Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Javi
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by Javi »

Coëmgenu wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Sutta-only enthusiasts
I used to be a fan of this term, but I do not think it is realistic. They are a seperate school of Buddhism, still Buddhism, but not the same tradition that preserved and maintained the Pāli Canon. I now call them Neo-Sautrāntika, to reflect the fact that, IMO, they are a schismatic sect that basically only exists on the internet and rejects all other Buddhisms.
That's a rather awkward term. Neo sautrantika makes it sound like they are a new revival of the Indian sautrantika school - which had its own peculiarities and theories (radical momentariness in which moments only arise and pass away, a theory of seeds, etc).

This tendency, which is a rather loose group of folks, has been called 'suttavada' by bhante Vimalaramsi (a self styled suttavadin). Bhikkhu Bodhi also calls it 'nikaya purism'. Ive also heard the name 'suttanta'.
Vayadhammā saṅkhārā appamādena sampādethā — All things decay and disappoint, it is through vigilance that you succeed — Mahāparinibbāna Sutta

Self-taught poverty is a help toward philosophy, for the things which philosophy attempts to teach by reasoning, poverty forces us to practice. — Diogenes of Sinope

I have seen all things that are done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after wind — Ecclesiastes 1.14
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mikenz66
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by mikenz66 »

I wasn't thinking of "sutta-only enthusiasts" in a particularly pejorative way. I was thinking of people such as Venerables Analayo, Sujato, and a number of people here, who are interested in trying to work out a path of practice based largely on what the Buddha probably taught.

Personally, I tend to think that the Abhidhamma and Commentaries preserve much of the wisdom of early practitioners, so I don't have the attitude that "this is later, therefore it's not useful". [Similarly with 20th/21st C commentators!].

It's interesting that in Mahayana these early practitioners are recognised by name, whereas in the Theravada Commentaries it's simply "As the Ancients said...".

:coffee:
Mike
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Mkoll
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by Mkoll »

mikenz66 wrote:I wasn't thinking of "sutta-only enthusiasts" in a particularly pejorative way. I was thinking of people such as Venerables Analayo, Sujato, and a number of people here, who are interested in trying to work out a path of practice based largely on what the Buddha probably taught.

Personally, I tend to think that the Abhidhamma and Commentaries preserve much of the wisdom of early practitioners, so I don't have the attitude that "this is later, therefore it's not useful". [Similarly with 20th/21st C commentators!].
I think that's a very extreme position held by very few people indeed, even on this forum. I highly doubt Vens. Sujato and Analayo or any widely respected bhikkhu I know of would say such a thing.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
thepea
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by thepea »

mikenz66 wrote:That's news to me. I did a retreat about ten years ago, and most of what Goenka said in his talks seemed quite standard. Since he originates from Burma he has a heavy emphasis on Abhidhamma and Commentaries (which, of course, is standard Theravada).

He does have his own spin, and different language choices from what some are used to, particularly if they are Thai-Forest or Sutta-only enthusiasts.

I know from discussions with long-term practitioners, such as Ben, that the more advanced retreats include study of the entire Satipatthana sutta, and also an emphasis on developing jhana. Like any approach, the introductory instructions do not claim to cover the entire practice.

:anjali:
Mike
You are correct that this technique is in line wth satipatthana and that practice of this leads to jhana.
As an old student who has sat many introductory courses, satipatthana courses and long courses I have a different take on mr Goenkas message than Ben had. Ben seemed to hold the opinion that as a student matures within this tradition he/she would drop their religions and gravitate towards Buddhism. Mr Goenka merely mentions that as a student matures in dhamma they will take this practice as their only one. I feel some take this as conversion to Buddhism where I have come to understand this as a melting together of all religions base truth. One who began practicing as a Hindu will clearly see the truth within this religion but will not identify as a Hindu. Similarly a Buddhist will find the truth within Buddhism but not feel it necessary to identify as a Buddhist. As mr Goenka teaches this is a universal path open to all humans. It has always been my opinion within this forum that mr Goenka spoke with great eloquence and in very simple language not to convert people to a particular religion but to free them from the bondages of religious belief structures.
There is not much emphasis placed on sutta study but mostly on practice as your guide to happiness. When happiness is reached one continues the practice of being happy.
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Mkoll
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by Mkoll »

thepea wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:That's news to me. I did a retreat about ten years ago, and most of what Goenka said in his talks seemed quite standard. Since he originates from Burma he has a heavy emphasis on Abhidhamma and Commentaries (which, of course, is standard Theravada).

