S.N Goenka

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S.N Goenka

Postby greggorious » Tue Mar 26, 2013 2:47 pm

Is S.N Goenka's style of Buddhism different to the usual Theravada teachings?. Does he run a different tradition altogether, or is it an offshoot of Theravada?
"The original heart/mind shines like pure, clear water with the sweetest taste. But if the heart is pure, is our practice over? No, we must not cling even to this purity. We must go beyond all duality, all concepts, all bad, all good, all pure, all impure. We must go beyond self and nonself, beyond birth and death. When we see with the eye of wisdom, we know that the true Buddha is timeless, unborn, unrelated to any body, any history, any image. Buddha is the ground of all being, the realization of the truth of the unmoving mind.” Ajahn Chah
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby iforgotmyname » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:38 pm

S.N Goenka's meditation retreats were secular - he had a way of making it secular and he took teachings from several religions and concentrated on any commonality rather than teach any one particular teaching. But he had trained under a Burmese Monk (I forgot his name, sorry).

AFAIK, Goenka teaches a form of Vipassana - and Dhamma, not necessarily Buddhism.
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby makarasilapin » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:38 pm

i've been to two Goenka retreats and i can't believe i went back the second time as the first time was bad enough. i don't consider it dhamma because it's not in line with what Buddha taught. he's like Thich Nhat Hanh - basically his own weird religion/off-shoot of Buddhism...
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby iforgotmyname » Tue Mar 26, 2013 3:42 pm

makarasilapin wrote:i've been to two Goenka retreats and i can't believe i went back the second time as the first time was bad enough. i don't consider it dhamma because it's not in line with what Buddha taught. he's like Thich Nhat Hanh - basically his own weird religion/off-shoot of Buddhism...


What was it like the second time around? I've done it once (my first time and so far only time), I thought I gained something from it though - which has kind of faded with time.
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby Mojo » Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:14 pm

makarasilapin wrote:i've been to two Goenka retreats and i can't believe i went back the second time as the first time was bad enough. i don't consider it dhamma because it's not in line with what Buddha taught. he's like Thich Nhat Hanh - basically his own weird religion/off-shoot of Buddhism...


I've not explored Goenka's teachings as of yet. What does he present that is not in line with the Buddha Dhamma?

As a side note, I am familiar with Thich Nhat Hanh's style. And though I don't necessarily enjoy much of his writing, I've seen many people refer to it as flowery, I prefer to think of his efforts as making his understanding of the Buddha Dhamma more accessible to a very diverse group of lay practitioners that includes children.
Last edited by Mojo on Wed Mar 27, 2013 5:38 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby iforgotmyname » Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:34 pm

Mojo wrote:
makarasilapin wrote:i've been to two Goenka retreats and i can't believe i went back the second time as the first time was bad enough. i don't consider it dhamma because it's not in line with what Buddha taught. he's like Thich Nhat Hanh - basically his own weird religion/off-shoot of Buddhism...


I've not exploited Goenka's teachings as of yet. What does he present that is not in line with the Buddha Dhamma?

As a side note, I am familiar with Thich Nhat Hanh's style. And though I don't necessarily enjoy much of his writing, I've seen many people refer to it as flowery, I prefer to think of his efforts as making the Buddha Dhamma more accessible to a very diverse group of lay practitioners that includes children.


IIRC (it's been almost three years now), his teachings are mostly about impermanence and he teaches Vipassana by way of sil, ana-pana-sati and samadi. I was never too concerned about whether or not he was teaching Buddhism - when I went on my retreat I just wanted to meditate/learn how to.
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby makarasilapin » Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:38 pm

iforgotmyname wrote:
makarasilapin wrote:i've been to two Goenka retreats and i can't believe i went back the second time as the first time was bad enough. i don't consider it dhamma because it's not in line with what Buddha taught. he's like Thich Nhat Hanh - basically his own weird religion/off-shoot of Buddhism...


What was it like the second time around? I've done it once (my first time and so far only time), I thought I gained something from it though - which has kind of faded with time.


i experienced some interesting mind states from his guided meditations but it was all just equanimity practice. nibbana isn't equanimity, and you shouldn't be equanimous with whatever comes up in the meditation, ie. you need to develop discernment by seeing that some qualities should be developed and then actively developing them, others need to be dropped and then actively dropping them, some should be left alone, and so some things need to be fabricated. goenka's meditation is very inactive, while the Buddha's instructions are very much active.

i think one of the reasons why whatever you gained has faded with time is because it lacked any real insight because you were just being passive as per the meditation instructions. to gain any real insight you have to be actively engaged in the meditation and actually developing a skill.
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby makarasilapin » Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:47 pm

Mojo wrote:
makarasilapin wrote:i've been to two Goenka retreats and i can't believe i went back the second time as the first time was bad enough. i don't consider it dhamma because it's not in line with what Buddha taught. he's like Thich Nhat Hanh - basically his own weird religion/off-shoot of Buddhism...


I've not exploited Goenka's teachings as of yet. What does he present that is not in line with the Buddha Dhamma?

