The Growth of Dhamma Giri
Once the newly opened Academy was functioning smoothly, it was possible to think of further expansion. The first priority was to improve the meditation facilities by providing cells where students could work in seclusion. Accordingly, construction of a meditation pagoda began on the Plateau of Peace in 1978. Dozens of meditators from the west came to Dhamma Giri specifically to participate in this project. They worked alongside Indians as carpenters, masons, electricians, and general labourers, often under difficult conditions. With their help, the first stage of the pagoda was inaugurated in March 1979.
Initially meditators often had to share cells, since in its first stage the pagoda contained only thirty-two. Sometimes as many as six or seven people sat together in one cell.
Each year more cells were added. In 1980, a large meditation hall was built next to the pagoda. At the same time the residential facilities were expanded and improved. After a few years, a second meditation hall was added and extensive tree planting was undertaken to create a green zone around the perimeter of Dhamma Giri. The original hall has been expanded and six more rings of cells have been added to the cell complex. In the early 1990's, an outer ring of thirty-two cells was built on the upper level. This served as a base for a larger hollow pagoda, within which the original pagoda remains intact. This magnificent Myanmar-style structure rises sixty feet above the second level of cells. At present, there are more than 350 cells in the pagoda, living quarters for Dhamma servers and kitchen staff in addition to a bookstore, carpentry and maintenacne offices etc. There are separate meditation halls for males and females on a ten-day course or for two different types of courses held simultaneously. A large kitchen complex, which was originally run by a couple of cooks with a few pots and pans, now uses modern appliances and caters to over 900 people daily.
Continuous gardening, landscaping and tree planting have transformed the site. Thousands of trees and shrubs have been planted, and more are being planted all the time. What began as a dry, barren, scrubby hill has now become a lush garden of trees and flowering shrubs, which gives food and shelter to numerous birds as well as shade, delight and protection to the meditators.
Adjoining the meditation centre is the Vipassana Research Institute, which was established in 1986 to conduct research into the pariyatti (theory) and paṭipatti (practice) of the Buddha's teaching. On the adjacent land to the east of Dhamma Giri, Sayagyi U Ba Khin village has taken shape, where meditators able to live in a conducive Dhammic atmosphere.
Dhamma Tapovana-1, to the west of Dhamma Giri, is the first centre built exclusively for long courses. A 45-day course, the first outside Dhamma Giri, was held there in July and August 2001. The first ever 60-day course conducted by Goenkaji will be held in Dhamma Tapovana from 2 January 2002. The course is open to teachers and senior assistant teachers who have sat two 45-day courses.
But, the most important development has not been in bricks and mortar. Year by year, the meditation atmosphere has strengthened at Dhamma Giri. As soon as it was possible to provide students with the facilities to live and meditate in seclusion, Goenkaji began to conduct thirty-day courses at Dhamma Giri. Those who come here have the opportunity to practise seriously and intensively in a highly supportive environment, and so, to take further steps along the path to liberation. Today, this centre is a wonderful example of what can be done with hard work and with Dhamma. To meditators around the world, it gives support and inspiration for the practice of Vipassana meditation.