News and Events
The Ma Niketan, Home for Children is a large campus with beautiful surroundings. It is a small village in itself. The girls who are admitted in this institution come from various backgrounds. There are children who have lost both their parents, some who were found abused, harassed and left lost on the roads, some from broken families, while others were found lost on the roads and admitted here by good Samaritans.
Ma Niketan has a clean environment, provides good and healthy food, proper dress to all the children, which is made possible by generous donations received from well-wishers. The institution also makes arrangements for primary schooling for the children and other vocational training like stitching, embroidery work, computer training, typing, etc so that the children can become independent and earn their own livelihood.
The sisters serving in the institution pay good attention to all the However, inspite of all the facilities and comforts provided (which children from normal families also do not enjoy due to poverty or other reasons), the children staying in this institution miss the personal attention, parental love and affection which they would otherwise enjoy if they lived with their family. They miss the family atmosphere full of care, sharing with siblings and other such joy of being with one’s own family members. Thus deep within their hearts they experience a void, which makes them miserable.
The mind after all fails to relish what is available and always craves for what is lacking. Therefore one continues to remain miserable. - What a strange habit pattern of the mind?
Four sisters working in this institution had already done a few Vipassana meditation courses in Dhamma Giri. One of them, who is a senior sister working for this institution approached the Vipassana Institute and asked if it was possible to conduct an Anapana Course for their children to which she got a positive reply. A residential course was arranged for 170 girls within the age group 11-23 years. The course commenced at 7.00 p.m. on 29-10-98 and concluded on 31-10-98 at 4.00 p.m.The time-table of the Anapana course included 3-4 hours of sitting meditation in the hall, two hours of counselling in small groups, discourses by Shri S.N. Goenkaji, explaining the technique; games, creative activities, cartoon film, stories, and rest periods.
The object of meditation given to the students is observation of pure, natural breath--as it comes in, as it goes out--which is not sectarian or objectionable in any manner. By watching the pure and natural respiration continuously over a period of time, the child starts to understand the true flickering nature of her own mind, its nature of rolling in the past and future, getting anxious and tense. Gradually, as one practises, the mind gets trained to remain aware of the present by observing the breath, which is the reality of the present moment. Then one experiences inner peace and tranquillity. Concentration improves, resulting in better performance in all spheres of activities and the child starts gaining confidence.
The child learns that by developing strong friendship with her own breath, she can gain mastery over her mind and get rid of impurities like fear, anger, hatred, jealousy etc., which makes her miserable and results in causing misery for others. Observance of silence is emphasised while meditating in the hall and children are also encouraged to try and maintain silence while doing other activities as besides continuity of practice and other rules, silence is the main key to success. Some of the extracts of a few experiences of children are quoted here below:
I always thought of the future--I shall work in this manner, I shall pass securing good marks but it never happened. But when I observed my breath and trained my mind to remain in the present, I realised that I must live in the present and instead for so many days I lived building false dreams about the future. I liked this aspect of the technique very much and now I shall take great efforts to surely become the master of my mind. All this time, I was a slave of my mind, thinking of the future, which was not good for me. Now, I shall observe the five precepts as taught by Goenkaji so that my life will improve. The best thing I liked was that one should always say, ‘May all beings be happy’. Everyday, I shall start my day saying, ‘May all beings be happy’ and go to sleep after saying the above sentence.--------Unknown child
I also loved keeping silence because we always keep talking. Sometimes, we ourselves don’t realise what wrong we have said. But when we keep silence, then we get the strength and time to think so that we shall only talk what is good.--------Translated from Hindi
The programme was a good experience for me, as it gave me an opportunity to make me aware of my inner feelings towards myself and towards others. It made me conscious of my being. Though tiring at times, it was good. In the course of two and a half days, I could control my emotions and anger to some extent. So if I want to have full control over my emotions and anger, I need more practise and I intend to do so. The first thing is that I could not at least sit for half an hour but now I can sit much straight as before and also I don’t need any balance. I used to get catches in my legs but now it is normal after doing this. I think that I found something new and wonderful in my life. So many years, days and months passed but I never believed or noticed that I have something in me. But now, I shall continue this till the end of my life.------Lavina
