Meditation Forum

Vipassana Meditation Forum => Meditation, Practice And The Path => Topic started by: DJ Shaka on February 04, 2010, 03:41:12 AM

Title: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: DJ Shaka on February 04, 2010, 03:41:12 AM
This is such an irresponsable and dangerous retreat. I can't believe this CRAPOLA. This Goenka guy is an idiot.

I was ready to take on Vipassana to help me be more disciplined and peaceful. I previously read Mindfulness In Plain English and practiced some meditation here and there and always felt good afterwards.

I went to this retreat after viewing several videos in YouTube. Seeing how big this organization was and how the website always came first in Google I decided to give it a chance, even though I always had a bad vibe and feeling coming from this organization.

I lasted 7 days before finally running away. During those 7 days I never felt good, never, not even for a minute. I felt like I was buried alive and couldn't do anything. I cried many times. During the stupid body scan technique I had extremely disturbing images popping up in my head. I almost had a panic attack. I had strong anxiety. I felt that this retreat literally friked up my mind.

How can this be good? How can this be responsible? The mind is something very serious and should be treated gently.

Meditation is NOT supposed to be a "brain surgery" as Goenka says, nor it's supposed to be dangerous to leave in the middle of a retreat.

There is tremendous social pressure to finish the course no matter what. "It's part of the process" they say. Excuse me? How is feeling extremely bad, having a lot of anxiety and having very disturbing images popping in your head (even during the non-meditation times) part of mindfulness meditation?

This method can easily cause trauma and damage to people's minds. I am so mad at this guy and this RELIGIOUS SECT. It's a sect and it's not scientific whatsoever.

Please stay away from it even if you've read that people had good experiences. I for one am mentally healthy and had a terrible experience.

If you want to meditate, start gradually at your home, please. I do not recommend this kind of torture and I'm feeling very bad right now. Don't go even if you're going through a tough moment in life.

Some encouraging words would be greatly appreciated. I need your help please.

And don't even try to defend this Goenka organization because you don't know what I'm going through right now.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Crystal Palace on February 04, 2010, 07:14:41 AM
DJ Shaka,

The retreat is neither irresponsible nor is it dangerous if you practice correctly. You might have had a different experience, but for me it was very fruitful.


If you think the technique is not good for you, practise freely any other technique that you find suitable. But please don't brazenly run down the technique in this manner.


And I do think that you need to practice a lot more calm-abiding meditation or Shamatha before you start vipassana.

Quote
I am so mad at this guy
I do not recommend this kind of torture and I'm feeling very bad right now.

Here's my suggestion:

Now you are feeling really bad, and angry at this person and the technique,so use this oppurtunity to develop tolerance and compassion towards him and his technique. This way, you will be able to utilize this anger into constructive anger. And everytime the rotten memories of the course come to your mind, give the guy metta for he has given you a wonderful oppurtunity to generate compassion and tolerance. This way, you will be grateful you went on the 'dreaded' course  :)

Best,
Crystal Palace



Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: mik1e on February 04, 2010, 08:46:11 AM
DJ Shaka,

I would say that you were totally unprepared for such kind of retreat or you were unlucky enough to meet with bad combination of circumstances.

You see, during such kind of collective practices, strong collective fields are generated. And if your body and energy system are not pure and strong enough, you have just the bad experience as you described. In good case (when you meditate with experience practitioners) the collective field may literally burn you, but this is good, because it burns the dirtiness in your mind and body.

There is also a probability that you were incompatible with specific collective field which was created by other participants. In this case I would propose you to sit in the last row, so you were not covered by the cloud of collective energy.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: pamojjam on February 04, 2010, 09:43:27 AM
Hi Shaka,

I'm sorry to hear about you're bad first Goenka retreat experience and totally agree that the social pressure - all this talk how you would harm yourself by leaving earlier, or that only weak minded people couldn't complete such a course - are hurtful indeed, or completely superfluous at the least.

I would like to try to explain - not justify - why such bad course experiences do occur to a few first-time participants specifically at Goenka courses:

These retreats are intentionally fashioned - by depriving one of usual social contacts and temporal limitation of food much like in a prison (though Tihar jail prisoners would assess their jail more comfortable than these courses!), for some the terrible chanting is already enough to get in rage - to provoke the worst emotional reactions in participants for them to learn not to get caught up and get out on the other side more happier. So if you would - for example - really be taken hostage, or had a fatal disease diagnosis in real life - you wouldn't struggle but be enabled to smile despite such possible adversities.

If this retreat format works for someone, she or he will be able to die peacefully. That's why there are those who indeed feel only gratefulness for this guy, you call an idiot now.

Due to our different makeup we all bring to these course it can't work for everyone - as in your case - and as it is the case with any meditation techniques not adjusted to such differences.

Quote
This method can easily cause trauma and damage to people's minds

I have repeatedly witnessed how first time student came out mentally imbalanced (in more detail) (http://vipassana.awardspace.info/forum/index.php?topic=16.0). However, never with participants who continued this practice and came to more courses. Therefore, I don't believe the method itself is creating trauma, but is very able to re-traumatize.

That's why I wished the AT's at Goenka courses would be more experienced and had some basic emotional/mental emergencies handling skills..


People are people and sometime do really hurtful things out of ignorance.

What you could do now is to be kind with these remaining hurt, appreciate where it is coming from, see what it is doing and how far it's really yours.


best wishes..

Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on February 04, 2010, 10:22:36 AM
D J Shaka,

You are not alone in having experienced a bad retreat and also Goenka is not alone in having faults (and you are not alone in being aware of these faults).

I'm glad you empowered yourself by leaving after 7 days. Other people have similar experiences with different organisation, it should be noted, however I feel for you.

This is such an irresponsable and dangerous retreat. I can't believe this shit. This Goenka guy is an idiot.

I'm not sure I would agree an idiot yet I do have serious reservations about his teachings and method.

I was ready to take on Vipassana to help me be more disciplined and peaceful. I previously read Mindfulness In Plain English and practiced some meditation here and there and always felt good afterwards.

That's a good start. Let's get back to that. Your anger over Goenka is a poison to you and you only if you examine it. This is one form of Karma, the immediate results of your state of mind.

I went to this retreat after viewing several videos in YouTube. Seeing how big this organization was and how the website always came first in Google I decided to give it a chance, even though I always had a bad vibe and feeling coming from this organization.

Should have trusted your bones brother.

I lasted 7 days before finally running away. During those 7 days I never felt good, never, not even for a minute. I felt like I was buried alive and couldn't do anything. I cried many times. During the stupid body scan technique I had extremely disturbing images popping up in my head. I almost had a panic attack. I had strong anxiety. I felt that this retreat literally friked up my mind.

Well it probably hurt a bit so I recommend getting back to Shamatha meditation plain and simple. But not Anapana at the nose as Bhante Gunuratana describes. Do is as described here: http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,674.msg5302.html#msg5302 (http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,674.msg5302.html#msg5302)


How can this be good? How can this be responsible? The mind is something very serious and should be treated gently.

Meditation is NOT supposed to be a "brain surgery" as Goenka says, nor it's supposed to be dangerous to leave in the middle of a retreat.

Some people find Goenka's technique helpful. Less than 2% return to do a second retreat with the Goenka organisation, however. The idea it is dangerous is in some ways real. You have been left with much unresolved anger and somehow you need to transform this for example. For some the hangover has been worse, suicides and hospitalisations. Goenka's organisation is not alone in having people have "bad retreat" experiences.

If I were you I'd try and put the energy of the anger into practice.

There is tremendous social pressure to finish the course no matter what. "It's part of the process" they say. Excuse me? How is feeling extremely bad, having a lot of anxiety and having very disturbing images popping in your head (even during the non-meditation times) part of mindfulness meditation?

This pressure is cultist. Sitting down with another adult and discussing reasonably what is going on without dogma or "company lines" is helpful in these circumstances but I doubt that's the norm.

This method can easily cause trauma and damage to people's minds. I am so mad at this guy and this RELIGIOUS SECT. It's a sect and it's not scientific whatsoever.

I would agree that the organisation displays cultist aspects and that these are worrisome to me.

Please stay away from it even if you've read that people had good experiences. I for one am mentally healthy and had a terrible experience.

As I said for some it works but I think your next advice is a better place for a beginner for sure than a Goenka retreat:

If you want to meditate, start gradually at your home, please.

Read this for an explanation of Shamatha practice. The place to start. (http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,674.msg5302.html#msg5302)

I do not recommend this kind of torture and I'm feeling very bad right now. Don't go even if you're going through a tough moment in life.Some encouraging words would be greatly appreciated. I need your help please.

And don't even try to defend this Goenka organization because you don't know what I'm going through right now.

I do think I understand a little of what you're going through. Myself I have been a vocal opponent of Goenka's system for the reasons you describe and because of flaws in the technique. Where above I have said some benefit from these retreats that is an accurate reflection of people's experiences. Myself, I don't think the method is valid, the implementation good or the organisation benign. Goenka is a guru who teaches rich business executives for fat paycheques. And his method clearly doesn't work very well or there would be enough people to teach it, and no need for whining 20 year old VHS cassettes.

Welcome to the forums. Try and sit quietly at home, relax - and get over the anger.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Crystal Palace on February 04, 2010, 12:14:25 PM

Goenka is a guru who teaches rich business executives for fat paycheques.



False.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: DJ Shaka on February 04, 2010, 02:31:56 PM
The retreat is neither irresponsible nor is it dangerous if you practice correctly.

With all due respect, you don't know this.

It CAN be dangerous even if practiced correctly (prove me wrong with an accurate scientific explanation of the brain) and it IS irresponsible to say that it is not dangerous after all the bad experiences people have had with the course.

But please don't brazenly run down the technique in this manner.

I will stop calling him an idiot, but I will warn people about this.

Here's my suggestion:

Now you are feeling really bad, and angry at this person and the technique,so use this oppurtunity to develop tolerance and compassion towards him and his technique. This way, you will be able to utilize this anger into constructive anger. And everytime the rotten memories of the course come to your mind, give the guy metta for he has given you a wonderful oppurtunity to generate compassion and tolerance. This way, you will be grateful you went on the 'dreaded' course  :)

I'm not really mad anymore, I am worried. I'm having anxiety and trouble sleeping and my mind is not focused at all. Disturbing images are popping up in my head also.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: DJ Shaka on February 04, 2010, 02:39:46 PM
DJ Shaka,

I would say that you were totally unprepared for such kind of retreat or you were unlucky enough to meet with bad combination of circumstances.

You see, during such kind of collective practices, strong collective fields are generated. And if your body and energy system are not pure and strong enough, you have just the bad experience as you described. In good case (when you meditate with experience practitioners) the collective field may literally burn you, but this is good, because it burns the dirtiness in your mind and body.

There is also a probability that you were incompatible with specific collective field which was created by other participants. In this case I would propose you to sit in the last row, so you were not covered by the cloud of collective energy.

Collective field? Sitting in the last row? Are you serious?

I'm sorry but I don't believe in that.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: DJ Shaka on February 04, 2010, 02:44:07 PM
These retreats are intentionally fashioned - by depriving one of usual social contacts and temporal limitation of food much like in a prison (though Tihar jail prisoners would assess their jail more comfortable than these courses!), for some the terrible chanting is already enough to get in rage - to provoke the worst emotional reactions in participants for them to learn not to get caught up and get out on the other side more happier.

And this is exactly why it's dangerous.

I have repeatedly witnessed how first time student came out mentally imbalanced (in more detail) (http://vipassana.awardspace.info/forum/index.php?topic=16.0). However, never with participants who continued this practice and came to more courses. Therefore, I don't believe the method itself is creating trauma, but is very able to re-traumatize.

What do you mean by that?
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: DJ Shaka on February 04, 2010, 03:08:06 PM
That's a good start. Let's get back to that. Your anger over Goenka is a poison to you and you only if you examine it. This is one form of Karma, the immediate results of your state of mind.

I'm not angry anymore but I don't feel good. I'm having anxiety and my mind is disturbed. My heart rate goes fast. My body is shaky. I'm having trouble sleeping.

Should have trusted your bones brother.

I know man. I always felt the method was wrong but decided to give it a chance until I literally freaked out on day 7.

The whole method doesn't make sense anyway. Training the mind to be unreactive must be done gradually.

Also this "brain surgery" thing and opening your subconscious mind so that fears come to the surface and you can erradicate them is religious blind faith at its best.

The idea that scanning your body will open up your subsconcious so that samkaras (or whatever) can rise up is laughable.

Well it probably hurt a bit so I recommend getting back to Shamatha meditation plain and simple. But not Anapana at the nose as Bhante Gunuratana describes. Do is as described here: http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,674.msg5302.html#msg5302 (http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,674.msg5302.html#msg5302)

Will do.

Some people find Goenka's technique helpful. Less than 2% return to do a second retreat with the Goenka organisation, however. The idea it is dangerous is in some ways real. You have been left with much unresolved anger and somehow you need to transform this for example. For some the hangover has been worse, suicides and hospitalisations. Goenka's organisation is not alone in having people have "bad retreat" experiences.

If I were you I'd try and put the energy of the anger into practice.

Like I said above, my last problem right now is anger.

This pressure is cultist. Sitting down with another adult and discussing reasonably what is going on without dogma or "company lines" is helpful in these circumstances but I doubt that's the norm.

Exactly.

I would agree that the organisation displays cultist aspects and that these are worrisome to me.

Very worrisome.

I do think I understand a little of what you're going through. Myself I have been a vocal opponent of Goenka's system for the reasons you describe and because of flaws in the technique. Where above I have said some benefit from these retreats that is an accurate reflection of people's experiences. Myself, I don't think the method is valid, the implementation good or the organisation benign. Goenka is a guru who teaches rich business executives for fat paycheques. And his method clearly doesn't work very well or there would be enough people to teach it, and no need for whining 20 year old VHS cassettes.

It's not a matter of thinking if the method is valid or good or safe. It's not safe, this is a FACT, as evidenced by my experience and the experience of those ending up in hospitals and commiting suicide.

Period.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: pamojjam on February 04, 2010, 06:38:46 PM
Some people find Goenka's technique helpful. Less than 2% return to do a second retreat with the Goenka organisation, however.

Matthew, where did you get this percentage?

Because according to statistical numbers published by Igatpuri itself in 1997 - after about 30 years of such courses being offered - of around 200.000 first time participants about 20.000 came back to a second course, which are 10%. And according to a personal message, in the west allegedly 15% have returned.

Goenka's organisation is not alone in having people have "bad retreat" experiences.

It's not a matter of thinking if the method is valid or good or safe. It's not safe, this is a FACT, as evidenced by my experience and the experience of those ending up in hospitals and commiting suicide.

Period.

Shaka, I understand that you now have made up your mind, view this the way you do and I'm not intent on convincing you otherwise. Likewise, there are many others who have benefited from these courses, therefore have their particular view and couldn't be convinced otherwise either. Why is it so difficult to respect each others decision after having given a particular method a trial and simply have the integrity to agree to disagree in this point?

Is it really laughable? - Only because you can't imaging how anyone could ever overcome deeply rooted anxiety, anger and disturbances of mind by quietly observing their nature of impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and non-ownership?

After having come across a number of first-time students having been hurt, I asked various western Vipassana teachers of different Vipassana methods. They all knew of this problem of meditators going off balance, the difficulty to spot this early enough so they could be prevented to go any deeper in meditation, or if necessary, being immediately brought into psychiatric care.

Therefore this isn't a trademark of only Goenka's Vipassana at all, but as much common in any other Vipassana tradition. One hears of this much more often from Goenka retreats, since they offer almost hundred 10-day retreats at any given time all around the world. No other Vipassana tradition gives such easy access to hundred-tousands for participating in such serious retreats.

The idea that scanning your body will open up your subsconcious so that samkaras (or whatever) can rise up is laughable.

Well, I believe many who have done body-related therapy could confirm that in one's postures, tensions - the tissues of this very physical body - indeed past experience, or unluckily, traumas, have been stored.

And many who have done energy work could confirm that by concentration on one small spot on the body energy is building up there. - You don't just scan, you drive this accumulated energy through your bodies blockages, natural defenses against past trauma, and simply blow them up!

The results of this could be just how you describe your bad retreat experience.

These retreats are intentionally fashioned - by depriving one of usual social contacts and temporal limitation of food much like in a prison (though Tihar jail prisoners would assess their jail more comfortable than these courses!), for some the terrible chanting is already enough to get in rage - to provoke the worst emotional reactions in participants for them to learn not to get caught up and get out on the other side more happier.

And this is exactly why it's dangerous.

Or beneficial. Where those benefiting are still the majority compared to those harmed. Leaving aside the vast majority for whom it doesn't do anything.

I have repeatedly witnessed how first time student came out mentally imbalanced (in more detail) (http://vipassana.awardspace.info/forum/index.php?topic=16.0). However, never with participants who continued this practice and came to more courses. Therefore, I don't believe the method itself is creating trauma, but is very able to re-traumatize.

What do you mean by that?
[/quote]

If the method would create trauma, those who have done most of such retreats would be the one's most traumatized. But I encountered only such who have been seriously harmed by a first retreat only. Therefore something else at work seems much more plausble.

But as I said, I don't want to convince you of something which is unthinkable to you: that your anxiety, which is disturbing you so much now, wasn't created but has only been unearthed through this, sometime too powerful, method.

kind regards..
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: DJ Shaka on February 04, 2010, 07:23:22 PM
I understand that lots of people have benefited from these retreats.

My point is that the mind is a very serious thing and even if most people benefit from Goenka the fact remains that there is a small percentage that are damaged by it, therefore I do not support these intense retreats and would rather have people start meditating in a gradual manner.

There's no need for these intense retreats and definitely no need for extreme rules and cultish environment. If people are having problems in their life there are better and safer ways to handle them.

I have nothing against mindfulness meditation.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: pamojjam on February 04, 2010, 08:33:20 PM
Quote
... but I will warn people about this.
Quote
If someone is having problems in their life there are better and safer ways to handle them.

Absolutely true. Though I can't help and also mention the various advantages of such retreats, in personal conversations with persons willing to do their first and enquiring about it, I always also point to this danger of emotional difficulties - maybe only latent but somehow sensed - becoming greatly aggravated.

Quote
.. therefore I do not support these intense retreats and would rather have people start meditating in a gradual manner.

There's no need for these intense retreats and definitely no need for extreme rules and cultish environment.

Well, everyone is different. And for my own practice extented periods of solitary retreats very not only absolutely necessary (before retreats I simply wouldn't keep daily sittings up), but such a huge gain (in being able to let go).

However, there is a third alternative to harsh Goenka retreats or starting with daily sittings alone:

There is a growing number of western Vipassana teacher with much a gentler approach in their retreats, which additionally often have experience with emotional emergencies through a psychological profession in daily live.
Then their are IMC's, meditation centers of the teacher of Goenka, Sayagyi U Ba Khin. Though teaching almost the same method, they do it much more gentler and with less rigidy on rules (for example: no group sittings where you're not allowed to move your possture, hands or eyes; no recommended 'slightly' hard breathing during difficulties with distractions, instead your asked to relax and go for a walk instead).
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: DJ Shaka on February 04, 2010, 11:54:15 PM
Oh man I've been reading a lot of goenka reviews today and I'm definitely not alone.

I could write a huge essay explaining why these goenka retreats are dangerous, wrong, religious, faith based, deceitful, cults, etc, but I really need to let this go.

I do want to clarify that I am aware that Goenka's intentions are probably good and that meditation retreats, IF DONE CORRECTLY, can be totally safe and beneficial to people.

