Author Topic: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.  (Read 2829 times)

TheJourney

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Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« on: February 04, 2017, 04:59:28 AM »
http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=18275

The link is a blog of someone who did 21 years of committed goenka vipassana.

Another data point to decide if you want to continue the practice when you don't feel comfortable with the technique.

raushan

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2017, 07:52:49 AM »
Reading your posts has certainly aroused the doubts in the mind. Currently, I have been doing Goenka Ji Vipassana for almost one year, mostly Anapana. I certainly found improvement.
I would also like to read other thoughts on it.

stillpointdancer

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2017, 10:46:19 AM »
Hi. Never tried Goenka, but your link was really interesting. The blog mirrors some of my experience at a local FWBO center, now the Triratna Order. The aim to be a Western version of Buddhism was excellent' and I never felt pressured to commit to the movement, but I did always feel that the main aim was to perpetuate itself. I guess any movement needs committed members, but past a certain point it should also be for those, like the writer of the blog, who just want to be awakened by following the path.

The sentence, 'It is the maintenance of the organisation first, and your enlightenment second' struck a cord with me. It seems that the maintenance of the order partly depended on you following their particular meditation techniques and following their courses, doing jobs around the center, going on retreats, and so on and so on. You were 'in' if you were following the next part of their structure, aimed at progression to ordination.

In a way I was lucky in that I'd been meditating for many years before finding the center, and knew how to adapt their techniques to what I needed at the time, which was to fill in the gaps that are the inevitable results of doing stuff like this by yourself, without a living teacher. Thanks for sharing.

 
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

TheJourney

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #3 on: February 04, 2017, 04:31:42 PM »
I know someone who did it beyond 5 years and finally stopped doing goenka vipassana because this person feels the initial impetus of spiritual growth has stalled. This person has done at least 6 courses plus serving and 1 satipatthana course.

The closer you are towards Liberation the more  your behavior is like an enlightened being. One AT who practiced for over 25 years was engaged in silly political conversation like how USA controls and own South Korea. He is not Korean. A person close to Liberation is usually quiet and only talks about dhamma. From this I know that 25 or 30 years of body scan wouldn't make any difference.

Of course, a retreat of 10 days with nothing to do but meditate will always produce some kind of initial benefits. For me, I didn't look at political news online for 3 weeks. After that, I picked up the addictive habit of constantly checking news again.

I changed myself through reading dhamma books and reflecting on impermanence. I do daily anapanasati 2 hours a day. This year, my focus is on mindfulness practice based on The Path to Enlightenment II pdf. You can google and download the pdf for free.

I look at every practice to see if the practice conforms to satipatthana.

To me, vipassana ought to be passive activity rather than active activity as in body scan. It ought to see sensation arise and pass away. In body scan, even when you feel your ear you move on to the next spot. You never observe a sensation that arises and seeing it pass away.

When you reach you ear, your mind is going to automatically, very fast, expect what ear is shaped like and induce sensation that is befitting of ear.

When you observe passively, you really don't know where sensation will arise. From a blanket of blind sensation you suddenly feel something arising then you are aware of that arising sensation. You know its presence and you know it slowly disappeared. The mind, having seen this many times, eventually realizes there is no self in control and gives up attachment.

There is no subconscious inducement of sensation. For example, in my mindfulness, I feel light itching sensation like a segment of thread put on my face. Sometimes, I get itch on a spot. As I stay with the itch I see condition changing. It becomes a cluster of pointed sensation like several clustered grains of sand hitting the face. The pointed sensations disappear. I have no idea when I will feel itch and where. I see it's arising, changing condition, and disappearing.

When body scan, you feel itch on nose, you move on to the next spot. You never see the changing condition. You don't see anicca naturally.


raushan

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #4 on: February 05, 2017, 03:04:28 PM »
Hi TheJourney,

Thanks for your response. Can you tell us which technique is this you described above "Seeing the arising and passing the sensation"? where can we read more about it? Also, I have seen in your answers that you practice multiple type of vipassana. Why is it so?

