Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

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Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby balive » Sun Aug 11, 2013 12:22 am

I'd like to share the results of my 21 years in the Goenka vipassana tradition, one where I meditated 2 hours every day for the past 21 years, did over 35 courses, including many long retreats, 45 day courses. I first wrote it as an article/blog post, and then thought I would share it on this forum. I'm interested in your feedback.

I loved the intensity of the courses, the challenge. While I was terrified to do them, for me it felt like climbing Everest. The adventure, the discovery, the insights… I was willing to endure anything to win through and learn more about myself.

I didn’t realise that inner adventures and insights are not the same as waking up to the truth. I’ve had to wait 21 years to begin to see that.

I taught children’s vipassana courses, was on trusts, encouraged lots of people to site 10 day retreats, and ran introductions to promote the courses - all with the aim of getting people to “look within, and get the same benefits I was getting”.

Each time I went on a 10 day or 45 day Goenka retreat I had extraordinary experiences:

    * My body would dissolve into a mass of vibrating sensations
    * Pain would become irrelevant, I could sit and watch it come and go
    * I could become so concentrated that I could keep my mind focused for hours
    * Swirling blue lights, nimitas would transfix and awe me
    * I would hear other worldly sounds, strange sounds from no-where while sitting as my mind got stiller and stiller
    * So altered were my perceptions that I even saw other beings after a long retreat in India, it was like looking into other dimensions

But through all of this I lost sight of something at the heart of Buddha's teachings:

    * Critical thinking
    * An understanding that this was my journey, and no one else’s

The Buddha is said to have said “Be a lamp unto yourself”.

I lost “ownership” of my mind. I didn’t realise this until after I was shaken up by some power conversations by other meditators, who questioned me about whether the technique was really working for me.

Here were the results I was being forced to look at after all those years:

    * My mind wandered as much as ever, constantly rolling, I found it nearly impossible to control
    * I still had many anxieties, many fears of other people
    * I had stayed in a horrendous marriage for 14 years, primarily to keep looking good to the Vipassana community
    * Clinging onto belief structures out pure faith, not seeing any concrete results in my day to day life

Had any of those courses REALLY worked for me?

When I say worked for me, here’s what I would say would be an ideal:

    * An autonomous thinker, able to access anything in my life on my terms, rejecting them if they didn’t work for me
    * Able to make clear decisions, choosing courses of action that would work for me, and put me in a better position in life
    * A calm, confident, happy, sense of lightness within - not taking things too seriously

But never during my intensive involvement with this organisation (cult) did I ever feel like that… EXCEPT for immediately after my first course.

What impressed me so much with Goenka was that that WAS my experience immediately after I finished my first course. And yet, each time I went back for more, I eventually got more involved in their organisations.

I bought into the promise of community, belonging, position and advancement… Yes, enlightenment became a career, and I had a clear roadmap. The only problem was, I was depressed, anxious and miserable, but I was convinced it was because I wasn’t using the technique right.

And all I needed to do was… another course.

You know what the advice always when difficulties came up in life? Sit another 10 day course.

The (sad) thing is… I still love Geonka's Vipassana. I still feel immense devotion to it. I still believe somewhere that when my meditation is off, I need to get back there for another course.

That voice is not as loud as it used to be, but it’s still there.

Is it the left overs from being entrenched in cult thinking? I think so.

Perhaps it wasn't setup to be a cult, but I can tell you that most (not all) people I see and know in them treat them like cults, and the relationships in them typically spiral towards that kind of behaviour and judgement.

I thought I was a searcher for the truth all those years, when in fact I was clinging onto a life raft, convincing myself that even if it wasn’t working as I’d hoped, it was the best out there, that it would get me to the other shore… some day.

And yet in all those years I never thought to:

    * Research the tradition online
    * Never looked up others opinions in forums
    * Read widely about other methods
    * Sought out new teachers

My commitment to the cause was absolute.

And yet it doesn’t take much to discover online that there are as many voices praising Vipassana as there are criticising it's methods. That there many who seriously question it's training methods.