This will be my last post to this thread.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on February 05, 2010, 10:28:09 AM
I could write a huge essay explaining why these goenka retreats are dangerous, wrong, religious, faith based, deceitful, cults, etc, but I really need to let this go.

That's the healthiest thing for you - learn your lessons and move on, keep up the practice.

Warmly,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Jhananda on February 05, 2010, 01:10:37 PM
Hello DJ Shaka, I am sorry that you had such a negative experience at a Goenka retreat, but then I too had a negative experience there and it was after practicing meditation daily for 25 years.  And with now more than 3 decades of daily meditation practice, and having studied the earliest literature of Buddhism as a linguist, I can say the organization and its leaders have a very poor understanding of what the Buddha most likely taught. 

I also agree with you that meditation should really be developed through a gradual process of daily practice and not coercively in a boot camp-like setting, which typifies the Goenka meditation retreat model.  So, I applaud you in leaving the retreat.  Now, go back to the cushion and practice meditation again and again, and know that skillful meditation indeed takes you through your mind, which might just be as difficult as you experienced at that retreat, but might not.  But, ultimately meditation is supposed to liberate one, fill one with good feelings, etc.

You may find reading the following suttas in translation useful to your understanding of meditation as taught by the Buddha: The Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118) “Mindfulness of the breath” (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/pali/Phala_Nikaya/anapanasatisutta.htm) is the sutta that describes Anapana, or breath meditation.   The Kayagata-sati Sutta (MN 119) “Mindfulness of the Body” (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/pali/Phala_Nikaya/kayagatasati.htm) is the sutta that describes meditation upon the body.  This sutta is closest to what Goenka teaches, but for some reason he does not seem to refer to this sutta, most probably because it refers to jhana.  The Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10) “the Four Paths of Mindfulness” (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/pali/Phala_Nikaya/satipatthanasutta.htm) uses the aggregates as a vehicle of meditation. The Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22), “Larger Discourse on the Four Paths of Mindfulness” (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/pali/Phala_Nikaya/mahasatipatthanasutta.htm) is an extension of the Satipatthana sutta, but it includes a description of jhana.

Best regards, Jhananda
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: China Diapers on February 05, 2010, 03:13:42 PM
I lasted 7 days before finally running away. During those 7 days I never felt good, never, not even for a minute. I felt like I was buried alive and couldn't do anything. I cried many times. During the stupid body scan technique I had extremely disturbing images popping up in my head. I almost had a panic attack. I had strong anxiety. I felt that this retreat literally friked up my mind.

I had some similar experiences, I seriously thought I was going to go crazy. I put it down to it being the first time I had probably ever been alone with my thoughts without anything to distract me, so I rode it out and eventually the feelings went away. I think that in itself was really beneficial to me and I left after ten days feeling the most peaceful I had in many years.

I heard a few people at the end saying it wasn't for them, I can imagine that it's not for everybody.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on February 05, 2010, 03:59:46 PM

Goenka is a guru who teaches rich business executives for fat paycheques.


False.

Crystal Palace,

It's quite brazenly advertised that he is available for corporate bookings. I don't think you can easily write this off as false.

Warmly,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Crystal Palace on February 05, 2010, 04:49:23 PM
Matthew,

I object to the context and the tone in which it is written. If you re-read your post, your statement makes it look like Goenka teaches only rich business executives for fat paycheques. The biggest problem with this is that it underlines a remarkable quality of the method of teaching which is that there are no charges whatsoever for anything.

If your point was that he is available for corporate bookings attended by rich people then it could have been written as just that.

Even the Office of the Dalai Lama seeks private audiences for him. But if I come up with a statement saying, "Dalai Lama is a guru who teaches rich business executives for fat paycheques" don't you think I will be taking it out of context?

And can you please provide sources that make you claim he has accepted 'fat paycheques' to teach 'rich business executives'? Because my knowldge is that not even a single penny is charged either for selecting private audiences or for conducting the Special Corporate Courses.

Warmly,
Crystal Palace   


Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on February 05, 2010, 05:58:00 PM
Crystal Palace,

The point is he only does corporate bookings with most of his time. It may still be "paid by donation" - but my guess is, if so, they are no small amounts.

I'm sorry if I offended but I don't really think this is a very important point so don't wish it to become a point of divisiveness. We can have different opinions.

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Crystal Palace on February 06, 2010, 09:25:19 AM
Matthew,

Divisiveness can only come up if we let it come up. I appreciate the fact that we can all move on the path taught by the enlightened one together, even if our ways and methods are different.

Let everyone on this forum decide on their own what technique works for them and what doesn't and then practice it (which is far more important.) Fellow members and meditators can show them their point of views and ways. And the concerned individual after having applied his/her own intellect and analysis can conclude the correct way of going about it. And if the method starts giving results, stick to it.

This seems to me the only way to resolve this long standing dispute about Goenka's technique.

With humility and good wishes,
Crystal Palace
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: mindful1983 on February 06, 2010, 09:48:46 AM
i feel ive experienced what you went through but also doing another tradition, as TIB noted in his first reply.

I think regardless of the technique, the bad reactions are as much to do on a subjective personal level. I think Goenka's approach sucks and I can understand why (Im talking about the way he explains dharma and the course itself) people would get pissed because of it.

I was hesitant to take the course but took it because it was 'a rare opportunity'. So, i took in what was good about it, and left the rest behind.
I took it with a previous understanding of Dhamma that enabled me to better handle it and take it as it was. Congratulations for having experienced this retreat and learning what you need to know.

Take it easy.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: kidnovice on February 06, 2010, 11:53:33 PM
Hi Dj,

I noticed that your post sparked another heated debate around Goenka, and as a result you didn't really get what you asked for: advice and encouragement.  In fact, the controversy is probably counter-productive to your own healing because it just creates more fuel for your anger, and keeps it tied to the object (in this case, Goenka). As indicated by some of your comments, you already know this. As we all know,it takes a lot longer to heal if you stay mired in a sob-story.

Anyway, I'm not going to defend Goenka's style of retreats, but you should know that I have sat and served many retreats, and have even managed a couple. So, suffice to say, I feel that the rigorous schedule (and emphasis on subtle aspects of the body) brings out the best in me. However, for many years, I have also felt that the Goenka retreats are not for everyone, and carry the risk of unleashing "challenging" aspects of the mind. In fact, I rarely recommend it to people. The other day, my friend, a fairly serious meditator who has done a few retreats with other (more "gentle") vipassana teachers, mentioned that she was planning to go to a Goenka retreat, but that she was scared. My answer? "You should be." I think that says it all.  Even though I believe the seriousness of a Goenka retreat would be great for her, I also think that people should enter the retreat with a much deeper sense of the challenges that they will likely face when pushed to meditate so intensely. Its not about Goenka or the retreat itself, but the forces hidden just below the surface of our consciousness.

Now, as for your own experience, let me start with a cliche: "This too shall pass." Seriously. I have known a few people who unlocked extremely unpleasant mental states on retreat (and on the flip-side-- seductively pleasant, but also dangerous states). And trust me, they all fade away. Eventually, you will be your same self again. How long these states last depend on alot of factors, but more than anything I think it has to do with the habits of mind that you have previously cultivated, how you choose to relate to your experience, and what you do with your mind in the present moment.

First of all, I would actually suggest you take a break from meditation. Unless when you meditate at home you have some sense that it is somehow a "safe harbor,” its probably a good idea to take a holiday from sitting on the cushion. Or if for whatever reason, you are really don't want to take a break, find a good group of people you can sit with. That helps alot. And as someone else mentioned, if you do choose to meditate again soon, consider taking an entirely different approach. For example, the Mahasi Sayadaw style of vipassana could be good for you at this time (i.e., gentle noting of your moment-to-moment experiences). Or maybe try to just cultivate a kind awareness of anything that arises in your field of consciousness (sounds, etc.). If you decide to focus on the breath, perhaps try observing it more generally or even just at the abdomen. And of course, walking meditation is a reliable palliative for many practitioners.

Aside from meditation, its worth mentioning not to forget all the other emotional resources you’ve cultivated over the years. Now would be a good time to indulge in some (healthy) comfort activities. Go for a run. Play some basketball. Watch a good movie or check out a favorite band. Have lunch with a friend, and just shooti the breeze. You get my drift.

Most importantly, don't take yourself (or your meditation experience too seriously). There are tons of meditators who have had awesomely amazing experiences and swore they had tasted nibbana, only to realize that they were still the same jerk that they had always been. You're on the other side of the pendulum, where it is easy to believe that you have somehow caused yourself irreparable harm. Don't give the meditation practice so much credit. Your feelings may be highly amplified right now but, they are transient. And you will eventually (probably sooner than later), be your same old self. 

Finally, let me just offer this friendly reminder: the story of your experience at the Goenka retreat is not over. You may no longer be there, but you are still writing the narrative that will frame how you see the experience from now on. This difficult experience really can become the fertile soil of great insight. How you relate/interpret it is EVERYTHING. I know you probably don't want to hear this right now, but the more you can see the experience as something that your mind did to you (and not what the retreat or Goenka did to you), the more you will be able to regain your bearings on the path. 

With that said, I know this is a difficult time for you. And there is no easy fix. But trust in yourself, that you can get through this. I wish you all the best.

Metta,
Dylan


Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on February 07, 2010, 12:30:06 AM
Hi Dj,

I noticed that your post sparked another heated debate around Goenka, and as a result you didn't really get what you asked for: advice and encouragement.  In fact, the controversy is probably counter-productive to your own healing because it just creates more fuel for your anger, and keeps it tied to the object (in this case, Goenka). As indicated by some of your comments, you already know this. As we all know,it takes a lot longer to heal if you stay mired in a sob-story.

Metta,
Dylan


Dylan,

Thank you for your well thought out response and welcome to the forums. If you read my first reply you will find it contained validation of DJ Shaka's experiences, positive suggestions and encouragement. If some of that has triggered others strongly held beliefs I am sorry for this suffering.

I was careful to point out that other groups had similar stories as it would be unbalanced to not say so. My words I stand by, however - including, and perhaps most importantly, my recommendation to DJ Shaka that he relax at home.

In fact it's a good thing for us all to do.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: DJ Shaka on February 07, 2010, 12:45:06 AM
Hi Dj,

I noticed that your post sparked another heated debate around Goenka, and as a result you didn't really get what you asked for: advice and encouragement.  In fact, the controversy is probably counter-productive to your own healing because it just creates more fuel for your anger, and keeps it tied to the object (in this case, Goenka). As indicated by some of your comments, you already know this. As we all know,it takes a lot longer to heal if you stay mired in a sob-story.

Anyway, I'm not going to defend Goenka's style of retreats, but you should know that I have sat and served many retreats, and have even managed a couple. So, suffice to say, I feel that the rigorous schedule (and emphasis on subtle aspects of the body) brings out the best in me. However, for many years, I have also felt that the Goenka retreats are not for everyone, and carry the risk of unleashing "challenging" aspects of the mind. In fact, I rarely recommend it to people. The other day, my friend, a fairly serious meditator who has done a few retreats with other (more "gentle") vipassana teachers, mentioned that she was planning to go to a Goenka retreat, but that she was scared. My answer? "You should be." I think that says it all.  Even though I believe the seriousness of a Goenka retreat would be great for her, I also think that people should enter the retreat with a much deeper sense of the challenges that they will likely face when pushed to meditate so intensely. Its not about Goenka or the retreat itself, but the forces hidden just below the surface of our consciousness.

Now, as for your own experience, let me start with a cliche: "This too shall pass." Seriously. I have known a few people who unlocked extremely unpleasant mental states on retreat (and on the flip-side-- seductively pleasant, but also dangerous states). And trust me, they all fade away. Eventually, you will be your same self again. How long these states last depend on alot of factors, but more than anything I think it has to do with the habits of mind that you have previously cultivated, how you choose to relate to your experience, and what you do with your mind in the present moment.

First of all, I would actually suggest you take a break from meditation. Unless when you meditate at home you have some sense that it is somehow a "safe harbor,” its probably a good idea to take a holiday from sitting on the cushion. Or if for whatever reason, you are really don't want to take a break, find a good group of people you can sit with. That helps alot. And as someone else mentioned, if you do choose to meditate again soon, consider taking an entirely different approach. For example, the Mahasi Sayadaw style of vipassana could be good for you at this time (i.e., gentle noting of your moment-to-moment experiences). Or maybe try to just cultivate a kind awareness of anything that arises in your field of consciousness (sounds, etc.). If you decide to focus on the breath, perhaps try observing it more generally or even just at the abdomen. And of course, walking meditation is a reliable palliative for many practitioners.

Aside from meditation, its worth mentioning not to forget all the other emotional resources you’ve cultivated over the years. Now would be a good time to indulge in some (healthy) comfort activities. Go for a run. Play some basketball. Watch a good movie or check out a favorite band. Have lunch with a friend, and just shooti the breeze. You get my drift.

Most importantly, don't take yourself (or your meditation experience too seriously). There are tons of meditators who have had awesomely amazing experiences and swore they had tasted nibbana, only to realize that they were still the same jerk that they had always been. You're on the other side of the pendulum, where it is easy to believe that you have somehow caused yourself irreparable harm. Don't give the meditation practice so much credit. Your feelings may be highly amplified right now but, they are transient. And you will eventually (probably sooner than later), be your same old self.  

Finally, let me just offer this friendly reminder: the story of your experience at the Goenka retreat is not over. You may no longer be there, but you are still writing the narrative that will frame how you see the experience from now on. This difficult experience really can become the fertile soil of great insight. How you relate/interpret it is EVERYTHING. I know you probably don't want to hear this right now, but the more you can see the experience as something that your mind did to you (and not what the retreat or Goenka did to you), the more you will be able to regain your bearings on the path.  

With that said, I know this is a difficult time for you. And there is no easy fix. But trust in yourself, that you can get through this. I wish you all the best.

Metta,
Dylan




I cannot express how grateful I am for this post.

You understand very well what I'm going through.

Thank you very much Dylan.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: LisaTech on February 11, 2010, 04:49:23 AM
I hope much has been said that can help you let go of the angst that arose in this retreat.. I wish to offer some words said to me years ago: You can always learn something from someone, even if it is how not to do it...

Perhaps this experience as emotional as it was, can serve you in learning that you can trust yourself for what will work for you and only you...

Take care and be gentle on yourself...
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: wildfox7 on February 12, 2010, 04:43:29 PM
Now that your shock and anger have abated somewhat, allow me to provide a more technical explanation of why your meditation retreat experience blew up on you.  Both you and the Goenka AT's lack an adequate concept of the meditation mental processes. 

Please drop all ideas that meditation is some kind of mysterious transcendental magic, a notion that is planted and singularly encouraged at all Goenka retreats.   Goenka is a caste Brahmin who regards himself as a spiritual priest.  Before his vipassana, he was a financial fatcat in Burma, according to his own account.  Afterwards, he became a spiritual fatcat, in my estimation, but I believe his motives are not so much personal greed as spiritual kingdom building.  It takes big rupees to run that kind of organization, especially buying or constructing the retreat facility buildings themselves.   It is most constructive to view the whole thing as a cult, which you probably suspected from the reactions you got.  This will explain much to you of what went on, when you review the upsetting events.  For instance, all the Goenka chanting that goes on every day of the retreats.  After you think through the events in this light, then you can later decide for yourself if it is a cult in the literally accurate sense of the word.

Back to technical explanation of meditation.  Meditation brings the conscious mind and the subconscious mind closer together.  The disturbing visions, imagery, etc. is not produced by meditation, but it makes the conscious mind more aware of what is always going on in the subconscious mind.  This is quite a shock, how much depending on the individual.  My guess is that the surprise is less in naturally introspective individuals.  Some people need more or less prompting from the meditation technique to experience of this meeting of the minds. 

The supposed safeguard is that the disturbed practicer is supposed to consult the AT when the practice becomes disturbing.  My suggestion for improvement is that this should be repeatedly emphasized in the introductory talk on day zero of the retreat.  The remedy from the AT should be to calm the practicer and tell him how to put the brakes on and become more observational and reflective.  But most AT's have inadequate concept of the practice at the beginner level.  One of the main purposes of all the paper forms prior to practice is to help the AT's identify those who may be highly reactive to the this mental exercise, which can be very theraputic if managed properly.  It is similar to "talk therapy" in that the essence of it is to repeatedly go over the disturbing mental contents until it bores the subject and he lets go of it.  The danger is the "spiritual warrior" types who allow the practicer to go too fast into those dark recesses.  It is definitely not everyone!  The mental contents may be too disturbing  in any event, or the practicer may lack the proper temperament for the multiple reruns of his own  mental bad theater.  But few understand what is happening, and that is where the panic comes in, as they believe that there is something transcendental or magic about their mental disturbances, and therefore beyond their control.  The Goenka defect is that only those AT's who are closest to Goenka have the confidence to vary from their AT instructions and use their own judgment to regulate the beginner's intensity of practice. 

My own observation is that about one in five return for a second retreat.  Of those, about one five are ever seen again after that, so I estimate that the fallout rate after second retreat is about 96%.  The most usual reason is that despite all disclaimers to the contrary, they FEEL that some kind of religion is being pushed at them.  The Goenka claim that the method is 'scientific' is pure puffery and unoriginal, the usual dodge by all vedantins.  As I said before, it is a cult in every sense of the word.  The secondary cause of fallout is that the mental drama is both unexpected and inadequately addressed.  True meditation lies on the other side of all that, and most retreatants never get that far, because they do not want to do it anymore, regardless of their own garrulous explanations of 'how great' the retreat was for them.

You got good advice to stop meditation for a while.  When you feel more balanced, just do anapana, as it will calm you.  Regulate your progress by starting with 20 min. x2 per day.  When you become absolutely regular at that schedule, then you can increase by 5 min. stages to perhaps 40 min.  The imagery will return, but in more manageable doses, and you can learn to see it for what it is.  If it disturbs you too much, then cut back 5 min., or even quit for a few days.  But always dedicate that time of day, even if you just sit and read or something.  The habit is the thing.



Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on February 13, 2010, 11:08:32 AM
wildfox7

Welcome to the forums.

Thank you for such a well considered post. Indeed many people are looking for something transcendental in meditation whereas it is actually the transformations on mundane levels that people often bypass through being in such a spiritual hurry.

This can, and regularly does, lead to years of wrong meditation and frustration at a "lack of progress". Learning to just notice and stop the storytelling about what is going on is very important mundane level change that is basic for establishing proper meditation.

Your views on Goenka are strongly worded and I would like to remind others to practice equanimity - especially if they feel a need to respond in anger or defend him or his organisation. That sort of reaction is all about ego and will only lead to "you say / I say" argumentation and division.

Recognising people can have different opinions about certain things and still share beneficially in other ways is a practice of skilful means and generosity. We don't have to agree about everything to learn from and help one another.

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: poiqwepoi on February 16, 2010, 04:16:57 AM
I came back from my first "as taught by Goenka" retreat last week.   I had been practicing anapanasati for about 2 years as part of my routine.  I have very good concentration and felt ready to attend a 10 day "silent" retreat.   A non-sectarian retreat, not a cult nor a religion.     On the 7th day, I decided to leave, which I did on the eight day, in the morning.   

I managed to develop equanimity toward the french translator that repeated every Goenka instructions.   I managed to develop equanimity toward Goenka's pali chanting.  I managed to develop equanimity toward the rituals... saddhu saddhu saddhu.     I developed equanimity. 

I have learned that sitting crosslegs is the most comfortable posture for long meditations.

I also discovered subtle sensation that I have all over the body and physical reaction to cravings, aversion and satisfaction. I spend many hours just triggering toughts and observing the body reactions.   That all is impermanent, I already knew and had already experienced.   All is so impermanent that I discovered I should be home with the ones I love because they also are impermanent.   I love them, mindful that they  are not forever.   

