In the first few years after I came from Burma to teach in India,
a course was arranged by a daughter-in-law of Mahatma Gandhi at
Sevagram Ashram. Some fifteen of Gandhiji's colleagues participated.
They were very pleased with the course. After it was over, they
took me to meet Vinobha Bhave, a saintly person of India, who
He was quite enthusiastic about Vipassana and said that if it was
beneficial and result-oriented, it must spread in the country. But
he added: "I won't accept this Vipassana unless it gives good
results to two segments of the society: hardened criminals and
school children." I replied: "I am certain it will be helpful.
I am a newcomer to the country; I have brought this valuable
jewel of Dhamma from outside. Now, let us make use of it for the
country. Please make the arrangements."
He arranged a course for teenagers. As with the many course for
children since then, it was sucessful and he was very happy. Then
he arranged for a course to be held in the Gaya Jail. But the day
before the course started, the jail officials said that I would
have to stay outside the prison. I said: "This is not possible.
Vipassana is a deep operation of the mind, and I am like the
surgeon. I must be there twenty four hours a day. Something
might happen, and I am responsible. I must stay inside."
They insisted: "According to the prison rules, you cannot stay
inside." I pleaded with them: "Then give me a prison sentence
of ten days!" But they wouldn't agree. Vinobha wanted to make
some other arrangements, but before he was able to do so, he
Fortunately, a few years later, the Home Secretary of Rajasthan,
Ram Singh, came to a course in Jaipur. He was very keen. He said:
"This must be tried with criminals!" He also heard about the
challenge from Vinobha Bhave. He organized the first courses, which
were held in the Jaipur Central Jail; the rules were amended
to permit me to stay inside the prison for the full ten days. So
this is how the ball started rolling.