Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

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Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby Individual » Sat Jan 31, 2009 1:31 am

I've been struggling in my exercise the past couple of days and honestly, I haven't kept up daily meditation in weeks, although I still practice mindfuless. Last night, being a bit frustrated by my backsliding, and hoping I could "put a chink in the wheel" (morality is a wheel -- goes up, then down, up, then down), I decided to get drunk and I'm knocking off a few beers right now (there's been a 30-pack of Budweiser in the kitchen cupboard for months, just sitting there)...

...And I'd like to go on a retreat. But where could I go?

I've heard about S.N. Goenka's retreats and there's one not too far from where I live. But I just saw this lady's story about them:
http://melissamaples.com/pb/retreat.pdf

And that's a bit creepy. One part of me thinks it sounds cultish, but another part of me thinks it's just hardcore mental discipline of the same kind of stuff that a lot of ascetics go through, and it's what I'd go through if I ever join the military, except they'd train me to be an arrogant patriot and a murderer. I stayed in a psych. ward for 2 weeks once for being suicidal and the description of Goenka's retreats reminded me of the same feelings I had while staying in the psych. ward --in terms of the abusiveness, the inhumanity, the apparent frustration one feels from being surrounded by nothing but crazy people incapable of communication, being strangely entertained by something as ridiculously simple as a game of cards and reading the same books over and over, and childishly competing over who gets to pick the TV channel (in the 1 or 2 hours a day of TV that we got) -- that is, in the Goenka retreats, there's no talking with anybody, so even though everybody isn't crazy, the feeling of isolation and imprisonment is probably the same -- and the feeling of freedom upon release is likely just as unsettling.

But I don't like the feeling of not being in control of my own mind. Of course, if my control over my mind so far has had such horrible results and if everything is void, you know (like nihilism sort of, but instead a pleasant drift into profound omnipotent luminous intuition rather than an anxiety from or attachment to darkness within darkness, ignorance within ignorance), then perhaps throwing my mind into Goenka's hands isn't just a bad idea.

Anybody know of any Theravadin retreats in Maryland\Washington D.C. area, or had any experience with Goenka's retreats?
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby Ben » Sat Jan 31, 2009 1:44 am

Hi Individual

Since 1985 I have participated (sitting and serving) in approximately 30 retreats of various lengths with my teacher SN Goenka or some of his assistant teachers. Later this year I hope to attend a 30-day retreat.

Yes, the experience is certainly intense and I don't recommend it to all. People who have a predisposition towards mental illness should think very carefully about attending. I haven't read the piece you linked to. As I said earlier, its not going to suit everyone. Some people will find it a little too austere, some people may have difficulties with external attachments which forces them to leave early, and some people do not disclose their mental health issues or decide to use the course to come off their medication, or to incorporate some other technique they've learned elsewhere. I have also noticed in some instances, when someone has a less-than-optimal course experience, they look outside themselves for the cause.

The rules and discipline are actually there for the benefit of practitioners. When you are learning the technique, you don't need extraneous human contact. And its not something you can appreciate until after you have come out the other side. The way I look at it, noble silence is like a nice blanket and buffer so that I can continue to work on developing samatha and vipassana.

If you are looking for something to kick-start your practice again, I would still recommend a retreat. Maybe a Goenka retreat is not suitable for you, so look at some of the other retreats available to you.
If you have any further questions, feel free to pm or email me. I'm more than happy to help.
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jan 31, 2009 1:45 am

Greetings Individual,

I've only been on one proper retreat... it was a Goenka one.

Thumbs up from me :thumbsup:

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: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby Individual » Sat Jan 31, 2009 2:15 am

Ben wrote:The rules and discipline are actually there for the benefit of practitioners. When you are learning the technique, you don't need extraneous human contact. And its not something you can appreciate until after you have come out the other side. The way I look at it, noble silence is like a nice blanket and buffer so that I can continue to work on developing samatha and vipassana.

If you are looking for something to kick-start your practice again, I would still recommend a retreat. Maybe a Goenka retreat is not suitable for you, so look at some of the other retreats available to you.
If you have any further questions, feel free to pm or email me. I'm more than happy to help.

I don't really have serious mental illness -- at least, I haven't been on medication, seen a therapist, or been hospitalized in years. The one time I was hospitalized, I did it mostly out of frustration -- I needed to "get away," so to speak. It was sort of a retreat of its own.

I also don't feel any "physical" symptoms of mental illness... I'm just lazy and when I think about how this laziness affects my life, it worries me.

I'd really appreciate it if you, Retrofuturist, or anyone else could read that lady's experiences. Some of it is clearly just her being neurotic from being cut off from sensory pleasures (which is humorous, IMO, but that's a sadistic kind of humor, not very wholesome), but I still find it strange, though, that the meditation and so on, is guided by CDs and videos of Goenka.

