Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby motivateman » Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:54 pm

Dear All,

I'm booked onto a Goenka 10 day vipassana course next week in the UK and I'm having doubts now!

I've practiced the observing physical sensations vipassana technique before and think it is good.

However, I've been reading Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. In his book he teaches Vipassana and it is mostly about understanding the thought process at the root level, which I find very interesting and would like to explore this more, and understand how I create emotions like fear, greed, anxiety etc.

I've read on another forum that Goenka's vipassana approach is about observing physical sensations only and not about analysing and understanding thoughts?

Is this true?

If so, I think Gunaratana's approach is better for me.

I'm confused as to whether I should go on this course.

I would appreciate any advice!

Best wishes,

mm
motivateman
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:47 pm

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby PeterB » Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:58 pm

Just go.... :anjali:
PeterB
 
Posts: 3903
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:59 pm

Go on the course, then if you can find a retreat teaching Gunaratana's method go on that one.

It's worth trying a breadth of techniques before you settle on one, trying one technique doesn't lock you in for life.

I've found Goenka's technique has helped me practice other techniques because a greater awareness of body sensation has helped me be more grounded and more sensative to subtleties.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1944
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby motivateman » Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:12 pm

Thanks for the comments guys!

Will the Goenka course teach me more about the creation of undesirable thoughts and emotions, and how these can be released?

Because these are the main things I need to work on in life at the moment!

I think I'm having pre-course jitters!

Thanks!
motivateman
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:47 pm

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby PeterB » Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:19 pm

Cold feet are common Motivateman...I get them most times...just acknowledge them and go anyway... :smile:
PeterB
 
Posts: 3903
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:26 pm

Go on the course. Decide for yourself whether or not you like the method. Either way the retreat will be a valuable experience. When you get home keep giving Venerable Gunaratan's method a try as well. Stick with what works for you.
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.
Jhana4
 
Posts: 1309
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: U.S.A., Northeast

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby daverupa » Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:53 pm

Goofaholix wrote:It's worth trying a breadth of techniques before you settle on one


Agreed, with a caveat: stick with one method for a month or three and stay focused on only that method for that time. It's the only way to isolate effective phenomenological variables amongst various methods.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
User avatar
daverupa
 
Posts: 4166
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:06 pm

daverupa wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:It's worth trying a breadth of techniques before you settle on one


Agreed, with a caveat: stick with one method for a month or three and stay focused on only that method for that time. It's the only way to isolate effective phenomenological variables amongst various methods.


Translation: give each a good try and stick with the one that works best for you.

Friends don't let friends major in philosophy :).
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.
Jhana4
 
Posts: 1309
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: U.S.A., Northeast

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:19 pm

motivateman wrote:I'm booked onto a Goenka 10 day vipassana course next week in the UK and I'm having doubts now!

However, I've been reading Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. In his book he teaches Vipassana and it is mostly about understanding the thought process at the root level, which I find very interesting and would like to explore this more, and understand how I create emotions like fear, greed, anxiety etc.
Its also essential to understand doubt, which is just another mental state.

IMO beginners need to do plenty of groundwork on observing the body and feelings before they can progress to observing conciousness and mental states. Start with what is gross, and work towards knowing what is subtle.
AIM WebsitePāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)
User avatar
Bhikkhu Pesala
 
Posts: 2029
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:17 pm

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby Ben » Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:27 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
motivateman wrote:I'm booked onto a Goenka 10 day vipassana course next week in the UK and I'm having doubts now!

However, I've been reading Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. In his book he teaches Vipassana and it is mostly about understanding the thought process at the root level, which I find very interesting and would like to explore this more, and understand how I create emotions like fear, greed, anxiety etc.
Its also essential to understand doubt, which is just another mental state.

IMO beginners need to do plenty of groundwork on observing the body and feelings before they can progress to observing conciousness and mental states. Start with what is gross, and work towards knowing what is subtle.


Excellent advice!
Don't worry too much about giving attention to sensation rather than the thought process on your ten-day course. As you will learn, vedana (sensation) are connected to the deepest 'root' level of the mind where all phenomenology are interconnected. My advice is to just go, and to work as per the instructions.
Wishing you every success.

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16127
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Feb 08, 2011 11:31 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:IMO beginners need to do plenty of groundwork on observing the body and feelings before they can progress to observing conciousness and mental states. Start with what is gross, and work towards knowing what is subtle.


This is very true.

Being able to observe and understand the sensations in the body when you have undesirable thoughts and emotions is the key to gaining freedom from undesirable thoughts and emotions.

