Goenka technique

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Re: Goenka technique

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 26, 2011 3:31 am

As Tilt says, what Goenka teaches is solidly rooted in the Suttas. I've only done one Goenka retreat some time ago, but to me the basic techniques that are taught are a selection of the grab-bag of possibilities in the Satipatthana Sutta, i.e. using the breath to calm, and then observing bodily feelings.

The talks probably contain some Theravada Commentarial material. Which I don't see as a negative, but some seem to...

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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Jhana4 » Thu May 26, 2011 2:15 pm

It is my understanding that it isn't Goenka's technique. It is a technique Goenka learned from a lineage of Burmese Buddhist monks and that he became authorized to teach. Anyone know if "they" have a name for it besides "vipassana meditation" which doesn't quite fit?
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Jhana4 » Thu May 26, 2011 2:18 pm

I posted this before and was told though the mechanics of the meditation are similar, the goal and philosophy of the meditation is different so it couldn't be said that "body scans" are in the suttas. It is interesting how close it comes:


From
"Kayagata-sati Sutta: Mindfulness Immersed in the Body"

"Furthermore, the monk reflects on this very body from the soles of
the feet on up, from the crown of the head on down, surrounded by skin
and full of various kinds of unclean things: 'In this body there are
head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones,
bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, large
intestines, small intestines, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood,
sweat, fat, tears, skin-oil, saliva, mucus, fluid in the joints,
urine.' Just as if a sack with openings at both ends were full of
various kinds of grain — wheat, rice, mung beans, kidney beans, sesame
seeds, husked rice — and a man with good eyesight, pouring it out,
were to reflect, 'This is wheat. This is rice. These are mung beans.
These are kidney beans. These are sesame seeds. This is husked rice';
in the same way, the monk reflects on this very body from the soles of
the feet on up, from the crown of the head on down, surrounded by skin
and full of various kinds of unclean things: 'In this body there are
head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones,
bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, large
intestines, small intestines, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood,
sweat, fat, tears, skin-oil, saliva, mucus, fluid in the joints,
urine.' And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute, any
memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned, and
with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows
unified & centered. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed
in the body.

"Furthermore, the monk contemplates this very body — however it
stands, however it is disposed — in terms of properties: 'In this body
there is the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, &
the wind property.' Just as a skilled butcher or his apprentice,
having killed a cow, would sit at a crossroads cutting it up into
pieces, the monk contemplates this very body — however it stands,
however it is disposed — in terms of properties: 'In this body there
is the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, & the
wind property.' And as he remains thus heedful, ardent, & resolute,
any memories & resolves related to the household life are abandoned,
and with their abandoning his mind gathers & settles inwardly, grows
unified & centered. This is how a monk develops mindfulness immersed
in the body.

In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby PeterB » Thu May 26, 2011 2:22 pm

Ben wrote:Hi danieLion,

danieLion wrote:probably a dumb question. i thought vipassana was form Theravada but this topic makes me think that's wrong (i am looking at places around Porltand OR and there is a Goenka center an hour and half from here)


Various forms of vipassana are taught within the Theravada tradition and forms of vipassana are taught in the Mahayana and Vajrayana tradition. The 'Goenka' method or tradition is actually the same as the U Ba Khin tradition. U Ba Khin was a student of the lay-teacher "Anagamin" Saya Thet-gyi who was a student of Ledi Sayadaw. Apparently Ledi Sayadaw learned meditation from monks at Sagaing and Prekhama Caves. Mr Goenka claims that this tradition comes from the arahant missionary monks Sona and Uttara who first took the Tipitaka and its practices to ancient Burma at the time of Emperor Ashoka. When I was recently in Myanmar I wanted to do some research on the history of meditative practices in Burma but when I attended the Archives and Library of Buddhism under Shwedagon Paya I was informed that I needed a letter from Rangoon University to conduct research.

If you have ten days up your sleeve and are interested in learning vipassana and acquiring some depth of experience - then I recommend a ten-day course for you.
kind regards

Ben

In the end this is the only way to get past opinions and speculations to discover what it really is all about.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby mikenz66 » Thu May 26, 2011 9:41 pm

Jhana4 wrote:I posted this before and was told though the mechanics of the meditation are similar, the goal and philosophy of the meditation is different so it couldn't be said that "body scans" are in the suttas.

