Dear trustees and course organizers:
This winter I have been reviewing some important Dhamma issues. With the experience of the successful completion of more than 50 assistant teacher led courses this past year, the following guidelines were drawn up at the recent assistant teacher meeting with me in Hyderabad in February 1983. They will serve to help the continuing spread of Dhamma.
Also, some general policies for all courses regarding dāna, food served on courses, assistant teacher scheduling, and some other points were reviewed.
The assistant teacher is authorized by me to conduct Vipassana courses on my behalf. As such the assistant teacher is my representative and should be received by the students in this light. This is especially so on the course site where the assistant teacher bears the responsibility of seeing that the technique is transmitted properly, that the courses are organized and run as per my instructions, and that the proper atmosphere is created to assist students in their meditation.
The greater frequency of courses is obviously providing many more opportunities for students to take Dhamma than I could provide by myself. However, to take full advantage of these opportunities, it is now more important than ever to enlist the service and support of old students. Without a minimum of old student infrastructure, there is a danger of efforts being spread too thinly and of assistant teacher courses being liable to mismanagement. This could ultimately result in a weakening of the transmission of Dhamma. Also it is important for older students to encourage newer ones to get involved in organizing and working on courses, so that they can gain the training necessary to take on more responsibility.
The most important point in the code of conduct for the assistant teacher is that he is there to serve others. In doing so, he should never come to expect, nor use Dhamma to secure, a better position for himself or his family. The teaching of Dhamma must never become his means of livelihood nor should he profit materially from it in any way.
Until now I have emphasized that the assistant teachers should add very little to the presentation of the course, that the course should run as it is on the tapes from early morning to the mettā session with the workers each night. Only in cases where the tape quality is poor or a mechanical failure occurs or for some needed clarification should the assistant teacher supplement the teaching. In the future I will individually assign functions of the teaching now covered by the tapes to the assistant teachers. Should students or organizers ever feel a conflict between the behaviour of an assistant teacher and their understanding of Dhamma, the resolution of it should first be attempted with the assistant teacher concerned. If that fails, only then should I be referred to. It is important to avoid the unwholesome act of speaking ill of any teacher.
The following points for organizers worldwide were discussed with me at length in Hyderabad. They apply to all courses either with me or my assistants. The following policies have been drafted as per my instructions and approval.
DĀNA AND COURSE FINANCES
In an effort to simplify and standardize course procedures, use the proper wording regarding dāna when either announcing a course or discussing it with prospective students. Courses are run solely on a donation basis. We have changed the wording to give more emphasis to dāna as an integral part of the practice.
Course organizers are strongly encouraged to rely locally for dāna to cover course expenses; this includes initial capital outlay for site rental, food purchases, transportation, etc. Only in exceptional circumstances may exceptions to this guideline be applied for by consulting the Teacher or assistant teacher.
If near the end of a course, on Day 10, a deficit of 20 percent or more exists, then the following morning, Day 11, a statement only of the course expenses in total and donations received to date may be posted.
If at the very end of the course a deficit still remains, it should be borne locally at least for three months. During this time the deficit can be announced in the local newsletter (if possible) and/or discussed among old students in light of the difficulty of organizing future courses if such deficits continue.
If after this three-month period the deficit still remains, then the Teacher or assistant teacher can be consulted about the availability of funds to cover such a contingency. In addition, there is an old student dāna letter clarifying course finances for old students only. Trusts should decide whether it is necessary to send this to every old student who applies to do a course. Therein a range of expenses is mentioned for their information only. (These figures should be adapted to reflect local conditions.) While the dāna system continues to function successfully, it has been decided to further clarify the responsibility such a system places upon the old students who come repeatedly to these courses.
In general, organizers are urged to keep in close contact with the Teacher or assistant teacher directly on all points of course organization, particularly regarding site selection, finances, scheduling, public announcements, etc.
[NOTE: If it becomes necessary to write to Goenkaji in India concerning finances, it should be clearly stated that the money you are referring to belongs to your organization, association, or trust. It is important not to convey the false impression that somehow the money is related to Goenkaji personally.]
While planning a course menu, attention should be given to providing simple wholesome vegetarian meals at modest cost. Organizers should remember that as Vipassana in this tradition is unique, no other philosophies or views should be permitted on the course. This understanding precludes the designing of the course menu according to the cook’s notion of "raising consciousness through diet," or similar philosophies of "health foods," e.g., macrobiotics, organic foods, etc. Regarding requests for "special food," students should be reminded that courses are financed solely by donations and that on such courses students live on the charity of others. By taking only what is offered they are able to develop their pāramīs, particularly that of renunciation (nekkhamma).
Ample nutritious food should be provided at mealtimes and students should eat at these times only. This is an important part of the discipline.
In cases where for strictly medical reasons special food may be a necessity, they should be cleared through the Teacher or assistant teacher before the course. While all efforts should be made to accommodate legitimate requests, it should also be kept in mind that a student must possess a minimum of physical and mental health to take Dhamma. Organizers should not feel obligated to accommodate all special complex food requests. It is left to the prospective students to decide if they can accept what is offered.
Another very important point is that, from the moment the course begins to its completion, there should be no physical contact between persons of the same or opposite sex. This applies to the management as well. Needless to say, this will also require the complete setting aside of all types of massage and/or healing practices. These guidelines concerning diet and physical contact, including such things as massage, healing arts, yoga, tai chi, etc., exist not only when a course is in progress but at all times at Dhamma houses and meditation centres. This is not meant as a condemnation of these practices, but during the training and at the training sites the practice of Vipassana is to be maintained in its pristine purity.
FINAL WORD FROM GOENKAJI CONCERNING DHAMMA FUNDS
I would again like to emphasize that finances should be properly handled. Every cent donated by a student is sacred money and therefore should be used for Dhamma work only. Neither the Teacher nor the assistant teachers nor the trustees nor the organizers of courses are the owners of such dāna funds. These funds should never be used for anybody’s personal benefit. For the Teacher and the assistant teachers, only the travel, food and medical expenses, when necessary, should be provided. Dhamma money should not be used for shopping, sightseeing or other personal matters.
May the above guidelines help in the spread of Dhamma. With affluent mettā, S.N. Goenka