A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

topic posted Tue, August 26, 2008 - 12:51 AM by  Harmanjit Singh
posted by:
Harmanjit Singh
  • Hi, Thanks for that article. Was good to read.

    Just a summary on my personal experience of Vipassana. Sorry if it's a bit wordy. Though obviously not easy,or meant to be (and that's fine) the meditation technique seems to me to certainly have value, and would no doubt be of use to many people in their lives. But I for one would very much NOT recommend anyone pursue it via these specific retreats. I'm a bit wordy here (sorry!), but read on.

    I recently got back from such retreat which I left on the morning of the 7th day, 4 days early. Very comfortable with that decision. Sure, as with all things in life, there's always the chance that I've missed something by leaving early. BUT, while I found the meditation technique itself to have value and make sense, I couldn't for the life of me find any good and rational reason for the teaching methods and the artificially created walking-zombie environment. I experienced nothing in the first 6 days that required this stringent environment or the teaching methods. Ok, by the 2nd day I was able to sit for over an hour without moving my pinky and while focusing on nothing but the various sensations, pleasant and unpleasant in my body. And I was successful in not responding to them. This was no mean feat and has its value. I also twice had a very interesting and very new experience (with both pleasant and unpleasant aspects) as if I really was vibrating all over. The professor told me this was a sign that my mind was purifying. I expect it has more to do with sitting so completely still and moving into a near-sleeping state while sitting upright - likely, for example, to have significant impact on blood supply to the brain, and I wouldn't be surprised if that might produce all sorts of varied reactions.

    The stringent environment really made no sense. I got a proverbial rap on the knuckles for singing in the shower at the softest possible volume and while almost all other people were at breakfast - is it really so necessary that I play like dead? Aside from anything else, seems likely that if I learn anything within such an unnatural environment, it's going to prove quite difficult to apply that within more natural everyday living...Sure calm the mind, reduce stimulation, etc, etc, but why not try to learn the technique in an environment at least somewhat more similar to that in which you will attempt to apply it in the months and years to come?

    In fact, I find no way around this other than to conclude that the extreme rigidity of the environment was not at all essential for the meditation technique itself (despite the "Professor's" insistence that it was), but rather that it was essential for Buddhist practice, and further to this, that they were not genuinely conducting a school simply to bestow the meditation technique and its benefits, but instead were conducting a mini-Buddhist training school. And that would be just fine, except for their attempts to present it as otherwise. A further point to this is regarding the recordings of Goenka. They claim that Vipassana is, though involved in Buddhist practice, taught at these schools as a non-religious practice. And the meditation technique itself clearly requires not the slightest knowledge of Buddha or Buddhism. Hence, why was it at all necessary that Buddha feature so heavily in the anecdotes etc given by Goenka?

    As for the teaching methods, for one thing I found the professor to be far too inaccessible. At this course there was one professor for 50 students, with very limited times made available (including a 5 minute limit) to ask questions - and for this the student had to wait in queue with other students while eating into the already limited rest times. As for any real discussion, no such thing. In fact, the slightest attempt i made at discussion was met with "It is better not to think about it. Just experience it." Yes, I'm sure Hitler didn't want his German followers to think too much about it either.

    And how is it sensible that the eligibility to teach this seemingly simple method (and they themselves speak of its simplicity) is endowed (by Goenka in this case) on such few people?? Even the most experienced other meditators at the course were not permitted to respond to even the most basic questions about the meditation. Could there really not have been even 2 or 3 other people enabled to discuss this? The "manager" who apparently was well-experienced was able to answer me if I asked about toilet paper, but as soon as she had whiff that I was about to ask about the meditating, it was "shush, you can only ask the Professor about this". What?? And even with this demi-God status (including the elevated platform from which to "teach" from), the Professor's involvement was almost laughable. Aside from the extremely limited, mostly very basic, responding to student questions in the allocated times, all the professor did was sit on the elevated platform in silence and push play for Goenka's voice to sound out via the recordings.

    I did feel somewhat bad that I had stated I would stay the 10 days and then decided to leave. However, my sense of guilt at doing so was much countered by the extreme pressure applied in trying to make me stay, the claims that this made me weak-minded (really, how dare they claim to know my mind?), the claims that it would be dangerous to leave early ( my internal organs might explode?), and the insistence that when it was clear I was going to leave that I do so as secretly as possible. Presumably this last point is because of concerns my leaving may interfere with the other participant's determination to stay....well, hopefully as adults we stay or leave anywhere for reasons other than peer-group pressure.
    Indeed, it is wrong in itself that they require that one give a pledge of sorts at the beginning to stay for the 10 days, and then use this as a tool to pressure you to stay when you want to leave (it was pointed out to me quite heavily that I had promised to stay so it was wrong to leave). All they can rightfully do is discuss with you (at both the beginning and the end) reasons for staying (and further, they really should give this as a balanced account - along with reasons for leaving). This type of pledging and the subsequent pressure to stay shows up most often in environments involving any or all of extremism, the military, political ideologies, religious ideologies.

    I only signed up for meditation, thanks very much.

    Cheers to all
    • wow

      Sat, September 13, 2008 - 12:18 AM
      i'm impressed.... the mind is a powerful thing indeed.

      thank you both for exemplifying this so well.
      back to it now.

      in metta,

      • Re: wow

        Sat, September 13, 2008 - 6:30 AM
        could you explain further what you mean by powerful. please.

        is it something like : what the thinker thinks, the prover proves?

        I presonnaly tried to accept those 10days as a part of myself to be experienced fully. I did it 2times.
        And while I was there, I came to interesting - positive - conclusions for why this retreat was organised this way and not another.

        But I can't help thinking this environment as sick, zombie like, and very poor intelectually (i.e. the "teachers" I had where living outside of society and didn't seem to know much more than what they had been told through their "formation")

        Now, vipassana is surely not meant to be a tool to think (or to analyse one's thoughts), but rather a way to cut thoughts at their roots by observing the body sensations. I guess that to know where thoughts come from is an other talk.
        - I imply here that thoughts would come after body tensions and feelings or something. I think that it is what we are told in those center but I'm not quite sure (I'm a "bad" student..)

        Then, if anyone thinks that those retreats are not inocently pushing moral values coming from a buddhist view, he better stays off this discution. thanks.
        - I don't think that it is a sect though. But moral values are expressed while we are very sensitve and one should pay attention to it.

        my 2 cents.
    • I understand exactly what you mean from your experiences. At first, I found the meditation to be very helpful for managing anger and hurt. My shock was when I entered the kitchen as a server. I found all kinds of mean people in the kitchens. Even a serious meditationer in the kitchen can be a mean...ass. These 10 day courses are permitted in this country under the freedom of religion standards allowed here. God this is an accepting country. Goenka was or still is a very rich Indian. He (indirectlly) claims to be on the thrown to Bhuddahood. When you go to a vipassana centre and feel peaceful from your tensions it is wonderful. I attended the local centre for 14 years. That is a long time by anyone's standard. What I experienced in the early years (1990s) was that the centre was very clicky. People would be tempremental toward each other in the kitchen and the golden rule in confrontations was to see the grand assistant teacher. The AT would be some kind of a professional or ex bank merchant who would look down upon you with carming eyes. Or so it seemed until I met some PHD from Myamer who has the attitude of an anal toad toward me. Don't complain if people pay out on you in the kitchen and just keep washing the bowls. It is a load of crap. The was an old woman manager in the kitchen who had such temper tamtrums and slammed things on the bench near me. stupid cow. need to ... I won't say the words. As for the old builder with the beard who looks like an Indian..He is another in line for the next Buddha. He played tapes of chants before people cut down trees outside the centre. The reason for cutting down the trees was to make way for a sound barrier. The fanatics can work that one out. He played tapes asking permission for pressumably 'Devas' to have the trees cut down because they live in the trees. He could be right but that is on his level. Vipassana will make good use of people. The first thing is to apply the merit of appreciation. This is appealing to the commoner as emotional black mail or guilt or whatever. Most of us are soft hearted so we fall for it. You received some pretty ok food on a course (apart from being brain washed which is mere detail) then at the end. Goenka( who is probably still well loaded) says, 'oh to progress on the path you must serve' They are not the exact words but you get the idea. I would ask the fanatics at all the vipassana centres if they have ever seen this old man (Goenka) serve in a kitchen or in a garden seeing as he is so humble and on the way to enlightenment?
    • This thread is a bit dated, now, but worth replying to anyway, for anyone else just starting out in vipassana. I'm speaking as someone who had a LOT of trouble, initially, with most of the things mentioned in this post-- the chanting, the seemingly cult-like aspects, the rules as they are interpreted by different people, etc. I continued with it anyway in part because I was desperate to find some way to rebalance myself from post traumatic stress disorder. I won't describe how much trouble my first course was-- just know that it was a miracle that I stuck it out to the end! I felt like the course was making my ptsd symptoms WORSE, not better. However, after leaving the course, I noticed that the symptoms of ptsd, in particular the exaggerated startle reflex, was GONE. Not just less, but G-O-N-E. After several years of trying to find a method for curing myself (along with medical supervision, therapy, etc.) and nothing worked, to realize that a free ten day meditation course had achieved the seeming impossible.... well, that amazed me. So, I kept on with the meditation and attended a couple more courses, short ones, and volunteered for the spring work-week at the center nearest me.

