More biographical and background information available on the Vipassana Meditation website:
Mr. Goenka was born in Burma (Myanmar) into a wealthy Indian family. He became one of Myanmar's leading businessmen, and acheived a great measure of success in money-making. So successful that he began to suffer severe stress-related migraine headaches, which could not be allievated by any doctor.
By a happy coincidence, Mr. Goenka met Sayagyi U Ba Khin, then Burma's leading teacher of "Vipassana Meditaion," an introspective technique popularized 2500 years ago by Prince Siddhartha Gautama (who eventually came to be known as the 'Buddha', the enlightened one), this ancient practice having been preserved in purity for centuries by monks at a network of small temples in isolated Burma (Myammar).
"Vipassana" (which means to see things as they really are) found its foremost leader in Mr. Goenka. In 1955 he took his first 10-day course and found his life's true calling. He devoted himself to Vipassana willingly and, in 1969, through much hard work became a authorized teacher under Sayagyi U Ba Khin.
He began his work in India, and toiled there with great success for ten years. In 1979, Mr. Goenka took Vipassana out from India and Burma to the hungry world. To date, he has trained hundreds of assistant teachers, and facilitated meditation retreats for tens of thousands of persons across the globe. There are now 57 centers expanding throughout the world.
Introductory Vipassana (silent) meditation retreats are usually ten-day
courses during which participants "learn the basics of
the method, and practice sufficiently to experience its beneficial
results." Almost unbelieveably, there is no fee to take a course (not even in starving India) - not even for room and board, which are amply provided. "All expenses are met by donations from persons who, having completed a course and experienced the benefits of Vipassana, wish to give others the opportunity to also benefit." This is obviously a practice that WORKS.
For more information about these retreats see the dhamma.org website: