-By Thomas Crisman
Goenkaji's first course in North America was conducted in Canada in the summer of 1979. The following year, 1980, he conducted courses in Eastern Massachusetts, Chicago, and Northern California at which many old students, who had previously attended courses in India, participated along with hundreds of new students. The first centre in North America was established with the purchase of a farm house and a few acres located in the rolling hills of Western Massachusetts.
Dhamma Dhara had its first course in August 1982 and has continued to grow and add facilities, including a new pagoda with 64 cells and a new Dhamma hall with a capacity of about 250 students. Every year, at least twenty ten-day courses, one 20-day course, and one 30-day course are held at the centre. A few years later, the second centre in North America, Dhamma Mahavana, was established in California, initially in a rural area north of San Francisco. After operating for a few years at that location, the California centre was moved to a much larger piece of property located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in central California about equal distances from San Francisco and Los Angeles. Dhamma Mahavana has continued to increase the number of courses it gives each year as well as offering numerous children's courses and longer courses. A new Dhamma Hall accommodating approximately 150 students was completed in 1997. In the summer of 1990, two additional centres were established in the United States.
Dhamma Siri is located in the southwest part of the United States near Dallas, Texas, Dhamma Kunja is located about equal distances between Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon in the Pacific Northwest portion of the United States. Both of these centres have continued to grow and expand their physical facilities as well as the number of courses that they offer each year. They each serve numerous old and new students from both their own respective geographic areas as well as from throughout the United States. Very recently, two new centres have been established in North America and both are in Canada, the home of many old students in this tradition of Vipassana.
In addition to the four well-established centres in the United States and the two new centres in Canada, there are numerous non-centre courses conducted at various locations throughout North America each year. For example, in 1997 approximately 33 ten-day courses were conducted at non-centre sites, serving hundreds of students. In addition to the conducting of regular ten-day courses,a programme is currently underway to introduce Vipassana courses into the prisons of North America. It is presently expected that the first prison course will be conducted in a jail facility near Seattle, Washington, towards the end of 1997. While Dhamma has not spread as widely or as quickly in North America as in India, great progress has been made since the earliest courses less than 20 years ago. In countries and in a culture to which meditation is generally a foreign concept, the rapid growth of Dhamma in North America has been quite remarkable.