Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby David2 » Tue Jan 24, 2012 2:53 pm

it was far, far, far too distracting for me and it prompted me to do anything BUT focus on becoming established in the practice.


That's just your mind looking for excuses.
Not the chanting was the reason for you getting distracted, but the state of your mind.

In my opinion, Goenkaji's chanting does not sound badly at all.
It's repetitive, yes, but that are many things on a retreat and many things in life as well.
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Brizzy » Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:14 pm

David2 wrote:
it was far, far, far too distracting for me and it prompted me to do anything BUT focus on becoming established in the practice.


That's just your mind looking for excuses.
Not the chanting was the reason for you getting distracted, but the state of your mind.

In my opinion, Goenkaji's chanting does not sound badly at all.
It's repetitive, yes, but that are many things on a retreat and many things in life as well.


It has to be said that a retreat is a conscious decision to be separate from the world and you would appreciate the optimum conditions. In the Buddha's time there were many instances of his monks having trouble meditating due to adverse conditions. The Buddha did not advise them to 'suck it up', instead he advised them to move or do metta. I personally have not come across an argument that convinces me of the Dhammic necessity for the all day chanting. I have stayed in monastery's where the chanting is a morning and evening thing and more importantly it is an inclusive event, doing a certain amount of chanting by 'oneself' definitely has a Dhammic purpose. Being chanted at always made me a little uneasy. When I broached the subject of chanting it was waved away as something that creates 'good vibrations' or is something the teacher 'has to do'. I am not aware of the Buddha teaching in such a way when his monks were trying to meditate in seclusion, it would be a matter of a discourse by the Buddha then seclusion. Chanting can be viewed by some as 'magical words' especially if an alien language is used. I could actually see the advantage of being chanted at if that chanting was done in our mother tongue- then it would become a teaching and not just sounds.

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:24 pm

Greetings Ertner,

ertner wrote:i hope this doesn't sound like i'm hating... i'm just very confused by what i just experienced.

In the framework of the instructions you could have observed the feeling (vedana) of the physical manifestations (kaya-sankhara) you created as a result of your aversion. Thus, continuing with your specified practice, despite the presence of what was (to you) unpleasant vedana. In other words, integrating it into what you were supposed to be doing, rather than allowing it to destroy what you were supposed to be cultivating.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Brizzy » Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:43 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Ertner,

ertner wrote:i hope this doesn't sound like i'm hating... i'm just very confused by what i just experienced.

In the framework of the instructions you could have observed the feeling (vedana) of the physical manifestations (kaya-sankhara) you created as a result of your aversion. Thus, continuing with your specified practice, despite the presence of what was (to you) unpleasant vedana. In other words, integrating it into what you were supposed to be doing, rather than allowing it to destroy what you were supposed to be cultivating.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Is that really the purpose of a retreat? To put oneself in a situation which is unpleasant, we are not tudong monks :smile: It almost borders on the tantric idea of putting oneself in certain situations or generating certain feelings - just to 'face' them down. Life is unpleasant enough without any encouragement.

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jan 24, 2012 11:45 pm

Greetings Brizzy,

Brizzy wrote:Is that really the purpose of a retreat?

No, but to mentally disintegrate under the weight of aversion, in the present of unpleasant-vedana, isn't the purpose of a retreat, either.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Jan 25, 2012 12:18 am

Brizzy wrote:Is that really the purpose of a retreat? To put oneself in a situation which is unpleasant, we are not tudong monks :smile:


Absolutely!

That's exactly what a reatreat is for, to observe unpleasant, to observe pleasant, to observe neutral, and to let go of the obsessive compulsion to try and get rid of one and get more of the other.
"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
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Ben » Wed Jan 25, 2012 2:04 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Brizzy wrote:Is that really the purpose of a retreat? To put oneself in a situation which is unpleasant, we are not tudong monks :smile:


Absolutely!

That's exactly what a reatreat is for, to observe unpleasant, to observe pleasant, to observe neutral, and to let go of the obsessive compulsion to try and get rid of one and get more of the other.


Well said, Goof!
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Brizzy » Wed Jan 25, 2012 2:15 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Brizzy wrote:Is that really the purpose of a retreat? To put oneself in a situation which is unpleasant, we are not tudong monks :smile:


Absolutely!

That's exactly what a reatreat is for, ...............


If that is your cup of tea, then go for it. Where does one draw the line regarding putting oneself in unpleasant situations?

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Jan 25, 2012 2:38 am

Brizzy wrote:If that is your cup of tea, then go for it. Where does one draw the line regarding putting oneself in unpleasant situations?


