Goenka technique

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Re: Goenka technique

Postby ciprian » Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:36 pm

I have a question about this technique. I read Wiliam Hard's book, The Art of Living and I understand that by not reacting to painful sensation you burn sankaras. This looks to me more like a jain thing.... Is there any sutta that can explain it? I found Devadaha sutta (MN 101) stating exactly different things.
..or maybe I got it wrong.
If this topic was discussed somewhere else please kindly direct me. Last year I attended a course in a center that was not recognized by Mr. Goenka and I heard a lot of things that where not in line with Buddha's teachings so since then I become very circumspect about it.. On the other side I see a lot of people satisfied whit this method that it makes me wonder if didn't got it wrong. Please help me out clear my doubts!
Thank you
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Jul 09, 2010 1:57 pm

What did you understand " burn sankaras " to mean Ciprian ?
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby ciprian » Fri Jul 09, 2010 2:25 pm

from my understanding of the book, the author suggested that old sankaras - that is defined as conditioning resulted from past reactions to stimuli - can manifest trough certain burnings or pains or other sensations in the body and by not reacting to those sensations you don't create new sankaras and the old one are eradicated. This looks to me like the idea that old kamma can be burned out through asceticism. from what i read so far regarding buddhist practice, the liberation comes from understanding the real nature of things, not from burning out anything. Is that any sutta that states that it works the other way?
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Ben » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:08 pm

Hi Ciprian

I think you are either misunderstanding SN Goenka or misunderstanding Jainism.
They are not the same.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby ciprian » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:14 pm

I am not saying that what Mr. Goenka teaches is jainism. I said that is the way it looks to me. There is a very strong possibility that I misunderstand Mr. Goenka and an even stronger one that I misunderstand Jainism.
The reason I am writing this is because I want to understand better. So please assist me if possible :anjali:
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby altar » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:30 pm

Ciprian I believe one of the differences is that Jains believe that old karma manifests in the form of present pain. Thereby forcing pain to arise, or enduring all pain that arises, one is experiencing and burning off old kamma.
However, according to Mr. Goenka, I believe there are a few differences. First is that watching sensations is not only a method of extinguishing or letting loose old sankharas, but is also a method of watching reality more closely.
But anyway, as far as burning off old sankharas is concerned: It is, in the case of Mr. Goenka's view, not that one literally must endure pain to let go of old sankharas. It is simply that one must watch whatever arises, thereby enabling mindful awareness to carry out the unbinding process. A lot of what arises will be painful, especially with that stuff that is in one's psyche. Also physical sensations that are painful will arise, and these will sometimes be connected w/ what is in the mind. Therefore by watching the painful sensations one can tap into the mind and thus mindfully bring about the unbinding process. Or, it may be that physical sensations are simply there as a result of physical pressure and feeling, and this can be a ground for investigating aversion to pain, developing endurance or patience, other useful and skilfull strategies, or simply something one has to put up with if they are going to sit long enough to watch other sensations or the mind.
Keep in mind that this is my two cents and I am not an expert on Mr. Goenka's views or the Jainist views.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby ciprian » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:26 pm

Thanks for the replies!
If you have the time, please take a look to this sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html and tell me if you think it is relevant to the subject. A little quote from the translator's Introduction (Thanissaro Bhikkhu)
...Although this was the Jain approach to practice, many people at present believe that it is the Buddhist approach as well. Meditation, according to this understanding, is the process of purifying the mind of old kamma by training it to look on with non-reactive equanimity as pain arises. The pain is the result of old kamma, the equanimity adds no new kamma, and thus over time all old kamma can be burned away.

I have never participated in any of Mr. Goenka's courses so that is why I search for a more knowledgeable opinion. Has the passage cited above any relevance on the subject?
And is there any sutta reference that watching sensations is a method of "extinguishing"/"burning"/"letting loose" of old sankharas?
Thank you again :anjali:
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jul 09, 2010 8:50 pm

Here's a link to a previous post:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 942#p58072
which, in part reads:
retrofuturist wrote:
Question: It seems to me that it would take forever to eliminate the sankharas one by one.

S.N. Goenka: That would be so if one moment of equanimity meant exactly one less sankhara of the past. But in fact, awareness of sensation takes you to the deepest level of the mind and allows you to cut the roots of past conditioning. In this way, in a relatively short time, you can eliminate entire complexes of sankharas, if your awareness and equanimity are strong.


