disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

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amrad
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disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby amrad » Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:38 pm

Im a lapsed meditator, and havent had a practice for years, until now. I just completed a ten day course at a Goenka center and during the sits had two rather odd experiences that I am hoping someone here could shed light on perhaps. During the second day of anapanna sati meditation I had a very intense small blinding white point of light that later exploded into a beautiful intensely bright turquoise light that filled my mind completely. When I asked the teacher what this was he said to simply ignore it and it would leave. The odd thing was I could tell when it would appear because my body would slump and my mind became enraptured by the sensation on my lower lip. It did eventually leave but took a lot of ignoring.
The second event happened during the vipassana body scan I noticed that my whole body was vibrating at the surface and as I concentrated more I had the feeling of small living things coming up and dying coming up and dying. As I became enthralled by this, and oddly saddened, my concentration improved and I noticed I couldnt feel my legs or arms even if I moved and made effort to touch them, it was all just this field of vibration that seemed to be a few inches long coating my whole body,i couldnt feel my body, but assumed it was there. I continued to scan and then, as if someone slapped me on the back of the head, I had the realization that I was about to explode. At this point I stopped the meditation and waited tell the session was over to talk to the teacher, who told me that this was just an experience and didnt mean much at all. Sooo Im a bit confused, this method is new to me.
I am however forever thankfull to all those that gave lovingly of there selves to feed us and look after us the whole ten days, and who sent metta to those of us who were learning the dhamma, and of course to Goenka.

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby Mawkish1983 » Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:53 pm

When meditating your thoughts do some weird things. I think the advice is good, just ignore it.

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby daverupa » Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:55 pm

amrad wrote:a very intense small blinding white point of light that later exploded into a beautiful intensely bright turquoise light that filled my mind completely. When I asked the teacher what this was he said to simply ignore it and it would leave...


Hmm...

MN 128 wrote:“Venerable sir, as we abide here diligent, ardent, and resolute, we perceive both light and a vision of forms. Soon afterwards the light and the vision of forms disappear, but we have not discovered the cause for that.”

“You should discover the cause for that, Anuruddha. Before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, I too perceived both light and a vision of forms. Soon afterwards the light and the vision of forms disappeared. I thought: ‘What is the cause and condition why the light and the vision of forms have disappeared?’ Then I considered thus: ‘Doubt arose in me, and because of the doubt my concentration fell away; when my concentration fell away, the light and the vision of forms disappeared. I shall so act that doubt will not arise in me again.’...


That whole Sutta might be interesting to read, given your experience.
    "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]

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby marc108 » Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:45 pm

amrad wrote:During the second day of anapanna sati meditation I had a very intense small blinding white point of light that later exploded into a beautiful intensely bright turquoise light that filled my mind completely. When I asked the teacher what this was he said to simply ignore it and it would leave. The odd thing was I could tell when it would appear because my body would slump and my mind became enraptured by the sensation on my lower lip. It did eventually leave but took a lot of ignoring.


What you're describing sounds like descriptions of a Nimitta which is a result of very strong concentration and can lead to very strong & useful types of Jhana if used correctly. I have never heard an meditation teacher tell a student to IGNORE a Nimitta... perhaps your teacher may have no had experience with Jhana? You may want to find a teacher with some experience of Jhana and get some guidance.

What happened after you were able to successfully ignore the Nimitta?

Also this may be of interest to you:

http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... m#PART_TWO
When the breath disappears and delight fills the mind, the nimitta usually appears.

Nimitta, in the context used here, refers to the beautiful "lights" that appear in the mind. I would point out, though, that the nimittas are not visual objects, in that they are not seen through the sense of sight. At this stage of the meditation, the sense of sight is not operating. The nimittas are pure mental objects, known by the mind sense. However, they are commonly perceived as lights.
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby farmer » Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:14 pm

Some advice from Ajahn Lee on dealing with the odd things that arise in meditation:

Once you've learned to put your breath in order, it's as if you have everyone in your home in order. The incidentals of breath meditation are like people outside your home -- in other words, guests. Once the people in your home are well-behaved, your guests will have to fall in line.

