Dhamma service is a very important part of the practice of Dhamma. When you come to a course of ten days and practise Vipassana, you are purifying your mind. You are strengthening your mind, so that you can apply the practice in your daily life. If you can’t apply Dhamma in your daily life, then just coming to a course becomes another rite, ritual or religious ceremony.
Having learned Vipassana at a centre, you go out in the world where things are so unpleasant, and everything goes totally against your wishes or your dreams. You are shaken and can’t face this. It is so difficult. So one gets a very good opportunity to give Dhamma service in a ten-day course. The atmosphere in the Dhamma centre is so congenial to learn how to apply Dhamma in your daily life.
When you serve for ten days, you apply what you have learned in your ten-day course. You deal with the same things that you have to do outside: to deal with people—with the students, with the teacher, with the other Dhamma servers, with the trustees. What is your behaviour in such situations? You make mistakes, and you learn from them. Again you make a mistake, and again you rectify it. This is how you learn. This is the practical aspect of applying Dhamma in life.
Another important thing is that while you are giving service to Dhamma, Dhamma service, this is apart of dāna—dhammadāna. Sabbadānaṃ dhammadānaṃ jināti—The dāna of Dhamma excels all other dāna. You are giving the dāna of Dhamma. The teacher is teaching, this is good. Somebody has given a donation, this also is good. But then there must be people to serve at that time. So you are a part of this, you are serving. This is your donation.
The donation of your service, I would say, is much more valuable than the donation of your money. It is the intention which is most important. The Buddha said, Cetanā ahaṃ, bhikkhave, kammaṃ vadāmi—Volition, O monks, I call kamma. When you give dāna, your intention is, “With my money, so many people will benefit. I can give money to quench the thirst of someone, or give food or medicine to someone. These are very good deeds. But here I see, when I give money, so many people come out of their misery, their impurities. My money is used in a very wholesome way.” So this kind of volition in the mind goes to the credit of your kamma.
But when you are here for ten days, every moment you are giving service, and you are giving service with the volition, “May more and more people benefit.” This volition continues for ten days, so the proportion of time you spend in generating this volition is much greater than when you gave the dāna of money. I am not saying, “Don’t give dāna of money.” Otherwise how will courses run? But between the two, the donation of service, Dhamma service, is much more beneficial.
I have found something else from my own experience, and from the experience of many students also: For a number of years I was a Dhamma server assisting my teacher; I would just translate his words. On his instruction, I would go to the students and discuss their problem—such kinds of jobs. I found that this was so helpful to me. After sitting a course of ten days, and then giving service to the students for ten days, my meditation became very strong. And I have heard this as well from many students. They keep saying, “I have given service for ten days at a Vipassana course, and my meditation has become very strong, my Dhamma has become very strong.” This is natural, it happens like this.
I would say that every student should make it a point to spare some time for serving people in Dhamma. To take course after course while doing nothing for Dhamma service is not a healthy way of developing in Dhamma. Take courses, but also spare some time for serving Dhamma. This is very important.
Bhavatu sabba maṅgalaṃ—May all beings be happy!
(Excerpted from Question & Answer session, Annual Meeting, Dhamma Thalī, Jaipur, on January 3, 1993 and published by VRI in For the Benefit of Many.)