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Busted, Adjusted

By Luke Matthews | 5/23/2022

In 1980, after the hot season from April to June, few Westerners remained at Dhamma Giri. And during the rainy season that followed there were fewer still. Most of the Indian servers too had departed. Goenkaji himself had gone to conduct courses in Europe and North America.

During the monsoon Dhamma Giri is a magical place enswirled by leaden clouds and buffeted by pounding rain that abruptly gives way to dazzling sunlight. The parched hills turn emerald green with fresh grass and newborn waterfalls cascade off the surrounding mesas. How to dry your clothes and keep them from becoming mouldy, however, was an enduring problem.

In September, as the rains began to abate, a meditator from Senegal showed up. He seemed a nice enough fellow. We noticed that he would quietly sit alone at the front gate in the early evening, apparently taking in the view. But soon servers began to discern the unmistakable odour of marijuana about him. As the most senior Westerner present, it somehow fell to me to make enquiries.

Late one afternoon I reluctantly approached him and after some pleasantries asked if he were smoking marijuana or hashish at the centre. He replied honestly that he had some in his room, but that he didn't smoke it in the compound, only at the gate.

Surely, I said, he must know that this was not only against Indian law, but on Dhamma land was a grave breakage of sīla, and that he would consequently have to leave the centre.

He retorted angrily that I had no authority to order him about and furthermore he had no intention of going anywhere.

The centre was a private institution, I reminded him, and if a responsible person asked him to leave, he was obliged to do so. I suggested that he reflect on this overnight, but that if he were still around after breakfast I would be obliged to summon the police and have him escorted from the property. I added that Goenkaji would likely be returning within a few days, and if he wanted to seek redress he could appeal to him.

Luckily for me, in the morning he was gone. I learned that he was staying in a hotel in Igatpuri, so a couple days later I went to town to see how he was doing. He had completely cooled down, but told me that he did want to speak to Goenkaji.

Goenkaji arrived shortly thereafter and at the first opportunity I explained to him what had transpired. He directed me to summon the student. I went to town to fetch him, showed him into Goenkaji's audience hall, and stepped outside to the courtyard to give them privacy.

After a modest interval of low murmurs Goenkaji began to shout: “You have no idea how much harm you have done! You have harmed not only yourself but so many beings! Seriously breaking your sīla like this on Dhamma land! You have polluted this place where people come to purify their minds!” Etc.! Etc.!

This went on for a minute or two and, although standing about 50 feet away, I felt myself quaking from the force of Goenkaji's words.

Then silence. The door opened and the student came out toward me with a dazed expression. As he approached, a wide grin lit up his face and he exclaimed, “He's wonderful!” … and continued straight past me.

I went in to ask Goenkaji if he wanted any follow-up. “He can stay,” he said, and chuckled. “He won't be causing any more problems.”

He didn't.

2 Comments

Deb Browne
Date: 5/25/2022

Haha perfect title to a great tale!

Melissa Upton Cyders
Date: 6/8/2022

Such a wonderful story! And Goenka-ji likely used the same kind of shout of compassion as he recounted in the discourses from his experiences with Sayagyi U Ba Khin shouting at the student who was wandering around the cells, rather than sitting.

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