Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

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Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Feb 08, 2011 5:44 pm

I always had the impression that the method of meditation Goenka teaches through videos at his retreats is not explicitly mentioned in the Pali Canon. I found a sutta that seems to indicate I have been wrong about this. Am I?

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.



Also, is my understanding correct that Goenka got this method from another secular teacher who got it from Burmese monks who practiced it for centuries? If so, what is the proper name of this technique? I hate calling it "Goenka's method".

Thanks in advance for all opinions.
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: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby Alexei » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:18 pm

This quote describes 32 parts of the body and 4 properties meditations. Goenka's retreats for beginners don't include these kinds of meditation.

As far as I understand his approach is more about second frame of reference:

And how does a monk remain focused on feelings in & of themselves? There is the case where a monk, when feeling a painful feeling, discerns, 'I am feeling a painful feeling.' When feeling a pleasant feeling, he discerns, 'I am feeling a pleasant feeling.' When feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling, he discerns, 'I am feeling a neither-painful-nor-pleasant feeling.'

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


"In the sky, O monks, various kinds of winds are blowing: winds from the east, west, north and south, winds carrying dust and winds without dust, winds hot and cold, gentle and fierce. Similarly, monks, there arise in this body various kinds of feelings: pleasant feelings arise, painful feelings arise and neutral feelings arise."

    Just as in the sky above winds of various kinds are blowing:
    Coming from the east or west, blowing from the north or south,
    Some carry dust and others not, cold are some and others hot,
    Some are fierce and others mild — their blowing is so different.

    So also in this body here, feelings of different kind arise:
    The pleasant feelings and the painful and the neutral ones.

    But if a monk is ardent and does not neglect
    To practice mindfulness and comprehension clear,
    The nature of all feelings will he understand,
    And having penetrated them, he will be taint-free in this very life.
    Mature in knowledge, firm in Dhamma's ways,
    When once his life-span ends, his body breaks,
    All measure and concept he has transcended.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .nypo.html
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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:24 pm

Alexei wrote:This quote describes 32 parts of the body and 4 properties meditations. Goenka's retreats for beginners don't include these kinds of meditation.


The quote I posted sounds almost exactly like the body scanning his retreats teach. I go to a Sri Lankan temple where the monk doesn't follow the suttas for anapanasati 100%.......is that temple therefore not teaching Buddhist meditation?

Note, I'm not a fan of Goenka's retreats, i am just arguing the point that his technique may be mentioned in the Pali Canon after all. I'm not an expert so I am interested in opinions to the contrary. In addition to many quotations from Access To Insight I would find it useful if people explained, more, what their opinions are and why.
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: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby Ben » Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:47 pm

Jhana4 wrote:I always had the impression that the method of meditation Goenka teaches through videos at his retreats is not explicitly mentioned in the Pali Canon. I found a sutta that seems to indicate I have been wrong about this. Am I?
Well, I am not sure. I think there is some evidence in the suttas. But I think a mistake some people make is searching for the scanning method of observation in the suttas. I believe the scanning method was probably a later innovation to assist practitioners to develop a choiceless observation of vedana. Certainly, as one progresses within this tradition, the scanning from head to foot and foot to head changes and is later dropped as one's experience changes. The important thing is to develop atapi sampajjano satima with regards to whatever is arising and passing away. The scanning you learn on a ten-day course is really a beginner's first step to develop clear comprehension of the anicca characteristic of phenomena (of sensation) with ardent mindfulness as well as developing equanimity with regards to everything being experienced.

Another thought is that many people make an assumption that absolutely everything the Buddha said was recorded in the suttas. While I am no scholar, I am not sure that everything was recorded. For well over five hundred years the Tipitaka was transmitted orally and even after the Tipitaka was in written form, the oral transmission was considered the more authoritative. I imagine, though I have no evidence to support this conjecture, that something as important as individual meditation instruction was only communicated orally.

Something else to consider is an excellent article that Bhikkhu Analayo wrote a few years ago on the ancient roots of U Ba Khin's Method. Bhante contends that evidence of the U Ba Khin/Goenka 'method' was actually captured in a very early Chinese commentary, dating from around the same period as Buddhaghosa.

