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Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Sun Jun 20, 2010 10:39 pm
by vitellius
Ben wrote:Hi Oleksandr,
As a matter of interest, what is your opinion based on?
Basically, description of "bhanga" in S.N. Goenka's lectures at the 10-day retreat reminds me quite close how "jhana" is described by Thanissaro Bhikkhu and Henepola Gunaratana. I have also considered Mahasi Sayadaw's texts, suttas and personal experience.

Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 2:05 am
by Ben
Hi Oleksandr
Would you be so kind to elaborate; to compare and contrast?
kind regards


Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 4:59 am
by upekkha
Which Jhana is the Bhikkhu talking about specifically?

Since it is possible be that these two states share some qualities, but in Goenka's Vipassana method one is applying oneself to see the impermanent nature of such states, while in Jhana practice one is cultivating its stability.

Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 9:58 am
by PeterB
upekkha wrote:I find this whole 'bhanga: jhana or not jhana' discussion to be faulty, since it is too general.
It's not like you are analyzing someone's description of a certain meditation experience and then commenting on what you think that was, you are talking in broad terms.
'Bhanga' can mean different things to different people. 'Jhana' can mean different things to different people (Sutta Jhana vs. Visudhimagga Jhana).

If you take the 'Vipassana Jhana' approach (Mahasi Sayadaw), then the experience of Bhanga is within the 2nd Vipassana Jhana.
But from my own experience, what Goenka calls 'Bhanga' can be experienced in different ways. You could have a 'Bhanga-like' experience in the First Nyana (Mind & Body) where you feel the whole body as vibrations, but you can also have a 'Bhanga' experience (which is probably what Goenka means) at the 4th nyana (Arising and passing away), which feels much more intense than Nyana 1. It could be felt as the whole body exploding into vibrations, lack of orientation of body and so on.

It is simply a matter of one's own personal experience, and talking so broadly is really point-less, I think :)
To your last sentence I would say....... quite so.

Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 10:14 am
by vitellius
Ben wrote:Hi Oleksandr
Would you be so kind to elaborate; to compare and contrast?
Yes :) (although it may take some time to find all relevant quotes etc.)

May be you could be so kind to point me at relevant texts and talks of S.N. Goenka and U Ba Khin where they talk about bhanga?

Particularly, is it possible to find dhamma talks of the 10-day retreat?

Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 10:37 am
by mikenz66
Hi Oleksandr,
Oleksandr wrote: Particularly, is it possible to find dhamma talks of the 10-day retreat?
Yes, if you've been on a retreat you should have a password.
See the "old students" link here:" onclick=";return false;

I've only been on one Goenka retreat, back in 2007, but the description (and what I experienced) of bhanga seems to be the same "arising and passing away" talked about in the Visuddhimagga and by Mahasi Sayadaw and others: ... ml#Arising" onclick=";return false; I.e. a feeling of the body "dissolving" into vibrations.

I'm not sure which type of Jhana you are referring to. Obviously, as upekkha says, arising and passing away occurs as part of the "vipassana jhanas" described by U Pandita, which are an alternative way of rendering the progress of insight. ... hanas.html" onclick=";return false;

e.g. ... tml#Higher" onclick=";return false;

The first vipassanā jhāna operates up to the point where a yogi attains the insight into the rapid arising and passing away of phenomena. Experiencing this insight and going beyond it, a yogi grows up, as it were.

Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:20 pm
by rowyourboat
Just to say that bhanga nana (or the 'knowledge of arising and passing away') can arise only after there is insight into nama-rupa, cause-effect, and anicca, dukkha and anatta according to schemes of 16 insight knowledges. Otherwise you may have just been observing a bit of impermanence even though there is 'arising and passing away in your experience, it does not mean it is the real deal.

Also bhanga nana should scare you silly- it is not meant to be a pleasant experience. It arises with the flock of scary nana like bhaya (fear) nana, aadinava (drawbacks of the world) nana and nibbana (revulsion).

I might also add (ahem..fijinut :) ) that insight into anatta does not mean there is attainment....yet.

good luck!


Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 5:30 pm
by PeterB
Bhanga nana is indeed scary nana. I remember a conversation I had with one of the forest Ajahns and he told me with delight the long Pali compound word for the particular scary nana I had experienced a short time before...
For many people the actual experience of the truth of Anicca say at heart level, not just at head level can be fairly overwhelming.
Not everyone experiences blissful states.

Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:19 pm
by Ben
Well said, Peter!

Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:32 am
by fijiNut
I might also add (ahem..fijinut ) that insight into anatta does not mean there is attainment....yet.
Thanks RYB, that is why I always appreciate this forum - never a shortage of well practiced Dhamma friends. :)

Re: Jhana and 'Goenka' bhanga being the same; In my humble opinion and limited practice,maybe different. Because by virtue of 'beginners luck' or kamma, I was fortunate to experience both respectively on the 3rd and 4th day of the retreat, perhaps I can describe the experience itself to clarify.

On the 3rd day, approaching jhana, there was still the 'doer' and 'knower' duality of mind.The breath got blissful. Slowly, concept of 'my body'.... sensation of breath touching upper.. disappeared. Thoughts still could form. A small dot of light appeared in the minds eye which grew bigger. Meditation starts feeling 'nice'/blissful starting now. A bright disc appeared in the vision in the mind and the mind slowly 'fell' into or got 'enveloped' into this disc of yellow light.
Here, the duality of mind stopped, there was just the 'knower' and 'knowing'. Sounds couldn't be heard, thoughts or even intentions couldn't form. The mind was firm like a rock. Just bliss and contentment.

On the 4th day, the scanning method was introduced, so we systematicaly pass through the experience of sensations through the body as experienced by the mind, instructions were not to verbalize or note. From the crown of the head to the tips of the toes.
Being a beginner, and not having enough samadhi, or understanding the technique fully, but yet stubborn (lots of ego back then :-P), I sat for 2-3 hours straight.
Needless to say, there was a bit of pain or 'lots of solid sensations'.
There was no breath meditation at this point, instructions were to mindfully and equanimous as one passed one's attention through each part of the body.

However, at one point, the mind calmed and the scanning took less effort, until at one point, the the solid feelings in the body disappeared to be replaced by feelings of subtle sensations.
It's hard to find any similes for the experience, but just like the mind 'saw' the disc of golden light before jhana,it was a gradual arising of an experience of actually 'seeing' the body dissolve into amber electrical currents and wavelets, and the body felt like boiling cauldron soup of particles and vibrations (without the heat).

And just like how the duality of mind of 'doer' and 'knower' dropped in jhana going into autopilot, the mind experienced a similar quality of just 'knowing', or 'observing', in fact, it was just a sense of being 'beyond one's control'.

So here it ends is the experience of a beginner on his first Goenka retreat in 2008 for public scrutiny. Hope this helps. So whilst one can argue whether bhanga has basis in the commentary or not, or whether this Vipassana 'technique' was taught by the Buddha or not, or whether I was hallucinating or not. I will stand aside and welcome comments.

The real benefits is that 2 years on, this 'Goenka technique' had transformed an angry selfish young restauranteur who binged on alcohol and ego into to a meek, meditating, teetotalling vegetarian student.

Not bad results for just a 'technique'. :)

Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:44 am
by Ben
Well done, FijiNut!

Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 10:46 am
by PeterB

Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 5:49 pm
by rowyourboat
Hi Fijinut,

Your description of the jhana is spot on. The only thing I would like to know is how long you spent in that absorbed state. There can be a gap between getting absorbed into the light and getting into the jhana proper, but that is just technicalities. If you spent a fair amount of time (not just seconds) I would say that you are in the first jhana. I would say confidently that you have the ability to develop all four jhanas with the right effort. It is well worth your while doing it too- it will make your ride on this path so much easier and smoother. If it were me I would develop samatha and vipassana seperately as you seem strong in both, setting aside time in of the day for both.

I am a firm believer in not praising 'attainments' I'm not sure about because the damage that causes is immense. So do please forgive me if I came across harsh. :anjali: I understand you must be excited about your experience at this retreat.

My friends who have had a lot of goenka experience (several retreats) talked of bhanga as the disappearance of sensations- that was what my comment was based on. So I might be mistaken on the matter, and by the sound of the comments it looks like I am! But it might point towards a general confusion on the matter and it being seen as some kind of special attainment in those circles. None of my business really. Alternatively I feel Goenka is beyond rebuke for bringing the dhamma to thousands of people who would not have heard the dhamma, much less seen the inside of a retreat centre.

But I do believe that anyone who can get into a jhana should head strait to a Mahasi retreat and stay there until they reach stream entry :tongue: (6 weeks should do finely!) I would recommend my own teacher but their standards have slipped after he passed away! So I am merciless when it comes to tweaking method until the last drop of advantage can be gained. :)

Well done re: your transformation! :twothumbsup: You have achieved it through your own hard work. It is also important to protect what you have gained as much as developing newer better qualities of the mind. :clap:

with metta


Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 1:17 pm
by fijiNut

Thank your advice, the transformation was 10% perspiration and 90% inspiration, the Buddha Dhamma is wonderful isn't it? :)

I had already had it in mind to attend a retreat in the other Vipassana tradition but at the moment, because of personal circumstance, won't be able to find the time to take an extended retreat for at least another year.

