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Re: Goenka Vipassana Cult
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 24, 2013 06:18AM

After 'Robyn' made the above post, this ensued

Quote

Suki Zoë
offline 73
Re: Cult-ish
12/27
i've just left a goenka retreat after four days. i can't tell you how good it feels to be at home & still sane. they tried to scare me into staying, but i wasn't buying it. none of it made sense to me & i was miserable for the whole time - bar maybe an hour each day. i'd love to try a non-goenka one.. thanks for your post - i'm glad i'm not the only one!!

Quote

03/26
Hi Robyn,

I just wanted to point out that 99 % of people serving on a viipassana course are volunteers and not at all like sataff members, very much students, sometimes only having experienced one ten day course previously most have only done a few, therefor it would not be fair to judge Vipassana as taught by SN Goenka on a few Volunturned up for the 10 day course.

Furthermore leaving on day 4 and having such a strong opinion of an organisation is akin to a jury convicting someone before they have expereinced all the evidence, I am sure you mean no harm and I concur with much of what you have said in that you are the master of your own destiny.

May your decisions bring you much brightness...

Quote

Re: Cult-ish
01/10
Oh, dear. I wish I could say wonderful things about my Vipassana experience, but I can’t. It has brought me a better understanding of who and what we are even how the universe works, but at what cost?

I stayed the full 10 days, many of them filled with incredible hallucinations -- from feeling like being inside an egg , to being a bird-like animal with broken wings, to following tunnels through my brain, to feeling completely connected to the universe… No problem I told myself -- it’s just sensations, I’m perfectly safe.

On the last day of the retreat, listening to the last lecture, I let out a huge scream and fell down. Back in town, I spent 2, uh, very eventful days oscillating between absolute bliss and incredible agitation -- around 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off, I’d say. I put my friends and lover through hell and ended it all with a psychotic episode screaming at the top of my lungs for 5 minutes, and then blanking out… I woke up in hospital, and was there over a week. Mind you, I now get to see a psychiatrist for free, so there are some benefits.

There are many paths to enlightenment, and while I still think that Vipassana is a good technique and that it does work, the 10-day boot-camp format, obviously, isn’t for everyone.

There ARE cult-like aspects to Vipassana, which I wish people would admit to, although I also believe that the motivation is not to promote Vipassana per se, but to help people find peace, happiness and enlightenment.

Great intentions, but I wish there was less conviction that Vipassana is the only way, that it is for everyone, and that all you have to do is stick it and it will be all better after 10 days

Quote

07/28
www.insightmeditationcenter.org/bo...tml

Goenka isn't vipassana. There are many approaches to vipassana. I hope those who have studied with Goenka at least have the awareness that there's so much more out there and that many students of vipassana have probably never even heard of Goneka! I think people are likely to be skeptical of a system that focuses on a single person (Goenka) and I can understand how videotapes and such could just make people feel weird. I know I'd be a lot more skeptical of vipassana if it were just one person's method and didn't realise that it comes out of the much larger and deeper tradition of Theravada, and that vipassana itself is a much larger tradition with so many flavours. I also tend to be skeptical when people rave about a particular "teacher" without acknowledging her or his shortcomings or that it is only one approach. Some people don't take to vipassana, some people don't take to Goenka's version of vipassana. So what... what problem? :) If you really want to help people, be happy and liberated yourself and exude it. If that happiness and liberation are genuine then people will wonder what you're doing! But even then we can't expect everyone else's path to be our own -- we might think others would benefit from something, and perhaps they would, but they ARE on their own path, and a little humility is in order.

I really have no interest in Goenka. I know very little about his teachings, so all of this comes from very limited experience, but something seems a bit off to me, at least in terms of how it fits with my own path: that's not to say it's not right for someone else. One reason I'm not interested in Goenka is that I've had a chance to experience many wonderful vipassana teachers -- Gil Fronsdal and Donald Rothberg being among my favourites -- and I feel extremely comfortable with these people. They've taught me to be more authentically myself and that it's okay to adapt things to my own circumstances. (That's not to question the importance of intense disciplined study for those who choose to undertake it.) I've felt empowered by them. And I'm all the more comfortable because never once have I heard the students refer to these teachers as authorities. These teachers encourage them to be their own authorities. These teachers are admired by many but their students aren't afraid to question them. And the teachers are happy to be questioned. This is certainly a cultural preference but it's the only way I know to protect against being taken advantage of by manipulative teachers.

It seems odd to me that so many wonderful teachers don't even acknowledge Goenka who gets such a large following in other circles. When I do stumble upon Goenka, independently, I get the impression that his students tend to appeal to his authority more than, say, the students of Gil Frosndal. I have an uneasy feeling about Geonka in general. As one poster said: "If a system is truly about helping you find your true self, why then do people become so protective of the system itself when it is challenged?" And: "I am very hesitant to tell this story to anyone who's done a Goenka retreat and loved it. When I have, every person gets very defensive of Goenka and insists that I must not have been doing it right. And chances are, if you're a Goenka person you're reacting pretty strongly right now too." That's just me: I simply don't want to be in a place where people react with such defensiveness. I want to be in a place where people encourage each other to be themselves whatever that might mean, and where even attachment to system is something that we can let go of...

Any teacher who says his or her approach is right for everyone is one I'll be running away from surely! I was actually surprised when I stumbled upon this thread and remembered that Goenka is out there because I've heard so little of him despite being enmeshed in vipassana over the past year. We all have different needs (though I fear that those who lack a strong inner voice may choose the easy path of following a teacher who they can look to as an authority and thus never learn what they really need to learn: how to be themselves.)