I realized that the middle path is to get rid of aversion and craving that make you suffer to a degree that surpasses your tolerance.  If you have zero tolerance to suffering, you should aim for buddhahhood.  Like you can be equanimous in front of your physical suffering because it arises and falls, you can look at some craving or revulsion with equanimity and accept that they are part of you instead of trying to eradicate all suffering.   If you can accept suffering with equanimity then suffering is just that, suffering.  It is impermanent.   Suffering comes and passes away, like everything else, I accepted it for what it is.   In the end, liberation is good when you feel chained.   How can one liberate from anything when in the end, we are bonded in impermanence to the universe? 

To claim that this retreat is completely scientific, free of rituals or religion is simply false.  There is just too much chanting and instructions and talks for it to be called a silent retreat.   

Why did I leave?  I decided it would be better this way.   I did not feel pressure to stay there because after all, the instructor and manager practice equanimity.   In equanimity they were to accept my departure.


I will not do an other Goenka retreat.   I have no regrets attending and not regrets leaving before time.   If I ever do a retreat again, I would like to be left alone, without chanting, dharma talk, religion, rituals and science that is not.   Just me sitting in peace.  For the time being, I will just follow my path.  Buddhahood is not an ideal.   For the first time in two years, I have no need or desire to sit down and meditate.   I have lost interest and faith in Buddhism and its ideals.  Buddhism is just what it is.   


"What it all comes down to
Is that I haven't got it all figured out just yet
I've got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving the peace sign "  -Alanis Morissette










   
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: peter_goble on February 16, 2010, 10:04:02 PM
I found this a lovely, uncontrived, inspiring and poignant bit of writing and I thank the one who wrote it very much.

It gives me heart on my own path, and gives it point.

Peter
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: ohhaithere on February 22, 2010, 12:14:01 AM
How can this be good? How can this be responsible? The mind is something very serious and should be treated gently.

Meditation is NOT supposed to be a "brain surgery" as Goenka says, nor it's supposed to be dangerous to leave in the middle of a retreat.

Some people find Goenka's technique helpful. Less than 2% return to do a second retreat with the Goenka organisation, however. The idea it is dangerous is in some ways real. You have been left with much unresolved anger and somehow you need to transform this for example. For some the hangover has been worse, suicides and hospitalisations. Goenka's organisation is not alone in having people have "bad retreat" experiences.

If I were you I'd try and put the energy of the anger into practice.

Where did you get this 2% statistic? I'm only curious. I just completed my first retreat, and I think I'd like to do at least one more to experience it a bit more deeply. I'd also like to serve to express my gratitude for having been introduced to the technique. I was one of those who found it helpful. About half the people on my retreat were repeaters, and others said they had a desire, like myself, to do it again. That's why the statistic is surprising, but I can understand if it's true. I wouldn't say, however, that it's a negative critique of the technique that so few people do it again. After all, life is very busy, people are just testing it among other things, and it's not for everyone - even if the experience wasn't bad.

There is tremendous social pressure to finish the course no matter what. "It's part of the process" they say. Excuse me? How is feeling extremely bad, having a lot of anxiety and having very disturbing images popping in your head (even during the non-meditation times) part of mindfulness meditation?

This pressure is cultist. Sitting down with another adult and discussing reasonably what is going on without dogma or "company lines" is helpful in these circumstances but I doubt that's the norm.

This method can easily cause trauma and damage to people's minds. I am so mad at this guy and this RELIGIOUS SECT. It's a sect and it's not scientific whatsoever.

I would agree that the organisation displays cultist aspects and that these are worrisome to me.

I don't understand how it's cultist. I can see how surrendering contact with the outside world appears cultist, but you volunteer to do this only for a number of days. When you're done, you're done. You're asked not to practice other techniques during the course to give Vipassana a chance. Ok. But again, when you're done, you can do whatever you like. The difference between this and a cult is that cults will not release you, and they make it a moral imperative to follow the rules. I was under the impression that the motivation for following the rules here was just to give the technique a profound and pure opportunity to take root. I don't believe this introduction would have worked for me otherwise; I found the isolation and practice of noble silence to be very essential. Eating less and having a rigid schedule at times bothered me, but, again, I was willing to just give it a try. I also thought the diet made moral sense, though I'm not a vegetarian and don't wish to be, and the frequency of meals didn't bother me. I felt no pressure from other meditators to stay because I couldn't even talk to them. And my roommate later on told me she overhead the teacher and some other students discussing leaving. He didn't even encourage them to wait it out. He just said "Ok, but leave at such and such a time so that you don't disturb other meditators, please."

You aren't asked to do anything you're unwilling to do, and should you find you are unwilling, you can go home. You don't have to give up your stuff. (My roommate talked to her husband on the phone at night. I kept a small notebook. So what? I understood the reason and benefit of giving up my writing materials, but I simply didn't want to. So what? Nobody told on me. Nobody punished me. At least 6 of us consistently slept through morning meditation until breakfast. None of us were told we were failing or were sent home.) And if people want to commit a lot of their time or even their lives to it, again, so what? Their choice. Cults are forceful, they rely on exclusivity, threats (physical, emotional, mental), guilt, and excessive amounts of pressure. Again, they do not release you, nor do they ever teach you there are other paths or ways of being. I don't recall Goenka ever claiming his was the only way, only that he has been happy to see his way work for so many.

I also felt that the teaching was anti-dogma. I am not Buddhist, I am not religious, and I don't want to be. I went to learn this unique and rigorous process of introspection. I didn't go to be comforted, calmed, or relaxed. And when I had a question, my teacher answered it sufficiently, although I didn't try to discuss philosophy (so I don't know about that one). I didn't want to discuss philosophical problems with the teacher. To me, that's for another day, another time, another teacher. To me, learning Vipassana was about the barest bones of human spirituality, about getting to the very essence of the mind, transcending body, transcending aversion, craving, misery, struggle, etc., and this is it for me. This helped me. I got it. I get it. How the technique theoretically works as compared to other forms of meditation? I don't really care. I only know that it works, and it doesn't tell me I have to believe in this god or that god, heaven, karma, or reincarnation. Goenka may believe in those things, but I simply believe in penetrating the mind, in finding the root of my misery within myself, and in transcending it. Period, point, blank.

Please stay away from it even if you've read that people had good experiences. I for one am mentally healthy and had a terrible experience.

As I said for some it works but I think your next advice is a better place for a beginner for sure than a Goenka retreat:

If you want to meditate, start gradually at your home, please.

Read this for an explanation of Shamatha practice. The place to start. (http://www.vipassanaforum.net/forum/index.php/topic,674.msg5302.html#msg5302)

I am totally new to meditation. Complete virgin. I came away from my retreat wanting to learn more about Vipassana, similar teachings, and perhaps about other forms of meditation to a certain extent. I enjoyed Goenka, but it wasn't about the teacher or the particular organization for me. And it's not for everybody, obviously. Ok. So go try something else. Just don't say it's dangerous or terrible. Trust me, I'm a true skeptic and a very level-headed person, and I simply found it to be wonderful.

I do not recommend this kind of torture and I'm feeling very bad right now. Don't go even if you're going through a tough moment in life.Some encouraging words would be greatly appreciated. I need your help please.

And don't even try to defend this Goenka organization because you don't know what I'm going through right now.

I do think I understand a little of what you're going through. Myself I have been a vocal opponent of Goenka's system for the reasons you describe and because of flaws in the technique. Where above I have said some benefit from these retreats that is an accurate reflection of people's experiences. Myself, I don't think the method is valid, the implementation good or the organisation benign. Goenka is a guru who teaches rich business executives for fat paycheques. And his method clearly doesn't work very well or there would be enough people to teach it, and no need for whining 20 year old VHS cassettes.

Why isn't the method valid? Why isn't the implementation good or the organization benign? And where did you get your information about Goenka's schedule and habits? Again, just curious. If he does teach business execs for fat paychecks, so what. Although this wasn't my understanding of what he does. And, actually, I think there are plenty of people who would like to teach as Goenka does, but I suppose many feel the purity of the message is best preserved if everyone is taught from the exact same source. It's no different from a standardized textbook or instructional video. One could say that this is inspired by some egomaniacal inclination, but I felt more comfortable with a video tape than I would have felt with some old bearded white guy teaching me meditation techniques. That, to me, leaves too much room for slight differences, sectarianism, and cultish little branches springing up in places. I think it's important for everyone to learn it exactly the same way, so they can each individually go off on their own and do what works for them. I think Goenka taught this well. For sure I didn't agree with everything he said or love every part of his approach, but what was important to me was that he didn't discourage a difference of opinion.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: ohhaithere on February 22, 2010, 12:34:01 AM
Also, I would agree with Dylan. By the end of the course, I felt there were people to whom I wanted to recommend it, and others with whom I probably wouldn't even bother discussing it.

I want to point out that I think the path is different for everyone. The closest members of my family are devoutly Christian, and they are peaceful and self-actualized in ways I can only hope to be. Many have a very violent, negative reaction to many of the teachings of Christianity, and I have found that I don't think it's really for me. I am quite secular, but I think finding an individual spiritual (or at least balanced emotional) path is still of extreme importance for each of us. DJ Shaka, I think yours is just very different, and I wish you the best of luck. (I don't know if that's an acceptable thing to say, but I am new here.)
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on February 22, 2010, 08:45:36 AM
ohhaithere

Welcome to the forums.

I'm not going to respond to any of the questions you raise because of this:

wildfox7

...

Your views on Goenka are strongly worded and I would like to remind others to practice equanimity - especially if they feel a need to respond in anger or defend him or his organisation. That sort of reaction is all about ego and will only lead to "you say / I say" argumentation and division.

Recognising people can have different opinions about certain things and still share beneficially in other ways is a practice of skilful means and generosity. We don't have to agree about everything to learn from and help one another.

I'm quite sure that to fuel your fire with answers will not help you meditate, but just lead to more talk, probably divisive. You don't seem to have noticed for example, even though quoting it, that I say for some the Goenka system works.

I'm glad you found benefit from the retreat and hope you continue to maintain a regular practice and see benefits emerging in your life, which is where it really matters.

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: atomjack on March 06, 2010, 09:36:27 PM
My Goenka retreat experience was also not good. The few times I was able to ask the assistant teacher questions to further understand my practice, he responded with nervous, quick, and uninformative answers that led me to question his experience or even his purpose for being there.

It was all technique and not enough soul.

While the Goenka retreat was the biggest meditation experience I've gone through, I would like to look for another technique as the Goenka retreat does not sit well with me.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: chjones on April 06, 2010, 04:38:42 PM
Hey DJ Shaka  - I hope you are getting on well, now.  I had a similar (well, not similar but) I absolutely thought that it was a dangerous technique, really dangerous and I think the lack of awareness of the ATs is almost criminal.  When people are going through a severe psychosis their input is "stay a few days longer".  Yeah, right.

If they actually had any psychiatric qualifications they would be disbarred for malpractice.  As it is of course they don't, so they just repeat what they have been told to say, ad infinitum...  really bad, I think.  They are not trained and it is an invasive technique, messing with people's minds, they will not react to you as an individual with a set of psychological issues unique to you, no they will just repeat the same old line.  Hopeless and, as you say, dangerous.  There should be more made of this fact, absolutely.

How are you coping now?  How is your anger?  Don't let this control you, it's not worth it.  I agree absolutely with one of the previous posters who said, bring it down a whole notch --- do some very grounding stuff, hang on with friends, laugh (really important, I think), have fun I don't know go skiing or something totally different, eat with groups of friends in a mountain restaurant after falling on your backside for hours trying to learn how to ski --- it is a good way to get all that nonsense out of your system.

As to whether it is brainwashing, in my opinion it most certainly is and Goenkaji laughs that off anyway "well, perhaps your brain needs to be washed"  Humph!  And yours Goenkaji????

Here is a little article on brainwashing:

Persuasion and Brainwashing Techniques Being Used on the Public Today is a fascinating article by Dick Sutphen about, well, how persuasion and brainwashing techniques are being used on the public today by religious organizations, the military, human-potential organizations, and the media.

It’s a long article so I’ll paraphrase the six techniques here:

   1. Isolation: the meeting or training takes place in a place where participants are cut off from the outside world. This often involves making a public commitment to stay during the training. When training takes place in isolation like this, there is usually a quick follow-up session to ensure that the technique has really taken hold.
   2. Fatigue: a schedule is maintained that ensures physical and mental fatigue. This means long hours, few breaks, and very little time for relaxing or reflection.
   3. Tension: techniques are used to increase tension in the group. For example, perhaps there are a few truisms thrown around that might make you feel like you are doing something wrong. Or that you are a sinner, or depressed, or generally unhappy.
   4. Uncertainty: people are randomly put on the spot. Forced to withdraw into anger, fear, or awe. Revivalist churches and human-potential seminars include asking people to come on stage and talk about humiliating or weak moments in their lives. This withdrawn, fearful, state, makes you many times more susceptible to suggestions as your guard is down and you are looking for safety and reassurance in whatever form it takes.
   5. Jargon: new language to talk about what’s going on. It could help label the “enemy”, whether it be ignorant people, people who aren’t yet enlightened, or evil people. Also, new language to talk about people who are “fixed”: either enlightened, saved, or healed.
   6. Humorlessness: there’s no humor involved until the process is complete. The humor then serves as a way to celebrate and seal the deal.

A couple other techniques can be used in addition to help the effects become more pronounced. These three steps are called the “decognition process” as they help slow down and eventually stop thinking altogether.

   1. Alertness Reduction: one part of this is to force participants to keep a poor diet: either lots of sugar, or very bland foods. Sugar throws your nervous system off. A very bland diet (usually fruits and vegetables and no dairy or meat) will make you more spacey. Another part is inadequate sleep after long hours of intense discomfort or strenuous physical activity.
   2. Programmed Confusion: a deluge of new information, combined with questions, discussion groups, and one-to-one create a sense of jumbled-ness that make it easier to insert crazy ideas.
   3. Thought Stopping: most of these brainwashing techniques encourage stopping your thoughts in one of three ways. All three processes can be very helpful if you are controlling the process. The only danger comes when you allow someone else who you don’t fully know the motives of to take you through these steps and slowly alter deep beliefs about yourself and the world.
         1. Marching to a beat, usually at around 1 or 1.5 steps per second, is particularly useful. Both the military and Hitler used this to great effect. The beat puts you in a slightly altered state of awareness that is close to hypnosis and makes you more susceptible to suggestions.
         2. Meditation is the second form of thought stopping. An hour to an hour and a half of meditation a day for several weeks is enough to keep you in a constant “slow” state that is more focused and susceptible to suggestions (both good and bad).
         3. Chanting is the third form of thought stopping, and has the same general technique as marching. The beat helps put you in a slightly different state of awareness.


Sound at all familiar?

That said I don't want to get you worked up again, it's OVER.  It's done and as the other poster said, it may take a while but you will come back to yourself....  don't let the anger be a habitual thought pattern starting.  Every time you feel angry think of something that you LOVE whether that be your child (or any loved one) a favourite memory or whatever it might be...  Good luck.  I am so sorry you had a hateful experience, I did too.  I really did.  It happens.

Some of us are not happy to be brainwashed, that's it and ya know, that's also a good thing.  Otherwise we would all fall into step with some of the most horrific charismatic orators around (viz Hitler and the rest).  It is a good thing and it means you are a strong person.

What makes me most convinced that it is a brain washing cult however, is the reactions of the majority of those who are "fans" to criticism.  It is unnatural.  The level of personal outrage and defensiveness it engenders - as if you had slandered their very soul!  Why so defensive, why so over-sensitive?  If you were to criticise something else they do, maybe a Pilates class and say it didn't work, it put my back out --- the reaction of most would be "Oh no, that's dreadful, poor you" rather than "Don't slander Pilates, you just weren't doing it right!  You didn't understand the technique.  It is all great and by saying this you will (gasp) put people off, that's dreadful, you are doing a dreadful thing".

It is absolutely peculiar the reaction of past students and from that, especially, I take away the fact that they must have been brain washed.  Otherwise why react so intensely, so personally, so out of all proportion?

I do wish you well, from a fellow sufferer!

All the best - btw there is a great tape blog by someone who suffered a psychosis after a Vipassana retreat, he is the funniest, humblest, most charming guy (you just hear his voice on the tape) if I can re-find the link I will post it for you, because it is lovely.  He was based in New Zealand but has a faint Irish accent, I would say.  It is great - although salutory, it took him many, many, many months to recuperate (years really I guess but that doesn't mean it will be the same for you). 

I can't find the link right now - my googling skills are not all that!  If I find it, I will post it because it is great.  Charming, open, honest and really worth listening to, or at least it was for me, very nice to hear someone speaking so directly about their experience.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: chjones on April 06, 2010, 05:38:41 PM
I found it!  I don't know whether you will like it as much as I did, it is a series of podcasts (I think they are called) of about ten or fifteen minutes each:

http://livingvipassana.blogspot.com/ (http://livingvipassana.blogspot.com/)

I really found it helpful listening to him detail his experience and post psychotic experience, getting better. 
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: faltu on April 09, 2010, 12:07:51 PM
Even I had bad experience at Goenka retreat. It was madness.

Its just not proper balance to do 12 hr meditation per day. Its crazy. I would advise people to look for a more sensible way and not to fall for such big statements. You dont want to be the "Buddha 2010".

On the 3rd day I started developing pain in knee joints due to prolong sittings. And I was advised by Goenkaji on tape that to just observe the pain. Its just a sensation and not to react to it. To me it seems like my knee joint was telling my brain that the nerves in the knee join were getting damaged and I need to stop doing what I was doing.

Lack of common sense and too much force and high talks, hype (liberation, enlightenment, etc) turned me off.

I dont think the negative emotions are bad that I need to eliminate them completely. They are need for a human being to life. What is lacking is the understanding and proper use of them. God has given us these emotions for a reason.

eg : Its good to develop hate towards bad things in life (smoking, etc). It keeps us away from them. Without the hate emotions how would you know what to avoid ?

Attachment, craving and aversion are not bad as Goyeka says. They are very much needed for a human being to live life fully. Without attachment a mother will not take of her child. As I said before what is needed is proper understanding of these emotions and how to use them to live our life is the best possible way.

I had read every religious book available and his discourse seems more like a mess of everything. Some things taken from here and some from there like a mixture of everything.

I love the Gita. Its more sensible in that it advises us to "do our duty in the best possible way"
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: atomjack on April 09, 2010, 04:53:58 PM
While I had a unfortunate experience at a Goenka retreat, it's important to always look at things with compassion and appreciation. At my retreat I got very physically ill and during the beginning of a swine flu outbreak. While I started to wonder about spreading my sickness and the possibility of it being serious, the assistant there still felt it would be wise and better for me to stay. I felt that was completely foolish and irresponsible and so I left.

There are many flaws to these retreats, but it's important to appreciate what I did get out of it. It would be easy for me to feel anger over certain things, but what good does that do for me?

Faltu, hatred and attachment lead to unhappiness, always. You are confusing your examples with something completely different. If you feel it is good to hate something, then you will be unhappy. Do yourself a favor and find compassion in what you hate.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Crystal Palace on April 09, 2010, 05:33:47 PM
Dear faltu,

I am sorry you had a bad experience at a Goenka retreat. I personally practice the technique and it has given me results but you may discard the technique if you don't find it useful. Whatever technique you practice, just remember to always be honest with yourself. And not to be biased for that can only cloud the mind in more confusion.

Meditation is essentially effortless. And in that process of 'non-doing' arises an insight which challenges our conditionings and changes us. You do appreciate the Gita, so practice diligently what it preaches in order to become an example of Dharma in action.


