Goenka vs. Vipassana?

topic posted Fri, November 12, 2004 - 7:32 PM by  Robyn
Hello everyone,

I'm new to this tribe. And I'm also new to some forms of meditation practice. I hope some of you can answer a question for me.

Is this group for Goenka-style vipassana or all Vipassana as a whole? I attended the 10-day retreat pioneered by Goenka and found it much different from other Vipassana groups I've sat with. What do you see as the discriminations between the two? And what is represented here in this particular tribe? Thanks in advance!
posted by:
SF Bay Area
  • Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

    Fri, November 12, 2004 - 9:17 PM
    I've done a Goenka 10 day - it rocked! I've sat with other vipassana groups but never done a retreat with them (I've done Zen and Tibetan retreats as well).

    I think Goenka is just formulaic - he's got the corner on plug and play meditation retreats. From what I know of other centers - there's more a cult of personality thing happening with the teachers. I don't even remember the instructors name on my Goenka retreat!

    I like Goenka just for that reason - it's plain, cheap and rigorous.
  • Unsu...

    Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

    Tue, November 16, 2004 - 1:10 PM

    I believe the group is for all of Vipassana. I had practiced Vipassana for a year or more before i looked in here and saw Goenka mentioned in the description and said "who's that"?

    I asked the tribe founder and I was assured the tribe was not intended to be exclusive to the Goenka school. I understand that Goenka is in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin who was a teacher in Burma.

    In my formal vipassana practice i sit, practice metta, and do walking meditation. I believe the Goenka practice does not involve walking meditation and includes a body scanning meditation wheras my object of focus is usually the breath.

    I practice with the Seattle Insight Meditation Society led by Rodney Smith in Seattle.

    Rodney practiced as a monk in Asia for years, before that i believe he was taught at IMS in Bare MA by Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzburg, Jack Kornfield, Arinna Weisman..

    ( Goenka's organization is at So there is a spelling difference right there!)

    The IMS group learned Vipassana in Thailand and other places in South Asia, this month's Tricycle magazine lists their teachers as Munindra-ji, Dipa Ma, Ajaan Chah. ( )

    Jack Kornfield and Sylvia Boorstein and others started Insight West in the bay area , now called Spirit Rock.

    Phew! That is a lot simpler than tracing my yoga associations / lineage though.

    I wonder if fear of back pain may forever keep me from trying a 10 day Goenka style retreat, i like the walking meditation to break up the sits.
    • Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

      Mon, February 28, 2005 - 7:37 AM
      If Anapana is all that is practiced I don't understand how it could be called Vipassana.

      Will please do attend a course it is a very profound experience to say the least.

      Peace and love.

      May all beings be happy
  • Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

    Tue, November 16, 2004 - 6:41 PM
    i practice goenka-style meditation. the focus is on the breath and moving the breath through the body part by part.

    in the goenka retreats i've done, i remember learning that the breath is the first and the last of this life, and so best not to use images or mantras.

    side note to will-- at both the goenka style 10-day sits i've attended (jaipur, india, and north fork, CA), we were free to be as comfortable as we required. some people were sitting in chairs and others with their backs against the wall. also, we had time in between the sitting sessions to take walks and do errands (ablutions, washing clothes).

    best wishes everyone,
    • Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

      Sun, November 21, 2004 - 10:56 PM
      Thanks for your responses everyone. Your insights helped me to understand this list as well as some differences in approach to Vipasana.
  • Unsu...

    Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

    Tue, August 28, 2007 - 6:58 PM
    Goenkas meditation is very good. I still practise now but I have no involement with retreats anymore. I found the goenka school to be a goenka personality cult and to be too authoritive and contradictory. I will never forget the 'dreamy' appearance of the AT's(assistant teachers) on courses and the way everyone was treated like a member of a heard of cattle. Sound familiar? There is no evidence that vipassana scanning ever existed in the days of Buddha (or that there was ever an enlightened person for that matter) but goenkas scanning does relax effectively and the metta (not goenkas or U ba khins exclusive vibe) is very calming. Metta is fantastic. The drawback with goenkas vipassana though is that you are required to meditate for over 2 hours a day. I also can't help thinking that in a way, this vipassana scanning is an addiction in itself regardless of the meditators objective approach while doing it. I have concluded that the benefits of vipassana are all brain chemical related and nothing more. No higher spiritual plane where angels pat you on the back with their feathers. Just chemical balances. In this regard, what I do ponder is, does vipassana scanning actually help in the long run? I would like to know of at least one person who has achieved enlightenment from this practise. Just one single person. I suspect that there is far better things than vipassana meditation as far as the long run is concerned and Im constantly looking. I hope this helps some people.
    • Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

