Author Topic: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience  (Read 8995 times)

xeno

S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« on: April 10, 2012, 09:36:36 PM »

Hello,

i just did a vipassana retreat as taught by S.N. Goenkain noble silence for 10 days. Before that I attended two courses one sitting one serving. So I left because of some problems of the given technique which I really like to be discussed here.

The daily routine is:

4:00 am       Morning wake-up bell
4:30-6:30 am       Meditate in the hall or in your room
6:30-8:00 am       Breakfast break
8:00-9:00 am       Group meditation in the hall
9:00-11:00 am       Meditate in the hall or in your room according to the teacher's instructions
11:00-12:00 noon       Lunch break
12noon-1:00 pm       Rest and interviews with the teacher
1:00-2:30 pm       Meditate in the hall or in your room
2:30-3:30 pm       Group meditation in the hall
3:30-5:00 pm       Meditate in the hall or in your own room according to the teacher's instructions
5:00-6:00 pm       Tea break
6:00-7:00 pm       Group meditation in the hall
7:00-8:15 pm       Teacher's Discourse in the hall
8:15-9:00 pm       Group meditation in the hall
9:00-9:30 pm       Question time in the hall
9:30 pm       Retire to your own room--Lights out
The Precepts:
All who attend a Vipassana course must conscientiously undertake the following five precepts for the duration of the course:
1.   to abstain from killing any being;
2.   to abstain from stealing;
3.   to abstain from all sexual activity;
4.   to abstain from telling lies;
5.   to abstain from all intoxicants.
There are three additional precepts which old students (that is, those who have completed a course with S.N. Goenka or one of his assistant teachers) are expected to follow during the course:
6.   to abstain from eating after midday;
7.   to abstain from sensual entertainment and bodily decorations
8.   to abstain from using high or luxurious beds.

In preparation for this course I started meditating daily half an hour in the morning and evening.
The first three days are the teaching of Annapana in which I progressed quite well as I used almost the whole time and get deeper and deeper in concentration till I felt sensations on the fourth days on a fingerprint seized surface above the upper lip. Sensations are basically for the technique taught there. There are seen as the root of Sankaras, deep routes complexes and conditionings of the mind.

As I am from a religious background (not very rigid) I was searching for a spiritual practice helping me to become a better person, but the discourse held on video screen by Goenka continuously critics religious meditations like mantras. They shall just deal on the surface. This is my first doubt. At first, I see it as a presence of ego as he not just recommend “his” technique but constantly has to deny others. He also claims that this technique – the observation of bodily sensations – is the real technique taught by the Buddha. But my biggest problem is as he states that it is an art of living not a religion. But the presumption that we all suffer is –despite it is true out of experience - still a presumption, a belief. He also continues to describe experiences of enlightenment where one feels free of energy or a experience of truth which is beyond words. Since we haven’t experienced it yet it is our trust or belief. On the contrary he denounces mantras to be belief. But both, vipassana and mantras are therefore based on beliefs. He switches the way of logical argumentation to beliefs as he likes which makes me distrustful. Since we are dealing with experiences which are beyond words we cannot apply with logic therefore we cannot say logically how mantras do NOT work. Another problem was that the discourse was shown after 10 hours of meditation where one is easily to say yes. I was afraid of brainwashing and either where looking for failures in his discourse or tried not to listen to.

Then on the forth there is regularly the introduction to the technique of vipassna (better said this type). Here I decided to step out. The students are encouraged to sit Addithana for 2 hours as he explains the technique. While that he gives for many times various types of sensations just like the feeling of heat, coldness vibrations, tingling, expanding, distracting, itching etc. He tells this really many times. For that I was afraid that the true experience suffers. What if one just feels these experiences because he hears about them in a state of unconsciousness? Is then not rather a self-hypnosis that a meditation. Wouldn`t it be enough to give a range of possible sensations once?  I became very angry at this time.

Later one he repeats the words annichae the rule of impermanence again and it again, I counted it: at the end of the meditation it was named three times in pali and three times in English. Again I was afraid of brainwashing. If he would say “Constance” again and again would we experience Constance? We shall we have an experience very much influenced by words? Is this a true experience?


