10-day goenka retreat

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:17 am

Greetings,

Brizzy wrote:Think of it more that the mind & body having been crushed for 10 days via asceticism is freed.

Whatever anyone may think of the actual instruction, I see no asceticism in the 10-day Goenka retreat. I see conduct in accord with the 10 precepts, which is conducive to intensive meditation practice and has been so since the Buddha lay down the model of the 10 precepts in the first place.

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: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby David2 » Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:25 am

Brizzy wrote:Think of it more that the mind & body having been crushed for 10 days via asceticism is freed.


It's not asceticism. People are allowed to eat twice a day (new students even three times a day; many monks only eat once a day). Asceticism would be to eat nothing a whole day. People are allowed to sleep 7 hours a night + they can very well sleep during the noon break. (many monks only sleep 4-5 hours a night). People have to keep noble silence and precepts (well, that is pretty standard for a Buddhist retreat... it is helpful for the practice, nothing to do with asceticism as well.) People are not forced to meditate 10-11 hours a day. They are recommended to try, but there are only a few hours of obligatory group sitting each day, so if one feels completely unable (for one reason or the other), he can take some more rest.

So, of course a Goenka retreat feels like asceticism when doing the first time because one isn't used to it, but really, it isn't asceticism at all, it's all about the middle way.
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby SamKR » Sun Mar 25, 2012 5:31 am

Brizzy wrote:
SamKR wrote:Hello Brizzy,
Brizzy wrote:I think one of the problems stems from the fact that any defence of Goenka tends to come from his disciples and not the man himself or his organisation.

Isn't it true for almost all disciples and organisations? And I don't think it's a problem.

The smiles one sees on day 11 are indeed the smiles of relief as of a prisoner released (IMO).

Well, yes some smiles could be because of relief of a "prisoner" released (if the method is not suitable for them). But certainly not all; many are because of meditation method itself.
And, I think this is true for any long course.
Probably the number of "prisoners" depend upon locality or country, and their cultural background or other factors.


Hi SamKR,

What is your view on this view?............

................ Mr Goenka's organisation is a closed book that refuses to engage with other traditions or directly engage with accusations made against them or defend their own highly original interpretations of the suttas and the teachings. The reasoning I have seen for this attitude is that 'we have got it right, why should we engage in dispute with others'. If the Buddha had this attitude then his Dhamma might not have lasted beyond a century...............


Metta

:smile:


If I express my views on this view, I guess your view would be more likely that I am trying to defend Goenkaji's views (method) at any cost. :)
But I am not, I think. I am just expressing what I feel. I have nothing to gain personally by defending Goenkaji. I am kind of freelancer Dhamma follower, and not highly committed for the technique or the organization.

Yes, I agree that this organisation and the affiliated people mostly do not engage in debates or directly engage with accusations made against them...(well, sometimes they do).
But I don't think that your reasoning for this is quite accurate. They do not engage in such things because they think it is futile to do so. Why futile? It is not only because of the attitude that "we have got it right, why should we engage in dispute with others" (which I think is a good attitude!) but also because of the mental training they get. The experienced old mediators (not the less experienced ones; they tend to be talkative like me) are slowly becoming incapable of engaging in disputes.

It's actually totally futile, totally -- at least in my experience so far. But again there is this temptation to talk or dispute.

We are not the Buddha. We don't know much about his attitude or teaching strategy.
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Brizzy » Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:36 am

David2 wrote:
Brizzy wrote:Think of it more that the mind & body having been crushed for 10 days via asceticism is freed.


It's not asceticism. People are allowed to eat twice a day (new students even three times a day; many monks only eat once a day). Asceticism would be to eat nothing a whole day. People are allowed to sleep 7 hours a night + they can very well sleep during the noon break. (many monks only sleep 4-5 hours a night). People have to keep noble silence and precepts (well, that is pretty standard for a Buddhist retreat... it is helpful for the practice, nothing to do with asceticism as well.) People are not forced to meditate 10-11 hours a day. They are recommended to try, but there are only a few hours of obligatory group sitting each day, so if one feels completely unable (for one reason or the other), he can take some more rest.

So, of course a Goenka retreat feels like asceticism when doing the first time because one isn't used to it, but really, it isn't asceticism at all, it's all about the middle way.



Mind crushing mind is a form of asceticism as is repressing (not abandoning) hindrances. This form of asceticism finds an outlet through painful bodily feelings. These painful bodily feelings are not the natural result of long sittings but are fabricated via the method, directed attention and the view that is taught.

Metta

:smile:

BTW 10 precepts do not a Buddhist retreat make.
Last edited by Brizzy on Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:38 am

Greetings Brizzy,

Brizzy wrote:Mind crushing mind...

I don't what Goenka retreat(s) you went on Brizzy, but "mind crushing mind" bears no resemblance to either the video instruction, or personal instruction that I received whilst on a Goenka retreat.

