Hi all, long time reader of this forum.
I have also had quite a bit of Goenka's sweeping method of Vipassana experience. Been a long term server, pali student at Dhamma Giri, swept Goenkaji's bedroom floor, dusted his Nike's, sat lots of courses. I once got really interested in the stages of insight when I found out about them. I did some research within the Goenka/U ba khin tradition to see if they were explained in more detail.
I found this reference on this forum by some former Goenka meditator with a chip on his shoulder. He posted it there from a book printed and published in Myanmar if Im correct. Here is the link. http://vipassana.awardspace.info/forum/ ... topic=25.0
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It is at the bottom of the page after this guy posted the discourses of the 30 day from memory. Jeesh! The quote below is part of a discourse by a teacher in the U Ba Khin tradition (Not Goenka but Mother Sayama I think). it seems to reference U Ba Khin describing the nanas.
[Knowing Anicca And The Way To Nibbana, Page 241, Day 8, Morning Discourse - continued]
"The other view is that there is something permanent. Even though we die, according to this wrong view, something permanent goes on. Here again we can observe that what has gone has gone. There is no such thing as a permanent element. The old physical properties have nothing to do with the new properties. They are different things. Now, what is it that causes the new physical properties to arise? They arise because of kamma. Observing this, we can conclude that there is nothing permanent transferred after death. We can make some progress in knowing this to be true. What is actually left after death is this force of kamma that gives rise to rebirth. It is not we who are reborn. But how are we connected with that other one? We are connected by the means of kamma. As soon as the mind moment ceases at the time of death, the law governing conditioned states is such that there is no gap in between death and rebirth. The next consciousness after death is the new consciousness, the rebirth consciousness. This is the way in which you might say it is not we who are reborn, but rather, it's just a reflection of our past deeds that gives rise to a new existence.
A long time ago, during Sayagyi's time, someone asked, "If that other person isn't my self, then why should I worry about that person?" All we need to do to find the answer is to look back in the past, and we will find that it's because of the deeds of that so-called "other person" in previous lives that we are here now, and because of those deeds we are suffering. In this way we can come out of our wrong views to some extent.
Most of us are struggling at this stage of observing the becoming and dissolution aspect of our existence, the udaya-bbaya stage. This stage is a sort of base on which further progress can be founded. First, there is the preliminary understanding - that is to say, theoretical knowledge. And then, the higher understanding within the same field. It is during this process of understanding rise and fall that the ten hindrances may come. These hindrances are called upakkilesas, and they are a very mild form of defilement. They aren't gross or intense types of defilements. Lights may come, for example, or joy comes, or pleasurable feelings. Sometimes knowledge comes. Your intelligence seems to be very sharp. As a result, effort increases. You just want to go on sitting and sitting. Sometimes equanimity comes also. It seems there are no more attachments. Sometimes, there are people who get so equanimous they think they have reached the goal.
This is when you need a teacher who understands and who can tell you that this is just a hindrance to further progress, that you should disregard these things and go on observing anicca and contemplating all these hindrances also, to see whether they are permanent or not. It is very simple - when you come to that stage, you just try to think of anicca. If you can think of anicca, then it isn't the final stage yet! When you eventually come to the final stage, then the object of contemplation will no longer be on the conditioned; it will be on the unconditioned state, where you can never think of anicca or dukkha. That type of consciousness won't arise. So you can make the test very easily.
When this udayabbaya stage grows, you come to a higher understanding of arising and vanishing than usual. You come to the understanding of the underlying physical properties of sensations-hardness and softness, for example. The physical properties of hardness and softness aren't known to the particles that are combining momentarily and manifesting these properties. It is consciousness that knows them as sensations. Touch-consciousness arises as resultant kamma. It is a consciousness without any roots. When you concentrate on a certain spot, your mind door goes there by means of concentration. Because of that concentration, touch-consciousness arises as the resultant. You must contemplate that, observe the behavior of that sensation. When your udayabbaya knowledge has developed to a high degree, then you find these sensations smoothly and evenly. There seem to be no obstructions, and you lose the concept of the conventional aspect of the sensations. You see only in terms of absolutes: not in terms of hands and feet, but in terms of hardness or movement.
At first, the sensations are very slow, but at this stage they become very quick, because you are seeing them in a more concentrated way. This becoming-and-dissolution process quickens. You can go through the body quite easily. As you go on with this, you see more clearly the dissolution aspect. But even if you don't see that aspect, you shouldn't worry. Go on seeing the becoming aspect, for the dissolution aspect is inherent in the becoming aspect. Death is inherent in birth. Eventually, the time will come when your concentration will be good and you still see more of the dissolution process; wherever you probe, sensations seem to disappear.
At times this is the way you observe your sensations: you look at a sensation, you think in terms of anicca, it has gone. You look again, it has gone. In that way, you observe and know your sensations repeatedly. These tingling sensations, for example, you may think of as very tiny little particles fluctuating. There may come a time when you actually experience them as they disappear; they are breaking off, breaking away, just like sand falling down from a cliff. Everything seems to be dissolving. If you see in this way, then you know that you have come to the stage of bhanga-nana.
The stage of knowledge of dissolution (bhanga-nana) is simply the emphasis on the fact that nothing is permanent. It proves how wrong this view is that there is something permanent. When this state is seen clearly, and when you see that all things are dissolving, then it doesn't take you long to see that these things are a sort of danger and that these aggregates aren't nice-there is danger inherent in them because you cannot depend on them.
At this stage also, fear sometimes arises. Not the fear of death, but the fear that the aggregates aren't dependable. This knowledge removes the idea of non-danger, that there can be any safety in the aggregates. We don't think that there is any danger because we feel that our body is quite strong. We are very attached to our body. We don't realize that at every moment dying takes place. Normally we don't see that, but at this stage we see that everything is constantly falling apart.