Attachment, craving and aversion are not bad as Goyeka says. They are very much needed for a human being to live life fully.


Once you completely let go of craving, attachment and aversion you will realize that, they are in fact, useless.

Warmly,
Crystal Palace
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Jhananda on April 09, 2010, 08:00:10 PM
Until a meditation teacher, or his organization, gets that the meditation technique is only a vehicle to an end, then the organization and the teacher are only amateurs.  Goenka and his organization have yet to understand that meditation (sati) leads to absorption (samadhi), which leads to insight (vipassana), which leads to liberation (nirodha).  Thus it is misleading to say one is teaching vipassana, or jhana.  It is equally misleading to claim the Buddha taught a meditation technique that he called 'vipassana.'  And, it is irresponsible to claim such lies, and it is irresponsible to fund organizations that perpetuate such lies.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: kidnovice on April 09, 2010, 09:33:57 PM
In order to keep this discussion wholesome and fruitful, I thought I would suggest that we avoid criticizing people or inserting beliefs or ideas into their mouths (without at least some satisfactory explanation). Otherwise, this discussion isn't really going to help anyone.

Like chjones said, imagine that your friend just threw out their back at your favorite Pilates class.  Yes, you should offer them sympathy and certainly not criticize them. But, if you really value the class, you should also encourage them to avoid hyperbole and ad hominem (http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ad-hominem.html) attacks. Imagine they say, "Oh, that Pilates instructor! He is just like Hitler. A brainwashing Cult-leader! Even worse, he is an amateur who doesn't explain certain aspects of Pilates, which makes his instruction WORTHLESS!" If you happen to enjoy that class (maybe because you appreciate the rigor), you'd probably be thinking: "Dude. Its just Pilates. Plus, didn't you know it would be tough when you signed up? I mean, seriously twelve hours of Pilates a day!"

Alright, I'm not going to get carried away with the imperfect analogy. But I'd like to suggest the following approach to posting here. Remember that you're not just venting when you write here. You are also helping others determine whether they should attend a "Goenka-style Vipassana Course."  And yes, there are many who should. Of course, I think its great when people describe their negative experiences, and offer criticisms that are based in actual facts.  This hopefully gives prospective retreatants a more complete sense of what it means to meditate so intensively in a highly structured environment with very little emotional/ interpersonal support. Seriously. This is the source of most of the emotionally charged criticisms that you will read here; the courses are too rigorous without a psychological safety-net. Many people just can't imagine what this is like even though it is all pretty much laid out for you ahead of time (though the centers could be more candid about the possibility of intense inner turmoil and that virtually no counseling assistance is offered).

With that said, skillful criticism can help people make informed decisions. But lets not discourage people with exaggeration and personal attacks.  After all, Goenka retreats do work for many people. It has caused radical transformation in me over the years-- there is a much deeper well-spring of compassion inside me, and an overall sense of well-being. I am humbler and more forgiving, and I am much more gentle with myself and others. On the cushion, this practice has cultivated strong concentration, changed my relationship to pain AND given me ready access to peaceful and yes, blissful states of consciousness. And all the while, its teaching me to not lust after these experiences. I know many others who would echo my statements. And it would be unfortunate to deter people from Goenka's centers who would benefit as we have.

The more I practice with other teachers and centers, the more I deeply appreciate the system that Goenka has created, and also see its inherent limitations. After all, Goenka never set out to create a holistic spiritual center where each individual can explore and discover his or her own particular path to enlightenment. (there are other places for that). However, I have also been struck by the incredible power and efficacy of his courses--and this stems precisely from what people often critique: the structure, the demanding schedule, the essential solitariness of the experience, and even the narrowness of a technique focused on one-pointed concentration, bodily sensation, and of course, metta.



Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Jhananda on April 10, 2010, 02:09:12 AM
It is a lie to say the Buddha taught a meditation technique that he called “vipassana.”

The Lack of Evidence In Support of a 'Dry' Insight Practice (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/nodryinsight.htm)

Dispelling Common Misconceptions Regarding Insight (vipassana) and Absorption (Jhana) (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/vipvsjhan.htm)

Understanding Insight and Revelation (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/criticism/insight.htm)

The "Wets verses Drys" in Theravadan Buddhism.  Why Does Jhana Represent Conflict? (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/wetsvsdrys.htm)
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: faltu on April 10, 2010, 07:29:36 AM
Quote
Once you completely let go of craving, attachment and aversion you will realize that, they are in fact, useless.

That is what I am saying, its just not possible to get rid of them *completely*. What I suggest is a healthy balance of emotions. Kind of a "Emotional Intelligence". What you need to do is get rid of too much of attachment that is harmful. Some level of attachment, craving and aversion is still needed for a human being to function properly.

Its kind of fire. If you know how to use it - it will cook your food, but if you dont know how to handle it - it will burn down your house. Getting rid of fire completely since it burns and is painful is not wise. You need to be more intelligent in handling your emotions than to just blindly get carried away what other says :D

Sorry for any harsh words, I am just trying to debate it at intellectual level.

You need to learn to *manage* your emotions well, rather than just run away (eliminate) the negative emotions.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: faltu on April 10, 2010, 07:48:12 AM
"As a example was given at the discourse that a high level Burmese authority was a too much addicted to drinking and after he attended the vipassana course he even could not stand near alcohol."

That is exactly what I am saying. The person started developing aversion towards alcohol. This emotion of "aversion" kept him away from harmful thing. If his mind/body did not produce this emotion then how will know what to avoid or what is dangerous ?

So he just change the emotion of craving towards alcohol to aversion towards alcohol. Which was very beneficial for him. I dont know how aversion can be harmful in this case.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: faltu on April 10, 2010, 08:01:57 AM
Also the theory that "vipassana" or any similar thing is the only way for liberation - just did not go along with me well. There are lot of people who do lot of others things and very well balanced and happy. It might be one of the way but its definitely not the only way.

There were just too many conflicts at the camp, the way things were done, the approach, the aim, etc that I gave up on Goenkaji "vipassana" method and I have started looking at something else. If someone can suggest a more sane way of meditation I will be very glad to experiment with it :D

It was said at the last day of the course that it is the only technique that I will practice, and that it was the only way was very absurd. I was forced to stay there for 12 days, without any outside connection and maintain total silence and solitude was very disturbing. I had to go though a very tough time because of this. Agreed if other want to do it, please go ahead, but forcing it on someone who doesn't want to - its not right.

Goenkaji says on the first day that this is a "deep mental operation" and he is the "mental doctor who wont allow you to leave" - the place felt like some sort of mental hospital. I didnt know that "meditation" is such a horrible and painful process.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on April 10, 2010, 09:15:43 AM
Quote
Once you completely let go of craving, attachment and aversion you will realize that, they are in fact, useless.

That is what I am saying, its just not possible to get rid of them *completely*

How do you know this until you have at least made a sincere effort to attempt the experiment?

The Buddhist teachings are clear that it is quite possible and in some cases simple to pull out the three roots of the poisons, craving, attachment and aversion.

In neurological terms this is probably when the Anterior Cingulate over-rides certain reptilian pathways in the Amygdala.

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: faltu on April 10, 2010, 09:50:06 AM
Quote
The Buddhist teachings are clear that it is quite possible and in some cases simple to pull out the three roots of the poisons, craving, attachment and aversion.

You come here to post and read, you dont to other forums. This is some level of attachment. If there is no feeling of attachment inside you, you wont bother to come here. I am attached to my family, house more than neighbors - so take care of them more. I sweap my own house and keep it clean, since its mine and I am more attached to it. I dont go around cleaning others house. Some level of attachment is needed for me to function as a human being.

My theory is that, these emotions become poisons when they are directed toward wrong things or not properly used.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: faltu on April 10, 2010, 09:57:04 AM
Whatever dude, do whatever you feel is right. I just expressed my own stupid opinions about things :D

Peace out !

 ::)
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: kidnovice on April 10, 2010, 06:39:31 PM
Faltu, it seems to me that some of your objections are based in how you are defining (or not defining) terms like "liberation," "attachment" and "craving."

I'm not even going to try to exhaustively define these terms here (I certainly couldn't do so authoritatively!), but here are some thoughts.

1) Regarding liberation, you mention:
Quote
Also the theory that "vipassana" or any similar thing is the only way for liberation - just did not go along with me well. There are lot of people who do lot of others things and very well balanced and happy. It might be one of the way but its definitely not the only way.
 
Perhaps you should consider that being "balanced and happy" (in the conventional sense, as I believe you are using it) is not exactly synonymous with liberation. Certainly, if you're not happy and balanced, you are not liberated. But liberation is generally understood to be more than that. Personally, I use "balanced and happy" (and similar common sense ideas of emotional well-being) as my guiding stars in practice. I have no doubt that they are on the same trajectory as nibbana. However, I never conflate the two. "Liberation" is about utter freedom--from the most subtle forms of identity construction, self-generated discomfort, and arguably much more. Perhaps at this time, you don't believe in that sort of freedom. That's cool, but be clear about it.

2) On the topic of "attachment" and "craving" (and aversion, which is really just a type of craving), it sounds like you think they are the same as simply "desiring" or "liking" something. You might want to consider that they are are very clearly NOT the same.  Consider that the Buddha obviously had desires after his enlightenment. For example, he desired that all beings be free from suffering. Likewise, as I understand it (and I would be happy to hear other perspectives) the Buddha never said that suffering is caused by desire.  Rather, in the second noble truth, he said that suffering is caused by "tanha" which can best be translated as "thirst" or "craving." Thus, when you hear Dharma teachers talk about eradicating craving or aversion, they are almost always using a more nuanced understanding of the terms. They definitely aren't saying anything as goofy as, "you should never want anything ever again."

Best of luck to you on your path...
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: kidnovice on April 10, 2010, 06:56:35 PM
And while I'm nitpicking about the meaning of words, I'd like to respond to Jhananda's comment:

 
Quote
It is a lie to say the Buddha taught a meditation technique that he called “vipassana.”

To me, this is really just quibbling (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quibbling), and avoids real discussion that might be had.  Granted, "vipassana" is not a term that the Buddha used, and may not even have been coined yet. However, as most people use the term vipassana, they are really just referring to the cultivation of a clear awareness that penetrates into the three characteristics of existence: impermanence, suffering, and selflessness.

And you will certainly find the Buddha making many comments about being aware (pali: Sati),  and realizing the impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and selflessness (anatta) of things. Sure sounds like vipasssana to me. 
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Crystal Palace on April 10, 2010, 08:01:32 PM

In order to keep this discussion wholesome and fruitful, I thought I would suggest that we avoid criticizing people or inserting beliefs or ideas into their mouths (without at least some satisfactory explanation). Otherwise, this discussion isn't really going to help anyone.

...
...

However, I have also been struck by the incredible power and efficacy of his courses--and this stems precisely from what people often critique: the structure, the demanding schedule, the essential solitariness of the experience, and even the narrowness of a technique focused on one-pointed concentration, bodily sensation, and of course, metta.


kindvoice,

I can't help but agree with what you have said - WORD TO WORD.

I do think this place has an anti-goenka bias, and it affects me to the point that I feel someone completely new to vipassana may give this technique a miss by reading the heavy negative criticism here. That would be wrong for his/her experience at the retreat could be entirely different from anything he/she might read here.

If we were to start an entirely new thread called "NOT SO TERRIBLE and NOT SO TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat", I am sure it would give a lot of different perspectives than what have been put up here. In all the courses I have been to about 1/5 th or 20% of the people there were old students, clearly showing that people are coming back, and they wouldn't if it wasn't giving results.

And as you say so clearly, because Mr. Goenka cannot physically teach every student, the organization has its own inherent limitations. But I still cannot think of any organization that would still remain so intact in terms of integrity and uniformity as has this organization after having handled such a high number of students. And this is precisely because of the way it is structured. Infact the term 'organization' does not even do justice to it. The word 'organization' gives it a sectist connotation which it is not.

While I do not want to start an endless debate about the merits and demerits of the technique, I would like to say in the end that ultimately, while people may make all sorts of exotic claims about a particular technique, the only real way to judge it is by checking how it performs on the counts of giving you more compassion, humility, wisdom and peace of mind. And I have found more people with such qualities there than anywhere else.

Warmly,
Crystal Palace
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Jhananda on April 10, 2010, 10:27:27 PM
And while I'm nitpicking about the meaning of words, I'd like to respond to Jhananda's comment:

 
Quote
It is a lie to say the Buddha taught a meditation technique that he called “vipassana.”

To me, this is really just quibbling (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/quibbling), and avoids real discussion that might be had.  Granted, "vipassana" is not a term that the Buddha used, and may not even have been coined yet. However, as most people use the term vipassana, they are really just referring to the cultivation of a clear awareness that penetrates into the three characteristics of existence: impermanence, suffering, and selflessness.

And you will certainly find the Buddha making many comments about being aware (pali: Sati),  and realizing the impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkha) and selflessness (anatta) of things. Sure sounds like vipasssana to me. 

Very good kidnovice, now can you see how mindful self awareness (sati) is NOT revelatory, intuitive insight (vipassana)?  You will note that no where in the suttas are the terms 'sati' and 'vipassana' conflated.  So, why do you think it is common practice today among Buddhist priests and meditation teachers to conflate those terms?  I believe the reason why is because these people have no idea what they are talking about.  After all, it is easy to put on a robe, but leading a rigorous contemplative life is very rare and difficult.

Yes, it is true that through mindful self awareness (sati) we can enter absorption (jhana) and discover revelatory, intuitive insight (vipassana).  However, to say that these three abstract concepts are one in the same is only to reveal that one does not know what they are.  However, it is understandable that those who have never experienced absorption (jhana) or revelatory, intuitive insight (vipassana) might conflate these abstract concepts, but it would imply that they have then never seriously practiced mindful self awareness (sati).  If that is true, then why are they teaching Buddhist philosophy (dhamma) and/or meditation practice (sati)?  Or, why are lots of people going to such ignorant people to learn Buddhist philosophy (dhamma) and/or meditation practice (sati)? The explanation was given about 100 years ago by PT Barnum, when he observed, "a fool is born every minute."
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: faltu on April 11, 2010, 06:17:17 AM
Quote
2) On the topic of "attachment" and "craving" (and aversion, which is really just a type of craving), it sounds like you think they are the same as simply "desiring" or "liking" something. You might want to consider that they are are very clearly NOT the same.  Consider that the Buddha obviously had desires after his enlightenment. For example, he desired that all beings be free from suffering. Likewise, as I understand it (and I would be happy to hear other perspectives) the Buddha never said that suffering is caused by desire.  Rather, in the second noble truth, he said that suffering is caused by "tanha" which can best be translated as "thirst" or "craving." Thus, when you hear Dharma teachers talk about eradicating craving or aversion, they are almost always using a more nuanced understanding of the terms. They definitely aren't saying anything as goofy as, "you should never want anything ever again."

I guess you are right. Need to think in practical terms and not word for word. Everyone has a different concept / ideas about every thing in this world :D I guess I did not understand what these things meant. Lot of bad experiences at the camp left me really in a bad taste about things.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on April 11, 2010, 08:20:18 AM
faltu,

Quote
The Buddhist teachings are clear that it is quite possible and in some cases simple to pull out the three roots of the poisons, craving, attachment and aversion.

You come here to post and read, you dont to other forums. This is some level of attachment. If there is no feeling of attachment inside you, you wont bother to come here. .....

As co-founder and co-administrator of these forums I come here because passing on the benefits of Dhamma is the obvious thing to do when one has found them. The Buddha did not teach that meditation alone would lead to liberation. He taught the noble eight fold path, which includes much more than meditation.

I don't post in other Buddhist or meditation forums because my role at this one takes some time, this one is practice oriented - and many others are full of speculation and mindless discussion, which I do not find beneficial to change.

Do you have a current meditation practice, Faltu?

Are you applying other aspects of the path in your daily life and interactions?

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: faltu on April 11, 2010, 08:31:09 AM
Quote
Do you have a current meditation practice, Faltu?

I am going yoga + pranayam since many years. Its right time for me to start taking on meditation. I am learning different types of meditation : shavasana, raj yoga, vipassana, etc.

Most probably I will settle for "Zazen" which I find is more better suited for me. :D
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on April 11, 2010, 08:34:07 AM

In order to keep this discussion wholesome and fruitful, I thought I would suggest that we avoid criticizing people or inserting beliefs or ideas into their mouths (without at least some satisfactory explanation). Otherwise, this discussion isn't really going to help anyone.

...
...

However, I have also been struck by the incredible power and efficacy of his courses--and this stems precisely from what people often critique: the structure, the demanding schedule, the essential solitariness of the experience, and even the narrowness of a technique focused on one-pointed concentration, bodily sensation, and of course, metta.


kindvoice,

I can't help but agree with what you have said - WORD TO WORD.

I do think this place has an anti-goenka bias, and it affects me to the point that I feel someone completely new to vipassana may give this technique a miss by reading the heavy negative criticism here. That would be wrong for his/her experience at the retreat could be entirely different from anything he/she might read here.

Crystal,

Please don't think this place has an inherently anti-Goenka bias. I have personally expressed both my concerns about his technique and methods - but also that Goenks'a Vipassana is something some people find beneficial - and that I am not in a position to tell them otherwise.

I don't think you can get fairer than that.

There are some historical debates that got rather heated but the current situation is much cooler and people including myself have recognised where their speech was unwholesome and have made positive efforts to change based on these insights.

Whatever method or school one is following what really matters is how it changes you off the cushion - including how one conducts oneself in internet or other debates.

We could fight silly doctrinal wars without cease and spend lots of energy on it - yet this would be a waste of time and energy. What matters are the results. Is your practice lessening the binds these negative factors have on you? Is your practice leading you to experience more awareness of the moment to moment flux of situations? Is your practice leading to greater calm, insight, compassion, kindness, selflessness, patience and wisdom?

These are the questions that make up the yardstick we need to measure ourselves against. Goenka's practice clearly works well for you and for many others. yet for many it simply doesn't for all the reasons people have been through again and again.

As Dhamma practitioners we can support each other irrespective of school or tradition ... or we can choose to pick on petty differences.

I know which is more beneficial.

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on April 11, 2010, 08:44:07 AM
Quote
Do you have a current meditation practice, Faltu?

I am going yoga + pranayam since many years. Its right time for me to start taking on meditation. I am learning different types of meditation : shavasana, raj yoga, vipassana, etc.

Most probably I will settle for "Zazen" which I find is more better suited for me. :D

So at the moment you are basically in the "spiritual supermarket", browsing the shelves. I would thoroughly suggest you read [amazonsearch]Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, by Chogyam Trungpa[/amazonsearch]. It is a book aimed at people in your situation.

Then pick a horse and ride it for a while - establish yourself in practice, any practice.

This forum's focus is the practicalities of meditation. If you are not regularly sitting, using one method of practice, your ability to understand and contribute to debates here will be of limited value to yourself and others and may never be of assistance in your attaining wisdom.

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Crystal Palace on April 11, 2010, 09:51:47 AM

Whatever method or school one is following what really matters is how it changes you off the cushion - including how one conducts oneself in internet or other debates.

We could fight silly doctrinal wars without cease and spend lots of energy on it - yet this would be a waste of time and energy. What matters are the results. Is your practice lessening the binds these negative factors have on you? Is your practice leading you to experience more awareness of the moment to moment flux of situations? Is your practice leading to greater calm, insight, compassion, kindness, selflessness, patience and wisdom?

These are the questions that make up the yardstick we need to measure ourselves against. Goenka's practice clearly works well for you and for many others. yet for many it simply doesn't for all the reasons people have been through again and again.