If you try to work on undesirable thoughts and emotions directly you'll probably end up just applying a band aid but if you work on them at the level of sensations in the body that's when you have the opportunity to pull them out at the roots.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
User avatar
Goofaholix
 
Posts: 1944
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby legolas » Wed Feb 09, 2011 7:22 am

motivateman wrote:Dear All,

I'm booked onto a Goenka 10 day vipassana course next week in the UK and I'm having doubts now!

I've practiced the observing physical sensations vipassana technique before and think it is good.

However, I've been reading Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana. In his book he teaches Vipassana and it is mostly about understanding the thought process at the root level, which I find very interesting and would like to explore this more, and understand how I create emotions like fear, greed, anxiety etc.

I've read on another forum that Goenka's vipassana approach is about observing physical sensations only and not about analysing and understanding thoughts?

Is this true?

If so, I think Gunaratana's approach is better for me.

I'm confused as to whether I should go on this course.

I would appreciate any advice!

Best wishes,

mm


If in doubt - go with the suttas. Bhante Gunaratana is a great modern day teacher whose teachings have aligned themselves more and more with the suttas as the decades have passed and less and less with commentarial works. If you already have a strong attraction to the Bhante's teachings, I would reccomend you go with that attraction. If a layperson is attracted to the Buddha's Dhamma it is only common sense to learn that Dhamma from the teaching lineage the Buddha started. Even then don't lose your discriminating mind - refer everything back to the suttas.

All the Best
User avatar
legolas
 
Posts: 235
Joined: Tue Aug 03, 2010 9:58 am

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby cooran » Wed Feb 09, 2011 7:28 am

hello motivateman,

I'm really looking forward to hearing what you think of the course. :group:

with metta
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
User avatar
cooran
 
Posts: 7594
Joined: Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:32 pm
Location: Queensland, Australia

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:18 am

Hi Motivateman,

It is important to bear in mind that vipassana is about being specifically aware of the arising and passing away nature of any and all phenomena. Samatha is removing or suppressing hindrances until you develop a concentrated mind. The latter also helps to reduce suffering in the here and now. The path to samatha/samadhi is to be mindful. At the Goenka retreat, if you simply remain mindful of body sensations you will achieve the same ends, as the mindfulness will give rise to samadhi (sati gives rise to samadhi, as per how the five spiritual faculties function) and the hindrances to happiness will be suppressed. As everyone above has noted, there will be benefits other than this. So I think overall, it will be to your advantage if you go. At the very least getting away from it all for 10 days you will develop mindfulness, samadhi and become aware of subtle body sensations which reflect what is going on in the mind to some degree. Then there is Goenkas discourses which you may learn from as well. You will learn what it is like to be on retreat, which will reduce the jitters for future retreats. I hear that being equnamous to unpleasant as well as pleasant bodily sensations are developed - this is a useful method to overcome aversion to painful experiences in life (not limiting it to the body) and reducing clinging to pleasurable experiences. I hope you learn to overcome suffering whatever method you choose.

With metta

Matheesha
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha
rowyourboat
 
Posts: 1949
Joined: Sat Jan 03, 2009 5:29 pm
Location: London, UK

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby PeterB » Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:08 am

Our discursive minds do not have independant existence
This does not stop them behaving as though they have.
They will wriggle and squirm and react to any perceived threat. Before I went to my first retreat my anxiety was about not having control over my environment, Not being able to decide what to eat and when. When to shower and so on.
After a retreat or two that faded. But" retreat fear" simply took on new forms.
The most common for me is..." I dont have the time...its selfish....I have these responsibilities" etc etc etc.

Within a few hours of arrival all this dies away to a quiet murmer....until the next time.
PeterB
 
Posts: 3903
Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby zavk » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:09 pm

I get feelings of trepidation, doubt, jitters, whatever you call it, every time I go on a retreat--regardless of whether it is a Goenka course, ten days, three days, or even one day. In a way, your decision to take a course has already allowed you to begin to explore undesirable thoughts and emotions. As it is, you are beginning to observe them arising..... So why not follow through on your initial decision and act on your intention to complete a retreat and see where that leads you? Your intention, if acted upon, will bring its own results. That's the basic law of the Dhamma.

All the best, I hope you do take the course.
With metta,
zavk
User avatar
zavk
 
Posts: 1161
Joined: Tue Jan 20, 2009 12:04 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby Jhana4 » Wed Feb 09, 2011 1:01 pm

It was a long time ago, but I've been on two of Goenka's retreats.

I know there are stories of people freaking out, but I didn't see it. I stayed on after my last retreat and worked in the kitchen. I heard more stories, but my impression was that problems were few and far between.

That was my experience on my retreats. The worst thing that happened to me was that I got stiffness/pain in my legs and under my shoulder blades. Those things would disappear as soon as the sitting would end.

So, just tell yourself the truth:

"Nothing will happen to me. I may feel some discomfort. I may not like it, but it will go away. Nothing will happen to me".


