October 2, 2013

A Giant Passes

On Saturday September 28, 2013, my world--the world of mindfulness teachers--lost a giant. Satya Narayan Goenka has passed away.

It was primarily (although not exclusively) through Mr. Goenka that I came to be influenced by U Ba Khin’s paradigm. Many years ago, I was privileged to stay at Goenka-ji’s center at Dhamma Giri in Maharashtra, India.

Here are some specific examples of U Ba Khin’s influence my teaching:
  1. The acknowledging of how important it is to work with body sensations.
  2. The interpretation of anicca (impermanence) as a positive, purificatory energy (contra the early Buddhist formulation of anicca as a pessimistic philosophical statement).
  3. The central role of equanimity in the process of mindfulness practice--in Goenka-ji’s lapidary phrasing “samataa hi vishuddhi hẽ” – “Equanimity is purity.” (Hope I didn’t botch the original Hindi too badly. )
  4. How to work with insomnia. What I describe in this blogpost is a slight reformulation of Mr. Goenka’s advice in that regard. 
  5. A useful paradigm for how mindfulness practice works through sankhāras (subconscious blockages; see pp. 31-33 of What is Mindfulness?)

You’ll find details about Mr. Goenka here and here.


  1. A brilliant mind and a wonderful teacher. Rest in Peace.

  2. "... Caroline Rhys Davids called this positive version of dependant origination an ‘oasis’ and asked, ‘How might it have altered the whole face of Buddhism in the West if that sequence had been made the illustration of the casual law!’..."


  3. attended a 10 day retreat years ago. truly life changing. thank you s.n. goenka.

    -from the philippines

  4. Just found this. Thanks for taking the time. I was struck by the massive silence from the Buddhist and meditation community when Mr. Goenka passed. It was also interesting to find out about your connection to his teachings. Makes sense!

  5. Was blessed to have attended a ten day retreat in the midst of one of India's larger earthquake episodes ie Latur, Maharashtra, India fairly close enough to feel the entire dogo shaking while in the mindfulness practice of Vipassana.

    A good test of one's 'Shamhata practise'....I dare say...as I was meditating at the Igatpuri Center called Mountain of Dhama or Dhama Giri....

    Goenkaji also allowed me the rare privilege of attending his daily, evening talks when he came to Dubai to live with his son and complete his written work on the Dhammapada and other Buddhist Texts thanks to one of my students who was a close friend of his.

    Great memories....a great time in my life....the early 90's.

    Goenka once told me that he had a reccollection from a past life of being one of the two students of the Buddha who took the message of Dhamma to the East and that the Buddha had predicted that he would return to teach it 2500 yrs later and that he had followed this inner movement to come to India from Burma after his early success with Vipassana and encountering his teacher U Ba Kim.



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