Again this doesn't come out of any knowledge of Goenka's teaching, only impressions I have of him from limited experience, and maybe this will be helpful for those who wonder why people AREN'T always receptive to Goenka. (Though, of course, a better answer to that question is just that, we're all different people!)

[webcache.googleusercontent.com]

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Re: Goenka Vipassana Cult
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 24, 2013 06:24AM

Quote

08/28

[webcache.googleusercontent.com]

Being a vipassana vet, I have changed my thinking regarding the vipassana movement over many years. I can support the philosophy of 'change' fully.

Anyone experiences change so we don't need lectures on that. No big deal.

What I have trouble with is accepting goenkas claim that vipassana is not a cult or organised religion or that he is no guru. Ok, so you get free food and lodging for 10 days and find a way to relax and any donation is not force upond you. To me, this way of relaxing or getting clarity of thought requires too much effort and dedication to the movement.

It may not cost money in terms of cold cash hand overs but it costs you time and effort and you know what they say about your time being money.

Actually time is more valuable than money. You can get money, lose it then get it back. You can't do that with your time.

My main point of this reply is that goenka makes various claims about his religion or school of religion which 'cannot be scientifically validated'. He and no one else can scientifically prove an after life, heaven or hell, good or bad karma or upper and lower worlds of existances - it is all just 'heresay'.

Yet he continually says all the above is true.

Sounds like brainwashing? I consider the tapings students have to listen to over and over again to be that. It is a cult of persuasion.

He repeats in his 10 day discourses that his movement isn't an organised religion. It is a religion and a very well organised and I should know.

It most certainly isn't a relaxation holiday centre or a scientific establishment or anything else but an organised religion. Once you start to work as a volunteer than you find this out for yourself.

The religion claims that you are basically doomed unless you practise vipassana or something else which leads to enlightenment. I'm not being unfair.

Just keep listening to the discourses and you will understand what I mean by 'doomed' unless.... In my view Goenka or Goenkaji )as the recording at the start of a course emphasizes for great respect and devotion) contradicts his own reasoning that you should question authority.

Another thing, there is no evidence that in the days of the buddha that there was ever a centre that ran 10 day very intensive sitting courses where people have been known to go beserk and even try to burn down a building.

If you are curious about Vipassana then I suggest the average person does a walking vipassana course from an alternative vipassana school.

One great benefit of doing one of the alternative courses is that you get to speak to the teacher (a real monk in many cases) rather than an assistant teacher. Critical analysis is not accepted in the Goenka school of authority which is very unscientific in my view.

Quote

09/03
dear Peter,

may you be happy
may you find peace
may you have liberation.

i'm observing that you have neglected Right Speach after having developed an aversion to claims from Goenka. i'm certain that you will in due time observe it passing.

vipassana is a path. i was Enlightened to this on the fourth day of my first sit. if you persist you will also find happyliberatingpeace.

live in metta,
join to post
o
§ Unsu...

Re: Cult-ish
09/04
I've heard it all before. I haven't neglected anything . Right or wrong speech depends on your point of view. Goenka Vipassana is 'claimed' to be a path. My acceptance of the Goenka way has indeed 'passed'. He isn't even an ordained monk, rather he is an ex business man wheeler dealer from a very wealthy family who compares himself to a Buddha who was a prince turned enlightened begger. This fact would be very convincing to many followers. There is nothing scientific about the vipassana long sitting meditation nor any evidence that his vipassana is a path. I am averted toward 'constant' religious brain washing of unproven ideology of any kind pretending to be a therapy for the betterment of mankind. Please accept my oppology if this offends.

It is constant on a 10 day course through the recordings. I am averted toward any people who blindly believe what they are told by a religious leader yet do not even practise basic human goodness in the real world. I am averted toward any religious group which does not allow crititical questioning by students. It isn't allowed at the Goenka school. All cult groups operate that way. People can be so gullible and easily lead when they are feeling insecure. Note: I have no issue with any other vipassana school because I am not aware of any cult like activities/ideologies/blind belief regarding such alternative schools.
join to post
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§ davi...
davidsjelly
offline 339
Re: Cult-ish
09/04
hi Peter,

many blessings for you along your path.

i am impressed by the number of aversions you list.
i'm in no way offended and trust you feel the same.

so let me get this straight... after 13 years and 20 plus courses you have now come to the conclusion that the Goenka retreats are in fact a cult?

>>>"There is nothing scientific about the vipassana long sitting meditation"

perhaps we differ in our definition of scientific. could you please enlighten me as to the definition you are using when you state the above?

thank you in advanced for your continued clarification of your statements.

metta,
join to post
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· Harm...
Harmanjit Singh
offline 0
Re: Cult-ish
04/25
I wrote a comprehensive critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka, it is available through my blog:

[harmanjit.blogspot.com]

harmanjit.blogspot.com/2007/0...-s.html

I hope people find it useful.

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Re: Goenka Vipassana Cult
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 24, 2013 06:43AM

[webcache.googleusercontent.com]

Quote

Shambhala Sun | September 2001 | Excerpt

'The Universal Meditation Technique of S.N. Goenka' - by Norman Fischer

Norman Fischer:
Quote

I understand that you have a good friendship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Can you tell us how that developed, particularly since His Holiness' tradition, with all its color and ritual, contrasts with your approach?

S.N. Goenka: In the first year when I moved to India from Burma, there was a big public function put on by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar's followers, who had become Buddhists.

