Author Topic: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat  (Read 124481 times)

LisaTech

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #25 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...

wildfox7

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #26 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.




Matthew

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #27 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
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

poiqwepoi

  • Member
Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #28 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










   

peter_goble

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #29 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

ohhaithere

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #30 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.

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.
« Last Edit: February 22, 2010, 12:20:12 AM by ohhaithere »

ohhaithere

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #31 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.)

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #32 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
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

atomjack

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #33 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.

chjones

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #34 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.

chjones

  • Guest
Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #35 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/

I really found it helpful listening to him detail his experience and post psychotic experience, getting better. 

faltu

  • Guest
Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #36 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"
« Last Edit: April 09, 2010, 12:14:23 PM by faltu »

atomjack

  • Guest
Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #37 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.

Crystal Palace

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #38 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
"Abstain from unwholesome actions,
Perform wholesome actions,
Purify your mind"

Buddha

Jhananda

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #39 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.

kidnovice

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #40 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 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.



May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.


faltu

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #42 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.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2010, 07:36:11 AM by faltu »

faltu

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #43 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.

faltu

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #44 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.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2010, 08:15:43 AM by faltu »

Matthew

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #45 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
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

faltu

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #46 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.

faltu

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #47 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 !

 ::)

kidnovice

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #48 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...
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

kidnovice

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #49 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, 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. 
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.