Repeat as often as necessary.
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.
Jhana4
 
Posts: 1309
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: U.S.A., Northeast

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby motivateman » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:16 pm

Dear All,

Many thanks for all your replies. Much appreciated it!

I think I was just getting worried about the environment and not being in control with not being able to eat, sleep etc when I want to. But I know that's what such a retreat is all about. I keep thinking about how many e-mails I'd have to pick up when I got back! I guess I've also been feeling a bit guilty about being away from my family for so long, but it seems like these are normal experiences...

Just to let you know a bit about me. I'm a person who stutters so fear and anxiety have always been a problem. I've been using meditation as a way to help me understand how I create this anxiety more. I'm also a Hindu, so I had some concerns that the course might conflict with this. But I know it won't. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita teaches about non-attachment and vipassana meditation is an excellent way to practice this.

Could any of please share any positive experiences about how the course helped you in your personal and professional lives?

I know I shouldn't expect anything but it would be good if after the course I'm better able to serve my family, friends, colleagues etc and also get some peace about my stuttering.

Cheers!

mm
motivateman
 
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 8:47 pm

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby Jhana4 » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:35 pm

motivateman wrote:Dear All,


I think I was just getting worried about the environment and not being in control with not being able to eat, sleep etc when I want to.


I love to eat. When I went I was athletic with a good appetite. Since I was sitting still in meditation all day long I was quite satisfied with the two daily meals and fruit in the evening. Both meals had a choice of several vegetarian entrees and side dishes.

When I went, bed time was at 9:30 pm. The morning gong went off at 4:30 am. That is 7 hours of sleep. Plus you have a big break at lunch where you can easily pull off a 30 min catnap. That is better than a lot of people do during the work week :).

But I know that's what such a retreat is all about. I keep thinking about how many e-mails


You would get that if you took a vacation anyway.

Just to let you know a bit about me. I'm a person who stutters so fear and anxiety have always been a problem.


Can you think of a more stress free environment for a person who stutters than a place where no one is talking?

I'm also a Hindu, so I had some concerns that the course might conflict with this. But I know it won't. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita teaches about non-attachment and vipassana meditation is an excellent way to practice this.


The videos of Goenka that are used to teach you do talk about some Buddhist philosophical concepts, but nobody is going to ask or even suggest that you pray to anything. The only conflict that you may have is that the retreats don't allow prayer at all.

The worst thing that will happen to you on this retreat will likely be that you will come to feel uncomfortable sitting on the floor for a long time. Once the meditation is over and you stand up, you will feel fine, no harm done. If you do it quietly you can even change your position.
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.
Jhana4
 
Posts: 1309
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: U.S.A., Northeast

Re: Doubts about Goenka course! - Need advice please

Postby Ben » Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:34 pm

Greetings motivateman

I've been associated with the Goenka tradition for 25 years. In that time I have sat many ten-day and longer courses as well as serve on courses. I've also sat and served in Australia, NZ, India and Myanmar.

Pre-course jitters are natural. I still get them from time to time.
Many Hindus participate in ten-day courses, particularly in India where the Govt of Maharashtra gives its employees an additional ten-days leave on top of their holidays to do a ten-day course. My teacher, SN Goenka, came from a Hindu famil and during the discourses he talks about some of the pre-course jitters he had as a young Hindu businessman.
Throughout my time participating in courses, I have witnessed a large number of clerics of various religions participating in ten-day courses. As Goenkaji says time and again, there is no conversion from one organised religion to another.

The benefits of practice include positive changes to one's personal and professional life. I won't bore you with the details of mine. If you do attend a ten-day course, Goenkaji, via the evening discourse, will talk about the immediate benefits he received as well as the benefits that some of his co-students received as well as anecdotes from the life of his teacher, Sayagi UJ Ba Khin. U Ba Khin also went on to speak in front of a delegation of Israeli government officials headed by Prime Minister Ben Gurion at IMC (International Meditation Centre) in 1961 on the positive impact of Vipassana Meditation on government administration and productivity.

If you have time before your course starts, I recommend that you track down and read a copy of John Coleman's excellent "The Quiet Mind". John Coleman is a contemporary of Goenkaji and anothr of Sayagi U Ba Khin's students. In the 1950s, Coleman was outed as a CIA agent in Bangkok and 'disappeared' by spending a number of years undergoing a spiritual journey where he met up with U Ba Khin, Maharishi, Krishnamurti and others. Coleman eventually became one of U Ba Khin's assistant teachers and he still teaches today (occassionally). It is very inspirational.
All the best with your upcoming course!
kind regards

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
User avatar
Ben
Site Admin
 
Posts: 16127
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: Land of the sleeping gods

Next

Return to Insight Meditation

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests