The Buddha Returns to India
Reclaiming the Legacy of India’s Greatest Son, the Buddha
Over the last 26 centuries, the teaching of Gotama the Buddha has influenced the lives of billions of people around the world. However in India his non-sectarian, universal teaching was gradually polluted, corrupted and forgotten.
Sayagyi U Ba Khin, the great Vipassana meditation master of Myanmar, had a strong volition that the Buddha’s teaching should return to India. This was the inspiration for his foremost disciple, Acharya Goenkaji, to start teaching Vipassana in India in 1969. The practice of Vipassana is the essence of the Buddha's teaching and the Global Pagoda in Mumbai will reclaim this essential legacy for his homeland, India. Since Acharya Goenka started teaching Vipassana, thousands of ten-day residential retreats have been held. Till now,134 residential Vipassana centres have been established around the world and new ones are coming up in increasing number. One more important centre is being built in Gorai near Mumbai adjacent to the Global Pagoda.
The Global Pagoda will be the most visible symbol of this legacy. This historic monument, now under construction, will be 325 feet tall and will shine in all its golden resplendence on the skyline of Mumbai, the most populous city and the commercial capital of India.
About half the work of this huge monument is already complete. The dome is complete. This is the biggest stone dome in the world unsupported by any pillars. The sacred relics of the Buddha have been enshrined securely on top of the dome. There is going to be one more dome on top of the already constructed dome. This upper dome will also provide for secure enshrinement of the relics.
Honouring the Buddha
The statues of the Buddha started being made about 500 years after the Buddha. Traditionally, a cetiya (stupa or pagoda) was the symbol of the Buddha (along with the bodhi leaf and wheel of Dhamma). This pagoda declares to the world that the modern India has reclaimed the legacy of the Buddha, its greatest son.
Expression of Gratitude
The Pagoda will stand as an expression of gratitude to the long chain of teachers who carefully preserved the purity of Dhamma; to Sayagyi U Ba Khin who was responsible for returning the teaching to India; and to the country of Myanmar (Burma) which kept the pristine tradition alive for over 2000 years.
Emphasizing the Practical Aspect of Dhamma
The pagoda will inject fresh vitality into the spread of Vipassana. It will portray the Buddha as we find him in his original teaching—a great physician and research scientist.
For centuries to come the Pagoda will help to preserve and promote the technique of Vipassana, a process of mental purification through self-observation, the invaluable ancient cultural heritage of India. People from all over the world, belonging to different castes and communities, from different religious backgrounds, will come together to mediate in the huge meditation hall. Dhamma brings people together. Dhamma never divides people.
The pagoda complex will also house a meditation centre, Dhamma Pattana, with an individual residence and an individual meditation cell for each participant. Serious meditators will have the opportunity to meditate in the pious atmosphere of the sacred relics of the Buddha. Acharya Goenkaji plans to give 90 day residential courses here. However, in the beginning there will be ten-day courses and other serious long courses. Dhamma Pattana will ensure that the Global Pagoda remains a living monument spreading the light of Dhamma.
Correcting Misconceptions About the Buddha
In India the historical truth about the Buddha is forgotten and gross misinformation has been spread, portraying him as a mythological divine figure. His rational, scientific teachings have been misinterpreted as just one of many sectarian dogmas. An informative gallery will display exhibits about the actual life of the Buddha and the benefits of the practice of Vipassana.
A Reminder to Indians
This monument will remind the people of India that they lost the invaluable teaching of the Buddha for centuries. Now that it has returned to India after a long gap and with much effort, they must try their best to preserve it.
Land and Design
Land near Mumbai, worth about US$ 5 million and covering an area of 11 acres has been donated. The Pagoda is a hollow structure which looks similar from the outside to the solid Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, but the height of 325 feet is slightly less than the Shwedagon out of respect to Myanmar.
The Global Pagoda has a dome, 280 feet wide, which is bigger than any masonry dome in the world, greater than St Peter’s in Rome and much bigger than the dome of Gol Gumbaj in Bijapur in India.
The pillarless hall under the dome of the Global Pagoda, seating 8000 people, rests on an octagonal platform and solid stone foundation. A huge approach staircase is being built. Of the two smaller pagodas of 60 feet height each, one is already ready and the other will be ready soon. The other small pagoda will contain meditation cells.
Ancient and proven Indian stone technology is being combined with modern engineering principles, to create a structure designed to last thousands of years.
The immensity of the project and the huge resources required made it seem a daunting task at the time of conception. Already about US$12 million has been spent on Stage 1 and 2 of the project. It is expected that a further US$ 5 million will be required for Stage 3, which includes the second vault. Work on Stage 3 is progressing at full speed.
If you wish to participate in the meritorious deed of the construction of the Global Vipassana Pagoda, you may send donations to:
The Treasurer, Global Vipassana Foundation,
C/o Khimji Kunverji & Co., 52 Bombay Mutual Building,
Sir P. M. Road, Mumbai 400 001, India.
Tel:  (22) 2266-2550; Fax: 2266-4045;
Cheques and bank drafts should be payable at Mumbai and drawn in favour of Global Vipassana Foundation, A/c No. 11244, Bank of India, Stock Exchange Branch, Mumbai, India.
(No cash remittances please.)