Also, is my understanding correct that Goenka got this method from another secular teacher who got it from Burmese monks who practiced it for centuries? If so, what is the proper name of this technique? I hate calling it "Goenka's method".?
Well, its a form of vipassana. Or insight meditation designed to cultivate that special wisdom known as vipassana. I call it vipassana meditation or vedananupassana (observation of sensation). SN Goenka's teacher was Thray Sithu Sayagi U Ba Khin. U Ba Khin's teacher was the lay-man Saya Thet Gyi. Saya Thet Gyi's teacher was Ledi Sayadaw. Ledi Sayadaw apparently learned meditation when he was in the Sagaing Hills, approx 10 miles west of Mandalay.
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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby cooran » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:27 am

Hello all,

The Buddha never gave a sole technique - he talked in slightly broader terms.

Can someone show me in the Anapanasati sutta where he stipulated that one should concentrate on the tip of the nose?

with metta
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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Feb 09, 2011 2:56 am

Greetings,

cooran wrote:The Buddha never gave a sole technique - he talked in slightly broader terms.

Can someone show me in the Anapanasati sutta where he stipulated that one should concentrate on the tip of the nose?

:thumbsup:

Whilst you do not find anything in the suttas that explicitly defines or details the "Goenka method", you don't find anything that explicitly contradicts it either.

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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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Feb 09, 2011 3:16 am

Observing the sensations is mentioned in the Suttas, most notably in the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta, but as Chris mentions, meditation instructions in general, are in broad terms, not specific techniques.

Besides the tip of the nose, there are current meditation techniques of watching the abdomen, using hand motions, Buddho, and making awareness to the rise of the abdomen with the inhale and contraction with the exhale, among others. They may not be specifically mentioned, but they all involve observing the breath and sensations and all are certainly helpful.
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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby alan » Wed Feb 09, 2011 4:11 am

Goenka's method is not directly supported in the suttas. But doing a 10 day retreat can be useful in many other ways. Glad I did it. Won't do it again. Many people have benefited from it.
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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby Monkey Mind » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:09 am

I suggest reading Goeka's book about the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta. He discusses why the tradition of U Ba Khin interprets the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta with such an emphasis on vedana, and reviews some of the other interpretations and why that tradition rejects those interpretations. I am no scholar, so I can't comment on the validity of this explanation.
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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby vidar » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:45 pm

Ben wrote:Something else to consider is an excellent article that Bhikkhu Analayo wrote a few years ago on the ancient roots of U Ba Khin's Method. Bhante contends that evidence of the U Ba Khin/Goenka 'method' was actually captured in a very early Chinese commentary, dating from around the same period as Buddhaghosa.


This is the article, I found it very interesting:

http://host.pariyatti.org/treasures/The ... tation.pdf
All the world is on fire, All the world is burning, All the world is ablaze, All the world is quaking. That which does not quake or blaze, That to which worldlings do not resort, Where there is no place for Mara:That is where my mind delights. (SN 5.7)

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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby rowyourboat » Sat Feb 12, 2011 3:25 pm

The Dhyanasamadhi sutta which analayo quotes takes quite a stretching by him, to fit the body scan. IMO it would be a safer bet to say they are practicing vedananupassana with regards to the body. Looking for the external technique in the suttas is not meaningful- better to see if the basic practice of watching impermanence is present to determine authenticity.

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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby Dmytro » Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:02 pm

Hello Chris,

cooran wrote:Can someone show me in the Anapanasati sutta where he stipulated that one should concentrate on the tip of the nose?


In the word 'parimukhaṃ':

viewtopic.php?f=23&t=5636

However note that the establishment of remembrance (sati) on the tip of the nose does not mean narrowing attention to that single point.

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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby mlswe » Mon Feb 14, 2011 1:35 pm

edit to: should practice more answer less
Last edited by mlswe on Thu Sep 08, 2011 11:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby rowyourboat » Tue Feb 15, 2011 6:41 pm

Dmytro wrote:Hello Chris,

cooran wrote:Can someone show me in the Anapanasati sutta where he stipulated that one should concentrate on the tip of the nose?


In the word 'parimukhaṃ':

viewtopic.php?f=23&t=5636

However note that the establishment of remembrance (sati) on the tip of the nose does not mean narrowing attention to that single point.

Metta, Dmytro


If you focus on whether you are breathing in or out, in the present moment, (as the sutta suggests) there is no need (or possibility) to exclusively focus on one area. In fact maybe it is better not to- as you will have a much smoother ride into samadhi!

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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby Dmytro » Wed Feb 16, 2011 8:09 am

rowyourboat wrote:If you focus on whether you are breathing in or out, in the present moment, (as the sutta suggests) there is no need (or possibility) to exclusively focus on one area. In fact maybe it is better not to- as you will have a much smoother ride into samadhi!


