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Author Topic: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE  (Read 10063 times)

pimpoum

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Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« on: February 23, 2009, 06:04:45 PM »
Hi all,

I'm doing my first meditation retreat ever in a month time (a Goenka one) and when I came to this forum, I discovered a controversy about Goenka's teaching which I was completely unaware of.

I've tried to read the previous threads but it is quite hard to separate personal attacks against Goenka, from the actual PRACTICE he teaches. It is also often hard to separate resentful comments from actual information, and genuine critiques.

To be honest, I don't give a damn whether Goenka is likable, whether he preaches what he says or anything of this order. Nor do I really care about personal anecdotes (unless they buttress an important point about hte practice). For me, this retreat is a real occasion to learn a meditation technique which I hope to be effective, and I think that constructive criticism about Goenka's retreats should address this matter.

I would really be grateful if you Goenka skeptics could post something helpful here about the relevance or irrelevance of his teachings, about other paths you are following and WHY they are better. Please don't tell me that Goenka is a charlatan or anything of this order  because it explains nothing, not even to make your post credible.

resentful ignorants...please post elsewhere :-X
informed skeptics...I'm all ears  :-*

Thanks! ;)

Flipasso

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2009, 06:40:00 PM »
I've never attended a Goenka retreat.
But I've read 2 books about his technique and read a lot about people who practice it and also had a teacher of meditation comment on his technique.

It seems to be a very good technique from what people tell me about. People are very happy with the "results" and that teacher told something like "It was the deepest I saw anyone going" - the teacher didn't actually practice but had a friend practice I think...

From personal, reading opinion, it seems to be a very good technique, but it seems to ignore some aspects of Vipassana practice according to scriptures.
In the Maha Satipatthana Sutta one is advised to practice in four fields of investigation
Kaya - body/breath
Vedana - sensations/feelings
Citta - Mind
Dhamma - mind objects/the dhamma

There is plenty of controversy on the definition of each of these fields, but almost anyone who has read a little will agree that Goenka's Vipassana technique is limited to Vedana field.
And that his Anapana is limited to the Kaya.
Also, from what I've read from Pamojam (where are you?) I think they also limit they're awareness of the 3 characteristics of conditioned reality to 1. Instead of looking for Anicca, Dukkha, and Anatta in they're meditation, Goenka practiotioners only look for Anicca, at least for the 1st several years.

Nonetheless it will be good to attend such a retreat, even for the sake of testing it!!  ;)
With a deepening in practice you'll have the chance to go search for a technique that better suits your beliefs or stay with this one, that is probably not that bad after all.

alex

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2009, 08:55:25 PM »
Yes, Goenka certainly is a character ;-). He polarizes people, I've seen so that many either love him or hate him, but barely an unbiased opinion. You will see...


Is Goenka's technique relevant or not? ... that questions lacks a context, the reason why you actually want to meditate, what you expect. If you want buddhist enlightenment, according to Goenka his technique is the (only) way to go, and this claim has led to many hot discussions. FlipAsso's answer covered some aspects of that.

Goenka has been my first retreat and my first real contact with meditation, and after that I was really impressed with it. Weeks and months after it, I still felt more awake and in control of myself than before. Other students of Goenka have made a similar experience, for some it was just interesting, but nothing outstanding. For few it was horrible, two women even left the course early (to one of them I talked beforehand, she was anxious she couldn't survive a whole 10 days without a line ...).

So whatever it is that you search, you probably have to judge for yourself. If you are fairly grounded, the experience can't do you much harm. I doubt that the question which group or individual has found the one and true path can be decided by arguing and reasoning. Goenka's technique, however, certainly and without doubt, is effective - for some less, for some more.

Hope that helps!

Regards,
Alex

Matthew

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2009, 09:52:06 AM »
Pimpoum,

I am not going to get drawn deeply into this question. The genuine concerns I have regarding Goenka's school and technique are pretty well covered in a critique available online: "A Critique of Vipassana Meditation as taught by Mr S N Goenka" and this post.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Matthew

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2009, 09:55:32 AM »
Also, from what I've read from Pamojam (where are you?)

Pammojam disappeared and has not returned since trying to wage a war with me over this issue where I debunked his criticisms using only his own words.

Matthew
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ravalbapu

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2009, 01:07:03 PM »
My dear pimpoum,
Please go ahead with your first retreat.
The regimen he has designed is optimised in a way that you will know the way.

I still remember the story of Jack Konfield's Cigar smoking women loving monk/ teacher who also taught him meditation. Opinions are the the first things to be discarded (first other's and then even your own).

May you attain Nibbana,
ravalbapu



pimpoum

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2009, 04:20:10 PM »
Thanks a lot for all your answers. Thanks TIB for the link, I'll give it a good read and will post about my experience!

upekkha

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2009, 07:23:27 PM »
hello guys,

I have several points to contribute to this discussion:

Positive points about these courses as taught by Goenka:

- Donation based, teachers receive no renumeration, and do not even ask for donations (in other Western traditions you are asked to give the teacher, who is a house holder, some donation according to your wishes and capacity). teachers in this tradition are supposed to have other means of livelihood so that Dhamma does not become a commodity which they sell.