TheJourney

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #5 on: February 05, 2017, 10:17:22 PM »
With regard to itch on a spot disintegrating into clustered points of sensation, I discovered it simply by being told to not scratch during meditation, if possible. I was doing anapanasati regularly in 2016. Even when I wasn't meditating I practiced observing rather than interfering. Eventually, one day I noticed how itch changed its condition.

Late last year I found this website http://awakenetwork.org/forum/kfd-public/13497-the-progress-of-insight-by-kenneth-folk

Kenneth describes similar thing where your experience breaks down into smaller clustered experience. This happens in one of the stage of insight knowledge.

I am aware of few different vipassana techniques:
1. Dynamic vipassana, a constant pattern of arm movements, walking meditation, and any constant motion to maintain present moment. This technique was developed by a layman who became enlightened by it and taught his family members then taught public. It is from Thai. He passed away so it is less known. I have a PDF and chapter 5 talks about his technique and his background. I will let you know the title of pdf when I find it again on my tablet. I have so many pdfs, so I have to look for it.

2. The Path to Enlightenment II. Free pdf. You can google it. Author is enlightened Luang Por from Thai.

3. Mahasi technique

I have experimented all three towards the end of 2016 to see which one is most fitting for me.

Dynamic meditation is great except one hour of arm movement is tiring for me. When driving or on bus, he suggests that you can rub your fingers or whatever you like to do to maintain motion so you stay in present moment.

Mahasi is great except I can only mental note thoughts. I have hard time mental sensations especially when many sensations happen at the same time or when I get rapid successive sensations from one spot.

This year I decided that The Path to Enlightenment is the easiest for me. He explains clearly what is knowing consciousness, what is present moment, what is the condition that one is to be mindful of, and what is mindfulness. I call his technique passive vipassana.

He does say mental noting is not true insight technique, but a beginner may use it to get started; however, to practice insight one needs to abandon mental noting.

2015 I did 30 min breathing meditation per session, then switched to 1 hour per session since Oct 2015. 2 sessions per day.

2016 Did only anapanasati during sitting, but watched mind and practiced mindfulness when not sitting.

Towards the end of year, I tried dynamic meditation, anapanasati, and passive vipassana all in one sitting.

2017 Settled on doing 45 min anapanasati and 30 min passive vipassana per sitting, When not sitting, I do passive vipassana.

In Feb 2016, I experienced access concentration but I stopped that session in the middle of it because I thought it was weird to see colorful 3D chariot wheel hovering at my nose and turning. Research told me that I saw a nimitta. Never been able to see it again, so I thought I give it a break and just do anapanasati for 30 to 45 min for concentration without desire to see it again.

In Dec 2017, I experienced one time -  light seeping through my eye lid though the room was dark. My eye lids were flickering rapidly. This happened while doing passive vipassana. It is described as an A&P experience.

« Last Edit: February 05, 2017, 10:19:15 PM by TheJourney »

dharma bum

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2017, 09:44:00 PM »
Some of the criticism is a bit unfair IMHO. Organizations tend to develop their own dynamics and hierarchies with attendant power structures and power centres. It is not a reflection on the technique as such. I have also come across people with many years of Goenka meditation who did not strike me as wise, but then I have come across many people who struck me as wise with 0 days of meditation behind them. Many of us will never be wise, I'm sorry to say (I might be one of those unfortunate people).

My own impression after my first Goenka retreat was very positive and that has continued with every retreat. However, IMHO the emphasis on sankharas as symptoms of ills is not convincing to me. I also did not buy the theory that observation of sensations will lead to wisdom. My take is that observation of sensations calms the body and mind, but it is really dealing with our issues in the form of self-therapy that makes us calmer and wiser in a lasting way. It is the practise in normal civilian life that will have lasting effect. All IMHO.
Mostly ignorant

Laurent

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2017, 12:36:47 AM »
A lot of people only practice meditation techniques without having really heard the words of Buddha. You find a lot of them in Vipassana courses, because Goenka's teaching does not directly teach the suttas. This could lead to practising meditation with a wrong view.



dharma bum

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2017, 02:59:01 AM »
Quote
A lot of people only practice meditation techniques without having really heard the words of Buddha. You find a lot of them in Vipassana courses, because Goenka's teaching does not directly teach the suttas. This could lead to practising meditation with a wrong view.

