Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Discussion of Satipatthana bhavanā and Vipassana bhavana.

Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby beeblebrox » Mon Jan 30, 2012 1:58 pm

I think some people in here could do well to learn how to recognize dukkha... study it, its origination, its cessation, the way leading to that... it's an important part of the practice. Did anyone in here get that skill from the chanting?
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Slow Learner » Mon Jan 30, 2012 2:23 pm

this thread may have already gone beyond this point, but while I personally enjoy the chanting on these courses, I share Brizzy's interest in how the emphasis (small, medium or large) on "vibrations" in Goenka's teaching fits into traditional Theravada dhamma. I've attended several courses and served others, and while I can't say for certain how many times Goenka mentions it in his dhamma talks, it's something that I've heard referred to regularly by Assistant Teachers and long-term students. I've never encountered this teaching elsewhere so would be grateful if someone could explain its relation to traditional dhamma.

Metta,

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 30, 2012 3:36 pm

Slow Learner wrote:this thread may have already gone beyond this point, but while I personally enjoy the chanting on these courses, I share Brizzy's interest in how the emphasis (small, medium or large) on "vibrations" in Goenka's teaching fits into traditional Theravada dhamma. I've attended several courses and served others, and while I can't say for certain how many times Goenka mentions it in his dhamma talks, it's something that I've heard referred to regularly by Assistant Teachers and long-term students. I've never encountered this teaching elsewhere so would be grateful if someone could explain its relation to traditional dhamma.

Metta,

Tim
It is interesting in looking at the question about the efficacy of chanting in this context. Chanting, I would venture, Goenka-ji would not say would put an end to suffering. What would have to be understood here is that Goenka-ji is a traditional Theravadin and he functions within that context. He is not one of these Western sutta-only people who did not grow up with a living tradition and who are using Western notions of religious critique to come up with they think is the "pure Dhamma." Paritta is a deeply ingrained part of the Theravada. His chanting is part of that tradition. Actually, paritta type chanting is part of traditional Buddhism as a whole.

Does such chanting really offer some sort of protection? That is a matter of belief and can be discussed in these threads:

viewtopic.php?f=13&t=9962&p=152615

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=11332
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Slow Learner » Mon Jan 30, 2012 4:34 pm

tiltbillings wrote: What would have to be understood here is that Goenka-ji is a traditional Theravadin and he functions within that context. He is not one of these Western sutta-only people who did not grow up with a living tradition and who are using Western notions of religious critique to come up with they think is the "pure Dhamma." Paritta is a deeply ingrained part of the Theravada. His chanting is part of that tradition. Actually, paritta type chanting is part of traditional Buddhism as a whole.


Thanks, that's helpful context to keep in mind for this practice.

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Mr Man » Mon Jan 30, 2012 4:42 pm

tiltbillings wrote:What would have to be understood here is that Goenka-ji is a traditional Theravadin and he functions within that context.



Not sure about that. I don't think that Goenka-ji is a traditional Theravadin at all. The technique seems to be very much in house. His chanting style is also fairly unique. He is a Lay teacher (traditionally not that common). Does he encourage his student to visit their local temple etc.?
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Monkey Mind » Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:35 pm

If I understand correctly, chanting in that tradition is reserved for someone who both practices strict sila and has and advanced understanding of Pali. There are other teachers in that tradition who have been given permission by Goenka-ji to do the chanting themselves in courses, instead of using the audio tapes of Goenka-ji chanting. In that tradition, many of the meditation centers offer Pali courses, and they also offer an online Pali learning center. So in theory, any lay person could develop the ability to be a "chanter", but it requires a lot of training. I have also heard (from eye-witness testimonial), that in some centers a visiting bhikkhu might be invited to do the chanting.

I have also heard that paritta is a common practice in Burmese monasteries, believed to be the origin of this specific meditation practice. I am told that there is a deeply rooted belief that such chanting affects the "energy" or "vibrations" of the people who participate in the paritta and the places where the paritta is conducted. Before I attended one of these courses, I would have said "hog-wash". (See Tilt's comments above about Westerners applying their own cultural context to Buddhist practices.) Having attended a few, I am willing to concede that there might be something to the practice. Whether science or just "feel good", I find it very relaxing and soothing on one hand but it helps me stay awake during long sits on the other.

