Dhamma in the UK
The first Vipassana meditation course in the UK was held in 1979
The initial impetus for a Vipassana organisation in the UK came from a small group of students who had sat courses with S.N. Goenka, the principal teacher in this tradition, in India during the early 1970s. In 1979, Mr Goenka conducted his first UK course at a rented site near London and from 1982 onwards one or two courses were held each year at rented sites.
Between 1983 and 1986, Mr Goenka returned to the UK each year to conduct large ten-day courses at Langley School, in Norfolk. Around this time a UK Trust was formed, with members appointed annually by Mr Goenka, providing a formal structure for individuals to work together.
In 1987 the Trust purchased a house in the suburbs of Birmingham. Mr Goenka named it Dhamma Geha, “House of Dhamma”. He and his wife Mataji stayed at the house on several occasions. The first UK resident assistant teachers were appointed and the first course for about thirty students was held the following Easter.
Within months of moving into Dhamma Geha, plans started to form for purchasing a larger site that could be developed as a full Vipassana meditation centre. After four years and with the generous support of the UK meditator community, the Trust purchased the site of a 22-acre riding school near Hereford, in the border country between England and Wales.
Mr Goenka named the centre Dhamma Dīpa, “Island of Dhamma”; he visited in 1991, 2000 and 2002. Over several decades of hard work by servers and local tradesmen it has evolved into a fully functioning meditation centre. In 2016 Dhamma Dīpa celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary, continuing to stand today as an island of peace and tranquillity.
Since the early 1980s many ten-day courses have been held at rented sites in Sussex, Norfolk and Suffolk. In December 2010 a property was purchased in Saxmundham for use for short courses for old students, named by Mr Goenka as Dhamma Sukhakāri, meaning “Giving the happiness of Dhamma.”
The short-course centre was always seen as a stepping stone to a ten-day centre. In 2018 Dhamma Sukhakāri relocated to a new site, Walnut Tree Manor, set in twenty acres of land on the edge of Haughley Green in the Suffolk countryside, a few miles from Stowmarket station. The new centre offers ten-day as well as three-day courses for male and female students.
Over the years regional committees have been formed in various areas of the country. In addition to the Dhamma activities in the East and Southeast of England, there is the Northern England Vipassana group. The group’s first three-day course was held in April 2010 and since then the group have successfully held several further three- and ten-day courses in the region.
Vipassana courses have also been organised at rented sites in Scotland.
Over the years an extensive network of weekly one-hour or one-day sittings (open to all students who have completed a ten-day course in this tradition) has been established and continues to grow throughout the UK.