And that doesn’t even begin to examine scholarly research that shows the Buddha never taught that we carried around a huge stockpile of sankharas that needed to be eradicated, never said that we had to accumulate huge quantities of paramis - and that these were essential for liberation. It’s not in his teachings. And yet this concept is at the very core of Goenkas teachings. It’s why everyone is going off to do long course retreats.

If I look at why I used to sit, it came from the Vipassana text book, it can sound kind of crazy if you’re not involved - and this was actually the basis of my day to day life for 20 years:

    * to extinguish my “self” and achieve nibbana, a state free from suffering
    * I would achieve nibbana by eradicating a stock pile of acculturated reactions, called sankharas, accumulated over this lifetime, plus an uncountable number of lifetimes before, each life filled with a huge pile of reactions
    * once all the sankharas were gone, I would automatically achieve nibbana and be forever free of this never ending series of births and deaths each filled un ending suffering and misery
    * I would eradicate these sankharas through training my mind to not to react to sensations on my body
    * I would do this by keeping my mind equanimous, non-reactive and aware of the changing nature of my sensations
    and my method of doing this would be a continual scanning of my bodies sensations from head to feet and from feet to head, and remaining aware of their changing nature, and equanimous to them
    * I would do this for a minimum of 2 hours every day, 1 hour morning, 1 hour evening
    * plus a yearly retreat, minim 10 days, ideally 30-60 days, aimed at training my mind to be equanimous and aware of my body sensations while being aware of their forever changing nature, ideally getting down to the sub atomic analysis of them
    * to help win my goal of nibbana, not only would I have to eradicate all the huge backlog of sankharas, but it would also be necessary to accumulate a huge store house of merits, called paramis. Once I’d collected the necessary amount of these paramis, plus eradicated all my sankharas I would achieve nibbana, and be free from suffering
    * I would also go and serve on courses helping others to meditate to develop (get) these paramis and to further eradicate these sankharas
    the minimum amount of time for this to happen would be 10 big bangs / big crunches, that is to say, the creation and destruction of the entire universe would have to happen a minimum of 10 times (or more) and during this vast span of countless billions and billions of years, I would be at work building my paramis, and eradicating my sankharas
    * I had no idea where I was in this process, either the beginning, middle or end
    * I would work diligently to alter my kamma so to not go down into the lower hell realms of misery after death, but rather to either stay a human, or go into the heavenly realms, but not too high so as to lose a body completely
    * I’d also sit to develop compassion towards myself and others
    * And finally to live a happier, more balanced, wise, and powerful life

What have I really been doing, if you consider I’ve never had any direct experience of sankharas, paramis, nibbana, kamma, merits, heavens or hells?

It was like playing a video game, shooting off sankharas, accumulating paramis - but you never knew the score, and you had to just keep playing in order to win a victory that you might never see.

You might think I’m crazy, but here’s what I would get out of doing these amazing courses:

    * A deep sense of inner contact with myself
    * A strong sense of stability in my mind
    * A calm, quiet, peaceful mind
    * Immense clarity, fast decision making
    * A greater sense of purpose in the world
    * Immense confidence
    * Such lightness and happiness, even in the problems of life
    * A huge amount of patience with problems
    * Much more compassion towards others facing problems
    * More love for the world and people I would meet

That’s why, with so many positives…

It took me a long time to wake up to this fact - that with Vipassana their primary focus is to keep growing, they have no direct interest in my person liberation or freedom.

It is the maintenance of the organisation first, and your enlightenment second.

And that is dangerous.

I want to wake up, not help expand a movement. But while I was involved, I didn’t care too much for where I was going, I was buying into martyrdom, it was all about the greater good. It was about expansion.

This organisation would rather eject me than truly assist me if I rocked their boat. Let alone if I transgressed their rules, questioned the basis for their teachings, or did something like get divorced.

Some of almost seems funny to me… the strong beliefs I had (have). They filled up my mind and took over my inner world. And while they are at once amusing, I’ve based real world decisions on them, like:

    * Whether to get married, they gave me the idea to do it - but I hated it
    * Whether to have children, again, they gave me the idea - and I never was able to fully enjoy it, as I only ever wanted to get away and meditate for the full 18 years
    * Who to associate with, who to have has friends
    * Who to choose for a romantic partner
    * And if they weren’t aligned with my beliefs, to either move them in that direction, or work towards the relationship leaving, preferably with them leaving me, so I didn’t look bad

Never once in my life before joining the Vipassana organisation had I ever thought about wanting to get married or have children, and now that I’ve left, I’ll never do those things again. Now that I’m free, I wish to stay free.

