Our Teacher Has Passed

S.N. Goenka, my Vipassana teacher, has passed. I’ve decided to wait a few weeks before writing about this because I feel like it’s not my role to tell people how they’re supposed to feel about his passing. I do feel that it’s appropriate to share my thoughts now that everyone has had a chance to process for themselves. I’ll admit that my first response was a bit detached. I’ve never met Goenka. I’ve seen his discourses a number of times, but I’ve always felt a stronger connection to the teaching than Goenka. I’m actually a little uncomfortable referring to Goenka as my Dhamma Father or Guruji. While he did some amazing work to help make Vipassana available to householders around the world, didn’t he also make a strong effort not to be anyone’s guru? I realize some of this discomfort comes from the contrast between the American culture I was raised in and Indian culture so maybe my understanding will change with time.

Now, after I’ve had some time to reflect, I feel a lot of compassion towards Goenka. I appreciate the role his presence had in ensuring the purity of this tradition. I realize that the massive void he has left behind must now be filled. I’ve heard that Geonka spent a tremendous amount of time preparing this tradition to continue after his passing. I hope we’re able to continue spreading pure dhamma, with the peace and happiness that follows it, around the world. This is not something to take for granted. I hope the leadership that Goenka appointed to replace his is strong enough to fill his shoes.

Personally, I think I feel more responsibility to carry the flag of Vipassana than I did before. We need to work together to keep this tradition heading in the right direction. We need to continue to respect our elders in this tradition. We need to step up where we can to help. Thank you S.N. Goenka for getting this whole thing started. Now it’s time for someone else to take the torch. Time to meditate.

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About Ryan Shelton

In March of 2010 I discovered a path to peace and happiness through a 10-day Vipassana meditation course in the tradition of S.N. Goenka. After establishing my personal practice, and witnessing how it changed my way of life, I'm now curious to explore how the growing community of meditators can help to support each other and make the world a better place.
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2 Responses to Our Teacher Has Passed

  1. Geetali Sharma says:

    Hi Ryan, I just wanted to say that I felt pretty much the same — detached on hearing the news, uncomfortable in referring to him as my Dhamma Father … and now, feeling more responsible for my own development in pure dhamma. I’ve even observed myself doing things differently lately than I had been in the past.

  2. Sudhakar says:

    Goenkaji was asked by J Krishnamurthi about how he sees himself. A dhamma father, guru, etc. Goenkaji answer was kalyana mitta. A benevolent friend. Wasn’t he kalyana mitta?

    He was a role model of household meditator. If I can emulate him even 1%, I consider myself very lucky.

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