10-day goenka retreat

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.
Tyler
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Tyler » Sun Apr 01, 2012 3:47 pm

I searched Goenka retreat on the forum and got here. Someone recently told me about them so I thought I would see if you all discussed them before. I was surprised when I realized that so many of you that are active on this forum have experience with them. It is good to read what you all have to say about these retreats.

First off, I know how it feels to not have a whole lot of options for places to go. These types of retreats are really nice because they offer an opportunity to experience meditation without having to pay the price that many other centers charge. For someone who is new to Buddhism it can be very difficult to find a path within the practice that resonates with them. We have to remember that just because someone hasn't been a Buddhist forever doesn't mean that they don't understand the Dhamma. It may be tough for someone who understands the Dhamma in a very specific way to find a path in this case but if their understanding is strong enough they will get there nonetheless.

Secondly, we all do and need different things at different times. If someone decides to get up and leave from something because they were having an experience they weren't ready for or felt was unneeded for them, then it was probably best that they did what was right for them. There is Dhamma in all things including the act of getting up and leaving. In a way, the Buddha did this himself. In fact, he did it a number of times in different ways for different reasons throughout his life.

Finally, I can understand also why the SN Goenka method would want one to stay for the 10 days without leaving. It is not because they are trying to brainwash you, get you into a cult, or try to start getting your money. The reason that any commitment to a certain schedule of sitting, or precept, or anything for that matter is to have some sort of reference point for growth or action. The reference point for not leaving a 10 day sit is to ensure you that even upon the desire to leave there is more to be done and worked thru. If we sit with this we realize that discomfort in this situation comes from the self. We could sit thru the entire 10 days of a retreat, listen to everything a teacher has to say, and even disagree with all of it. It is up to us whether or not we should let what is being said affect us. When we reject something that is being said then it is actually having a very profound effect on us. When we walk down the street we don't choose to fight everyone we pass. The same can be said for the things we hear. When something that is said or a way of doing things is done in an environment where we aren't in any danger and a fight happens within our minds, something really profound is happening. It is normal to want to run from these things but saying to keep sitting for the 10 day period is there to help you realize that there is something beyond that fight that is happening. The fight can be won in a number of different ways. If it wasn't a big fight that didnt need to happen then you probably wouldn't have wanted to get up and leave. Its all happening because there is something worth fighting for and that is why we become drawn to this path anyway. For every one of these struggles there seems to be just as many techniques. If one type doesn't resonate with you, move on to the next one.

For these reasons I have just as much respect for someone who chooses to get up and leave as one who sits thru thru the full thing. The person who gets up does exactly what they have to do at the time. If it wasn't their time to approach, observe, or eradicate the obstacles before them in this exact way, then it just wasn't their time. They had the courage enough to say that it wasn't for them and didn't just follow the crowd. They knew what they needed and this wasn't it. The person who sits thru the full 10 days is in a place where it is relevant for them to be there and sit thru the full ten days. Who is to say this person who sits thru the full things got more out of it than someone who walked out? You can't say. A lot of people do exactly what they are told and miss out on the point of everything. At least a person who walks out of a temple, sit, etc. had enough awareness/understanding to get them to the mat in the first place. Its a beginning.

Thanks for all of your comments.

:anjali:

Tyler

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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby delf7 » Mon Apr 02, 2012 1:47 pm

nice post, tyler!

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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby rucontent » Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:43 am

I had met up with a few meditators in SOuth Beach Miami that conducted a daily meditation at the beach. In our first meeting, I told them i was scheduled to do a 10 day retreat. And they had asked me who the teacher was. I had told them that i didn't know and that it was free. It was in Illinois, etc... and they both kind of agreed that they thought they knew which one it was. At the time i did not know anything about this "cult" accusation and over rigid association applied to GoenkJi "method/course". I remember them saying that this particular retreat was known for being "strict" or "rigid" but they didn't say much beyond that. I suspect they didn't want to ruin it or suggest i shouldn't go. However, when i started to investigate on the internet I stumbled upon some "DONT DO THIS!" post even videos. Immediately i was like ut oh......maybe i shouldn't do this.

