SN Goenka retreats

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby chickenman » Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:54 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Were you seriously forbidden to smile?

i smiled to myself many times, to try to deal with over-all depressing vibe of the place, but to answer your question, they did not say "you are forbidden to smile" in those exact words, but it was implied. when they tell you to not make eye contact with anyone else except staff and the "teacher", do not interact with anyone else & ignore everyone else at the retreat - that pretty much says "don't smile, don't give a friendly nod of the head - don't even acknowledge that there is another person standing 2 feet from you."
everyone else must have gotten the same impression, as no one looked at or acknowledged my presence, which in itself is sort of depressing.
i didn't mind the silence, i actually liked it, but to be told not to even look at the other retreat-goers or give a facial expression that might say "good morning" or "peace be with you" or whatever, that's going a bit far, in my opinion.
it's just rude.
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby Yudron » Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:02 pm

chickenman wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:Were you seriously forbidden to smile?

i smiled to myself many times, to try to deal with over-all depressing vibe of the place, but to answer your question, they did not say "you are forbidden to smile" in those exact words, but it was implied. when they tell you to not make eye contact with anyone else except staff and the "teacher", do not interact with anyone else & ignore everyone else at the retreat - that pretty much says "don't smile, don't give a friendly nod of the head - don't even acknowledge that there is another person standing 2 feet from you."
everyone else must have gotten the same impression, as no one looked at or acknowledged my presence, which in itself is sort of depressing.
i didn't mind the silence, i actually liked it, but to be told not to even look at the other retreat-goers or give a facial expression that might say "good morning" or "peace be with you" or whatever, that's going a bit far, in my opinion.
it's just rude.


I don't think it is rude, because everyone there one knows that that social convention is dispensed on for the duration of the retreat. It sounds like the idea is to focus on your own practice rather than your interaction with others. That is necessary in any Buddhist retreat, whether silent or not. The various traditions just deal with that dynamic--of always thinking about our interactions with others--differently.
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby chickenman » Wed Feb 06, 2013 7:31 pm

at such a retreat, the focus SHOULD be on your practice, but i don't think a simple smile or a nod of acknowledgement to a fellow human being would be such a terrible thing. lovingkindness, eh? ... to each his own, i suppose.

oh...and another thing. it wasn't just your "fellow human beings" you were to ignore at the retreat i attended, there was a cat that hung around the property that we were told to not touch or pay any attention to. i am an animal lover and i petted that cat every time i saw it, but the "gaurds" must not have seen me. i did, however, hear one of the staff scolding another fellow because he had been seen being friendly to the animal.
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby Yudron » Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:24 pm

chickenman wrote:at such a retreat, the focus SHOULD be on your practice, but i don't think a simple smile or a nod of acknowledgement to a fellow human being would be such a terrible thing. lovingkindness, eh? ... to each his own, i suppose.

oh...and another thing. it wasn't just your "fellow human beings" you were to ignore at the retreat i attended, there was a cat that hung around the property that we were told to not touch or pay any attention to. i am an animal lover and i petted that cat every time i saw it, but the "gaurds" must not have seen me. i did, however, hear one of the staff scolding another fellow because he had been seen being friendly to the animal.


I wonder if they include metta practice later on for folks.
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Feb 06, 2013 8:30 pm

Man its sounding more and more like I should stay away, not sure I could obey the not interacting with the cat thing heh.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby lojong1 » Thu Feb 07, 2013 3:33 am

I was glad not to have 80 people blasting me with these "how rude" vibes for not entertaining them when my attention was on the meditation instruction.
Old sudents, who have practices Goenka vipassana for years, that I've encountered before and after retreats are without exception far from antisocial and depressed, and their pets are very happy.
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:34 am

I'm not taking anything here as gospel, i'm just trying to figure whether it would be something up my alley or not, at this point it kind of sounds like not. Still, maybe that could also make a compelling argument to do it, being outside my comfort zone with rules such as that.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby Adamantine » Thu Feb 07, 2013 4:47 am

Yudron wrote:
chickenman wrote:at such a retreat, the focus SHOULD be on your practice, but i don't think a simple smile or a nod of acknowledgement to a fellow human being would be such a terrible thing. lovingkindness, eh? ... to each his own, i suppose.

oh...and another thing. it wasn't just your "fellow human beings" you were to ignore at the retreat i attended, there was a cat that hung around the property that we were told to not touch or pay any attention to. i am an animal lover and i petted that cat every time i saw it, but the "gaurds" must not have seen me. i did, however, hear one of the staff scolding another fellow because he had been seen being friendly to the animal.


I wonder if they include metta practice later on for folks.