I think it’s also possible that the meditating gave me the ability to stay in such a bad marriage. Because my levels of patience/compassion were so much higher, so I was able to live with someone who was extremely abusive to me and our daughter.

Of course, the most striking part, is that she was also a dedicated Vipassana meditator, doing long courses, teaching children's courses. She might have been excessively abusive with anger and insults, but allowed it all to happen. I created the whole situation. She never wanted marriage or chidden, it was me, with my high flying Vipassana ideals that pusher her in that direction - and she blamed me for it for the entire marriage.

I stayed in this 14 year marriage out of fear of being rejected by the Vipassana community. I wanted to be able to keep doing their long courses. For so many years I had been just like any of them.

    * Looking down my nose at those other poor people who weren’t meditating yet.
    * And especially at those who were practising another tradition.
    * But the worst was if people in our tradition left, went to another tradition, or broke up their marriage. Those things were sacrilege.

And so when it came time for me to finally accept my truth, I knew what was coming. And it did. I was ostracised. I lost my position of respect in the community.

I left what had consumed all of my twenties, and most of my thirties.

And ever since, I’ve felt adrift spiritually. Kind of in no mans land.

That was 4 years ago.

Thankfully I had the sense to focus on raising our daughter, I eventually became the full time parent, and didn’t go on any retreats, but focused on her. She needed a strong loving home after everything she’d been through.

But I kept up the sitting, every day.

I was also so grateful to come across a remarkable psychotherapist who I worked with each week for the 3 years during this time. She helped me understand my schizoid nature, and how it people with this type of structure that tend to be heavily into meditation. So I learned why I was driven to meditate, and how it was actually helping me cope and find my place in the world. Now when I go to meditation centres, I see that most people have this same characteristic, they are driven by the same reasons as myself, they typically don't know it.
http://www.reichandlowentherapy.org/Content/Character/Schizoid/schizoid_dreamer.html

Last year another meditation teacher challenged me to stop sitting. He said I hadn’t experience what it was like to not sit, that I wasn’t facing what was lieing beneath my drive to meditate. I lasted 3 days. And every day I felt fidgety, and just wanted to get back onto the cushion.

    * So even after all of that, I’m still driven to sit every day for 2 hours. I love meditating, I love that quiet connection I get with myself at the beginning and end of each day.
    * I still scan my body for sensations, and observe my breath.
    * I would still recommend Vipassana to people, do it once, or for a short while, but don’t get involved.
    * I still think about when I would do another course.

But why?

Perhaps I still have that feeling of someone watching me, accessing what I’m doing. Judging and accessing.

Perhaps I’m driven by the “high” these courses produce, the altered state of consciousness, and I just can’t get enough of being in such a “zen” state. Am I addicted?

Am I not free, even in my own mind? I’m scared that I’m not.

And yet I say that all I want is freedom.

How can something I love doing so much, meditating, keep me in bondage?

Has this tradition helped me? Or am I stuck in a web of my own making?

I feel forever grateful to Goenka and vipassana… it got me started, but I think I’ve spent my life clinging onto dead wood.
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Anagarika » Sun Aug 11, 2013 12:58 am

And yet I say that all I want is freedom.


My quick response to your thoughtful and detailed post is that the Dhamma that the Buddha taught leads us to that freedom, that liberation that you might feel was missing from the Goenka vipassana regimen. I'm far from expert on this issue, but the Buddha's teaching was to do Jhana. Jhana encompasses vipassana, but it is so much more. Perhaps the Goenka program was this "dry vipassana" that many have found useful, but falls short of the full spectrum of jhana practice and the liberation that the Buddha admonishes us to seek. Perhaps aspects of the Goenka "cult" if it can be called that, did some harm, or elevated the goals of the organization over the goal of teaching what the Buddha taught.

