I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Network

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
MisterRunon
Posts: 64
Joined: Thu Nov 27, 2014 6:43 pm

I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Network

Post by MisterRunon »

First I'd like to comment that I do like Goenka, and his discourses are great. I think his technique has been effective for countless people. However, I have been meditating for about 18 months now (I've done 4 10 day retreats in that time), and though I've seen some results, they are minor and probably not up to par to what he'd expect (based on what he says in the last day of the 10 day course).

My main issue with the technique: It's supposed to be a "choice-less awareness," but I feel as if I have to force the moving of my attention from the top of the head down to the feet, and from the feet back to the head. I can do it, but I'm always aware of of an aversion to actually doing it when not at at a retreat (and probably an attachment to just wanting to be aware of whatever sensation is in the body, the natural breath, or my environment). I feel as if the Anapana builds up my concentration/energy, and the constant scanning depletes it. I'm thinking there are quite a few people who feel the same, as I've met at least 3 or so students who say they only stick to Anapana. I also know of a few students who have been to 20+ retreats, and they are still struggling. I do think it's possible that if I persist, one day that aversion to scanning will be gone though.

My second issue: The retreats feel impersonal and I feel the Assistant Teachers are sort of kept on a leash; it's hard for me to build a direct relationship with them, though I have met a few whom I liked. After reading up on the well-known teachers, it seems the best known ones are good locating your symptoms and giving you helpful advice (such as U Pandita).

The problem is: Goenka's network is the most convenient one, at least in the western countries. Sitting and serving are easy since there are so many centers around the world.
User avatar
Goofaholix
Posts: 2997
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2009 3:49 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by Goofaholix »

There are lots of other teaching styles, retreat centres, and monasteries in the west. Try some of those and get a better idea of what's out there and what works for you.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah
MisterRunon
Posts: 64
Joined: Thu Nov 27, 2014 6:43 pm

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by MisterRunon »

Here is the thing, though: at my last 10 day course, I was feeling the free-flowing, subtle sensations and though I don't think I quite reached Bhanga, it felt like I was scanning through parts of my body that no longer felt solid. The thing is, when I return home it's a different story. Still lots of aversion. I wonder if I continue along, it will get better. I don't think it will though, and I actually think this technique might be the least suitable to me out of all the other VIpassana techniques I've read about.
Spiny Norman
Posts: 7399
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by Spiny Norman »

MisterRunon wrote: The problem is: Goenka's network is the most convenient one, at least in the western countries. Sitting and serving are easy since there are so many centers around the world.
There are other options should you want to explore them. This site might be helpful: http://www.buddhanet.info/wbd/
Buddha save me from new-agers!
User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18438
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by Ben »

MisterRunon wrote:Here is the thing, though: at my last 10 day course, I was feeling the free-flowing, subtle sensations and though I don't think I quite reached Bhanga, it felt like I was scanning through parts of my body that no longer felt solid. The thing is, when I return home it's a different story. Still lots of aversion. I wonder if I continue along, it will get better. I don't think it will though, and I actually think this technique might be the least suitable to me out of all the other VIpassana techniques I've read about.
The loss of sensitivity when one returns home is the same for everyone. If it's a real issue - return to anapana.
It also appears to me that you are mistaking the experience of rarified sensation with progress.
It's not. The type of sensation experienced is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is your relationship to that sensation. And that's where equanimity plays a role. By maintaining the awareness of the anicca characteristic of a particular sensation with equanimity one is unwinding the habituated response mechanism to sensation.
Progress is not measured by the type of sensation experienced.
Kind regards,
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..
SamKR
Posts: 1037
Joined: Sun Jul 19, 2009 4:33 pm

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by SamKR »

As mentioned by Goofaholix and Spiny Norman there are many methods you can explore, if a particular method does not seem to work for you even after a year. The Buddha also taught somewhat different things/methods to people of different backgrounds.
dhammarelax
Posts: 1087
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2014 7:59 pm

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by dhammarelax »

Some meditation centers like DhammaSukha run online retreats that could be helpful as well.

with Metta
dhammarelax
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5
MisterRunon
Posts: 64
Joined: Thu Nov 27, 2014 6:43 pm