They invited me to their annual celebration of the day that Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism. There were some one and a half million people in attendance.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama was invited, along with me and the Japanese teacher Fuji Guruji. We were invited as chief guests, and each of us gave a speech.

Mine was translated into Tibetan and His Holiness liked it so much that he said that he wanted to meet me and discuss things.

We started at nine o'clock the next morning and at two-thirty or three we were still talking-all about technique. He was very happy with my teaching.

But when I said, "Quite a few people on the second day or third day see light," he responded, "No, no. That must be illusion. How can somebody see light in three days? It takes years to see light."

I replied, "Venerable sir, I saw light in my eyes. And so have many other people. I would not say it is an illusion. You better send a few of your lamas and let them experience it. If I am wrong, I will rectify it. I don't teach them that they must see light. It is merely a sign, a milestone on a long path, not the final goal."

So he sent three lamas to my next course in Sarnath. All three of them saw light, and they were so happy. When they went back and explained that to His Holiness, he was also happy. He said, "Goenka, come here and give a course to my people."

Then I wrote him back, "When I give a course these are the rules. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but if your high lamas don't agree to my rules, I cannot teach." He sent a message back to me, "Goenka, they will follow whatever you say for the full ten days. So don't worry; they will follow your rules."

The course took place in the Tibetan library in Dharamsala, not far from where His Holiness was living.

On the first day, when I told all the very top-ranking lamas my rules, they protested: "But every day, we have rituals to perform, we have to chant so many recitations, we have to prostrate so many times."

"Nothing doing," I replied. "For ten days, nothing doing." And they said, "No, we can't break our life-long vow." So I sent word to the Dalai Lama, "Sir, I can't teach. Your people don't agree. I'm sorry, I have to go." And he sent word to the lamas through his private secretary, "You have to follow Goenka's instructions, even if it means breaking your rules. Whatever he says, you must agree to do." They all did it, and they got the same result. Rites or no rites, rituals or no rituals, the technique gives results.

Normally I don't go out during a course, but the Dalai Lama wanted to discuss how it was going, so I visited him two times. We had long discussions in detail about the technique I teach and about his technique also-without judging, just exploring with inquisitiveness. We each enjoyed our discussions tremendously. Since then we have been friends.

I am not interested in any kind of politics. Of course I have great sympathy for whatever is happening to the Tibetan people, but I can't take up that cause. It's not part of my duty as a dharma teacher.

Even the most undemocratic person, even the greatest tyrant, will be a good person if he practices. Just as Buddha was not interested in the politics of the different kings of his day, so that's not my job either. His Holiness understands that very well. We are not political friends, but rather dharma friends.

He did keep asking me about sunnata, emptiness. "You've got no sunnata?" he would ask. But after I explained my understanding of it, he accepted what I said: that when all solidity is dissolved in the technique, and there's nothing but vibration remaining, that is sunnata. Then you experience something beyond mind and matter-sunna-nothing to hold there. You have sunna of the mind and matter sphere and sunna of the beyond mind and matter sphere. His Holiness seemed to be quite happy with that explanation. He had no objection.

and

Quote

Mon, May 7, 2007 - 1:16 PM

I found this on the Buddhist Society (Australia) website!


Re: S. N. Goenka Vipassana Meditation 10 Day Course
.
QUOTE:

Dear *********,

Thank you for your email of December 1, regarding the article by Norman Fischer about an interview he had with Goenka-ji.

I am afraid most of the conversation that is purported to have taken place between Goenka-ji and His Holiness are not true.

Moreover, the event leading to the meeting that he is referring to, if it did take place, took place some twenty-five or thirty years ago!

I was present with His Holiness at that public function for the followers of Dr. Ambedkar.

I was also present when His Holiness the Dalai Lama did meet Goenka-ji some years ago in Maharashtra, not very far from Mumbai. At the time they discussed about teaching meditation and Buddhism in India, but that had nothing to do about Tibetan lamas going to attend Goenka-ji's courses on meditation.

With best wishes,

Tenzin Geyche Tethong

Secretary to H.H. the Dalai Lama


Office of H. H. the Dalai Lama
Thekchen Choeling
McLeod Ganj - 176 219
Dharamsala, H.P.
INDIA

Tel.: +91 (1892) 221343, 221879, 221210
Fax: +91 (1892) 221813
Email: ohhdl@dalailama.com

Additional citations here

[www.google.com]

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Re: Goenka Vipassana Cult
Posted by: laughing daquini ()
Date: February 24, 2013 07:41AM

Quote
corboy


Why I left:

I had enough of the pain and torture. I followed the instruction on the 4th day and did not move my legs for an hour. I had so much pain, I wanted to scream.This on top of pain for all the last 3+ days made it realize, I did not want a brutal method of spirituality.
The course is 10 days of meditation bootcamp. It involves sitting down 11 hours for meditation and 1 hour for a discourse everyday, this results in lots of acute as well as continous pain (in knees, hips, ankles, back and neck, even wrists, etc.)

It is difficult to describe, but the pain was the worst I have ever felt in my life and it was on most of the time and on all of the 4 days. It does not go away during the course, students doing their third course were limping.
I do acknowledge, I have only known minor pain in my life: Overdoing a 3000+ft, 11+ mile hike or my first hot yoga class so that I can barely hobble. In trying to show how it was like: Two analogies. To practically see what it implies: Sit for meditation without moving ‘at all’ for 90 minutes in the morning and evening. Do not apply anything to ease the pain except sleep and a hot shower once a day. Then do it again next day and then think this happening for 10 days. Another way to get an idea: Imagine a hike or jog double of your current capability, now you have to do this everyday for 10 days. You can stop on the way, if you want, but for minutes, take your pace and continue. Use only sleep and shower to ease the pain in the night.