The "guests" here are the signs (nimitta) and vagrant breaths that will tend to pass within the range of the breath you are dealing with: the various signs that arise from the breath and may appear as images -- bright lights, people, animals, yourself, others; or as sounds -- the voices of people, some you recognize and others you don't. In some cases the signs appear as smells -- either fragrant or else foul like a corpse. Sometimes the in-breath can make you feel so full throughout the body that you have no sense of hunger or thirst. Sometimes the breath can send warm, hot, cold, or tingling sensations through the body. Sometimes it can cause things that never occurred to you before to spring suddenly to mind.

All of these things are classed as guests. Before you go receiving guests, you should put your breath and mind into good order, making them stable and secure. In receiving these guests, you first have to bring them under your control. If you can't control them, don't have anything to do with them. They might lead you astray. But if you can put them through their paces, they can be of use to you later on.

To put them through their paces means to change them at will, through the power of thought (patibhaga nimitta) -- making them small, large, sending them far away, bringing them up close, making them appear and disappear, sending them outside, bringing them in. Only then will you be able to use them in training the mind.



http://www.dhammatalks.net/Books/Ajahn_ ... n_Mind.htm

amrad
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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby amrad » Fri Mar 02, 2012 1:20 am

What happened after you were able to successfully ignore the Nimitta?

well I continued to have good concentration but it seemed I had to put much more effort into it, where as before I felt like I just naturally feel into that state of rapture without much effort at all. Its like now its more forced.

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby nameless » Sat Mar 03, 2012 6:10 am

From what I've gathered, teachers who class themselves as 'vipassana' can sometimes have a bias against jhana. However the fact remains that jhana is right concentration, which is a part of the eightfold path, and teachers like Ajahn Brahm and Ayya Khema teach about Jhana.

I suppose that since you signed up for the Goenka course, at least during the course it would be good to follow their instructions. But during your own meditation outside of the course it should be worthwhile to develop it further, and you might get more information from the works of the above teachers.

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby Ben » Sat Mar 03, 2012 6:26 am

nameless wrote:From what I've gathered, teachers who class themselves as 'vipassana' can sometimes have a bias against jhana.

Actually, there is no bias against jhana.
If a new or relatively new student experiences nimitas, jhana or access concentration he or she is told to not place any importance in the phenomenon. The rationale is that jhanic states can be intensely seductive hence a mind well-trained in vipassana is better able to maintain equanimity, rather than craving and attachment, in the face of intensely sublime or exotic experiences.

During the "introductory" ten-day course, the emphasis is to develop a modicum of samadhi (khanika or moment-to-moment samadhi) to assist in the practice of vipassana (vedananupassana) with the primary objective of getting established in vipassana. This is not to discount that many people experience nimitas, access concentration or jhana on their first or later ten-day courses. During the long courses for experienced practitioners within the tradition, there is far greater emphasis devoted to developing sammasamadhi.
kind regards,

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tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby farmer » Sat Mar 03, 2012 7:12 pm

During the "introductory" ten-day course, the emphasis is to develop a modicum of samadhi (khanika or moment-to-moment samadhi) to assist in the practice of vipassana (vedananupassana) with the primary objective of getting established in vipassana. This is not to discount that many people experience nimitas, access concentration or jhana on their first or later ten-day courses. During the long courses for experienced practitioners within the tradition, there is far greater emphasis devoted to developing sammasamadhi.


I didn't know that. Is something similar true of the Mahasi tradition?

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby Monkey Mind » Sun Mar 04, 2012 12:53 am

I've stated this elsewhere, but I am fond of asking meditators if they have experienced anything wierd. Maybe someday I will write a book. The experience in the OP is not at all atypical for 10-day retreats of any tradition. The instruction of "ignore it" seems wise.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby Brizzy » Sun Mar 04, 2012 3:07 am

Ben wrote:
nameless wrote:From what I've gathered, teachers who class themselves as 'vipassana' can sometimes have a bias against jhana.

Actually, there is no bias against jhana.
If a new or relatively new student experiences nimitas, jhana or access concentration he or she is told to not place any importance in the phenomenon. The rationale is that jhanic states can be intensely seductive hence a mind well-trained in vipassana is better able to maintain equanimity, rather than craving and attachment, in the face of intensely sublime or exotic experiences.

