Combining what is compatible between Goenka and Mahasi

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Combining what is compatible between Goenka and Mahasi

Postby SereneChaos » Fri May 31, 2013 2:56 pm

Hello everyone,

I am interested in expanding my meditation practice by combining what is compatible between Goenka’s (body scanning) teaching and Mahasi’s (noting), or any other combination with Goenka found to be helpful (I have only meditated in Goenka’s tradition (10-day format courses, no longer courses yet), and have read a little bit about Mahasi’s).

I would be really grateful for some comparative information and comments regarding Mahasi’s (or other) way of meditation on the following aspects of meditation (these views are my own interpretation from instructions and interviews with the assistant teachers):

Typical length of daily sittings (at home, outside of courses):

Goenka:
2x 1 hour per day

General breakdown of a sitting:

Goenka:
1) A few minutes of anapana meditation (only if necessary to calm the mind, else straight onto vipassana).
2) The rest of the time spent in Vipassana meditation (with anapana to assist during vipassana whenever it is not possible to maintain the balance of the mind and continue with vipassana).
3) Five to ten minutes of loving-kindness generation (metta bavana) meditation at the end of the (hour) sitting.

Technique of anapana (applicable?) :

Goenka:
Focusing on an area below the nostrils above the upper lip, being aware of the naturally incoming and outgoing breath (and sensations in this area as a secondary object).

Technique of vipassana

Goenka:
Moving one’s attention through the body at about an inch diameter a time (initially over the surface then later inside) observing whatever sensations are present, moving on as soon as a sensation is felt (staying for a few minutes if the area is blank) – I usually go part by part from top to bottom and bottom to top, sometimes at great speed, depending on the subtlety of sensations. Moving goes quicker and without ‘hindrance’ as the mind becomes subtler and one can feel subtle level free-flowing sensations – this enables one to sweep the entire body in short time. The mind’s perception of sensations changes from them as gross unpleasant to subtle, pleasant sensations and awareness of sensations inside the body increases. Techniques for moving change in accordance with sensations felt.

When difficulties arise:

Goenka:
Anapana: If there is no distinct awareness of incoming/outgoing breath, take slightly hard breaths for a while. For new students increase the area of awareness.
Vipassana
Treat unpleasant sensations as any other, moving on once you pass them on a part of the body. If an unpleasant sensation overpowers the mind, stay there for a minute observing it and move on (continue up/down the body). Use anapana as necessary. Keep with the sensations of the body, giving no importance to states of mind (fear/anger etc.) other than accepting that an emotion is the reality of the present moment. When really overpowering feelings/states of mind come up, keep the attention focused for longer on the soles/palm areas to remain with sensation.

Many thanks, and may all beings be happy :D
SereneChaos
 
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Re: Combining what is compatible between Goenka and Mahasi

Postby Ben » Fri May 31, 2013 9:31 pm

In my humble opinion I think you should either stick with the method SN Goenka has taught you or attend a vipassana retreat in the tradition of Mahasi Sayadaw and give that approach your exclusive attention for a year or two. It is not just SN Goenka who warns against combining different approaches.
kind regards,

Ben
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Re: Combining what is compatible between Goenka and Mahasi

Postby SereneChaos » Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:24 am

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the reply! I don't have the opportunity to attend a Mahasi retreat at the moment - I have seen the dangers of mixing techniques (have sat and served on a number of Goenka's courses over the past 11 years), so I am very wary of this danger. I am looking for some information regarding the compatible aspects of the two techniques, or more specifically in my case how one could transition from body scanning (and anapana) to noting (while keeping the attention on the rising and falling of the stomach - is this correct?). I can sit fairly equanimously for about 2-3 hours at a stretch without moving, though I have only started changing my focus to the stomach area while sitting for about an hour to an hour and a half's sitting at a stretch. I think because of my Goenka practice, at the moment the mind is automatically more with sensations in the stomach area as it rises and falls - I note this and go back to the rising and falling, and now and again I am able to note my thoughts/external objects that enter the sense doors.

I have heard of some students and teachers who have combined these two successfully (thereby making swifter progress) and I am looking forward especially to any practical advice from them too!

Many thanks,
SC
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Re: Combining what is compatible between Goenka and Mahasi

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jun 01, 2013 2:54 am

Hi SereneChaos,

You might find it useful to listen to some of Patrick Kearney's retreat talks:
http://www.dharmasalon.net/Audio/audio.html

The first talk of each retreat is a general discussion of the Mahasi approach.

There are a number of guides to the Mahasi approach on Bhikkhu Pesala's site: http://www.aimwell.org/
and on Buddhanet: http://www.buddhanet.net/insight.htm

Personally I mostly use the Mahasi approach, but have found it helpful to "sample" other methods (I don't advocate switching around between approaches without a really good grounding in one approach, but you seem to have that). I did a Goenka retreat several years ago in Hong Kong, and I often use the Goenka scanning at the start of a sitting, to make sure I have an awareness of the whole body, or when I stop to turn around when walking.

:anjali:
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Re: Combining what is compatible between Goenka and Mahasi

Postby SereneChaos » Sat Jun 01, 2013 5:15 am

That's perfect - thanks Mike :D
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Re: Combining what is compatible between Goenka and Mahasi

Postby SereneChaos » Thu Jun 06, 2013 4:38 am

I found this basic text quite useful for an overview of the noting technique by Mahasi:

http://www.buddhanet.net/m_part1.htm
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