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by MisterRunon »

Ben wrote:
MisterRunon wrote:Here is the thing, though: at my last 10 day course, I was feeling the free-flowing, subtle sensations and though I don't think I quite reached Bhanga, it felt like I was scanning through parts of my body that no longer felt solid. The thing is, when I return home it's a different story. Still lots of aversion. I wonder if I continue along, it will get better. I don't think it will though, and I actually think this technique might be the least suitable to me out of all the other VIpassana techniques I've read about.
The loss of sensitivity when one returns home is the same for everyone. If it's a real issue - return to anapana.
It also appears to me that you are mistaking the experience of rarified sensation with progress.
It's not. The type of sensation experienced is irrelevant. The only thing that matters is your relationship to that sensation. And that's where equanimity plays a role. By maintaining the awareness of the anicca characteristic of a particular sensation with equanimity one is unwinding the habituated response mechanism to sensation.
Progress is not measured by the type of sensation experienced.
Kind regards,
Ben
Thanks, and I am aware that the sensations are not as important as the experience - but I also listed other glaring issues besides the the sensations. The main problem with the technique, for me, is that there is an aversion to doing it. It does not feel "natural," or like a choice-less observation. I prefer to sit down and let things unfold instead of trying to direct my attention from the top of the head down to the feet. The technique feels too rigid for my taste. In the 10 day courses, by day 4, I feel my concentration is at a high (and I feel the need to explore this state some more), but by then we are required to to switch to the sweeping method. This part feels as though it burns through the energy reserves that were being built up for 4 days.

There are other glaring issues that I have. I think the system is a bit too rigid and does not train ATs well enough; some are great, others are ineffectual.. and most of the time, the relationship you build with them seem ineffectual. In fact, in the course before I served, I heard an AT was being abrasive towards the students (causing some to leave prematurely), which led to her being suspended. I have also heard (from a monk at a temple lineaged by Mahasi) that the teachings leave out a significant part of the Buddha's teachings.
SamKR wrote:As mentioned by Goofaholix and Spiny Norman there are many methods you can explore, if a particular method does not seem to work for you even after a year. The Buddha also taught somewhat different things/methods to people of different backgrounds.
Thanks, I was considering the Mahasi method. Based on the short instructions I've read, I think the method fits me much better. Actually, every Theravadin technique that I've read seems to fit me better than the Goenka technique. It's just a bit difficult to change my technique after having done it for so long, but I've been feeling this lacking for some time now so I think I have no choice.
dhammarelax
Posts: 1087
Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2014 7:59 pm

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by dhammarelax »

One of the things that are amazing about the Dhamma is that is immediately effective, as it says in the Satippathana Sutta (MN 10), "Let alone half a month. If anyone would develop these four frames of reference in this way for seven days, one of two fruits can be expected for him: either gnosis right here & now, or — if there be any remnant of clinging/sustenance — non-return.

So it seems to me that using a method for years on end without having real results is not the best.

with Metta
dhammarelax
Even if the flesh & blood in my body dry up, leaving just the skin, tendons, & bones, I will use all my human firmness, human persistence and human striving. There will be no relaxing my persistence until I am the first of my generation to attain full awakening in this lifetime. ed. AN 2.5
User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18438
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by Ben »

The aversion is natural, and again, very common experience. You are after all attempting to change a lifetime or lifetimes of habituated response to sensory data. The technique itself is merely a skilful means to develop equanimity in the face of any experience, including the experience of aversion and craving towards the practice itself. I think for many people, myself included, it was a shock to learn that meditation is rarely blissful and often uncomfortable. In time, the technique is dropped.
As for the quality of the Assistant Teachers - I couldn't agree more. That is why I have only a few people who I confide with.
One is an area teacher in this country and others are senior practitioners from other traditions. I have been involved (and continue to be involved) with the tradition. I have at times served Goenkaji and have been the trustee/secretary for the local meditation centre. These days I tend to (to paraphrase the Rhinoceros Sutta) walk alone.
As for the criticism from the monk who said that it leaves a significant amount of the Buddha's teaching out - it's understandable but an incorrect observation. The ten-day course is an introduction to the Dhamna. Goenkaji mentions more than once that the ten-day course is "the kindergarten of the Dhamma". It is a gradual training and more detail (both theoretical and practice related) are revealed in the special courses that are available to old students. After practicing in this tradition for nearly 30 years, I have not found it lacking.
But the other people who weighed in on this thread are also right - take the opportunity to explore other approaches to the Dhamma.
Whatever you chose to do - I wish you all the best.
With metta,
Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..
Dan74
Posts: 3449
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by Dan74 »