So, after 21 years, you have found the lamp at the end of the tunnel. Welcome and feel free to explore. You'll find kalyana mitta at every corner of Dhamma Wheel.
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Ben » Sun Aug 11, 2013 1:23 am

Greetings balive,

I have been practicing exclusively under the guidance of SN Goenka for 28 years and have sat and served many ten-day courses and long courses. I have also been involved in various capacities as a server, including as a secretary of a meditation centre trust.
At one point I also felt the need to take a break but I came back and have redoubled my commitment and efforts and I have done so with my eyes wide open. All I will say is that my point of view and observations are very different to yours on a few points. Having said that, I am sorry for the pain and misery in your life.
My recommendation to you is - whatever you do with respect to continual involvement with your local VMC, is to maintain your practice. Precepts, dana, pariyatti (read the suttas), samadhi, and panna. If you still have an excellent relationship with an assistant teacher or area teacher, someone with whom you could consider a mentor, I recommend that you stay in touch with that person and discuss any issues with him or her. Noble friendship, as it was said by the Buddha, was "the entire holy life". I know from my own experience the real value of kalayanamittas.
with metta,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby balive » Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:15 am

Thank you for the kind replies. I really appreciate it.

Ben, I've left the vipassana communities where I lived these past 20 odd years. I was in Australia, and I must have felt a strong identity to the groups and the local vipassana centres I supported and attended at that time.

I no longer do. Experiencing the level of judgements and opinions from most people in those communities, including ATs, I never intend to go back to those regions. I finally feel free having left, and cut all ties. I have some friends who are AT's still, but unlike most of them, they are the open thinkers. They are more like friends than teachers.

I don't have any that I truly feel confident in as guides to help me wake up.

I left Australia 8 months ago. Sold everything, and now travel the world. Currently I'm living in Chiang Mai with my girlfriend.

And I find myself a little stuck. When I think about doing a retreat, all I can come up with is going back to one of the Goenka vipassana centres in Thailand, and yet... I don't think that would be best thing for me if I truly want to break free of all conditioning.

Because how it looks to me now, I have a whole bunch of Goenka vipassana conditioning that I need to break down. Would doing another of their courses really help me with that... I don't think so.

And yet, I don't know any other worthwhile places to sit in Thailand, or near Chiang Mai.

And nor do I know a good place to learn the Jhanas...
Blog: http://www.zenwakeup.com
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So, why Zen? 'cause Zen gets 11 million searches a month, while Buddha only gets 4 million.
Go figure... or rather... Go on 'zen wake up!
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby jodistrict » Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:53 am

I took the 10 day retreat at Goenka's Southern California Twentynine Palms facility. I am grateful to them for providing me with a clean room and excellent food in a beautiful location. For some of us, they are a good alternative, otherwise you have to be rich to afford the expensive retreats in America. Isn't Goenka a Hindu? So he may have a different interpretation of things.
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Ben » Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:56 am

Hi balive,

Besides, SN Goenka, there are only a few people who I would consult with regarding my own practice.
What I found very beneficial was just to let go of all the mental proliferation. If there are aspects of SN Goenka's teaching that you have an issue with, whether it be sankharas or whatever - just let it go. That is what I have done and have engaged with the practice itself. And what is that? Merely to observe what is there - as it arises and passes away. For nourishment I read, from time to time, U Ba Khin's lectures, the writings of Ledi Sayadaw, early commentarial literature and the suttas. I still attend ten-day and longer courses and they remain for me a positive, if challenging, experience.
When I was in Myanmar a few years ago there was a Canadian-born monk and one-time AT to SN Goenka who was attending a monastery in the south of the country for some months of intensive jhana practice. Unfortunately, I am not sure where that monastery is nor whether it offered places to western lay yogis. I am sure you know of Ajahn Brahm's writings on the Jhanas. Bhikkhu Bodhi recommended to me Shankman's writings on the jhanas. Leigh Brassington is also very highly respected.
Do let me know how you get on.
with metta,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Ben » Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:58 am

Hi Jodi,
jodistrict wrote:Isn't Goenka a Hindu?


No. He was a Hindu before 1955. SN Goenka doesn't call himself Buddhist but his teaching is garden-variety Burmese Theravada.
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby balive » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:28 am

Thank you Ben for sharing your thoughts. I wanted to share more with you about what's been bothering me.