      Over the past two years, since I started, here is what I have found:
      1.) It's not a cult, although it does attract lost souls who, sometimes, tend to be extremely devoted to the center and to Goenka, personally.
      2.) The Buddhist/Hindu worldview that the course is entirely framed within (although people are encouraged to "do your own thinking" and not turn the meditation technique into a religion or sect, etc.) can be understood by recognizing that Goenka is trying to replicate the teaching exactly-- EXACTLY-- as it was taught to him. Here is a method of meditation that was handed down "in its pristine purity" (as he keeps saying) for thousands of years, unadulterated. For Goenka to say that this part or that part isn't really necessary anymore (the chanting, for example) would take enormous hubris. Goenka would never do that; his sense of responsibility to the future and his respect for the past (especially his own teacher) is just too powerful. I heard a recording of Goenka's teacher doing the chanting... all I can say is Goenka has a much better singing voice! Sayagi's singing is much more nasal and higher pitched compared to Goenka's baritone. But it was exactly the same set of chants.
      3.) Volunteering for the work weeks is one of the best ways to get to know people in a less formal setting and de-mystifies everything. I highly recommend doing this for people who feel uncomfortable with the atmosphere at the courses.
      4.) The rules... I still, to this day, have a big problem with some of the rules. But, over time, the reasons for some of the strict ones that apply only during the 10 day courses began to make more sense. Like all codified rules or laws, which are designed to apply to everybody, there are going to be situations where the rules are enforced at the expense of the reason the rule was created in the first place. That's not unique to the Vipassana centers. There's a Catch-22 involved with this because Goenka set things up such that nobody could put their own "spin" or flavor on the teachings-- that's why it's videotape-taught, for example-- but it also means that almost nobody is able to apply real wisdom in a particular context where enforcing the rule winds up achieving the opposite of what the rule was intended to do. I don't know what the answer is, in this regard. Maybe we all just need to set our tolerances such that we let our irritation go?
      5.) I think it helps to remember that Goenka is from a different culture, and the centers were initially arranged to be compatible with that culture. Some of the "foreign-ness" of the courses is entirely due to this. I was talking to a fellow old-student during one of the work periods I volunteered at, about the restrictive segregation of genders and how silly some of that seemed to me. This was a fellow from Nepal, and he said in all seriousness; "I think the men in India are very distracted by women".

      I do agree with some of the criticism that various aspects of the courses make things a bit more challenging than they need to be... but I have also talked to old students who said that the aspects of the course that I found most trying were the aspects they found most comforting or interesting! Go figure!
    • I think it would be useful to define the word cult since it is thrown around so frequently in this discussion. In 1995 I read an article in a french magazine that identified 7 characteristics of a cult as they saw it. I was glad to see that the Vipassana tradition as taught by Goenka (VTATG) did the OPPOSITE of all seven points. Here are 5 of the points that I can remember 16 years later:
      1) Cults charge large amounts for the teaching/practice (VTATG charges nothing)
      2) Cult teachers/leaders receive large remuneration (VTATG teachers get their travel expenses paid, nothing more)
      3) A cult attempts to isolate you from your family (VTATG encourages and stresses the importance of one's family connections; if your spouse has reservations about the tradition you cannot sit longer than 10 day courses which would isolate you from them more. The centers are not communes - only places to come and strengthen your practice; not someplace to stay forever)
      4) There is an aura of worship about the head of the cult (at VTATG centers there is little focus on the teacher and every focus on the practice. Goenka has already appointed many other teachers to carry on the teaching after he is gone. One doesnt even know his birthday, much less much of Goenka's current life, altho his biography is known. There are no rights and rituals directed at his personage - or anything else. Goenka's picture is not present in any of the meditation areas.)
      5) A cult has secret teachings that are only revealed little by little as one gets more involved. (In VTATG tradition one learns practically the entire practice in the first 10 day retreat. There are a few refinements that one learns as one deepens ones practice later on but they are not deal breakers. One could progress to the final goal with just what one learns in a 10 day retreat. )

      In the 10-day discourses Goenka encourages people to try other practices and then settle down and choose the one they want to go deep with. As the Buddha did, Goenka encourages everyone to test the Vipassana practice in their regular daily lives; only if it is rational, practical, effective, harmless to others and beneficial to oneself should one accept it. None of this is the hallmark of a cult.

      Try it for yourselves, but stay for the whole ten days. Dont judge it till you see its effect on your daily life after the full 10 days.
  • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

    Sat, September 13, 2008 - 8:38 AM
    People from the western world are seeking alternative values because the western world is such a ladder which has let us down, then some guy like Goenka comes along and promises them the path to freedom. This is a very worn path. It started with the Beatles in 1968. Anyone can generate extreme vibrations which make them the grand poobah. You and I could do it with confidence. Goenka is a learned person like a carpenter who knows how to do it. He is not the next Bhudda. He is just an old man who knows how to make vibrations and you are all falling for it. He needs you. Chances are that he hates you but how would you know? Think.
    • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

      Sat, September 13, 2008 - 8:56 AM
      If you think I am unreasonable then ask Goenka to send his grief when your mother or father dies. He wouldn't care less. He would just say, this sensation will pass away and wave his hand in the air appropiately. Then his next in line will do the same thing. His farts pass away like ours but grief is more than a mere fart. Grief is hard. Goenka may call Grief a defilement as if it is evil but what on earth would he expect? I would like to know. If he did or did not step on a bug then he could say 'It was not in my volition'. He could eat a vegetable which had bugs on it and it was not in his volition. He could make greenhouse gas from his farts and it is not in his volition. A human being to exist is evil because the existence destroys others. We can live with our evil or die according to Goenka. We are all involved in the food chain and none of us are innocent.
      • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

        Sun, September 14, 2008 - 10:28 PM
        Also this...if this is aversion then what can I say? Name just one world leader, leading scientist, leading charity who follows Mr Goenkas school of Vipassana? Sure, Vipassana is not after your money although they will want your labour....and want it good! Strangers work in a kitchen and this is meant to improve your path to liberation and being selfless. It is a great ideal on paper but not practical in practice. Consider this, whereever in the world you might be and you have sat your course, how often is your centre is desparately in need of servers? Consider this, when you do work at a centre, it is dogmatic because there is a chain of command. The AT is the supreme commander and any of the fanatics who deny this are lying to themselves and wasting their time with me. It is not a rescue group or a charity working to save peoples lives from natural disasters. It is a religous group which claims that there is life after death and to avoid the lower realms of existance, you must follow their path. It is not the red cross. Do a google search and see if you can find any vipassana reference to its memtbers working for the Redcross... above and beyond ordinary sinners. In other words, this religion is a sanctuary for the weak and confused. It does not represent the individual because the individual does in fact not exist. We are all just rising and falling sub atomic particles. This is a sect. It is as plain as that. I may be bitter but this is a sect. Experience the zombyism of Vipassana. May all beings be happy. Look up to S N Goenka for his is the next Bhudda. Go to india and wear dangly things on your feet.
        • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

          Mon, September 15, 2008 - 8:13 AM
          Don't forget to check what your centers director is into because it will be capitalist and he or she most certainly won't be a monk. He or she will be a yuppie looking to pull the big bucks just like everyone else. See if your centers director will attend a course and serve in a kitchen. While you are at it, see if any so called ATs will get their hands dirty in the kitchen or the garden or clean the toilets. Been there brother and done it.
          • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

            Sat, January 30, 2010 - 3:31 PM
            After spending 10 years in Goenka's tradition and sitting many retreats, I do believe it definately has cultish aspects to it. Goenka repeatedly stresses that you must not practise other techniques and does not encourage investigating other traditions.
            After years of practise I got curious and started investigating other retreats and was amazed at how much more open hearted, liberal and unjudgemental they are. I have sat the Mahasi technique, retreats at Buddhist monastries and am about to sit at the IMC - U Ba Khin's centre. The application forms for all of them are far shorter, without requiring extensive or indeed any information on mental health and previous substance abuse. The owness seems to be on the individual being responsible enough to decree for themselves whether they are capable of doing a retreat.
            Other centres are also a lot more open to investigation of different traditions and rather than judging themselves to be the best form of meditation, they come from a point of view of no one technique suits all - it is very much a case of finding something that suits the individual. (Indeed according to the Sutras, the Buddha taught over 2000 different techniques of meditation. He was the master of skillful means, able to discern immeditately which technique would suit a particular personality type.) How Goenka can state that the Buddha was practising his style of vipassana is beyond me. Goenka's style of vipassana was invented in the 60's by Goenka. If you go to an U Ba Khin retreat, the technique taught there is slightly different, where you sweep the awareness through much larger sections of the body and you can use the mantra of Buddho when you are practising anapanasati.
            Goenka also seems to have a monopoly on advising which books his devotees read - even with a recommended book list. As a result most Goenka groupies have very little in depth knowledge of the noble 8 fold path, have not read the sutras in the Majjhima nikaya (thought to be the words closest to the Buddha's original teaching) and therefore have very little knowledge of what constitutes the path or the fruitions. This is not to say it is their fault -Goenka just doesn't encourage healthy investigation. "Ehi Passiko" as the Buddha would say - come and see and investigate for yourselves.
            I have a friend who is a Buddhist monk and he says he has invited Goenka's people to his meditation centre for evening discourses and discussions many times and they have repeatedly refused, unwilling to share their tradition with others. Indeed most monastics I have met, view Goenkas organisation as a Buddhist sect and I know of at least 2 monks / nuns who have said Goenka style vipassana is not really "vipassana" or insight meditation at all but rather a technique of awareness.
            Since I left Goenka's organisation my knowledge of dhamma has greatly increased and I feel I have discovered paths of heart and compassion, rather than draconian rules, a lack of knowledge from AT's and a dogmatic - this is the best and only true path approach.
            One last word - google Goenka and cult and look how many hits you get. Google U Ba Khin's centre - IMC and cult and you get zero. Likewise type in the name of any Buddhist monastry you know that runs retreats with cult and suprise suprise - no hits. There's gotta be something in that!
            • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

              Sun, January 31, 2010 - 11:28 PM
              Hi Jenny,

              It's such a challenge for me to critique your critique. i feel so bound by issues of right and wrong speech. it's such an incredibly difficult question i must ask myself whenever i express my thoughts. "is what i am saying completely wholesome to all?" i often suspect that the only way to truly insure right speech is to say nothing. but in this case after some contemplation i've decided to express my great dismay at reading this post as well as some before it.

              i hope that i am able to adequately convey that using a term such as 'cult' in association with this donation based course offered too over 100,000 people every year is a perfect example of the ego and it's many tricky ways of slowing our progress towards lasting peace, happiness and freedom.