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: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:51 am

retrofuturist wrote:
Brizzy wrote:Mind crushing mind...

I don't what Goenka retreat(s) you went on Brizzy, but "mind crushing mind" bears no resemblance to either the video instruction, or personal instruction that I received whilst on a Goenka retreat.

Me neither. I found it a challenging, but eventually very helpful, experience. Much like any other retreat I've attended. Some people don't get on well with it. Just like any approach...

Sure it seems regimented, but that's an organisational thing that you need to run silent retreats in a consistent way in dozens of countries. I personally prefer the Mahasi-style approach my local teachers use, but this retreat was incredibly useful to my development.

And it really developed my compassion. I distinctly recall seeing a mosquito during one of the evening videos, and wondering how to get it to fly out of the room without hurting it. When catching the train back into the city (this was in Hong Kong) one of the participants (I think an American living in Korea) was having trouble finding enough cash, I found myself reaching for my wallet on automatic pilot. Getting some exercise in a pool later in the day I was worried more that other swimmers might be hurt if they collided with me than that they were "getting in my way".

Quite the opposite of mind crushing mind...

:anjali:
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Brizzy » Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:52 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Brizzy,

Brizzy wrote:Mind crushing mind...

I don't what Goenka retreat(s) you went on Brizzy, but "mind crushing mind" bears no resemblance to either the video instruction, or personal instruction that I received whilst on a Goenka retreat.

Metta,
Retro. :)


I view mind crushing mind as forcing minds attention to stay with something and not actually using discernment to work with it or I see it as an acceptance of whatever is there with no discernment. The Buddha rejected forms of meditation that led to an unstable & tortured body (even if mindfulness was produced by that meditation). Couple this with a view of 'eradicating sankharas' which entails a 'reward' for the pain one sits through and a 'reward' for the joy one neglects.

Metta

:smile:
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Ben » Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:19 am

mikenz66 wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:
Brizzy wrote:Mind crushing mind...

I don't what Goenka retreat(s) you went on Brizzy, but "mind crushing mind" bears no resemblance to either the video instruction, or personal instruction that I received whilst on a Goenka retreat.

Me neither. I found it a challenging, but eventually very helpful, experience. Much like any other retreat I've attended. Some people don't get on well with it. Just like any approach...

Sure it seems regimented, but that's an organisational thing that you need to run silent retreats in a consistent way in dozens of countries. I personally prefer the Mahasi-style approach my local teachers use, but this retreat was incredibly useful to my development.

And it really developed my compassion. I distinctly recall seeing a mosquito during one of the evening videos, and wondering how to get it to fly out of the room without hurting it. When catching the train back into the city (this was in Hong Kong) one of the participants (I think an American living in Korea) was having trouble finding enough cash, I found myself reaching for my wallet on automatic pilot. Getting some exercise in a pool later in the day I was worried more that other swimmers might be hurt if they collided with me than that they were "getting in my way".

Quite the opposite of mind crushing mind...

:anjali:
Mike


Indeed!
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Buckwheat » Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:48 am

SamKR wrote:But I don't think that your reasoning for this is quite accurate. They do not engage in such things because they think it is futile to do so. Why futile? It is not only because of the attitude that "we have got it right, why should we engage in dispute with others" (which I think is a good attitude!) but also because of the mental training they get. The experienced old mediators (not the less experienced ones; they tend to be talkative like me) are slowly becoming incapable of engaging in disputes.


To support your point, after my ten day stay at a monastery, the first time I opened up dhammawheel it really seemed like a waste of time. I remember the first couple of days at the monastery I was coming up with all these things I was going to write on the board, but at the end it just seemed better to remain quiet.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Sun Mar 25, 2012 8:42 pm

Buckwheat wrote:To support your point, after my ten day stay at a monastery, the first time I opened up dhammawheel it really seemed like a waste of time. I remember the first couple of days at the monastery I was coming up with all these things I was going to write on the board, but at the end it just seemed better to remain quiet.

Yeah, I think that the discomfort we feel when an organization like this doesn't openly lash out at those who criticize them comes from our own conflict-loving nature. As you become more and more steadied mentally and assured of the results of your teachings, you don't feel the need to fight back at everyone.

Remember...

They find fault in one sitting silently,
They find fault in one speaking much,
They find fault in one speaking in moderately.
No one in this world is not found at fault.
There has been, there is,
And there will be no person
Who is only criticized,
Or only praised.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Ben » Sun Mar 25, 2012 9:07 pm

Well said, LonesomeYogurt!
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Brizzy » Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:13 am

LonesomeYogurt wrote:
Yeah, I think that the discomfort we feel when an organization like this doesn't openly lash out at those who criticize them comes from our own conflict-loving nature. As you become more and more steadied mentally and assured of the results of your teachings, you don't feel the need to fight back at everyone.

Remember...