Like the girl with IVF experience a couple posts back, the negative reviews were plenty and quite scary as well. The thought of this retreat is already kind of daunting but man has all this back and forth really set me to wonder. I took the advice of someone to watch Dhamma Brothers, and i have ordered the book, The art of Living. I am very confident that I will end up going. Even just the 10 days of sitting and being secluded is what i am interested in. Whether or not this is a cult and there is a brainwashing going on, I know it will end. The other thing is i am getting dropped off so i won't have the chance to run, even if i want. I am quite nervous but from the looks of things and what i have gathered. It is indeed safe to go ahead with this. It is smart to have open expectations, and realize that it is going to be difficult. Right now i plan on going but i have to admit all this talk makes me cautious.

Thank you so much for everyone's input. This has been invaluable for my preparation.

:namaste:

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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Apr 16, 2012 12:56 am

Greetings,

rucontent wrote:I took the advice of someone to watch Dhamma Brothers, and i have ordered the book, The art of Living. I am very confident that I will end up going.

That's a really good book actually, I think it ought to alleviate any doubts with regards to the practice and contextualise some of the matters which may have been interpreted by some as problematic.

rucontent wrote:Whether or not this is a cult and there is a brainwashing going on, I know it will end.

Don't worry, it's not. :)

rucontent wrote:It is smart to have open expectations, and realize that it is going to be difficult. Right now i plan on going but i have to admit all this talk makes me cautious.

And arguably it's people not doing this in the first place, not doing their research, and having the own rigid pre-conceptions about of what a meditation retreat should and should not be (i.e. a Goenka retreat is definitely not calligraphy and flower arranging!), that has caused some disproportionately publicized consternation.

Intense vipassana practice is not easy... if someone is after relaxing and easy, they should go on a cruise... but to elect to go on a cruise in preference is just running from the underlying matters that make life uneasy! Those problems will still be there once the cruise returns home... the cruise doesn't give you the skills to change the way you react to life's circumstances... it just briefly modifies the circumstances.

It is easier not to introspectively face our conditioning, but it is far more rewarding to do so.

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 Buckwheat » Mon Apr 16, 2012 2:31 pm

retrofuturist wrote:And arguably it's people not doing this in the first place, not doing their research, and having the own rigid pre-conceptions about of what a meditation retreat should and should not be (i.e. a Goenka retreat is definitely not calligraphy and flower arranging!), that has caused some disproportionately publicized consternation.

Intense vipassana practice is not easy... if someone is after relaxing and easy, they should go on a cruise... but to elect to go on a cruise in preference is just running from the underlying matters that make life uneasy! Those problems will still be there once the cruise returns home... the cruise doesn't give you the skills to change the way you react to life's circumstances... it just briefly modifies the circumstances.

It is easier not to introspectively face our conditioning, but it is far more rewarding to do so.

Metta,
Retro. :)


:clap:
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby rucontent » Tue Jun 05, 2012 1:39 am

Well I am just back from the retreat and it was an amazing experience. EXTREMELY difficult from a mental standpoint and the way the course is administered. I benefited greatly from this experience but as time passes wonders if it needed to be so intense and abrupt in its delivery with the strict code of conduct. In order for it to reach the masses of people that it should, i think it could be more gentle and compassionately given. I wouldnt wish what i went through on anyone i love. I happen to be or proved to be strong enough to make it but I definitely think they should ease up on some of the rules. Adapt them. This is not however many hundreds of years ago.

I thought it was strange. Male teacher was so dark/gloomy and solemn and even was driven to anger at one of the students who was breaking noble silence. During Goenka's entire discourse, where he gives wonderful funny stories to deliver the technique, teacher never once reacted. Goenka and this teaching talk about how the final goal is joy and compassion etc....yet there is not an aire of love in the air. In fact a dark cloud follows the group for most of the course, as they all try to get through. You can feel the mental anguish and angst in the air. Then to say....ok....everyone eat together,, live together, but dont look at each other, no smiles of encouragement, etc,,,////

Even after noble silence is broken, not supposed to shake hands or anything.....that is silly and not very compassionate......by day ten course is done mostly....people have suffered through a rough time, happilly discussing the past days yet no one is allowed to congratulate one another with a simple handshake? In defense of the organization and course, you are not held against your own will but they do try to convince you to stay. Also many people reported extreme desire to leave, and not sleeping.

