The Buddhist Calendar

~ Research Study ~

Buddha And Dhamma
Dhamma And Sectarianism

(Shri Satya Narayan Goenka (Shri S N Goenka) is the master of Vipassana meditation. Vipassana is the experiential aspect of the Teachings of Lord Buddha. S. N. Goenka learnt Vipassana from Sayagyi U Ba Khin – the great Burmese Vipassana Teacher. Sayagyi U Ba Khin belonged to a long lineage of celebrated Vipassana teachers. Dr. S N Goenka, D.Litt (Nalanda University) is considered an expert in pariyatti (the theory) and patipatti (the experiential aspect-Vipassana) of the teachings of Lord Buddha. He has established the Vipassana Research Institute (VRI) at Igatpuri (Nasik) in India. Below is a collection of Goenka’s sayings and Q/A on Buddha, Dhamma and sectarianism).

The Buddha taught Dhamma (the way, the truth, the path). He did not call his followers “Buddhists”; he referred to them as “Dhammists” (those who follow the truth)

Q. You keep referring to the Buddha. Are you teaching Buddhism?

SNG – I am not concerned with ‘isms’. I teach Dhamma, and that is what the Buddha taught. He never taught any ‘ism’, or any sectarian doctrine. He taught something from which people of every background, every religion, can benefit. He taught the way with which one can live a life full of benefits for oneself and other. He didn’t merely give empty sermons saying, “Oh, People. You must live like this, you must live like that”. The Buddha taught practical Dhamma, the actual way to live a wholesome life. And Vipassana is the practical know-how to lead a life of real happiness.

Q. What is the connection between Vipassana and Buddhism?

SNG – Buddha never preached Buddhism. We have compiled 140 volumes of Buddha’s existing talks into a CD-ROM and found that the word Bauddha or Buddhism is not mentioned even once. Buddha talks of Dhamma (Pali for Dharma), not Bauddha Dharma. Buddha was against organized religion. It was his followers who later created a religion out of his talks. A person who identifies with a religious community can never attain Dhamma.

Dharma is nothing but a pure science, a super-science of mind and matter: the interaction of mind and matter, the cross-currents and the under-currents happening deep inside every moment. Things are happening inside every moment, but we remain extroverted, giving importance to things outside. Say somebody has abused me, and I don’t have this practice of observing what is happening within myself: I become angry and start shouting. What am I doing.

To observe anger as anger, or hatred as hatred, or passion as passion, is very difficult. It takes time. That is why the wise people, the enlightened people, the saints and seers of India advised: “Observe yourself.” Observing oneself is a path of self-realization, truth-realization; one can even say “God-realization,” because after all, truth is God. What else is God? The law is God, nature is God. And when one is observing that law; one is observing Dharma. Whatever is happening within you, you are just a silent observer, not reacting. As you observe objectively, you have started taking the first step to understand Dharma; the first step towards practicing Dharma in life.

Q. What is Dhamma?

SNG – What one’s mind contains, at this moment, is Dhamma. Dhamma is everything there is.
Let a beginning be made to understand Dharma. Dharma is free from all sectarian beliefs, dogmas, rites and rituals. Even sectarian names are not necessary. You may or may not call yourself a Hindu or a Muslim, but you should be a Dharmic person, a person living the life of Dharma. This means that your mind should remain pure. If your mind remains pure, then all your other actions, vocal or physical, will naturally become pure.

On the other hand, if you learn the art of Dharma, this means the art of living, and you stop generating negativity, you start experiencing peace and harmony within yourself. When you keep your mind pure, full of love and compassion, the peace and harmony that is generated within permeates the atmosphere around you. Anyone who comes in contact with you at that time starts experiencing peace and harmony. You are distributing something good that you have. You have peace, you have harmony, you have real happiness, and you are distributing this to others. This is Dharma, the art of living.

Dhamma is so simple, so scientific, so true-a law of nature applicable to everyone. Whether one is Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Christian; whether one is American, Indian, Burmese, Russian or Italian – it makes no difference; a human being is a human being. Dhamma is a pure science of mind, matter, and the interaction between the two. Do not allow it to become a sectarian or philosophical belief. This will be of no help.

The greatest scientist produced by the world worked to find the truth about the relationship between mind-matter. And discovering this truth, he found a way to go beyond mind-matter. He explored reality not just for the sake of satisfying his curiosity but to find a way to be free of suffering. So much misery in every family, in every society, in every nation, in the entire world. The Enlightened One found a way to come out of this misery.

– Shri S N Goenka

(Collection of Q/A from the Vipassana website