Since the technique (after the several days of anapanasati, which is obviously in the Suttas) focusses on vedana, I'd look at:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nysa.html
And how, monks, does a monk live contemplating feelings in feelings?

Herein, monks, a monk when experiencing a pleasant feeling knows, "I experience a pleasant feeling"; when experiencing a painful feeling, he knows, "I experience a painful feeling"; when experiencing a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling," he knows, "I experience a neither-pleasant-nor-painful feeling." ...

Like all Suttas, it's vague about exactly how one should go about this.
[That's why we have a living tradition. The Buddha explicitly talks about asking someone how to manage the details. E.g.: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=4700&start=60.]

In the Goenka practice you scan, looking for the vedana. In the Mahasi practice that I mostly do you have a primary object (wind/motion element when sitting) and you examine the vedana when (I was going to say "if", but I think "when" is more appropriate) it arises. In either case you use this awareness, as Tilt said above, to get insight into impermanence, and so on. As in the Sutta he quoted: viewtopic.php?f=35&t=62&start=60#p132643

So the Suttas are not vague about the point of such contemplation, whereas they say little about the mechanics. Discussions focussing on whether some particular way of approaching things is in the Suttas, is, in my view, futile. Those details are not there.

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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Jhana4 » Thu May 26, 2011 11:52 pm

The mechanics of anapanasati are significantly spelled out in the suttas.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Jhana4 » Fri May 27, 2011 12:04 am

Having said that I have no problem with accepting that someone else other than the Buddha can have a good idea and the system Goenka teaches has been used by monks since at least the 19th century as far as I am aware.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 27, 2011 12:45 am

Hi Jhana4. Of course there are likely to be multiple opinions on this, but regarding:
Jhana4 wrote:The mechanics of anapanasati are significantly spelled out in the suttas.

In my opinion, a few short lines (' will breathe out sensitive to the entire body....') is hardly "significantly spelled out".

You just need to look at any thread on the anapanasati sutta (such as http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=7495), and the various detailed instructions from different teachers to see that there are numerous ways of interpreting those cryptic passages.

My point, and the reason for raising in in this thread is because in my view how one goes about the detailed mechanics depend on all kinds of factors, such as the experience of the student and teacher.

The Anapanasati Sutta opens with:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
On that occasion the elder monks were teaching & instructing. Some elder monks were teaching & instructing ten monks, some were teaching & instructing twenty monks, some were teaching & instructing thirty monks, some were teaching & instructing forty monks. The new monks, being taught & instructed by the elder monks, were discerning grand, successive distinctions.

Which I would guess is where the details were being spelled out.

As is stated here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
"As for the individual who has attained neither internal tranquillity of awareness nor insight into phenomena through heightened discernment, he should approach an individual who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment... and ask him, 'How should the mind be steadied? How should it be made to settle down? How should it be unified? How should it be concentrated? How should fabrications be regarded? How should they be investigated? How should they be seen with insight?' The other will answer in line with what he has seen & experienced: 'The mind should be steadied in this way. The mind should be made to settle down in this way. The mind should be unified in this way. The mind should be concentrated in this way. Fabrications should be regarded in this way. Fabrications should be investigated in this way. Fabrications should be seen in this way with insight.' Then eventually he [the first] will become one who has attained both internal tranquillity of awareness & insight into phenomena through heightened discernment.

If you feel you can get enough from the Suttas, that's great! I know I'd never have managed to get started that way. And I'm somewhat skeptical that anyone here has actually started meditating by just reading Suttas, without referring to commentary from some teacher or other. Even such basic things as how and where to watch the breath is going to be someone's interpretation, since you won't find it in the Sutta.

To bring this back to topic, the Satpatthana Sutta doesn't say much about the mechanics of contemplating vedana. So it would be a difficult to criticise Goenka for teaching something that is not in line with the Stuttas. And, as you say, that method has been taught in Burma for a long time.

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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Ben » Fri May 27, 2011 12:50 am

Jhana4 wrote:Having said that I have no problem with accepting that someone else other than the Buddha can have a good idea and the system Goenka teaches has been used by monks since at least the 19th century as far as I am aware.