Once we realize the danger inherent in these phenomena, these five aggregates, then the attachment to them-thinking of them as something desirable - goes away. There is a change of attitude. Now, the attitude is that these phenomena aren't desirable. At this stage we have developed the attitude that these phenomena which we call ourselves are in reality undesirable. They cannot be depended on. They are always subject to change. And that is why they aren't desirable.
Slowly, you're cutting off the attachment to self and trying to see the suffering (dukkha) inherent in the aggregates - the subtle dukkha, not the painful aspects of dukkha (dukkha-dukkhata, known in Myanmar as "double dukkha"). Everyone knows that painful feelings are undesirable. But the dukkha we are trying to understand is called viparinama-dukkhata, which means dukkha because of constant change.
Then you continue to contemplate these things from the point of view of change (anicca), suffering (dukkha), or no- self (anatta). You use whichever of these three is the most perceptible to you. Usually, it's anicca that is most perceptible to us. At this stage, it's like someone who can't swim whose boat capsizes near the shore and who sees a dead body floating there in the ocean. He will hold on to that dead body even though it's undesirable. He knows it's a dead body, but he can't let go or he'll sink and drown.
This is that stage. You know it's undesirable, but you can't let go either. You can't stop. If you stop, you sink. So you must go on contemplating the changing nature of the aggregates, again and again. Try your best to reach the shore. Once you're there, you will be able to disregard that body and let go of it. Even though you see the undesirable aspect, you must keep on contemplating with the aid of anicca.
Then comes a state of boredom, being sort of fed up. Usually, there isn't much physical dukkha at this stage, so boredom sets in. The students must make more effort, develop more concentration at this stage. In that way, it will be possible to overcome this boredom. The desire to escape from the undesirable will come. You want to escape from all this. When that urge arises, you have to continue contemplating the five aggregates-actually, one aggregate will do. Any one of the five. You can concentrate on the physical aspect, or you can concentrate on the aspect of sensations or on perceptions. For the most part, we concentrate on the sensations. So keep knowing anicca.
Then comes the stage where you make an additional effort. The desire to escape has arisen. Not to escape from the pain, but from these phenomena you are experiencing. So you put in further effort. Then the anicca aspect becomes clearer.
Next comes the ability to view all conditioned states (sankharas) with an equanimous attitude, with neither attachment nor with displeasure. At this stage (sankharupekkha-nana) you don't have to make any special effort in order to experience these sankharas. It is almost automatic, and you can view them, observe and contemplate them, for quite a long time without any change in your mental attitude. This stage is free from all obstacles to attaining the stage of entering the Path (magga). Once you have come to this stage of Equanimity-Knowledge Regarding Conditioned States, if you haven't aspired in the past for some special attainment, there is no barrier to going on to the higher states, because the stage of Adaptation-Knowledge (anuloma-nana) will follow. This is the stage supporting the attainment of the Path stage.
Sayagyi U Ba Khin used to give the example of a person hanging on a rope attached to the branch of a tree . He is swinging and trying to get across a stream. So he is swinging and trying to gain enough momentum to be able to let go of the rope and reach the other side. When he has gained enough momentum and he feels sure that he can reach the other side, then he lets go of the rope. This is when one comes to the gotrabhu stage, where the object of contemplation changes. Up to this point, the object of contemplation is conditioned states (sankharas). At the gotrabhu stage, the object of contemplation is directed towards the unconditioned state, the stage of the Path (magga).
This, then, is how we can understand theoretically the way in which Vipassana enables us to realize this Truth of Suffering."
Goenka mentions the 4th nana in the 10 day course: Udayabbaya, (Arising and Passing) where perhaps a free-flow of subtle vibrations throughout the body are felt, perhaps a bit of bliss, lights, fireworks. Lot's of zeal is gained after this experience. The majority of longtime servers I would speculate are longterm servers because of the 4th nana. It makes one into quite the "searcher". Lot's of yogis I've talked to have gotten this far in the Goenka traditon. And then directly after going on about this, he mentions Bhanga nana, the 5th nana (dissolution) where the body is seen as just a mass of vibrations and only the end of vibrations are seen. Then after this, Goenka mentions the arising of the "sleeping defilements" which are the big "bhavo sankharas" which come to the surface to cause havoc in one's life. I can only assume he is talking about the dukkha nanas (6th, 7th, 8th 9th and 10th nanas) which follow the 5th nana like the cart follows the horse. That is as far as he gets in a 10 day. There is also a book called the "Sayagyi U Ba Khin Journal" , (you can find a copy here : http://www.dhammabooks.com/contents/en-uk/d9.html
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In it, there is reference to the nanas, from 1st up until the 11th nana (sankharaupekkha). I can't remember the page it is on, but it is there. Just not in great detail like in anything by Mahasi Sayadaw. The sweeping method as taught by Goenka , if taken seriously and if anicca is paid attention to in ALL sensations, at all times, and ALL sensations are seen as "not-self", no "I", no "me", no "mine" as Goenka repeats often, then any meditator can get up to the 11th nana with some effort, using soley the sweeping method. It was my experience and the experience of several other Goenka yogis I know. I speculate that lots of yogis do get that far. The danger of not progressing further is perhaps getting sidetracked, bored, wandering off into lalaland, not paying attention to annica at all times, reacting to sensations thus identifying with them as part of an illusory self etc.. But the sweeping method , if Goenka's instructions are followed to the T at all times, will result in moving up through the nanas. You just need to be very committed to seeing all sensations as is, without letting the mind get distracted by and identified with the mental content that arises. Hope this helps.