              Have you thought about the number of people your critique may stop or delay in sitting their first sit? How many will be right in the middle of the application or in their first days and drop out in part because of your feeding the 'cult' or 'sectarian' fears? regardless of what comparisons or critiques your mind comes up with. i hope you will understand that by spreading these thoughts you are not being wholesome in your speech by potentially discouraging anyone from experiencing for themselves whether this course and these techniques have merit.

              i am confident that you and others will understand this.. Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka is neither a cult nor 'cultish'. it is simply one mans effort to bring these techniques and basic understandings of the four noble truths to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. i completely appreciate your desire to expand your knowledge of other retreats, traditions and techniques... but i wish for you and for others that you not let that knowledge and comparisons discourage anyone else from beginning the process of liberation. please consider carefully the importance and wholesomeness of helping this process rather than hindering it in any way.

              thank you for reading this and i ask your forgiveness if my words cause any harm.

              may you be happy,


              • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

                Wed, February 3, 2010 - 11:13 AM
                Dear David!

                While i am not against the vipassana technique but Goenka's retreat is military brainwashing No more than that. First understand how military brainwashing is done and know that Goenka's Vipassana has all the items required to conduct it . The ingredients of his brainwash camp are deprivation of 1) sleep 2) food 3) freedom to talk 4) Torturing self in same meditation posture for prolonged period of time 5) Watching Goenka's ideology for 4 hours each day in the night (for brainwashing)

                This is Taliban Style even dangerous than taliban (no music, books etc etc) and when u get out of the retreat u have already been brainwashed to think his way of vipassana is dharma and to able to practice such harsh meditation was such a privilege been given to u because of ur past life dharma. Goneka Implants in your brain with his severe brainwashing technique that his Style of teaching is supreme and is "dharma". Do u really think a single meditation technique can be definition of Dharma??? Tell me seriously.

                This is not dharma this is adharma. What ever that is against nature is adharma. I don't think the way it is taught by Goenka is Natural for human beings. If he has his own definition of what is natural you are free to be brainwashed into believing that too.

                Also Mr Goenka is a businessman and leader of corporation and now self proclaimed teacher of Buddha's original teaching. This is not Buddha's mediation technique this is Goenka's Brainwash Camp. Also, Keep in mind there have been many buddhas and also some are living here right now at this moment in earth. Mr. Goenka is supreme controller of this huge organization and there is a strict hierarchy. This is cult behavior and some hint of something fishy out there.

                Well this is not discouraging people but bringing out other side of coin with fresh prospective.

                Only thing positive about "Goenka's vipassana" is its free but at the end of this retreat Mr Goenka encourages you to donate as much as u can. This is human behavior that if u get something u fell some unconscious desire to give back. This is how he runs his unnatural organization. If he is so against religious worshiping and temples etc etc why has be built huge huge pagodas inside his camp?

                And also, If you really trust dharma and it has to find you it will with or without Goenka. I must say i cannot agree to GOEnka. I hope you can answer my criticism constructively and based on facts rather than fiction .

                I also want everybody to be Happy!

                • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

                  Wed, February 3, 2010 - 2:23 PM
                  Dear pratik,

                  i wish i could be more thankful for your response, however i am once again so surprised to see such an example of wrong speech here and i must say pratik that your post is especially egregious in it's use of false statements to make a point.

                  for the sake of brevity i will address your first paragraph only as it is so filled with factual error as to significantly undermine any credibility of the subsequent claims.

                  but first i have a question for you. have you ever attended a Goenka retreat yourself? the reason i ask this is due to the claims you make here being so wrong as to suggest you have not.

                  so let's take these first 5 claims you make;

                  >>> deprivation of sleep

                  this is patently false or at best misleading. bedtime is 9pm and first bell is 4am. that is 7 hours of sleep. and in addition to this there is nothing stopping a student from staying in bed until the first sit at 8am or catching a nap during the substantial parts of the day of free time. sure.. there are only 10 days to take advantage of the opportunity for practice and so wakeful practice is encouraged... however nobody is deprived of enough sleep. and to claim otherwise is not only false but also indicates a lack of direct experience with the retreat.

                  >>> deprivation of food

                  again this is false... there is a substantial breakfast and lunch served which in many cases is all you can eat. sure.. a light stomach is considered more conducive to successful practice... there is by no means whatsoever a 'deprivation' of food.

                  >>> freedom to talk

                  the fact you bring this up indicates a complete lack of understanding of the value of Noble Silence within a group setting retreat meant to offer an opportunity for the student to practice these techniques with the least amount of distractions.

                  >>> Torturing of self in postures maintained for prolonged period of time.

                  again... a demonstration of a lack in understanding of the technique itself. strong determination while practicing vipassana is an integral part of developing focus, equanimity and wisdom.

                  >>> Watching Goenka's ideology for 4 hours each day in the night

                  this is an absolutely false statement. it is not 4 hours a night.. rather 1 hour. and though these lectures on theory are not expressly necessary to a successful practice, i do see it as helpful for those students who wish a better understanding of dhamma.

                  so pranik, i understand that you are trying to present a different side of the coin... however, unfortunately in your zeal you have made claims which are patently false in order to give a terribly over the top negative impression of a retreat of which it appears you have never even attended. i am not sure why you feel the need to do this other than once again proving the tenacity and deviousness in which the ego attempts to stop or slow people from mastering their mind and so discovering peace, freedom and happiness.

                  i am sorry if my response seems harsh. though i am confident you understand in light of your suggesting that these retreats involve brainwashing "even more dangerous than taliban".

                  i wish you the best and hope to continue a more balanced and accurate discussion.

                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.

                    Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

                    Wed, February 3, 2010 - 7:17 PM
                    Dear David!

                    I don't think your clothes will fit me. In these context i mean no two people in this world are alike and what works good for one might not work for the other. I still firmly believe Goenka's 10 day retrat is just extreme for many people and most of the 1st timers who go to his retreat never return back for second one. IF this works for you its fine but just don't dismiss my points as mere act of EGO. THis is not EGO and i have freedom to express what i think is right while i also respect yours. If the technique works miracles for u its fine. But i don think this techniques will work for me. I again insist a single technique whatsoever cannot be "Dharma".

                    For as far as you have stated that i may not have attended the discource. I must say this is false and i have gone there twice while believing Goenka's technique to be supreme.. I am sorry to say that the technique dint work for me. And per what buddha said torturing self cannot be path to enlightenment. Sitting in one posture for several hours is a act of torture for me if u think its a Noble way to quote "integral part of developing focus, equanimity and wisdom" you are free to think like that. I am not stopping you as i respect your freedom of choice. About food, you are not allowed to bring any food from home and u are encouraged not to eat after 12 PM is this not deprivation of food??. While about sleep i would like to clear that after 10 PM you are allowed to sleep for 6 hours but as per my experience i dint sleep properly for many days due to the harshness of the practice and we are forced to wake up at 4 AM. The volunteers there don't ask if u slept properly or not and nobody says u can go to sleep if u have not slept properly.

                    Well the Goenka's discourse in hindi is about 3 hours long (his native language) and may be little shorter in english but i seriously doubt its only 1 hour long. Or it might be that retreats are delivered differently in different countries. That might be subject of question. Well as per freedom to talk " as per science if human beings are not allowed to talk for prolonged period of time there is a chance they might go mad". ANd i personally think this really freaks the mind but IF like to think that as again quote " opportunity for the student to practice these techniques with the least amount of distractions" this is again your choice.

                    Goenka tries to make u believe that This technique is taught as pure technique and universal dhamma. I have to disagree with that . What i believe that this mediation would have been lot useful to people if had it been more of user-friendly and more human. But in the name keeping "dharma Pure" such extremism is being carried out.

                    Regards and may god bless you,

                    • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

                      Wed, February 3, 2010 - 8:38 PM
                      Hi pratik!

                      thank you for this response. i feel you and your heart in it.

                      i'm sorry i didn't see in your post that you have attended a Goenka retreat. i was confused by the extreme words and associations. i congratulate you on sitting a second time even though aspects of the practice did not find you well.

                      i had some challenging experiences with staying awake too. and i did feel some cravings for food from home too. and sometimes i also felt aversion towards my bodily sensations.

                      i have more to say... i'll be back.


                • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

                  Wed, February 3, 2010 - 9:12 PM
                  HI pratik,

                  well.. here's the thing... first off.. this is about ego.

                  and i fear we are at a difficult impasse if you don't understand that all discussion of any kind using words and language is of the mind, which is of the ego. i am only saying that this discussion is the ego distracting us from sitting. and it's not lost on me that this ego engagement is keeping me from my sitting as well.

                  ohwell... sometimes i'm foolish like that.
                  or perhaps my speaking will help someone who was about to be pulled into an unwholesome act of wrong speech.
                  who knows...

                  i'm not sure if i can better express the importance of saying true and wholesome words. however pranik, i hope that you are able to look back upon your statements, claims and opinions and see how unhelpful they are. they are not only factually inaccurate, they are deliberately alarming and insensitive to their potential impact upon people who have not had the experience for themselves.

                  just think of it this way... if it was really as extreme as you make it out to be... using words like "military brainwashing" and "This is Taliban Style even dangerous than taliban".... would you really go back a second time?

                  i hope this helps.

                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.

                    Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

                    Wed, February 3, 2010 - 10:01 PM
                    Dear David!

                    If you talk about ego. I had to get out of my ego to admit that Goenka's vipassana was wrong even though i vigorously practiced it for more then six months (1 hour day and 1 hour night) and went two times to his retreat . In the initial stage i had agreed to him as you are doing right now.