This is the practise, the middle way, half way between hedonism and asceticism.

You draw the line by fully embracing the unpleasant and realising it can't hurt you, a little chanting never hurt anyone, it's just a preference. Now if Goenka pulled out a chainsaw and started disembowling his students that would be a signal to beat a hasty retreat, pardon the pun.

If one continues to try and arrange everything in life in such a way as to avoid the unpleasant and get more of the pleasant then it's just a game, one that doesn't lead to the end of suffering.

As Ajahn Chah said "There are two kinds of suffering : the suffering which leads to more suffering, and the suffering which leads to the end of suffering. The first is the pain of grasping after fleeting pleasures and aversion for the unpleasant, the continued struggle of most people day after day. The second is the suffering which comes when you allow yourself to feel fully the constant change of experience - fear or withdrawal. Thesuffering of our experience lead to inner fearlessness and peace."

I'd have thought this was Buddhism 101.
"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
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jan 25, 2012 2:41 am

Greetings Brizzy,

Brizzy wrote:If that is your cup of tea, then go for it. Where does one draw the line regarding putting oneself in unpleasant situations?

The purpose of the retreat setting is to facilitate an environment which supports investigation into vedana... its purpose isn't to provide pleasant-vedana, anymore than its purpose is to provide unpleasant-vedana.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Brizzy » Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:09 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Brizzy,

Brizzy wrote:If that is your cup of tea, then go for it. Where does one draw the line regarding putting oneself in unpleasant situations?

The purpose of the retreat setting is to facilitate an environment which supports investigation into vedana... its purpose isn't to provide pleasant-vedana, anymore than its purpose it to provide unpleasant-vedana.

Metta,
Retro. :)


A retreats purpose is to foster an environment where one can calmly deal with the ups & downs of meditation, including investigation of vedana. If that environment adds stress rather than decreasing it then it becomes a problem. To cultivate calm is not to run away from unpleasant vedana, rather it is a pro-active way of dealing with them. This process is not a picnic, any extraneous difficulties that are deliberately made part of the retreat cannot be conducive to development. Being chanted to is not a problem for some people, for others it is an un-wished for intrusion. It might be better, if one could opt in or out of the chanting.

Metta

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:15 am

Greetings Brizzy,

I'm not disagreeing with that - only saying that (given that sitting through Goenka's chanting is a mandatory part of the syllabus) that the meditator should be aiming integrate it into the practice they are being asked to follow, rather than get carried away by their negative emotional response to it.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Brizzy » Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:29 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Brizzy,

I'm not disagreeing with that - only saying that (given that sitting through Goenka's chanting is a mandatory part of the syllabus) that the meditator should be aiming integrate it into the practice they are being asked to follow, rather than get carried away by their negative emotional response to it.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Agreed. Perhaps the large amount of chanting that takes place as part of the syllabus should be made clearer to newbies beforehand.

Metta

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:41 am

Brizzy wrote:A retreats purpose is to foster an environment where one can calmly deal with the ups & downs of meditation, including investigation of vedana. If that environment adds stress rather than decreasing it then it becomes a problem. To cultivate calm is not to run away from unpleasant vedana, rather it is a pro-active way of dealing with them. This process is not a picnic, any extraneous difficulties that are deliberately made part of the retreat cannot be conducive to development. Being chanted to is not a problem for some people, for others it is an un-wished for intrusion. It might be better, if one could opt in or out of the chanting.


I'd agree with you that the chanting is an un-wished for intrusion for a lot of us. However life is full of un-wished for intrusion and if one can't learn to deal with un-wished for intrusion in a calm way while on retreat what hope is there for busy day to day life.

Personally I choose to go back to my room during the big session before breakfast, I also choose not to create aversion at other times, it doesn't have to be a big deal.

One can choose whether sense contact is classed as intrusion or not, for example car horns are often classed as intrusion whereas birdsong is not and yet the same process of hearing is taking place.

Ultimately if one is practising insight meditation rather than concentration meditation nothing is classed as intrusion.
"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
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jan 25, 2012 3:53 am

Goofaholix wrote:I'd agree with you that the chanting is an un-wished for intrusion for a lot of us. However life is full of un-wished for intrusion and if one can't learn to deal with un-wished for intrusion in a calm way while on retreat what hope is there for busy day to day life.

I've only done one Goenka retreat, in Hong Kong back in 2007 so my memory may be a little fuzzy. Personally, I didn't particularly care for the chanting either (I'm used to Thai-style chanting) but as I recall it was only that morning session, so not that big a deal. We also had to contend with some pile driving in the next properly that sometimes shook the whole building...

