Course creator: Archana Deshpande (biography)
Archana Deshpande sat her first Vipassana course at Dhamma Giri around 2006. Though her career had revolved around science and banking, she always loved languages and literature. An avid reader since childhood, she had developed a special affinity to poetry and Saint Poets of India. She felt enchanted by Goenkaji’s morning chanting on 10-day and Satipatthana courses. A basic knowledge of Sanskrit and a familiarity with Indian languages made it possible for her to get tiny glimpses into the meaning of these chants. This kindled her interest in the Pali language further. Around the same time her husband, Umesh Deshpande, enrolled in an MA course in Pali at the University of Mumbai. His books and discussions at home about Pali literature made her resolve stronger and stronger to learn Pali, though her job in banking left very little time for her to do anything about it.
Finally in mid 2014 Archana quit her job and devoted herself enthusiastically to sitting and serving Vipassana courses. In the same year, she attended a two-month long residential Pali workshop at Vipassana Research Institute (VRI), Global Pagoda Campus, Mumbai, India. That two-month stay at VRI, with its meditation sessions and Pali classes with Dr Sharda Sanghvi (then Director of VRI), turned out to be a life-changing experience for Archana. She started serving at VRI immediately after the completion of this Pali course helping with small projects related to the library, taking up some translation work etc. After the passing away of Dr Sharda Sanghvi in March 2015, Archana started contributing to the Pali grammar sessions in the residential Pali courses. It was a huge responsibility and involved as much learning of Pali as teaching. Initially she shared her Pali-English courses with Dr Sean Kerr for a couple of years and from 2017 onwards handled all the grammar classes. The long residential courses (Pali-Hindi and Pali-English) at the VRI campus gave her a wonderful opportunity for practicing/serving and learning/teaching the words of the Enlightened Ones in a perfect setting. VRI also gave her tremendous flexibility and encouragement to come up with suitable study materials for each course. This helped her in designing new exercises and introducing more material from the suttas as time went by.
The residential courses could not be conducted in 2020 so VRI shifted their courses to an online platform. This enabled meditators around the world to enrol in these Pali courses to learn Pali in a self-paced way.
Archana contributed towards a couple of VRI projects related to Pali grammar / translations which resulted in the publication of the books Saral Pali Vyakaran (a Hindi book on Pali grammar) and Kathāsallāpasikkhā (a Pali-English book based on conversational Pali).
She has been immensely fortunate to come in contact with and have access to the teachings of some of the great Pali scholars. Shri K Manjappa, a Pali Scholar at VRI Dhamma Giri, has been her main source of inspiration. Reading suttas with him, discussing Pali grammar and most importantly paying attention to the ‘dhamma’ teaching of the suttas has always been a great joy! Bhante Indriya (then a Dhamma server at VRI) contributed a lot to her understanding of grammar and encouraged her with early translations. Dr Sean Kerr’s knowledge, enthusiasm and dedication to Pali was also truly inspiring! Goenkaji’s sutta lectures, Tandonji’s workshop material (audio and text), Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi’s sutta teachings, and many more sources help her constantly to improve her knowledge and understanding of Pali.
Archana feels that the words of the Buddha with their flavour of liberation (vimuttirasa) have inspired and helped her a lot in her Dhamma practice. She wishes to share this treasure with whomever is interested to enable them to read and understand the Pali suttas for themselves.