                    As Siddartha Gautama buddha has stated many buddhas had been born before him and many will be born after him. Have u even wondered some real buddhas might exist in earth at this moment of time. I cannot agree to Goenka way of teaching. Sorry but u cannot convenience me that Goenka's Vipassana is dharma and going against is Adharma. I appreciate your kindness for thinking that your are trying to save me. But i am already saved and what i am saying comes from within me.

                    Remember i am not against Vipassana but i cannot with my sane mind agree to Goenka's way of Vipassna. If Goenka changes his way of delivering his retreat then my view towards him and his retreat will automatically change. Until then its astalavista to Goenka's Vipasssana. But Goenka wouldn't do so as according to him this insane way of teaching vipassana is dharma.

                    Also dear David! if something has to happen in this world it will happen. My saying something bad here wont prevent it. Your are making it seem like a crime not to agree to Goenka teaching. And please let people judge for themselves what is right and wrong for them.

                    With love!
                    • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

                      Wed, February 3, 2010 - 10:23 PM
                      ok pratik, i understand that i am not going to convince you of anything. nor i am much trying to. i am engaging in this discussion with you so that we and others may gain better understanding of the merits of this simple donation based course in Vipassana as practiced in the Theraveda.

                      your obtuse reactions and extreme choices in expression are disconcerting.. however they do seem to be nicely making my point for me.
                      and alas... i fear i am wandering into foolish space.

                      i wish you the best on your path.
                      • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

                        Wed, February 3, 2010 - 10:46 PM
                        Dear David!

                        IF you trust dharma it will surely protect you . You don't have to be wandering in foolish space. Since we share some connection because of our sharing of ideas here i want to tel u something that i have personally found connection to.

                        Please watch His teaching has transformed my world. I have not attended any of his discourses nor promoting that you should go to one. Just watching you tube will transform you. If you fail to find connection with him i suggest u immediately stop watching it but u can give a try. His pronunciation might be little awkward but the knowledge he shares is just priceless.

                        May god Bless us all!

                        • Paramahamsa Nithyananda

                          Wed, February 3, 2010 - 11:00 PM
                          thanks for the link pratik!
                          after giving a quick listen i am confident i will enjoy listening and learning more tonight.

                          • Re: Paramahamsa Nithyananda

                            Thu, February 4, 2010 - 7:03 PM
                            Hi David!

                            I hope my link helped you. As i had been a very aggressive critic of Goenka's mediation, regarding paramahamsa nityanada there are also critics who don't like him and state his organization being cult. But i personally feel he is a divine being and Buddha. But its up to you to decide what is right and wrong for you. What might be right for me might not be right for you. I do not suggest like Goenka that this is buddha's shoes and it should fit to all including children and old people, wen and women alike because it had been worn by SIddhartha Gautama Buddha. And if the shoes doesn't fit you its the fault of your feet not the shoes because its "buddha's shoes" I would like to scream and shout at goenka because of the internal conflict and trauma his meditation camp has caused to me but as it goes on what happens has happened for good and i don't want to keep on remembering past things.

                            Rest follows bliss and peace!
                            Nityanamdam the eternal Bliss!


                            • my Guru is~

                              Thu, February 4, 2010 - 8:50 PM
                              Dear pratik,

                              i feel a small sense of suffering in hearing that you have been a very aggressive critic.
                              it makes me want to remind you that you can see for yourself that there are many... thousands upon thousands of people who have benefited from these courses mr. goenka has established through his effort and the efforts of others.

                              i want to ask you if you feel some of the regret i feel... knowing that aggressive criticism has stopped or delayed someone else from experiencing this for themselves? and i beg of you an insightful and thoughtful answer rather than a reAction of denial and diversion. i feel your pain at the suffering you confronted during your sits... and i am confident that you will let that go as much as you can... like driftwood that's carried uS to this shore.

                              i ask with all humility that you inquire further into the concept of Right Speech. i ask that you re-read your first post here and consider the impact of the words and associations you presented. please consider carefully whether those words are false, misleading or have a high potential for being mis-understood.

                              please open your heart to this discussion and the values of non-aggression and honesty.

                              i'm confused about one thing... do you really think that a Buddha's shoes aren't good enough fall near about everyone?

                              • Re: my Guru is~

                                Thu, February 4, 2010 - 11:37 PM
                                Dear David!

                                You indeed are good person and i sense you love for believing that u are trying to stop somebody from committing unwholesome act. Your a true follower of buddha's teaching and you have my respect for that.

                                But the fact is I had suffered while attending GOenka's Brainwash camp and i feel sense of relief for being out of it and the clutches of his brainwash. No guilt at all. and Until Goenka changes his vipasanna teaching style its going to remain same. While i am not stopping u to follow him i am just expressing what i believe to be true. And also as per Goenka "truth is only what u have experienced". I dint experience it so i have no right to tell if it works for others.

                                Are u not aware that what you call wholesome speech will inspire someone to go there and experience torture for full 11 days and the internal conflict that follows after that? I beg you to inquire on that too.

                                Please pardon me if u are hurt as i am using "Goenka's Brain wash camp"cause i honestly feel its "Goenka's Brain Wash camp and i must tell the truth to myself and others as i see it. I cannot lead self-denial life.

                                I want to make clear that there have been many Buddhas and also Siddhartha Gautama Buddha has devised many techniques for different people. This is selective interpretation of Buddha's technique by Goenka. I would like you to inquire more on Buddhism

                                If my criticism will stop someone from Attending Goenka Brain wash Camp it will be for good reason and as desired by god. I am not a hard core criminal of tihad jail that has brainwashed into good guy. You talk as if going to Goenka's camp is ultimate goal of human life.

                                And I also beg u think on this with open mind leaving the idea that has been created inside you by goenka. Please forgive me if i have been hurtful to ur feelings. But its the truth the way i see it. Goenaka's Vipassana is one string guitar with no melody its just tasteless senseless no beauty in it. Sorry to tell this cannot be my path.

                                With Love!

                                • Re: my Guru is~

                                  Fri, February 5, 2010 - 3:44 AM
                                  Dear David !

                                  Now i can with 100% faith claim that Goenka is a Fraud and his retreat is no more than military brainwashing. I just inquired at ( the official e-mail of Sayagyi U Ba Khin Vipassana. The website is If u want to make further inquiry u can do so at thier email address. Goenka claims his vipassana to be in the tradition of Sayagyi. Here are the details of my conversation with them My email adress and the name of the responder has been kept secret due to confidentialy reasons. Now what do u have to say. Please try to get out of his brainwash as soon as possible and may god help you. The evidence is here rest is up to u to judge.

                                  Dear Pratik,

                                  We have not have any contact with Mr Goenka for 30 years. We do not know whether what he teaches at present is still the same as Sayagyi U Ba Khin taught and what we teach.

                                  For all information regarding courses at the International Meditation Centres please go to our web site at

                                  With best wishes


                                  > From: prateek XXXXX <XXXXXXXXXXX>

                                  > Sent: 05 February 2010 10:57

                                  > To: <>

                                  > Subject: Inquiry


                                  Dear Sir/ Madam,

                                  I have a question in mind. Is the Vipasanna technique taught by respected Sayagyi U Ba Khin same or similar to as taught my Mr. S.N Goenka? As it is told that S. N Goenka has been teaching as per the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin. I would like to know what difference exist?

                                  As the meditation shedule and technique same to Mr. Goenka's . Please tell me if we are allowed to talk or not during the retreat and if we are allowed to eat after 12 PM or not.? i would like to thank u in advance and will highly appriciate your answer.

                                  With love and regards,


                                  • Re: my Guru is~

                                    Fri, February 5, 2010 - 4:38 AM
                                    Dear David and other fellow seekers!

                                    Please discard my previous post. The schedule of original Vipassana retreat resembles that of Mr. Goenka. This means that the Goenka in truth has continued Sayagyi U Ba Khin's tradition. The details of Sayagyi U Ba Khin's vipassana meditation can be found at This means i have made a huge blunder in judging Goenka's vipassana. Well i may still disagree with the harshness of the practice but i have falsely claimed that Goenka is a fraud without doing much of study myself. I apologize for my mistake and ask forgiveness for all.

                                    Its upto the fellow seekers to decide what is wrong or right for them or if this technique works for them or not. But you can give Vipassana meditation a try.


                                • Re: my Guru is~

                                  Fri, February 5, 2010 - 6:48 AM
                                  Dear All

                                  Please ignore my post below as its utterly false please scroll to the bottom for why. Since i cannot delete the post below i am writing this. Vipassana like any other mediation technique should be given a try. It dint work for me but it might work for some other people. But its up to the people to decide what is right or wrong for them. Who am I to judge what is right or wrong for other? Everybody has a guru inside them, if u trust it , it will guide u to the truth. As for me i will be with truth.

                                  With Love!

                                  • Re: my Guru is~

                                    Fri, February 5, 2010 - 6:50 AM
                                    Lifebliss foundation channel is also a excellent webpage for spiritual seekers. Please go through it also and if u are helped by it i will be very satisfied. :)

                                    Love to all!

                                    • Re: my Guru is~

                                      Fri, February 5, 2010 - 7:22 AM
                                      Dear David and All!

                                      And at the End i apologize to all for being misleading and false. All my post regarding vipassana and Goenka is false and misleading.

                                      The truth for what i believe is the supreme and people and guru's who intend to help people and humanity in general other should not be criticized even if you disagree to their methods and techniques because their intentions are pure and divine. Its a misconduct and will lead you to downfall. Truth will always lead you to liberation and its the truth which is supreme and dharma. Admit when you have done wrong because everyone makes mistakes and great is the one who admits to it when finding it. Be kind to people , help them if you can be kind and gentle to you parents, spouse and children and to all people, plant and animals in general. Harbour love and kindness towards all and live a good and wholesome life cause this is the life u want to live and is truly satisfying. Rest is up to you cause you are the choice maker of your life and the seeds you bow will be the seeds you will reap.

                                      Satyame va Jayate (truth always wins)

                      • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

                        Wed, February 3, 2010 - 10:47 PM
                        Dear David!

