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Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style - Dhamma Wheel

Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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balive
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Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby balive » Sun Aug 11, 2013 12:22 am


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Anagarika
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Anagarika » Sun Aug 11, 2013 12:58 am


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Ben
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Ben » Sun Aug 11, 2013 1:23 am

Greetings balive,

I have been practicing exclusively under the guidance of SN Goenka for 28 years and have sat and served many ten-day courses and long courses. I have also been involved in various capacities as a server, including as a secretary of a meditation centre trust.
At one point I also felt the need to take a break but I came back and have redoubled my commitment and efforts and I have done so with my eyes wide open. All I will say is that my point of view and observations are very different to yours on a few points. Having said that, I am sorry for the pain and misery in your life.
My recommendation to you is - whatever you do with respect to continual involvement with your local VMC, is to maintain your practice. Precepts, dana, pariyatti (read the suttas), samadhi, and panna. If you still have an excellent relationship with an assistant teacher or area teacher, someone with whom you could consider a mentor, I recommend that you stay in touch with that person and discuss any issues with him or her. Noble friendship, as it was said by the Buddha, was "the entire holy life". I know from my own experience the real value of kalayanamittas.
with metta,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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balive
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby balive » Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:15 am

Thank you for the kind replies. I really appreciate it.

Ben, I've left the vipassana communities where I lived these past 20 odd years. I was in Australia, and I must have felt a strong identity to the groups and the local vipassana centres I supported and attended at that time.

I no longer do. Experiencing the level of judgements and opinions from most people in those communities, including ATs, I never intend to go back to those regions. I finally feel free having left, and cut all ties. I have some friends who are AT's still, but unlike most of them, they are the open thinkers. They are more like friends than teachers.

I don't have any that I truly feel confident in as guides to help me wake up.

I left Australia 8 months ago. Sold everything, and now travel the world. Currently I'm living in Chiang Mai with my girlfriend.

And I find myself a little stuck. When I think about doing a retreat, all I can come up with is going back to one of the Goenka vipassana centres in Thailand, and yet... I don't think that would be best thing for me if I truly want to break free of all conditioning.

Because how it looks to me now, I have a whole bunch of Goenka vipassana conditioning that I need to break down. Would doing another of their courses really help me with that... I don't think so.

And yet, I don't know any other worthwhile places to sit in Thailand, or near Chiang Mai.

And nor do I know a good place to learn the Jhanas...
Blog: http://www.zenwakeup.com
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!

jodistrict
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby jodistrict » Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:53 am

I took the 10 day retreat at Goenka's Southern California Twentynine Palms facility. I am grateful to them for providing me with a clean room and excellent food in a beautiful location. For some of us, they are a good alternative, otherwise you have to be rich to afford the expensive retreats in America. Isn't Goenka a Hindu? So he may have a different interpretation of things.

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Ben
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Ben » Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:56 am

Hi balive,

Besides, SN Goenka, there are only a few people who I would consult with regarding my own practice.
What I found very beneficial was just to let go of all the mental proliferation. If there are aspects of SN Goenka's teaching that you have an issue with, whether it be sankharas or whatever - just let it go. That is what I have done and have engaged with the practice itself. And what is that? Merely to observe what is there - as it arises and passes away. For nourishment I read, from time to time, U Ba Khin's lectures, the writings of Ledi Sayadaw, early commentarial literature and the suttas. I still attend ten-day and longer courses and they remain for me a positive, if challenging, experience.
When I was in Myanmar a few years ago there was a Canadian-born monk and one-time AT to SN Goenka who was attending a monastery in the south of the country for some months of intensive jhana practice. Unfortunately, I am not sure where that monastery is nor whether it offered places to western lay yogis. I am sure you know of Ajahn Brahm's writings on the Jhanas. Bhikkhu Bodhi recommended to me Shankman's writings on the jhanas. Leigh Brassington is also very highly respected.
Do let me know how you get on.
with metta,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Ben
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Ben » Sun Aug 11, 2013 3:58 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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balive
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby balive » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:28 am

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.
Blog: http://www.zenwakeup.com
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!

Aloof
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Aloof » Sun Aug 11, 2013 4:40 am

Goenka is a Hindu.
I have met him personally and done one course directly under him.
He does not call buddhism a religion and neither he says one should convert oneself to buddism religion.
He considers Gautam a scientist.