I think starting Goenka vipassana at the age of 20 took me and my empty agnostic mindset of how the world worked, and filled with a very detailed system of how to “do life”.

I had a cosmic, mind blowing experience and said to myself - “nothing is better than this.” And… “I’d be willing to do anything, go through anything to have these kind of experiences.”

My experiences were real. They opened me up to the cosmos, and new dimensions to life that had been hidden up until then were appearing to me.

But the mistake I made was that I linked the access to these types of insights to Goenka’s vipassana system. That his system had the answers, it was the direct teachings of the buddha.

And the only logical conclusion to the belief that his system was THE system was to take on board all of it, and live it like life depended upon it.

But the problem was, it wasn’t my system. I had downloaded this belief structure into myself, willingly, unwittingly as the major operating system I would use to live my life.

The thing that concerns me is, it’s still running the show - even when I haven’t gone near a Goenka vipassana course for 2.5 years, or spent any time with any others involved with it.

The truth is I’ve been chasing certain “spiritual experiences”, cosmic awakenings, and taking them for sign posts that I was heading in the right direction.
I’ve been deluding myself and not at all really focused on waking up.

Here are the beliefs I TOTALLY bought into from Goenka’s system:

* The belief that I COULD get enlightened. And that if I was smart, one should make this one and primary focus of life.
* And the sooner I could free myself of this world the better.
* BUT… it was almost impossible to achieve this in this life. That even if I worked around the clock, all your life, sitting and serving, it was highly unlikely I would ever acheive the goal.
* Therefore the real goal became making this little life just one little perfected drop in a giant jug that you needed to fill in order to get enlightened.
* The prospects were bleak, but the consolation was that at least I was on the path, and all those others who weren’t in Goenka’s camp, they would simply never even get enlightened, at least I’d get there, eventually, even if it was after billions of lifetimes.
* Now, the sooner I could spend ALL my time sitting and helping others to sit, the better, so I’d better get rich, in order to take all that time off, because…
* The best path was to be a householder, not a monk, there I’d need money, and lots of it. Plus I’d need a wife and child, in order to really look the part of a top quality householder, holding it altogether, all the while mediating. Living like this I would be well setup to attract more suffering householders onto the path of vipassana. And the more I attracted, the more merits and good kamma I would earn.
* While it looked like being a monk would be easier to meditate full time, it would not be the right path as it would put other householders off. The monks life of spending ALL your time meditating, being away from society was not the right way to live.
* And yet the life of a householder was not something to relish. It was dangerous, you could be seduced into pleasures, it was not something to take refuge in, because in the end you would lose everything anyway, it was a realm of suffering.
* That there was a system and structure to waking up, getting out of the bondage of life and experiencing something beyond this suffering world - and Goenka’s organisation was it.
* There was nothing else in the world that could match it, no other technique that could work as effectively at breaking the mind free from it’s habit patterns of addiction to craving and aversion.
* And yet, a real hinderance in life was to build up strong belief systems, and that the mind would want to cling and develop attachment to “my views” - and that one should always be on watch for this happening.
* And yet Goenka’s path, belief system, offered the solution. An authentic, non-sectarian, impartial view of life.

So, with that operating system firmly in place, here’s what I’ve had to deal with on a daily basis over these past 21 years - I still live with them each day:

* Feeling that I’m never meditating enough
* That even after 1 or 2 hours, that I should do more, it’s never enough
* Living with the daily agitation that I must sit, seeing others and situations as potential obstacles that I must get past in order to get on the cushion
* Worried when I miss a 1 hour sit, feel like I have to “catch one up”
* Fearful of ever writing down my actual experiences on the internet, that someone may know it’s me, and then block me from doing more vipassana retreats
* Feeling that I have to keep all of this bottled up inside me, never allowed to express it
* Worried that I’m not doing the technique right
* Thinking that I just need to do more retreats
* Thinking that the assessment of my life’s value is in how many retreats I’ve been able to fit in
* That doing more retreats will improve my practise, improve me, and get me closer to the goal of nibbana
* Anxious about not doing a retreat every 12 months, if it goes longer than that, I feel fidgety, that I’m not progressing in life
* Anxious when I miss a sit, that I will have to lie on a form, and that I could be blocked from doing long courses
* Anxious when I miss a sit - thinking that I’m bad, have let myself/life down
* Thinking that I have to get to another long course as a major priority for life itself
* Thinking that the only access to liberation (nibbana) is doing these long courses, and there by having to follow all the rules of sitting 2 hours a day, no sleeping around, no alcohol, etc
* Concerned that I still haven’t got to bhanga, or various other meditations states, even after a couple of decades
* Thinking that Goenka’s organisation “owns” what it is to meditate, and that theirs is the only true path
* Worried that someone is in my head, watching my thoughts