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Individual,

I've only been on one proper retreat... it was a Goenka one.

Thumbs up from me :thumbsup:

Metta,
Retro. :)

To be clear, Retrofuturist, you're not affiliated with any Goenka organization anymore, right? :)
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby Ben » Sat Jan 31, 2009 2:31 am

Hi Individual

I don't think its a problem with the cds and videos. The intention behind them was that no matter where one went, or what centre, the same technique, the same instructions are given. They're still using the same discourses and instruction since 1983.
However, I understand that for many people, the cds and videos are a bit of a turn-off. But they're just a teaching aid.
Yes, I will read the article but right now I'm a little busy.
Metta

Ben
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Jan 31, 2009 2:54 am

if youre in /near DC theres Wat Thai Dc and also isnt the bhavana society near you? i'd check those out.

ive never done a Goenka retreat, they dont have them up here as far as i know. but i have an open invitation to just stay at my temple when ever i want, and i do when ever i need to, so i'm not sure if id be all that interested in doing a retreat in a non monastic setting...
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jan 31, 2009 3:04 am

Greetings Individual,

Individual wrote:To be clear, Retrofuturist, you're not affiliated with any Goenka organization anymore, right? :)


To be clear, no... I just went to 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: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby zavk » Sat Jan 31, 2009 3:09 am

Hi Individual,

I'm a student of Goenka too. I highly recommend the course. As I'm sure you are aware, an intensive retreat is a good opportunity to immerse oneself in the dhamma. Whether you attain some 'enlightening' experience or not, 10-days away from the humdrum of everyday life gives you a rare opportunity to strictly observe sila, the bedrock of dhamma practice.

As for the lady's article..... I skimmed through it very quickly. It seems to me that she wasn't really clear about her motivations for attending the course, which perhaps led to a lot of doubt and negativity. But unlike her, you are have knowledge of the dhamma. You appear to have the right intentions. If you do attend the course, there is, of course, the likelihood that you will experience some doubts about what is taught or how the course is run. However, I think you should keep in mind that the 10-day course is designed as an introductory course for a general public who may not have any prior exposure to the dhamma. The course is an invaluable opportunity for you to be in a supportive environment where you can really investigate the dhamma for yourself. Maybe you'll agree with Goenka's approach, maybe you won't. But give it a fair trial before you decide. If in the end you decide that you won't continue with the Goenka approach, you would still have had an opportunity to take stock of yourself.

All the best,
zavk
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby appicchato » Sat Jan 31, 2009 3:39 am

Hi Individual,

Tens of, or maybe hundreds of thousands of people have been to Goenka retreats, and virtually everyone (but not all, granted) has had a positive experience...and one that has helped them on their path...go for it friend, it's nearby (as you say), and it's basically for what you feel like contributing...how can you lose?...

What's with all the (negative) projecting you're doing about how it 'might' be...do a little detective work (google) and bone up on what this man (Goenka) has accomplished in helping people on the spiritual path...nothing short of miraculous...

If I were asked, I'd say after you've gone, you'll be really glad you did... :thumbsup:

Take care friend... :smile:

Forgot to mention the Bhavana Society and Bhante G...top notch...again, not too far from you...check 'em out...http://www.bhavanasociety.org/retreats/
Last edited by appicchato on Sat Jan 31, 2009 3:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby Individual » Sat Jan 31, 2009 4:03 am

Ben wrote:Hi Individual

I don't think its a problem with the cds and videos. The intention behind them was that no matter where one went, or what centre, the same technique, the same instructions are given. They're still using the same discourses and instruction since 1983.
However, I understand that for many people, the cds and videos are a bit of a turn-off. But they're just a teaching aid.
Yes, I will read the article but right now I'm a little busy.
Metta

Ben

I think the woman was just very judgmental and neurotic. Her article has a very appropriate title, though.. "How NOT to go on a Goenka retreat" :)

jcsuperstar wrote:if youre in /near DC theres Wat Thai Dc and also isnt the bhavana society near you? i'd check those out.

ive never done a Goenka retreat, they dont have them up here as far as i know. but i have an open invitation to just stay at my temple when ever i want, and i do when ever i need to, so i'm not sure if id be all that interested in doing a retreat in a non monastic setting...

I looked at Wat Thai DC's website, but it doesn't mention retreats. Do they have them? Bhavana society is about 2-hour drive away and I don't have my own vehicle (so my mom would have to drive up there and back, each time -- which is doable, but a bit of a hassle).

appicchato wrote:Hi Individual,

Tens of, or maybe hundreds of thousands of people have been to Goenka retreats, and virtually everyone (but not all, granted) has had a positive experience...and one that has helped them on their path...go for it friend, it's nearby (as you say), and it's basically for what you feel like contributing...how can you lose?...