The reason of establishing remembrance (sati) in the area between the mouth and the nostrils is to acquire the nimitta (perceptual image) of air, since the Anapanasati jhana is based on the element of air:

Pakatiassāsapakatipassāse nissāya uppannanimittampi assāsapassāsāti nāmaṃ labhati. Upaṭṭhānaṃ satīti taṃ ārammaṇaṃ upecca tiṭṭhatīti sati upaṭṭhānaṃ nāma.

"Sati upatthana" means that 'sati', having approached, is established on that basis (arammana), - nimitta (perceptual image), that arises due to natural inbreath and outbreath.

(Patisambhidamagga-Atthakatha 2.509)

Kiṃ pana pathavīkasiṇaṃ ādiṃ katvā aṭṭhikasaññāpariyosānāvesā rūpāvacarappanā, udāhu aññāpi atthīti? Atthi; ānāpānajjhānañhi kāyagatāsatibhāvanā ca idha na kathitā. Kiñcāpi na kathitā vāyokasiṇe pana gahite ānāpānajjhānaṃ gahitameva; vaṇṇakasiṇesu ca gahitesu kesādīsu catukkapañcakajjhānavasena uppannā kāyagatāsati, dasasu asubhesu gahitesu dvattiṃsākāre paṭikūlamanasikārajjhānavasena ceva navasivathikāvaṇṇajjhānavasena ca pavattā kāyagatāsati gahitāvāti. Sabbāpi rūpāvacarappanā idha kathitāva hotīti.

"But is this all the absorption belonging to the consciousness of the sphere of refined form, beginning with the earth kasiṇa and ending in the perception of the skeleton? Or is there anything else?"
"Yes, there is. There is ānāpāna jhāna and the development of kāyagatāsati, which have not been spoken of here."
"Why not?"
"Because ānāpāna jhāna is included in the air kasiṇa; the development of kāyagatāsati arisen by virtue of the fourfold and fivefold jhānas with reference to the hair etc., is included in the colour kasiṇas; the kāyagatāsati produced by virtue of the jhānas attending to the unattractiveness in the thirty-two parts of the body, and that of the jhāna attending to the colours of the nine kinds of corpses in the charnel grounds is included in the ten repulsive things. Thus all the absorptions of consciousness connected with the sphere of refined form have been included here."

(Dhammasangani-Atthakatha 200)

More detailed instructions are given in the Anapanasati chapter of Vimuttimagga.

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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby Ben » Wed Feb 16, 2011 9:55 am

Thanks Dmytro!
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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby PeterB » Wed Feb 16, 2011 10:06 am

:goodpost:
What he said.
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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Wed Feb 16, 2011 10:08 am

Dmytro wrote:The reason of establishing remembrance (sati) in the area between the mouth and the nostrils is to acquire the nimitta (perceptual image) of air, since the Anapanasati jhana is based on the element of air:


Thanks, that's interesting. I'm not sure what is meant by "perceptual image of air", could you say a bit more about this?

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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby rowyourboat » Wed Feb 16, 2011 11:05 am

Hi Dmytro,

I think we are both aware that the emphasis on nimitta usage came much later. If pressed I would say that it is covered in 'breathing in with the mental fabrication' portion of the anapanasati sutta. Jhana is included in the sutta as the 8th step- releasing the mind- this is clearly ceto-vimutti, as opposed to panna-vimutti.

Practically many people don't develop clear nimittas, but are still capable of attaining to jhana. I have seen this happening. Therefore I believe the Buddha didn't persue the matter of the nimitta that much.

Focusing on a 'spot' allows the development of strong samadhi- which is quite useful- but what the Buddha is describing in the anapanasati sutta is the fulfillment of the Four Foundation of Mindfulness, using anapanasati- so it doesn't have to fit exactly into a samatha description of the progression of anapanasati (and it cannot).

I find practitioners following entirely a samatha progression, often tend to lack in a certain degree of sampajanna (clear comprehension), not knowing what is happening- just keenly concentrating.. That is not adequate to develop the perception of impermanence, as per the last tetrad of the sutta. Therefore I believe the Buddha begins practice by 'opening out' the mind a little bit (be aware whether you are breathing in or breathing out) and being more aware using an expanded scope-field of mindfulness (..of the body,mind, feelings etc, along with the breath) and finally leading to being aware of impermanence and the subsequent developments of the mind, while watching anicca.

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Re: Sutta Support for "Goenka's method" ?

Postby Kenshou » Wed Feb 16, 2011 7:23 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:Thanks, that's interesting. I'm not sure what is meant by "perceptual image of air", could you say a bit more about this?


I believe that is just a slightly more wordy way of referring to the sensation of the breath going in and out at that point.
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