I am guessing that Goenkaji's decision to make the teachings secular means that his courses have a slant different from those who come to Vipassana after first getting interested in Buddhism. In my observation, the majority of people who come to the courses in India are not especially interested in Buddhism to start with and may even be put off if there was a suggestion that they were being preached a different religion. Goenkaji's discourses emphasize this point over and over again and it helps that the Buddha's teachings have been assimilated into Hinduism so nothing sounds too foreign to Hindu minds. One may disagree with Goenkaji's approach, but one has to admit that it has been successful in getting many people interested in the Buddha's teachings through vipassana.
Mostly ignorant

Laurent

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2017, 09:54:28 AM »
The teaching in Vipassana courses is strictly buddhist, though.

stillpointdancer

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2017, 11:22:53 AM »
The teaching in Vipassana courses is strictly buddhist, though.

Although what worries me is the modern trend towards secular vipassana meditation, just as there is towards secular mindfulness meditation. As if taking them away from Buddhism is getting the 'good stuff' without having to buy into the spiritual stuff.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Laurent

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2017, 11:53:30 AM »
A person who wants to practice "buddhism" needs to read ancient suttas in addition to his practice, whatever this practice is.
The problems met by the person of the link is a combination of multiple factors whose Goenka's incomplete spreading of the dhamma is a part.
However, i could not be in a sulk about secular vipassana meditation, because if more people, rulers and leaders were practising it, it would change the world  :angel:
« Last Edit: February 07, 2017, 11:59:00 AM by Laurent »

dharma bum

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2017, 04:11:08 PM »
Laurent, I agree with you. I'm only speculating why Goenkaji's discourses can seem a bit off to Westerners and to some westernized Indians as well. They are adapted for an older generation of Indians who are primarily Hindu. Goenkaji possibly didn't want to alienate people by preaching a new (old) religion. It also works in India - it is not necessarily dishonest. Indians are comfortable with multiple religions. So while ostensibly the teaching is secular, in practice, Indians absorb them into their religious practice, rather than shift allegiance to a different religion.

A lot of westernized urban folks are secular of course and some of these adopt Buddhism when they dig a bit deeper.

That might also be the reason why the Goenka organization can seem not very mindful of people's medical issues. There isn't that much consciousness of mental health in India. People don't visit doctors as often as they do in the west. This is likely true of Burma as well.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2017, 04:24:38 PM by dharma bum »
Mostly ignorant

Jsker

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2017, 03:18:36 AM »
Thanks TheJourney, interesting blog.

I started vipassana practice following the Mahasi method, though changed to Goenka early on to take advantage of the 10 day courses. After doing two courses and practicing Goenka's method the last few years, I've reverted back to the Mahasi method as it just feels more natural for me - this wasn't an easy decision.

Despite no longer following the Goenka method I found the organisation (at least in Melbourne, Australia) to be great, though I can't say I was heavily involved. The discussion in the blog about moral judgement (e.g. about family values - marriage, kids, etc.) seems kind of odd, and certainly not what I'd expect, though if that was the case sounds like he made the correct decision to distance himself.

Peace
Peace out

TheJourney

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2017, 06:57:08 PM »
Joker,

Are you at a stage where you just know instead of mental noting? The author who wrote "The Path to Enlightenment II" says that mental noting is preptatory stage. It is not insight practice yet. The author was a layman who started meditation as a child. He had few teachers, but his teachers always answer his questions vaguely. Anyway, his teacher confirmed his enlightenment. With the support of his wife, he ordained. You can download the PDF for free.

I know Mahasi says you can drop mental noting when you are proficient, so basically the two teachers teach the same. The PDF defines what is not mindfulness and what is.

mettajoey

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2017, 03:34:26 AM »
Joker,

Are you at a stage where you just know instead of mental noting? The author who wrote "The Path to Enlightenment II" says that mental noting is preptatory stage. It is not insight practice yet. The author was a layman who started meditation as a child. He had few teachers, but his teachers always answer his questions vaguely. Anyway, his teacher confirmed his enlightenment. With the support of his wife, he ordained. You can download the PDF for free.