I find this to be a very strong point which emphasizes the purity of this tradition. basically, it is just giving, take what you will.

- The courses are all about practice, hardcore, and alot of it. about 10 hours of formal sitting practice, and you can sit alot more if you forego your breaks (which one starts doing once/if one realizes how important the continuity of practice is). Philosophy and theoretical discussions are left to minimum. you are to experience the technique first hand and judge it by that.

Ofcourse Goenka does discuss some theoretical aspects of the technique during the discourses, but one is not supposed to believe them blindly.

- The technique is very effective, i find this from my own practice.

Some neutral points I would like to emphasize:

- It might seem that Goenka claims 'his path' is the only way to go, but if one really listens to what he says, or maybe reads some of the essays he has written, he does not claim that this is 'his path', or that it is the only one. he simply claims that in order to purify the mind and reach awakening, one must reach the stage that one is aware of physical and mental sensations throughout, and remains balanced with those (not reacting with craving and aversion), and by understanding their nature as continously as possible (impermanent, attachment to causes suffering, not self - anicca, dukkha, anatta).

Initially, one starts with sensations throughout the body, but once one becomes more established in the technique, one is aware of all sensations, physical or mental, thoughts, emotions, etc. one needs to reach the stage one is aware of the entire mind matter phenomenon, only then one can transcend that and reach some levels of awakening.

This technique takes one to this stage progressively, but very fast, because you straight away start working with the reality of mind and matter. this is a very positive aspect of this technique.

Goenka also says that there are many techniques, but in all of them, you will reach the same stations, and one of them is that you must be aware of the entire field of mind and matter and realize their nature by your own experience.

Negative points:

- Some people involved in serving are very strict in a sectarian way. Following the rules in a blind way. This can cause some aversion.. Though it is a very good chance to practice mindfulness and equanimity.

- Some people idolizing Goenka. Though it is understandable, it can disturb others.


So, this is my view on this, i hope this will help others to understand some points which were not clear.

May we all awaken in this lifetime, regardless of technique, because the truth is right here, within us, and not dependant on teachers, techniques, centres, traditions, they are simply means to an end, and are helping us, but we will have to awaken on our own, by our own efforts.


« Last Edit: February 26, 2009, 09:44:54 AM by upekkha »

Matthew

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #8 on: February 26, 2009, 07:32:52 AM »
May we all awaken in this lifetime, regardless of technique, because the truth is right here, within us, and not dependant on teachers, techniques, centres, traditions, they are simply means to an end, and are helping us, but we will have to awaken on our own, by our own efforts.

upekkha,

Your post was very helpful - thank you. The above quote sums up what matters most. It's very related to why this place is here.

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

forterpride

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2016, 11:30:04 PM »
Pimpoum,

I am not going to get drawn deeply into this question. The genuine concerns I have regarding Goenka's school and technique are pretty well covered in a critique available online: "A Critique of Vipassana Meditation as taught by Mr S N Goenka" and this post.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew

"The benefits from this technique are generally the same as those from most other meditation techniques currently prevalent."

Wow. Very informative critique. But this sentence at the very end jumped out at me. So...does the author recommend as different technique? Because I couldn't find his recommendation for an alternative anywhere.

rogp99

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2016, 07:01:56 AM »
@upekkha: please read 4.1 & 4.2 of http://harmanjit.googlepages.com/vipassana-critique.html carefully, again.

@forterpride: Sounds like (s)he has something against meditation. (4.3 - 1, 4.4 - 6). Btw have you read the 4.2 - (6 to 10) parts?
However, it isn't that helpful staying at a retreat listening to a tape (or DVD nowadays) rather than a living teacher.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2016, 07:28:24 AM by rogp99 »

Jay-Eye

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2016, 10:13:46 PM »
@upekkha: please read 4.1 & 4.2 of http://harmanjit.googlepages.com/vipassana-critique.html carefully, again.


Wow! That's a bit of an eye opener! Who knew?  ???

Laurent

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2016, 05:35:50 PM »
Hello,

I practice this technique for a long time.
I have also tried some other techniques (mostly Mahasi's and zazen).
I find Goenka's method is the best method i tried.
In my opinion, a problem with most modern teaching is not about meditation methods which are generally good as they develop attention.
But it is very important to understand Buddha's Dhamma while practising meditation.

I find that Goenka's speech like other meditation guides is more about meditation method (the raft) than about what Buddha really taught.
It is hard to really understand what is Vipassana by only taking care about meditation instructions, stories about the buddha and some buddhist philosophy.
In my opinion, you have to read directly original suttas to clearly understand the way to practice vipassana. You cannot practice just mechanically following instructions but you have to know what you are doing here and now.
If you practice a lot and study suttas you will understand clearly suttas and suttas will clarify your vipassana practice, no matter the technique.