On retreats here I often have the sound of a ride-on mower and other garden maintenance. Not to mention earthquakes... :jumping:

As others have said, these are all opportunities for practice. And see this from Ajahn Chah: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... =0#p158780

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Brizzy » Wed Jan 25, 2012 4:05 am

:juggling:
I often have to contend with screaming kids, planes, lawn mowers, telephones etc. etc. and these intrusions are indeed a learning lesson.
However, if I had the choice I would never intentionally invite these intrusions and would do my best to limit their impact on me. The idea of putting oneself in situations to test an ability to deal with vedana is, I suppose one path of practise.

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Jan 25, 2012 4:17 am

Brizzy wrote:The idea of putting oneself in situations to test an ability to deal with vedana is, I suppose one path of practise.


A considerable portion of Theravada monasticism hinges on just that, so by comparison a little unwanted noise shouldn't be a big drama for a hardened retreatant.

After a while you get to the stage if things are too calm that you have nothing in particular coming up, nothing to work with, no raw material for insight.

At that time putting oneself in situations to test an ability to deal with vedana is a good idea, this is the idea behind monks going on tudong.
"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
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Jan 25, 2012 4:38 am

I don't go looking to create problems, but as Goof says, thats what you have to deal with eventually, so you might as well be prepared...

Perhaps slightly off topic, one of the most useful "minor insights" I had was on a retreat, just after I'd trimmed the pine trees down the back of the property (the Wat is in a semi-rural area of market gardens, etc) so I could walk under the trees in the shade without hitting the branches.

One day I went out and some kids had been playing in the area setting fire to sticks, which were now scattered all over my walking path. I had this brief flash of:
    "Those damn kids, ruining my careful retreat preparation...! :evil:"

I don't think I got quite so far as thinking:
    "Now I'll never get enlightened, dammit". :twisted:

Which is how I've heard some teachers tell similar stories... :sage:

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Ben » Wed Jan 25, 2012 5:40 am

I don't mind the chanting. In fact, when I am at home I often play U Ba Khin's chant of the Tikapatthana during meditation or SN Goenka chanting the Atanatiya Sutta or the Satipatthana Sutta. But I do understand that some people find the chanting really difficult to deal with.
During the (introductory) ten-day courses the 2-hour session before breakfast which includes approx 1 hour of chanting is optional. One can stay in one's room to meditate during that session. There are opening and closing chants for the three group sits during the day and the chanting in those one hour sits only last for a few minutes each.
During the long courses there is less chanting. The two-hour session before breakfast does still have chanting but unless your in the hall (most people prefer to meditate in their bedroom or their pagoda cell) then you don't hear it. And there is only one group sit during the day which one has to attend and there is virtually no chanting during that sit.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Brizzy » Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:35 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Brizzy wrote:The idea of putting oneself in situations to test an ability to deal with vedana is, I suppose one path of practise.

...............
At that time putting oneself in situations to test an ability to deal with vedana is a good idea, this is the idea behind monks going on tudong.


Ah, now I understand where the chanting is coming from and maybe the thinking behind it.

As far as what is a suitable retreat environment, we need look no further than the sutta's...

"I trust, Master Ananda, that the Bamboo Grove is delightful, quiet, free of noise, with an air of isolation, remote from human beings, & appropriate for retreat."

"Certainly, brahman, the Bamboo Grove is delightful, quiet, free of noise, with an air of isolation, remote from human beings, & appropriate for retreat because of guardians & protectors like yourself."


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.108.than.html

"He whose eyes are open has described
the Dhamma he's witnessed,
subduing danger.
Now tell us, sir, the practice:
the code of discipline & concentration."

"One shouldn't be careless with his eyes,
should close his ears to village-talk,
shouldn't hunger for flavors,
or view anything in the world
as mine.
When touched by contact
he shouldn't lament,
shouldn't covet anywhere any
states of becoming,
or tremble at terrors.
When gaining food & drink,
staples & cloth,
he should not make a hoard.
Nor should he be upset
when receiving no gains.
Absorbed, not foot-loose,
he should refrain from restlessness,
shouldn't be heedless,
should live in a noise-less abode.
Not making much of sleep,
ardent, given to wakefulness,
he should abandon sloth, deception,
laughter, sports,
fornication, & all that goes with it;
should not practice charms,
interpret physical marks, dreams,
the stars, animal cries;
should not be devoted to
practicing medicine or inducing fertility.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.4.14.than.html

Metta

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