Additional reading: On pain during meditation
and Nipuns pain experience during a Goenka Vipassana course

Would I recommend Vipassana course by S.N.Goenka to others: No


During the retreat I did last month there was a notice on the timetable board about the "Sitting of Strong Determination", advising us that we should not torture ourselves. It said Vipassana is not about torture. The assistant teacher told one student that if they wanted to torture us they would give us beds of nails, and not cushions. Heh heh. We were advised that if we had to move then we should move, but just to do our best to gradually reduce the movement.
Personally, I didn't manage to sit stock still for an hour on the cushion. Not even once. I did manage it twice while sitting on a chair, however. I was given a chair because when I applied for the course I had stated that I found long sitting to be painful on my knees.

Nor was I ever dragged out of bed in the morning, nor was any one else to my knowledge. (However, when I did a Yoga Teacher Training 1 month intensive at a Sivananda ashram in India, I was dragged out of bed a few times!) The retreat teacher was very solicitous towards me, probably because I had confessed my previous history of mental health issues on my application. When I told her I was falling asleep during the sessions she said I had permission to stay in bed till breakfast if I needed more rest!

The atmosphere at the Centre when I was there was very calm and relaxed. No one had any major freak out although I did notice at least one person had left before the end. She was sitting in front of me and spent most of the sessions slumped over asleep, so I wasn't surprised she went.

Perhaps they have got less strict these days with the running of the retreats!

Would I recommend a Vipassana course by Goenka in Hereford UK: Yes. But I would advise you to be totally honest on the application form about any physical and/or mental health issues or worries you may have.

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Re: Goenka Vipassana Cult
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 24, 2013 09:27AM

[vipassana.awardspace.info]

Mar 25 2007

Wow ...,

compared to the rapidity of the Office of HH's response, this one's sure slow in coming .. I'm guessing we just shouldn't be expecting one? Or perhaps the secretary is on a special 300 day retreat? Perhaps they're claiming their right-to-remain-silent? Or did you get a response but have found it inappropriate to share? What are your thoughts/feelings on the matter at this point? I would have thought that if they felt wrongly accused of these fabrications, that they would have attempted to clarify the issue somewhat.

Was anyone going to get in touch with the author of the article?

84 Inquiry / Differing Views / Re: Other Vipassana Traditions on: April 11, 2007, 11:02:18 PM
Started by pamojja - Last post by Guest 1
Dec 28 2006

Dear ...,

no response yet ..

85 Inquiry / Differing Views / Re: Other Vipassana Traditions on: April 11, 2007, 11:00:38 PM
Started by pamojja - Last post by Guest 2
Dec 26 2006

Dear ...,

has there been any response yet from Goenka's secretary to your letter about the Shambhala Sun article?

86 Inquiry / Differing Views / Re: Other Vipassana Traditions on: April 11, 2007, 10:52:51 PM
Started by pamojja - Last post by Guest 1
Dec 11 2006

The letter I wrote to the Dalai Lama's secretary came while I was at weekend retreat with my Vajrayana teacher and I told you I would post it... here it is. And remember this whole discussion was about Goenka vs. Vajrayana, then it was about a Rogue teacher who said Vajrayana was wrong and Goenka's Students (some of them) have an aversion to Vajrayana and so on and son ... blah blah blah... A REMINDER I AM ALSO A STUDENT OF GOENKA-JI. If it was not for his teaching I wouldn't have been able to see past the Pali Canon as the only true world of Buddha and become a Vajrayana student.

I will be sending this article and the letter to Geonka's secretary and wait for their response.

I simply will not argue about which tradition is this or that specially if I have to argue with someone who is defending their tradition... but I am curious about things like this.



Quote

Dear *********,

Thank you for your email of December 1, regarding the article by Norman Fischer about an interview he had with Goenka-ji. I am afraid most of the conversation that is purported to have taken place between Goenka-ji and His Holiness are not true. Moreover, the event leading to the meeting that he is referring to, if it did take place, took place some twenty-five or thirty years ago! I was present with His Holiness at that public function for the followers of Dr. Ambedkar.

I was also present when His Holiness the Dalai Lama did meet Goenka-ji some years ago in Maharashtra, not very far from Mumbai. At the time they discussed about teaching meditation and Buddhism in India, but that had nothing to do about Tibetan lamas going to attend Goenka-ji's courses on meditation.

With best wishes,

Tenzin Geyche Tethong

Secretary to H.H. the Dalai Lama


Office of H. H. the Dalai Lama
Thekchen Choeling
McLeod Ganj - 176 219
Dharamsala, H.P.
INDIA

Tel.: +91 (1892) 221343, 221879, 221210
Fax: +91 (1892) 221813
Email: ohhdl@dalailama.com

--
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Checked by AVG Free Edition.
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87 Inquiry / Differing Views / Re: Other Vipassana Traditions on: April 11, 2007, 10:49:58 PM
Started by pamojja - Last post by Guest 1
Dec 2 2006

I've sent a brief letter with an attachment of the article in question.

I asked if the assertions made in the article are correct regarding the Dalai Lama and Goenka's friendship. I also asked if it was true that the Dalai Lama asked some of his monks to attend a Vipassana retreat given by S.N. Goenka as the article stated.

Being a student of both traditions I want to know the truth even if the truth does not caste a positive light on one of my teachers. I will post the response if they deem it worth replying.

With metta ..