They find fault in one sitting silently,
They find fault in one speaking much,
They find fault in one speaking in moderately.
No one in this world is not found at fault.
There has been, there is,
And there will be no person
Who is only criticized,
Or only praised.


Nobody expects them to 'lash out', just engage. If a mind is steady then it can engage with others. We are not talking about forest dwellers here. The idea of 'assurance' is great, one wonders why with such assurance they are so silent with regards to how some of their teachings stack up against the suttas (the actual teachings of the Buddha). Silence is not always the mark of wisdom nor is the repetition of 'just observe the sensation'.

Metta

:smile:
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Ben » Mon Mar 26, 2012 1:38 am

Tilting at windmills: an English idiom which means attacking imaginary enemies.

don-quixote.gif
don-quixote.gif (37.35 KiB) Viewed 1173 times
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Monkey Mind » Mon Mar 26, 2012 6:46 am

Brizzy wrote:Nobody expects them to 'lash out', just engage. If a mind is steady then it can engage with others. We are not talking about forest dwellers here. The idea of 'assurance' is great, one wonders why with such assurance they are so silent with regards to how some of their teachings stack up against the suttas (the actual teachings of the Buddha). Silence is not always the mark of wisdom nor is the repetition of 'just observe the sensation'.


I was scratching my head the first time you said that, a few pages ago. The Goenka camp are prolific authors, they have written much about how their technique compares to classic suttas. Mr. Goenka's commentary about the Satipatthana Sutta was especially helpful for me in understand the "why" of that technique. You also said that the Goenka camp does not respond to complaints or accusations. I quickly found several interviews with Mr. Goenka and others which included responses to reoccurring accusations.
"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: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby vidar » Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:30 am

Brizzy wrote:one wonders why with such assurance they are so silent with regards to how some of their teachings stack up against the suttas (the actual teachings of the Buddha)

I don't think that the teachings of S.N. Goenka "stack up" against the suttas, maybe these teachings stack up against your particular interpretation of the suttas which is different.
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)

By degrees, little by little,
from moment to moment,
the wise purify themselves,
as a smith purifies silver.
—Dhammapada 239
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Slow Learner » Mon Mar 26, 2012 3:24 pm

Brizzy wrote:one wonders why with such assurance they are so silent with regards to how some of their teachings stack up against the suttas (the actual teachings of the Buddha)


There's a very good article discussing the teachings of this tradition in relation to traditional theravada teachings found in the sutta. Here's a thread where it was discussed earlier, with a link to the article:

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=8741

best wishes,

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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby SamKR » Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:55 pm

vidar wrote:
Brizzy wrote:one wonders why with such assurance they are so silent with regards to how some of their teachings stack up against the suttas (the actual teachings of the Buddha)

I don't think that the teachings of S.N. Goenka "stack up" against the suttas, maybe these teachings stack up against your particular interpretation of the suttas which is different.


:goodpost:

This is true in case of disputes about other traditions too. I think if we understand this thing, more than 90% of our tendency to attack (traditions other than one's own) will vanish, and that will give us some peace of mind too.
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby amrad » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:30 am

I did a ten day course in Feb, but my experience was the exact opposite of the op.
I hadnt meditated in years so the long hours of sitting were very painful, one simply perseveres. The food was very good, the servers caring and all of us, and most were new to retreats and a lot new to meditation, had a positive experience. I even started to like Goenkas chanting, well like may be too strong a word, but the guy just exudes love so how can anyone find fault with him?
To be honest Iv experienced a lot more asceticism at my own hands than what I experienced at the center. Try raising three kids, working ten hours a day and renovating a house at the same time and you will know what real sleep deprivation and worry is. :smile:
I did have reservations about the method of Vipassana, in fact I still do, but I promised to give the method a three month trial. Ill decide at that time whether to stay with it or not.
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Ferox » Tue Mar 27, 2012 3:36 am

I have no view on this other then a possibly very ignorant one.. but my suspicious alarm rings just for the fact that the retreats and tradition are named after the guy and I hear talk about him and his students rather then the Dhamma... I'll stick with monastics and monasteries for myself personally, but I cannot judge anyone elses experiences or benefit from Goenka.
-just one more being treading the ancient path of Dhamma-
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby David2 » Tue Mar 27, 2012 5:31 am

Ferox wrote:but my suspicious alarm rings just for the fact that the retreats and tradition are named after the guy


Well, Goenka himself does not call the retreats "Goenka retreats", nor does the website or any assistant teacher.

Students who go to the retreats tell afterwards "I was on a Goenka retreat.", just to express the kind of retreat they were on.
But that applies to most traditions.
Students do also tell "I was on a Mahasi retreat", "I was on an Ajahn Brahm retreat" etc.
I can't find anything wrong with that.

and I hear talk about him and his students rather then the Dhamma...


Well, most of them are talking about the Dhamma... but this thread is about a goenka retreat, so of course something is said about him and the students. :juggling:
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