Author Topic: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat  (Read 124436 times)

Matthew

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #75 on: April 14, 2010, 05:36:14 AM »
I honestly think we have "done to death" the issues surrounding Goenka. There is enough historical posting on the site that people can read.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

unprevadedrapture

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #76 on: April 14, 2010, 06:37:12 AM »
That info came from Ven. Thanissaro a leading Western scholar of the Pali Canon so I thought it was worth sharing. It's good as a truth seeker to see the differences between what is in the canon, and what is within Goenka's lineage and the commentaries. An outsiders perspective (esp. within the canon) is always important, because asking questions is a fundamental part of the path. the organization's dynamics again is just something to deal with. It's great and incredible that Goenkaji spread and introduced the Dhamma to so many people.

Matthew

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #77 on: April 14, 2010, 06:46:47 AM »
unprevadedrapture,

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

Warmly, in the Dhamma,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Crystal Palace

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #78 on: April 14, 2010, 06:59:58 AM »

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



hahahaha ;D ;D ;D
"Abstain from unwholesome actions,
Perform wholesome actions,
Purify your mind"

Buddha

upekkha

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #79 on: April 14, 2010, 12:47:34 PM »
Well, obviously the Goenka issue has been argued to the bone already, I haven't even read all the posts in this long thread.

Let me just offer my own personal experience and thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

and keep practicing :)

N.B.

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

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

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

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

Enjoy!

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

To Jhananda:
What do you think of those who say that Jhana and Vipassana are highly related? for example, U Pandita's Vipassana Jhana model.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2010, 01:01:55 PM by upekkha »

Lokuttara

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #80 on: April 14, 2010, 02:39:52 PM »
Don't be fooled though ... no one ever leaves their ego at the door when they go on any kind of course - be it a Goenka course, a Tibetan course, a Zen course or a race course. ;)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lokuttara

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #81 on: April 14, 2010, 03:03:33 PM »
Hi upekka, I just saw your post now! Cool post, and some interesting information there :)

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

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

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




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

I personally know plenty of old students of Goenkas technique who - according to the above fetters - are without any doubt at stream entry. but this is based on my perception of them, and seeing their good deeds and merits day-to-day :)
« Last Edit: April 14, 2010, 03:06:09 PM 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

upekkha

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #82 on: April 14, 2010, 03:58:35 PM »
Hey man,
Those descriptions may or may not be true, as they are not personal experiences of people you can trust, but rather descriptions of scholars who may or may not have practiced meditation and reached levels of enlightenment.
Let's just agree that stream-entry is characterized by experiencing the non-experience of nirvana for the first time.

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

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

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

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

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

Regarding technique-wise: I find, and many others do as well, that just body sweeping is good for passing certain stages (Arising and Passing away), but later on, one finds that one is missing many many other aspects of the thing, many mental formations go on un-objectified (not seen anicca, dukkha and anatta of those). Many emotions, thoughts, volitions, arise without being noticed directly, this leads to a stagnation of one's practice in those later stages. Combining body sweeping with Mahasi noting is a powerful practice for seeing one's physical and mental reality clearly, which in turn leads to progressive stages of enlightenment.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2010, 04:17:54 PM by upekkha »

Lokuttara

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #83 on: April 14, 2010, 06:08:35 PM »
Regarding Goenka courses: As I said, i found and still find them highly helpful, though their cult-like and almost religious characteristics are certainly there, if one chooses to ignore or defend them is something else. Goenka's request for one to choose one technique and one teacher and not talk about other techniques etc is a good example of one which is detrimental to one's practice. different techniques work for different people at different times.

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

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

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

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

This sounds remarkably similar to what you have described in Mahasi?
"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

Crystal Palace

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #84 on: April 14, 2010, 06:41:42 PM »
Nowhere in the Goenka courses are you asked to NOT observe your emotions, thoughts, volitions or supress them. This is a misconception. Not only in the Satipatthana course but even in the ordinary 10 day courses, Goenka asks his students to observe the thoughts once they have sensitised themeselves to the body - and then note the corresponding sensations they feel on the body.

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

Warmly,
Crystal Palace
"Abstain from unwholesome actions,
Perform wholesome actions,
Purify your mind"

Buddha

Crystal Palace

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #85 on: April 14, 2010, 07:01:16 PM »
Don't be fooled though ... no one ever leaves their ego at the door when they go on any kind of course - be it a Goenka course, a Tibetan course, a Zen course or a race course. ;)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lokuttara,

Well said.

