First Piece of Land

Purchase of the First Piece of Land - Bhojraj Sancheti, Igatpuri In December 1973, I attended my first Vipassana course at Deolali, near my home in Igatpuri. I found the course hard but rewarding. On the last day, I learned by chance that Goenkaji had been looking for a site for a meditation center near Bombay. The thought came to me that Igatpuri was the most suitable location for such a center. I was eager for the inexhaustible spring of Dhamma to well forth from the town where I lived. I went to Goenkaji and invited him to stop for tea at my house on his way back to Bombay after the course. I assured him that he would not be delayed more than five minutes, since my home stood by the side of the road that he must travel from Deolali to Bombay. My plan was, once he was in my home, to broach the subject of a site for a center.

At first, Goenkaji's reply was not encouraging. "If I stop at every house where I am invited along the way, how will I ever reach my home?" he asked. But in response to my urgent requests, he kindly accepted my invitation, only warning me, "See that the five minutes do not turn into five hours!" I was filled with joy that my plan had worked so far, but also apprehensive that it might yet fail. In my anxiety, I wanted to set out at once for my home, lest Goenkaji should pass me on the way. He would be travelling by car, while I would have to take the bus or train, which were naturally much slower. It was now lunchtime. I went to the dining room to say goodbye to Mr Rangil Mehta, a fellow meditator who had given me a lift to the course. Hearing of my plan, he offered his assistance. "Let us have our lunch," he said. "Then we shall all go together in my car, and reach Igatpuri in no time."

All went as I had hoped. We were in plenty of time to welcome Goenkaji when his car arrived at Igatpuri. As we were drinking tea in my home, I requested that if he could spare the time now, I might show him a few possible sites for a meditation center near my town. He gave his consent, and with Mr Mehta, we set off to look at the properties.

The first one or two sites that I showed Goenkaji obviously did not meet with his approval. I asked for clearer guidelines about the kind of place that he had in mind. He told me, "I would like a site that is not in the midst of the town but not too remote either, where connections could easily be arranged for water, electricity, and telephone, and where access would not be too difficult." I immediately thought of showing him the land where Dhamma Giri now stands.

At that time, there was no proper road into the property, but Mr Mehta did not hesitate to risk his car on the rough, uneven track. We went as far as the car could take us, and then got out. Goenkaji looked closely all about him, and within just a few minutes, he decided that this was what he had been looking for. After millennia, the priceless jewel of Dhamma had found a casket in the land of its origin.

At that moment, someone pointed out a cremation taking place at the foot of the hill on which we stood. I was worried that the proximity of a cremation ground would make Goenkaji change his mind about the site. But he said with a smile, "Good! This will continually implant the awareness of anicca (impermanence) in the minds of meditators."

Then and there, Mr Mehta offered to purchase the property and donate it to the Trust. Before we left, he had noted all the details in order to conclude the transaction speedily.

All of this took five hours-a long time for a cup of tea! Goenkaji was well justified in his suspicion that stopping at my house would take much more than five minutes.

That day, 16 December 1973, was the happiest day of my life. Since then I have practiced Vipassana faithfully and given whatever free time I have to serve the Dhamma so that many may experience the happiness of liberation.