As a side note, I am familiar with Thich Nhat Hanh's style. And though I don't necessarily enjoy much of his writing, I've seen many people refer to it as flowery, I prefer to think of his efforts as making the Buddha Dhamma more accessible to a very diverse group of lay practitioners that includes children.


don't exploit them because it's a half-teaching. it's just vipassana and equanimity practice. all you get is trance states and no real insight and some talk on "universal dhamma". goenka tries to make it accessible to everyone so he leaves out a lot of Buddha Dhamma, and so does Thich Nhat Hanh (although he incorporates more into his teachings than Goenka).

i think it's a little ridiculous when someone ignores and/or manipulates the Buddha's timeless instructions for attaining nibbana, as if their version of it is somehow more suitable.
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby iforgotmyname » Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:48 pm

greggorious, sorry about hijacking your thread like this.

makarasilapin wrote:i experienced some interesting mind states from his guided meditations but it was all just equanimity practice. nibbana isn't equanimity, and you shouldn't be equanimous with whatever comes up in the meditation, ie. you need to develop discernment by seeing that some qualities should be developed and then actively developing them, others need to be dropped and then actively dropping them, some should be left alone, and so some things need to be fabricated. goenka's meditation is very inactive, while the Buddha's instructions are very much active.

i think one of the reasons why whatever you gained has faded with time is because it lacked any real insight because you were just being passive as per the meditation instructions. to gain any real insight you have to be actively engaged in the meditation and actually developing a skill.


That's interesting. I have to admit that my meditation practice is no where near strong enough to be analysing his technique. Maybe that's why I felt I gained something. :) I felt even something as small as taking sil had something to do with it. That's why I want to do it again, to see what happens.
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby Mojo » Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:54 pm

I meant to write explored not exploited. Google Swype on my phone misunderstood and I didn't catch it before hitting submit. Corrected. My apologies for the misunderstanding.
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby lojong1 » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:33 pm

greggorious wrote:Is S.N Goenka's style of Buddhism different to the usual Theravada teachings? Does he run a different tradition altogether, or is it an offshoot of Theravada?

I've never known a Theravada teacher to be so bent on students eventually sticking with only one teacher, but his reason is worth listening to, and you will not be kept against your will.
People do get the idea during info-session-open-house-movie-screening-thingies (and sometimes even after a retreat it seems god knows how!) that it is not buddhism. It is as buddhist as buddhist gets, unless I'm missing a crucial difference between 'buddha-dhamma' and 'buddhism'. My biggest problem at the time was the placement and lack of lead-in to refuge at the start of the course.
During the regular 10-day and the 10--day satipatthana course, he teaches material that fits as easily into the pali canon as most other Theravada teachings around today.
I was unsatisfied by many Assistant Teachers' answers to questions.

These retreats are excellent! I recommend them as one source of some dhamma.
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby convivium » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:35 pm

don't go there. go to wat metta.
don't exploit them because it's a half-teaching. it's just vipassana and equanimity practice. all you get is trance states and no real insight and some talk on "universal dhamma". goenka tries to make it accessible to everyone so he leaves out a lot of Buddha Dhamma, and so does Thich Nhat Hanh (although he incorporates more into his teachings than Goenka).

i think it's a little ridiculous when someone ignores and/or manipulates the Buddha's timeless instructions for attaining nibbana, as if their version of it is somehow more suitable.
this.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby vidar » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:54 pm

Well, these articles of Bhikkhu Analayo make it clear that the S.N. Goenka teachings are in complete agreement with the teachings of the Buddha and the suttas:

http://host.pariyatti.org/treasures/The ... tation.pdf
http://host.pariyatti.org/treasures/The ... nsight.pdf

i think it's a little ridiculous when someone ignores and/or manipulates the Buddha's timeless instructions for attaining nibbana, as if their version of it is somehow more suitable.


Yes, that is ridiculous, fortunately Goenka never done that ;)
All the world is on fire, All the world is burning, All the world is ablaze, All the world is quaking. That which does not quake or blaze, That to which worldlings do not resort, Where there is no place for Mara:That is where my mind delights. (SN 5.7)

By degrees, little by little,
from moment to moment,
the wise purify themselves,
as a smith purifies silver.
—Dhammapada 239
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby convivium » Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:00 pm

he 'ignores' and rules out a lot of teachings.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby vidar » Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:13 pm

convivium wrote:he 'ignores' and rules out a lot of teachings.

That's your opinion :shrug:
All the world is on fire, All the world is burning, All the world is ablaze, All the world is quaking. That which does not quake or blaze, That to which worldlings do not resort, Where there is no place for Mara:That is where my mind delights. (SN 5.7)

By degrees, little by little,
from moment to moment,
the wise purify themselves,
as a smith purifies silver.
—Dhammapada 239
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:25 pm

At this point it would make sense to discuss the particular way Goenka teaches and point out specifically what he does or does not teach which would place him on the fringes of Theravada. Otherwise .....
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby convivium » Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:33 pm

That's your opinion
that's the regional expert on theravada buddhism's (ajahn thanissaro's) statement, based on what is in the suttas.
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby Ben » Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:34 pm

greggorious wrote:Is S.N Goenka's style of Buddhism different to the usual Theravada teachings?. Does he run a different tradition altogether, or is it an offshoot of Theravada?


No it is not. It is garden variety Burmese Theravada.
When I went to Myanmar to do a 30-day course under the instruction of SN Goenka, the govt gave me a religious visa to attend a course of Theravada meditation.
Unfortunately, many people don't realize that the ten-day course is an introductory ten-day course.
kind regards,

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

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby convivium » Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:37 pm

burmese theravada = typically commentarial and sub-commentarial (sometimes in contradiction to the suttas e.g. when it comes to right concentration)
Just keep breathing in and out like this. Don't be interested in anything else. It doesn't matter even if someone is standing on their head with their ass in the air. Don't pay it any attention. Just stay with the in-breath and the out-breath. Concentrate your awareness on the breath. Just keep doing it. http://www.ajahnchah.org/book/Just_Do_It_1_2.php
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Re: S.N Goenka

Postby Ben » Tue Mar 26, 2013 8:40 pm

convivium wrote:burmese theravada = typically commentarial and sub-commentarial (sometimes in contradiction to the suttas e.g. when it comes to right concentration)


This is not correct.
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
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