      Wed, October 31, 2007 - 11:39 PM
      i would have to respond with
      the statement that the only enlightened people i know
      followed the vipassana path

      goenkas methods teach discipline
      and are a powerful 10 days full of transformation
      as opposed to a vacation
      where meditation takes second place to relaxation

      as far as it being an addiction
      i find it difficult to accept such wanderings
      as it takes discipline to keep the practice going
      and the practice itself teaches neutrality through craving and aversion

      i myself found it to be the most productive meditation
      in conjunction with
      real world lifestyles.

      yeey goenka for spreading peace.

      id like to understand your authoritative and contradictory statement: so please expand.

      and the main objective of the scanning isnt relaxation (perhaps you missed the point of the practice?)
      its supposed to fine tune you observation skills
      and inner sensitivity
      with the long term goal of objective observation of all craving and aversion

      • Unsu...

        Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

        Sun, November 11, 2007 - 6:48 AM
        how does anyone know if someone is enlightened? have as anyone ever considered this question and not walked away? has anyone met a buddha and how would they know if they have met a buddha if they are ignorant? where are the enlightened goenka students? If you cannot pick an enlightened person from a crowd then how can you claim that there is a path to enlightenment? Its hog wash as the americans would say. Tell a scientologist or a christian to use this logic and they will react with their 'i know the way' reteric and the same applies to vipassana people. We can all observe that the dead body rots in the ground and that does not rely on faith. The mind needs matter to be. Death is a bitch isn't it. Stupid Goenka people you are just another religion and you are just as bitchy. OK you are right...prove it. Not by words but evidence. You cant so shut up.
        • Re: Organized Religion vs. Vipassana?

          Sun, November 11, 2007 - 11:43 AM
          Hi Peter,

          2 posts ago you said: "Goenkas meditation is very good. I still practise now.."
          and just now: "... how can you claim that there is a path to enlightenment? Its hog wash as the americans would say."

          I believe there must be a good reason for you to practice something which at the same time you call hogwash. But then I am not sure. Obviously you don't agree that the 8-fold path is a pragmatical path. After nearly 14 years of walking this path it has shown to you to be merely something made up by blind faith?

          And now you seem to become really angry about yourself following a path for so long which leads to nowhere - and despite this insight - can't even stop following this path leading merely to your own grave? - Nothing left for you than to put all your effort to call all others to a halt - because you don't want anyone else experience such a shattering disappointment ever again. - Thanks for your good intentions! - But on the other hand, what a predicament!

          Contrarily to you I started this practice of vipassana - together with the 8 limbs of the 8-fold path - in a conscious attempt to get ready for my grave. I can only guess about your misapprehensions of 'enlightenment' by you previous posts. You will have to take or leave it - I am excited about being almost there - but I'm only taking about my grave. I would never talk this way about enlightenment - because for the whole world this means to become someone (as also for you, which seems apparent when you allude to the means for its existence to be proven). While for the Buddha it only meant the ending of becoming - what by all means, you and I would call the grave.

          So no further reason really to continue what could be taken really insulting to all others who are preparing them self for the final bye, bye too. But certainly much reason for not getting tired in patiently pointing out such wrong views about the goals of this pragmatic path. Because these very wrong views about buddhist practice are really at fault - for you to have become so disappointed and continue to remain in the mood to argue for its own sake.

          Be well, ..

          PS. This thread is about the dichotomy between Organized Religion and Vipassana. Just as a further example: It so happens that my employer is a catholic organization, which entails all the bad things which can be said about Goenka's organization too: it will always be that way that power greedy people are in power of such organizations. And this is something about which one can feel lucky about - that we are not. ;-)
          • Re: Organized Religion vs. Vipassana?

            Wed, November 21, 2007 - 11:58 AM
            in response to all posts (including my former)
            who are we (who am i)
            to judge someone elses progress..
            • Unsu...

              Re: Organized Religion vs. Vipassana?

              Fri, November 23, 2007 - 9:39 AM
              When did Goenka become the authority on Vipassana?
              • Re: Organized Religion vs. Vipassana?

                Sat, November 24, 2007 - 11:57 PM
                Goenka was my personal introduction to Vipassana.

                I wasn't even aware there was another type until I started going to a local sitting and mentioned Goenka's name and a bit of odd stares came from people...

                Is Goenka's method at Vipassana considered Organized Religion here in the states?

                I am well confused about this other vipassana, how does it differ as far as "technique?"

                forgive me my ignorance, I am just baffled at all this..

                Is it not the same?
          • Unsu...

            Re: Organized Religion vs. Vipassana?