I know Mahasi says you can drop mental noting when you are proficient, so basically the two teachers teach the same. The PDF defines what is not mindfulness and what is.

I feel this comment is not the least bit helpful. I have no idea what you are talking about; he said/she said. Please speak from your own experience; which is the only truth you can offer. And the one I would very much like to hear.
The best type of meditation is the one that you'll do

behappy123

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #16 on: February 11, 2017, 03:19:48 PM »
I had done a little research by way of youtube videos, little reading, but never came across anything that seemed overwhelmingly troubling.  After doing a 10 day course, I think the analogy that works best for me is one to physical fitness.

If all I eat are bad oily, carby foods, ice cream, taco bell, pizza, burgers (they taste great! and provide so much comfort  8) ) my body is going to start to show the signs and symptoms.  Obesity, clogged arteries, shortness of breath, weak knees, etc.  However if we switch to a much healthier diet, and eat only the things our bodies need, the natural Metabolic rate kicks in and our bodies naturally will come to a stable weight and the issues tend to diminish or maybe even go away.

The same goes for our minds.  The constant churn of thoughts, past to future, judging, daydreaming, etc are what I equate to eating bad foods, again providing comfort.  Ultimately if we practice vipassana, focus on breath, focus on subtler and subtler sensations in the moment, we reduce the amount of fat we intake into our minds and now by the natural desire of our minds to be in a state of happiness, similar to the bodies natural metabolic rate, kicks in and the mind becomes more stable and the observations of pain begin to diminish, eventually go away.

Just as injuries happen in working out/exercising, injuries happen in the mind.

Just some thoughts that helped me...

In regards to Goenka's technique, I have to say after my first 10 day meditation I was having thoughts of devoting my entire life to Goenka's Vipassana, becoming a teacher, opening a center, etc.  However I've talked myself off the ledge and now I'm not going that route.  I will give credit to the environment and ambiance that is created at these centers which is why I'm going back because I can't come close to recreating that environment where I live.

TheJourney

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Re: Always good to do research before you start vipassana.
« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2017, 02:57:50 AM »
Quote
   I have no idea what you are talking about; he said/she said. Please speak from your own experience; which is the only truth you can offer. And the one I would very much like to hear.

I have tried body scan and mindfulness insight. I abandoned body scan because it is doesn't suit me. I get sweaty hot, active mind that morphs a very calm mind into a very active and talkative (in inner voice) mind, and my brain always become more and more tense.

I switched to anapanasati for sitting and mindfulness in accordance to satipatthana sutta as talked about by the two books I mentioned. Mahasi style is the same after you drop the mental noting. Now, I have begun doing anapanasati first, then vipassana next in the same sitting.

You build concentration with focus on nostril area. For vipassana, you breath with awareness of the whole body. The awareness you have allows you to know changes in the 4 foundations of satipatthana. You can be aware of the physical process in the present moment, but present moment for the mind is different. When you are lost in thought and realize that you have been lost in thought. You recollect what just happened. This moment is the present moment for knowing the condition of the mind.

This vipassana is supported by Mahasi, Dr Yates (neuro scientist who wrote the book on Mind Illuminated), and the Thai monk who wrote the enlightenment pdf.

I find this technique so much more effective, because I can practice when sitting and practice all day long. Over time, the awareness becomes strong that it becomes automatic. I prefer technique that is doable anywhere and at all time. Only when you practice all day long can you see quick progress. This technique allows you to practice all day long without getting tired as you would with other techniques.

I let my self be aware of sensations without picking and choosing. Sometimes, certain bodily sensation will arise that would get more attention from me because I have seen them arise and disappear or rapid pulsation of sensations. I have seen itch that changes from one gross spot to many tiny pain sensation then disappear. I call it pain but not painful. I have seen light pain sensation showing up at different locations then disappear within seconds.

These have obvious 3Cs that you want to know.

 

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