What's with all the (negative) projecting you're doing about how it 'might' be...do a little detective work (google) and bone up on what this man (Goenka) has accomplished in helping people on the spiritual path...nothing short of miraculous...

If I were asked, I'd say after you've gone, you'll be really glad you did... :thumbsup:

Take care friend... :smile:

Forgot to mention the Bhavana Society and Bhante G...top notch...again, not too far from you...check 'em out...http://www.bhavanasociety.org/retreats/

Well, if Appicchato recommends it, it's probably very good. :)
The best things in life aren't things.

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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby Ben » Sat Jan 31, 2009 4:12 am

Hi Individual

I haven't read the article yet - I'm in the middle of moving house. But I hope to get on to it - perhaps tonight.
Venerable's assessment has all the things I wanted to say. But since I am a long standing student of SN Goenka, if I gave a statement like Venerable's, it may give the impression that I am blinkered and 'one eyed'. And who knows, perhaps I am! But if I am blinkered and one eyed, I don't want you to be influenced by my predelictions, perceptions and prejudices.
The best thing you could do Individual, is to find out for yourself, and make up your own mind. In the words of the Buddha Ehi Passiko!, see for yourself!
Metta

Ben
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Jan 31, 2009 4:45 am

most thai temples dont have schedualed retreats every month, but would probably likely you stay and do one by yourself.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby Individual » Sat Jan 31, 2009 5:19 am

jcsuperstar wrote:most thai temples dont have schedualed retreats every month, but would probably likely you stay and do one by yourself.

What do you mean stay and do one by myself? You mean I bring my own food and camp in the woods nearby? I don't understand.
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jan 31, 2009 6:15 am

Greetings Individual,

No, he means stay at the monestary with the monks for a few days.

I'm planning on doing this sometime soon myself... (not in this heat though!)

I would however recommend doing a Goenka or similar retreat first... the ten-day course gives excellent instruction on the anapanasati and vedananupassana aspects of the Satipatthana practice and you will benefit from the occasional instruction. There are follow-up courses that teach you other parts of the satipatthana practice. The discipline will do you good, and it is a reputable organisation. Seriously... it's about the best way to de-papancify your mind that I can think of right now.

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: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby zavk » Sat Jan 31, 2009 6:32 am

retrofuturist wrote:...de-papancify ...


I nominate this as the 'English Buddhist word of the day'!
With metta,
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby Element » Sat Jan 31, 2009 7:02 am

appicchato wrote:Forgot to mention the Bhavana Society and Bhante G...top notch...again, not too far from you...check 'em out...http://www.bhavanasociety.org/retreats/


Hi Individual

Washington Buddhist Vihara has weekly meditation, recommends and is affiliated with the Bhavana Society.

Nice talk on meditation at this link.

A Goenka retreat will have a certain intensity as you know but remember, they are usually free of charge and one can always leave.

There is no harm in leaving and only benefit in staying.

Bhavana Society sounds balanced.

Best wishes

Element
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:21 am

Hi Individual,
Individual wrote:
jcsuperstar wrote:most thai temples dont have schedualed retreats every month, but would probably likely you stay and do one by yourself.

What do you mean stay and do one by myself? You mean I bring my own food and camp in the woods nearby? I don't understand.

No, most Wats will have guest rooms or kutis (huts).

Lay supporters bring food every day for the monks so a a few extra people makes no difference.

When I stay I generally do most of the meditation by myself and meet my teacher once a day. For people new to meditation a teacher would have more contact time...

Metta
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:37 am

wat thai dc is pretty big too from what i've seen, the abbot is a pretty famous monk, writes stories, and the newsletter from the temple goes out to temples all over the states.

about the food, its not a big deal at most temples many older thai women, housewives, thai people not working etc, will come to feed the monks and eat lunch themselves, so theres an abundence of food. though you will be eatting thai food, made for thai people, so be prepared for things youre not gonna get in your thai resturant and for it to be much hotter, more sour etc. i actually ate these spicey ants and ant eggs once.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:39 am

mikenz66 wrote:
When I stay I generally do most of the meditation by myself and meet my teacher once a day. For people new to meditation a teacher would have more contact time...

Metta
Mike


yeah my monks take turns giving me dhamma talks, they look forward to it, it helps them with their english so i'm seen by them as helping them as well. so everyone gets something out of it.
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Theravadin Retreats (especially Goenka)

Postby Individual » Sat Jan 31, 2009 11:32 pm

There are these other Sanghas in my local area:
http://www.cambodian-buddhist.org/
http://www.tummaprateip.iirt.net/

Might they offer retreats or have guest rooms too?

The Goenka and Bhavana Society retreats are both months away and I feel a sense of urgency.
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