During the "introductory" ten-day course, the emphasis is to develop a modicum of samadhi (khanika or moment-to-moment samadhi) to assist in the practice of vipassana (vedananupassana) with the primary objective of getting established in vipassana. This is not to discount that many people experience nimitas, access concentration or jhana on their first or later ten-day courses. During the long courses for experienced practitioners within the tradition, there is far greater emphasis devoted to developing sammasamadhi.
kind regards,

Ben


These ideas about jhana and concentrations are not be found within the suttas. It is a sad reflection that it is not accepted, that the fourth jhana is the ideal place from which to maintain equanimity not a 'mind that is well trained in vipassana'.
The idea of just ignoring or not paying attention to such experiences and just becoming focused with physical sensations could be less than beneficial.

Metta

:smile:
Ignorance is an intentional act.

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Mar 04, 2012 3:27 am

Brizzy wrote:These ideas about jhana and concentrations are not be found within the suttas. It is a sad reflection that it is not accepted, that the fourth jhana is the ideal place from which to maintain equanimity not a 'mind that is well trained in vipassana'.
The idea of just ignoring or not paying attention to such experiences and just becoming focused with physical sensations could be less than beneficial.
In your opinion, but I think I'd go with those who know a bit more from a collective experience than do you.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby Brizzy » Sun Mar 04, 2012 4:46 am

tiltbillings wrote:
Brizzy wrote:These ideas about jhana and concentrations are not be found within the suttas. It is a sad reflection that it is not accepted, that the fourth jhana is the ideal place from which to maintain equanimity not a 'mind that is well trained in vipassana'.
The idea of just ignoring or not paying attention to such experiences and just becoming focused with physical sensations could be less than beneficial.
In your opinion, but I think I'd go with those who know a bit more from a collective experience than do you.


I really like your expression 'collective experience', it says so much.
I have generally tried to rely on my own experiences to determine what is beneficial and what is not.
Does the 'collective experience' admit to the 4th jhana as being the place from which to view things with a mind of equanimity par excellence, and that the pursuit of such pleasures is to be encouraged and pursued, not dis-couraged with false warnings?

Metta

:smile:
Ignorance is an intentional act.

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Mar 04, 2012 5:06 am

Monkey Mind wrote:The experience in the OP is not at all atypical for 10-day retreats of any tradition. The instruction of "ignore it" seems wise.

Yes, all kinds of things can come up. Perhaps "ignore" could be misinterpreted. The Mahasi-style teachers I'm familiar with would say to be mindful of whatever arises (such as lights) but not take them as anything special.

In my view, Goenka, Mahasi, etc, teach a sutta-based approach that develops insight and concentration in tandem, as discussed in many suttas. It is also mentioned, for example here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
that some develop one faster than the other.

As Chanmyay Sayadaw mentions here:
http://buddhanet.net/vmed_1.htm
jhana is not discounted, but tends to require longer retreats than many can manage:
So Vipassana meditation is of two types: The first, Vipassana meditation, insight meditation is preceded by Samatha meditation. The second is the pure Vipassana meditation or insight meditation not preceded by Samatha meditation. The first type of Vipassana meditation or Insight Meditation is practised by those who have ample time to devote to their meditation. They have to spend maybe three or four months on Samatha meditation. And when they are satisfied with their attainment of jhana concentration they proceed with Vipassana meditation.

Pure Vipassana meditation is practised by those who haven't enough time to devote to their meditation like yourselves, because you do not have three or four months or six months or a year for your meditation. So you can spend about ten days on your meditation. For such meditators pure Vipassana meditation is suitable. That's why we have to conduct a ten days Vipassana meditation retreat. Actually ten days meditation is not enough. The period is too short a time for a meditator to succeed in any noticeable experience in his meditation. But there are some who have some experience in Vipassana meditation who when their meditation experience becomes major can attain the higher stages of insight knowledge of the body-mind processes of their true nature. Although you can spend just ten days on your meditation, if you strive to attain the deep concentration with a strenuous effort without much interval or break in the course of your meditation for the whole day, then you are able to have some new experience of meditation. So the point is to practise intensively and strenuously as much as you can.




