disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby marc108 » Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:09 pm

tilt, right i understand what you're saying. i think what breezy have been trying to get at... and if not, what i was trying to get at... is that if someone seems able to establish Jhana, then they should find a teacher and try to cultivate that state... as, in my understanding, Jhana is the clearest state the mind can observe the mind/body process. i wasnt trying to say that Jhana should be cultivated as some sort of drug or anything... in my thinking the pleasure is the means to get into Jhana, and Jhana is the means to penetrative insight. :smile:
"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 daverupa » Mon Mar 05, 2012 10:27 pm

MN 139 wrote:One should not pursue sensual pleasure, which is low, vulgar, coarse, ignoble, and unbeneficial; and one should not pursue self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, and unbeneficial. The Middle Way discovered by the Tathāgata avoids both extremes; giving vision, giving knowledge, it leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna. One should know what it is to extol and what it is to disparage, and knowing both, one should neither extol nor disparage but should teach only the Dhamma. One should know how to define pleasure, and knowing that, one should pursue pleasure within oneself. One should not utter covert speech, and one should not utter overt sharp speech. One should speak unhurriedly, not hurriedly. One should not insist on local language, and one should not override normal usage. This is the summary of the exposition of non-conflict.

...

“Here, bhikkhus, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first jhāna…the second jhāna…the third jhāna…the fourth jhāna. This is called the bliss of renunciation, the bliss of seclusion, the bliss of peace, the bliss of enlightenment. I say of this kind of pleasure that it should be pursued, that it should be developed, that it should be cultivated, and that it should not be feared.

“So it was with reference to this that it was said: ‘One should know how to define pleasure, and knowing that, one should pursue pleasure within oneself.’


And right before that in the canon,

MN 138 wrote:“And how, friends, is the mind called ‘stuck internally’? Here, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by applied and sustained thought, with rapture and pleasure born of seclusion. If his consciousness follows after the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, is tied and shackled by gratification in the rapture and pleasure born of seclusion, then his mind is called ‘stuck internally.’


---

tl;dr version:

SN 35.145 wrote:Practice jhana, monks. Don't be heedless. Don't later fall into regret. This is our message to you.
    "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 Brizzy » Mon Mar 05, 2012 11:38 pm

It is no use guys. Hundred's of sutta references could be provided to show that jhana is an integral part of dhamma (it is the eightfold path, not seven or six or five). It has been stated in this thread that the pursuit of jhana is not dhamma, what a calumny (the pursuit of concentration is another matter). The concentration practices utilised within the BVT produce all the problems we are warned about re jhana. Jhana practice as taught within the canon does not produce these problems. Its like this...............
A system of meditation and its belief structure is 'created' over a period of time. This system produces certain types of results and carries with it certain types of problems e.g. possibility of attachment to one pointed concentrated states, hardened mind etc. Now this system is NOT what is found in the suttas, the jhana in the suttas is a process of relinquishment and insight NOT a concentration exercise. Then the BVT warn people of the dire consequences of attachment to one-pointed concentration and they are right, but it is their own practices which produce this concentration, it is not jhana as taught within the canon that we should fear but the concentration developed by BVT and its suppression of the hindrances. Hindrances in the canon are gradually relinquished via jhana, not suppressed, this is how craving is abandoned. It is a gradual process, with jhana playing a starring role.

BTW I should add that I believe that nimittas and loss of bodily feeling is not part of the jhana process to be found in the suttas.

It should also be born in mind that not all Buddhists meditate, this to is fine. The canon is filled with people who are temporarily filled with joy whilst listening to the dhamma and realise the first stage of awakening. You do not have to meditate to be a follower of the Buddha and achieve awakening. The obsession with lay people doing retreats and racking up BVT mileage is quite a new phenomena

For the benefit of Tilt, who seems to know that I 'have a singular and limited experience'.....
All of the above is my opinion and is formed through personal experience and listening to teachers who understand the Dhamma. Although I have never documented my 'experience', suffice to say that I have been around a good few decades (aeons even), and I have made the dhamma an integral part of my life.

Metta

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:14 am

marc108 wrote:tilt, right i understand what you're saying. i think what breezy have been trying to get at... and if not, what i was trying to get at... is that if someone seems able to establish Jhana, then they should find a teacher and try to cultivate that state... as, in my understanding, Jhana is the clearest state the mind can observe the mind/body process. i wasnt trying to say that Jhana should be cultivated as some sort of drug or anything... in my thinking the pleasure is the means to get into Jhana, and Jhana is the means to penetrative insight. :smile:
Sure, but the question is: What do you mean by jhana? Whose definition of jhana? This question has been batted about repeatedly here and elsewhere.

viewtopic.php?f=17&t=9016&p=140097#p140097

http://www.leighb.com/jhanantp.htm

While the OP's description is suggestive of jhana, it is likely better understood as the jhana found in the latter texts, as our friend brizzy accurately points out: "I believe that nimittas and loss of bodily feeling is not part of the jhana process to be found in the suttas." And, of course, opinions on this are going to vary.Again, read through the first of link above, and take a look at bit more of this discussion:

viewtopic.php?f=33&t=10264&start=0

Now, in terms of the OP, the author was at a 10 day introductory retreat, which is carefully structured as to give the student a basis of practice. While in another context such an experience as described might be explored with the guidance of the teacher, that is not the context of an introductory course.