In the meantime, I am just observing the touch of breath and feelings whilst going about daily life, combined with sila.
it is a good technique, there is a deepening quality of mind in being mindful of the present moment.
In daily life sometimes the discursive mind 'stops', sometimes there is random burst of piti. By staying with the level of breath and vedana, the mind is very quick to pick up unskilful thoughts, let alone allow it to manifest to unskilful speech/actions.
Re more consistent practice, this is where I have to be forthcoming with my lack of effort in practice - there is this hidden fear that exists in the mind that more intensive practice was dangerous for my lay-life! The rationalizations went like this... "you have already got equanimity and peace from continual mindfulness, no need to sit" or " be careful, you might just 'lose it' and run away to the forest"
How crafty are the defilements of the mind? :cookoo: So I'm very to lucky to discuss this topic now as it was actually halting the formal practice of 'sitting'.

Re: bhanga and special status in different circles, Goenka in his discourses mention that it is a signpost that the mind is calm and sharp enough observe nama-rupa at a very subtle level, nothing worth clinging to. Usually, these people ignore instructions by the teacher and start developing craving for the 'special experience', when the aim of the technique is to reduce craving.
So the dangers of ti-lakhanna are all pervasive in any tradition :)

I am not too qualified to comment, but in my limited experience, clinging to views meditation experience and meditation technique as 'something special' hinders progress, and hugging signposts is not very skilful behaviour especially when the path is long and arduous! And I suffered from this attachment to views quite badly, one day, reading an online comment I got very self righteous thinking "how on earth can they criticise this tradition, its done wonderful things for thousands of people", observing the tight feeling in the chest and shortness of breath, the thought arose in the mind "this is painful suffering isn't it, these views you have", I answered "you bet", the voice came back "why not let go?"
Its hard to find comparisons but it was like a mountain off my back when I felt my mind unwrap itself from this view that was plaguing me since the retreat.

Anyways, back to topic, so in the spirit of the original post, my experience of this 'technique' reduces greed, hatred and delusion when practiced in the context of sila, samadhi and panna under the guidance of a good teacher.
Used in isolation, without sincere consulation of a teacher as means to get 'special experiences', for 'nice sensations', is very dangerous.

As an side: because I have had the immense privilige of talking with a senior teacher in this tradition, in normal life, not in a retreat condition, where he confided that this tradition does have stream enterers, but they are not publicised by Goenka. How interesting....

Re: Goenka technique

Posted: Thu Jun 24, 2010 4:28 pm
by rowyourboat
Equanimity can be a result of samatha, or equanimity can be a result of seeing anicca. dukkha and anatta.

The former is helpful on the short term, the latter helpful from a perspective of the buddhist path. Mindfulness without awareness of one of the three characteristics is likely to lead to samatha.

Unless a person reaches the non-returner stage any prolonged equanimity is likely to be due to samatha, if there is no continuous perception of the three characteristics (not just impermanent objects).

Vipassana (the generic type) is not mindfulness
It is not awareness of an impermanent object.
It is awareness of the quality of impermanence (in whatever object that arises).

What vipassana should do is to change the way we view the world (ie- an effect of changed panna), thereby reducing our attachments. If it is a method that we practice which generates equanimity automatically then it is likely to be a samatha effect and not based on panna.

I would also say that it seeing impermanence say, in a chair, is not going to allow us to let go of the entire world. Letting go of the entire world (Samsara) is possible if we incorporate the entire field of perception in our vipassana. Letting go of the entire world (temporarily) is essential for a the first glimpse of nibbana in the magga-citta phala citta moment. While I have come across a person who did reach stream entry using the Goenka method they are very rare, even among gifted students because of what I believe to be a limitation in the method of focusing just on the body and not the entire field of perception. Those 'gifted students' (quick faculties, intelligent, diligent) have done brilliantly within months of changing the method, after staying pretty much in the same place for years. Now I understand that you have been following the Goenka method and it is rather mischievous for me to say what I just did. But I would like you to consider this and allow it as one possibility. I hope you will give the other vipassana method a chance if only out of curiosity and see where it takes you. I do believe it is worthwhile exploring other methods as well. Even during Buddha's time each of his disciples were particularly good at one thing -his or her speciality. This is still the same. So to broaden out our palette and develop those faculties which haven't developed yet I think it is well worthwhile exploring other teachers when there is a sense of stagnation in the current method.

with metta