As Dhamma practitioners we can support each other irrespective of school or tradition


Dear Matthew,

Im inclined to agree  :)

Warmly,
Crystal Palace
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: faltu on April 11, 2010, 05:20:08 PM
There are some good reading about Vipassana :

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahasi_Sayadaw (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahasi_Sayadaw)

Scroll down to publications section.
    * Practical Vipassana Exercises [1]
    * Satipatthana Vipassana Meditation [2] [3]
    * The Progress of Insight--an advanced talk on Vipassana [4]
    * Thoughts on the Dharma [5]

Peace !
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: faltu on April 11, 2010, 05:46:25 PM
There are some difference between Mahasi Sayadaw style vipassana and Goenka style ?

This is so very confusing ! ???
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: faltu on April 11, 2010, 06:15:03 PM
http://www.messagefrommasters.com/Meditation/Awareness/vipassana_comes_in_end.htm (http://www.messagefrommasters.com/Meditation/Awareness/vipassana_comes_in_end.htm)

check this out ! sooo very true !
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Jhananda on April 11, 2010, 09:31:30 PM
There are some difference between Mahasi Sayadaw style vipassana and Goenka style ?

This is so very confusing ! ???
Hello Faltu, I can understand why studying meditation within a Buddhist context can be so confusing, because every priest has been able to say whatever he wanted to for the last 2,000 years, because there has been no peer review in Buddhism, or any religion for that matter.  I suggest to anyone, who wishes to study meditation as the Buddha taught it, to read the suttas that discuss meditation.

The Anapanasati Sutta (MN 118) “Mindfulness of the breath” (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/pali/Phala_Nikaya/anapanasatisutta.htm) is the sutta that describes Anapana, or breath meditation.   The Kayagata-sati Sutta (MN 119) “Mindfulness of the Body” (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/pali/Phala_Nikaya/kayagatasati.htm) is the sutta that describes meditation upon the body.  This sutta is closest to what Goenka teaches, but for some reason he does not seem to refer to this sutta, most probably because it refers to jhana.  The Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10) “the Four Paths of Mindfulness” (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/pali/Phala_Nikaya/satipatthanasutta.htm) uses the aggregates as a vehicle of meditation. The Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22), “Larger Discourse on the Four Paths of Mindfulness” (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/pali/Phala_Nikaya/mahasatipatthanasutta.htm) is an extension of the Satipatthana sutta, but it includes a description of jhana.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: kidnovice on April 11, 2010, 09:55:12 PM
Quote
Very good kidnovice, now can you see how mindful self awareness (sati) is NOT revelatory, intuitive insight (vipassana)?  You will note that no where in the suttas are the terms 'sati' and 'vipassana' conflated.  So, why do you think it is common practice today among Buddhist priests and meditation teachers to conflate those terms?  I believe the reason why is because these people have no idea what they are talking about.  After all, it is easy to put on a robe, but leading a rigorous contemplative life is very rare and difficult.

Yes, it is true that through mindful self awareness (sati) we can enter absorption (jhana) and discover revelatory, intuitive insight (vipassana).  However, to say that these three abstract concepts are one in the same is only to reveal that one does not know what they are.  However, it is understandable that those who have never experienced absorption (jhana) or revelatory, intuitive insight (vipassana) might conflate these abstract concepts, but it would imply that they have then never seriously practiced mindful self awareness (sati).  If that is true, then why are they teaching Buddhist philosophy (dhamma) and/or meditation practice (sati)?  Or, why are lots of people going to such ignorant people to learn Buddhist philosophy (dhamma) and/or meditation practice (sati)? The explanation was given about 100 years ago by PT Barnum, when he observed, "a fool is born every minute."

I definitely agree that "Sati" (awareness) and "Vipassana" (insight) are quite different. Awareness only becomes an insight practice when it penetrates into the three characteristics of existence.  I suppose that I have been quite fortunate in encountering competent Vipassana teachers. Of the many Vipassana teachers that I have read/heard/met,  I rarely hear any who conflate awareness and insight.  Certainly, some Dharma talks will primarily emphasize mere Sati (which makes sense considering that many in the audience are beginners). However, taken as a whole, most every Vipassana teacher I have encountered also emphasizes the importance of seeing into the changing, insubstantial, and unsatisfactory nature of experience.  Our conversation makes me feel grateful for the many competent teachers I have encountered!

Ultimately, I think we should just call out the real objection you are making. You say:
Quote
through mindful self awareness (sati) we can enter absorption (jhana) and discover revelatory, intuitive insight

From that, and other comments you have made on the forum, I infer that you think that many Vipassana teachers today are failing to sufficiently emphasize the importance of concentration/ecstasy.  Perhaps you think that without a high degree of concentration, a meditator's awareness cannot reveal truly transformative insight into the three characteristics? Maybe that's right. Maybe not. If I had to speculate, I would imagine that final liberation requires the attainment of true Jhana. But I think there is much to be seen along the way. And this is ultimately a matter of personal investigation.

Most importantly, I think the path should bear fruit from the beginning to the end. Thus, if a person is not attaining what some would call "jhana," but is finding that their life is clearly improved by the insights garnered from their sati, I would be hesitant to imply that their insights are somehow false or that they are in any way foolish.  Conversely, I would kindly suggest that a meditator reevaluate their practice (and intention) if their devotion to Jhana is putting them on the supposed "fast track" to liberation, but isn't cultivating qualities of kindness, patience, humility, and forgiveness.

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: the only true benchmark we have to evaluate a path is the positive change we see in ourselves as a result of walking on it. And no one can make that assessment for you, but yourself.

With metta,
kn
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on April 11, 2010, 10:44:43 PM
I guess you are right. Need to think in practical terms and not word for word.

Nearly faltu, but more .. Stop thinking so you will experience reality. Fabricate nothing.

Here's Alan watts on the subject:

http://www.vipassanaforum.net/audio/wattslanguage.m3u (http://www.vipassanaforum.net/audio/wattslanguage.m3u)

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: unprevadedrapture on April 12, 2010, 12:53:35 AM
Goenka has students lose themselves before they have secure selves. Many of Goenka's teachings are from commentaries and sub-commentaries or given new definitions e.g. bhanga (only in Vimutimagga and with different definition), sankara's (potentials, reactions, etc) eradication (only happens at stream entry, only developing equanimity)... a good thing about goenka retreats is they teach you how to sit. they don't give you anything to substitute vices, just objective self observation. The fact is anapana (the basis for both techniques taught) goes beyond what is taught. The breath should be altered and one should feel what one needs to feel to deepen concentration. I recommend studying the suttas and thinking for oneself. Asking questions necessary and one technique that moves one away from reasoning and discourages the buddhas instructions for jhana isn't sufficient ultimately and proclivities are a lot wider and perspectives there are very limited... But its also very useful sometimes and a good introduction albeit skewed from the suttas and not the eightfold path in its entirety. I recommend esp. Wat Metta, and also Abhayagiri... accesstoinsight.org.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Jhananda on April 12, 2010, 01:49:34 AM
...jhana isn't sufficient ultimately and proclivities are a lot wider and perspectives there are very limited... But its also very useful sometimes and a good introduction albeit skewed from the suttas and not the eightfold path in its entirety. I recommend esp. Wat Metta, and also Abhayagiri... accesstoinsight.org.
According to the suttas jhana was the Buddha’s definition of the 8th fold of his Noble Eightfold Path.
Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22.22) (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/pali/Phala_Nikaya/mahasatipatthanasutta.htm)
 (1st Jhana)
[22]"And what (Katamo ca) seekers of Buddhahood (Bhikkhus) is right absorption (sammàsamàdhi)? There is the case where (Idha) a seeker of Buddhahood (bhikkhave bhikkhu) is withdrawn (vivicceva) from sensuality (kàmehi), withdrawn from unwholesome mental states and beliefs (akusalehi dhammehi) with applied and sustained attention (savitakkaü savicàraü) resides (viharati) in the bliss, joy (pãtisukhaü) and clarity (upasampajja) of the first ecstasy (pañhamaü jhànaü).
Translated from the Pali by Jhananda 11-02-06

The Ariyapariyesana Sutta (MN 26.28) contains a description of Dependent Origination.  This description immediately precedes a description of jhana, which suggests the formula for Dependent Origination is intended to lead to jhana, and that jhana was supposed to make one invisible to Mara, the evil one.

The Noble Search, Ariyapariyesana Sutta (MN 26.28) (http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/pali/tipitaka/sutta/majjhima/mn026-tb0.html)
Translated from the Pali by Jhananda 11-02-06
"Monks, there are these five strings of sensuality. Which five? Forms cognizable via the eye — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Sounds cognizable via the ear — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Aromas cognizable via the nose — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Tastes cognizable via the tongue — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. Tactile sensations cognizable via the body — agreeable, pleasing, charming, endearing, fostering desire, enticing. These are the five strings of sensuality.

(1st Jhana)
"Suppose that a wild deer is living in a wilderness glen. Carefree it walks, carefree it stands, carefree it sits, carefree it lies down. Why is that? Because it has gone beyond the hunter's range. In the same way, a seeker of Buddhahood (bhikkhave bhikkhu) renounces (vivicceva) sensuality (kàmehi), renounces unwholesome mental states and beliefs (akusalehi dhammehi) with applied and sustained attention (savitakkaü savicàraü) and bliss and joy (pãtisukhaü) one resides (viharati) in the clarity (upasampajja) of the first ecstasy (pañhamaü jhànaü). This seeker of Buddhahood is said to have blinded ('andhamakàsi) Mara. Trackless (apadaü), he has destroyed Mara's vision (màracakkhuü) and has become invisible (adassanaü) to the Evil One (pàpimato).

Jhana Sutta (AN XI.36) (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/index.html)
"I tell you, the ending of mental agitation depends upon the first meditative absorption (jhana)...” (through 8th samadhi)
Edited by Jhananda to correct translation errors.

Jhanasamyutta (SN 34)
"Therein, bhikkhus, a contemplative who is skilled both in meditation that leads to meditative absorption (samadhi) and in the attainment of meditative absorption (samadhi) is the chief, the best, the foremost, the highest, the most excellent of… contemplatives."
(Bodhi, Bhikkhu trans., Samyutta Nikaya Wisdom, 2000, Page 1034) Edited by Jhananda to correct translation errors.

Jhanasamyutta, SN 9.53
"Seekers of Buddhahood, just as the River Ganges slants, slopes and inclines toward the East, so too a seeker of Buddhahood who develops and cultivates the four ecstasies (jhanas) slants, slopes, and inclines toward nibbana."
(Bodhi, Bhikkhu trans., Samyutta Nikaya Wisdom, 2000)
Edited by Jhananda to correct translation errors.

It appears that Goenka has not read nor understood the suttas.

Best regards, Jhananda
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: unprevadedrapture on April 12, 2010, 02:36:21 AM
Goenka says not to do jhana till you've entered nibbana a few times because there's too much potential for attachment. Is this even possible? Nevertheless I hear of masters getting hung up in formless realms and never quite reaching Arahatship e.g. Ajahn Lee. Getting stuck at any jhana especially the third is considered a hindrance.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: unprevadedrapture on April 12, 2010, 03:17:57 AM
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Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on April 12, 2010, 06:43:05 AM
There are some difference between Mahasi Sayadaw style vipassana and Goenka style ?

This is so very confusing ! ???

At some point you have to stop your "research", stop your "reading", pick a horse and ride it. Here is how I suggest you sit:

...

... Meditation begins as relaxing into your bodymind and reconnecting body and mind through total awareness of breath.

Awareness occurs throughout the body and mind through the distributed nervous system, though is of course centred in the brain - as the final organ of cognition of all perceptions.

...

The Buddha did not teach to focus breathing on the nose. For westerners who are often "head heavy" in their general way of living - and to some extent disembodied because of our cultural preference and conditioning towards rationality - this can be a particular and significant problem.

The Buddha taught: (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.22.0.than.html)

Quote from: www.accesstoinsight.org
"There is the case where an aspirant -- having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building -- sits down cross-legged, holding the body erect and setting her (4) awareness before her. Always aware, one breathes in; aware one breathes out aware.

"Breathing in long, one discerns that one is breathing in long; or breathing out long, one discerns that one is breathing out long. Or breathing in short, one discerns that one is breathing in short; or breathing out short, one discerns that one is breathing out short. One trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the entire body and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body. One trains herself to breathe in calming the entire body and to breathe out calming the entire body.
"

So according to the Buddha the focus of meditation is the entire breathing experience and body, not the nostrils. And the prime first goals are awareness or sensitivity to the entire body and relaxation or calming.

....
 

Still mind can be quickly achieved by Anapana or any other over-forced breath meditation - but it becomes a form of self hypnosis.....


Develop awareness of your whole body breathing. Relax during your meditation and feel the breath entering your lungs, feel the abdomen stretching out to accommodate this.  "Train (yourself) to breathe in sensitive to the entire body and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body. Train (yourself) to breathe in calming the entire body and to breathe out calming the entire body." Let thoughts, feelings and emotions arise, be aware of them but do not engage of them. If you do then when you realise return to awareness of whole body breathing, noting the deviation from practice without self criticism.

.....

Also do not be afraid to have the eyes open a little, looking gently at the floor 1 - 2 metres in front of you. The eyes should be relaxed - as in when sleeping - but not forcefully closed, when meditating.

In short:

"The meditator, having taken himself to a secluded spot, bringing mindfulness to the fore, breathes in aware of the entire body, calming the entire body, breathes out aware of the entire body, calming the entire body".

That is all there is to it for now. That and the four immeasurables OFF the cushion.

...

Questions:
Do I count my breaths like in Zazen?
Do I curve the lower spine part a bit so belly is forced out or do I tuck the but in like in Qigong?
Is it important to meditate every day at same time in the same spot?


Besides staying mindful with the breath all the way in and out of my One Centre (lower abdomen) do I breath long or short? Does it matter?
.....

Since I have been already sitting for 20-25 minutes every day is it OK to start Shamatha for an hour or should I increase it slowly by doing half and hour now in the start?

Answers:

No, don't count your breaths. This is a form of fabrication. Just be aware of the whole bodily breathing experience - not just the rise and fall of the abdomen or the tickle on your nose - THE WHOLE BODY BREATHING.

Don't force the belly out but it will naturally rise and fall if you are breathing properly with the diaphragm and have good posture. Sit so your pelvis is tilted a little forward with some cushions or blankets under your bum to lift it 4 - 6 inches ( 10 - 15 cm) from the ground (sometimes higher is needed). This forms a stable tripod of your bum and knees to sit on and encourages the back into proper position for taking your weight.

It is not important to meditate every day in the same spot. Your practice will be greatly enhanced if you practice every day, several times a day even. Your practice will be enhanced by practicing in a suitable place, quiet and free from distractions. Some people find it helps them maintain a regular practice to have a meditation corner or spot set up but don't let this become too ritualised if you do.

Your awareness is better not placed on the abdomen. The Buddha taught full body-breathing awareness. It does not matter if you breath in long or short. It does matter that you are aware with each breath if it is long or short - and all it's other characteristics.

You can start with half an hour or an hour. Don't force yourself into discomfort. If you are used to sitting for 25 minutes why not start there and build up. Alternatively, and most usefully, you can sit without a predetermined time limit if your life allows this.



Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Jhananda on April 12, 2010, 05:30:08 PM
Goenka says not to do jhana till you've entered nibbana a few times because there's too much potential for attachment. Is this even possible? Nevertheless I hear of masters getting hung up in formless realms and never quite reaching Arahatship e.g. Ajahn Lee. Getting stuck at any jhana especially the third is considered a hindrance.
Thank-you unprevadedrapture, for demonstrating that any fool can preach the dhamma and many fools will show up to listen, because jhana was the Buddha's definition for the eightfold of his Noble Eightfold Path, therefore anyone who claims one can become attached to jhana is not even a Buddhist.

Latukikopama Sutta, MN 66 (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/majjhima/mn066.html)
"...he enters and abides in the fourth absorption (jhana): which is purity of equanimity and mindfulness, with neither pleasure nor pain. This is called renunciation-pleasure, seclusion-pleasure, calm-pleasure, self-awakening-pleasure. And of this pleasure I say that it is to be cultivated, to be developed, to be pursued, it is not to be feared.

Tevijja Sutta (DN 13.75-79)
The Discourse of the Buddha
75 “…when these five hindrances are abandoned, one regards it as being without debt, having good health, release from prison, freedom, a place of security. Seeing that they have been abandoned in him, one becomes joyful (sukha). Joyful, one becomes blissful. Blissful, one’s body grows relaxed. When one’s body becomes relaxed, one becomes sensitive to bliss (piiti). Feeling bliss (piiti), one’s mind becomes absorbed (jhana).

"Withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful mental states, one enters and abides in the first meditative absorption (jhana): bliss (piti) and joy (sukha) originating from withdrawal, accompanied by applied and sustained attention (vitakka and vicára). one permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the bliss (piti) and joy (sukha) originating from withdrawal...(through 4th jhana)
Based upon a translation by Maurice Walshe, “The Long Discourses of the Buddha” (Digha Nikaya), Wisdom Publishing, Boston, 1987, 1995, corrected by Jhananda

Jhanasamyutta SN 9.53
"Bhikkhus, there are these five higher fetters.  What five?  Lust for form, lust for the formless, conceit, restlessness, ignorance.  These are the five higher fetters.  The four meditative absorptions (jhanas) are to be developed for direct knowledge of these five higher fetters, for the full understanding of them, for their utter destruction, for their abandoning."
(Samyutta Nikaya trans. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Wisdom, 2000) corrected by Jhananda
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: unprevadedrapture on April 12, 2010, 11:10:59 PM
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Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Lokuttara on April 13, 2010, 06:05:03 PM
Just back from my 6th Vipassana course under Goenka. It seems with each course I realise more and more how much this technique has changed my life, helped me in so many ways and healed so many past wounds. It really has changed my life in a way that is easily measurable and obvious (even to most of my friends) and I am really grateful to this wonderful teacher.

The great thing about the Goenka courses is that they are without doubt the closest you will get to a parctical form of J.Krishnamurti or Eckhart Tolle. The teachers gently steer students away from any form of attachment to the technique, or blind acceptance. They ask you to experience everything for yourself, and only then accept it. "You are your own master" is what Goenka says himself, so in truth, there is no teacher - there are just people to guide you in the right direction, not force you into anything in particular. They don't tell you what you should feel, or how you should be progressing, or what experiences you should strive to attain. We just observe the reality *as it is*, and accept it completely. This allows the ego to gently, gradually dissolve. It also allows us to leave behind all these intellectual discussions and complications that seem to be rife in other Buddhist teachings.

So many sankaras have come up for me; deep, dark sankaras. Vipassana helped me to deal with them and keep my head - let them arise and pass away. It works, it really does - I always feel so much lighter after the courses and I can keep with the reality of anicca even outside of meditation sessions to some extent.

What a lot of people don't realise is that over time, Goenka leads older students to the stage of:
"One trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the entire body and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body. One trains herself to breathe in calming the entire body and to breathe out calming the entire body."

But unfortunately most people on this forum seem to be grossly misinformed about the Goenka technique, or else have gone to courses without being able to leave their egos at the door :P
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on April 13, 2010, 06:28:38 PM
Lokuttara,

It is gladdening to hear Dhamma has touched you so deeply.