He does have his own spin, and different language choices from what some are used to, particularly if they are Thai-Forest or Sutta-only enthusiasts.

I know from discussions with long-term practitioners, such as Ben, that the more advanced retreats include study of the entire Satipatthana sutta, and also an emphasis on developing jhana. Like any approach, the introductory instructions do not claim to cover the entire practice.

:anjali:
Mike
You are correct that this technique is in line wth satipatthana and that practice of this leads to jhana.
As an old student who has sat many introductory courses, satipatthana courses and long courses I have a different take on mr Goenkas message than Ben had. Ben seemed to hold the opinion that as a student matures within this tradition he/she would drop their religions and gravitate towards Buddhism. Mr Goenka merely mentions that as a student matures in dhamma they will take this practice as their only one. I feel some take this as conversion to Buddhism where I have come to understand this as a melting together of all religions base truth. One who began practicing as a Hindu will clearly see the truth within this religion but will not identify as a Hindu. Similarly a Buddhist will find the truth within Buddhism but not feel it necessary to identify as a Buddhist. As mr Goenka teaches this is a universal path open to all humans. It has always been my opinion within this forum that mr Goenka spoke with great eloquence and in very simple language not to convert people to a particular religion but to free them from the bondages of religious belief structures.
There is not much emphasis placed on sutta study but mostly on practice as your guide to happiness. When happiness is reached one continues the practice of being happy.
It sounds to me like you're espousing a form of perennialism. Would you agree?
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
thepea
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by thepea »

mikenz66 wrote:Yes, it sounds rather rushed for ten days. Joseph Goldstein has a series of 46 hour-long talks on it here:
http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/?search=satipatthana

:anjali:
Mike
You have to take into consideration the requirements to participate in this course.
One has to have sat three 10 day courses done 1 10 days service and maintained daily practice requirements which include following five precepts and two hours sitting. Over two year period.
This is the requirement to study satipatthana sutta course.
It is understood within this tradition that students with this base have grasped a level of practice where learning this theory is beneficial. It is understood that theory and deeper studies are of no benefit without a certain level of practical experience. As it is taught the two mus go hand in hand. Theory alone will lead to confusion without a grounded stable practice.
Last edited by thepea on Sun Feb 05, 2017 3:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
thepea
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by thepea »

Mkoll wrote: It sounds to me like you're espousing a form of perennialism. Would you agree?
It's called dhamma.
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Mkoll
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by Mkoll »

thepea wrote:
Mkoll wrote: It sounds to me like you're espousing a form of perennialism. Would you agree?
It's called dhamma.
I guess not.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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Coëmgenu
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by Coëmgenu »

mikenz66 wrote:I wasn't thinking of "sutta-only enthusiasts" in a particularly pejorative way. I was thinking of people such as Venerables Analayo, Sujato, and a number of people here, who are interested in trying to work out a path of practice based largely on what the Buddha probably taught.
Aaaaah, I see. I had interpreted the "only" in "sutta-only" to imply a kind of fundamentalist exclusionism, a discourse of rejection and revisions, that someone sometimes finds on the Internet. There are certainly also sensible and informed ways to build practiced based on suttas, that do not devolve into textual puritanism, such as the figures you mentioned.
Bodhicitta is alien
to all things, meaning the aggregates,
the elements, the fields,
the grasper, and what is grasped.

The phenomena are selfless
and the mind is likewise.
At their root, they are fundamentally unarisen,
like the great void of self-nature.

As the Arhats, the Buddhas, the Lords,
the Bodhisatvas, rouse bodhicitta
and approach the bodhimaṇḍa,
may I too give rise to bodhicitta.

(Vairocanasūtra T848.46b23)
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ganegaar
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by ganegaar »

I am no meditation guru, nor has many years of experience as many members here do.
But yet, it is sad some of the things mentioned in this thread about Goenka retreats.
I have only attended to one course so far, and has served in another course. However, I do clearly remember a particular evening lecture by Goenka, where he clearly says something like "do not misuse the technique, it is equally possible to build up attachments, do the very opposite thing, using the same technique"
I think this has happened to many people, without they realizing, they become attached to stuff that we normally do not think as attachments. One is to get attached to subtle meditative experiences. And it look that OP is about not receiving this timely instructions.
One example: Along the series of talks of Joseph Goldstien on satipattana sutta, he once expains a similar experience as the OP, that his mind was so clear, he can see very subtle things, and he was very exited and explained that to his teacher, who simply said, "you are just attached to subtleties"!.