Contradictions in S.N. Goenka's Statements and Theories

In an interview conducted by Norman Fischer and published in the Shambala newspaper, S.N. Goenka claims to maintain a close relationship with the Dali Lama. However, the facts surrounding this relationship, and in particular the claim to have taught several of the Dali Lama's monks, have reportedly been denied by the Dali Lama's secretary. Whether or not this is true however, does not discount from the meditation itself.

(Corboy: Hrmmm)

Quotations from the Shambhala Sun article.

[www.shambhalasun.com]

Norman Fischer: I understand that you have a good friendship with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Can you tell us how that developed, particularly since His Holiness' tradition, with all its color and ritual, contrasts with your approach?

S.N. Goenka: In the first year when I moved to India from Burma, there was a big public function put on by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar's followers, who had become Buddhists. They invited me to their annual celebration of the day that Dr. Ambedkar converted to Buddhism. There were some one and a half million people in attendance. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was invited, along with me and the Japanese teacher Fuji Guruji. We were invited as chief guests, and each of us gave a speech. Mine was translated into Tibetan and His Holiness liked it so much that he said that he wanted to meet me and discuss things.

We started at nine o'clock the next morning and at two-thirty or three we were still talking-all about technique. He was very happy with my teaching. But when I said, "Quite a few people on the second day or third day see light," he responded, "No, no. That must be illusion. How can somebody see light in three days? It takes years to see light."

I replied, "Venerable sir, I saw light in my eyes. And so have many other people. I would not say it is an illusion. You better send a few of your lamas and let them experience it. If I am wrong, I will rectify it. I don't teach them that they must see light. It is merely a sign, a milestone on a long path, not the final goal."

So he sent three lamas to my next course in Sarnath. All three of them saw light, and they were so happy. When they went back and explained that to His Holiness, he was also happy. He said, "Goenka, come here and give a course to my people." Then I wrote him back, "When I give a course these are the rules. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but if your high lamas don't agree to my rules, I cannot teach." He sent a message back to me, "Goenka, they will follow whatever you say for the full ten days. So don't worry; they will follow your rules."


Page 3 of 3

The course took place in the Tibetan library in Dharamsala, not far from where His Holiness was living. On the first day, when I told all the very top-ranking lamas my rules, they protested: "But every day, we have rituals to perform, we have to chant so many recitations, we have to prostrate so many times."

"Nothing doing," I replied. "For ten days, nothing doing." And they said, "No, we can't break our life-long vow." So I sent word to the Dalai Lama, "Sir, I can't teach. Your people don't agree. I'm sorry, I have to go." And he sent word to the lamas through his private secretary, "You have to followGoenka's instructions, even if it means breaking your rules. Whatever he says, you must agree to do." They all did it, and they got the same result. Rites or no rites, rituals or no rituals, the technique gives results.

Normally I don't go out during a course, but the Dalai Lama wanted to discuss how it was going, so I visited him two times. We had long discussions in detail about the technique I teach and about his technique also-without judging, just exploring with inquisitiveness. We each enjoyed our discussions tremendously. Since then we have been friends.

I am not interested in any kind of politics. Of course I have great sympathy for whatever is happening to the Tibetan people, but I can't take up that cause. It's not part of my duty as a dharma teacher. Even the most undemocratic person, even the greatest tyrant, will be a good person if he practices. Just as Buddha was not interested in the politics of the different kings of his day, so that's not my job either. His Holiness understands that very well. We are not political friends, but rather dharma friends.

He did keep asking me about sunnata, emptiness. "You've got no sunnata?" he would ask. But after I explained my understanding of it, he accepted what I said: that when all solidity is dissolved in the technique, and there's nothing but vibration remaining, that is sunnata. Then you experience something beyond mind and matter-sunna-nothing to hold there. You have sunna of the mind and matter sphere and sunna of the beyond mind and matter sphere. His Holiness seemed to be quite happy with that explanation. He had no objection.


S.N. Goenka is a teacher of Vipassana meditation in the tradition of the late Sayagyi U Ba Khin of Burma (Myanmar).


[www.shambhalasun.com]

[suite101.com]


Criticisms of Goenka's Vipassana Meditation Centres

S. N. Goenka's retreats have been linked by former practioners to cult-like tendencies and disagreements over accommodation. How true is this representation

ByKiran Summan on Jul 20, 2010Share Login to post a commentS.N. Goenka's Vipassana Centres - h.koppdelaneyS.N.Goenka's Vipassana Meditation technique, both the principles and philosophy and the rules and practice have come under fire from former students and practitioners, with accusations of cult-like tendencies and inaccurate information abound.

Goenka, His Retreats, Methods and Meditation

S.N. Goenka's methods are to teach via CDs and video in every worldwide retreat. The technique is from the outset known to be his unique technique which has been passed down from his own teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin. Goenka's claim is that this particular strand of Vipassana has been passed from Siddhartha Gotama to the disciples Ashoka the Great (304 BC – 232 BC) the Indian emperor of the Maurya. During his video conferences, he claims that Ashoka sent out his disciples to various parts of the world to teach Buddhism.

Goenka takes this Indian myth one stage further and states that during the 10 day course, one such disciple went to Burma and taught Vipassana. It's said that this particular technique was then passed down through the centuries, without change, to S.N Goenka.

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Depression Study We’re currently enrolling for our depression research study.www.depressionstudies.comMindfulness Psychotherapy Is your relationship in trouble? I'll help you get through this.www.drjosielevine.comGoenka makes one further claim in reference to another Buddhist myth or prophecy. This myth regards the spread of Buddhism, which some say will occur again 2500 years after the death of Siddhartha Gotama. Goenka points out that he completed his Vipassana training 2500 years after the death of Buddha and preceded to set up the Dhamma centres which have spread worldwide. There is no substantial proof either way whether S.N Goenka had fulfilled any of these prophecies or myths.