Don't be fooled though ... no one ever leaves their ego at the door when they go on any kind of course - be it a Goenka course, a Tibetan course, a Zen course or a race course. ;)

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Jhananda on April 13, 2010, 07:45:13 PM
I am happy for you Lokuttara, that you have come back from your 6th retreat feeling so good, and so devoted to your beloved guru-ji Goenka-ji.  However, you know when you are in a cult, when there is only one teacher, and everyone else is just a tape librarian; and I am sure Goenka-ji is still claiming the Buddha invented a meditation technique that he called "vipassana."  Of course there is no canonical support for such a claim, and not only that, but why would the Buddha invent a method and call it by a Sanskrit term?  Vipassana is a Sanskrit term that was in use a long time before Siddhartha Gotama arrived in the scene.  But, I can understand that it is kind of hard to back-peddle on 50 years of lies.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: unprevadedrapture on April 13, 2010, 11:45:02 PM
"attachment to the technique, or blind acceptance" is more or less necessary to remain in the tradition and do longer courses and service unless you keep to yourself with other even therevada practices and perspectives. that one technique is all that is taught, and it is taught that it is sufficient unto itself. the buddha taught a lot more than this one tradition of anapana in the sitting position only i.e. vipassana_ stemming from U Bah Khin and maybe his lay farmer teacher with vague acceptance by ledi sayadaw, but not taught by ledi in any of his writings. not even technical teachings within the lineage like ledi sayadaw (including many contemplations, etc) or webu sayadaw (plain anapana) are allowable for continued practice on the center. its less of a cult given where its coming from. burmese traditions are often based on the commentaries or sub-commentaries and sayadaws often insist that you practice specific to their teachings. its understandable, but if your not 100% on just this technique alone then you can't do longer courses, etc. another big problem is the assistant teachers aren't always knowledgeable and usually can't or won't help you outside the Vipassana technique context, and theory presented by Goenka.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on April 14, 2010, 05:36:14 AM
I honestly think we have "done to death" the issues surrounding Goenka. There is enough historical posting on the site that people can read.

I would like to encourage practitioners to bear in mind the qualities of compassion, equanimity and skilful speech. If it is someone's choice to follow Genka's technique and they find it works for them it is not my place to tell them otherwise.

Similarly I feel cohesion in this community is better served by looking for where we can support rather than undermine each other and our practices.

Skilful speech means sometimes things are better left unsaid - especially if they have been said before.

Goenka's method is a raft for some. It may or may not be a raft they choose to ride for the whole of their time meditating. It is not our place to try and pull that raft out from under them. Anyone can go back and quote me from previous discussions and give many examples of unskilful speech in this particular domain - from experience I can tell you it's motivation is not pure.

Better to purify this motivation than to speak in an unwholesome and divisive manner. Respecting others who are part of this community sometimes means holding in that you wish to spit out.

I live on an estate of 160 families where the community is divided. It is not pleasant at the moment. We are undergoing difficult transitions, trying to build community again from the nascent wishes of the many and in the ashes of division.

This place was destined and designed to provide refuge. We are refugees together and we make fools of ourselves when we divide or use divisive speech. If our practice is truly working this issue would not even arise.

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: unprevadedrapture on April 14, 2010, 06:37:12 AM
That info came from Ven. Thanissaro a leading Western scholar of the Pali Canon so I thought it was worth sharing. It's good as a truth seeker to see the differences between what is in the canon, and what is within Goenka's lineage and the commentaries. An outsiders perspective (esp. within the canon) is always important, because asking questions is a fundamental part of the path. the organization's dynamics again is just something to deal with. It's great and incredible that Goenkaji spread and introduced the Dhamma to so many people.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on April 14, 2010, 06:46:47 AM
unprevadedrapture,

My comment was general and not aimed at anyone in particular. Community is hard to build and quick to break.

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Crystal Palace on April 14, 2010, 06:59:58 AM

no one ever leaves their ego at the door when they go on any kind of course - be it a Goenka course, a Tibetan course, a Zen course or a race course. ;)



hahahaha ;D ;D ;D
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: upekkha on April 14, 2010, 12:47:34 PM
Well, obviously the Goenka issue has been argued to the bone already, I haven't even read all the posts in this long thread.

Let me just offer my own personal experience and thoughts:

My first 10-day Goenka course was life-changing, I've done about 5 more since and am grateful for their help.
Technique-wise:
I crossed what is called in the 'Progress of Insight' the Knowledge of Arising and Passing Away and Knowledge of Dissolution (Bhanga-nana) on one of those courses therefore I am highly grateful.
Though I find, and also this has been reported in others, that the body-sweeping technique is highly ineffective in taking one to the first stage of enlightenment, stream entry.
This may be due to the fact that body-sweeping encourages one to focus more of one's attention on body sensations and miss out many more mental phenomena in turn, while the noting technique allows one to develop one's momentary concentration and notice everything which sprouts up, be it mental or physical, until one has objectified even the sense of 'self' and that leads to the first non-experience of nirvana, stream-entry.
It has been reported that ever since they changed the instructions at the yearly 3-month retreat at IMS from body-sweeping to Mahasi Sayadaw style noting, they have gotten many more people to stream-entry, and basically never looked back.

So technique-wise, I recently started doing more Mahasi style noting and this has been quite helpful in going through the so called 'Dukkha Nanas' or 'Dark night of the soul' stages of practice and into 'Knowledge of Equanimity Regarding Formations' (sankhara-upekkha-nana).

Now organization-wise: the Goenka organization has many flaws. I myself ignored these while I was actively participating in it because well, Goenka is highly charismatic and therefore when one gets so much benefit from his courses, one begins to blindly follow other parts of his instructions, many of them are just silly - I could go on about these for ages, but I rather not.

Nowadays when I go sit a Goenka retreat I do so for the physical conditions of being able to sit a retreat on a donation-basis, since I am a student and very low on funds.

So, I say, take what you need and want from it, don't fall into the social and almost religious trappings of this organization.

and keep practicing :)

N.B.

Bill Hamilton (Late Vipassana teacher in the Mahasi Sayadaw tradition) has written a highly recommended  book on Enlightenment and Vipassana. its called 'On Saints and Psychopaths'. the first part is dedicated to his encounters with Psychopaths pretending to be saints, the second part is about actual enlightened people and Vipassana practice.

http://www.scribd.com/Saints-and-Psychopaths/d/19649507 (http://www.scribd.com/Saints-and-Psychopaths/d/19649507)
It is a very interesting and funny book written by a hardcore Vipassana teacher.

"The actual techniques early Buddhist teachers taught were various ways of focusing attention, and unique instructions were given to balance characteristics they saw in their students. It really does not matter what technique is used, as long as it results in a profound examination of the present moment. Those who believe that the Buddha had one true technique have missed this essential point."

"The attainment of enlightenment is very dependent on the quality of teaching and teachers. For example, in 1984 Sayadaw U Pandita led a three-month retreat for teachers at IMS in Barre, Massachusetts. During that retreat, some teachers attained the second level of enlightenment or insight to that level. Since that retreat, the number of people attaining deep inishgt during regular retreats has doubled. Also, it was unknown for people to attain higher levels of enlightenment at IMS before then, and since then a few have attained the third level."

Enjoy!

and by the way, all those who believe that nibbana and enlightenment is unattainable by regular people just like you and me, I hope you get some more empowering views going on :)

To Jhananda:
What do you think of those who say that Jhana and Vipassana are highly related? for example, U Pandita's Vipassana Jhana model.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Lokuttara on April 14, 2010, 02:39:52 PM
Don't be fooled though ... no one ever leaves their ego at the door when they go on any kind of course - be it a Goenka course, a Tibetan course, a Zen course or a race course. ;)

Hehe.. ok, maybe you are right there :)
But I guess what I'm trying to get at is how important it is to approach a 10-day course with a completely open mind. Follow the instructions, stick to the time-table, go with the flow, and give it a "fair trial" as Goenka often says. After that, if you still feel it's not for you, then that's fair enough. But if you go to the courses and get caught up in conflicts and comparisons with your own technique, or in what you have already read or learnt from someone else, then you won't get the true benefit of the course. Or if you try and mix it up with some other tecnhiques, you won't be able to get right down to the deeper truth, to the really subtle, peaceful states that can be found on the 10-day course. You're asked to leave yourself completely behind and - for the 10-days - dedicate yourself completely to this technique - and this isn't always easy, and it may be even more difficult if you have many years of experience in some other technique. There is no doubt in my mind that you can get great results from this technique, I have countless friends who have found it to be deeply beneficial... often people who have tried many other techniques and got no results. This one works, but it isn't easy and I suspect that's why the old-student figures are a good bit lower than the new-student numbers. But even then, I feel that new students who only ever do one 10-day course have found amazing benefits that will last them for their entire lives. I even know some people who don't intend to go back again, but feel that it was something that changed their lives in a very positive way and gave them a deeper appreciation or meaning in life, and perhaps healed some deeper wounds. A lot of them still practise meditation but a lot more rarely than the typical old student.

I am happy for you Lokuttara, that you have come back from your 6th retreat feeling so good, and so devoted to your beloved guru-ji Goenka-ji. 

I'm not devoted to anyone. There is no guru in this form of Vipassana, no blind faith, no ritual, no dogma.

However, you know when you are in a cult, when there is only one teacher, and everyone else is just a tape librarian;

If you've been on a few courses, the reason for having "tape librarians" becomes quite obvious. This technique is very, very simple, yet it works magically and is, IMHO, 100% effective. It has not let me down yet! Whenever I face trouble in my life, I do Vipassana and immediately go within... observe the sensations.. and I miraculously come out of the misery. Unhappiness is not generated anymore.

But in order for it to work, the teaching process needs to be kept as basic as possible. It is extremely minimalistic. If there were no tapes, videos and it was left up to the teachers to relay this very simple method, then it's possible that over the decades and also depending on the teacher, the method may get changed slightly from teacher to teacher. Perhaps a student in California in 1980 may have received a slightly different technique than a person in Ireland in 2010? I think that would be really unfortunate - if something works, then it needs to be kept pure, simple and consistent.

So I am really happy that our teachers are, effectively, passing on Goenka's teaching *exactly* as he would teach it. There is no personal prejudice involved, and it also ensures that the teachers don't develop ego, or go off on tangents. Also, if somebody has a more individual problem, the teachers will attempt to tackle it for each person, but will always go back to the reality of anicca as taught by the Buddha, instead of getting caught up/sidetracked in a philosophical debate (often something that we students may like to indulge in, but it never helps). Always stay with the reality... as it is! Always at the level of the sensations, not with mental objects or thought forms, or imagination. I'm so thankful that our teachers don't complicate the simple truths of the Buddha, and that we always go back to the sensation and the anicca.

There is no need for individualism in the teaching, as there really are no teachers - they are almost transparent, egoless entities, yet they are filled with metta and their main job for the 10-days is to simply keep sending metta to help and protect all the students.

You are your own master! The teachers are just there to help on the way, like simple sign posts.

and I am sure Goenka-ji is still claiming the Buddha invented a meditation technique that he called "vipassana."  Of course there is no canonical support for such a claim, and not only that, but why would the Buddha invent a method and call it by a Sanskrit term?  Vipassana is a Sanskrit term that was in use a long time before Siddhartha Gotama arrived in the scene.  But, I can understand that it is kind of hard to back-peddle on 50 years of lies.

You could be right, but all of this is another philosophical distraction, these are arguments and discussions that pale in comparison with the direct experience of anicca - of arising and passing away. With the experience of arising and passing away of sensations, there can be no question - this is the reality, we are observing it equanimously, as it is... and you come out of misery. If you see the results for yourself then the questions disappear and understanding arises. I'm sure you have seen this yourself with your own practise.

I honestly don't think the technique I practise is the "right way", I really don't. I know for a fact that it works for me, and I'm sure what you do is working for you and helping you come out of misery - otherwise you wouldn't continue practising it!

So let us all just celebrate and be happy and peaceful that we've found the dhamma, found a way that leads us out of suffering. It doesn't matter how, or what name it goes under, because each person must walk on the path himself and find out if it works for him by testing it.

"attachment to the technique, or blind acceptance" is more or less necessary to remain in the tradition and do longer courses and service unless you keep to yourself with other even therevada practices and perspectives.

In my experience, non-attachment to the technique is required in order to progress. I've seen this question answered by Goenka and some of the assistant teachers numerous times. Blind acceptance is also highly discouraged by any assistant teachers I've encountered, and by Goenka. You are asked to try the technique seriously, test it, examine it and see if it gives results. The results should be obvious and easy to see. Goenka also says the results should come quickly, and I've found he's right - they certainly do. Goenka asks people NOT to accept it if it doesn't give results. That's pretty fair and rational I think :)

I understand the concern about not doing other practices, but this is well explained on the 10-day course. Basically, again they are trying to keep the technique as simple as possible so confusion dosn't arise for a student. If I do a different form of Vipassana and then serve a Goenka course, I may end up talking about different techniques in the kitchen, or may end up giving another student meditation advise that actually doesn't work well with the Vipassana method being taught. Keeping the technique clear, simple, understandable is paramount on these courses. And why? Because in order to get serious results, you need to work with the simple truth of anicca and sampajana without any distractions or complications.

The example is given of a man digging a well to find water. If you start digging a well, you need to keep going until you find water. If you dig a little bit here, then try digging another little bit somewhere else, then try digging another place, you will end up wasting your time and not getting to the water. So decide on a technique that works for you and stick with it. IMO this is good advise. I initially experimented with different teachings, including different breathing stuff and holotropic breathwork, but in the end the most results came from Vipassana so... I've decided to stick with it.

if you find that you want to practise something else, or that Vipassana isn't for you, the teachers will have no problem letting you go and try that. Again, you are your own master, you can do what you like. But don't expect to be given a place serving or on a 20-day course. Why? Well... a friend of mine actually went a did some other techniques (including some breathwork), didn't tell them in the Vipassana application forms, and got accepted to sit a 20-day course. He ended up getting mentally disturbed and had to be taken off the course. They let him work in the garden for a while and made sure he was doing ok before he came home. He had to take some time out from meditation, and he was really freaked out. But now he's back doing 10-day courses again, and has resolved to stick with Vipassana, as it was his main technique. I think this is a good example of why they ask you to stick with Goenka's teaching if you are a serious old student. It's a very powerful technique, it goes right to the very roots of your misery, deep into the sankaras, and you need to keep it simple and stick with the advise given, or else it may become quite dangerous and do you damage.

that one technique is all that is taught, and it is taught that it is sufficient unto itself. the buddha taught a lot more than this one tradition of anapana in the sitting position only i.e. vipassana_ stemming from U Bah Khin and maybe his lay farmer teacher with vague acceptance by ledi sayadaw, but not taught by ledi in any of his writings. not even technical teachings within the lineage like ledi sayadaw (including many contemplations, etc) or webu sayadaw (plain anapana) are allowable for continued practice on the center. its less of a cult given where its coming from. burmese traditions are often based on the commentaries or sub-commentaries and sayadaws often insist that you practice specific to their teachings. its understandable, but if your not 100% on just this technique alone then you can't do longer courses, etc. another big problem is the assistant teachers aren't always knowledgeable and usually can't or won't help you outside the Vipassana technique context, and theory presented by Goenka.

I've already addressed the questions about why assistant teachers don't go outside this particular method - we need consistency across courses all over the world, so somebody in India doesn't get a different teaching than someone in the UK for instance - it's universal truth, so it should be taught in a universal, consistent manner. This makes sense to me and allows it to work more effectively, without any watering down or teacher prejudice. I've also answered the question about 100% dedication. It's up to you to dedicate yourself, nobody will try to make you do anything. But if you want to become a serious student of this technique, and if you are getting the results that should come, why keep tinkering around with other stuff?

As for Webu Sayadaw and Ledi Sayadaw, in my experience meditators are encouraged to read all of those texts, as well as U Ba Khin and Thetgyi. Most of them are also available through the VRI to servers on courses to read in their spare time. You are encouraged to constantly explore the truth for yourself, with the importance placed on awareness of anicca, moment to moment. Always with the vedana in walking, sleeping, waking up, sitting down, eating, looking, and, of course, in meditation. Always with the reality of Sampajanna, vedana, arising and passing away. Always in the present moment. Anything else is a distraction, a thought form, and a form of ego.

So why is there a need for a teacher? All that is needed is gentle guidance away from the thought forms and the ego, and back to the reality of anicca - that's what the ATs are there for. That, and to give metta. Nothing more.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Lokuttara on April 14, 2010, 03:03:33 PM
Hi upekka, I just saw your post now! Cool post, and some interesting information there :)

The main thing with your post that stood out to me was that noting helps with stream entry? The description of stream entry is:

"The three fetters which the Sotāpanna eradicates are:
   1. Identity view - The speculative view that a so-called self exists in the five aggregates (physical forms, feelings/sensations, perception, mental formations and consciousness) is eradicated because the Sotāpanna gains insight into the selfless nature of the aggregates.
   2. Skeptical Doubt - Doubt about the Buddha and his teaching is eradicated because the Sotāpanna personally experiences the true nature of reality through insight, and this insight confirms the accuracy of the Buddha’s teaching.
   3. Clinging to rites and rituals - Clinging to the view that one becomes pure simply through performing ritual or rigid moralism, such as praying to God for deliverance, slaughtering animals for sacrifice, ablutions, etc. is eradicated because the Sotāpanna realizes that rites and ritual are nothing more than an obstructive tradition, repetitious rites and dead dogmas; Deliverance can be won only through the practice of the Noble Eightfold Path.

He also abandons:
   1. Envy
   2. Jealousy
   3. Hypocrisy
   4. Fraud
   5. Denigration
   6. Domineering"




I would honestly say that the method of Vipassana I practise (where no noting is done) has truly helped me to largely eradicate the above fetters perhaps about 70% to 80% (depending on how much I'm sitting daily). But who can honestly measure that? And also, how can the IMS claim that they have a high percentage of stream-enterers? Do they have some sort of lie-detector test?

I personally know plenty of old students of Goenkas technique who - according to the above fetters - are without any doubt at stream entry. but this is based on my perception of them, and seeing their good deeds and merits day-to-day :)
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: upekkha on April 14, 2010, 03:58:35 PM
Hey man,
Those descriptions may or may not be true, as they are not personal experiences of people you can trust, but rather descriptions of scholars who may or may not have practiced meditation and reached levels of enlightenment.
Let's just agree that stream-entry is characterized by experiencing the non-experience of nirvana for the first time.

That said, IMS teachers have concluded that because of their own personal experience (having passed through these stages) and identifying descriptions of going through these stages in their students.

Based on your assumption of attainment or non attainment due to external behaviour: there are many people out there in the world who are almost saintly in their behaviour: amazing devotion to others, empathy, understanding, not being quick to anger etc. that certainly does not mean they are technically enlightened or gone through the stages. Think about that..

Enlightened people may behave in saintly ways, but acting in saintly ways does not mean someone is enlightened. :)

I'd reccomend reading Bill Hamilton's book for more information regarding 'The Embarrassment of Enlightenment'

Regarding Goenka courses: As I said, i found and still find them highly helpful, though their cult-like and almost religious characteristics are certainly there, if one chooses to ignore or defend them is something else. Goenka's request for one to choose one technique and one teacher and not talk about other techniques etc is a good example of one which is detrimental to one's practice. different techniques work for different people at different times.

Regarding technique-wise: I find, and many others do as well, that just body sweeping is good for passing certain stages (Arising and Passing away), but later on, one finds that one is missing many many other aspects of the thing, many mental formations go on un-objectified (not seen anicca, dukkha and anatta of those). Many emotions, thoughts, volitions, arise without being noticed directly, this leads to a stagnation of one's practice in those later stages. Combining body sweeping with Mahasi noting is a powerful practice for seeing one's physical and mental reality clearly, which in turn leads to progressive stages of enlightenment.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Lokuttara on April 14, 2010, 06:08:35 PM
Regarding Goenka courses: As I said, i found and still find them highly helpful, though their cult-like and almost religious characteristics are certainly there, if one chooses to ignore or defend them is something else. Goenka's request for one to choose one technique and one teacher and not talk about other techniques etc is a good example of one which is detrimental to one's practice. different techniques work for different people at different times.