Attending this Anapana course I have understood the incoming breath and outgoing breath and this technique is the most useful technique in my life. How much my mind wanders! My mind is now wandering less and my life has started improving.---------Translated from Hindi
In these three days, I learnt Anapana Meditation. I developed concentration of my mind and learn four things viz. Karuna (compassion), mudita (sympathetic joy), samta (equanimity), and the importance of impermanence. By just doing this much if I am not fully satisfied, I wish to do ten-day course in future.--------Translated from Marathi
At first when I started working, I felt quite bored and my legs started paining, head ached severely and I felt I was trapped in some great difficulty. Then I thought that my friends are also doing this course and they are all sitting silently. Are they also facing the same trouble like me or not ? Then we were instructed that those who work sincerely and seriously get the best fruits of their efforts. Then I started working seriously putting my mind in my work. I then asked my friends whether they also experienced pain and they replied that when we get the opportunity to learn something in our life then should we not take the benefit of such opportunity? I once again applied my mind fully to my work and soon the thoughts that troubled me earlier affected me lesser, the anger that I used to experience came easily under control and I became peaceful and started understanding the precepts that I had not understood earlier. However, even now, I don’t like to meditate but now I am the master of my mind, not the slave of my mind. Whatever the type of thought arises in my mind, Anapana has given me the strength to get rid of it.-----Translated from Marathi
First we had no idea of this Anapana Sati meditation. But in these three days when we understood Anapana meditation then my friends and myself felt very happy as though after so many years our closed mind fluttered like beautiful butterflies. With this Anapana technique our mind became quite understanding. We learnt the importance of compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity, confidence, forgiving nature, humility and following the timetable. Goenkaji narrated many stories by which we learnt that meaning of life is not narrow but is very broad. By this Anapana we have learnt not to get tense and fresh thoughts have sprung in the mind.-------Translated from Hindi
Excerpts from the experiences of children who attended the Children’s course at Dhamma Giri in October 98.
It was a very good experience and I have also learnt many things in these three days which I would not have learnt years sitting home. I learned to control our mind, which would help me in my future life... I am thankful to everyone, the teachers, workers, and Goenkaji I promise that I will follow what is taught to me by Goenkaji. ---Sejal Vaira
I like the work and would like to come again. I have never felt so good in my life until now. I will go home and tell my mother about Anapana and tell her how much I learnt. I love Anapana very much.----Tanumansa Bagrodia.
It was very nice to come here first as it is an International place. It increased my concentration. Here our mind is quiet as the atmosphere of Dhamma Giri is quiet. My memory power has increased.-----Veena D
The weather is very nice. There is silence everywhere. The teachers are very good. I enjoyed here. And the most important is the meditation. It is very good for us. It will help us in studying, health and everything in life. Thank you very much for giving me a chance to come her. I will try to improve in meditation.-----Deepika Barve
We are taught in a very nice way. I wish to come here again because I have the world’s greatest medicine, which can cure everything. I can never do wrong things because meditation has completely changed me. ------Kushita Vasant
The course was a lot of fun and the teacher was very inspiring. I liked meditating because it gave me peace of mind. We were surrounded by tranquillity. Staying in the dormitory helped me to make new friends.----Amrita
Vipassana Research Institute
Dr. W.S. Bhatki
Due to motivation and the inspiration provided by Shri Ratnakar Gaikwad, Additional Municipal Commissioner of Mumbai, a concept of holding Vipassana meditation course for leprosy patients of the hospital was introduced. Shri Ratnakar, on his first visit to the Ackworth Municipal Hospital for Leprosy was over whelmed by the greenery within the hospital campus, residing right in the heart of Mumbai and felt that the general environment is conducive for holding a Vipassana course here. He further pursued the idea and brought it to reality.
The leprosy patients-- the inmates of the hospital, are predominantly long term residents of the hospital. They have already suffered from relentless social stigma which dislocated them from the outside society and made them spend their life in the hospital. Any external element trying to understand them by coming close and spending time with them, is always welcome. In view of this, the idea of some people form the outside world coming and staying in the hospital for ten days for holding Vipassana meditation camp was welcomed by the inmates with enthusiasm without knowing what Vipassana is.
