Master Goenka Travels from India to Teach Vipassana Mediation in U.S.

New York, N.Y. One year, Master Goenka planned to travel from India to America to teach Vipassana Yoga. He was to tour in an RV, teaching meditation to prisoners in major prisons all over the country. At that time, he needed a place for his family to stay a few days in New York.

An old student came to me and asked for my help. I offered a small apartment in the same building I lived. Thanks to this, I was able to become close to him and had a few opportunities to personally meditate with him. I also had the chance to speak with him.

I told him, “Your teaching of Vipassana are so wonderful and incredible, but perhaps for the beginner too difficult.” I had seen first time students often quit and run away. “This is because sometimes there was no guidance on how to sit properly,” he explained.

So, I explained what I have been taught in Okido Yoga, Japanese Yoga, by Masahiro Oki. It is the concept of well-known three teachings in Buddhism: 

  1. Bring your Body into the harmony with Nature, Choushin.
  2. Bring your Breath into harmony with Nature, Chousoku.
  3. Bring your Mind into harmony with Nature, Choushin.  

I explained I personally incorporated these three basic teachings into Vipassana. I showed Mr. Goenka how I actually meditate. I thought this could be taught as an “Introduction to Vipassana.” In fact, I was very successful in sending students to the Dojo after I taught this.  

In those days, Mr. Goenka did not teach “How to Practice Vipassana.” Students only listened to his voice through speakers. So called “assistant teachers” sat in front of the students, never speaking. 

Only at night, for five minutes, could they ask questions to the assistant teachers. Mr. Goenka did not allow assistant teachers to elaborate upon his teaching.

So, my idea was to teach such technical parts before the students go to the Dojyo.  This is not something different to incorporate into his teaching, as he does not teach practical way of meditation, such as sitting, breathing, and concentrating one’s mind, I thought this was very helpful. Mr. Goenka was very pleased at my explanation. Ever since I have been teaching this “Introduction.”    

Incidentally, my teaching of “Choushin” has special techniques. The purpose of this is to bring your spine as straight as possible, in the way of a horse or dog or any four legged animal.

After we began to stand up and walk on two legs, our human spine began to curb, adjusting our body balance. Yet, if our spine is curved, it is difficult to sit for a long time. So, I teach that we do not sit on our last bone, tail bone. Otherwise, our body cannot be in harmony with Nature. 

In Japan during the Meiji period (1868-1912), Dr. Torajirou Okada pioneered a valuable teaching called “Seiza.”  My great uncle, Dr. Kobayashi Sansaburo (the physician who opened the first hospital in Hawaii) and his wife, Nobuko, established the Seizasha Dojyo. 

Aunt Nobuko taught me this Seiza since I was twelve and this was exactly Vipassana when I come to think of it. She was so strict in seeing my spine was straight which meant “Do not sit on the sacrum!”

A few years ago, a monk of the Jyodo Shinnshuu Buddhist sect came from Japan. I helped him to establish himself and Shinran’s teaching here, and helped him to start teaching this “Seiza” in New York area. His name is Miki Nakura. He may be contacted at mikinakura87@gmail.com. 

Originally published as Vol. 19 in Weekly Biz, March 24, 2018; translated by Jim Luce.

See: Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura Column in Japan’s Weekly Biz

(ニューヨークビズ!)

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About Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura

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Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko was born into a distinguished old family in Kyoto, Japan, and graduated from Toho conservatory of Music in Tokyo. In 1961 she came to U.S. as a pianist sponsored by the Boston Symphony. She studied at Boston University, New York University, and received her Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine from New York State University and the International Academy of Education in Tokyo. From 1968 to 1992, she promoted cultural exchanges from East to West and vice versa, and became a world famous impresario, producing 2,000 events each year all over the world encompassing over 140 countries. In this connection, in 1972, she went to Dharamsala to find the lost Tibetan Folk Opera, and met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with whom she remains a lifelong friend. In 1973 and 1991 she arranged and funded personally the tours of the Folk Opera of Tibet to the West. She has received many medals and honors from different countries. Her tireless life long work in Philanthropic field is vast and well known ranging from Save the Beacon Theater, Save the Boat People, Help the Homeless, natural disasters of earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as relief to AIDS and HIV positive children in Africa. She has been a dedicated Board Member to both the J. Luce Foundation and Orphans International for years. Her work focuses on the Tibetan people; Tibetan children remain especially strong in her heart. She raised fund for the new academic building for Manjushree Orphanage in Tawang, India and supported many aspects of the school. See HuffPo pieces entitled Japanese Holistic Healer in NYC to Build School for Tibetan Orphans in India, A Japanese Dinner with Raul Castro’s Daughter, and NYC Gala in Support of Tibetan Orphans Set for January.

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