Goenka's videos that contain these claims, can be seen at his dhamma centres during the course or you can buy them from his website.

Goenka's personal approach to teaching the technique does have an impact on the students. The teachers on the course speak very little and answer only very simple and short questions which are directly related to the practice of technique. The students however are unable to question Goenka himself or have longer questions answered regarding philosophy behind the technique. No other teacher from the organisation will offer their interpretations.

Contradictions in S.N. Goenka's Statements and Theories

In an interview conducted by Norman Fischer and published in the Shambala newspaper, S.N. Goenka claims to maintain a close relationship with the Dali Lama. However, the facts surrounding this relationship, and in particular the claim to have taught several of the Dali Lama's monks, have reportedly been denied by the Dali Lama's secretary. Whether or not this is true however, does not discount from the meditation itself.

There is also contradiction with Goenka’s claim that there is no ritual. The three refuges, the precepts, request of teaching and the chanting which is not translated, are, in fact, ritualistic.

Accommodation at the Dhamma Centres

The other subject that's come under fire from former students is the difference in accommodation. Simply stated, some rooms at the retreat centre are more comfortable than others. Often, the older and more professional students are given more comfortable accommodation. Former students have seen this linked to the "dana" aspect of the course. "Dana" means "donation."

As the course are all free of charges, the charity is run solely through donations. Whilst this is an admirable trait, some have complained about the executive centre that has been built and that professionals seem to get better treatment in hope of receiving larger donations.

Former students have complained about the management of the retreats. More often than not, the complaints surround the rigorous rules. Many have called it a ‘’bootcamp."

There does seem to be some variance between the centres, some being stricter than others about the rules. It does seem to depend on the centre managers at the retreats. There is a clear hierarchy in place, the older students placed much closer to the teachers. In some forums ex students have also argued that this represents psychological tricks, to make the new students wish to conform.

Many religious cults have used brainwashing as a method of control, see Amy Sillup, Brainwashing techniques and cults to learn more. Notably, there exists no conclusive evidence linking Goenka's retreats to brainwashing techniques.

Additional Sources:

Shambala Newspaper Archives.

European Executive Centre, on Padhana.Dhamma.org. Retrieved July 15, 2010.

Greg Foyer, in an extract of his book Meditation Myth, published on 5th December



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Re: Goenka Vipassana Cult
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 24, 2013 09:43AM

Another report of having to leave in secret if one wants to leave before the ten day period.

In the sesshins I have attended, we didnt have any trouble with people needing to leave early.

[vipassana.tribe.net]

[igreat meditation technique, wrong environment / "teaching" methods
Sun, August 31, 2008 - 7:41 AM by Angela
Hi, Thanks for that article. Was good to read.

Just a summary on my personal experience of Vipassana. Sorry if it's a bit wordy. Though obviously not easy,or meant to be (and that's fine) the meditation technique seems to me to certainly have value, and would no doubt be of use to many people in their lives. But I for one would very much NOT recommend anyone pursue it via these specific retreats. I'm a bit wordy here (sorry!), but read on.

I recently got back from such retreat which I left on the morning of the 7th day, 4 days early. Very comfortable with that decision. Sure, as with all things in life, there's always the chance that I've missed something by leaving early.

BUT, while I found the meditation technique itself to have value and make sense, I couldn't for the life of me find any good and rational reason for the teaching methods and the artificially created walking-zombie environment. I experienced nothing in the first 6 days that required this stringent environment or the teaching methods.

Ok, by the 2nd day I was able to sit for over an hour without moving my pinky and while focusing on nothing but the various sensations, pleasant and unpleasant in my body. And I was successful in not responding to them. This was no mean feat and has its value.

I also twice had a very interesting and very new experience (with both pleasant and unpleasant aspects) as if I really was vibrating all over. The professor told me this was a sign that my mind was purifying.

I expect it has more to do with sitting so completely still and moving into a near-sleeping state while sitting upright - likely, for example, to have significant impact on blood supply to the brain, and I wouldn't be surprised if that might produce all sorts of varied reactions.

The stringent environment really made no sense. I got a proverbial rap on the knuckles for singing in the shower at the softest possible volume and while almost all other people were at breakfast - is it really so necessary that I play like dead? Aside from anything else, seems likely that if I learn anything within such an unnatural environment, it's going to prove quite difficult to apply that within more natural everyday living...Sure calm the mind, reduce stimulation, etc, etc, but why not try to learn the technique in an environment at least somewhat more similar to that in which you will attempt to apply it in the months and years to come?

In fact, I find no way around this other than to conclude that the extreme rigidity of the environment was not at all essential for the meditation technique itself (despite the "Professor's" insistence that it was), but rather that it was essential for Buddhist practice, and further to this, that they were not genuinely conducting a school simply to bestow the meditation technique and its benefits, but instead were conducting a mini-Buddhist training school. And that would be just fine, except for their attempts to present it as otherwise. A further point to this is regarding the recordings of Goenka. They claim that Vipassana is, though involved in Buddhist practice, taught at these schools as a non-religious practice. And the meditation technique itself clearly requires not the slightest knowledge of Buddha or Buddhism. Hence, why was it at all necessary that Buddha feature so heavily in the anecdotes etc given by Goenka?

