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Goenkaji's Italian Messenger of Dhamma

By Pierluigi Confalonieri | 12/5/2021

DHAMMA MAHI - August 1988

The first two courses at Dhamma Mahi in Louesme, France, were conducted by Goenka and managed by Gerhard and me (Pierluigi). The courses were hosted in a big white tent where about a hundred students participated in each course. In the second course, there were approximately 30 Italian students. Probably the influence of an Italian manager with 30 Italian students gave Goenka a particular idea.

At a certain point in the course, during the midday interval, he called for me. Why? What had I done? What problem had arisen? In short, a flood of thoughts filled my mind. I never expected that the call was due to a personal memory. And so he told me.

"You know that, sometimes at night, or in dreams, or at other particular moments, some person or other comes to mind with whom I shared aspects and parts of life - work or social, or friendship, etc. And together with these thoughts a very strong desire to share with them the Dhamma that I have learned and that has changed my life so radically. Let me come to the point.”

“In Burma I dealt in wool and had factories that produced woolen products. As you know, Italy produces some of the finest wool, such as the famous wool certified by the Woolmark that was processed by the equally famous Pietro Bastogi, owner of a factory based in Prato, Tuscany. Well, in the 1950s I worked with him.”

“These days his memory has become more vivid for me, along with the intention to let him know that I am now a master of Vipassana meditation, and I have a strong desire to let him know and learn this technique. But how to do it? And here you come and the group of Italians on the course to prompt the idea that the time has come. Now it's Pietro Bastogi's turn."

He took a piece of paper and from memory wrote down his address in Prato and added, "I know that you are translating Bill's [William Hart’s] book The Art of Living. Well, as soon as it’s published, send a copy to Pietro explaining that it is my wish to greet him, and above all, to let him know that I intend to teach him meditation." It is the duty of a master to remember all those with whom he has come in contact and to make them participants in the Dhamma he has learned."

I was a little surprised, but cheerfully took the address assuring him that I would do it.

The 30 Italians happily completed the course and some of them became Dhamma messengers in Italy.


DHAMMA GIRI - 1990

"Here it is, Goenkaji, the book of which I sent a copy to Bastogi, and here is his reply!"

"Well, I will write to him and you keep him informed of the courses that will be held in Italy."

I was happy to have been the messenger between the two of them. Pietro Bastogi, due to his age, did not feel up to attending a course, but he got the chance to get in touch with Goenka and share his merits with him.


DHAMMA THALI JAIPUR - 1993

But the story has a further chapter that explains in an illuminating way the importance Goenka attached to the merits everyone acquires in their social, family and work life.

The story that connects this common thread of Dhamma grew from a phrase an industrialist said to Goenka after attending the long meditation course in Jaipur in 1993.

"Now I deeply understand the Dhamma. I know what to do and how to meditate. I will get rid of my factories and devote my life to the Dhamma."

"O dear son," Goenka replied, "you really don't understand the Dhamma at all!"

Stunned, the meditator became confused and waited for a clarification from Goenka.

"No, your role is to open new factories, not to abandon them. You need to show people how to live a Dhamma life, materially and spiritually benefiting those who depend on you. Think how many people you can inspire with your conduct of sīla, samādhi and pañña. Our role as lay people in the Dhamma is to offer examples of pure and compassionate living, full of joy and equanimity. Our role is to increase in society models of exemplary living."

Inspired by these words, the industrialist began to introduce courses as paid vacation time, and high officials took initiatives that favored the spread of Vipassana in many social strata: from executives to businessmen, letter carriers, workers, and state employees.


A MASTERFUL EXAMPLE

Even now, when I reread Goenkaji's testimony "The Tree of Merits" (see next post), which had been collected by Bill Hart, who gave it to me twelve years ago to include in an Italian book, a sense of thrill and excitement floods my body. But they would be just words if there were no concrete examples, such as those mentioned above. From the suggestion of the photograph sent to me a few days ago by Alessandro, I collected some points of reflection that happened to me in my Dhamma life, and I realized that this common thread could inspire meditators to help society with their example, reconnecting us from Asoka, Anathapindika, and many other examples in the Tipitaka up to our own teacher, Goenka.