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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Mar 04, 2012 6:09 am

Brizzy wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
Brizzy wrote:These ideas about jhana and concentrations are not be found within the suttas. It is a sad reflection that it is not accepted, that the fourth jhana is the ideal place from which to maintain equanimity not a 'mind that is well trained in vipassana'.
The idea of just ignoring or not paying attention to such experiences and just becoming focused with physical sensations could be less than beneficial.
In your opinion, but I think I'd go with those who know a bit more from a collective experience than do you.


I really like your expression 'collective experience', it says so much.
Yes, it does. It points to the collective experience and wisdom of working a wide variety of meditators over a long period of time.

I have generally tried to rely on my own experiences to determine what is beneficial and what is not.
And you have also generalized from your singular and limited experience, arguing that Burmese vipassana falls short. While Burmese vipassana may not be appropriate for you, your experience is not a basis for claiming it is generally inappropriate for everyone, as you seem to do.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Mar 04, 2012 6:44 am

marc108 wrote:I have never heard an meditation teacher tell a student to IGNORE a Nimitta... perhaps your teacher may have no had experience with Jhana? You may want to find a teacher with some experience of Jhana and get some guidance.
It depends upon the context. If you are doing a short structured retreat, especially if you are new at meditation, that is likely to happen. In a less structured setting, things might be different. During a 3 month course I told the teacher with whom I was working about what i was experiencing. He said that was indicative of jhana and that I could one of two things. I could either simply watch the phenomena I was experiencing, or I could cultivate it. This was a teacher directly trained by Mahasi Sayadaw.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby marc108 » Mon Mar 05, 2012 5:17 am

Brizzy wrote: the pursuit of such pleasures is to be encouraged and pursued, not dis-couraged with false warnings?


right, exactly.
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 05, 2012 5:51 am

marc108 wrote:
Brizzy wrote: the pursuit of such pleasures is to be encouraged and pursued, not dis-couraged with false warnings?


right, exactly.
The Dhamma, however, is not the pursuit of such pleasures of the 4th jhana or any jhana. At best "such pleasures" are a side effect of something more profound. Also, keep in mind that the attainment of jhana, of whatever level, is not coterminous with insight and can be a serious distraction.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby marc108 » Mon Mar 05, 2012 5:42 pm

tiltbillings wrote:The Dhamma, however, is not the pursuit of such pleasures of the 4th jhana or any jhana. At best "such pleasures" are a side effect of something more profound. Also, keep in mind that the attainment of jhana, of whatever level, is not coterminous with insight and can be a serious distraction.


We may have to just agree to disagree on some key points here :) In my limited understanding, it seems the Buddha was very clear that the 'pleasure born from withdrawl', re: the Piti & Sukkha that come up on the way to and during Right Concentration are 'blameless', something to be pursued, something not to be avoided. Even the instructions for entering the 1st Jhana include actually using the Piti & Sukkha, expending them, infusing them... not avoiding them. I wont go nuts posting Sutta references unless you would like me to. Of course there is a much greater level of profundity to the Dhamma than pursuit of pleasure, but again the Buddha was very clear that the pleasure from Right Concentration is a good thing and a very necessary and useful part of meditation.

Ven. Thanissaro has some really useful views on this, he explained (and I agree with) that the danger of getting attached to the pleasures of the lower Jhanas is not an issue for the average person at the average persons point of progress...being still very full of craving for worldly pleasure, turning that attachment towards Wholesome, blameless pleasure can be useful and of great help on the path.
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Mar 05, 2012 6:57 pm

marc108 wrote:We may have to just agree to disagree on some key points here :) In my limited understanding, it seems the Buddha was very clear that the 'pleasure born from withdrawl', re: the Piti & Sukkha that come up on the way to and during Right Concentration are 'blameless', something to be pursued, something not to be avoided.
Well, yes; however, the locution that was used: "pursuit of such pleasures is to be encouraged and pursued."

If I am going to pursue something in terms of meditative practice, it would be insight into what the nature of mind/body process that we are. In pursuing the "pleasures" of meditation, it is way too easy to get waylaid. It is not a matter of avoiding what arises during practice, and if one's practice is specifically jhana, with the guidance of an experienced teacher, the aspects of jhana can be cultivated.

The issue here in this thread, as it always is, is context, and here it is the context of the practice that is being undertaken that needs to be carefully understood before such condemnatory pronouncements as some of the above are unskillfully voice, such as:

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=11666&p=177013#p176708
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson


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