                        IF you trust dharma it will surely protect you . You don't have to be wandering in foolish space. Since we share some connection because of our sharing of ideas here i want to tel u something that i have personally found connection to.

                        Please watch His teaching has transformed my world. I have not attended any of his discourses nor promoting that you should go to one. Just watching you tube will transform you. If you fail to find connection with him i suggest u immediately stop watching it but u can give a try. His pronunciation might be little awkward but the knowledge he shares is just priceless.

                        May god Bless us all!

            • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

              Sat, February 6, 2010 - 6:27 AM
              Dear Jenny!

              Vipassana as Taught by Mr. Goenka is in line with original teachings of Shiddartha Gautama Buddha. Yes the practice is little harsh and i cannot say it is the only way to self-realization. But its a good technique. Also, Vipassanna retreat teaches you beautiful aspect of dhamma (dharma). It teaches people to be good human beings and follow the path of dharma.

              While i personally believe that some changes could have been made so as to fit 22nd century needs. But the intention of Honorable Mr. Goenka is to keep it exactly as per original Siddhartha Gautama Buddha's teaching. He does so with the intention that original buddha's teaching will help people to achieve self-realization and changing it might destroy the technique and its norms. So please keep that in mind also. While after some contemplation by myself i personally believe is that if this technique with its norms is fully understood then it is more than capable to lead you to self-realization.

              Also the point to be noted here is there have been many enlightened beings (people who have realized their actual self). And you can follow other techniques and teachings too if it doesn't fit you. I got a new insight into this today and would have liked to elaborate more on this but my elaboration will require more hindu terms and might confuse people rather then give them a clear vision.

              Also please disregard all my posts criticizing Goenka and his retreat. I had merely dismissed it to be a brain-wash camp because of my arrogance and misunderstanding of the teaching as a whole and i ask with full humiliation for forgiveness from all as it might misguide people rather than help them. I had only done it with the intention with helping people since me myself didn't understand the technique and the retreat gave me suffering rather than salvation which was my goal. But again, it didn't work for me but might work for other people as thousands of people are helped by it.

              With love!

              • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka,

                Sun, February 7, 2010 - 12:18 PM
                I did not say that the technique was out of line with the Buddha's teachings. The Buddha taught many, many techniques and this could well be one of them. What I object to, is Goenka saying that this is THE technique that the Buddha himself practised under the Bodhi tree before his enlightenment and that it is this same technique that the Buddha taught to the masses for the rest of his life. There is absolutely no proof of this and it propogates a "my technique is the best technique," mindset which can lead to intolerance and a desire to save and convert other people who are decreed to be on the wrong path..
                As I said before, the Buddha taught over 2000 techniques to suit the huge variety of different personality types within the world - not just 1 as stated by Goenka.
                • wow pratik! i have nothing but respect for your ability to so completely see and understand a mistake and atone for it.

                  jenny... i need some time to understand better what you mean when you use the words:

                  >>>"and this could well be one of them. "
                  >>>"that it is this same technique that the Buddha taught to the masses for the rest of his life. There is absolutely no proof of this"



                • Dear Jenny!

                  Its difficult to explain Jenny. But i will do my best as per my understanding. I agree that Buddha has taught many techniques and also many other buddhas have taught many other techniques. I believe there are more than 10000 techniques all together.

                  The specialty about this technique is this is not only technique that will lead to self-realization. But the goal of the technique is not only self-realization but the end of all samskaras or the memories of craving and aversion. This is technique for the people who think life is a misery not for people who think life is not misery. Like as buddha says to destroy the bricks and concrete that god uses to build body. This technique is full stop to life. Its a advanced technique. Perhaps I and you have just entered the path of spirituality and the technique makes no sense for us. But this is indeed a beautiful technique for people who wish to end cycle of birth, rebirth so as to never to be born again.

                  People who wish to take birth even after their self-realization and enjoy the existence of the universe. This is not for them. I hope i have succeeded to make some sense.

                  With love!


                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.

                    Re: Paramhamsa Nityanada

                    Sun, February 21, 2010 - 4:03 AM
                    My Dear Friends!

                    Through my research that i found alarming results that paramhamsa Nityananda being a fraud guru and cult leader. Since i gave you that link it becomes my duty to make you aware of that also. So please put that also in consideration.

                    Watching him just on you tube is fine but please do some research on the internet before going to his retreats. Please consider this seriously as i am being told that many families being ruined due to him.


  • Hey ALL,
    I haven't been at this site for awhile and I'll actually be serving a course starting today and my gut told me to check in to see if there were any new discussions. What everyone has been discussing is very interesting. The funny thing is that I actually agree with everyone even though your points of view seem to be in conflict with each other. If you put all the points of view together instead of seeing them as DIFFERENT points of view, you'll see a beauty and truth instead of separate points of view.

    Let me just state for the record that I actually live with an Assistant Teacher who has been practicing Vipassana for 15 years. I also serve at a center very regularly. But, you'll be suprised to hear me say that it is a bit "cultish"......and it IS. But here's the thing...SO WHAT. The technique is beautiful. There isn't anything in human society that ISN'T cultish. Just about everyone one on the planet has participated in dividing themselves into a group of some sort, albeit democrats or republicans, health nuts or couch potates, rich or poor, gay or straight, black or white, religious or non-religious. LOOK around you. How many married people do you actually see with single friends? They stick within their group. How many business suites do you see hanging out with the Gothic group? They each stay within their own group.

    For as long as human beings have been on the planet, we have been given wonderful tools and practices to help us evolve into what we really are beyond the flesh houses that we reside in. And everytime, most human beings get a hold of a wonderful gift and mis-use and distort it because it is filtered through the EGO.

    Neither David or Pratik seem to have the ability to see that what is happening within the Vipassana group happens everywhere. Just because you find the technique wonderful doesn't change the fact that humans are abusing it. AND by the same token, just because people are abusing the technique doesn't mean there is something wrong with the technique itself.

    Most of the time I have to keep quiet about things I need to do for myself when I'm at the center, because I have no need for anyone's silly approval over whether I can bring extra almonds to eat with my meals because I need the protein. I just bring it. Don't get me wrong though. I do believe that practicing renunciation can be beneficial for those who still have sticky clingy attachments to the material world, but I have already embodied this when I was hit by a drunk driver a year ago and lost everything I owned in the process and am living off the charity of others. I don't need to practice something that I'm already living internally. And yet the blindness on the part of all who are actually seeing me go through all of this is ridiculous, because they remind me often of renunciation everytime I talk about bringing foods for my stomach that won't upset my back injury. They are so stuck on the rules that they can't even see when someone is actually living PRESENCE in everything they do. Nobody seems to know the difference between the actually ability to experience the sensations of the body and the tools used to get there. It's insane.

    And yet if you take out all of the non-sense and just observe what is in yourself and practice non-reacting, you will discover something very Divine within. It's a beautiful technique that can easily become a peaceful way of life if you're willing to trust that deeper voice within. If you use the techinuque as an opportunity to be apart of another group so that you can feel special, than YES it will feel cultish. If you use the technique as an opportunity to blindly follow because you are not really ready to go deep within yourself and see what's there, you will never Awaken spiritually to your true nature. If you use the technique AND ONLY the technique and leave the human crap out of it, you will find something very beautiful.

    There is nothing wrong with the Technique. Be strong enough and courageous enough to go deep within yourself so that you don't need to follow others to tell you what is real or not.

    • Hi,

      I wished to join the Vipassana course in India and thought of doing a bit of survey and came across this post. Its been quite interesting to read the thoughtful discussion between David, Pratik and finally Asha. Thanks to you guys.

      I feel I too must join this 10 day course for making my own opinions about it or may be all these meditations leads u to the higher state of self where opinions does not really matters!!
      If anybody can suggest which is the best place for it in India?
      • Dear Deep!

        Its a type of meditation. I cannot say which meditation center is best as you are not going to vacation and its a tough tough out there. So if you have decided to go there be mentally prepared for it. I would suggest you go to the meditation center closest to your location as i believe going to different locations is not the objective.

        Drop your goals if you want to progress in mediation as it doesn't only imply to sitting in one posture and closing your eyes. What from my experience vipassana does help you to understand spiritual truths in long run. The details of mediation center can be found on

        Also understand sitting in 10 day meditation will not make you enlightened. Its a type of wrong mindset. Any mindset full of expectation is not the right mindset. The objective should be to experience every moment in totality without any bis or bias. Later is up to existence.



    • Dear Asha,

      I agree to you. You some to be wisest among all of us as you have understood what we failed to understand initially. The objective of any meditation is to discover the witness within us. Any technique that will help to observe it will do. And vipassana is one of them. Being a part of a group doesn't help us but listening to the inner voice will.

      I am sorry to hear about your story about the accident that happened in your life.


      • Hello Pratik and CJ,

        Glad to hear the discussion still going. Just got back from serving a course and it was a lovely expereince as usual. Pratik, I'm glad that you could hear and feel the compassion in my words that honors the light within all of us. Christine, please note that as you continue your journey to go deeper within, you will began to more fully notice what feels peaceful and what feels negative. By peaceful I mean having the ability to observe ANYTHING without judgement about it. This world is not perfect the way it is. But this doesn't mean that the way of the world is wrong or right. Everything that is happening is simply the results of choices that needed to be made in order to generate various experiences to learn from. Life or the Essence of humans in that since is perfect, but One would need to truly Awaken to percieve that the sleeping state creates pain (whether mild or intense) and the Awakened state isn't dualistic at all, but simply a clarity that is abscent of One's conditioning.

        BTW Pratik,
        There is nothing to be sorry about regarding my car accident. It was an incredible gift that made it possible for me to not "fall back to sleep" once the illusions of past, future and Identification with the ego began to melt away. If that is what it took for this little incarnation called "Asha" to stay present then I am forever filled with gratitude and appreciation. For every thing gained there is something that is lost and for everything lost there is something that is gained.