            Thu, May 29, 2008 - 9:05 AM
            I don't follow Goenka anymore. I thought that I needed his cult because like you I felt that way at the time. Say what you will but I don't believe in him anymore. I have found benefit in observing sensations but I leave it at that. I only follow the technique and mind you, it is not as great as the Vipassana heroes claim it to be. IT IS JUST ONE TECHNIQUE. So much for me following goenka and critisizing him. When was the last time you found a goenka center that really cared about you if you weren't invovled? They don't care about anyone who isn't involved and who doesn't trumpet their belief system to others. If someone works hard and dies at the centre then no one cares. Care to test me out...feel free because I know it first hand. Go ahead and die at a Vipassana center and see who cares about you. You are nothing to them. At least in the outside world , no one is trying to give us another impression. And further more, if you live in a country which aims atomic weapons at other nations, do not go on about how much you love your fellow human because if you did, you would do something about the atomic bombs, cluster bombs and land mines :P. This includes USA, UK, France and most other countries probably including down under. If a man says no to killing and sits on a rug with his metta wishing others well but does not condemn the killing ordered by his leaders then that makes him or her a hypercrite. As for Goenka master of the universe pftt!. Vipassana doesn't prove life after death and you are all religious fanatics if you think it does. We all rot in the ground. Get over it. Turn against AK47s, nukes, cluster bombs and mines and show you really care instead of preaching from your luxurious western houses. :) I will take you seriously then.
          • Re: Organized Religion vs. Vipassana?

            Sat, February 11, 2012 - 8:29 AM
            ofcourse is an organized religion. They have their thousands years of wishdom, they have their priest and followers, they promise a better way of living walking their path, they have their centers and collect the hell of a lot of money (it`s a world wide organitation), their economical doing is not public, they have their rituals, their jerarquy, their dogmas..., they believe in life after death. All that they have in comon with very well known religions.
            Why are you talking about the grave and the ending of becoming?. Goenka says it very clearly: "for every person who dyes crying a new baby is born crying, and for every person who dyes smiling a new baby is born smiling", that is reancarnation. But think about it: Goenka is supporting the cast system, he is conditioning the child from birth. He talks about the wroten root that has not been purifyed enough, the line on the rock that takes ages to wear out.
            Goenka is cheating when in his webpage he claims there is nothing religious, dogmatic, ritual... in his courses. Is it objective and equanimous to listen only to his talking for ten days?. Please let`s be serious: Goenka talks religion, and he believe in life after death.
        • Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

          Sat, February 19, 2011 - 10:10 PM
          What are the characteristics of enlightenment? What would you see? No one knows if anyone else is enlightened, it is not a thing or a place.............. it's a realisation. Can you see even your own realisations?

          When one works on oneself, clearing away ignorance, one becomes lighter (enlightened!) happier, causing less anger, pain and fear in the world.
    • Unsu...

      Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

      Mon, December 3, 2007 - 3:19 PM

      i agree that there certainly is some personality involved in the goenka school (and thus the illusion of ego). i also agree that there is a feeling of personality and an appearance trend in the community (such as pasty white people wearing traditional Indian garb) that can be isolated and attacked if one felt so necessary...

      or, as the teacher suggests, take out what you don't need. the whole premise of Vipassana and buddhism is to experience life and truth yourself, as it happens, with no filters, from moment to moment. i other than goenka being there in face and voice for all group sittings, he's continually saying, "no i, no me, no mine". if the instructions were given by a computerized voice or by 10 different people throughout the retreat, then one could attack the apparent lack of cohesion, rather than the apparent presence of personality. either way, the message and the practice are pure - experience it yourself, work to eliminate craving and aversion...

      relaxation and concentration are wonderful side effects, but not the goal or purpose of this method of meditation. liberation and enlightenment are (2 separate things). there are plenty of liberated people in the world, and i too, would like to meet one, to help give me more faith in the potential of this retreat. a fully enlightened person is quite rare, and i have serious doubt that one exists in the world today. all the more reason to work to become one. this world needs enlightened guidance now more than ever, as we are reaching a critical population mass, and out of ignorance we keep contributing and multiplying our collective misery. vipassana aims to slow and reverse this process, beginning at the individual, experiential level.

      if you do not experience worthwhile benefits from the practice of vipassana, then there are a couple of options to examine: either the technique is not sound, or you are not practicing it properly. if you continue to have doubt, but wish to work to liberate yourself from the daily miseries of craving and aversion, it would benefit you to consult one who is more successfully established on the path and in the technique to determine what factor needs to be addressed. i fully and intellectually agree with the vipassana technique as presented by goenka, and note that i am also averted to the pain and time that it requires. this very aversion to curing myself from aversion is part of the cycle of misery that the buddha found a way out of. sure, there is no "evidence" of a buddha or of this particular technique at the time of buddha, but my actual experience with it agrees that it is created by a mind much more enlightened than my own, and that it certainly can lead me from basic human misery. it's just that it's a hard, long path, which makes it easy to become discouraged and give up, or worse, attack the technique and those who practice or teach it.

      may you find your answers and your happiness
      • Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

        Mon, December 3, 2007 - 7:06 PM
        that's good Light blis~!

        • Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

          Sun, February 10, 2008 - 1:47 PM
          Adding my two cents, I participated in a 10 day retreat near Surat Thani Thailand at a Buddhist Monastery named Suan Mok about 20 years ago. We learned Annapana(sp?), focusing our mind on the long, deep, slow breath to calm and sooth every moment. We utilized walking, sitting and standing meditation throughout each day. Two discourses per day. Two meals per day, last one ending by 12 noon. Tea at around 5PM. Rising each morning around 4AM. Silence. No physical or other contact. A very similar routine to the Vipassana retreat with Goenka I completed this past December in Northern California.

          At the time, I found the breathing meditation useful for relaxing, but never fully implemented it into my life. I found it burdensome to practice regularly. I would have to force myslef to sit down and meditate. I would be easily distracted by sounds, scents and the like. It was not something I could do easily while sitting on a bus or waiting to see my dentist. It did not suit me well. Perhaps I was too young and wisdom deficient.

          On the otherhand, since completing the retreat this past January 1st, I have been unstoppable! I have incorporated this technique, scanning and surveying my sensations, in every aspect of my life--walking, waiting, sitting, resting, standing, brushing teeth, in the shower, on the bus, writing this message, etc. I cannot wait to do it again. I actually look forward to it, finding it a refuge from the madness "out there." It has enabled me to lose my ability to become angry. Yes, I can raise my voice and sound angry, but inside, I feel peaceful. My wife, who also did the retreat, has experienced the same feeling, though she does not practice as regularly as I.

          I love this technique and all involved in making it accessible to everyone. I highly recommend it to all.

          May all beings be peaceful and joyful...
  • Unsu...

    Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

    Thu, May 29, 2008 - 9:35 AM
    I am impressed by the Vipassana people because of the true path which they endorse with so much passion. Mind you, it's a rocky path and all that but it is a path that gets one further ahead now and into the afterlife. You do not exist beyond this life but your characteristics do(sankaras) so you are caring for another person in a future life when you practise Vipassana. That is great faith to have even beyond the christian faith. You believe in the flow of life because the practise benefits you or seems to to the point that you preach that it is better than gold or diamonds and yet there are many non vipassana people around you who are just as happy as you are and yet little knowing to you , you are dreaming of the benefit of a future you which cannot exist because you don't exist because you are particles rising and falling rapidly. Denial of soul. Goenka says the rich are miserable too in a general way as he is so good at doing but he doesn't account for the rich who are not miserable and who don't harm others. We are told that our existance harms other beings whether we are poor or rich to a lesser or greater extent. Why do you sit on a rug and listen to the tapes? It's because you (like I) feel lost and need something to lean on and something to follow and something to believe in and to belong to. The metta makes us feel good. If it made us feel bad then we couldn't care less about others. Let us see the thousands of Vipassana people go out into the world and really make a stand for good. As for Buddha, who cares. John Lennon said that the beatles were more popular than jesus and he wondered which would last longer...christianity or rock. I will say, which will last longer, Buddha or Hip Hop? When you die, you rot in the ground like me. Why can't you just accept it and stop trying to preach religious humbug to the masses?
    • Unsu...

      Re: Goenka vs. Vipassana?

      Thu, May 29, 2008 - 10:05 AM
      Peter, I can tell from your posting that you are a very bitter, cynical and twisted old man who is "not of the family" and your comments are not welcome in the world of goodness + spirituality. You do not believe in Buddha and the path and life atter death and Goenka after all he has preached to you(including the ATs). I pity you and your sankara's(which happen to be arising and passing away with great rapidity says the voice ). Peter has a bad joke to tell about Buddha and jesus and Mohammed. Buddha was sitting on his cushion half naked and in denial of the women walking past him. After all the Buddha did this casually as he was just so pure. "lust leads to hell so my penis is limp" he thinks to himself. Jesus preaches to the crowd when he sees a fine set of knockers bouncing and gets a hard on. "do not pitch a tent as I have pitched a tent" "he who pitches the tent is condemned to hell and infernal fire!". Everyone in the crowd withers and moans in fear because he says it is so. Mohammed goes ahead and pitches his tents and says. "I can pitch a tent for any woman I please and if you don't like it then I will send you to afghanistan"...sick