Thank you Ben for sharing your thoughts. I wanted to share more with you about what's been bothering me.
I think starting Goenka vipassana at the age of 20 took me and my empty agnostic mindset of how the world worked, and filled with a very detailed system of how to “do life”.
I had a cosmic, mind blowing experience and said to myself - “nothing is better than this.” And… “I’d be willing to do anything, go through anything to have these kind of experiences.”
My experiences were real. They opened me up to the cosmos, and new dimensions to life that had been hidden up until then were appearing to me.
But the mistake I made was that I linked the access to these types of insights to Goenka’s vipassana system. That his system had the answers, it was the direct teachings of the buddha.
And the only logical conclusion to the belief that his system was THE system was to take on board all of it, and live it like life depended upon it.
But the problem was, it wasn’t my system. I had downloaded this belief structure into myself, willingly, unwittingly as the major operating system I would use to live my life.
The thing that concerns me is, it’s still running the show - even when I haven’t gone near a Goenka vipassana course for 2.5 years, or spent any time with any others involved with it.
The truth is I’ve been chasing certain “spiritual experiences”, cosmic awakenings, and taking them for sign posts that I was heading in the right direction.
I’ve been deluding myself and not at all really focused on waking up.
Here are the beliefs I TOTALLY bought into from Goenka’s system:
* The belief that I COULD get enlightened. And that if I was smart, one should make this one and primary focus of life.
* And the sooner I could free myself of this world the better.
* BUT… it was almost impossible to achieve this in this life. That even if I worked around the clock, all your life, sitting and serving, it was highly unlikely I would ever acheive the goal.
* Therefore the real goal became making this little life just one little perfected drop in a giant jug that you needed to fill in order to get enlightened.
* The prospects were bleak, but the consolation was that at least I was on the path, and all those others who weren’t in Goenka’s camp, they would simply never even get enlightened, at least I’d get there, eventually, even if it was after billions of lifetimes.
* Now, the sooner I could spend ALL my time sitting and helping others to sit, the better, so I’d better get rich, in order to take all that time off, because…
* The best path was to be a householder, not a monk, there I’d need money, and lots of it. Plus I’d need a wife and child, in order to really look the part of a top quality householder, holding it altogether, all the while mediating. Living like this I would be well setup to attract more suffering householders onto the path of vipassana. And the more I attracted, the more merits and good kamma I would earn.
* While it looked like being a monk would be easier to meditate full time, it would not be the right path as it would put other householders off. The monks life of spending ALL your time meditating, being away from society was not the right way to live.
* And yet the life of a householder was not something to relish. It was dangerous, you could be seduced into pleasures, it was not something to take refuge in, because in the end you would lose everything anyway, it was a realm of suffering.
* That there was a system and structure to waking up, getting out of the bondage of life and experiencing something beyond this suffering world - and Goenka’s organisation was it.
* There was nothing else in the world that could match it, no other technique that could work as effectively at breaking the mind free from it’s habit patterns of addiction to craving and aversion.
* And yet, a real hinderance in life was to build up strong belief systems, and that the mind would want to cling and develop attachment to “my views” - and that one should always be on watch for this happening.
* And yet Goenka’s path, belief system, offered the solution. An authentic, non-sectarian, impartial view of life.
So, with that operating system firmly in place, here’s what I’ve had to deal with on a daily basis over these past 21 years - I still live with them each day:
* Feeling that I’m never meditating enough
* That even after 1 or 2 hours, that I should do more, it’s never enough
* Living with the daily agitation that I must sit, seeing others and situations as potential obstacles that I must get past in order to get on the cushion
* Worried when I miss a 1 hour sit, feel like I have to “catch one up”
* Fearful of ever writing down my actual experiences on the internet, that someone may know it’s me, and then block me from doing more vipassana retreats
* Feeling that I have to keep all of this bottled up inside me, never allowed to express it
* Worried that I’m not doing the technique right
* Thinking that I just need to do more retreats
* Thinking that the assessment of my life’s value is in how many retreats I’ve been able to fit in
* That doing more retreats will improve my practise, improve me, and get me closer to the goal of nibbana
* Anxious about not doing a retreat every 12 months, if it goes longer than that, I feel fidgety, that I’m not progressing in life
* Anxious when I miss a sit, that I will have to lie on a form, and that I could be blocked from doing long courses
* Anxious when I miss a sit - thinking that I’m bad, have let myself/life down
* Thinking that I have to get to another long course as a major priority for life itself
* Thinking that the only access to liberation (nibbana) is doing these long courses, and there by having to follow all the rules of sitting 2 hours a day, no sleeping around, no alcohol, etc
* Concerned that I still haven’t got to bhanga, or various other meditations states, even after a couple of decades
* Thinking that Goenka’s organisation “owns” what it is to meditate, and that theirs is the only true path
* Worried that someone is in my head, watching my thoughts
And at the same time, I’ve lived with strong beliefs that I’m better and superior to other people who aren’t living according to my (Goenka’s) rules.
(They started as Goenka’s, but I’d certainly taken ownership of them.)
* Anyone who drinks alcohol is not worthy of respect
* Anyone who doesn’t meditate, in this tradition, is not on the right path
* Anyone who doesn’t meditate every day, go on yearly retreats, and offer their time in service is not “doing life right”
* Anyone who gets divorced is wimping out and not honouring their commitments
* Anyone who doesn’t honour and respect their parents is not living the right path
Thankfully I’m hard at work on ejecting these belief systems… It’s taking a lot of effort, but I can see as the months pass, my rigid views are slowly (very slowly!) melting away.
So much attachment to these points of view… Goenka was right, there is a lot misery when one has strong attachments to ones views, and that there is nothing one clings more to than ones belief structure.
It was something that Goenka told me to avoid.
Nothing to do with Zen. I don't know anything about Zen.
But Zen gets 11 million searches a month. Buddha only gets 4 million.
Go figure... or rather... Go on 'zen wake up!