Sleep deprivation, no human contact, stay in your room, nothing to do.... expected ten hours a day of meditation is way too much for even a person of reasonable mental condition....

Overall i learned a great deal that i will continue to learn from...i have already started watching the discourses again and find them to be the best part of the whole experience. Still undecided and confused about the need for the level of rigidity in the course structure. Several people left. Several got sick and could not sleep. It is certainly like torture. Self inflicted from the standpoint students chose to go. But guilt of leaving and influence of staff, provide another level of a prison type feeling. Bottom line they break you down, and then again, and again ,,,,luckily the discourse hit the mark every time.....

i think the explanation of the sensations in the body could be more clear....he dispels any doubt with all other topics by coming at them from different angles....but never hits the sensations in a way that people can relate to what he means.....when i am at my closest subtle level of full body/sweeping sensation it is because i became in tune with the body and a kind of feeling of density of space the body occupies, but "sensations" gives a general and vague sense of what is meant.

The repeating of many of the phrases, gets to be very irritating, but if u are really getting the lesson, you remain equanimous.

I gained ALOT and am very grateful, but think a suggestion box or move to adapt course slightly, might be in order.

:woohoo:
i made it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

thank you for info here......

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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Tue Jun 05, 2012 2:44 pm

I'm glad your course went well!

Please try and practice now that you are home as well. I wish you the best!
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 Monkey Mind » Tue Jun 05, 2012 4:03 pm

Yes, the policies about no-touch and Noble Silence (including avoiding eye contact) may seem harsh to people who are not used to it. Remember, the goal is to practice as though you were alone, and the only relationship is with the manager (if you have any material needs) and the assistant teacher (if you have questions or need encouragement in the technique). I think the purpose of all that is because we tend to use social contact as a panacea. Socializing with others is similar to journaling, reading books, and other distractions that prevent us from doing the difficult work of vipassana.

Compassion towards others doesn't become a goal until the last day, perhaps because if we don't do the difficult internal work first, we will be ineffective at being compassionate towards others. When one volunteers to be a server on a course, compassion is a central part of the practice developed during that time, and most of the discourses focus not on individual practice but how to function effectively in communities.
"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 Way~Farer » Fri Jun 29, 2012 11:00 pm

I sat the ten-day course at the end of 2007. I got through it ok but I didn't manage to hold the consistent meditation position for more than one or two sessions. And there has been no way to find the motivation to sit for 2 x 1 hour sessions every day since. I think if you can do that you are to all intents a house-holder monastic. I do sit 45 minute sessions probably 4-5 times per week, but I can't honestly claim to observe their regimen which I regard as very demanding.

I don't know if I will do another one of their retreats, but I wouldn't criticize them, I think Goenka is a great guy and his motivations are 100%. I have learned something important from them, which is not to engage in speculation or intellectual analysis but concentrate solely on the sensation (and breathing). So I guess all in all I rate them highly but am not up to meeting the demands they make.

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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Ben » Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:51 am

sunyavadin wrote:I can't honestly claim to observe their regimen which I regard as very demanding.

Yes, it is very demanding. Probably more as a result of one beginning to swim against the tide of samsara and its various manifestations in the form of mundane responsibilities and distractions. Its also difficult because one is coming up against the hindrances and various defilements which react against the development of samadhi and panna. This is, at times, a very hard path.
One needs to make a decision with "adhitthana" to commit to putting aside two hours a day for meditation (if that is what one wishes to do). Likewise, if one were to allocate time for sutta reading, sutta memorization, regular dana, learning Pali or any other practice-related activity, the going may be tough for awhile until the practice becomes embedded in daily life. If one cannot commit to two hours, then a lesser amount of time is better than giving up on meditation altogether. Sometimes, we don't have the strength to overcome the obstacles in front of us. If we just continue to put one foot in front of the other, with respect to our noble efforts, however modest they may be, then we are continuing to walk the path.
I wish you and everyone else every success walking on this most extraordinary of paths.
with metta,

Ben
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: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Way~Farer » Sat Jun 30, 2012 12:58 am

thanks for the encouragement! I will definitely keep going with it.

