Author Topic: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?  (Read 64998 times)

James the Giant

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I understand Goenka, Mother Sayama, and Saya U Chit Tin were all taught Vipassana by Sayagyi U Ba Khin.
Then Goenka established his Dhamma centres internationally, and Sayama and U Chit Tin taught at the International Meditation Centre in Burma, and later around the world.
How do the methods and teachings of these closely-related groups differ?  Are there any differences?

I've done a couple of 10-day Goenka Vipassana courses, and I'm curious to see what other students of U Ba Khin teach.
Thanks!

Matthew

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2010, 10:52:54 AM »
Pamojjam is the resident expert in such matters ... I'll let him tell you the intimate details.

Welcome to the forums.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
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James the Giant

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2010, 05:36:58 PM »
Thanks for the welcome!  Great and very nice polite forum you have here.

Matthew

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2010, 07:04:34 PM »
Thanks for the welcome!  Great and very nice polite forum you have here.

Thank you. I think that we concentrate on practice and do not get into intellectual debate too much helps a lot in keeping things real.

I do know that Goenka does not teach according to the instructions of Sayagyi U Ba Khin - but really I don't know the exact details. As I say Pamojjam is familiar with these subjects in great depth and I defer to his wisdom on this issue.

Warmly,

Matthew
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Jhananda

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2010, 04:16:35 AM »
My first 10-day meditation retreat in 1975 was led by Robert Hover, who was authorized to teach by U Ba Kin at the same time Goenka, Ruth Denison, Mother Sayama and one other were authorized. I have sat meditation retreats led by Robert Hover and Goenka students. I have also taught myself Pali and translated major suttas, including the four sati suttas. I found the meditation method, as described by Robert Hover and the one Goenka student reflected what is described in the Kayagata-sati Sutta (MN 119) “Mindfulness of the Body”; however, they did not mention that sutta.  Now the question that arises is, why does Goenka, U Ba Kin and the one Goenka student I sat a retreat with, not mention the Kayagata-sati Sutta (MN 119) “Mindfulness of the Body”

Considering that jhana was not mentioned within a Goenka/ U Ba Kin/ Robert Hover/ Ruth Denison context until after 2000, whereas it is the definition of the 8th fold of the Noble Eightfold Path, it is possible that jhana was demonized within an orthodox Buddhist context?  I believe it was.  This suggests that Goenka/ U Ba Kin/ Robert Hover/ Ruth Denison know nothing about jhana.  If so, then it means they know nothing of the 8th fold of the Noble Eightfold Path.  If so, then it means they do not understand the dhamma as the Buddha taught, because the Buddha taught a Noble Eightfold Path, not a 7-fold path.

dhruv

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2010, 05:52:42 PM »
more details please, anyone? and I dont understand the concept of jhana. i've felt rapture and bliss meditating in a goenka retreat using his method. not the same thing?

kidnovice

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    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2010, 03:20:59 AM »
Hey, I just wanted to mention my interest in this question.  I think its a pretty misleading to say that "Goenka does not teach according to the instructions of Sayagyi U Ba Khin." From what I have read, Goenka varies a bit, but really no more than any student does as he or she begins to teach in the lineage of their teacher. In essence, the practices of U Ba Khin and Goenka sound pretty darn similar to me.

But I would love to hear more about what it was/is like for students to sit with the other teachers authorized by U Ba Khin. If anyone has had such an experience. please share. :)  I suspect there would be many people fascinated to hear about it.
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.

pamojjam

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2010, 01:53:48 AM »
Hi everyone,

more details please, anyone?

you can find some informations and my own experiences in these threads:

http://vipassana.awardspace.info/forum/index.php?board=7.0

Regards..

scrodulartum

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2010, 11:12:47 PM »
The actual course content of both these teachers is very similar. 