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

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

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

Warmly,
Crystal Palace
"Abstain from unwholesome actions,
Perform wholesome actions,
Purify your mind"

Buddha

upekkha

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #86 on: April 14, 2010, 07:40:35 PM »
Lokuttara,

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

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

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

:)
Good discussion!
« Last Edit: April 14, 2010, 07:52:01 PM by upekkha »

unprevadedrapture

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #87 on: April 14, 2010, 10:57:36 PM »
so i have heard... the buddha taught a lot more than the three characteristics that can be understood through knowledge of impermanence of sensations. a lot more than anicca, anatta and dukkha in general. sankaras can't be eradicated beyond stream entry, etc. vedana is both mental and physical, and sampajanna refers to awareness in general and not neccesarily of impermanence, and bhanga is secondary to jhana e.g. not even included in the canon... knowledge of anicca, anatta and dukkha are not beginner stages in the path and having a substitution for vices like jhana is important for sila and is right concentration. a teacher helps with and in identifying meditative states like jhana that are central to buddhism etc so is important to have for that reason at least...

Stefan

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #88 on: January 12, 2011, 08:12:18 AM »
This is such an irresponsable and dangerous retreat. I can't believe this shit. This Goenka guy is an idiot.

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


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

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


And if you would have informed yourself BEFORE attending the course, you would have been prepared that you do NOT enter a cosy picnic.
« Last Edit: January 12, 2011, 08:16:28 AM by stefan »
anicca

Stefan

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #89 on: January 12, 2011, 08:56:18 AM »
so ... after having posted this ... since this is an old thread I think you'll probably never read this, but someone will ...

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

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

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

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

Metta on and on and on and on ....
anicca

Morning Dew

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #90 on: January 12, 2011, 01:09:02 PM »
You are a funny guy  I like your stile stefan :)

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

Friendly

Stefan

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #91 on: January 12, 2011, 02:49:54 PM »
My mama said meditation is like a box of chocolate. You never know what you'r gonna get.

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

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

btw. I like your Avatar!
« Last Edit: January 12, 2011, 02:53:08 PM by stefan »
anicca

ivana

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #92 on: January 12, 2011, 07:08:23 PM »
You are a funny guy  I like your stile stefan :)

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

Friendly

Che you made me laugh. I like movie Forrest Gump

Matthew

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #93 on: January 12, 2011, 11:30:31 PM »
I'd like to introduce Stefan to everyone. As you can see from his post count he didn't join the forum yesterday. He joined the day it started probably. We both were part of the original Vipassanaforum.com set up by a good friend. That friend decided to kill the forum as it wasn't what he wanted it to be, at very short notice - it was however quite wonderful, though not his expectation. Within a week or ten days I think, MetaJoey and myself decided to relaunch the site. We couldn't get hold of vipassanaforum.com for tech reasons but got .net and .org (now we have .com again as well - all three will bring you here).

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

Hope you don't mind Stefan.

Much love,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

joy

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #94 on: January 13, 2011, 04:32:48 AM »
Stefan is a very wonderful and generous and funny and wise guy.

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

TIB is right again when he said wise guy is always charming, wonderful and generous and funny as well.
Joy

dragoneye

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #95 on: January 13, 2011, 05:40:17 AM »
I am very glad this post came to my attention. It allowed me to put in to context, here, my own experience with a Goenka course; I left on the ninth day. I don't know why to this day. I had gone well past any negative sensations and basically, felt like the Silver Surfer, every session, as I scanned my body. It was very sweet, and I was very high.
I have to say, I don't even know why I went though; so maybe, that is why I left.
Luckily for me, I guess, the river was a welcome sensation.
Now, a few years later; I feel the root sensation of my heart energy when I call on it. I believe that I can do that because that is what happened at that sit.
I want to go back; someday I will.
I can see easily, how the experience could overwhelm someone though.
Anyway, enough for now.
Thank you again, with peace and warm blessings,
DE
Dragoneye

Stefan

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #96 on: January 13, 2011, 09:08:00 AM »
uh-uh ...  8) (*blushes-behind-sunglasses-again*) ... thanks TIB and Joydeep for being nice!  :)
TIB shouldn't call me wise, though, or some poor fella's going to believe it ...
(*blushes-again-and-is-glad-about-the-opportunity-to-change-subject*)

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

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

METTA!
anicca

dragoneye

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #97 on: January 13, 2011, 04:07:13 PM »
Actually, I don't know how the Silver Surfer "felt." I felt like the Silver Surfer "looks." Maybe thats better :D
Peace all,
Dragoneye
Dragoneye

Stefan

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #98 on: January 14, 2011, 07:38:46 AM »
Actually, I don't know how the Silver Surfer "felt."

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

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

much better  :)
anicca

Venetian

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Re: TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
« Reply #99 on: January 15, 2011, 09:51:52 AM »
Dear DJ Shaka,

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

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

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

Practice some mindfulness and you'll do fine. We don't need to be born monks in order to have an open non-judgmental free mind.  ;)
« Last Edit: January 15, 2011, 09:57:38 AM by Venetian »