:namaste:

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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Ben » Sat Jun 30, 2012 1:19 am

:anjali:
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

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com

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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby 3q2u » Sat Aug 04, 2012 12:27 pm

I recently attended the course in Southern Taiwan. About 60 people, 1:3 male/female. 6 nuns. 5 foreigners.
Very well organized with a common goal of sharing, dedication, and learning.
About a third of the people were old students, and next year I certainly will become an old student.
If you are curious about meditation, then there must be a seed of motivation inside, so you should attend and learn something about yourself. It will be well worth it.
Good luck on your path!

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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby MaryR » Sun Aug 12, 2012 1:27 pm

Hello,
I know that this thread is quite old, but seeing as it may crop up for future potential retreat attendees, I thought that my own thoughts might be a worthwhile contribution.

The original poster's reaction to the retreat seemed quite harsh; it may scare some people away. I wanted to point out that the first 6 or so days of my first 'Goenka Retreat' were indeed hell. The words 'prison' and 'torture' definitely made their appearances in my thoughts, hurled violently towards those who were running the show. I would pace at night, anger rushing through me with no outlet. Why was I putting myself through this? I stayed out of sheer stubbornness and, if I am honest, the fact that they had my wallet and keys and asking to leave would have been embarrassing. If I had left the course early (as the original poster did, and as what felt like my entire being was screaming at me to do), I believe my conclusion, my opinion on the retreats, would have been similar to his.
However, I did not leave. I stuck it out, and on the 9th day was blessed with the most profound experience I have ever had. I have now completed two 10-day sits, and both times, for a few days afterwards I was continually breaking into wide smiles or joyful tears at what I understood. This may sound dramatic, but it is the closest I can come to explaining myself. My life has been altered irrevocably, and I continue to stumble my way down the path.

I don't know why the more difficult something is, the more rewarding it is, but this seems to be true in general.

For myself, I have thought about why these retreats are so difficult. I think that we have built up habitual ways of dealing with the suffering brought on by our thoughts and sensations, and at the retreat you are cut off from all of these outlets. You cannot distract yourself. It's just you and your mind. So the mind doesn't know what to do; it rears up; it tries to throw off this harness of the breath. Wild horse mind. It tells you things: this is a prison. This is clearly a cult. These people are so unhappy. Etc. (By the way, this is the same thing my mind did when I quit smoking cigarettes: You can have just one. It's not so bad. It is amazing how convincing the mind can be, how deeply engrained our habits are.)

I also wanted to reassure potential retreatants that the food is actually downright plentiful for breakfast and lunch (literally, an all-you-can-eat buffet of healthy, delicious vegetarian food), and sufficient for the evening (fruit and tea is enough to calm a complaining belly - and it's not like there's a limit on the number of bananas). You also can sleep or rest more than is accounted for in the schedule; you just have to do so unobtrusively. The level of commitment to these things (limiting your food, meditating as much as possible, not engaging in distracting activities) is truly up to you - but they certainly don't tell you that. I believe the attitude of rigidity is there to sort of trick people's minds into doing what's best for them (sometimes we only do what is difficult when we believe we have no choice).

As the original poster's response shows, such an intense retreat is probably not for everyone. But I would encourage those who take seriously all the warnings (when they tell you it's difficult, and emphasize the importance of the ten-day commitment, the ain't lyin') to sign up for one, and most importantly to stick it through to the end, no matter how bad it seems. Everything changes, and suffering can lead to joy.

with Respect,
Mary

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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:27 pm

MaryR wrote:. . .
Thank you for taking the time to write the above.
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: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Aug 12, 2012 7:32 pm

Thanks Mary!

I have only been on one Goenka retreat (six years ago) but it was an extremely useful experience, at that time the longest retreat I had done. As long as participants realise that it will require considerable effort and patience, I recommend it.

:anjali:
Mike


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