And before that, apparently.
When I was in Myanmar, I attended a long course there and next door to the centre was a monastery where they were concurrently conducting their own 28-day course. Interestingly, they (the monastery) would blast their chanting, instructions and dhamma talks via a loudspeaker. Of course it was all in Pali and Burmese. At the end of the course, I asked one of the Burmese co-practitioners about it and they informed me it was a vipassana meditation course in the style of the Mogok Sayadaw. They then told me how beneficial they found it as it was almost identical to what they were doing at the 30-day course we were at.
kind rgards

Ben
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby danieLion » Fri May 27, 2011 1:41 am

Thankx guys. What y'all wrote and the acesstoinsight link are very clarifying especially the FAQ question "Is Vipassana the same as Theravada?" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... #vipassana.

Are there advantages to retreats instead of daily "vipassana"? Does "mindfulness" meditation fit into all this or not.

Thanx again.

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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Ben » Fri May 27, 2011 1:46 am

Hi DL
danieLion wrote:Thankx guys. What y'all wrote and the acesstoinsight link are very clarifying especially the FAQ question "Is Vipassana the same as Theravada?" at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... #vipassana.

Are there advantages to retreats instead of daily "vipassana"? Does "mindfulness" meditation fit into all this or not.

Thanx again.

DL


In my experience, retreats are invaluable. They give a depth of practice, some supervision and lots of instruction and they generally make the daily practice easier to get established.
Mindfulness (Sati) is both a component of samatha and vipassana practice. Modern mindfulness practices are actually (mainly) derived from the Burmese Satipatthana/Vipassana 'traditions'.
kind regards

Ben
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Monkey Mind » Fri May 27, 2011 2:39 am

DL- I had been meditating for years before my first 10-day. The benefit I received on the 10-day by far exceeded any meditation experience (or all of them) before this. There is something to be said about an environment that minimizes worldly distractions for 10 days. It was also the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby PeterB » Fri May 27, 2011 7:15 am

Early on in my first ten day retreat I received instruction which corrected misplaced effort of several years standing.
That would not have happened by trial and error, I don't think without experienced input it would have happened at all.
Goenka or Mahasi are only understood experientially, no book, video or discussion can obviate that.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 27, 2011 7:25 am

I'd only been meditating for about a year before I went on a Goenka retreat, but since it was about 2-3 times as long as any previous retreat, it certainly had a huge positive impact on my practice. The strict way retreats are organised means that one can be much more silent and focussed than some other options I've tried.

And, as Peter says, the instructors can be very helpful if there are problems...

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Re: Goenka technique

Postby PeterB » Fri May 27, 2011 7:27 am

Even problems one didn't know one had Mike but which had been impacting one's practice... :smile:
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby danieLion » Fri May 27, 2011 7:56 am

thanx again everbody. Does anyone do suttanta method retreats?
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 27, 2011 8:24 am

danieLion wrote:thanx again everbody. Does anyone do suttanta method retreats?

You'd have to define what you meant by "Suttana method". Since I see little in the way of "method" in the Suttas, as I explained above, I don't find it a useful concept. But of course that's just my impression...

The teachers who say they base their teachings largely on the Suttas actually teach quite a variety of different methods.
For example Ajahn Brahm teaches quite a different approach to Ajahn Tiradhammo and some of the other Ajahn Chah students. This is not a criticism. The point is that those teachers, along with Goenka and various other modern teachers, interpret the Suttas based on wisdom gained from their teachers, their own experience, and the experiences of their students.

That's why their teaching is effective, and why I'd recommend any of them... They know what they are talking about because they have the experience.

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Re: Goenka technique

Postby mikenz66 » Fri May 27, 2011 8:29 am

Hi Peter,
mikenz66 wrote:And, as Peter says, the instructors can be very helpful if there are problems...

PeterB wrote:Even problems one didn't know one had Mike but which had been impacting one's practice... :smile:

Sure. Those are the most dangerous ones.

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Re: Goenka technique

Postby danieLion » Fri May 27, 2011 8:41 am

mikenz66 wrote:
danieLion wrote:thanx again evebody. Does anyone do suttanta method retreats?

You'd have to define what you meant by "Suttana method". Since I see little in the way of "method" in the Suttas, as I explained above, I don't find it a useful concept. But of course that's just my impression...

I just meant what retrofuturist wrote above. didn't mean to confuse.
Last edited by danieLion on Mon Jun 18, 2012 1:43 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby retrofuturist » Fri May 27, 2011 8:55 am

Greetings danieLion,

Mike's not confused - that's just not his approach.

I did like your question though, and I'm interested to hear if anyone responds... I don't know of any, myself.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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