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10-day goenka retreat - Dhamma Wheel

10-day goenka retreat

On the cultivation of insight/wisdom
delf7
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10-day goenka retreat

Postby delf7 » Fri Dec 02, 2011 8:13 pm

hello all, i am thinking of applying to attend a 10-day course in "vipassana meditation as taught by s.n. goenka in the tradition of sayagyi u ba khin" offered at a retreat in northern illinois, usa. the goenka organization holds these world-wide.
i am very interested in doing this, but in researching this, i have read some very bad reviews of mr. goenka's teaching (or should i say his "assistant teachers" as mr. goenka's discourses tend to be via videotape) and his "schools". i have also read some very good things (one such "review" by a trusted member of this forum, who i tend to believe).
i have read people calling his retreats "cult boot-camps" and "not based in true theravada" while others have called them "wonderful experiences".
i am curious as to if anyone here has attended any of these retreats and what impressions you had of the experience.
any input would be greatly appriciated.
kind regards,
delf

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SeekingDharma
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby SeekingDharma » Fri Dec 02, 2011 8:26 pm

Hello delf,

I've read the same reviews as I was making this same decision. I am enthusiastically signed up for a February retreat and very much looking forward to it. For fear of an incorrect assumption, I'll defer to others with actual experience to say whether or not they feel it is worth it. If you've reviewed the same criticisms I did, I would recommend you look closer. In review of those "cult" comments and the like, I gained an impression that most of these people were not consistent meditators and did not have an understanding of what they should expect (this isn't a negative comment from them, but it helped me to understand where their feelings could be based). If you are looking for a meditation retreat, worst case scenario you've set aside 10 days to meditate--how can you lose? What ultimately made me cast aside my fears of those critical were talks of Goenka himself. 2 or 3 videos on YouTube was all I needed to at least dive in and make a decision for myself.

I hope I didn't muddy the waters for you, I very much look forward to my first 10-day Goenka retreat! :twothumbsup:

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Ben
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Ben » Fri Dec 02, 2011 8:36 pm

Greetings delf,

However difficult, try to put aside all that you may have heard - positive, negative and neutral.
Surely the proof of the pudding is in its eating? Ehi Passiko (see for yourself).

If you do decide to go through with a ten-day course - I wish you every success.
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]..

delf7
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Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:36 pm
Location: midwest, usa

Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby delf7 » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:16 pm


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manas
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby manas » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:17 pm

Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form...feeling...
perception...fabrications...consciousness that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity."

David2
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby David2 » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:43 pm

Delf7, whatever people say, just go if you are thinking of going.
You have nothing to lose.

If you don't go, you can't really say if it is for you or not. So just go.

delf7
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby delf7 » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:49 pm

thank you very much manasikara, very good advice. i have only been practicing for a few months, and keeping on a daily schedule has been a challenge to say the least, so... i have thought that i might be rushing this a little, but at the same time, the reason i want to attend the course is to really learn vipassana - to really immerse myself in it.
i've always been the type of person who jumps right in the deep end, but maybe i should learn to tread water first?
i don't know, i will give this more thought. thank you again for your insight.
metta,
delf

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Modus.Ponens
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Modus.Ponens » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:57 pm

I have done a 10 day vipassana retreat in that tradition and it was the best thing that I did in my life. The technique is very useful and the results profound. I advise anyone to try it.

Having said that, I also have to say the following:

1- I've read that Mahasi style is more efficient in producing insight than Goenka style. The problem with Goenka tradition is that it requires a certain commitment to the tradition in order to be able to attend certain retreats, like the teacher's self course. If you have practiced any other meditation technique between the last retreat and the teacher's self course, for example, you can't attend the TSC. which brings me to the second point:

2- The whole Goenka organization may be a cult. Most acusations online of this organization being a cult are ignorant and could apply to any form of retreat, which would imply that every temple offering retreats are cults. However, there have been at least 2 cases I've encountered worth considering as more than ignorant talk. A critic from inside the organization (going by the name of "pamojja") apeared on e-sangha and described his case where he was threatened to either embrace the views of Goenka regarding the teachings or never being able to attend another course again. He tried to contact Goenka himself to expose the case but with no reply. Here lies the nature of my doubt: either Goenka was to busy to take care of that subject or he neglected it (which is bad) or he encouraged it (which is worse). Now bear in mind that all this happened on the internet and could mean nothing, but, nevertheless, I would like to make the warning.

