Critique of U Ba Khin/Goenka tradition by Christopher Titmuss

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Dhammabodhi
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Critique of U Ba Khin/Goenka tradition by Christopher Titmuss

Post by Dhammabodhi » Tue Feb 21, 2017 6:43 am

Hi Dhamma friends,

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.

10-day-goenka-courses-in-vipassana-time-to-make-changes-12-firm-proposals

Excerpt:
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.
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SamKR
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Re: Critique of U Ba Khin/Goenka tradition by Christopher Titmuss

Post by SamKR » Tue Feb 21, 2017 7:13 am

I only read the excerpt above, and I think most of what Titmuss said is true.

I attended four 10-day Goenka retreats, and tried to practice for a few years irregularly. I feel that it did not suit me well and I don't practice exact same thing anymore.

However, I still think that Goenka teachings/method is beneficial for a certain group of people having certain background or characteristics - just like any other methods could be more beneficial for certain group of people only.

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Re: Critique of U Ba Khin/Goenka tradition by Christopher Titmuss

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Feb 21, 2017 8:58 am

Discussed earlier in this thread.
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Re: Critique of U Ba Khin/Goenka tradition by Christopher Titmuss

Post by pyluyten » Tue Feb 21, 2017 9:14 am

Dhammabodhi wrote: 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.
First, thanks for sharing! imo this is interesting material.
I thought the limitations to be very well described, but i will not discuss article proposals.

If you only did read the except, not the whole article, please read the article if you have some time (but you need several minutes).

The article author says valuable stuff :

- in Goenka style courses, you are told not to practice anything else, mediation, prayor, anything. This is very dangerous to accept this kind of request. It's like a church forbids to do hatha yoga. This is very dangerous dudes, this clearly shows there is an issue, and not the least.
Of course during the course it has some reasons. But even outside of the courses. otherwise when going to next course they will blame you and refuse some courses. And even if what you did practice is vipassana! why on earth practicing vipassana is an issue? This cannot be accepted. Please reject their request to reject anything which is not Goenka.
Note this is disapointing because if you listen to teachings you will find them very balanced, clever, so listening at the teachings one cannot expect this kind of bizarre.

- As the author quickly states, whenever someone has an issue, "They were told that their suffering was their samkharas coming up.". In Goenka, everything is samkhara, so 1. if you feel good that's a proof Goenka method works and 2. if you feel bad that's a proof Goenka method works, because you are digging and old samkhara which is showing up.
So, yes clearly this is big issue. This critique might apply to other teachers. Please use common sense, please use reason.

- The author says students with troubles are not helped as they should be. I cannot confirm but what i know makes this statement highly possible, and yes obviously this is huge problem if confirmed. And author provides fact that confirm, so while did i did not check facts...

I would say, any kind of tradition in buddhism would provide you proper hosting to practice. They will help you, they will tolerate you to believe in other stuff, to practice other stuff, they will encourage you. eg i once saw a Zen master sending a student to Goenka course because he could find some help. Seems the opposite would not happen.

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Re: Critique of U Ba Khin/Goenka tradition by Christopher Titmuss

Post by Dhammabodhi » Wed Feb 22, 2017 6:33 am

Thank you Bhante for pointing out that this has already been posted. I do apologise for the re-post; in my defence I searched for it but couldn't find anything.

Anyway, I agree with what Bhante wrote on the other thread- parts of what Titmuss alleges is just not true; what is asked is not to practice anything else *during the 10-day course*. What one does outside the course is nobody's business. I have done a few courses and in my limited experience I have met people from very many diverse backgrounds- people who did yoga, reiki healers, mind readers, Tibetan and Thai monks, etc. If there was a strict policy to reject people from other traditions then those people would not be there.

Other parts of what Titmuss wrote I think are correct- I have met a few people who spent years in the Goenka tradition but at some point became 'stuck'- a nun I met who used to be part of the board of trustees of a Goenka centre told me she had to leave because there was no-one to guide her at the level of insight she had reached. Interestingly, I am told many people unhappy from the Goenka tradition land up at Pa-Auk Sayadaw's centre in Myanmar ( I met quite a few of them myself).

I would like to hear views from more advanced practitioners in the Goenka tradition here, especially Ben- since he has had a very long association with that tradition.

Pyluyten- Is what you wrote based on personal experience in the tradition or are you basing your views solely on the article itself?

:anjali:
"Take rest, take rest."-S.N.Goenka

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Re: Critique of U Ba Khin/Goenka tradition by Christopher Titmuss

Post by Dhammabodhi » Sun Feb 26, 2017 3:18 pm

I couldn't find Ben's profile when I searched for it. Where has he gone? Has he left DW for good?

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Re: Critique of U Ba Khin/Goenka tradition by Christopher Titmuss

Post by DNS » Sun Feb 26, 2017 6:25 pm

Dhammabodhi wrote:I couldn't find Ben's profile when I searched for it. Where has he gone? Has he left DW for good?

:anjali:
Yes, Ben has lots of experience with the Goenka tradition as participant and organizer. No one can (or should) speak for Ben regarding his participation here. You can find him on facebook, do a search and send a friend request, if you wish to. I will close this thread now since there is an earlier, longer version of this topic.

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