He is talking about "cut[ting] off the roots of past conditioning" (by eradicating ignorance) which is perfectly aligned with the Dhamma, and precisely what differentiates the Dhamma from the Jain understanding.... so yes, there is a difference.

I, too, found the way Goenka-ji expresses it is a little reminiscent of the Jain ideas, but as Retro says, it seems clear that he is talking about dealing with underlying tendencies with insight, not burning off past kamma in a Jain sense.

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Re: Goenka technique

Postby ciprian » Sat Jul 10, 2010 5:24 am

thanks! I was sure that this topic must have been discussed somewhere :anjali:
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby vitellius » Fri Jul 16, 2010 10:10 pm

PeterB wrote:Bhanga nana is indeed scary nana.


If somebody at a Goenka retreat felt it as something scary, I need to reconsider my opinion about that. I will try to learn more about ñanas.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Sambodhi in Oz » Sat Dec 25, 2010 7:08 am

RYB Wrote

When I started teach two people who had been meditating for years (goneka+dhammajiva), very quickly grasped it and progressed through the jhanas and then vipassana knowledges within a matter of months (2-3). As far as people go, the lady who was following the Goenka method was amazing. I could give her one instruction and she would come back having achieved it -like clockwork. She was really ardent, dilligent, mindful and her personality was such that she didnt grasp much, had good sila and was easy to instruct. Many months later (12-18) two more Goenka adherants progressed to the place where she reached. Now my main argument that the Goenka method is limiting is this earlier woman could not have been a better student ie- the student factors were near 100%; her rate limiting factor must have been the method (Certainly there were no impediments otherwise in her life). I cannot perceive her doing anything but well if given a meditation instruction.


It took buddha 6 years of ardent practise to achive Buddhahood and this was after millions of years (so to say) of having established parami. Ananda himself could not achive Arhathood during the lifetime of buddha while Sariputta became sotapanna of 2nd hand hearing of dhamma and became Arhat in just some time. So was this a lacking of Buddha's method, parami of a person, his karmas or his effort. Buddha himself used to say "just keep on observing the sensation and leave everything else to time - kalam agameya". with due respect to the lady and metta to you it is rather simplistic of you to say that method is limiting.

Now the reason I say that the Goenka method can give rise to stream entrants is that I saw another woman who had understood nama-rupa, anatta etc etc using the Goenka body scan when I interviewed her. She was not in this meditation class but we met infrequently and she requested instructions from me. So I know that the Goenka method can deliver and certainly there are people in this forum whom I suspect to be stream entrants after following the Goenka method.


Understanding of nama-rupa, anatta does not mean stream entry, the first experiance of nibbana means that, however it does show that the method is correct or atleast leads to right direction and if there are stream entrants to be found in the path then certainly the path is correct since it leads to relaisation of the four noble truths (not just understanding).

would urge you to undertake atleast one course of Vipassana run by Goenkaji.

Metta

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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Jhana4 » Sun Feb 06, 2011 1:22 pm

Jechbi wrote:Hello all,
He seemed gratified to have an opportunity to help out at the center, yet it also was clear that he took some of Goenka's discourses with a good-natured grain of salt.



I went on 2 Goenka retreats in the 1990s when I was first starting out with Theravada. At the time I was also meditating with a Sri Lankan temple and taking sutta classes from an American born ex-monk there. The reaction quoted above was almost exactly what I got from the crowd associated with the Sri Lankan temple. Decades later, I think I understand it.



In a different thread, Retro offered a comment that intrigued me:

retrofuturist wrote:I too have done a 10-day Goenka course (May 2007, I think) and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, even if my practice now is more specifically aligned to the suttas than it is to Mr. Goenka's technique.




Decades later, that is ALSO exactly how I feel. LOL! Valuable experience, but it isn't what I am into.


For me, that raises the question: To what degree could Mr. Goenka's technique be more specifically aligned to the suttas, and is this lack of specific alignment something that has the potential to create obstacles for those of use who employ the technique? Or am I overthinking this?


It is my impression that the "body scan" technique isn't described in the Pali Canon at all, beyond loose references in the satipathana sutta to be "aware of the body in the body". On the other hand the technique of anapansati is described explicitly in the suttas and is mentioned throughout the canon.

That being said, I'm an atheist, my belief is the Buddha was just a man. I'm very open to the idea that someone else over the course of 2600 years can have a good idea. Goenka's teacher was Ubha Khin, who I *think* got the technique from Burmese monks. If those monks were practicing the technique for centuries, it has to have merit.