Also, While the Burmese vipassana traditions do not initially put a focus on jhana, which they understand in terms of the Visuddhimagga type of interpretation of jhana, please do keep in mind the practices of the Burmese vipassana tradition cultivate highly refined levels of samadhi, which are essentially indistinguishable from from how some interpret the jhanas from a sutta context. To get an idea of this, take some time with these two talks by highly experienced meditation teachers, which are a nice contrast to the Burmese vipassana naysayers:

http://www.dharmaseed.org/talks/?search ... =-rec_date
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.

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:24 am

daverupa wrote:
SN 35.145 wrote:Practice jhana, monks. Don't be heedless. Don't later fall into regret. This is our message to you.
And of course, jhana is being used here in a very generic sense, as it often is in the suttas, for meditate.

Ven Bodhi's translation:
    Meditate, bhikkhus, do not be negligent, lest you regrtet it later. That is our instruction to 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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby Mawkish1983 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 10:30 am

tiltbillings wrote: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
I am sorry if my 'advice' was unskillful. I was sharing what I had been previously told and I did not consider the context. My mistake is my own.
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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:03 am

Brizzy wrote:It is no use guys. Hundred's of sutta references could be provided to show that jhana is an integral part of dhamma (it is the eightfold path, not seven or six or five). It has been stated in this thread that the pursuit of jhana is not dhamma, what a calumny (the pursuit of concentration is another matter).
Jhana in and of itself is not Dhamma. What makes it Dhamma is context, otherwise one would not have a list of wrong views catalogued in the suttas as a result of jhana.

The concentration practices utilised within the BVT produce all the problems we are warned about re jhana.
A claim that you make, but let us see your support for this.

Its like this...............
A system of meditation and its belief structure is 'created' over a period of time. This system produces certain types of results and carries with it certain types of problems e.g. possibility of attachment to one pointed concentrated states, hardened mind etc.
This is your riff on this, but it is a result of your experience, but is hardly characterizes my experience, nor the experience of many other experienced vipsassana mediation practitioners I know. So, it really does not go "like this."

Now this system is NOT what is found in the suttas, the jhana in the suttas is a process of relinquishment and insight NOT a concentration exercise.
Burmese vipassana can easily reference a grounding in the suttas.

Then the BVT warn people of the dire consequences of attachment to one-pointed concentration and they are right, but it is their own practices which produce this concentration, it is not jhana as taught within the canon that we should fear but the concentration developed by BVT and its suppression of the hindrances.
Wrong, again. The point is not suppress the hindrances, but in line with the Satipatthana Sutta and other suttas; rather, one is to be fully aware of the arising and passing of the hindrances, to see them without comment, allowing their impermanent, unsatisfactory, empty of self nature to become evident, as the Buddha states:

    "Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: 'In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.' In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya.

    "When for you there will be only the seen in the seen, only the heard in the
    heard, only the sensed in the sensed, only the cognized in the cognized,
    then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms
    of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither
    here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of suffering."

    -- Ud I 10

    And how, monks, does a monk live contemplating mental objects in mental objects?

    Herein, monks, a monk lives contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five hindrances.

    How, monks, does a monk live contemplating mental objects in the mental objects of the five hindrances?

    Herein, monks, when sense-desire is present, a monk knows, "There is sense-desire in me," or when sense-desire is not present, he knows, "There is no sense-desire in me." He knows how the arising of the non-arisen sense-desire comes to be; he knows how the abandoning of the arisen sense-desire comes to be; and he knows how the non-arising in the future of the abandoned sense-desire comes to be.
    -- MN 10

    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." Ud 37 (4.1)

Hindrances in the canon are gradually relinquished via jhana, not suppressed, this is how craving is abandoned. It is a gradual process, with jhana playing a starring role.
There is no suppression of hindrances here, and as we see in the links in the preceding msg by me, the sutta level of jhana is very much part and parcel of Burmese vipassana.

For the benefit of Tilt, who seems to know that I 'have a singular and limited experience'.....
All of the above is my opinion and is formed through personal experience and listening to teachers who understand the Dhamma. Although I have never documented my 'experience', suffice to say that I have been around a good few decades (aeons even), and I have made the dhamma an integral part of my life.
And my experience streches over 40 decades, having spent time with and worked with a number of teachers. I find your descriptions of Burmese vipassana, at best deficient. It may not have worked for you, but that does not mean it is not Dhamma.
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.

