Chrsitopher Titmuss recently wrote an article about the fault lines and limitations of the Goenka tradition. I would like to hear your opinions on this.
Christopher Titmuss wrote: Goenka and the assistant teachers on the courses make it clear that any other meditation practices, outside of Goenka’s methods, would result in mixing the “pristine purity of the technique.”
The mixing of meditation techniques constitutes a serious violation of Goenka’s teachings. The mixing of technique regularly results in permanent expulsion of some students from his courses.
Goenka established numerous centres around the world which repeat exactly the same formula everywhere. Not surprisingly, his courses became known as MacMeditation during the past 30 years.
His regular students insist that they find something new in his teachings, even if they have listened to the same set of talks and instructions on frequent courses. The students are strongly encouraged only to attend his courses and not go elsewhere to meditate. Thus, the students deny themselves access to other teachings in a large Buddhist tradition upholding diversity and respect for extensive enquiry into the human condition.
One Goenka student from Germany told me he had sat 123 Goenka courses. He came secretly to sit a retreat with me because he said he felt “stuck.” He said he was sick of being told by various assistant teachers to “keep on practising.” Two Australians told me they had sat more than 60 courses and longer courses. They also said they felt they were “in a rut.”
After attending five courses and serving on the management team, students can continue onto 20 day courses.
Goenka strongly advises his students not to sit with other teachers. He said it is like digging lots of holes in the ground and not going deep. It could be equally stated that one could keep digging in the same hole for years and it is not going anywhere. A pointless digging, digging, digging the same hole for oneself.
The Limits to the Goenka method
The limits of the Goenka approach slowly but surely begin to emerge among his students following his death in 2013. Quietly, more and more are beginning to find their voice. The long standing students have so much devotion to Goenka that they would never question the limits of his teachings during his lifetime. New students are speaking up. Words of Goenka often seem to matter more for his senior students than the words of the Buddha.
The passing away of Goenka gives the opportunity for assistant teachers, managers and senior students to question the limits of the technique.
It will take courage and fearless to bring the subject up for the welfare of a wider range of practitioners. The Goenka approach belongs to one of the ultra-orthodox traditions in Buddhism reflecting the Brahmin heritage of Goenka. It will not be easy to change for the welfare of all students without exception.
I hear rumours of concern about the limits of the courses among certain Goenka’s assistant teachers and senior students. The assistant teachers can only offer the barest advice on the technique to the students on the Goenka courses. A student spends a maximum of five minutes with the assistant teacher. Students may require much longer to go deep into an issue but the course does not provide such opportunity or only very rarely.