In a nutshell: We take the triple gem.  We surrender to the teacher and the Buddha for protection and guidance.  We establish our sila by taking and strictly keeping the five precepts (noble silence is observed).  Then we establish samadhi by practicing anapana meditation. (Every time we breathe in, we know that we are breathing in.  Every time we breathe out, we know that we are breathing out.  We keep our attention focussed on the spot at the rim of the nostril or on the upper lip - the place where the air touches as it enters and leaves the body.  We do this and nothing else.  If our mind wanders, we bring it right back).  After three or four days, with samadhi firmly established, we begin to develop panna by practicing vipassana meditation.  We do not extend the practice of anapana to the extent where we reach jhana.  Experience has shown that excellent progress into insight can be made with access concentration.  The deeper absorbtions with their bliss- though most execllent in other contexts - can in fact be something of a distraction when first learning vipassana.  The technique for practicing vipassana as taught by Sayaji U Ba Khin and his appointed teachers involves moving the attention through the body part by part, feeling sensations and knowing anicca.  After a little while the observations extend to encompas everything within the field of conciousness.  The constant knowing of anicca leads to a deep, non-intellectual understanding of change.  This then leads to a profound insight into dukkha and anatta.  There is a lot more detail, but that's it in a nutshell.

Where the various teachers appointed by Sayaji differ is in their teaching method.  The Goenka strategy seems to be by far the strictest - work, work, work.  Everything and every aspect of the course  is very controlled, at least in my experience.  If you thrive with this level of discipline then you might find this method suitable.  (Personally, I can't stand it!).

Mother Sayamaji and her appointed teachers are much more gentle and laid-back.  It's up to you to make the effort - there will not be a man with a clipboard ensuring that you attend the early-morning sitting!  With all teachers (in my experience), the noble eight-fold path is strictly followed.  I am profoundly grateful to all of them (especially Saya John Coleman, my first teacher).

torgeir

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2010, 12:09:01 PM »
Scrodulartum,
I would be very interested to hear about your experience sitting with Saya John Coleman. I have heard he is now retired from teaching at the IMC Italia. I haven't sat a course with him but I heard from others he is fantastic. I read his 'Quiet Mind' book, truely inspiring reading. Is it true he starts Anapana with following the rise and fall of the belly, Mahasi style, before leading students to focusing on the spot under the nose? Does anyone know if he has discourse summaries such as Goenka and Sayama has, to summarise Coleman's discourses? Has anyone sat with Coleman who can tell me more details about him?

scrodulartum

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2010, 07:21:28 PM »
Hi Torgeir
It was my good fortune to sit four or five 10-day courses with Saya John Coleman, in the early 1980's.  At this time he used to teach at the International Meditation Centre at Splatts House in Wiltshire, UK.  To answer your specific question about his teaching of anapana, he never - to my knowledge - taught his students to observe the rise and fall of the belly.  However, on one of his discourses, he did relate how he himself learnt anapana.  He recalled that his first teacher did instruct him in this method, but it didn't suit him at all.  He then moved on to Sayaji U Ba Khin's establishment in - as it was then - Rangoon, where he learnt the method that I outlined in my original post.

You heard from others that he was a fantastic teacher, and I fully agree with them.  He is a large American man.  He worked for the US government intelligence services and it was in his travels in this regard that he became exposed to the teachings of the Buddha. 

He has a huge personal warmth and is a wonderful teller of tales.  His discourses in the evening are usually impromptu recollections from his past and often have the students rolling with laughter.  He presents the teachings in a way that brings out the best in his students - me at any rate.  At the end of each 10-day course he finishes with a metta meditation.  This is a truly wonderful experience - I'm sorry I can't describe it - he seems to convey a huge amount of compassion and loving kindness through the own warmth of character.  Thank you, John Coleman.

scrodulartum

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2010, 09:29:20 PM »
Please see attached four small photos:
Sayaji U Ba Khin, Sayaji U Ba Khin with John Coleman at IMC Rangoon, John Coleman and Mother Sayamaji.

kidnovice

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    • Theravada: with nuts and bolts from Goenka-ji, and fine tuning from Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #12 on: September 02, 2010, 07:21:38 PM »
Scrodulartum, My sincere thanks for sharing your experiences with Saya John Coleman. It was great to read, and very inspiring. :)

KN
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.

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
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    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2010, 09:37:00 AM »
Hi everyone,

more details please, anyone?

you can find some informations and my own experiences in these threads:

http://vipassana.awardspace.info/forum/index.php?board=7.0

Regards..

Hey Pam,

Didn't expect you to spam your own forum in response :D

Hope all is well with you.