"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 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:05 am

Mawkish1983 wrote:
tiltbillings wrote: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
I am sorry if my 'advice' was unskillful. I was sharing what I had been previously told and I did not consider the context. My mistake is my own.
Nothing wrong with what you said. Basically, it is good advice.
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.

"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 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:36 am

Hi Tilt,

I personally don't find your take on things terribly convincing or that your sutta references in any way back up what you are saying.
As you say, I have my understanding of things and you have yours.

BTW Are you sure you have not attained jhanic powers? 40 decades! You beat me by a mile.

Metta

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Mar 06, 2012 11:51 am

Brizzy wrote:Hi Tilt,

I personally don't find your take on things terribly convincing or that your sutta references in any way back up what you are saying.
As you say, I have my understanding of things and you have yours.

BTW Are you sure you have not attained jhanic powers? 40 decades! You beat me by a mile.

Metta

:smile:
And I personally do not find your "hardened" claim -- which you have now mentioned at least twice now -- meaningful other than it probably says more about you than anything else. It certainly is not a reasonable basis for your ongoing condemnation of Burmese vipassana.

As for jhana, I have stated this before here. During a three month retreat in the late 70's or early 80's I described what I was experiencing to a teacher who had been trained by Mahasi Sayadaw. He said to me that I could do one of two things, simply continue to note what I was experiencing or cultivate what I was experiencing, given that it was indicative of jhana. I choose the latter and I worked with this teacher who was an experienced jhanika. I opted, however, after the retreat to not pursue jhana practice any further. As for jhanic power, damdifino what you mean here.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby daverupa » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:11 pm

tiltbillings wrote:I opted, however, after the retreat to not pursue jhana practice any further.


tiltbillings wrote:Sure, but the question is: What do you mean by jhana? Whose definition of jhana?


:shrug:
    "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 Brizzy » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:12 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Brizzy wrote:Hi Tilt,

I personally don't find your take on things terribly convincing or that your sutta references in any way back up what you are saying.
As you say, I have my understanding of things and you have yours.

BTW Are you sure you have not attained jhanic powers? 40 decades! You beat me by a mile.

Metta

:smile:
And I personally do not find your "hardened" claim -- which you have now mentioned at least twice now -- meaningful other than it probably says more about you than anything else. It certainly is not a reasonable basis for your ongoing condemnation of Burmese vipassana.

As for jhana, I have stated this before here. During a three month retreat in the late 70's or early 80's I described what I was experiencing to a teacher who had been trained by Mahasi Sayadaw. He said to me that I could do one of two things, simply continue to note what I was experiencing or cultivate what I was experiencing, given that it was indicative of jhana. I choose the latter and I worked with this teacher who was an experienced jhanika. I opted, however, after the retreat to not pursue jhana practice any further. As for jhanic power, damdifino what you mean here.


I am sorry but your personal experiences and your understanding of them carries no more weight than does mine. I have never been impressed by arguments that look to how many retreats someone has done or which teacher someone once had etc. Although such things can be important, I choose not to see them or use them as 'proofs'.
As regards 'jhanic powers', you wrote in your post (inadvertently).........

And my experience streches over 40 decades


So at over 400 years old, I do indeed bow to your greater experience. :bow:

Metta

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:13 pm

daverupa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:I opted, however, after the retreat to not pursue jhana practice any further.


tiltbillings wrote:Sure, but the question is: What do you mean by jhana? Whose definition of jhana?
Coming out of a traditional model, the Visuddhimagga model, of course. Vipassana jhana, on the other hand, is a different story.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby daverupa » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:16 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
daverupa wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:I opted, however, after the retreat to not pursue jhana practice any further.


tiltbillings wrote:Sure, but the question is: What do you mean by jhana? Whose definition of jhana?
Coming out of a traditional model, the Visuddhimagga model, of course. Vipassana jhana, on the other hand, is a different story.


:anjali:

:focus:
    "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 tiltbillings » Tue Mar 06, 2012 12:22 pm

Brizzy wrote:I am sorry but your personal experiences and your understanding of them carries no more weight than does mine.
Keep in mind, I am not writing or expressing my opinions for you.

I have never been impressed by arguments that look to how many retreats someone has done or which teacher someone once had etc. Although such things can be important, I choose not to see them or use them as 'proofs'.
I am not offering them as "proofs," other than to make the point that my experience is not baseless smokeblowing.

As regards 'jhanic powers', you wrote in your post (inadvertently).........