I started vispassana first time on 30 June 1992, exactly 21 years back at their headquater in Nasik.
My average meditation every day since then can be considered to be more than 3-4 hours a day without break.
In the first course itself and on the first night 30th June 1992, I had an astounding experience and
since then I am guided by my INNER VOICE, who gave me the experience.I have also done 7 courses
of 10 days each and also given services . Since last 17 years I am not in contact with any one from vipassana centre

My meditation deviated from vipassana to a minor extent due to guidence of INNER VOICE.
I was asked NOT TO DO Metta meditation at the end of a sitting and I followed my INNER VOICE.

My journey has been EXTRAORDINARY successful from all points of view.
Health, wealth,family, luxuries, power, peace and (greatest of all of these) WISDOM
has been increasingly falling in my lap.

I take it now that my INNER VOICE and me have become ONE.
If my experience can help any one, fire any specific questions.

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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby robertk » Sun Aug 11, 2013 5:13 am


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Ben
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Ben » Sun Aug 11, 2013 5:35 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Ben
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Ben » Sun Aug 11, 2013 5:39 am

“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Mr Man
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Mr Man » Sun Aug 11, 2013 7:27 am

Hi balive,
Thanks for sharing.

I came across this article a couple of days back: So What? . It starts "The hardest thing I ever did was walk away from Buddhism.", possibly you can relate to some of it, I found it interesting.

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Dan74
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Dan74 » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:30 am

I think this is a good thread and much of it applies not just to SN Goenka's organisation and teachings but to just about any organisation and teachings. We tend to cling to them, hold the teachings a little too tightly rather than use them while they are useful, invest them with expectations and emotions and build an identity around the whole thing. It can be very subtle and I am still learning to see thing process even though in my tradition there are many explicit warnings against it.
_/|\_

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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby appicchato » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:50 am


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balive
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby balive » Sun Aug 11, 2013 8:56 am

I sure am attached to the program!
Thanks again for pointing that out :)

My identity is so tied up with "getting it right", finding the "right teacher", the "right place to sit"...
I feel terrified that letting it all go will result in annihilation of my-self as a good "buddhist".
Hang on... did I really write that...
Blog: http://www.zenwakeup.com
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!

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pilgrim
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby pilgrim » Sun Aug 11, 2013 9:01 am

This identification with a particular tradition or teacher is common enough. I'm beginning to see it among some people who follow the Thai Forest tradition as well the Pa-Auk group. People invest time and energy into these teachers. Although that is good, emotional attachments and identification sometimes develop. By seeing it, you are more likely to let it go.

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balive
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby balive » Sun Aug 11, 2013 12:03 pm

Blog: http://www.zenwakeup.com
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!

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Zom
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby Zom » Sun Aug 11, 2013 7:05 pm

Hello balive,

Why don't you just study Pali Canon thoroughly -- without "higher guidance", "gurus", "teachers", etc.? That is -- learning from the Buddha himself. I'm sure, you will find a lot of pleasant things there -- both to think about and to practise.

There are 4 major Nikayas, well translated into English, I'd strongly recommend to buy them all () and read them unhurriedly.

fabianfred
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Postby fabianfred » Mon Aug 12, 2013 12:57 am

If you are in Chiangmai I would suggest going to the temple at Wat Rampoeng for their vipassana meditation retreat. 10 days minimum for non-Thais but recommend the 26 day full retreat. Here they practice the Mahasi Sayadaw style of watching the rise and fall of the breath and also doing walking meditation.
I have been many times and also with my wife and seperately.
A different system might be what you need..... and the abbot is a great guy who takes the daily reporting for foreign meditators.

After 20 years of meditation I would expect you to have reached Sotapanna at least...and be beyond doubt....if that isn't the case there must be something wrong.

You mention above... ''the minimum amount of time for this to happen would be 10 big bangs / big crunches, that is to say, the creation and destruction of the entire universe would have to happen a minimum of 10 times (or more) and during this vast span of countless billions and billions of years, I would be at work building my paramis, and eradicating my sankharas''

I don't know where you got this from but it was never stated as necessary for one to practice for ten or more Aeons to reach enlightenment!! As we know some people attained to Stream-entry or even Arahant just whilst listening to the Buddhas Dhamma talks.

see my post here .. viewtopic.php?f=13&t=18224


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