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

torgeir

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2010, 10:33:47 PM »
Thanks for the great description of John Coleman's courses, Sclrodulartum. It is truly unfortunate but I have heard Saya John Coleman is not teaching anymore due to injuries he sustained after an accident. So it's all the more valuable to hear your description. It would also be extremely valuable as a historical document to have those anecdotes and stories from John recorded in video, audio and text. Goenkaji's students have long seen the value in this, just about everything he speaks in public is carefully recorded, and has been since at least the 1980's. I wonder if there are any recordings or texts available from John Coleman's speeches or public discourses. Does anyone know?

scrodulartum

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #15 on: November 05, 2010, 11:57:05 PM »
I can only add that he recounted many of his experiences in his book 'The Quiet Mind'.  This is still available.  I've just checked Amazon here in the UK and they have four copies at £8.99. 

Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #16 on: November 06, 2010, 08:15:58 AM »

Considering that jhana was not mentioned within a Goenka/ U Ba Kin/ Robert Hover/ Ruth Denison context until after 2000, whereas it is the definition of the 8th fold of the Noble Eightfold Path, it is possible that jhana was demonized within an orthodox Buddhist context?  I believe it was.  This suggests that Goenka/ U Ba Kin/ Robert Hover/ Ruth Denison know nothing about jhana.  If so, then it means they know nothing of the 8th fold of the Noble Eightfold Path.  If so, then it means they do not understand the dhamma as the Buddha taught, because the Buddha taught a Noble Eightfold Path, not a 7-fold path.


why do you always blame them for not using jhana. dont get me wrong but u r very much addicted to jhanas man.

my experience is stop worrying about methods, its a thought game. stop thinking...... its just a loop , will not lead anywhere. just sit , different methods doesnt really matter for a beginners , we r too into ego game n always like to compare n feel satisfied that we r doing right.

am i right? because im also a newbie :)

torgeir

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #17 on: November 06, 2010, 09:48:02 AM »
Yes, I have read the Quiet Mind. Inspiring book.
There is also some great information about Coleman on the IMC Italia website. Even a brief recording of John's metta meditation.
Too bad there aren't any discourse summaries of Coleman's courses available.

About this thread's title, differences between teaching styles of U Ba Khin's heirs, I came across the following from a book called Dancing in the Dharma. Although it is mainly discussing how Ruth Dennison's approach to teaching differs, it inevitably touches on some of the differences between U Ba Khin's other student-teachers--Sayama, Goenka, John Coleman, Robert Hover, and Ruth.

"..As one old student put it, '[Ruth Dennison] was considered not serious. If you were a serious vipassana student, you did not sit with Ruth.'
... The letter that had been sent by Robert Hover's students to the Vipassana Newsletter describing Ruth's innovations to practice struck a sour note with traditional teachers and students.
...»[Goenka] said to me, 'Ruth, I hear you are teaching Zen together with vipassana and you do seem to go on a different track. Maybe this is not the right time for a meeting.'
...letter of July5, 1978, described how John Coleman, the British Dharma heir of U Ba Khin, had found it necessary to invent new methods for teaching westerners, rather than sticking with the framework of the 10-day retreat developed by U Ba Khin.
...The controversy reached all the way to Burma, to U Ba Khin's successor, Sayama, and her husband U Chit Tin. Not only Ruth, but all the other western Dhamma heirs of U Ba Khin were viewed with disapproval by Sayama. Even Goenka, who purports to teach exactly as U Ba Khin taught, ultimately came into conflict with Sayama.
...Finally, in early 1980, Ruth received an ultimatum from Burma.
...Ruth opened the letter from the IMC in Rangoon. Sayama spelled out her requiremets. She said, 'If you don't give up walking meditation, give up your body movement that we hear you are doing, your mixing Zen practice in, then you are not belonging to our lineage.' And Sayama also cited Ruth's teaching both men and women, which she had been forbbidden to do."