As for the teaching methods, for one thing I found the professor to be far too inaccessible. At this course there was one professor for 50 students, with very limited times made available (including a 5 minute limit) to ask questions - and for this the student had to wait in queue with other students while eating into the already limited rest times. As for any real discussion, no such thing. In fact, the slightest attempt i made at discussion was met with "It is better not to think about it. Just experience it." Yes, I'm sure Hitler didn't want his German followers to think too much about it either.

And how is it sensible that the eligibility to teach this seemingly simple method (and they themselves speak of its simplicity) is endowed (by Goenka in this case) on such few people?? Even the most experienced other meditators at the course were not permitted to respond to even the most basic questions about the meditation. Could there really not have been even 2 or 3 other people enabled to discuss this? The "manager" who apparently was well-experienced was able to answer me if I asked about toilet paper, but as soon as she had whiff that I was about to ask about the meditating, it was "shush, you can only ask the Professor about this". What?? And even with this demi-God status (including the elevated platform from which to "teach" from), the Professor's involvement was almost laughable. Aside from the extremely limited, mostly very basic, responding to student questions in the allocated times, all the professor did was sit on the elevated platform in silence and push play for Goenka's voice to sound out via the recordings.

I did feel somewhat bad that I had stated I would stay the 10 days and then decided to leave. However, my sense of guilt at doing so was much countered by the extreme pressure applied in trying to make me stay, the claims that this made me weak-minded (really, how dare they claim to know my mind?), the claims that it would be dangerous to leave early (pfft...like my internal organs might explode?), and the insistence that when it was clear I was going to leave that I do so as secretly as possible. Presumably this last point is because of concerns my leaving may interfere with the other participant's determination to stay....well, hopefully as adults we stay or leave anywhere for reasons other than peer-group pressure.

Indeed, it is wrong in itself that they require that one give a pledge of sorts at the beginning to stay for the 10 days, and then use this as a tool to pressure you to stay when you want to leave (it was pointed out to me quite heavily that I had promised to stay so it was wrong to leave). All they can rightfully do is discuss with you (at both the beginning and the end) reasons for staying (and further, they really should give this as a balanced account - along with reasons for leaving). This type of pledging and the subsequent pressure to stay shows up most often in environments involving any or all of extremism, the military, political ideologies, religious ideologies.

I only signed up for meditation, thanks very much.

Cheers to all

][/i]

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Re: Goenka Vipassana Cult
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 24, 2013 09:43AM

Re: great meditation technique, wrong environment / "teaching" methods
Sat, September 13, 2008 - 8:08 AM by Pete
I understand exactly what you mean from your experiences. At first, I found the meditation to be very helpful for managing anger and hurt. My shock was when I entered the kitchen as a server. I found all kinds of mean people in the kitchens. Even a serious meditationer in the kitchen can be a mean...ass. These 10 day courses are permitted in this country under the freedom of religion standards allowed here. God this is an accepting country. Goenka was or still is a very rich Indian. He (indirectlly) claims to be on the thrown to Bhuddahood. When you go to a vipassana centre and feel peaceful from your tensions it is wonderful. I attended the local centre for 14 years. That is a long time by anyone's standard. What I experienced in the early years (1990s) was that the centre was very clicky. People would be tempremental toward each other in the kitchen and the golden rule in confrontations was to see the grand assistant teacher.
The AT would be some kind of a professional or ex bank merchant who would look down upon you with carming eyes. Or so it seemed until I met some PHD from Myamer who has the attitude of an anal toad toward me. Don't complain if people pay out on you in the kitchen and just keep washing the bowls.

It is a load of crap. The was an old woman manager in the kitchen who had such temper tamtrums and slammed things on the bench near me. stupid cow. Grace...you need to ... I won't say the words. As for the old builder with the beard who looks like an Indian..He is another in line for the next Buddha. He played tapes of chants before people cut down trees outside the centre. The reason for cutting down the trees was to make way for a sound barrier.

The fanatics can work that one out. He played tapes asking permission for pressumably 'Devas' to have the trees cut down because they live in the trees. He could be right but that is on his level. Vipassana will make good use of people.

The first thing is to apply the merit of appreciation. This is appealing to the commoner as emotional black mail or guilt or whatever. Most of us are soft hearted so we fall for it. You received some pretty ok food on a course (apart from being brain washed which is mere detail) then at the end. Goenka( who is probably still well loaded) says, 'oh to progress on the path you must serve' They are not the exact words but you get the idea. I would ask the fanatics at all the vipassana centres if they have ever seen this old man (Goenka) serve in a kitchen or in a garden seeing as he is so humble and on the way to enlightenment?


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Re: Goenka Vipassana Cult
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 24, 2013 09:44AM

: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka
Sat, January 30, 2010 - 3:31 PM by jenny

After spending 10 years in Goenka's tradition and sitting many retreats, I do believe it definately has cultish aspects to it. Goenka repeatedly stresses that you must not practise other techniques and does not encourage investigating other traditions.

After years of practise I got curious and started investigating other retreats and was amazed at how much more open hearted, liberal and unjudgemental they are. I have sat the Mahasi technique, retreats at Buddhist monastries and am about to sit at the IMC - U Ba Khin's centre. The application forms for all of them are far shorter, without requiring extensive or indeed any information on mental health and previous substance abuse. The owness seems to be on the individual being responsible enough to decree for themselves whether they are capable of doing a retreat.

Other centres are also a lot more open to investigation of different traditions and rather than judging themselves to be the best form of meditation, they come from a point of view of no one technique suits all - it is very much a case of finding something that suits the individual. (Indeed according to the Sutras, the Buddha taught over 2000 different techniques of meditation. He was the master of skillful means, able to discern immeditately which technique would suit a particular personality type.)