And at the same time, I’ve lived with strong beliefs that I’m better and superior to other people who aren’t living according to my (Goenka’s) rules.
(They started as Goenka’s, but I’d certainly taken ownership of them.)

* Anyone who drinks alcohol is not worthy of respect
* Anyone who doesn’t meditate, in this tradition, is not on the right path
* Anyone who doesn’t meditate every day, go on yearly retreats, and offer their time in service is not “doing life right”
* Anyone who gets divorced is wimping out and not honouring their commitments
* Anyone who doesn’t honour and respect their parents is not living the right path

Thankfully I’m hard at work on ejecting these belief systems… It’s taking a lot of effort, but I can see as the months pass, my rigid views are slowly (very slowly!) melting away.

So much attachment to these points of view… Goenka was right, there is a lot misery when one has strong attachments to ones views, and that there is nothing one clings more to than ones belief structure.

It was something that Goenka told me to avoid.
Blog: http://www.zenwakeup.com
Nothing to do with Zen. I don't know anything about Zen.
So, why Zen? 'cause Zen gets 11 million searches a month, while Buddha only gets 4 million.
Go figure... or rather... Go on 'zen wake up!
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Aloof » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:40 am

Goenka is a Hindu.
I have met him personally and done one course directly under him.
He does not call buddhism a religion and neither he says one should convert oneself to buddism religion.
He considers Gautam a scientist.

I started vispassana first time on 30 June 1992, exactly 21 years back at their headquater in Nasik.
My average meditation every day since then can be considered to be more than 3-4 hours a day without break.
In the first course itself and on the first night 30th June 1992, I had an astounding experience and
since then I am guided by my INNER VOICE, who gave me the experience.I have also done 7 courses
of 10 days each and also given services . Since last 17 years I am not in contact with any one from vipassana centre

My meditation deviated from vipassana to a minor extent due to guidence of INNER VOICE.
I was asked NOT TO DO Metta meditation at the end of a sitting and I followed my INNER VOICE.

My journey has been EXTRAORDINARY successful from all points of view.
Health, wealth,family, luxuries, power, peace and (greatest of all of these) WISDOM
has been increasingly falling in my lap.

I take it now that my INNER VOICE and me have become ONE.
If my experience can help any one, fire any specific questions.
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby robertk » Sun Aug 11, 2013 5:13 am

I left Australia 8 months ago. Sold everything, and now travel the world. Currently I'm living in Chiang Mai with my girlfriend.

And I find myself a little stuck. When I think about doing a retreat, all I can come up with is going back to one of the Goenka vipassana centres in Thailand, and yet... I don't think that would be best thing for me if I truly want to break free of all conditioning.

check out the causes for wisdom thread and see if you find anything useful.
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=15952
p.s. my practice today might involve a tuna sandwich :)
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Ben » Sun Aug 11, 2013 5:35 am

Aloof wrote:Goenka is a Hindu.

Ah, no - he is not a Hindu.

Aloof wrote:I have met him personally and done one course directly under him.

As have I, quite a few times, in Australia and India.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Ben » Sun Aug 11, 2013 5:39 am

balive wrote:Thankfully I’m hard at work on ejecting these belief systems… It’s taking a lot of effort, but I can see as the months pass, my rigid views are slowly (very slowly!) melting away.


And that is a good thing. Be thankful that you are aware of your mental conditionings. Very many people go through life without an iota of introspective analysis. Some years ago I went through a very similar experience to your own and re-evaluated my relationship with SN Goenka and teaching. I came out the other side of that 'process' with a positive attitude. But as I said, it is with my eyes fully open and not closed.
If there is anything I can do to support you - please let me know.
with metta,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Mr Man » Sun Aug 11, 2013 7:27 am

Hi balive,
Thanks for sharing.