Having this in mind I did not feel like being able to trust and therefore to continue the practice for the rest of the course. If there is a contradiction between what you believe to be right and what you do it creates more problems, I thinks, so after the sitting I calmed down and later on had an interview the teacher where I briefly explained some of my problems mentioned above. He just let me go without discussions. After asking him for using the internet to organize my return he said (I am not 100% sure) that it is not “possible” but the manager let me use is, so the assistance teacher broke his sila as it was possible. He as the person with the most experience shouldn’t do that it speaks again against the fruits, doesn’t it?

I posted this because this teaching was my introduction to meditation and I really appreciated it till yesterday, no it felt like I lost the ground under my feet. I want to read your opinions on my experience and my left. I hope I haven’t judged to hard.

It would be nice to hear your opinions and maybe links to other teachings which can be further steps on my search.

Metta to all of you
Robert.

rob

Re: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2012, 10:22:14 PM »
Although I personally have not attended a SN Goenka retreat, I think your assessment of a word-induced experience is totally valid. Also... and maybe it's just the nature of the internet... but I've read a LOT of negative things about Goenka franchise retreats, specifically his criticism of other techniques and use of over-complicated and "editorialized" methods that appear nowhere in the suttas.

So while I can't do much to personally weigh in on your experience, I'd ask that you not be too discouraged by it. From everything I've read, Goenka is polarizing to say the least.

Andrew

  • Member
    • friends tell me things, sometimes I listen.
    • Letting Go.
Re: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2012, 01:15:33 AM »
Hi Robert,

Don't get too hung up on it. This isn't about teachers, or technique, it is about ending (a certain type) of stress. If it didn't gel with you, take what you can, and leave the rest, otherwise like Rob pointed out, you may end up on one side or the other of a particularly unproductive debate.

For what it is worth, all techniques have some 'brain washing' involved. There must be a level of confidence in the technique for it to work, so it sounds like that confidence should be invested elsewhere in your case. That confidence itself is only a stepping stone, and so having the ground fall away is something worth getting used too  ;)

Teachers will disappoint (same as students!), that is part of life, keep your own counsel and keep practising. Perhaps have a read of the Meditation 101 articles on the front page of the forum and see if something is useful. There is plenty of good things that can come out of what you have experienced if you can let go of the bit that didn't gel. After a while your confidence will find what is stable in all techniques, the core mechanism of freedom (which is beyond words and can only be experienced).

metta to you too

Andrew
getting it done

Vivek

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    • Advaita & U Ba Khin's tradition
Re: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2012, 06:48:36 AM »
Can't speak for everyone, but, I have never felt that any kind of "brain-washing" happens during the retreats. Goenkaji definitely does not want any one to take the technique, the intstructions and the teaching without checking for themselves. Certain words like anicca are repeated in the instructions so that the students do not lose focus on the reality of the moment and understand the true essense of the technique. All kinds of sensations like heat, cold, pressure, pain etc are explained, so that students do not discount/ignore any sensation just because it does not fit their idea of what a sensation must be.   
Let's go beyond this illusion, shall we?

Re: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2012, 07:03:11 AM »
as the above post says "take what is acceptable and leave the rest" is what goenka stress on. why do you think our mind always finds something wrong in anything? it just want to escape.. i had the similar experience when i first did my vipassana retreat. i was so hung up on experiencing the whole self, going beyond mind n matter , getting enlightened ...... that my mind got agitated beyond control on 7th day when all that anger come up on the surface. its the way mind reacts.

i would suggest that forget everything taught in the retreat discourse. just sit and remove sangharas(remain equanimus to all sensations) and see if it has helped you or not. (atleast for a month).

as for as the mantra meditation goes. since you havnt tried mantra meditation u cant condemn what goenkaji is saying. he says he has tried both and came to that conclusion. experiment first and then compare. what he is saying might be true. but just leave that aside if its hard to accept. he keeps repeating that so that u give a honest try to the technique and if you mix up you might not be able to sense any physical sensations on 4th day and rest of the time might go to waste.

