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Author Topic: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE  (Read 5748 times)

pimpoum

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Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« on: Monday 23 February 2009, 05:04 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: Monday 23 February 2009, 05:40 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: Monday 23 February 2009, 07:55 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

Offline Matthew

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #3 on: Tuesday 24 February 2009, 08:52 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~

Offline Matthew

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #4 on: Tuesday 24 February 2009, 08:55 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
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

ravalbapu

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #5 on: Tuesday 24 February 2009, 12:07 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: Tuesday 24 February 2009, 03:20 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: Wednesday 25 February 2009, 06:23 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: Thursday 26 February 2009, 08:44 AM by upekkha »

Offline Matthew

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Re: Goenka's vipassana PRACTICE
« Reply #8 on: Thursday 26 February 2009, 06:32 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~