Building the Foundation for a Bay Area
Vipassana Center

The San Francisco Bay Area has a strong and active community of old students. Over 12,000 people living here have taken at least one 10-day course in the tradition of S.N. Goenka since 1999. And over 3,500 have taken one or more courses in the last 3 years. These numbers continue to grow as more new students from the Bay Area attend courses at any one of the three California centers (and beyond). Students from the Bay Area comprise the majority of students who attend and support courses at Dhamma Manda in Kelseyville and Dhamma Mahavana in North Fork. Generally, there are 20 courses a year at each of these centers, and most of the courses are waitlisted well over capacity.

In an effort to make more courses available, the Bay Area Vipassana Center Trust has been looking for suitable properties to establish a fourth center in California, near the Bay Area -- an effort which will take some years to bring to fruition. The Trust has recently begun searching for a site to develop a center for 150 people (120 students and 30 servers and staff). Three properties have already been under serious consideration. It is especially difficult to find an appropriate property in the Bay Area that is affordable and developable because of a combination of high land costs and complex county rules regarding development.

Recently, for example, a promising property was found in Monterey County which met some initial criteria. However, there are still a few unknowns which will determine if this property is feasible as a center. To operate a center in Monterey County, we will need a Conditional Use Permit (“CUP”) which could take up to a year to get approved. This means that the seller would have to be willing to “hold” the property while we wait for the CUP. In addition to the CUP, there are also outstanding questions regarding the water levels and soil quality. Lastly, we will need to secure the loans and dana from old students for the purchase. We expect the purchase price to be around $1.5 million dollars. To develop the property into its first phase where it serves 80 students, it would cost around $6 million dollars.

As we investigate properties further to determine if one is suitable for our needs, we also aim to answer this important question quickly: What is the Bay Area old student community’s level of interest in—and commitment to—developing a nearby center?

One of the indicators of a region being ready for a new center is the length of waiting lists to sit a course at other nearby centers, as noted above. Another important prerequisite is a strong base of old students prepared to support the development and maintenance of a center through dana -- donation of service, money, and loans. To help us determine whether there is real financial support in the Bay Area to purchase and develop a local center, the BAVC Trust has begun reaching out to old students in the community to make the need known by informing them of the search project and giving them the opportunity to make donations or loans.

All the growth of Vipassana meditation centers in our tradition has been achieved solely through the generous donations of grateful old students since there is never a charge for courses. The growth of Dhamma is dependent on this generosity