As a first step, a video cassette of Shri Goenkaji was heard, one hour each on three consecutive days which provoked many inmates to know more about this technique and participate in the same. In further meetings, many inmates asked questions regarding the course details and its requirements. They were mainly worried about their physical handicap due to leprosy, which may not permit them to sit in one position for hours. They were also sceptical about their routine medications and dressing of their wounds during the camps period. Once they were confident that they will not be inconvenienced to sit in one position as they can even sit on the chairs and any medication required will be continued even during the ten days of the course, many of the expressed willingness to participate. However, some of them could not be permitted, as they were required to look after day-to-day routine activities in the hospital inpatient and outpatient section. Nevertheless, a group of forty patients was identified to take part in the first ten day Vipassana meditation course organised in the month of May 1997. One staff-member also joined the course.
As the date to commence the first course was fixed, the patients and the staff of the hospital were all determined to make it a great success. The requirements to hold this type of course were enlisted and were completed one by one. The places for Dhamma Hall, residence for male and female participants and for assistant teachers and volunteers were fixed and were improved by painting, etc. About forty cushions with blue cloth covers were prepared by the leprosy patients themselves in just two days. Arrangements of breakfast, lunch, evening meals were made form the hospital kitchen. Everything was set to commence the course on the stipulated day and timing.
The inmates of the hospital and the staff-members were extremely fortunate to have Goenkaji to inaugurate the course for leprosy patients at the Ackworth Leprosy Hospital. His inspiring speech was tailored specially for the occasion, taking into account the fact that the participants in the course were leprosy sufferers. The audio record of the same speech is being used for subsequent programmes too. Goenkaji himself taught ``Anapana’’ to the participants in the inaugural session.
Everything went on as per schedule. Many inmates as well as the staff of the hospital were putting in co-ordinated efforts right from early morning to evening to provide all the requited facilities so that the course being undertaken by the participants could be smoothly practised without interruption. The entire atmosphere within the hospital campus changed and became holistic.
The assistant teachers who conducted the course grasped the minds of not only participating patients but also of other patients and staff members in a short time. During the ten days’ main course, the Assistant Teacher also took short introductory sessions almost in all inpatient wards and also for the group of the staff making everybody aware about Vipassana meditation. The other volunteers who stayed in the hospital campus for ten days also quickly assimilated with the hospital atmosphere and freely mixed with the leprosy patients without any inhibitions. This made the attitude of the inmates very positive towards the programme.
The unique nature of the participants and their sincerity in completing the course made Goenkaji visit the hospital camps once again on the metta day. On the same day he also addressed the meeting of many eminent persons.
On completion of the first course, everybody congratulated the participants while they profusely thanked assistant teachers, volunteers and others who helped them follow the path towards ``Dhamma’’ though Vipassana meditation. They could not express their feelings in terms of Sila, Samadhi and Pragya but the light in their eyes, the bold determination in their voice showed that there was a great change in them by which they can totally face the dreaded disease they are suffering from and the stigmatising society they are living in.
As head of the hospital, I had opportunity to participate in the organisation of the course from the very beginning to the end. Moreover; the enlightenment enthused in the participating leprosy patients inspired me to participate in the course myself. I took the opportunity by attending a ten-day course at Igatpuri in June 1997.
Participation in the Vipassana meditation course was a great experience. The scientific approach of introspection gives one ample opportunities to go through the intricacies of one is own mind and behaviour, possibly through ``Anapana’’ and `Vipassana’ To remain equanimous without reacting to any event will be a goal to be achieved and this ten days course could be just a first step towards the goal. The immense benefits and the experience gathered during the course cannot be expressed in words and I sincerely thank those who introduced Vipassana to me.
We could organise two more ten-day courses during July and August 1997 at Ackworth Leprosy Hospital without any difficulty. These courses were not only attended by the inmates but also by more staff members and by some OPD patients. With the existing facilities and little more inputs a ``Vipassana Meditation centre’’ can be established at the Ackworth Leprosy Hospital for the benefit of many more.
Subsequent to ten-day courses, now it has become a permanent feature that every day, one hour each morning and evening, all old students practise meditation in the ``Dhamma Hall’’. Since June 1997 onwards a one-day course from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. is being arranged on second Sunday of every month in which not only old students among inmates but also from nearby areas are also taking part. In the near future, the Ackworth Municipal Hospital for Leprosy could become one of the well-known centres for holding Vipassana meditation camps.