Quote
While that he gives for many times various types of sensations just like the feeling of heat, coldness vibrations, tingling, expanding, distracting, itching etc. He tells this really many times. For that I was afraid that the true experience suffers. What if one just feels these experiences because he hears about them in a state of unconsciousness? Is then not rather a self-hypnosis that a meditation. Wouldn`t it be enough to give a range of possible sensations once?  I became very angry at this time.

as for as the 4th day : i dont know where u got that idea. he keeps on saying (100s of times) do not imagine anything to be there. dont expect anything. just observe and accept whatever there is. he never says u will sense pressure, heat , itching, heavy ...... he says u might. he says u might not sense anything also. he also says not to name any sensation. the important thing is to remain equanimus.
he also says why he does that. many students come and say they have all the above and no sensations. its for them.
 so i dont get it how hypnotizing is involved here??? please expain.

Quote
The students are encouraged to sit Addithana for 2 hours as he explains the technique.
this i think u miss lisnted . its not addithana on the introduction day. and its always for 1 hr. during group sitting.

Quote
Later one he repeats the words annichae the rule of impermanence again and it again, I counted it: at the end of the meditation it was named three times in pali and three times in English. Again I was afraid of brainwashing. If he would say “Constance” again and again would we experience Constance? We shall we have an experience very much influenced by words? Is this a true experience?
lol u were counting the words!!! wait thats not the kind of meditation he taught :)
anyway if u say consciously that everything is impermanent again and again, it does no difference to the practice , the unconscious mind never understands this by just thoughts, thats the whole problem you see.  we r trying to rectify the reacting part of the unconscious . it will stop reacting, if it were to realize that sensations are impermanent. if that happened just by hearing what was said then wow!! that would be nice  ;D no more hard work

Quote
Having this in mind I did not feel like being able to trust and therefore to continue the practice for the rest of the course. If there is a contradiction between what you believe to be right and what you do it creates more problems,
this is very good way to proceed on the path. clear all doubts.

Quote
so after the sitting I calmed down and later on had an interview the teacher where I briefly explained some of my problems mentioned above. He just let me go without discussions. After asking him for using the internet to organize my return he said (I am not 100% sure) that it is not “possible” but the manager let me use is, so the assistance teacher broke his sila as it was possible. He as the person with the most experience shouldn’t do that it speaks again against the fruits, doesn’t it?

well assistant teachers are of absolutely no use if u start asking doubts about technique, they just keep saying let it go , let it go. it pissed me off when i started but latter i understood that its better to find solution to all that within.
as for as braking the silla, are you very sure that he actually knew there was internet facility at the place? did you hear from anybody that he knew or u saw him using? if not then dont you think you are coming to conclusion very soon. he might not know , thats not breaking silla.

Quote
maybe links to other teachings which can be further steps on my search
if you ask me what u need is little more actual practice. intellectual games can take you only so far.

be happy  :)

Lokuttara

  • Member
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Re: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2012, 10:49:47 AM »
I feel it is best not to become preoccupied with the outer form of any organisation or spiritual society, or what they say. Just use the environment you are in to go deeper within and see if you can learn to practice meditation yourself, taking the instructions as sign posts but not definite truths. You have to find out for yourself... so do that, very very slowly. Bit by bit. On a meditation course you are in the perfect environment to explore very deeply the nature of mind and matter, the nature of reality. You are being given good vegetarian food, given a place to sleep, and given a silent environment where you can meditate. It doesn't matter if it's being run by Tibetan Buddhists, Hare Krishnas, or the Osho society. You are exploring bit by bit, coming out of all conditioning, coming out of all brainwashing, this is universal. It's up to you.