How Goenka can state that the Buddha was practising his style of vipassana is beyond me. Goenka's style of vipassana was invented in the 60's by Goenka. If you go to an U Ba Khin retreat, the technique taught there is slightly different, where you sweep the awareness through much larger sections of the body and you can use the mantra of Buddho when you are practising anapanasati.

Goenka also seems to have a monopoly on advising which books his devotees read - even with a recommended book list. As a result most Goenka groupies have very little in depth knowledge of the noble 8 fold path, have not read the sutras in the Majjhima nikaya (thought to be the words closest to the Buddha's original teaching) and therefore have very little knowledge of what constitutes the path or the fruitions. This is not to say it is their fault -Goenka just doesn't encourage healthy investigation.

"Ehi Passiko" as the Buddha would say - come and see and investigate for yourselves.

I have a friend who is a Buddhist monk and he says he has invited Goenka's people to his meditation centre for evening discourses and discussions many times and they have repeatedly refused, unwilling to share their tradition with others. Indeed most monastics I have met, view Goenkas organisation as a Buddhist sect and I know of at least 2 monks / nuns who have said Goenka style vipassana is not really "vipassana" or insight meditation at all but rather a technique of awareness.

Since I left Goenka's organisation my knowledge of dhamma has greatly increased and I feel I have discovered paths of heart and compassion, rather than draconian rules, a lack of knowledge from AT's and a dogmatic - this is the best and only true path approach.

One last word - google Goenka and cult and look how many hits you get.

Google U Ba Khin's centre - IMC and cult and you get zero.

Likewise type in the name of any Buddhist monastry you know that runs retreats with cult and suprise suprise - no hits. There's gotta be something in that!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/11/2015 09:34PM by corboy.

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Re: Goenka Vipassana Cult
Posted by: meditator ()
Date: March 12, 2013 07:58PM

Thanks for taking the time to collect and post all this material on Goenka's vipassana in one place. When I have more time I will get through it all.
I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I still sit nearly every day, but I am over any concerns about practising in the way that Goenka states we have to practise and feel no compulsion to have any part in his organization.

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Some potential hazards along with benefits
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 23, 2014 03:18AM

Persons coming from backgrounds with lots of sensory input may
find the quiet and protocol of vipassana retreat to be quite a change,
especially if one sits by oneself in a kuti (hut).

Two, there is one anecdotal report by Sarah Macdonald, author of Holy Cow:Indian adventure, describing her participation in a Goenka vipassana
retreat. She described the lunches and breakfasts as being quite good.

Then on the final day of breaking silence, she noted that they were fed
a very sugary meal. She wondered whether this might have contributed to
how high everyone seemed to be.

Any reports from others on what kind of food is served at these retreats would be helpful contribution.

After days of inactivity, and an austere diet, it seems to Corboy that a high carb sugar meal would be unhealthy.

Macdonald also noted that participants in the retreat she attended were expected to give up caffeine.

A caffiene withdrawal headache is no joke.

---
Friends, this is important.

Some subject themselves to varying degrees of sensory deprivation via participation in vipassana meditation.

Those of us from high overload cultures could easily be destabilized.

Add in the possibility of an undiagnosed depression or Axis-2 personality disorder and the consequences could be very serious.

"Under normal circumstances the brain is able to differentiate between the thought inside out head and what is happening on the outside, however when void of natural stimuli the brain becomes confused and starts to interpret the thoughts that are typically contained within our minds, as being on the outside."


[www.hightech-edge.com]

Quote

Studies have shown that as just quarter of an hour with no light or sound can have drastic effects on a persons mental well being. An Wired article noted a study on 19 healthy volunteers who were placed in cells with no light and sound for 15 minutes.

Amongst the feedback from the participants, nearly all experienced some form of hallucination. Some saw faces, or shapes and objects that weren’t there. Others noted heightened sense of smell and a few reported feeling an evil presence in the room. Regardless of what they saw, or didn’t see, nearly all the participants reported experiencing something ‘very special or important’ during the experiment.

The results backup a widely accepted theory known as ‘faulty source monitoring’ – when the brain misidentifies the source of what it’s experiencing. Under normal circumstances the brain is able to differentiate between the thought inside out head and what is happening on the outside, however when void of natural stimuli the brain becomes confused and starts to interpret the thoughts that are typically contained within our minds, as being on the outside.

Experiments into the effects of sensory deprivation have been going since the 50s when Canadian scientists suspected POWs had been subject to such conditions, then brainwashed into confessing to being war criminals during live international press conferences. To support their claim, the scientists began collecting data to prove the sensory deprivation induced psychosis.

Studies into sensory deprivation have not all been behind closed doors. In 2008, British documentary series Horizon featured an episode in which 6 volunteers agreed to being shut alone inside a completely dark cell in a nuclear bunker, for 48 hours.

While two of the subjects coped better than the others, all reported experiencing hallucinations which included seeing mosquitoes, fighter plans, cars, zebras and the feeling of as strange presence in the room.

Now, extend these periods of sensory deprivation longer than 15 minutes, and throw in the fear of a life in incarceration, pain or even death, and you’ve got a technique almost guaranteed to break even the thoughest of souls.

Out of LSD? Just 15 Minutes of Sensory Deprivation ... - Wired
www.wired.com/2009/10/hallucinations/

Wired

Oct 21, 2009 - ... happen when the brain misidentifies the source of what it is experiencing, a concept the researchers call “faulty source monitoring.” “This is ...

[www.google.com]

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