That being written, you should take my opinion with a grain of salt. I'm not an expert in the Pali Canon, Buddhism, meditation or any of the above.

My sole problem with Goenka's system is the subculture around it which I find to be rigid and a bit arrogant ( no offense meant).
Last edited by Jhana4 on Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Feb 07, 2011 7:55 pm

I think aspects of the mind are reflected in the body:

"There is the case where a monk — quite withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities — enters and remains in the first jhana: rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought and evaluation. He permeates and pervades, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal.

"Just as if a skilled bathman or bathman's apprentice would pour bath powder into a brass basin and knead it together, sprinkling it again and again with water, so that his ball of bath powder — saturated, moisture-laden, permeated within and without — would nevertheless not drip; even so, the monk permeates, suffuses and fills this very body with the rapture and pleasure born of withdrawal. There is nothing of his entire body unpervaded by rapture and pleasure born from withdrawal...

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... jhana.html

However my opinion is that mental problems are best resolved at its root (by being aware of the mind itself)

"And how does a monk remain focused on the mind in & of itself? There is the case where a monk, when the mind has passion, discerns that the mind has passion. When the mind is without passion, he discerns that the mind is without passion. When the mind has aversion, he discerns that the mind has aversion. When the mind is without aversion, he discerns that the mind is without aversion. When the mind has delusion, he discerns that the mind has delusion. When the mind is without delusion, he discerns that the mind is without delusion.

"When the mind is restricted, he discerns that the mind is restricted. When the mind is scattered, he discerns that the mind is scattered. When the mind is enlarged, he discerns that the mind is enlarged. When the mind is not enlarged, he discerns that the mind is not enlarged. When the mind is surpassed, he discerns that the mind is surpassed. When the mind is unsurpassed, he discerns that the mind is unsurpassed. When the mind is concentrated, he discerns that the mind is concentrated. When the mind is not concentrated, he discerns that the mind is not concentrated. When the mind is released, he discerns that the mind is released. When the mind is not released, he discerns that the mind is not released.

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

with metta

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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Sambodhi in Oz » Tue Feb 08, 2011 4:35 pm

Matheesha,

Whats the point ?

Regards

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Re: Goenka technique

Postby danieLion » Thu May 26, 2011 12:28 am

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)
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby Ben » Thu May 26, 2011 12:46 am

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
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby danieLion » Thu May 26, 2011 12:55 am

Jhana4 wrote:
Jechbi wrote:
In a different thread, Retro offered a comment that intrigued me:

retrofuturist wrote:I too have done a 10-day Goenka course (May 2007, I think) and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, even if my practice now is more specifically aligned to the suttas than it is to Mr. Goenka's technique.
sorry guys. I cannot find this retofuturist link. Does anyone know where it is? I am curious about suttanta method. Does it involve breathing meditaation? I will look through the links here for that. Thanks.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby retrofuturist » Thu May 26, 2011 1:11 am

Greetings,

danieLion wrote:sorry guys. I cannot find this retofuturist link. Does anyone know where it is? I am curious about suttanta method. Does it involve breathing meditaation? I will look through the links here for that. Thanks.

Suttanta method just means meditation in accordance with the instructions in the Sutta Pitaka... there's a sub-forum especially for this approach, if you wish to ask specific questions there or do some reading (and yes, it includes breathing meditation - specifically the Ananpanasati Sutta).

As for the Goenka technique, it is not inconsistent with the suttas... it's just a case of different emphasis, and the utilisation of certain concepts (bhanga comes to mind) which derive not from the suttas, but subsequent commentarial literature.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby danieLion » Thu May 26, 2011 1:58 am

Thanks Retrofuturist. Good explanation. I am looking at the sub forum too which is clarifying also.
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Re: Goenka technique

Postby tiltbillings » Thu May 26, 2011 2:15 am

retrofuturist wrote:As for the Goenka technique, it is not inconsistent with the suttas... it's just a case of different emphasis, and the utilisation of certain concepts (bhanga comes to mind) which derive not from the suttas, but subsequent commentarial literature.
The core emphasis in the Goenka practice is on anicca, impermanance, which puts it squarely within the framework of the suttas:

". . . the perception of impermanence should be cultivated for the removal of the conceit 'I am.' For when one perceives impermanence, Meghiya, the perception of not-self is established. When one perceives not-self one reaches the removal of the conceit 'I am,' which is called Nibbana here and now." U iv 1.

And you are quite correct in that it does use commentarial concepts in talking about and framing the practice, but certainly not to the exclusion of the suttas.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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