Worldwide vipassana popularizer S. N. Goenka passes away at 89

S. N. Goenka, one of the principle teachers of the Vipassana meditation movement, passed away peacefully September 29, at his home in Mumbai, India. He was 89 years old.

Though Indian, Goenka was born and raised in Burma. It was there he met and studied with the meditation teacher Sayagyi U Bha Thin. Returning to India, Goenka began publicly teaching meditation in 1969. Emphasizing a nonsectarian approach stripped of ritual, Goenka’s meditation courses quickly gained broad popular appeal.

Goenka’s basic ten-day silent meditation retreats (as well as other variations) introduce attendees to a rigorous discipline of breath concentration and close attention to the arising and passing of ever-more-subtle elements of physical and mental sensation, in the service of awakening to the universal, deathless nature of dharma. These courses are now offered on a donation-only basis at 172 centers worldwide, as well as in many prison systems.

“The whole technique,” Goenka said in a 2003 interview with Buddhadharma, “is investigating reality at the experiential level, within oneself.”

When asked to define an enlightened person, he elaborated: “Such a person must have understood the truth at the experiential level. They must have been liberated from all impurities, not just on the surface but in the totality of the mind. Then, by nature, they will be full of love, compassion and goodwill. We can say that such a person is enlightened.”

Read more here about what S. N. Goenka shared with Buddhadharma readers about the meditation techniques he taught, the danger of turning the dharma into a commodity, and why he declined to call himself a Buddhist, or what he taught “Buddhism.”

Photograph via dhamma.org.