I do not know what happens after life, but part of me likes to imagine that if there was a place we go to after death, if my grandfather and Goenka came across each other they would smile at each with respect and admiration for a life well lived.

The sensations I experience when listening to Goenka’s voice chant take on a different form. It is a like a call to arms, rather than to fight others, a call to fight what is inside me, to be stronger, to be wiser, to be fuller with love rather than hate. Rather than taking the form of a warm loving grandfather figure, the source of the sound from which the chanting comes comes from feels like a place that does not require shape or form. It makes me think of these beautiful words:

” The Tao is like an empty pitcher. Poured from, but never drained. Infinitely deep, it is the source of all things. It blunts the sharp, unties the knotted, shades the bright, unites with all dust. Dimly seen, yet eternally present, I do not know who gave birth to it, it is older than any conception of God.”   The Tao Te Ching

 Goenka was a human being like my grandfather and you and I. Who through Vipassana developed a capacity to instil these mixture of sensations and thoughts in me thousands of miles away from where the photograph was taken and where the chanting was recorded. Rather than mourn his death I celebrate his life as an inspiration for what is possible.

“Vipassana teaches the art of dying: how to die peacefully, harmoniously. And one learns the art of dying by learning the art of living: how to become master of the present moment, how not to generate a sankhara at this moment, how to live a happy life here and now. If the present is good, one need not to worry about the future, which is merely a product of the present, and therefore bound to be good.” S.N Goenka

This entry was posted in For Non Meditators, Observations and tagged , , , , by Ryan Shelton. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ryan Shelton

While I'm currently married to a beautiful woman while teaching physics at Padua Academy, these descriptors fail to capture the totality of my adventurous life. I have hiked over 1700 miles, traveled to 5 continents, managed a bakery, started a meditation center, counseled troubled teens, attended Duke, UNC, and Harvard, protected forests as a wildland firefighter, volunteered thousands of hours with Americorps, rafted the Grand Canyon, SCUBA dived on the Great Barrier Reef, and continues to find new adventures. I hope my writing encourages you to pursue your dreams and be the best version of yourself while supporting your communities to work together to solve the current challenges in our world.

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