Now, Goenka-ji chants both in Pali and in Hindi, and some of his chantings are poetry of his own creation. At first I was very concerned about this (I am ever-vigilant towards "cult-like" behavior.) However, I have grown to accept this as a symbol of Goenka-ji's dedication, and not in anyway sinister.
Last edited by Monkey Mind on Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Monkey Mind » Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:44 pm

It has already been said but warrants repeating: most of the group sits are conducted in silence, except for a brief moment of chanting at the beginning and end of the sit. There is a period between 6 am and 6:30 am when Goenka chants the entire time, but this an "optional" sit and a student can choose to sit in his/ her meditation cell.

The translations to all of the chanting is available on-line, or in a book or mp3 downloadable video that can be purchased. So there is absolutely no mystery behind what the chanting means. If you have seen the movie "Dhamma Brothers", the assistant teacher makes a special effort to educate the prisoners of the meaning of the chanting BEFORE they agree to participate in the course, i.e. informed consent of the practices before a person signs up.
"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.

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Brizzy » Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:19 pm

Slow Learner wrote:this thread may have already gone beyond this point, but while I personally enjoy the chanting on these courses, I share Brizzy's interest in how the emphasis (small, medium or large) on "vibrations" in Goenka's teaching fits into traditional Theravada dhamma. I've attended several courses and served others, and while I can't say for certain how many times Goenka mentions it in his dhamma talks, it's something that I've heard referred to regularly by Assistant Teachers and long-term students. I've never encountered this teaching elsewhere so would be grateful if someone could explain its relation to traditional dhamma.

Metta,

Tim


:hug: Thank you for at least confirming to me I am not losing my memory totally. Obviously, the fact of you remembering won't convince others. I just hope that your integrity is not questioned.

Metta

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:25 pm

Monkey Mind wrote:It has already been said but warrants repeating: most of the group sits are conducted in silence, except for a brief moment of chanting at the beginning and end of the sit. There is a period between 6 am and 6:30 am when Goenka chants the entire time, but this an "optional" sit and a student can choose to sit in his/ her meditation cell.


To be fair I think for most people on their first retreat it seems like there is a lot of chanting, and very different from traditional thervada where chanting is a group practise seperate from meditation and not in the backdrop while meditating.

If you go back for more retreats it's no surprise and you learn to let go of reactivity and/or to switch off to it.
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:25 pm

Mr Man wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:What would have to be understood here is that Goenka-ji is a traditional Theravadin and he functions within that context.



Not sure about that. I don't think that Goenka-ji is a traditional Theravadin at all. The technique seems to be very much in house. His chanting style is also fairly unique. He is a Lay teacher (traditionally not that common). Does he encourage his student to visit their local temple etc.?
Your points are taken, but he is still coming out of a traditional Burmese milieu. I do not see in the variations he is offering a questioning of very fundamental Theravadin practices in terms of paritta, protection chanting.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Brizzy » Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:33 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Slow Learner wrote:this thread may have already gone beyond this point, but while I personally enjoy the chanting on these courses, I share Brizzy's interest in how the emphasis (small, medium or large) on "vibrations" in Goenka's teaching fits into traditional Theravada dhamma. I've attended several courses and served others, and while I can't say for certain how many times Goenka mentions it in his dhamma talks, it's something that I've heard referred to regularly by Assistant Teachers and long-term students. I've never encountered this teaching elsewhere so would be grateful if someone could explain its relation to traditional dhamma.

Metta,

Tim
It is interesting in looking at the question about the efficacy of chanting in this context. Chanting, I would venture, Goenka-ji would not say would put an end to suffering. What would have to be understood here is that Goenka-ji is a traditional Theravadin and he functions within that context. He is not one of these Western sutta-only people who did not grow up with a living tradition and who are using Western notions of religious critique to come up with they think is the "pure Dhamma." Paritta is a deeply ingrained part of the Theravada. His chanting is part of that tradition. Actually, paritta type chanting is part of traditional Buddhism as a whole.

Does such chanting really offer some sort of protection? That is a matter of belief and can be discussed in these threads:

http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 2&p=152615

http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=11332


Well I hope I am not one of these...... one of these Western sutta-only people who did not grow up with a living tradition and who are using Western notions of religious critique to come up with they think is the "pure Dhamma."

Paritta is a deeply ingrained part of the Theravada. His chanting is part of that tradition. Actually, paritta type chanting is part of traditional Buddhism as a whole.