I thoroughly agree, different techniques will work for different people at different times. But when you are doing any one technique, you should follow it exclusively and devote yourself to it in order to make real progress. Goenka doesn't ask anybody to follow him or his technique, but if you do choose his Vipassana, and you are happy with it, he strongly advises against mixing a few techniques at the one time. And based on some experiences I've had, and on what I've seen, mixing techniques can have dangerous results (I wrote about my friends experience above).

Regarding technique-wise: I find, and many others do as well, that just body sweeping is good for passing certain stages (Arising and Passing away), but later on, one finds that one is missing many many other aspects of the thing, many mental formations go on un-objectified (not seen anicca, dukkha and anatta of those). Many emotions, thoughts, volitions, arise without being noticed directly, this leads to a stagnation of one's practice in those later stages. Combining body sweeping with Mahasi noting is a powerful practice for seeing one's physical and mental reality clearly, which in turn leads to progressive stages of enlightenment.

This criticism keeps coming up, but for anyone who has done Goenka's Satipathanna course, you will find that he adds in "observation of the mental contents of the mind". On that course - which is available after you do three 10-day courses - you are asked to observe the arising and passing away of thoughts and mental contents. You also observe the arising and passing away of sounds and sights. Sensations are still included, and we observe the sensations on the body when the sights/sounds/thoughts arise also. So you are able to see the arising and passing of all things, taking anicca to an even deeper level of truth.

During that course, you are able to take notes and to read the Satipathanna sutta during break periods. I found this really helpful and it really deepened my practise. Now when I do a regular 10-day course I integrate it all together.

This sounds remarkably similar to what you have described in Mahasi?
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Crystal Palace on April 14, 2010, 06:41:42 PM
Nowhere in the Goenka courses are you asked to NOT observe your emotions, thoughts, volitions or supress them. This is a misconception. Not only in the Satipatthana course but even in the ordinary 10 day courses, Goenka asks his students to observe the thoughts once they have sensitised themeselves to the body - and then note the corresponding sensations they feel on the body.

It is a general rule of thumb that one experiences directly through this that negative thoughts lead to heavy sensations and positive thoughts lead to lighter, pleasant sensations. And this is how the meditator realizes through gradual repetition that suffering begins in the mind - that the moment one generates a negative emotion, one has harmed oneself before harming anyone else.

Warmly,
Crystal Palace
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Crystal Palace on April 14, 2010, 07:01:16 PM
Don't be fooled though ... no one ever leaves their ego at the door when they go on any kind of course - be it a Goenka course, a Tibetan course, a Zen course or a race course. ;)

Hehe.. ok, maybe you are right there :)
But I guess what I'm trying to get at is how important it is to approach a 10-day course with a completely open mind. Follow the instructions, stick to the time-table, go with the flow, and give it a "fair trial" as Goenka often says. After that, if you still feel it's not for you, then that's fair enough. But if you go to the courses and get caught up in conflicts and comparisons with your own technique, or in what you have already read or learnt from someone else, then you won't get the true benefit of the course. Or if you try and mix it up with some other tecnhiques, you won't be able to get right down to the deeper truth, to the really subtle, peaceful states that can be found on the 10-day course. You're asked to leave yourself completely behind and - for the 10-days - dedicate yourself completely to this technique - and this isn't always easy, and it may be even more difficult if you have many years of experience in some other technique. There is no doubt in my mind that you can get great results from this technique, I have countless friends who have found it to be deeply beneficial... often people who have tried many other techniques and got no results. This one works, but it isn't easy and I suspect that's why the old-student figures are a good bit lower than the new-student numbers. But even then, I feel that new students who only ever do one 10-day course have found amazing benefits that will last them for their entire lives. I even know some people who don't intend to go back again, but feel that it was something that changed their lives in a very positive way and gave them a deeper appreciation or meaning in life, and perhaps healed some deeper wounds. A lot of them still practise meditation but a lot more rarely than the typical old student.

I am happy for you Lokuttara, that you have come back from your 6th retreat feeling so good, and so devoted to your beloved guru-ji Goenka-ji. 

I'm not devoted to anyone. There is no guru in this form of Vipassana, no blind faith, no ritual, no dogma.

However, you know when you are in a cult, when there is only one teacher, and everyone else is just a tape librarian;

If you've been on a few courses, the reason for having "tape librarians" becomes quite obvious. This technique is very, very simple, yet it works magically and is, IMHO, 100% effective. It has not let me down yet! Whenever I face trouble in my life, I do Vipassana and immediately go within... observe the sensations.. and I miraculously come out of the misery. Unhappiness is not generated anymore.

But in order for it to work, the teaching process needs to be kept as basic as possible. It is extremely minimalistic. If there were no tapes, videos and it was left up to the teachers to relay this very simple method, then it's possible that over the decades and also depending on the teacher, the method may get changed slightly from teacher to teacher. Perhaps a student in California in 1980 may have received a slightly different technique than a person in Ireland in 2010? I think that would be really unfortunate - if something works, then it needs to be kept pure, simple and consistent.

So I am really happy that our teachers are, effectively, passing on Goenka's teaching *exactly* as he would teach it. There is no personal prejudice involved, and it also ensures that the teachers don't develop ego, or go off on tangents. Also, if somebody has a more individual problem, the teachers will attempt to tackle it for each person, but will always go back to the reality of anicca as taught by the Buddha, instead of getting caught up/sidetracked in a philosophical debate (often something that we students may like to indulge in, but it never helps). Always stay with the reality... as it is! Always at the level of the sensations, not with mental objects or thought forms, or imagination. I'm so thankful that our teachers don't complicate the simple truths of the Buddha, and that we always go back to the sensation and the anicca.

There is no need for individualism in the teaching, as there really are no teachers - they are almost transparent, egoless entities, yet they are filled with metta and their main job for the 10-days is to simply keep sending metta to help and protect all the students.

You are your own master! The teachers are just there to help on the way, like simple sign posts.

and I am sure Goenka-ji is still claiming the Buddha invented a meditation technique that he called "vipassana."  Of course there is no canonical support for such a claim, and not only that, but why would the Buddha invent a method and call it by a Sanskrit term?  Vipassana is a Sanskrit term that was in use a long time before Siddhartha Gotama arrived in the scene.  But, I can understand that it is kind of hard to back-peddle on 50 years of lies.

You could be right, but all of this is another philosophical distraction, these are arguments and discussions that pale in comparison with the direct experience of anicca - of arising and passing away. With the experience of arising and passing away of sensations, there can be no question - this is the reality, we are observing it equanimously, as it is... and you come out of misery. If you see the results for yourself then the questions disappear and understanding arises. I'm sure you have seen this yourself with your own practise.

I honestly don't think the technique I practise is the "right way", I really don't. I know for a fact that it works for me, and I'm sure what you do is working for you and helping you come out of misery - otherwise you wouldn't continue practising it!

So let us all just celebrate and be happy and peaceful that we've found the dhamma, found a way that leads us out of suffering. It doesn't matter how, or what name it goes under, because each person must walk on the path himself and find out if it works for him by testing it.

"attachment to the technique, or blind acceptance" is more or less necessary to remain in the tradition and do longer courses and service unless you keep to yourself with other even therevada practices and perspectives.

In my experience, non-attachment to the technique is required in order to progress. I've seen this question answered by Goenka and some of the assistant teachers numerous times. Blind acceptance is also highly discouraged by any assistant teachers I've encountered, and by Goenka. You are asked to try the technique seriously, test it, examine it and see if it gives results. The results should be obvious and easy to see. Goenka also says the results should come quickly, and I've found he's right - they certainly do. Goenka asks people NOT to accept it if it doesn't give results. That's pretty fair and rational I think :)

I understand the concern about not doing other practices, but this is well explained on the 10-day course. Basically, again they are trying to keep the technique as simple as possible so confusion dosn't arise for a student. If I do a different form of Vipassana and then serve a Goenka course, I may end up talking about different techniques in the kitchen, or may end up giving another student meditation advise that actually doesn't work well with the Vipassana method being taught. Keeping the technique clear, simple, understandable is paramount on these courses. And why? Because in order to get serious results, you need to work with the simple truth of anicca and sampajana without any distractions or complications.

The example is given of a man digging a well to find water. If you start digging a well, you need to keep going until you find water. If you dig a little bit here, then try digging another little bit somewhere else, then try digging another place, you will end up wasting your time and not getting to the water. So decide on a technique that works for you and stick with it. IMO this is good advise. I initially experimented with different teachings, including different breathing stuff and holotropic breathwork, but in the end the most results came from Vipassana so... I've decided to stick with it.

if you find that you want to practise something else, or that Vipassana isn't for you, the teachers will have no problem letting you go and try that. Again, you are your own master, you can do what you like. But don't expect to be given a place serving or on a 20-day course. Why? Well... a friend of mine actually went a did some other techniques (including some breathwork), didn't tell them in the Vipassana application forms, and got accepted to sit a 20-day course. He ended up getting mentally disturbed and had to be taken off the course. They let him work in the garden for a while and made sure he was doing ok before he came home. He had to take some time out from meditation, and he was really freaked out. But now he's back doing 10-day courses again, and has resolved to stick with Vipassana, as it was his main technique. I think this is a good example of why they ask you to stick with Goenka's teaching if you are a serious old student. It's a very powerful technique, it goes right to the very roots of your misery, deep into the sankaras, and you need to keep it simple and stick with the advise given, or else it may become quite dangerous and do you damage.

that one technique is all that is taught, and it is taught that it is sufficient unto itself. the buddha taught a lot more than this one tradition of anapana in the sitting position only i.e. vipassana_ stemming from U Bah Khin and maybe his lay farmer teacher with vague acceptance by ledi sayadaw, but not taught by ledi in any of his writings. not even technical teachings within the lineage like ledi sayadaw (including many contemplations, etc) or webu sayadaw (plain anapana) are allowable for continued practice on the center. its less of a cult given where its coming from. burmese traditions are often based on the commentaries or sub-commentaries and sayadaws often insist that you practice specific to their teachings. its understandable, but if your not 100% on just this technique alone then you can't do longer courses, etc. another big problem is the assistant teachers aren't always knowledgeable and usually can't or won't help you outside the Vipassana technique context, and theory presented by Goenka.

I've already addressed the questions about why assistant teachers don't go outside this particular method - we need consistency across courses all over the world, so somebody in India doesn't get a different teaching than someone in the UK for instance - it's universal truth, so it should be taught in a universal, consistent manner. This makes sense to me and allows it to work more effectively, without any watering down or teacher prejudice. I've also answered the question about 100% dedication. It's up to you to dedicate yourself, nobody will try to make you do anything. But if you want to become a serious student of this technique, and if you are getting the results that should come, why keep tinkering around with other stuff?

As for Webu Sayadaw and Ledi Sayadaw, in my experience meditators are encouraged to read all of those texts, as well as U Ba Khin and Thetgyi. Most of them are also available through the VRI to servers on courses to read in their spare time. You are encouraged to constantly explore the truth for yourself, with the importance placed on awareness of anicca, moment to moment. Always with the vedana in walking, sleeping, waking up, sitting down, eating, looking, and, of course, in meditation. Always with the reality of Sampajanna, vedana, arising and passing away. Always in the present moment. Anything else is a distraction, a thought form, and a form of ego.

So why is there a need for a teacher? All that is needed is gentle guidance away from the thought forms and the ego, and back to the reality of anicca - that's what the ATs are there for. That, and to give metta. Nothing more.

Lokuttara,

Well said.

You have explained well many misconceptions people have about the technique.

My advice to people has always been to not jump to conclusions to anything they read but try and test it for themselves - if it works go ahead, if it doesn't chuck it and move on. And not waste too much time on discussions - for they lead to nowhere.

You can only change yourself through practice and by no other means.

Warmly,
Crystal Palace
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: upekkha on April 14, 2010, 07:40:35 PM
Lokuttara,

I have done the Satipatthana course. that was one of the strongest courses I have sat in my life (not specifically because of the teaching, but my meditation practice). that was the course I went through the intense Bhanga-nana dissolution stage.

In any case, it is true that Goenka does advocate 'being aware' of anything arising ('ah! anger has arisen with these sensations, let me see how long it lasts'). Though he also claims during that course that by observing just sensations one is observing the rest of the 3 foundations of mindfulness. During the Satipatthana course Goenka keeps reminding (and the teacher on this course who is a full-fledged teacher, Acariya) that the technique of focusing all of one's attention on sensations remains the same.

What I am saying is that focusing most of one's attention on sensations and less attention on other phenomena, claiming that sensations are the 'deepest level of the mind' can cause stagnation in one's practice in later stages.
In my own experience, noting anything that arises allows for it to be seen better and objectified. Try and see what works for you.

:)
Good discussion!
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: unprevadedrapture on April 14, 2010, 10:57:36 PM
so i have heard... the buddha taught a lot more than the three characteristics that can be understood through knowledge of impermanence of sensations. a lot more than anicca, anatta and dukkha in general. sankaras can't be eradicated beyond stream entry, etc. vedana is both mental and physical, and sampajanna refers to awareness in general and not neccesarily of impermanence, and bhanga is secondary to jhana e.g. not even included in the canon... knowledge of anicca, anatta and dukkha are not beginner stages in the path and having a substitution for vices like jhana is important for sila and is right concentration. a teacher helps with and in identifying meditative states like jhana that are central to buddhism etc so is important to have for that reason at least...
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Stefan on January 12, 2011, 08:12:18 AM
This is such an irresponsable and dangerous retreat. I can't believe this shit. This Goenka guy is an idiot.

Once, I broke my hand during soccer ...
so ...
soccer is an irresponsible game!! how can anyone claim this sport to be healthy?? And then, all match long I was COVERED IN SWEAT?! Every second of it!!! How can this be good??? please take my advise and stay at home! never try to kick a ball!!


Sorry for the sarcasm, but when I read your post, I had a faint idea WHY your experience was terrible and traumatic.

Stefan broke his hand because Stefan took a wrong step and fell.
Not the ball. Not the ground. Not the referee. It was my mistake.


And if you would have informed yourself BEFORE attending the course, you would have been prepared that you do NOT enter a cosy picnic.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Stefan on January 12, 2011, 08:56:18 AM
so ... after having posted this ... since this is an old thread I think you'll probably never read this, but someone will ...

I seriously hope you feel better, and that you will find/ have found a good way of meditating for yourself.
A good friend of mine flipped out after a Goenka-Course. It took her years to get back to "near normal".

After this truly terrible and traumatic experience (for her as well as for me) it took me fifteen years to feel stable enough to attend a course myself. Years of Yoga and meditations and practicing self-discipline in different ways got me in the right state to truly benefit from this course.

And still it was friking hard (  ;) especially up to day seven, the day you escaped ... )!
I would have gone down fifteen years earlier, that's for sure. So ... you have all of my true sympathies!

But your lesson from that course is:
If you try to swim across a river and fail ... it's somehow very childish to blame the river.
It was your mistake to jump into the river just because some people said it's nice.

Metta on and on and on and on ....
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Morning Dew on January 12, 2011, 01:09:02 PM
You are a funny guy  I like your stile stefan :)

My mama said meditation is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you'r gonna get.

Friendly
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Stefan on January 12, 2011, 02:49:54 PM
My mama said meditation is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you'r gonna get.

and don't eat them all in one go ...  ;D

... yeah I tried being earnest but it led me nowhere.

btw. I like your Avatar!
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: ivana on January 12, 2011, 07:08:23 PM
You are a funny guy  I like your stile stefan :)

My mama said meditation is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you'r gonna get.

Friendly

Che you made me laugh. I like movie Forrest Gump
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on January 12, 2011, 11:30:31 PM
I'd like to introduce Stefan to everyone. As you can see from his post count he didn't join the forum yesterday. He joined the day it started probably. We both were part of the original Vipassanaforum.com set up by a good friend. That friend decided to kill the forum as it wasn't what he wanted it to be, at very short notice - it was however quite wonderful, though not his expectation. Within a week or ten days I think, MetaJoey and myself decided to relaunch the site. We couldn't get hold of vipassanaforum.com for tech reasons but got .net and .org (now we have .com again as well - all three will bring you here).

Stefan is a very wonderful and generous and funny and wise guy. For a year or so??? he's been busy and not posting. It is a very great pleasure to have him active again - for however long that lasts :)

Hope you don't mind Stefan.

Much love,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: joy on January 13, 2011, 04:32:48 AM
Stefan is a very wonderful and generous and funny and wise guy.

When Stefan surfaced again on 9th Jan'11, something bottom of my heart start dancing, I don't no why!

TIB is right again when he said wise guy is always charming, wonderful and generous and funny as well.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: dragoneye on January 13, 2011, 05:40:17 AM
I am very glad this post came to my attention. It allowed me to put in to context, here, my own experience with a Goenka course; I left on the ninth day. I don't know why to this day. I had gone well past any negative sensations and basically, felt like the Silver Surfer, every session, as I scanned my body. It was very sweet, and I was very high.
I have to say, I don't even know why I went though; so maybe, that is why I left.
Luckily for me, I guess, the river was a welcome sensation.
Now, a few years later; I feel the root sensation of my heart energy when I call on it. I believe that I can do that because that is what happened at that sit.
I want to go back; someday I will.
I can see easily, how the experience could overwhelm someone though.
Anyway, enough for now.
Thank you again, with peace and warm blessings,
DE
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Stefan on January 13, 2011, 09:08:00 AM
uh-uh ...  8) (*blushes-behind-sunglasses-again*) ... thanks TIB and Joydeep for being nice!  :)
TIB shouldn't call me wise, though, or some poor fella's going to believe it ...
(*blushes-again-and-is-glad-about-the-opportunity-to-change-subject*)

I am very glad this post came to my attention. It allowed me to put in to context, here, my own experience with a Goenka course; I left on the ninth day. I don't know why to this day. I had gone well past any negative sensations and basically, felt like the Silver Surfer, every session, as I scanned my body. It was very sweet, and I was very high.
I have to say, I don't even know why I went though; so maybe, that is why I left.
Luckily for me, I guess, the river was a welcome sensation.
Now, a few years later; I feel the root sensation of my heart energy when I call on it. I believe that I can do that because that is what happened at that sit.
I want to go back; someday I will.
I can see easily, how the experience could overwhelm someone though.

 :D this is crazy ... I heard about people who liked it and stayed to the end, and I heard about a few people who hated it and escaped ... but feeling like the silver surfer and leaving on day 9 ... this is new ...
thank you for posting it! maybe at this point of your development you personally (unlike most others) didn't need the tenth day ...
or maybe ... I felt like the Hulk most of the nine days (good luck for the coughing guy in front of me that I had it under control), and the tenth day put everything in the right place for me. If you felt like the Silver Surfer already then the tenth day might have been just too much joy and bliss to keep your mind stable ...

METTA!
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: dragoneye on January 13, 2011, 04:07:13 PM
Actually, I don't know how the Silver Surfer "felt." I felt like the Silver Surfer "looks." Maybe thats better :D
Peace all,
Dragoneye
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Stefan on January 14, 2011, 07:38:46 AM
Actually, I don't know how the Silver Surfer "felt."

wasn't he destroying planets before changing career to superhero? ... must have felt rather twisted ...

I felt like the Silver Surfer "looks." Maybe thats better :D

much better  :)
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Venetian on January 15, 2011, 09:51:52 AM
Dear DJ Shaka,

I resisted 36 hours at a Vipassana retreat... :( I realized I couldn't stay without texting the people I love so much in my life so I left...