torgeir

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #18 on: November 06, 2010, 09:56:01 AM »
continued:
...[Goenka] said to me, 'Ruth, I hear you are teaching Zen together with vipassana and you do seem to go on a different track. Maybe this is not the right time for a meeting.'
...letter of July5, 1978, described how John Coleman, the British Dharma heir of U Ba Khin, had found it necessary to invent new methods for teaching westerners, rather than sticking with the framework of the 10-day retreat developed by U Ba Khin.
...The controversy reached all the way to Burma, to U Ba Khin's successor, Sayama, and her husband U Chit Tin. Not only Ruth, but all the other western Dhamma heirs of U Ba Khin were viewed with disapproval by Sayama. Even Goenka, who purports to teach exactly as U Ba Khin taught, ultimately came into conflict with Sayama.
...Finally, in early 1980, Ruth received an ultimatum from Burma.
...Ruth opened the letter from the IMC in Rangoon. Sayama spelled out her requiremets. She said, 'If you don't give up walking meditation, give up your body movement that we hear you are doing, your mixing Zen practice in, then you are not belonging to our lineage.' And Sayama also cited Ruth's teaching both men and women, which she had been forbbidden to do.

torgeir

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #19 on: November 06, 2010, 09:59:42 AM »
And there is more about the separation between the Burmese heirs lead by Sayama / U Chit Tin, and the various western student teachers. One has to be good at reading between the lines, because diplomacy is the lingua franca when these student-teachers only very rarely talk about each other. The following is from the IMC Italia website, translated from Italian:

"Thus the IMC-UK was born, which gave rise to the Splatts Residential House, of which John Coleman was President until 1985. In that same year, John Coleman resigned from his presidency of the Centre, thus causing a de facto separation with the IMC in Rangoon, which had after the death of Sayagyi U Ba Khin been under the direction of his Burmese disciples. Sri Goenka had also passed through a similar separation. .."
« Last Edit: November 06, 2010, 10:26:45 AM by torgeir »

torgeir

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #20 on: November 06, 2010, 10:06:53 AM »
And from one of Goenka's stories in the Vipassana Newsletter, we can glean how this separation between IMC  / Sayama / Burmese on the one hand, and SN Goenka on the other, might have happened. Again, we must know how to read between the lines. Notice how skillfully important names are left out in some places, and not in other places. Goenka explains:

"I was on a world tour to conduct courses. When I reached Japan, an important person spread the rumour by phone that revered Sayagyi U Ba Khin had withdrawn his blessing and support to me; and that he would not even give mettā to me in courses. This message made everyone nervous. I too felt that if this is true, I should not conduct any more courses. I felt that all courses in Japan and elsewhere should be cancelled and I should return home. We were staying in Dhamma daughter Sachiko’s home. This unpleasant news has been spread by what seemed to be a reliable source. According to this news, since I was no longer a teacher in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin, Sachiko could have told us to leave but she didn’t.

John Beary proposed to all the assembled meditators that the next course should not be cancelled, and that the message may just have been spread out of ill will. He suggested that the course should be held and if mettā is found to be weak, then only the remaining courses could be cancelled. The course was conducted and it was very successful.

Everyone said that the mettā was even stronger that before. I am grateful to John Beary who ensured that the course was not cancelled. Otherwise, future courses would have stopped. Because of the success of this course, everyone including me was convinced that Sayagyi’s mettā and blessing were definitely with me. Future courses continued to be held successfully without any obstacles. Whenever I recall this incident, I am filled with boundless mettā."
« Last Edit: November 06, 2010, 10:41:17 AM by torgeir »

torgeir

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #21 on: November 06, 2010, 10:24:00 AM »
We must keep in mind that the incidents mentioned above happened around 30 years ago. These days all the involved participants are either very old or have already long since passed away: U Chit Tin & Robert Hover.

It is important to document the past, to get a better understanding of what the practice of Vipassana is really all about, but history is also easily misconstrued by later generations into something which it was not.

It reminds me of an incident in the world of yoga, where a meeting was arranged between the leading proponents of two popular yoga systems, who each had a large following of yoga students around the world. Each camp of students claimed their teacher was the best, teaching the true yoga lineage, and enmity between students of the two camps followed. In the end, it turned out the two old men had a very amicable meeting, greeting and treating each other like old friends who had never even been separated. The students were perplexed that the old guys didn't have anything bad to say about each other, let alone get into a fistfight. All learned an important lesson.