I came across this article a couple of days back: So What? http://secularbuddhism.org/2012/05/14/so-what/. It starts "The hardest thing I ever did was walk away from Buddhism.", possibly you can relate to some of it, I found it interesting.
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Dan74 » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:30 am

I think this is a good thread and much of it applies not just to SN Goenka's organisation and teachings but to just about any organisation and teachings. We tend to cling to them, hold the teachings a little too tightly rather than use them while they are useful, invest them with expectations and emotions and build an identity around the whole thing. It can be very subtle and I am still learning to see thing process even though in my tradition there are many explicit warnings against it.
_/|\_
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby appicchato » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:50 am

...I don't know any other worthwhile places to sit in Thailand, or near Chiang Mai.


Hi there...call me a rube but to this one the most worthwhile place to sit is where(ever) one finds oneself...and after reading your post I was left with the thought that, basically, you 'attached' yourself to the program...that, basically, is what the second Noble Truth, expounded by the Buddha, says is/can be the cause of suffering...

If asked, 'let if go' are the three wisest words ever spoken...wishing you well...
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby balive » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:56 am

I sure am attached to the program!
Thanks again for pointing that out :)

My identity is so tied up with "getting it right", finding the "right teacher", the "right place to sit"...
I feel terrified that letting it all go will result in annihilation of my-self as a good "buddhist".
Hang on... did I really write that...
Blog: http://www.zenwakeup.com
Nothing to do with Zen. I don't know anything about Zen.
So, why Zen? 'cause Zen gets 11 million searches a month, while Buddha only gets 4 million.
Go figure... or rather... Go on 'zen wake up!
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby pilgrim » Sun Aug 11, 2013 9:01 am

This identification with a particular tradition or teacher is common enough. I'm beginning to see it among some people who follow the Thai Forest tradition as well the Pa-Auk group. People invest time and energy into these teachers. Although that is good, emotional attachments and identification sometimes develop. By seeing it, you are more likely to let it go.
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby balive » Sun Aug 11, 2013 12:03 pm

I have found Jed McKenna's view on teachers most interesting:
"Everyone’s grooving on the gurus, and everyone’s getting more and more spiritual, but nobody’s waking up."
Blog: http://www.zenwakeup.com
Nothing to do with Zen. I don't know anything about Zen.
So, why Zen? 'cause Zen gets 11 million searches a month, while Buddha only gets 4 million.
Go figure... or rather... Go on 'zen wake up!
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Zom » Sun Aug 11, 2013 7:05 pm

Hello balive,

Why don't you just study Pali Canon thoroughly -- without "higher guidance", "gurus", "teachers", etc.? That is -- learning from the Buddha himself. I'm sure, you will find a lot of pleasant things there -- both to think about and to practise.

There are 4 major Nikayas, well translated into English, I'd strongly recommend to buy them all (avaliable on amazon, for example) and read them unhurriedly.
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby fabianfred » Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:57 am

If you are in Chiangmai I would suggest going to the temple at Wat Rampoeng for their vipassana meditation retreat. 10 days minimum for non-Thais but recommend the 26 day full retreat. Here they practice the Mahasi Sayadaw style of watching the rise and fall of the breath and also doing walking meditation.
I have been many times and also with my wife and seperately.
A different system might be what you need..... and the abbot is a great guy who takes the daily reporting for foreign meditators.

After 20 years of meditation I would expect you to have reached Sotapanna at least...and be beyond doubt....if that isn't the case there must be something wrong.

You mention above... ''the minimum amount of time for this to happen would be 10 big bangs / big crunches, that is to say, the creation and destruction of the entire universe would have to happen a minimum of 10 times (or more) and during this vast span of countless billions and billions of years, I would be at work building my paramis, and eradicating my sankharas''

I don't know where you got this from but it was never stated as necessary for one to practice for ten or more Aeons to reach enlightenment!! As we know some people attained to Stream-entry or even Arahant just whilst listening to the Buddhas Dhamma talks.

see my post here .. viewtopic.php?f=13&t=18224
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