But I realized that it was my fault if I couldn't cope with the rigid rules of the "Goenka Monastery"...

Now I practice meditation on the style of Krishnamurti: by listening to my thoughts, body, stimulation around in order to develop a more "quiet mind" as John E Coleman would say.

Practice some mindfulness and you'll do fine. We don't need to be born monks in order to have an open non-judgmental free mind.  ;)
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: ivana on January 15, 2011, 11:21:11 AM
Hi Venetian
It is fine to have your opinion here as well and I think we are looking for us by meditation. I was scared to go to my 10days Vipassana course to be only wiht myself. I asked people how I should prepare for it and the best replay was "Do not ask just do it if you want it." I survived 10 days with crazy times and find  very peacefull times as well.I have to use a text of Che. "My mama said meditation is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you'r gonna get."
Take care
Ivana
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: nselkirk on January 15, 2011, 03:23:49 PM
It has been reported that ever since they changed the instructions at the yearly 3-month retreat at IMS from body-sweeping to Mahasi Sayadaw style noting, they have gotten many more people to stream-entry, and basically never looked back.

Upekkha, when did they make this change? It's very interesting to me since I started with his organization but moved away from body-scanning and hence the organization.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Stefan on January 15, 2011, 08:36:00 PM
But I realized that it was my fault if I couldn't cope with the rigid rules of the "Goenka Monastery"...

That's true EXCEPT that it wasn't your "fault". Why a fault? You tried it - respect! You discovered that it is not the time for you to do it - respect! And afterwards, you don't blame the course for it ... respect again!
I can't see any fault.

Ten-day-retreats of any kind are hard work. One has to be ready for it! Of course, you are warned that it won't be a picnic ... but what does this mean? ... we find out there ...
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Stefan on January 15, 2011, 08:50:33 PM
I was scared to go to my 10days Vipassana course to be only wiht myself.

yes I hated the very thought, too. All the way to the course I fought the instinct to escape, to hide, to run away ... me, ten days just sitting around? It WILL be a horror-trip!!

but then, a wonderful miracle happens!
You find out that you are NOT alone ...
every day there are 50 people with similar intention sitting together with you in the Dhamma-hall, everyone confronted with similar issues ... everybody experiencing the same pain when deep-rooted sankharas arise ... everybody experiencing the same bliss when those sankharas dissolve ... everybody anicca ...
I admit that sometimes I didn't even meditate ... sometimes I simply enjoyed sitting between all those meditators ... these were moments of intense "togetherness" that helped me through the VERY hard times I had to endure occasionally.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Stefan on January 15, 2011, 08:50:52 PM
... & Metta to You&You  :)
We are not alone.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: color on January 22, 2011, 07:32:17 PM
Hi, I am so sorry you had this experience. I recently completed the course and felt similarly on day 7. I did feel, I wanted to run, however, staying helped me understand what i was going through.
I suffer from anxiety and at the course I also experienced a lot of anxiety and had a panic attack. I felt like running away and had i not talked to the teacher i would have.  I spoke to the teacher and assured me that this was good.  I remember my reaction when i was told that what i experienced was good, i was getting cleansed in a way. I was getting rid of my old sankaras. I was very skeptical, which I  later realized, contributed to my suffering at the course. I did stay and after my BAD feeling days, I felt great. A feeling I never experienced before.
There was a lot more to my experience that you probably do not want to hear.
In my opinion,the technique is great and if you have had any serious, repressed life trauma it is bound to come up, especially if you had no distractions for 7 days and you were extremely attuned to all your senses.
Also , if you are a person that get influenced by others opinions, reading the reviews and building an expectation may not have been the best approach. Also during day 6 and 7, i realized that this is not a retreat. there is nothing retreaty about it. It is a very difficult course for me at least) . I didin't feel good at all through it. I felt good day 8-9-10 and of course the benefit is amazing in my life after completion and for the people around me.
This will not be what you want to hear but i will say it.  Although you didn't feel good, what happened to you was good. All of your repressed difficulties, trauma, emotional (manifesting itself into physical) pain came out. This often doe not feel good in the moment but now all of this is outside of you, no longer hidden inside. We all often get caught up in feeling GOOD and forget there are BAD feelings inside that we often try to avoid and push away.
I advise you to try the course again and follow the rules exactly, talk to the teacher daily! You are bound to succeed and to have the experience you have, not the one you wish you would have. Your current emotion will pass, and when you are ready try again.
Be Happy
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Morning Dew on January 22, 2011, 10:11:33 PM
Hi color welcome aboard and thank you for this very personal contribution. I respect greatly people talking through their actual experience.
Thank you.

Friendly
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Jeeprs on January 23, 2011, 04:58:57 AM
HI Color -  thanks, very important contribution, I hadn't thought of that at all.

I have done one 10-day retreat, and want to do another sometime in the future.

Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Andrew on January 31, 2011, 05:11:01 AM
Though I must admit I skipped the last 5 pages, ( I really should be working...) I haven't noticed anyone mention this type of 'malpractice' in other religions. For the record, I have seen 3 people close to me have massive psychotic episodes (hospitalization in a near vegetative state) in a pentecostal church revival known as 'the toronto blessing'. They never really recovered. So for me, messing with the mind by forcing it to 'let go' or whatever is extremely dangerous.

I hope to achieve a balanced state of mind which keeps desire, aversion etc from dominating my life. If it is capable of more, then so be it.

I feel fortunate to have read this thread, as I was looking at doing one of these 10 day retreats, but to hear that it is no different from the fanaticism I grew up with, just a different brand, has kept me from great disappointment. Also, for the record, I could never get with 'the program' in christianity, in the words of Paul Dempsey (band: Something for Kate) "it was like trying to think in reverse".

"World Negation" and nihilism is entrenched in religion of all types, and I find it boring and passe to see it being touted as the next best thing by some other 'teacher' who seems to feel it is a big secret.
 
I came out of religion without losing my mind, so again, thanks for the great thread and warning. I appreciate the biological notes by the way, Irreverent Buddhist (Matthew).
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Andrew on February 01, 2011, 08:21:43 AM
In retrospect, the previous post i made is more of a reaction to my own experiences than anything considered about the sn goenka movement which I have no experience of. I have seen posts by others saying how much they got out of it, so sorry to anyone I've offended, that is not my intention. I wish those who haven't benefited all the healing they require and the movement the wisdom to improve the course if that is what is needed.

love

Andy
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Morning Dew on February 01, 2011, 08:34:06 AM
Quote
so sorry to anyone I've offended

No one offended here  :)  no worries at all. We are all aware where reactions come from and that is the very reason we all practice mindfulness/awareness, to react less and respond more. Try not to be hard on your self, rather be gentle and let go of it and return back to calming your body with each in and outbreath noticing thoughts and emotions, bodily sensations letting go of them without judging them.

Happy practicing!
Friendly Che  :)
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: chintan on February 01, 2011, 04:23:54 PM
Hi Daydreamer - Welcome to the Sangha :). You make an important point about World negation and nihilism - these are crutches and philosophical concepts used by some religions. Hopefully not by this group of meditators.

When the body is aching / mind is a cesspool of feelings of lust / hatred / disgust and you realize that the seemingly easy task of focusing your breath on your nostrils is no so easy - trust me there is nothing abstract - the pain / frustration and feeling of helplessness is all very real. All who go through a Goenka retreat (maybe other retreats too) go through these feelings and stages - most are able to hold on to the practice and some are not able to. Each person has a very personal experience - its not easy to share using words.

Its like any other coaching camp.

With Metta.


Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Jhana4 on February 01, 2011, 09:05:48 PM
I have my problems with S.N. Goenkas retreats, but I also think some of the criticisms of it are flat out unfair.

I went on two of those retreats and think they were incredibly valuable experiences.   Ones I might not have had as a college student as other retreat centers wanted fees I could not afford.

I think it comes down to that "not everything is for everybody".

I was well prepared for the retreats.
 
- I had a part time job that ran from 7am - 1pm so getting up an hour earlier at 4:30 am was no tragedy for me
- Years of karate, starting from my teen years got me used to feeling pain to train for something
- I had meditated regularly at some temples and done some day long retreats
- I had studied the Pali Cannon a bit so Goenka's ideas didn't sound too culty or freaky
- I had been a vegan for a few years, so the meatless meals didn't freak me out.  The meals were actually fancier than what I was used to as a student.

Had I been a person without those advantages expecting the retreat to some NuAge experience I think I probably would have made some of the same comments people in this thread and elsewhere on the web have made.

I do have problems with the centers.

I thought the videos worked, but modern life is impersonal enough without being taught meditation by a video.  After having talked with some of the head teachers in some long conversations I was not impressed with the depth of their thought or world views.   Some of them seemed like idealouges at best and not too bright at the worst.   It made me decide that meditation alone is likely not enough to make a person's mind grow -- which in itself is a valuable lesson, worth the two trips up there.

Again, I think it comes down to not everything is for everyone.






Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Stefan on February 19, 2011, 04:18:24 PM


I think it comes down to that "not everything is for everybody".


... and not anytime.



After having talked with some of the head teachers in some long conversations I was not impressed with the depth of their thought or world views.   Some of them seemed like idealouges at best and not too bright at the worst.   It made me decide that meditation alone is likely not enough to make a person's mind grow -- which in itself is a valuable lesson, worth the two trips up there.


Yes ... on those retreats it is the same with cooks and teachers ... you have to be lucky to get a good one  ;) I was immensely lucky with both. This teacher I met there was close to "enlightened" from my rather limited point of view. I know others who were unlucky with their teachers but still learned a lot from those retreats.
There are legions of people who want to do a Goenka retreat. Many years ago Goenkaji decided to appoint teachers and build the big thing. In this very moment it was clear that there would be stupid teachers and the whole bunch of problems every big organisation has to deal with. But: if Goenkaji had decided to teach only by himself in his Dhamma-hall and sent all those myriads of students home without teaching them at least indirectly ... would that have been better?

No.

Metta, Stefan
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on February 21, 2011, 06:09:00 PM
...... So for me, messing with the mind by forcing it to 'let go' or whatever is extremely dangerous.....

You can't "force the mind to let go". Letting go does not involve force - it involves letting go of force.

Warmly,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Andrew on March 01, 2011, 02:18:06 AM
...... So for me, messing with the mind by forcing it to 'let go' or whatever is extremely dangerous.....

You can't "force the mind to let go". Letting go does not involve force - it involves letting go of force.

Warmly,

Matthew


Hi Matthew,

It would be a question of semantics what I mean, perhaps let go is the wrong phrase, but it involved force and was a state of reckless abandon mentally.  You may remember the "Toronto Blessing" being in the news in the mid 90's? 2 of my friends ended up in a states which 'nervous breakdown' doesn't seem to describe. One was hospitalized for months and was mostly vegetative, I lost contact and it was very hushed up what happened eventually, I don't think he ever recovered. The other eventually got some sort of sanity back, but gain weight alarmingly and is socially stunted.

My concern is that forcing beyond what a person is ready for is possible and is dangerous. It seems that people have done this sort of thing on these retreats, and I'm pretty sure it's the same type of animal; untrained leaders, emotional fragile devotees and a general abandon of common sense.

Perhaps 'psychological recklessness' is a better why of describing it.

Could be wrong about Goenka, what I've seen sounds similar though; at the time the general message was "Let go, and let God', 'Jump in the river of God', 'Get out in the deep'. that sort of thing. Different kettle, same shade of black. :(

love

andy
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Morning Dew on March 02, 2011, 05:15:00 PM
Quote
I'm pretty sure it's the same type of animal; untrained leaders, emotional fragile devotees and a general abandon of common sense.


I cant tell anything at all about Goenka-who guy because I know so little about him but this retreat has nothing to do with him I feel but with Oneself.
Decades of mind conditioning can not be underestimated and the power of such an ignorant mind IS strongly rooted into a habitual perception which will resist such intense retreat causing such terrible and traumatic experiences.
I feel that retreats are best to be done after one has relaxed into the body for a few month and got the insight into the rise and fall of all things (thoughts, emotions, sensations).
I will have more to tell about retreats once I have done my first 10 day Calm-abiding retreat in July this year.

Until then  :-X

Friendly Che   ;)
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: siddharthgode on March 02, 2011, 06:00:40 PM
well i always felt the whole technique is soo well formed that it only unfolds the truth you r ready for. may be i am wrong because i never had a bad childhood.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: atomjack on April 18, 2011, 06:53:35 AM
To this day while I meditate, now and then negative thoughts and emotions come up from memories of my Goenka retreat from over 2 years ago. While I feel on the surface I've let it go,  I know that deep inside there is still something holding on to the past that tells me I wish I never went on that retreat. As much as I try to stay present and have become a more confident meditator, for some reason, random thoughts of my time there practicing Goenka meditation still appear.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Morning Dew on April 18, 2011, 07:35:01 AM
I dont know anything about Goenka or any other retreats but last week I meditated 3x40 minutes and this invoked such an uncomfortable overwhelming feeling of loneliness so disorientating and cold.
I fell into this feeling holding me so fast I could barely breed. I did plan to meditate a few more times but after this overwhelming experience I collected my stuff and left the summer house returning to my city home.

I was thinking for myself later on "what would happen if I was on a retreat and such would happen"? I dont think I am near ready for taking a retreat or maybe am.

Dusko
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Andrew on April 18, 2011, 08:27:11 AM
Hello my friend,

I am at work, wisdom would say I should wait to get home to reply, but heh, we both know how wise I'm not!

simply, I feel that you are holding some part of your being in contempt.

Let me know if this 'gets a reaction' and I will elaborate if you want on what I have seen in myself reflected in your words at times.

love

andy
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on April 18, 2011, 01:43:43 PM
Dusko,

It seems that you have been through a Dark Night stage but may have more to come. This would not be surprising given your history that you have shared.

In peeling the layers of this onion the middle way is just as important as at any other point on the path. Don't be too hard on yourself and don't be too easy on yourself.

Warmly,

Matthew
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Alexanderjohn on April 20, 2011, 01:53:45 AM
Quote
I feel that you are holding some part of your being in contempt.

This resonates with me also, I too have felt that kind of feeling of loneliness although mine was more a feeling of suffocation, like however i tried to let go I wasn't letting myself breath naturally and freely. I think this may have started from the Goenka retreat I did, I probably took it too seriously and as a result denied certain aspects of my "self" that I believed to be unskillful. It allowed me to gain insight into my suffering mind but as a result I reacted a little to it and started almost blaming the "ego", its only now I'm genuinely starting to see I have to let it be as it is, let me be as I think I am but practice to see beyond it and just keep smiling. Not "try" to get rid of it as such because that just seems to cause despair. I think thats probably why many of these "terribly and traumatic" experiences happen because the mind is seen "as it is" and its bloody scary and filled with dukkha so you reject it, but it just plain doesn't work like that.

Just rambling here really,
Alex
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Andrew on April 20, 2011, 08:58:19 AM
Hi Alex,

Being indoctrinated by any belief system can lead to what you are describing. And I have seen it growing up as well, seemingly happy people being convinced that they are hopeless sinners and going to all sorts of emotional lengths week after to week to deal with it. I've seen it lead to sickness and suicide. Not a good idea to be blaming anything that you also identify to be you!.


It's such a natural thing to do though, so you can't even blame yourself for blaming!

Ramble on my friend, I like reading your thoughts..!

love

andy




Title: DJ Shaka - still out there?
Post by: quantum mystic on February 05, 2015, 02:24:51 PM
Hello. I realize this is a long shot as it's been 5 years since the original post, but i wanted to ask it DJ Shaka is still out there (meaning in the forum)? I ask as i would like to know how he is doing as someone who also had great difficulty and suffered following my first Goenka retreat. I can't seem to find his contact as he seems to be a 'guest'. Anyway, I'll wait to hear.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Quardamon on February 06, 2015, 06:17:03 PM
Hello Quantum  Mystic,
It is as you supposed: DJ Shaka is no longer active on this forum. He had not been for quite a while, otherwise I would remember his name - I suppose. Sorry for that.
Apart from that, you are free to ask questions or tell your story if you feel it would help you or others.
Be well,
Quardamon
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Luscious on February 09, 2015, 10:52:07 AM
One thing I learnt early on in my practice is that meditation is not a fix. It is not just another thing you can use to "feel good" and distract yourself.  Meditation is about taking responsibility for your own mind. Learning equanimity and cultivating peace and clarity.  Perhaps these bad feelings you experienced need to be faced? Perhaps they have been buried deep and this meditation brought them to the surface?  Meditation is not easy for anyone. It's a hard road. It's the road less traveled, it can be lonely and painful at times but it's worth it. Ignorance may be bliss but it is not liberation. I hope you continue your practice and find a way to find peace with the difficult emotions and thoughts arising for you.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Stefan on February 16, 2015, 07:18:29 PM
In a way it is like detoxification. Noone feels good while throwing up. But still it is better than to keep the poison inside.
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Vivek on February 17, 2015, 01:15:54 PM
Welcome back, Stefan!
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Matthew on February 25, 2015, 02:33:01 PM
Welcome back, Stefan!

I'll second that.

:) Good to see The Marvellous Omannobazong back ...
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Stefan on February 26, 2015, 06:11:33 PM

 :) missed you all, too!
Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Vishal on April 05, 2017, 12:37:13 PM
This is quite an old post now but has some shockingly excessive views. I just joined the group, but I think it still needs some positive inputs. I am not sure if DJ Saka is out of his trauma or not (May be not) but I still wish him best luck and Metta. Found some quite dangerous and I can easily say absolutely baseless views about the courses from the staff member Matthew and some other guests and members about the technique of Goenka Vipassana which is actually the second patthana of the Mahasattipathana Sutta by the Buddha himself.

"And how does a monk remain focused on feelings in & of themselves? There is the case where a monk, when feeling a painful feeling, discerns, 'I am feeling a painful feeling.' When feeling a pleasant feeling, he discerns, 'I am feeling a pleasant feeling.' When feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he discerns, 'I am feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling.'

Yes we all have freedom to have our own views about anything. However, the point is our views are based on our perceptions, assumptions and fears which mostly are incorrect and immature. The wisdom is what liberates and that comes from experience based on this it can be deducted that all views are wrong views till they are replaced with understanding or WISDOM.

I see some people writing about Goenkaji Vipassana have not even attended a single course to be able to talk about it. How can one make outrageous claims about moon if you have not been to one or have not even seen one :-).

I am happy for the people who attended the course and then they have some constructive feedbacks and some negative experiences about the course. However, something that you find is negative can be positive or may be life changing for others. It is all based on our minds and up to some extent culture we come from. Like adults living with parents is normal and respectable in East, where as in west it is laughed upon.

All I can say is the forum for now sounds demeaning one method of meditation which works for hundreds of thousands of people and glorifying other which can be equally good for all and may be for some special set of people like respected Monks.

If this is the case then where are we leading ourselves to. Are we learning from each other or just indulging in endless fights and arguments??


Title: Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
Post by: Manohar Shrestha on April 05, 2017, 05:59:37 PM
Thank You Vishal for your more balanced post.

In fact, each and every normal person has defilement (old conditioning) related to aversion, craving and ignorance. Vippasana is a practice for developing awareness and remaining equanimous for eradicating defilement.

Initially, a meditator has to deal with old conditioning related to aversion i.e.  gross sensations. During the retreat, one develops awareness but if a meditator is not equanimous or do not have ability to become equanimous then he or she may react like DJ.
 
There is no doubt that the course is very demanding. One need do get more information prior to participating in the course. In fact, guidance from old studeent would be very helpful. Moreover, a person should check whether he or she is mentally and physically fit to participate in the course or not.