I'd go easy with expectations of progress on the cushion and focus on the day-to-day life instead. How we live day-to-day, our habits of thought and action are sure to affect the sits. 4 10-day retreats in one year for a beginner sounds really gruelling for me. Perhaps the aversion is due to you pushing yourself too hard?

I don't do Goenka's vipassana and I've heard mixed stories from people who've done it. Like every other school and method. But... some methods work particularly well with some kamma and others less so. So might be worthwhile to explore other alternatives. Doesn't stop you from coming back to Vipassana later.
_/|\_
User avatar
Mkoll
Posts: 6544
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: Texas

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by Mkoll »

Dan74 wrote:Doesn't stop you from coming back to Vipassana later.
Yeah, you can always come back.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
MisterRunon
Posts: 64
Joined: Thu Nov 27, 2014 6:43 pm

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by MisterRunon »

Dan74 wrote:I'd go easy with expectations of progress on the cushion and focus on the day-to-day life instead. How we live day-to-day, our habits of thought and action are sure to affect the sits. 4 10-day retreats in one year for a beginner sounds really gruelling for me. Perhaps the aversion is due to you pushing yourself too hard?

I don't do Goenka's vipassana and I've heard mixed stories from people who've done it. Like every other school and method. But... some methods work particularly well with some kamma and others less so. So might be worthwhile to explore other alternatives. Doesn't stop you from coming back to Vipassana later.
4 10 day retreats since April 2013. I don't think that was too much for me, but that depends on the person. Perhaps I wasn't clear in my explanation, so it would be a good time to clarify here: I am not talking just specifically about my sitting, but also my non-sitting day-to-day life. I have not noticed any marked changes, as one would expect. I know the common adage among meditators is "not to expect anything," but I disagree with that notion. No one meditates without any sort of goal or aspiration (otherwise, why would you even do it?). Meditating without looking for results could lead to a lot of stagnation in development, all because of the "don't expect results" thing that I hear in many corners. At the same time, I am aware that one must not cling to the results, and this is probably what most people mean (but I don't think it contextually applies).

For now, I suppose it would be a good idea to read Mahasi's books and look into other schools. This feeling that Goenka's technique/network do not fit me has been sitting in the back of my mind for some time now.
Last edited by MisterRunon on Sun Nov 30, 2014 11:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Dan74
Posts: 3449
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by Dan74 »

I think expectations get in the way of actually doing the practice. As for results I don;t know if they magically appear - we exert effort to clean up our lives, bringing mindfulness and spacious awareness to our habits. This is a long-term project.

Sorry if what I wrote above wasn't clear..
_/|\_
MisterRunon
Posts: 64
Joined: Thu Nov 27, 2014 6:43 pm

Re: I think I'm not compatible with the Goenka Technique/Net

Post by MisterRunon »

Dan74 wrote:I think expectations get in the way of actually doing the practice. As for results I don;t know if they magically appear - we exert effort to clean up our lives, bringing mindfulness and spacious awareness to our habits. This is a long-term project.

Sorry if what I wrote above wasn't clear..
Yeah, this is a debate I had with other students who say "don't expect anything," and I think I still have to generally disagree. Expecting certain things can definitely get in the way of your practice, but if you continue meditating and don't see any results, should you continue doing it or move on? That is what I meant about stagnation. If I were to listen to that adage, and after 18 months I have not noticed much difference, then that would be me heading towards a fruitless path (or at the very least, ineffective one). A few other students I have met from the center have been to 20+ 10 day courses and they still struggle with the same issues, and I think this may be rooted in the poor/erratic/impersonal quality of the ATs.
Post Reply