        Namaste, Asha
        • Hello Asha

          I don't know why I didn't see your post yesterday - I wasn't ignoring it!!

          I think it is all fine but I wanted to put my warning there for people considering Goenka technique, it is surely fine to be able to observe without judgment but then again sometimes we do warn on dangers we perceive such as heroin. In essence, I expect there is nothing wrong with heroin if you are already perfect ... then you could take, experience and leave it with no harm done but then there are those for whom it will become destructive. One equally would not advise someone to walk into a tiger's den even if they could objectively watch themselves being eaten to death as another experience (which would be true, it is simply another experience).

          I have judgment on the Goenka technique which I have posted as a warning light - if my feeling were simply neutral that it neither did harm nor good I wouldn't post - but my judgment is that it has capacity to do harm to individuals both in a direct manner (people suffering from psychosis and panic attacks after the courses) to their mental health and integrity...
          ...and in a more insidious way in that people are 'culted' into becoming dependent on it, brooking no criticism of it and pushed into considering the whole thing a structure without which they cannot stand (which obviously is nonsense because they were standing before they arrived) - how much of the insidious nature is there within the technique and how much is to do with people who in themselves are unconsciously looking to join a group, looking to be 'cultised' if I can put it that way, I don't know and I couldn't begin to say.

          These are simply my subjective opinions and everyone has the right to ignore them heartily.

          I would say that if we perceive goodness as the sun and ignorance as bandages we have wrapped around our own eyes - then we can see grace as a hand that comes to unwrap the bandages for us, prayer and practice as a way for us to start to unwrap our own bandages away to allow sunshine and the ability to see clearly. The other ways of removing the bandages seem more akin to dangerous ways - continuing the metaphor perhaps drugs such as LSD are like someone burning a hole through the bandages with a cigarette which could possibly burn your eye and leave you blind forever or otherwise leave you seeing with one eye through the light and with the other still in bandages causing confusion and mental chaos - despite the fact that briefly, at least, you see the world without your bandages obscuring your perception... but my thought is that this is a very violent and potentially damaging way.

          This is possibly getting long-winded and confusing in itself. Perhaps it is fair just to say that I have concerns about Goenka Vipassana as a technique that does no harm and currently I have some doubts about the organisation itself, the imposition of barriers and mental coercion and some of the truthfulness of certain statements made recently.

          Truth is of the essence. Reverence for truth is also paramount.

          Having said all of that, I am glad that for you it has been a supportive rod in melting away your impermanent ego and coming to live more to the dictates of your true self. What luck and what joy.

          CJ :-)
          • Hey CJ,

            I'm not sure how to address your response because there is an enormous amount that you've written that could be addressed......... which could then become an argument of FOR or AGAINST. This is not my purpose.

            It was not Vipassana that helped me with anything. It really isn't any person, place or technique that can help anyone. The only thing that the external world can do is trigger our emotional baggage and mental conditioning. The challenge is to be able to truly observe what has been triggered from within in you. If you are afraid of bugs, it is not the bug that caused your is "your perception" of the bug that generates your fear. It requires an enormous amount of personal responsibility to completely own your reactions to the things that happen around you. I emphasize.....YOUR reaction. If we do not pay attention to what comes out of us, then we can not control or heal or properly use what comes out of us.

            My cats were better examples of being in harmony with everything than anything I've ever learned. This is truly all we need to observe. If one has been given the gift of deep empathic abilities, as you've mentioned about yourself, then ask yourself why is it that you only felt bad about the heaviness you felt in the room? Why is it that when you felt darkness, you dreaded it instead of simply turning on a light? If you're in a grocery store and you feel that someone is sad, why not smile at them or pay them a compliment of some sort like how much you like their shoes or what great taste they have in jewelry? Instanly people light up when we acknowledge someting beautiful about them. It's easy to do when we're not judging the experience in the moment. In that moment of feeling all of that heaviness in the meditation hall, there was the opportunity to wish for peace for those there. Once that light came through you, what was happening in the external would not have been perceived as anything other than movements of energy that need not be labeled good or bad........and would not have burdened you in the least.

            There is no argument for or against Vipassana. Vipassana has no real power or truth. It's an event that comes and goes. All Vipassana does is give people some quiet space to be alone with their own minds. It is up to all of us to deal with what comes out of us. Life gives us literally thousands of experiences that brings what is WITHIN to the surface so that we can see what we are carrying around inside of us. The only question is do we bring love and compassion to what we see externelly and internally or do we continue to fight everything that life presents to us? There is no right or wrong answer. There is only observing how we choose to respond......and taking responsibility for that response.

            I would not nor could not say this to you if I could only see your reactions to events. I say this because my own wisdom knows that you can rise above any situation, no matter it be Vipassana or loosing a leg, with great compassion and acceptence. If your response to anything in life is not filled with a great loving response...then lovingly notice this and do something about it.......or not......I don't really want you to do anything. I'm only taking advantage of this minor opportunity to remind a lovely Being called CJ that...........what comes out of you is not a reflection of what has happened around you....(I know because I've experience great, great traumas many times), it is a reflection of your state of mind and heart and the emotional baggage you carry. It is the greatest opportunity to observe it because only then can your ACTION of kindness........... towards an experience........ brings light TO the experience.

            And BTW....there is truly no way to predict any human beings experience even if they were put into a room with a tiger. Everyone's internal landscape is as unique as a finger print.....therefore, internally the experience will be different. This can not be compared to warning someone that a dish is hot or the dangers of leaving a car running in an enclosed garage. Your warnings are reflections of what was triggered and brought to the surface in you. Therefore, they are not really warnings, but a distraction to looking at what came up through you.

            • wow! this has really turned into a great discussion!
              thank you Asha, Pratik and Christina.
              • Hello David

                Thank you for that. I hope I wasn't too strident in my reply to Asha......!

                It is enough, I have a point of view but it is nothing more than a subjective opinion. Perhaps I should write that in bold at the top of my posts...................???????

                Ah well.

                By the way on a completely different topic are you a moderator by any chance, because if so I would like to point out that there is a link in one of the other posts that goes to a pornographic website rather than the talk about the vipassana course that I am sure the poster intended it to go to. Just a heads up if you thought you wanted to or were in a position to fix it?

                • Dear christine (CJ)

                  Tue, March 16, 2010 - 9:52 PM
                  thank you for the heads up on the link that was hijacked and made ugly. i am not the moderator who i believe is permanently absent. but i will send off an email to and see if it can be fixed... unfortunately it may mean the whole thread will be deleted.

                  i would like to enter into an open exchange with you and have wanted to do so since your recent post on this thread and your other post on another thread four months ago. i have been slow in responding because i felt my original reactions would not have been very helpful for you or for others who are reading along. i have needed time to sit with my reactions so that i could form an appropriate response. please forgive some of the mistakes in expression i am bound to make despite the time i've spent contemplating.

                  the first thing i must say is how regretful i find it that you chose to leave the course after the third day. i say this because i am quite certain that we would be having an entirely different discussion if you had made the effort to learn this technique and practice it for the entire 10 days.
                  i am able to say this with confidence because i did stay the course. i know from my experience how much aversion i felt to some of the traditions practiced. and i remember well those feelings of wanting to leave.... especially strong on the 3rd day. but i kept on because this was a commitment i had made to myself and to the course itself. and through keeping on i discovered the value inherent in the technique itself. as Asha points out so accurately, it's not about the traditions or structure under which this technique is given... rather it's the technique itself which is important.

                  so, i find it very distressing that even though you did not complete the course, learn the technique nor practice it... you are willing to come here to this public online forum and say that this donation based course is "insidious" and like touching a hot stove or taking drugs.

                  it is true that every effort is made to persuade students to stay the entire course for very good reason. not only does this provide the opportunity to learn and practice the technique and so realize it's potential. it has also been seen to sometimes be psychologically precarious for some people to quit the course part way into it. it is therefore advisable for the organization to make every effort to insure that as few people as possible drop out early. i'm sure you can understand that it would be irresponsible to say or do nothing in light of potential problems and at the same time it would be senseless to discontinue the courses because of the few who do quit early or react badly. meditation is not a substitute for therapy.

                  i realize that you have made some effort to make clear that this is only your subjective opinion, however to equate this course which thousands upon thousands of people from all around the world find valuable to a hot stove or heroin is absolutely disharmonic and unhelpful to anyone... other than perhaps to make clear how insidious the mind/ego can be in discouraging you and others from learning how to control it

                  i certainly hope i haven't been to strident either and i sincerely hope this helps you and others in some way. i mean no harm and sincerely believe you mean no harm either.. however, sometimes harm happens when we are reActing while still "unpacking". and i do hope this discussion continues to further balance and understandings.


                  • This is the maximum depth. Additional responses will not be threaded.

                    Re: Dear christine (CJ)

                    Wed, March 17, 2010 - 3:41 AM
                    Hello David

                    No, you are not strident at all! Don't worry about that. However, my post to you is likely to be shocking and I hope not too much so. I think you are indoctrinated, this is not from your post to me but from reading your responses to others. I don't know if you are happy and don't wish to change this situation - in that case, carry on. If you are looking subconsciously or otherwise to change this I don't know what to recommend. I know there are support groups out there for people who feel trapped in these situations. I know a person through the internet (only) who has come out of a situation he felt he needed to escape from, it took him three years to leave. It is the only resource I know beyond google.

                    I hope I haven't hurt you by saying the above.

                    Best of luck with it all.