And my experience streches over 40 decades


So at over 400 years old, I do indeed bow to your greater experience.
Yes, well, I do need to have a word with my proof-reader, but 40+ years or 400, the "hardened mind" claim of yours still fails to resonate, though I have seen people use their practice, and not just vipassana, as a way of blocking emotions and self-knowledge, but that is not the practice done right.
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.

"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 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 6:04 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Sure, but the question is: What do you mean by jhana? Whose definition of jhana? This question has been batted about repeatedly here and elsewhere.


right, it seems to be a hotly contended topic. you are probably familiar with the nuances between the Sutta style Jhanas and the Vis. style Jhanas so i wont hash them out. Personally when I say Jhana I'm refering to a Sutta style Jhana where the body is still present, the mind is centered but not fixed, and the realm of physical experience is still there. On an offnote, if it's of interest to you Richard Shankman has a really interesting series where he hashes out the differences from a Canonical standpoint as well as his own experience.


While the OP's description is suggestive of jhana, it is likely better understood as the jhana found in the latter texts, as our friend brizzy accurately points out: "I believe that nimittas and loss of bodily feeling is not part of the jhana process to be found in the suttas." And, of course, opinions on this are going to vary.Again, read through the first of link above, and take a look at bit more of this discussion:


right, I'm far from being capable on instructing someone on Jhana, which is why i left this part out before... my thinking was that he was able to bring up rapture with his breath, which would be the entry point for a less fixed, Sutta style Jhana. I wouldn't think that a non-regular meditator would be able to bring up a Nimitta outside of the retreat experience.


Also, While the Burmese vipassana traditions do not initially put a focus on jhana, which they understand in terms of the Visuddhimagga type of interpretation of jhana, please do keep in mind the practices of the Burmese vipassana tradition cultivate highly refined levels of samadhi, which are essentially indistinguishable from from how some interpret the jhanas from a sutta context. To get an idea of this, take some time with these two talks by highly experienced meditation teachers, which are a nice contrast to the Burmese vipassana naysayers:


I have not been exposed to the Burmese traditions outside of the basics of Mahasi Sayadaws beginner techniques, but i am far from a nay sayer. I would not dare to speak ill of any ordained meditation master. Thanks for the talks, I'll listen to them today while I'm cleaning :anjali:
"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 » Tue Mar 06, 2012 6:25 pm

Guess who wrote this:

Sometimes, a "light" can appear in the mind at a very early stage of the meditation. However, for all except accomplished meditators, one will find that such "brazen intruders" are highly unstable. If one focuses one's attention on them, one will not get anywhere. It is not the right time for nimitta. It is better to regard them as distractions and go back to the main task of the early stage.


That is Ajahn Brahm, one of the most vocal advocates of jhana practice.

http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... m#PART_TWO

His advice is basically identical to the quote from Ajahn Lee which I pasted earlier in this thread. My point is that even those teachers who teach jhana as the essence of right concentration would advise the OP, who was in the early stages of re-establishing a lapsed meditation practice, to ignore the nimitta and work on establishing a solid foundation in mindfulness.

My own fledgling practice has focused on samatha, with results that I find to be valuable, whether or not they are jhana. I hold the opinion (humbly) that much of what is taught in western Theravada puts too much emphasis on investigation at the expense of concentration. With that said, though, I think we should avoid stirring up conflict where there is no real issue. There appears to be a wide consensus among meditation teachers that it is a mistake for beginning students to get involved with nimitta that arise early on in the practice, and it sounds like the OP got solid advice.
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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby Sambodhi in Oz » Mon May 21, 2012 3:01 am

Actually this has to be seen in context of a 10 day retreat where the objective is to give reasonably good introduction in dhamma to a new student. In this time frame letting someone go down on the path of jhana could defeat the main purpose of the retreat.

This is not to say that jhana is bad, it's just that the focus at that time is on developing panna, given that minimal available time of 10 days, this takes precedence.

Metta

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Re: disturbing experience at a Goenka ten day retreat

Postby amrad » Mon May 28, 2012 1:58 am

I have just reread all of your posts in this thread with much interest, and i think that in retrospect i recieved good advice to ignore the experience of the nimitta. After returning from the ten day retreat i have continued to meditate two hours daily, but although it is still easy for me to ''fall'' into deep levels of concentration, the light has not returned. The enthrallment and rapture with the breath being born and dying is easy to attain, but if i enter deeper levels of concentration it seems that i become cranky in my daily life which cant be right effort or perhaps view, so i dont allow my mind to go there.
The Goenka body scan method was given a three month trial, as i told my self when arriving home, that i would do to give the method a fair trial. It however for me was tedious and cumbersome and just felt wrong, so i now watch the breath at the nostrils which seems to allow me to remain mindfull of all my sense doors but still be very relaxed and enraptured. I would most definitely do another retreat, but not at a Goenka center i dont think.
Thank you all for your posts on this and other subjects. When i run into confusion in my practice this is usually the first place i turn.
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