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Guruji and Mataji: foundation Dhamma Giri pagoda
Goenkaji and Mataji meditate at the foundation for the pagoda at Dhamma Giri, circa 1976. ’Mataji’ means ‘respected mother’ in Hindi. January 5, 2020 marks the 4th anniversary of Mataji’s passing.

Mataji's Metta

Late Vipassana Meditation Teacher S.N. Goenka married his wife Illaichi Devi when they were respectively 18 and 12 years old—according to the wishes of their families. Both Goenkaji and Mataji were born in Burma (Myanmar) in an Indian community; their families had close ties and were supportive of each other. When shortly after their wedding in 1942 Japan invaded Burma and the war with the British started, they fled to India with their families, where they stayed for five years.

Back in Burma they lived a householder's life, raising six sons. Goenkaji was a member of various business and social organizations and Mataji supported him in every way. It is reported she was a remarkably dutiful wife, daughter-in-law and mother; she served the large family (Goenkaji had seven sisters) conscientiously and tactfully.
 
After Goenkaji received the Dhamma from Sayagyi U Ba Khin in 1955, Mataji noticed a big change in him. One day, when she went to pick up her husband from the meditation center she received Anapana from Sayagyi and started practicing herself. Not much later, she took her first 10-day Vipassana course.
 
When Goenkaji travelled to India in 1969 to teach Vipassana to his parents (and from there went on to spread the Dhamma further, in India and across the world), Mataji stayed in Burma, strengthening her own practice.  
 
Dhamma Treasures includes correspondence between Goenkaji and Mataji from that time. In the excerpt below Mataji expresses her volition to join Goenkaji in his Dhamma work: 
 
Goenkaji: 
Devi Illaichi, I received both your letters dated 28th Dec and 5th January. I was happy to hear that a wave of sensation started all over your body when we spoke on telephone and the mild fever you were suffering from vanished. I am very happy to hear that you do your sadhana regularly and sincerely and also offer dana most respectfully. This is the essence of Dharma as Lord Buddha has mentioned: that we offer dana according to our capacity, that we follow sila, with utmost discipline and practice meditation with sincere regularity. You are actively involved in fulfilling all three virtues and are truly filled with abundant pāramīs. The Dhamma that you follow so sincerely will always protect you and take you to your highest goal. Do not worry about our sons who are here. All are well settled in their own businesses ...
I trust that you must be inspiring the children there to live a life of Dhamma, thus encouraging them towards a brighter future.
 
Mataji: It is heartening for me to know that you will return in just six months, and it fills my heart with joy when I read that you are immersed in organizing camps. I too wish to participate in this Dhamma work, but what can be done if it is not possible now..
 
Goenkaji:... Forty six people participated in the camp at Barachakia out of which there were 25 Marwari women. They all had a very good course. People feel happy to know that I am not a bhikkhu or a renunciate. When they come to know that I too am a householder, they get curious and ask many questions about you. They would have loved to have met you. There will come a time when you will always be with me in this gigantic task of spreading Dhamma, assisting me and looking after your Dhamma daughters. It is taking time, I know, but it will change and a time will certainly come. Until then make maximum use of your time in sadhana getting firmly established in it. 
Our tradition is one of morality, concentration and wisdom, where one works to purify the mind and build pāramīs (noble qualities, perfections). It is void of gurudom, and full of friendship and humility; both Goenkaji and Mataji showed us that by example.
 
We don’t regularly give attention to anniversaries, as to stay away from any hint of worshipping. We only make use of this date as an opportunity to reflect on the life of Mataji; a life full of service and mettā. Our Dhamma mother was, and continues to be, an inspiration for many on the path of Dhamma.
In 1971 Mataji joined Goenkaji in India to be by his side in Dhamma service. Although it was Goenkaji who gave the instructions and discourses, Mataji assisted him in conducting courses as the female teacher, available to the female students for questions and interviews.

The fact that Mataji was there with him added to Goenkaji’s credibility as a householder in a time where many spiritual teachers had a somewhat questionable reputation. It is said that overall Mataji didn’t speak much so as not to have any opportunity to break her sīla (noble spreech). When Goenkaji spoke, she calmly sat next to him, giving mettā.
 
Mataji also used to join Goenkaji in chanting the ‘Sabakā Maṅgala’ (May all beings be happy) chanting at the end of mettā after a group sitting. She can be heard on several group sitting recordings
 
Excerpt from Interview with Mataji, SUBK Journal:
 
Q: As a loving and highly respected wife and mother and grandmother—and you are at the centre of a traditional extended Indian family—what value do you see in Vipassana for family life?
A: It is very, very helpful for the joint family. If somebody asks for guidance, then one sees it from the Dhamma angle: one does not find fault with others, and gives the correct advice. On the other hand, if you are not asked for any guidance, then you are also happy. It is not as if you are boosting your ego, that everybody must come and ask you for everything. If somebody asks, you give your opinion; otherwise you are content and happy within yourself. Vipassana is very helpful.

Q: How has Dhamma helped you? And, as a Dhamma teacher, how have you seen the technique help others?
A: I have peace of mind. I am happy, and I don’t care for other things. For me, Dhamma is a benefit all around. It gives people peace of mind in all respects, and also helps them to carry out their duties in life. It is not money which brings happiness and contentment in the heart. If someone has no money, and has Dhamma, then such a person will feel “Oh, I am full.” One will feel so content, even if there is no money, because Dhamma is there.

When searching for resources on Mataji, we came across the recent VRI newsletter, also featuring Mataji’s life, that you might find an interesting read.

15-day Pāli Reading Group, Jaipur

From March 1 - 16, 2020 Vipassana Aranya opens its doors for a Pāli reading group retreat for male students of Pāli. The Vipassana Aranya is a place for serious students to live the ‘monastic life’, a life of paṭipatti and pariyatti, for extended periods of time, located just outside Jaipur, India.
 
The 15-day reading retreat is not a Pāli course; there will not be a Pāli teacher present. It is a chance for intermediate (or above) students of Pāli to get together (with the help of a facilitator) to discuss, read and learn the words of the Buddha in a peaceful atmosphere surrounded by nature.
Peaceful Vipassana Aranya
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Upcoming Pāli Workshops
Introductory (Israel 🇮🇱): February 19 - 24, 2020 With Klaus Nothnagel
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Introductory one day (Morocco 🇲🇦): February 12, 2020 With Adriana Patiño
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Introductory (USA 🇺🇸): Oct. 30 - Nov. 12, 2020 With Klaus Nothnagel
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Upcoming Pilgrimages
Along the Path - (North India & Nepal):
朝圣路上 – 印度、尼泊尔
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2020年1月20日至2月10日/ January 20 – February 10, 2020 (Chinese)
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February 29 - March 21, 2020 (English)
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October 31 - November 21, 2020 (English) * NEW!
Learn More & Apply for Pilgrimage

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