Dhamma Giri: The Early Days, By Dr. Geo Poland

“I remember the first time I heard about Dhamma Giri. It was at the end of the course in Khandala, when Goenkaji announced that they had been looking for a centre near Bombay; they had found a piece of land and purchased this land in a town named Igatpuri, about three hours north of Bombay. As it happened, our train to Bombay stopped at Igatpuri for about twenty minutes to change engines. And so a friend and I got off the train and looked around at the beautiful landscape; we were so inspired and excited about the possibility of a centre coming up, that then and there we decided to go and see Goenkaji at his office in Bombay the next day and ask his permission to return to the land to sit and meditate for a few days.

In those days I was a hippy with long hair and long beard, as was my friend. But it also so happened that at the end of that course I decided to leave those hippy days behind. So I went to the local barber’s shop and had my haircut and beard shaved off. Then we went on down to Bombay. The next day we went to Goenkaji’s office and requested the secretary if we could have a few words with him and we were told to wait in the waiting room. I must admit I was a bit nervous as I’d never had any contact with Goenkaji, other than as a student sitting at his feet. After a short period of waiting, I was told I could go in and see him and so I walked into his office. As soon as he saw me, he burst out laughing. I couldn’t understand what was going on and I reached nervously for my beard, which was my habit whenever I got nervous. Then I realized that my beard had been shaved off and that he didn’t recognize me. I asked if we could go and meditate at the land. He was happy to let us do so and he was also happy that we had cut our hair short and shaved off our beards, because he felt that it was very important that the first few people that went to Dhamma Giri would be viewed by the townspeople as representing Goenkaji and the technique of Vipassana meditation.

So the next day we took the train up to Dhamma Giri and contacted Mr Bhojraj who showed us up to the land. At that time there were only three buildings on the property. There was an old farmhouse where some resident farmers were staying and a large warehouse. And then there was a three- room bungalow, which is still in existence at Dhamma Giri today. So Mr Bhojraj showed us up to the bungalow and opened the door and told us this was where we could stay. That night he came back with a few other meditators from the town and we had a small group sitting outside, under the stars. We stayed to meditate for a few days and then we had to leave, due to previous commitments.

When I returned to Dhamma Giri about two weeks later, Graham Gambie from Australia, who had been living up in Darjeeling, had heard about the land being purchased and had immediately come down. We were both very excited about the new centre and we wrote a letter to Goenkaji, requesting his advice as to what we should do: should we start digging gardens and planting flowers; what should we do to improve the site and begin the work on the centre? We very soon received his inspiring reply: “Dear Geo and Graham, Be happy! Meditate! Meditate! Meditate!  

Clean yourselves and clean the atmosphere of the centre.” So this became our goal.”

-much Metta

to be continued…….