The outer forms are always in conflict with one another, are always at war. My technique, your technique, better techniques, worse techniques. It get's very complicated when we keep measuring. So let's stop measuring and just start working.... start working very seriously. And leave down the weapons of division, let go of the outer forms surrounding what is in essence light energy. Start wherever you are and find your own path, your own truth.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 10:52:04 AM by Lokuttara »
"One may be surrounded by great beauty, by mountains and fields and rivers, but unless one is alive to it all one might just as well be dead." Krishnamurti

xeno

Re: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2012, 08:49:03 PM »
he also says why he does that. many students come and say they have all the above and no sensations. its for them.
 so i dont get it how hypnotizing is involved here??? please expain.


i thought that there is hypnose because every student is likely to be in a unconscious state of mind at the end of the day. after meditating 10 hourse i think you are likely to say yes or lets say more likey to say yes.

generally you are more centred the longer the course goes on, therefore i foudn the instruction to the vipassana hypnosing yet he repeated the kind of sensations that might occur. i found it like self affirmation but the voice which is normally your own in this technique is there goenka`s. on the 4th days  and many hours of meditation you sit there and wait for the big secret, the technique of vipassana. i think it is in the nature of the mind that it wants something to happen and I found goenka`s instruction to be encouraging for this process.

to the teacher, i dont want to judge him. i dont know what he knows but i think in most of the vipassana centers there is internet access, at least in the two i visited.


i would suggest that forget everything taught in the retreat discourse. just sit and remove sangharas(remain equanimus to all sensations) and see if it has helped you or not. (atleast for a month).

before i did this retreat I had done it for 6 month BUT just 30 minutes per sitting and i did not follow silla. in this 6 month, i had a hard time, there was some change in my life, but it could have been worse... i started studying at a univversity after a time in which i travelled and enjoyed life (the common - society based - understanding of it) but i cannot actually say whether it was helpful or not because there were so many new things in my life, that i cannot compare this situation to another

now i practising annapana. at least it helps me to keep calm. but I am full of desire and i find out every day again and again that this is the reason for many problems. does annapana cure this desire?

metta

Andrew

  • Member
    • friends tell me things, sometimes I listen.
    • Letting Go.
Re: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2012, 01:13:01 AM »

now i practising annapana. at least it helps me to keep calm. but I am full of desire and i find out every day again and again that this is the reason for many problems. does annapana cure this desire?

metta

calm is where the core of equanimity is found, so yes, that's the plan. It is so easy to think that calm is just the start, but calm is what all the rest is made from. Without calm, there is no path, only (as you pointed out), a mind easily hypnotised and swayed by every desire under the sun. I can think of worse things to be under the influence of that Goenka, so i wouldn't sweat it, just keep moving. To me he seems sincere and as good an influence as you can hope for, don't wait for the perfect teacher, just put into practice what you have already found to work 'to keep calm'.

getting it done

Falkov

Re: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2012, 05:13:45 PM »
Code: [Select]
don't wait for the perfect teacher, just put into practice what you have already found to work 'to keep calm'.
How true!  Even if a person is learning how to play, say, tennis- a $300 /hr coach won't make one a pro player.  Although, at that rate he/she may know a bit more than the average teacher- (hopefully).   The bottom line is you are gonna have to put in your time and lots of it, to find what works and what doesn't for yourself. 

frepie

  • Member
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Re: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2012, 09:05:02 PM »
There is the teaching of the technique and there is Goenka's beliefs and claims. I have been at our Vipassana center 5 times, 3 times for the 10 day retreat.  I practice Goenka's techniques and find it very good but I reject his whole perspective on it.  I do not believe that his teachings directly come from the Buddha. I, too, dislike how he belittles other techniques and how he mixes quantum mechanics with "psychology of enlightenment".

I too, end the retreat being angry about the whole Vipassana organization, hence my quote at the end of my messages in this forum.  I had the chance, in another retreat, to speak with a world renowned therapeutic meditation practice specialist and he told me that the Vipassana organization was filled with fanatics. On the same occasion, a Zen priest also told me that Goenka's organization refused to attend to a Buddhist conference where all Buddhist traditions were invited.  There is no doubt in my mind that parts of the teachings are simply aimed at converting the participants to this version of Buddhism.