Deeply ingrained could read ritualised. As for Mr Goenka being part of Theravada tradition, I think that statement is one of the funniest I've seen for a while.

So your basic argument for Mr Goenka's chanting is .....
a) It is traditional (a lot of not very nice things happen due to tradition)
b) It is ok because he is not one of those nasty westerners who actually question the teachings and don't like to be spoon-fed by guru's.
c) Those nasty suttas again - always getting in the way.
d) chanting offers protection (you of all people wouldn't suggest it if you didn't believe it - you wouldn't just raise it to try and win an argument)

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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:41 pm

Brizzy wrote:
tiltbillings wrote: Paritta is a deeply ingrained part of the Theravada. His chanting is part of that tradition. Actually, paritta type chanting is part of traditional Buddhism as a whole.


Deeply ingrained could read ritualised. As for Mr Goenka being part of Theravada tradition, I think that statement is one of the funniest I've seen for a while.

So your basic argument for Mr Goenka's chanting is .....
a) It is traditional (a lot of not very nice things happen due to tradition)
b) It is ok because he is not one of those nasty westerners who actually question the teachings and don't like to be spoon-fed by guru's.
c) Those nasty suttas again - always getting in the way.
d) chanting offers protection (you of all people wouldn't suggest it if you didn't believe it - you wouldn't just raise it to try and win an argument)
Your alphabet soup is not my argument, but at this point, I am not going to engage it. It is seriously off-topic to this thread, and your abc's speak for themselves in terms of attitude.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Monkey Mind » Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:44 pm

Goofaholix wrote:To be fair I think for most people on their first retreat it seems like there is a lot of chanting, and very different from traditional thervada where chanting is a group practise seperate from meditation and not in the backdrop while meditating.
If you go back for more retreats it's no surprise and you learn to let go of reactivity and/or to switch off to it.


Sure, I was very surprised my first retreat. All of the literature emphasized the "scientific" merit of the practice, I was surprised there was so much "superstitious" chanting. And you are right on the second account, I was over my concerns by the time I went on a second retreat.
"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
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 30, 2012 11:51 pm

Monkey Mind wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:To be fair I think for most people on their first retreat it seems like there is a lot of chanting, and very different from traditional thervada where chanting is a group practise seperate from meditation and not in the backdrop while meditating.
If you go back for more retreats it's no surprise and you learn to let go of reactivity and/or to switch off to it.


Sure, I was very surprised my first retreat. All of the literature emphasized the "scientific" merit of the practice, I was surprised there was so much "superstitious" chanting. And you are right on the second account, I was over my concerns by the time I went on a second retreat.
I want to thank you two for bringing this thread back onto the topic of the OP, which is where it belongs.

Concerns about the efficacy of chanting can be posted here:

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=11332
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:55 pm

Two post have been moved to the "efficacy of chanting" thread. They are off-topic here.

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=11332
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby hermitwin » Thu Feb 02, 2012 5:41 am

I am well aware of Goenka's stature.
I am not saying this to condescend Goenka.
However, if you get to listen to his actual chanting, it is nothing like what monks chant.
To me, it was indeed distracting and distressing.
I maintain that an experienced monk should listen to the recording and give us his opinion.
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:22 am

hermitwin wrote:I am well aware of Goenka's stature.
I am not saying this to condescend Goenka.
However, if you get to listen to his actual chanting, it is nothing like what monks chant.
To me, it was indeed distracting and distressing.
I maintain that an experienced monk should listen to the recording and give us his opinion.


See:

viewtopic.php?f=35&t=8667&p=171413#p171037
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Dan74 » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:45 am

It's kind of funny that SN Goenka's idiosyncratic chanting has generated a long thread and so much controversy. Maybe he just likes to chant? I mean even great teachers can be cut some slack for such harmless little foibles and quirks, right?
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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby Ben » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:55 am

Dan74 wrote:It's kind of funny that SN Goenka's idiosyncratic chanting has generated a long thread and so much controversy. Maybe he just likes to chant? I mean even great teachers can be cut some slack for such harmless little foibles and quirks, right?


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Re: Goenka retreat- aversion towards Chanting

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 02, 2012 7:07 am

Dan74 wrote:It's kind of funny that SN Goenka's idiosyncratic chanting has generated a long thread and so much controversy. Maybe he just likes to chant? I mean even great teachers can be cut some slack for such harmless little foibles and quirks, right?
Assuming it is a foible or a quirk, one would think so.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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