So though Goenka's vipassana method doesn't seem to be conform with the mahasatipatthana sutta and other suttas which tell about developpement of FOUR attentions, if you practice this technique with the support of the suttas, not only the mahasatipatthana, you will experiment that this method really leads to the four attention and develop the 7 awakening factors and jhanas as described in the suttas. So we are sure it is a good method because what we experiment is conform to the path described by Buddha in the suttas.The crucial point is the way you do , here and now.

We know that Buddha taught some techniques for particular persons and occurences. This techniques are not taught today. If you read a lot of suttas, you will see that the technique is secondary in Buddha's teaching. Monks seems to be free to practice one or the other. Several techniques are possible and Buddha seems to multiply them according to persons and occasions.
The important thing is the understanding of the path, where you are, what to do, what you are experimenting now and how to deal with.

Teachers wisely avoid to speak of this, but Buddha wisely spoke of it. This is the difference.
Our guide is Buddha.
His unlimited wisdom allowed him to explain Dhamma without misleading someone. He saw that people can mislead themselves because they did not understand one point of the dhamma he exposed. So he repeated, clarified, again and again, in many ways, things that are actually simples.

I greatly recommand Goenka's vipassana, a very good vipassana technique, soft, powerful and happy, but I also recommand to read a lot of suttas.

DarkNightOfNoSoul

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2016, 12:05:19 AM »
Good post by Laurent.

I don't worship Goenka by any means, but I am grateful that his centres are everywhere - otherwise I might never have experienced some of the effects of deep concentration, and probably wouldn't have been inspired to explore Buddhism as much as I have. My feeling is that the body-scanning approach (variations of which I've seen taught elsewhere) is quite helpful for developing whole-body awareness. Probably different techniques suit different people, but my impression is that although the details differ, they all aim in the direction of the satipatthana sutta.

Regarding:

http://harmanjit.googlepages.com/vipassana-critique.html

Looks like some valid points, but whoever wrote that critique seemed unfamiliar with Buddhism itself, as many of the criticisms apply to Buddhism as a whole as well as Goenka's particular approach. For example, they think that the use of Pali is "cultish". I guess all of Theravada Buddhism must be a cult then huh.

Elsewhere under "the theoretical basis of vipassana" this person presents a list and judges each item as "correct", "over-simplification", "belief in the mystical", etc. I wonder what their background is that allows them to make such strong judgements?
« Last Edit: July 18, 2016, 12:07:53 AM by DarkNightOfNoSoul »

rogp99

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2016, 06:33:42 PM »
^ Maybe the author was disappointed because (s)he was promised "no religion stuff" and that.

p/s Alternative link: http://sites.google.com/site/harmanjit02/vipassana-critique.html
« Last Edit: July 18, 2016, 06:36:40 PM by rogp99 »

Laurent

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2016, 11:20:45 PM »

Regarding:

http://harmanjit.googlepages.com/vipassana-critique.html

Looks like some valid points, but whoever wrote that critique seemed unfamiliar with Buddhism itself, as many of the criticisms apply to Buddhism as a whole as well as Goenka's particular approach. For example, they think that the use of Pali is "cultish". I guess all of Theravada Buddhism must be a cult then huh.

The person who wrote this essay seem to be intellectually honest and from goodwill. But he dos not seem to notice that he actually is criticizing the teaching of Buddha, not especially Goenka's method.
This could be an interesting and justified debate, but this is not like we, vipassana students, discussing Goenka's method. This is an other point of view, from the outside.
Perhaps Buddha was a depersonalized person who taught depersonalization to other people. We can discuss about this. But, the subject is not especially about Goenka's method.
There are lots of things to say about his analyze in the part "the technique itself". Just an exemple of wrong argument:

"The experiences of inner silence are accompanied by low oxygen supply to the brain (medically called Hypoxia). The mind becomes very quiet after the first few days, after focusing on the nasal region, and the breath becomes very slight. As the oxygen supply to the brain becomes much lesser than normal, the brain activity simmers down considerably. The peace experienced by the brain is an artificial peace created by attention manipulation and mild hypoxia."

Can we conclude that slight respiration is a consequence of mental calm or a cause ?
It is probable that hypoxia has an influence in development of jhana. But the author does not say why this would be negative.
We already know that mind states are "artificial" ,conditioned. Buddha mentioned it.
So the author is still criticizing the dhamma :mental calm, practice of attention, jhana experience... All that Buddha has taught.
An interesting subject though.

TheJourney

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #16 on: July 22, 2016, 04:44:14 AM »
Although Goenka'so method is not suited for me, I recommend beginner to give a try. TM was the first meditation I learned. I did it for several months in interleaving decades until end of 2014 I resumed meditation using anapanasati.

I went to the retreat in 2015 October. Prior to it, I can only meditate sitting on chair for up to 40 minutes. After the retreat, I can meditate for a whole hour sitting on the floor.

After 2 months of daily body scan, my meditation was declining to a point that I decided to trust my own instinct instead of blind faith. I switched back to anapanasati.

My ability to cut off sensual desire is purely attributed to daily reading of dharma and reflecting on past. For months now, I never turn on TV or radio or watch Internet news. Of course, meditation helped as well.