Why do I recomend this retreat despite having a slight doubt that it is a cult? Because you can learn the technique _ which has nothing wrong and is very beneficial _ and still not become a cult member.
He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

David2
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby David2 » Fri Dec 02, 2011 10:18 pm


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Ben
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Ben » Fri Dec 02, 2011 11:00 pm

“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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Modus.Ponens
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Modus.Ponens » Fri Dec 02, 2011 11:16 pm

Thank you for your answer Ben. Very civilized in face of what I said. I'm happy that we can discuss this in an open manner. My goal was exactly that, in order to reach the truth regarding this matter. We may never get to know it, but your experienced testemony certainly gives us more confidence in Goenka's tradition.
He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

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Ben
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Ben » Fri Dec 02, 2011 11:22 pm

It was my pleasure, MP!
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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manas
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby manas » Sat Dec 03, 2011 4:48 am

Hi delf,

I just wanted to remind you that I certainly would not want to dissuade you or anyone from intensively practising meditation, if it will be of benefit to them. Life is tenous and fragile. Buddhas arise only very rarely indeed, and we have been born human in an Age where the original Teachings are still extant (in the pali suttas). If you are a resilient type of person, both physically and emotionally, then maybe you could cope with just 'jumping in the deep end' as you put it.

Whatever you choose, I wanted to encourage you that Dhamma doesn't have to be an 'all-or-nothing' affair. We are allowed to enter the water gradually, or more quickly, according to what we can manage. I just hope that whether you go, or do not go, that your practice of Dhamma gradually increases, regardless; in Virtue, Concentration, and Insight, through the practice of all the eight limbs of the N8FP. However we do that, whether via retreats or right here at home, that's what really counts.

:anjali: metta
Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form...feeling...
perception...fabrications...consciousness that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity."

Buckwheat
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Buckwheat » Sat Dec 03, 2011 6:03 am

I just want to add that I will be attending one of these 10-day courses in March (I just got the acceptance e-mail today!). I'm trying not to expect too much one way or another. While I am slightly concerned about some of the cult criticisms, I also realize that any order for any spiritual practice to bear fruit, one must pick a tradition and really dig deep. I used to be one of those "mostly atheist/humanist, a little bit Hindu, little it Buddha, little bit Tao, little bit Christ" kind of people. While I feel that phase makes my practice a little richer, at a certain point I realized I was going to have to pick, and Buddhism was the best fit. Then I realized that I was going to have to pick a school, because some of the various schools contradict each other on some matters, and ended up picking Theravada (esp Thai Forest). My point is, I think that to give a particular approach a real shot, it does take some commitment to a particular tradition/approach as laid out by somebody of great spiritual depth because that approach, taken as a whole will balance all the elements of the approach to be of the greatest benefit.

I should also add, this is my first multi-day retreat, and my first Vipassana retreat. I'm nervous about stamina, but I hope the atmosphere helps me get through it. I have found that even one day retreats are a great boost for my meditation. I figure if I survive ten days, it will be of great benefit. I will be attending with a balance of skepticism and open mindedness. If I don't like it, I will try not to bother anybody while I just sit for 10 days. If I love it, I will attend more retreats.
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.

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Monkey Mind
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Monkey Mind » Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:40 am

I concur with the person who said "best thing I ever did". Also, if I had not been dropped off at the retreat center, I would have left after the third day. I am glad I persevered. I've attended a few 10-day, 3-day, and 1-day retreats since that first experience.

Even if someday later you decide to practice in other traditions, the Goenka retreat is a good "boot camp" introduction to Dhamma and vipassana.
"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

delf7
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby delf7 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 3:42 pm

after giving this much thought, i have decided to apply for the course. i had planned to "jump right in" a.s.a.p., but some good advice here has led me to decide to wait a little longer, so i could have a little more practice under my belt, and give me time to read more of the suttas to achive better footing before taking on the 10-day session.
the whole "could be a cult" warnings do not bother me, as i think it would be easy to call ANY retreat such as this "cult-ish".
my brother, who is also going to take the course, wisely pointed out that his experiences with A.A., as well as the u.s. military, could be called "cult-ish". as could be some kid's summer "bible study" camp. it seems that anything someone else doesn't understand could be called a "cult", so that doesn't worry me.
i am looking forward to it, but i am very aware that i need to "get ready" for it. much more reading, much more study and much much more practice need to be done before this undertaking.
in a nut shell, all i hope to get out of it is to better my understanding of vipassana. i can see nothing negative coming from the experience. as long as i learn something, even if only learning something about myself, it will be well worth it.
thank you all for your input, and we will let this interesting discussion continue.
kind regards,
delf

David2
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby David2 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 4:11 pm


SamKR
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby SamKR » Mon Dec 05, 2011 6:29 pm


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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Dec 05, 2011 8:07 pm

• • • • (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)

Jhana4
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Re: 10-day goenka retreat

Postby Jhana4 » Mon Dec 05, 2011 8:33 pm

Hi delf7;

My apologies for posting a link for an answer, but I've written these responses a few times:


I've been to two Goenka retreats in the U.S. back in the 90s. I've read the criticisms on the internet of the Goenka retreats. I don't think they are fair. I say that as someone who doesn't care for the organization, as I see it as having an authoritarian and sycophantic subculture ( which will not be an issue for you going on a 10 day retreat ). The retreats did a lot for me and can do a lot of for you. Just don't take that center's take on meditation and Buddhism as the last word. If you stay with Buddhist meditation you will eventually want to attend retreats from different organizations and study Buddhism on your own.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.


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