But this is just the kernel of the movement. There is still value in the technique and this is why I return. I realize that the evening speeches have their load of propaganda but I am aware of it.  Now what I need to learn, is to watch my anger as it grows as the retreat goes on. This anger is triggered by my refusal to accept being "propagandised" but I could let it flow through me without getting angry.  This is my goal on my next stay: to simply observe the anger manifestation, with as much equanimity as I can.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2012, 05:39:32 PM by frepie »
Meditation makes me angry...

meditation_novice

Re: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2012, 09:31:35 PM »
I agree with you frepie. Good post. The technique is good, i only attend one retreat and i practice it since 2 yrs now and i work for me but as you say i don't like the system behin, the marketing. I think we don't have to forget that is run by human...

Re: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« Reply #11 on: April 14, 2012, 07:18:24 AM »
Quote
i thought that there is hypnose because every student is likely to be in a unconscious state of mind at the end of the day. after meditating 10 hourse i think you are likely to say yes or lets say more likey to say yes.

after 10 hrs of meditation the mind is more calm and tranquil so it can think better than the usual is my view. and what is unconscious state of mind? we get a black out?  ;)

Quote
generally you are more centred the longer the course goes on, therefore i foudn the instruction to the vipassana hypnosing yet he repeated the kind of sensations that might occur. i found it like self affirmation but the voice which is normally your own in this technique is there goenka`s. on the 4th days  and many hours of meditation you sit there and wait for the big secret, the technique of vipassana. i think it is in the nature of the mind that it wants something to happen and I found goenka`s instruction to be encouraging for this process.
\

well pardon me if i am wrong but this is happening because meditation is not in your primary attention. if the instructions are herd once or twice its more than enough to understand it and start working. if the attention keeps jumping to what the instructions are saying and is getting irritated then observe why it doing so. let the instructions be. more you react to it more your mind gives importance to it.

Quote
to the teacher, i dont want to judge him. i dont know what he knows but i think in most of the vipassana centers there is internet access, at least in the two i visited.

since you are not sure its better to be positive isnt it ?  ;D

Quote
before i did this retreat I had done it for 6 month BUT just 30 minutes per sitting and i did not follow silla. in this 6 month, i had a hard time, there was some change in my life, but it could have been worse... i started studying at a univversity after a time in which i travelled and enjoyed life (the common - society based - understanding of it) but i cannot actually say whether it was helpful or not because there were so many new things in my life, that i cannot compare this situation to another

do not compare.

Quote
now i practising annapana. at least it helps me to keep calm. but I am full of desire and i find out every day again and again that this is the reason for many problems. does annapana cure this desire?

looking at it the wrong way mate. its not curing of desires. let the desires be. dont fight them. just be with them and let them pass away. desiring to irradiate desire is also a desire. so it wont happen.


metta
[/quote]

frepie

  • Member
    • Goenka and personnal
    • Looking for answers and trying to loose weight
Re: S.N. Goenka - my retreat experience
« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2012, 05:53:30 PM »

Then on the forth there is regularly the introduction to the technique of vipassna (better said this type). Here I decided to step out. The students are encouraged to sit Addithana for 2 hours as he explains the technique.

This 2 hours period is long indeed but it is not an addithana sitting: you are allowed to move, fortunately. 

While that he gives for many times various types of sensations just like the feeling of heat, coldness vibrations, tingling, expanding, distracting, itching etc. He tells this really many times. For that I was afraid that the true experience suffers. What if one just feels these experiences because he hears about them in a state of unconsciousness? Is then not rather a self-hypnosis that a meditation. Wouldn`t it be enough to give a range of possible sensations once?  I became very angry at this time.

I must admit that this endless repetition of sensations really gets on my nerves too, especially when you are in pain for sitting for such a long stretch of time.  But I don't agree with you that this is done with the goal of suggesting that you feel those sensations. I think it is simply done to make people realize that they are not here to "discover" new, special or extraordinary sensations but only the ordinary ones that happen in our body every moments of our lives but to which we have become so accustomed that we do not notice them anymore.  If Goenka had said: "Observe any sensation that you experience", some people would have noticed only the pain, other would say that they don't feel anything, etc.  My guess is he built up that list after having spent a lot of time answering the same questions by practitioners.
Meditation makes me angry...

 

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