                    Asha is a good person and a clever and a wise person (it seems to me) who is a fan and appreciates the technique and who is not criitcal of it, maybe there is a beginning of a resource.... I don't know.
                    • Re: Dear christine (CJ)

                      Wed, March 17, 2010 - 9:03 AM
                      Hi christine,

                      i am sorry that you have chosen to now make an assumption about me instead of addressing the issue.... however i understand that you are simply trying to find space and understanding in yourself in regard to your own reactions.

                      again i would like to emphasize that if you had made the effort to learn the technique offered you would more than likely understand how and why it works for me and for so many others. i am confident that you would recognize that you are responsible for the extreme sensations and reactions you felt during your short stay at the course and you would not be here slinging accusations and providing a very tainted and biased report based on limited experience.

                      don't worry though.. i am not offended.. perhaps a little disappointed that you chose to make a character attack upon me rather than address the post at hand, but i understand the power of the ego and it's tendency to distract us all.

                      may you find peace, happiness and freedom~
                      • Rob
                        offline 0

                        Re: Dear christine (CJ)

                        Wed, March 2, 2011 - 10:23 PM
                        Hi Everyone,

                        David: Your words come from deep wisdom and I appreciate your perspective.

                        Regarding many of the complaints about Goenka retreats being a cult, I feel there may be a misunderstanding of the style of the Theravada tradition here. The essence of the practice, and the rules one abides by come directly from the Pali discourses (not that this is a reason to believe in them!). One of the amazing aspects of the Goenka retreats are that they are so in line with the most ancient form of practice laid out by Gotama. Specifically, the practices and code of conduct that are central to the Goenka retreat have been a part of the Theravada tradition for over 2500 years. Think about this. 75 generations of insightful people have, one by one, walked ahead of you down this path without a break in continuity. Throughout this time, the path has only survived due to the generosity of those before you, which is a direct result of the practice. While there is more than one way, and vipassana is certainly not the way for everyone, it is would be a shame for this ancient, beautiful, and rewarding path to be modified or altered. I applaud Goenka for providing a context in which this ancient practice can continue.

                        For more information on my claims please see: Majjhima Nikaya (MN) 117 - The Mahacattarisaka Sutta, which outlines the prerequisites for establishing Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, and Right Action as prerequisites for the development of Right Concentration. This sutta outlines the importance of Goenka's code of conduct (including not eating afternoon, not sleeping in high places, etc). See the Anapanasati Sutta for a complete discourse on the first three days of anapana practice.

                        This is a very intriguing thread.
            • Hello Asha

              I think your post is lovely and perhaps we may agree to disagree on our views. You mention: "This can not be compared to warning someone that a dish is hot or the dangers of leaving a car running in an enclosed garage. Your warnings are reflections of what was triggered and brought to the surface in you."

              There is a post on here (in fact two people said the same thing) who mentioned she suggested Goenka for her friend and her friend then underwent a psychotic episode after the ten days and ended up in hospital - I will look for the link if need be.

              Therefore, I think you are disingenuous however when you say Vipassana has no power, it is a powerful technique in fact if all that had been offered was a period of silence and a place of silence, as has been offered to me previously at convents or similar places then I could agree that all one reacts to is oneself. But Vipassana is NOT silent and chanting and vibrations and techniques have power. Goenka himself does not really deny that it is a form of brain-washing he simply glosses over that by joking "perhaps your brain needs washing!"

              Therein lies my issue with Goenka technique. My warnings are not necessarily solely a reflection of my own experience but of what I NOTICED. In terms of my own experience, I am a strong-minded person and I do trust my own intuition (fortunately) but I think others may be less sure of themselves, more inclined to trust someone they think "knows better" and will therefore stay practising a technique that is doing significant damage to their psyche because they believe the advice of the Assistant Teacher that they need to "stick it out" or that it is "a failure" if they leave or that it is "dangerous" rather than it is possibly brain-washing them in a way that their brain does not want to be washed and they listen to a person that they believe is experienced and "knows more". That approach to me is dangerous and also wrong. Very wrong.

              The fallout, of course, is nothing for Goenka institutions to worry about - they seem to simply leave the person to a state psychiatric ward or whatever else is out there to support that person after a psychotic episode, they would not offer or continue to help after the ten days --- they may also simply ask the person to leave midway. In the few posts I have read here, there has been NO MENTION of aftercare for people who have passed out, injured themselves physically or mentally whilst attending the course and no accountability or responsibility taken by the Goenka Institutes.

              As they do not consider themselves accountable, I think it is fair to advise and warn people in advance of the potential negative outcomes of the Goenka technique and also to make people aware of the "amateur" status of the Assistant Teachers. These are not trained psychiatrists or psychologists, their insistence that one stays will simply be a reaction to what they have been told to tell you rather than any reflection or awareness of your personal psychological needs - added to that, there is likely a subconscious ego issue at stake (a threat to the reputation of the technique or a causing of asking uncomfortable questions about it) which would push them to tell you to stay. In cases of suicide, the underlying excuse is always that the person already HAD that tendency and whilst I was not there when the suicide took place, I had been staying (as a guest - not on the course) at a Vipassana centre in Bodh Gaya and had re-met a girl later in Varanasi who told me that a week or so after I had left, a girl on the course had jumped off the roof to her death, leaving a note saying that "now she had found enlightenment, she no longer had any need to go on living". I don't doubt in that case that the girl probably did have underlying mental health problems.

              I probably sound strident at this point but I am simply wanting to advise people that Vipassana techniques are available in a range of ways and that the Goenka technique is not, in my opinion, one that I would advise people to follow. Everybody is free to do what he or she wants, of course but there are many red flags I would have thought on the Goenka technique that people need to consider.

              As to whether it is a cult - that is another question. I feel Goenka has cultish aspects to it but I am not equipped to answer this question properly, not being any sort of expert on cults. It struck me as 'off' that's all and I had a similar reaction when I went into a scientology centre in Los Angeles (which I did because I have an innate interest in religions of all sorts) but some just provoke a knee-jerk reaction of "I don't like this" --- so much so that with the Scientology booklet that they gave me on Dianetics, when I went home I threw it straight into the bin!!! And I love books and have a great respect for them but again, I felt, that this particular book may be too wrong/too strong for me and I didn't want to take the "experience and see" --- that may not make sense to you but it does for me, on an intuitive level.

              It does sound strident (I have just read the post through). Please do not take it as strident toward you, I think in the end that if somebody reads this then I have said all I need to say. One doesn't need to bang on and on. :-)

              But I appreciate all your thought and advice and compassion toward me. Have a super day yourself, too................ CJ
              • Hi CJ,

                First let me say that I didn't read all of your post. I find that the human mind tends to take very simple truths that life gives us and complicates the truths completely. I am not a fan of anything except the real meaning of Know Thy Self through felt observation. I became aware of this when I received my first massage 15 years ago and have been a medical massage therapist for 11 years. I then came across this truth again when I crossed paths with a Dr. Eugene Gendlin, psychology professior who created a technique called "Focusing" This also strengthend my discovery that the Divine speaks "THROUGH" not "TO" all of us. I did not discover this through Vipassana.

                My wish for anyone is to return to their own power and drop this belief that anything OUTSIDE of you is the CAUSE of what comes out of you. This belief keeps us all in a victim mentality and it stunts the healing process because one is unable to face what came out of them with love and compassion. It's just that simple CJ.
  • I also agree that the Goenka form of Vipassana seems very wrong. My experience is that I am someone who LOVES quiet time and have spent far more than ten days on my own walking in the hills in Switzerland - barely seeing another soul and those experiences have been the most phenomenal, loving, transcendental, eye-opening (I think third eye opening) that I cannot imagine why I have been so blessed to have them. Regardless of those blessings, I managed over time to slip back into some lazy, negative habits and felt I needed to readdress the spiritual side of life, I had heard long ago about the ten-day silent retreat and I was looking forward it. As I say, I have no TV and I used relatively little internet at home, I love silence. So I was not particularly worried about it - I have also spent almost seven weeks in a silent convent in Oxford (although it was not full silence, it was close to) - so I was again looking forward to relishing this time in a place where everything was provided and deep silence would be offered.

    My first issues were almost immediate upon arrival - I met a lovely girl doing her third or fourth Goenka course and in conversation she asked why I was there and I replied I was looking for some quiet for reflection but she insisted "yes, but WHAT IS WRONG in your life that you come here?" and when I answered that nothing is wrong, my life is very pleasant but I wanted to re-adjust the balance in the time I gave to spiritual and materialistic concerns, having felt I was neglecting the spiritual side recently she then replied "well, you won't stay if there is nothing wrong in your life outside!"

    This response/attitude surprised me and slightly concerned me and my concern was compounded when I chatted to others who viewed Goenka in what seemed a cult-like manner from gushing "this is the MOST important thing in my life, more important than my husband and children" to those who would brook no questioning about him. As I am incredibly non-confrontational (to my detriment sometimes) my questions were gentle to say the least!

    And then there was the third LARGE clanging alarm bell which came in the form of an insidious threat from the staff. The wording I do not remember exactly but the understanding was "You will not leave here before the ten-days is up, if you do... you are weak/wrong, you are a failure, we charge you with lying/dishonesty, it is potentially harmful for you". It was the weak-minded comment that 'got' me the most as I thought they wanted to infer (or judge) that the person that maintains his or her own judgment as to what is best for them - and has the strength of character to trust his own judgment and not "follow the herd" or the authority - this one is weak-minded???! No, I don't think so. And then the implied threat that it will be dangerous. No, that made me feel very uncomfortable from the start! It all sounded so very 'off' already and a form of mental manipulation and tweaking using human weaknesses such as ego (I can't leave I will be seen as weak or failed) and equally fear (I will be in danger if I leave early) and, of course, inherently implied was the opposite side of the coin, the utopian hope (the ultimate generator of fanaticism from communism to islamic martyrdom) you will come out of this SO much better than what you are now (already pre-empting the question that you are NOT okay right now).

    All of this seemed very wrong and we hadn't even reached the end of the first night!

    So now to my personal experience of the following few days (briefly or this could go on for ever): I am very empathetic and the first thing I could not bear was the amount of suffering emanating from all the people surrounding me - I was bombarded with it and found it very hard to deal with on such a magnitude of scale. As one-to-one, I can often absorb and transmute people's suffering and (so I am told) help and relieve them by so doing but this was FAR TOO MUCH for me.