We can all try to learn this important lesson.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2010, 10:46:17 AM by torgeir »

scrodulartum

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #22 on: November 06, 2010, 01:31:40 PM »
Well said, Torgeir.  Sayaji U Ba Khin established a particular method of teaching.  If others decide to change or amend his method to suit local times and conditions, then there is nothing wrong with that.  However, they can no longer claim to be teaching the pure U Ba Khin method.  If Ruth Dennison incorporates dance into her teaching method then this might be excellent, and we now have the Ruth Dennison school.  But this is not the Sayaji U Ba Khin school.  When Sayamaji pointed out to Ruth that by making this alteration in the teaching method she could no longer claim to be teaching as a member of the U Ba Khin lineage, this did not imply any ill-will between the two.  It was merely a statement of fact.

Sayamaji is now 82 years old, and not as sprightly as she used to be.  However, she still is the principal teacher at IMC UK ( http://www.internationalmeditationcentre.org/introduction.html ), ably assisted by her assistant teacher Roger Bischoff, where 10-day courses in the U Ba Khin tradition, are taught each month.  So, it's not too late to taste the pure dhamma!  Next course 19th Nov to 29 Nov 2010.

Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #23 on: November 06, 2010, 04:00:38 PM »
We must keep in mind that the incidents mentioned above happened around 30 years ago. These days all the involved participants are either very old or have already long since passed away: U Chit Tin & Robert Hover.

It is important to document the past, to get a better understanding of what the practice of Vipassana is really all about, but history is also easily misconstrued by later generations into something which it was not.

It reminds me of an incident in the world of yoga, where a meeting was arranged between the leading proponents of two popular yoga systems, who each had a large following of yoga students around the world. Each camp of students claimed their teacher was the best, teaching the true yoga lineage, and enmity between students of the two camps followed. In the end, it turned out the two old men had a very amicable meeting, greeting and treating each other like old friends who had never even been separated. The students were perplexed that the old guys didn't have anything bad to say about each other, let alone get into a fistfight. All learned an important lesson.

We can all try to learn this important lesson.

this explains everything !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

notsure

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Re: How does Goenka's method differ from the IMC and Mother Sayama's?
« Reply #24 on: November 06, 2010, 06:48:22 PM »
methods differ dependent on the student and their own understanding/ability.  

This is interesting, please note the I mentioned is not me!......lol!!

A friend of Robert Hover wrote:

Quote
Concentration can be defined as the ability to keep your focus on a single object for an extended period of time. Awareness can be defined as the ability to let your attention move from object to object without getting seemingly stuck on any specific object of attention.

As you can see, these seem like completely different skills, or completely different states of being.  And yet when you read the literature about meditation, each of these is sometimes held out as a goal.

In fact, here's an interesting story to distinguish between the two. I was given a copy of some letters that were written between a Burmese meditation teacher named U Ba Khin and one of his Western students, the wife of a diplomat, named Mrs. King.  Ba Khin had written the letters to Mrs. Kane to help her with her practice when she returned to America after having meditated with him in Burma. And in the letters, he gave her very explicit instructions about how to develop concentration so that they would be able to communicate telepathically so that he could continue to help her advance in her meditation practice.  Now, I'm not going to argue  about whether or not telepathy is possible or just magical thinking; the important part of the story is the next part.

I showed these letters to a friend of mine named Robert Hover.  Robert was one of the first Western meditation teachers. In fact he was one of the people, who was asked by U Ba Khin to take over his particular Buddhist meditation lineage — an amazing request considering that Robert was not Asian, nor was he raised Buddhist.

When Robert read these letters, he called me and expressed his amazement, saying that he didn't even know that Ba Khin knew about these particular concentration meditation techniques.

I was somewhat stunned to hear him say that. I asked him, "You were supposed to take over the lineage for this teacher.  How could you not know this?" He answered, "I don't have the skills of concentration that Mrs. King had and what's amazing is that, because I don't have those concentration skills,  these issues and teachings never came up in my conversations with my teacher.

Obviously, this speaks quite highly of Robert's teacher, someone whose understanding of meditation was skillful enough that he could tailor his meditation teachings to each individual student.  And as I've gotten to know many of his other students, I have similarly found that each one of them learned something slightly different from the other.
« Last Edit: November 07, 2010, 02:14:39 PM by The Irreverent Buddhist »