Modus.Ponens wrote:I have done a 10 day vipassana retreat in that tradition and it was the best thing that I did in my life. The technique is very useful and the results profound. I advise anyone to try it.
Which has been my experience.
Modus.Ponens wrote:Having said that, I also have to say the following:
1- I've read that Mahasi style is more efficient in producing insight than Goenka style. The problem with Goenka tradition is that it requires a certain commitment to the tradition in order to be able to attend certain retreats, like the teacher's self course. If you have practiced any other meditation technique between the last retreat and the teacher's self course, for example, you can't attend the TSC. which brings me to the second point:
Yes, at a certain point one is asked to decide whether this particular tradition is right for them. But for the vast majority of meditators - they are not asked. The commitment comes prior to eligibility for the long courses. The pre-requisites to sit the shortest long-course (20-day) is as follows:
Must be a serious old student who is committed to this technique.
Must have sat at least five 10-Day courses with Goenkaji or one of his assistant teachers.
Must have sat at least one Satipatthana Sutta Course.
Must have served at least one 10-Day course.
Maintenance of daily practice of two hours per day for at least 2 years.
Abstaining from killing, sexual misconduct, intoxicants and keeping other precepts to the best of one's ability for one year minimum.
At least six months gap since last sat a long course.
Ten day interval between long course and any other course.
Spouse must be supportive of partner sitting long course.
The pre-requisites to sit longer courses is then progressively more stringent.
The application to sit a long course within this tradition must also be vetted and approved by assistant teachers who know you well and is then approved by the area teacher. The application also requires an interview between the student and the area teacher. This is to ensure that the student is ready for what is a very intense retreat experience.
I sat the Teacher Self Course in 1989/90. However, I would probably not qualify given what the requisites for that particular course is now.
AFAIK, we have a retention rate of around 15 percent of students who go on to continue practicing in daily life and come back for more ten-day courses, serve, and start doing the long courses. Most people spend years practicing in daily life and doing ten-day courses before doing a long course. So, by the time most people are asked whether they feel committed to this particular tradition - they in all likelihood have already come to the conclusion that this particular tradition is for them.
I don't think the request for commitment is a bad thing. The practice is taught in a step-by-step approach and some subtleties can only be taught in the context of a long course and after students have developed some depth of experience within this particular meditative tradition, and for that matter, some confidence.
Also keep in mind, MP, that during the 10-day course discourse, SN Goenka does not ask anyone to commit themselves solely to this particular tradition and suggests that some may wish to try different things and then stick to that which gives benefit.
Modus.Ponens wrote:2- The whole Goenka organization may be a cult. Most acusations online of this organization being a cult are ignorant and could apply to any form of retreat, which would imply that every temple offering retreats are cults. However, there have been at least 2 cases I've encountered worth considering as more than ignorant talk. A critic from inside the organization (going by the name of "pamojja") apeared on e-sangha and described his case where he was threatened to either embrace the views of Goenka regarding the teachings or never being able to attend another course again. He tried to contact Goenka himself to expose the case but with no reply. Here lies the nature of my doubt: either Goenka was to busy to take care of that subject or he neglected it (which is bad) or he encouraged it (which is worse). Now bear in mind that all this happened on the internet and could mean nothing, but, nevertheless, I would like to make the warning.
Why do I recomend this retreat despite having a slight doubt that it is a cult? Because you can learn the technique _ which has nothing wrong and is very beneficial _ and still not become a cult member.
Well, if it is a cult then it would be a surprise to me. I've been involved as a student/server for the last 26 years and most recently as a Trust member of a Vipassana Meditation Centre. I've also sat with and served SN Goenka. I've also met, sat with and served with very senior members of the tradition from Australia, India, Nepal, Myanmar and North America. I also met with Sayagi U Ba Khin's son and his wife and amongst many things we talked about - his views regarding the SN Goenka approach.
Having said that, I will say that there is a tendency among some newly minted 'old students' who as a result of an intense yet profoundly positive experience can exhibit a type of exhuberence that could be misconstrued as blind devotion/guru devotion. Over time, as these old students remain within the tradition and develop deeper insights, their over-exhuberence and near guru-worship gets dissolved. I will also say that for some people who do not have an optimal retreat experience - sometimes they blame SN Goenka, the tradition or the management for their experience.
What I will say with regards to the two cases you mentiond - there is more to them that meets the eye. Be careful of making a judgement based on only being exposed to just one side. The fact that an alternative point of view hasn't emerged from SN Goenka or his assistant teachers doesn't mean that there isn't another side to the story.