Yes metta practice is introduced at the very end of the retreat... as a general way to close a practice session.. it roughly equates to dedicating merit. I do think it would be nice if they introduced that from the get-go. Of course, I also think it'd be good to cultivate bodhicitta in the beginning of each session but hey that's why i'm a Mahayanist. If any Mahayanist goes on one of these 10 day retreats clearly the bodhicitta will still be there for you, guiding your practice.. so we probably experience it differently than a brand - newbie would.
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby chickenman » Thu Feb 07, 2013 3:31 pm

lojong1 wrote:I was glad not to have 80 people blasting me with these "how rude" vibes for not entertaining them when my attention was on the meditation instruction.
Old sudents, who have practices Goenka vipassana for years, that I've encountered before and after retreats are without exception far from antisocial and depressed, and their pets are very happy.

i think you are missing my point here. yes, one SHOULD be at these retreats to concentrate on thier practice. yes, there SHOULD be rules in place to insure that one's practice is not disturbed. these are not social mixers and i did not go to the retreat to make friends, chit-chat with my fellow students or be "entertained". i went to learn and to practice. BUT... when the rules are so strict that you are afraid you will be reprimanded for a simple gesture of kindness, well, don't you think that's going a little overboard?
that's all i'm saying.
if someone is of the mind-set that this sort of ultra-controlled, almost military styled "boot-camp" enviornment would benefit thier practice, then, by all means, they should go!
it just wasn't my bag.
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby lojong1 » Thu Feb 07, 2013 8:54 pm

chickenman wrote:BUT... when the rules are so strict that you are afraid you will be reprimanded for a simple gesture of kindness, well, don't you think that's going a little overboard?

I suppose that could be the case at some centers, and I don't know the specifics of Assistant Teacher training.
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby lojong1 » Thu Feb 07, 2013 9:58 pm

lojong1 wrote:I suppose that could be the case at some centers

Nah! I'm trying hard to believe my BS, but I just can't. The problem here lies entirely in the baggage and desires we enter a course with.
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby ball-of-string » Fri Feb 08, 2013 12:12 am

chickenman wrote:if someone is of the mind-set that this sort of ultra-controlled, almost military styled "boot-camp" enviornment would benefit thier practice, then, by all means, they should go!.


That's exactly what I was looking for, it was exactly what I needed. My Zen-Tibetan-wannabe-Jack-Kornfield-inspired-practice was all over the place, and I thought meditating 10 minutes a day was a meaningful endeavor. The 10-day retreat helped me define that a serious Dharma practice really was a worthwhile endeavor. I was really grateful for the rules, they made life simpler and provided a great context for highly-focused practice.
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby dakini_boi » Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:00 am

I am now a Vajrayana practitioner - but my very first meditation retreat was a Goenka 10-day. Honestly, it was among the most transformative retreats I have been on. The only reason I haven't gone back is because they make it clear that if you have already made up your mind to follow a different path, they don't want you to come back. My sensibility is definitely more Vajrayana, but the technique Goenka teaches is very effective, and the way the retreat is structured - silence, LOTS of sitting, regular one-on-one meetings with an instructor, very good explanation of the technique - all these make for a very powerful experience if you stick with it. Yes, there were things that I didn't really agree with, but what I think is impressive is that they conduct the retreat in such a way that if you really put in the effort, you're likely to experience some result from the practice.
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby dakini_boi » Mon Mar 04, 2013 9:38 pm

I also want to add that the experiential understanding about karma, and how it is connected to the body, that I got from the Goenka retreat was really unique, and something I have not come across in Vajrayana teachings.
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby TaTa » Mon Mar 18, 2013 2:29 pm

Hi. I have just came back from a goenka retreat while being a kagyu student. It worked very well with me. The technique is really well explained and the silence and rules make it more intense and serious. It was very helpfull. It helped me to see how difficult this path really is and it was a great reminder of the utility in daily life and the importance of a good base of the Hinayana teachings.

A few low points:
Some subtle bad talk about the vajrayana and other methods that was really repetitive. Maybe it was just my vajra ego beeing hurt or maybe is like someone once said: The shravaka bleed through the ears when they hear about shunyata. I dont know =P
Constant talk about THIS being pure dharma, THIS being vipassana.
Some choice of words in talking about dharma that was probably because of bad translation to spanish (For example sinful deeds instead of non virtuous deeds)
Lack of advice on posture that can be very difficult for non meditators.

Other than that it was great and people where really happy at the end. I think that it depends on the country how stritct they are with rules. Here they were quite permissible and they aloud you to rest in non group meditations.

Greetings
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:45 pm

Thanks for the report..i'm definitely considering one in the far future when I would actually be capable of a ten day retreat.

It sounds like the positives outweigh the negatives..., though frankly the negatives are pretty unappealing:(
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: SN Goenka retreats

Postby Adamantine » Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:10 am

TaTa wrote:
A few low points:
Some subtle bad talk about the vajrayana and other methods that was really repetitive.


That's the real issue for me.

From Berzin archives:
In the secondary bodhisattva vows, it says not to spend more than seven days and nights in a home of a Hinayana person. What that’s referring to has nothing to do with whether somebody is practicing Theravada or Hinayana or not. What it’s referring to is somebody that we’re living with who would make fun of our practice, would say, “It’s stupid what you’re doing, this Mahayana practice, trying to help others,” and so on, and is constantly trying to discourage us and lead us away from our spiritual path. If we’re weak-minded and weak in our motivation and intention, then these people can have a very strong influence on us and really be very damaging to our practice.
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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