"smile and relax" are general statements, probably every person on earth is using this instructions in some way or another, that doesnt mean they are doing the same thing that this or another buddhist meditator.
So my guess is that Joseph Goldstein and Munindra-ji are doing different meditations that B.Vimalaramsi if we go to the details. Anyways i would love to know they are doing simmilar things.
What Joseph G. talked about was recognizing the tension that one might be carrying, or that might arise as a result of a particular mind state or object of awareness. Sometimes it is easy to get into a state of grimness or tension while sitting in meditation. He talked about making a deliberate effort to physically and mentally relax, to let the face and body go soft, which makes it easier to let the mind relax and to let go, and part of all this is to put a small smile on one’s face, which has a rather interesting effect of lightening up one’s affect.
Whereas Joseph G. talked about this as an as needed practice, Vimalaramsi incorporated, as an integral aspect, something like this into the method he devised, which is really naught more than a variation of the Burmese methods. As I have said, if Vimalaramsi’s method speaks to you, then use it. I am not criticizing the actual meditation method he has devised and is teaching.
I just listen to a Joseph Goldstein dhamma talk on "mindfulness of breathing instructions" and found it very good:).
Even while i train under B.Vimalaramsi instructions, im not an advanced student, so mainly i just want to see the differences between teachers techniques, nothing else
I repeat, im not interested in saying wich teacher is better or worst.
The little differences i notice:
-Joseph G. uses the suttas, B.Vimaralmsi also does. But Joseph G. takes an open approach on the controvertial parts of the sutta, while B.Vimaralmsi sticks with one choice.
While reading (MN-118). 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body." Goldstein explains to the students they can experiment with taking this instruction as "being sensitive to the physicall body, or the breath body" and the student can choose the one who fits him the most. Vimalaramsi explains that this means "the breath body, not the physicall body" (even while he does a meditation where u have complete awareness of the physicall body). Same with the step of 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' Goldstein says the student can choose to calm the physicall body, or to calm the breath. While Vimalaramsi says this always means to calm the body and mind tightness,specially in the head. Goldstein also recommends to calm body and mind, but he states that the student might feel more inclined sometimes to calm the breath.
So the differences in that matter are subtle, yet they seems to be there and hipotetically they could lead to different results sometimes.
-Distractions/hindrances. Joseph G. seems to take a "noting and coming back to the object" approach (?). While Vimalaramsi is against noting, and he uses the "6rs": recognice a distraction (just knowing u are not in the object anymore without the need to do a "noting" of what pulled you), release attention to thoughts and the distraction, relax tightness in body and mind, resmile, return to the object, repeat process. Here he states that without doing this relax before coming back, you bring back craving to the object. The smile is used as a secondary object theme (as stated in MN-20 The Relaxation of Thoughts).
(?)About this matter im not really sure if thats Joseph G. posture, because i only listen to that dhamma talk and how the deal with distractions was mention breafly. I think he also said that the student should go with the predominant experience of the moment, so if pain is coming, the student should note this and be with it for a while. While Vimalaramsi is against that, he always saids to never stick with a distraction.
-Concentration/ collectedness. B. Vimalaramsi is against "focusing" or any form of one pointed concentration. He doesnt use nimmita, or access concentration, neighborhood concentration, etc.
Its also never refered in terms of "the mind settling in the object" as the cause of concentration. For Vimalaramsi, concentration/collectedness is refered always in terms of the letting go of a distraction. When a person lets go of an attachment, the mind stops being pulled away so naturally becomes very still in what its doing without the need of any focusing. So thats the singleness of mind he talks about (as a factor of jhana).
This is one of the main differences i found between Vimalaramsi and the few other teachers i know. Sadly i couldn´t find a Joseph Goldstein talk where he refers to this matters, but maybe here is a difference.
-Insight. For Vimalaramsi, what the student must practice always is "to see how mind goes from being in the object, to being pulled away and being in a distraction". Thats his main meditation instruction. So the student by repeating over and over again the process of being in the object and getting pulled away begins to learn that first there was a feeling,later the craving,later the clinging, and so on, until finally he sees the process in a clear way and he is able to let go of craving. So what Vimalaramsi teaches as insight is to see dependent origination (or usually part of it, starting by the feeling or contact link, but i guess this depends on the level of the student and in wich jhana he is on). He states that this happends from the first jhana to the cessation of perception and feeling. So the student sees D.O in all of the jhanas.
I also dont know whats Joseph Goldstein posture regarding insight. But i guess is mainly to see the 3 marks of existence in different ways right?. This could be another difference...
-Jhana. Vimalaramsi defines jhanas as levels of understanding. And he teaches from the first jhana to cessation of perception. Iv heard that Vipassana teachers usually don´t practice jhana?. Im not sure about this, correct me him him wrong. Or they use concentration and jhana until the concentration is strong and then switch to insight?. If thats the case there might be another difference, because Vimalaramsi states that he teaches Samatha/Vipassana meditation joked, where samatha and vipassana happend in the same time.
Well thats all i can think about it for the moment,
Also, i might be talking way over my head so any correction on statement will be appreaciated.
PD: Tiltbillings, why do you call it variations of the Burmese method?, What is the Burmese method?. From what i heard, Goldstein and Vimalaramsi they both used nothing more than the suttas as their base for instructions, would that be the Suttas method? haha.
. I repeat, im way over my head, i dont know much about buddhism traditions. And sorry if i made grammar mistakes because this is not my native language.