I suppose it takes a extremely good meditation master to give correct instructions when meditation advances.
But a rule of thumb is to question always our own minds and see whether we are getting attached, getting involved, or whether we are letting go!.
Sīlepatiṭṭhāya naro sapañño, cittaṃ paññañca bhāvayaṃ;
Ātāpī nipako bhikkhu, so imaṃ vijaṭaye jaṭanti.
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Aloka
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by Aloka »

ganegaar wrote: But a rule of thumb is to question always our own minds and see whether we are getting attached, getting involved, or whether we are letting go!.

:goodpost: I think that's also good advice for our everyday activities in general.

.
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mikenz66
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by mikenz66 »

Mkoll wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:I wasn't thinking of "sutta-only enthusiasts" in a particularly pejorative way. I was thinking of people such as Venerables Analayo, Sujato, and a number of people here, who are interested in trying to work out a path of practice based largely on what the Buddha probably taught.

Personally, I tend to think that the Abhidhamma and Commentaries preserve much of the wisdom of early practitioners, so I don't have the attitude that "this is later, therefore it's not useful". [Similarly with 20th/21st C commentators!].
I think that's a very extreme position held by very few people indeed, even on this forum. I highly doubt Vens. Sujato and Analayo or any widely respected bhikkhu I know of would say such a thing.
Yes, sorry, Vens Sujato and Analayo are careful not to say that later developments are not useful.

I only hear it much on internet forums... :spy:

:anjali:
Mike
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mikenz66
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by mikenz66 »

thepea wrote: Similarly a Buddhist will find the truth within Buddhism but not feel it necessary to identify as a Buddhist. .
OK, I now understand your original point was in the "I'm not a Buddhist, I just follow the Buddha's teaching" line. I treat the two as synonyms, but of course, you may have other definitions.

I do recall that at the end of the course I attended a couple of people (A European and an Israeli who were living in China studying Tai Chi and Dao - the retreat was in Hong Kong), complained that they didn't realise there would be so much Buddhism in the course. Clearly opinions vary...

:anjali:
Mike
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mikenz66
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by mikenz66 »

thepea wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Yes, it sounds rather rushed for ten days. Joseph Goldstein has a series of 46 hour-long talks on it here:
http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/?search=satipatthana

:anjali:
Mike
You have to take into consideration the requirements to participate in this course.
One has to have sat three 10 day courses done 1 10 days service and maintained daily practice requirements which include following five precepts and two hours sitting. Over two year period.
This is the requirement to study satipatthana sutta course.
It is understood within this tradition that students with this base have grasped a level of practice where learning this theory is beneficial. It is understood that theory and deeper studies are of no benefit without a certain level of practical experience. As it is taught the two mus go hand in hand. Theory alone will lead to confusion without a grounded stable practice.
Since that's what worked for me (though on a shorter timescale) I don't really disagree. I didn't read much at all until I'd spent six months just doing chanting, dana, etc, and eight months doing some regular meditation practice, including a couple of short retreats. Of course, this included the sort of talks Goenka has in his retreats on Noble Truths, eightfold path, not-self, hindrances, and so on... Then I picked up a copy of "In the Buddha's Words", and it all fell into place...

:heart:
Mike
thepea
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Re: Insights from my 21 years of practising Goenka style

Post by thepea »

mikenz66 wrote: .

I do recall that at the end of the course I attended a couple of people (A European and an Israeli who were living in China studying Tai Chi and Dao - the retreat was in Hong Kong), complained that they didn't realise there would be so much Buddhism in the course. Clearly opinions vary...
I have met so many Buddhists on retreat that at the end of the course say that now after all the years spent at temples finally understand how to practice what Buddha was teaching, they feel a relief to years of confusion. I have also met native Indians who have sat courses and then explained how this is the exact teaching that their elders have tried to convey to them.
I have also met people who have come out saying "just another religion full of crap" you just don't know how others past conditioning will interpret this teaching.
I simply love the universality of the technique, it does not have to be owned by a particular religion.
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