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Vipassana: an anthropologist's take

Posted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:08 pm
by Ripser
I remember having read, some years ago, a vivid account of a vipassana ten-day course in Burma when Sayagyi U Ba Khin was still alive. The author, a Western anthropologist, took the course himself and went to describe in great detail what he saw and felt there (it was finally published, if I recall correctly, as an appendix to one of his books). Even if the writer’s tone was sometimes a bit unflattering, it was fascinating to see a much less Westernized (and no doubt more explicitly Buddhist) approach to meditation than vipassana as popularized by S. N. Goenka. I think he was even told about spirit possession, which, as you know, is not uncommon in rural Burma.

The problem is, as you might have guessed, that I don’t remember the author’s name, nor the book’s title. I would appreciate any guess, and if we manage to locate it it could be interesting to compare it with the version of U Ba Khin's method which is available to us today.

Re: Vipassana: an anthropologist's take

Posted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 1:38 pm
by Bhikkhu Pesala

Re: Vipassana: an anthropologist's take

Posted: Mon Nov 13, 2017 7:17 pm
by Ripser
That's very interesting and it helped me find the excerpt I was looking for:

https://host.pariyatti.org/treasures/A_ ... n_King.pdf

"An Experience in Buddhist Meditation" by Winston L. King. Originally published in The Journal of Religion vol. 41, University of Chicago, 1961.

There are remarkable similarities with the Goenka courses, even if the background sounds more openly Buddhist. The criticism it brings up is, for the very same reason, still worth considering.