    I was also deeply disturbed by viewing the people moving to and from the video room in response to the gongs - I have been in a convent and school where we responded to bells informing us of end of break or lessons - but I have never seen such an uncomfortable sight as those Goenka students moving in silent masses from one place to the other. I still have not been able to intellectually understand WHY it was so disturbing.

    I found the chanting deeply unpleasant to the point that I in fact covered my ears with the "sadhu, sadhu, sadhu" droning - nonetheless I continued listening to the meditation and concentrating on the breathing techniques whilst using the spare time to enjoy the lovely garden and countryside but I found I could not really, I was struck with panic and was having to lie down outside and breathe deeply in order to control rising adrenalin and cortisone levels - very unpleasant symptoms at the best of times.

    I felt VERY uninclined to eat, although I normally have a good appetite, and had to force myself to continue to shovel food down my throat. (That said, the food itself was well-prepared and so on).

    The second day, the feelings of unease and panic re-surged and I asked to speak to the woman in charge of the sessions and to be fair she was pleasant and unpushy, she tried to advise me to stay and I took her advice for one more night but by the afternoon of the next day I was no longer prepared to ignore all the signs that my intuition was giving me that this is very wrong - and calling the duty girl, informed her I was leaving. And 'escaping' is a more apt word to describe my emotional reaction toward it. I left on the morning of the fourth day (I think) it was the day on which in the morning the video tells you that, that afternoon you will be taking a scapel to your brain (or words to that effect), that was the straw for me and I went back to the room, packed and left.

    I am posting here for two reasons, one I am still 'unpacking' the whole experience in my mind to try to comprehend it but also because I do feel that Vipassana as practiced by Goenka is NOT a positive thing overall. I also subscribe to the criticisms I have heard of it, that it is a sort of "zombie-isation" of people rather than bringing people to a fullness of life.

    As far as I could gather many of the people who attend Goenka Vipassana do so at a vulnerable point in their life (I believe I was an exception to that rule) and yet it was my impression that this technique does not address any issues at any proper level but rather cuts them off by amputation or 'lobotomisation' of parts of the mind. It rather reminds me of someone I know, an alcohol addict, who after he successfully gave up alcohol became instead a gambling addict --- it may seem to replace or control an unhelpful issue or habit but only by replacing it with an equally unhelpful mental practice.

    I did not stay for the last "metta day" but it sounds not dissimilar to 'love-bombing' which I disagree with also and is typical of cults.

    My recommendation, with no bias beyond my own experience and comprehension would be to advise people not to choose Goenka Vipassana as an option - I cannot rule out any other sort of Vipassana but this particular form seemed to me to be negative, manipulating, distorted and skewed - in a very insidious way.

    As said above, I still need to 'unpack' my reaction to the short time I spent there to understand it fully but my initial reaction is that the process is unhelpful, dangerous and possibly mind-manipulation on a very insidious level.
    • Dear Christine!

      I feel unworthy to comment on this. If you like read post of Asha. But i will like to give you few lines of what i understand.

      There are pros and cons of 10 vipassana course, this is all i can say. What you have talked about is only the half part of the story, the other half still remains. I don't say vipassana is the sole and the ultimate technique/tool but it is one of the technique/ tool to realize your supreme self.

      Everything you have talked now just comes from pure intellect. In my experience intellect is the worst enemy in spiritual journey where as your conscience and the inner voice or the inner guru are the best friends. I dont care what the spiritual scriptures say but this is what i say. Being part of a spiritual group doesnt mean your progressing in spirituality.

      If this technique didn't work for you then i dont say you are doomed. Find another tool/ technique suitable for you. But know that tool is not important just realize its only a tool. Just when seed has been sown in a fertile ground. It needs time for it to sprout and come to maturity. All you can do is water the soil, take care of the plant and protect it from insects and animals. But it does take time, its not a magic seed and everything will happen instantaneously. But also do not forget everything happening in this universe is magic.

      If the thirst is great then you cannot rest till you find the water. If you seek it ultimately it will be found.

      Regards and Cheers!

      • Hello Pratik!

        Thank you very much for your very sweet reply.

        I don't believe I am doomed either - in fact I don't believe anyone is doomed.

        I think all is good, in fact it is my belief (although difficult to persuade others sometimes that I believe this) that the world is in essence is perfect..... only that sometimes our perception is unable to see that and that faulty perception causes all sorts of trouble!!!

        I wish you all the very best too - I wrote my post to be a warning light, if need be, for those considering the Vipassana Goenka course. I am unable to put my finger on it intellectually at all but my intuition feels there is something "skewed" in the Goenka technique... they say themselves it can be dangerous, then to me it is not right at heart, not right at all. I don't know how to put it - there are many things in life that alleviate ego-pain but in a negative way, such as taking drugs or similar but in the end they too are dangerous, no matter how well they may initially make you feel. This is not the right way.

        This is just my subjective opinion however. All the very best to you too....

        And as you say ultimately it will be found and all is good. May I wish you happiness and blessings and love of life :-).

  • I went to a 1 day Introductory retreat arranged for teenagers in Eastern North Carolina in 2008. When I went to drop off my son, I asked the leaders in charge if I could bring any fruits as snacks in the evening for the kids. can you guess what they said? I was so taken aback. They said that since I had not done their kind of meditation they could not eat the food supplied by me. Later I conformed that the same meditation leaders went to an Indian restaurant that evening for dinner. Now this is a double standard and holier than thou attitude. I will never support such a cult that tries to ride on the coat tails of Gautama Buddha. Amen!
    • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

      Fri, October 22, 2010 - 1:25 PM
      Ok, this message is mostly to the Christians in here, but I have a feeling there are not many of you since this is clearly a Buddhist practice. Nonetheless, I will share my experience.

      I had one of the scariest experiences of my life at that retreat. First of all, I didn't know that they would be preaching Buddhism at the retreat, and it was starting to get to me because I was led to believe the practice was universal, non-sectarian and goes with all beliefs. Not so with Christianity. I caught on to the meditation technique early on in the course and it was a very intense and focused atmosphere. You could not speak, look at others, make gestures, or communicate in any way to any of the other participants. You also could not bring in reading material, cell phones, or writing material. It was geared for intense focus. And boy did I focus. We meditated for about 11 hours each day and by the 2nd day I was already having experiences where I was feeling detached from my body and not feeling pain in my body at all.

      There were tapes played for us with "chanting" to listen to during each meditation session and I wasn't really comfortable with it, but they said the intructor was just saying things to give a nice atmosphere to meditate in. They encouraged us to respond, Sadhu, sadhu, sadhu, which apparently means, "Well said, I agree." I never said that, but I still wanted to focus on the meditation. Besides, how can I say, "I agree", when I have absolutely no idea what is being said to me. Surprisingly, I heard many beginners responding in this way. I don't know the definition of a cult, but that seemed cultish to me.

      So midway through the third day I had an especially intense session and I basically had no thoughts except complete focus on my breathing and observing sensation in my nostrils. At this point, the dude starting chanting again, and my muscles began to twitch. At first I thought it was voluntary, but I soon realized that I lost control of my body. Every muscle in my body began to twitch and shake, seemingly in response to this chanting. The chanting stopped and people began to leave the meditation room to take a brake and I couldn't get up. I started breathing faster and faster and my heartrate began to accelerate rapidly. It was slow at first and then it seemed to take over and I began shaking violently all over my body, as I was hyperventilating and crying. I don't quite remember how I was able to get up, but I vaguely remember two of the organizers saying my name, and I could hear it only as a distant, far away call. Like I was in another world and they were calling me from the other one. I think they helped me up and walked me to the door. I looked down and saw that my hands were contorted into a tight formation, fingers straight but turned inward at the wrists. I couldn't move my hands and I fearfully thought the damage was permanent. I was scared. I disregarded their rules and called out the name of Jesus and then I could move my hands, and eventually I began to calm down as the nurse was telling me to breathe deeply.

      I was glad it was over. I went for a walk with one of the organizers and eventually I was ok. The instructor came to talk to me and I explained what happened and he told me that some people with trauma in their past will react in similar ways. I asked one of the organizers if this has happened before and he said sometimes, but that my reaction was probably the most intense he has seen. They explained it as me letting off something from inside. The instructor told me that it is too risky for me to continue on with the course, as the technique goes much deeper in the coming days and I was not permitted to continue with the course. They sent me home the next morning. My experience is different than a lot of the people here in that, I WANTED TO STAY AND COMPLETE THE COURSE. I was having experiences where I no longer could feel my body and was having insights for sure. What I didn't realize at the time is that they were not of God.

      I cannot put into words the effect this has had on me. One thing I know is that there is certainly something inside of me that is aching for more of a life of contemplation. However, I believe any sort of mystical experience that is not rooted in the desire to know and love God is false. There is now no doubt in my mind that the whole Vipassana thing is basically a desire for experience and desire for happiness and release not relying on God for that healing, but doing it ourselves.

      One lie that I hear that gets perpetuated over and over is this: "There are many paths, and whatever is true for you is truth." This is a dangerous and self-serving philosophy and of course is attractive to us, because it allows us to be our own God. I didn't realize it was trying to get people to believe a false set of doctrine until I started listening to the discourses in the evenings that were clearly Buddhist teachings. Buddhism basically is the opposite of Christianity. Buddhism and Vipassana says that you start at the bottom and work, "patiently and persistently", and with "continuity of practice," to eventually attain a certain level of nirvana or enlightenment. You have to WORK. Christianity simply says, accept Jesus as your LORD and you are with Him at the top. It does not have a set of religious rules to follow to attain holiness....whereas Buddhism does. The bible says that the devil will make you do things for him. How Goenka and company can claim that this technique goes along with Jesus is beyond me. It simply is a lie.

      Another lie. All craving leads to misery. It is not that we need to eliminate craving and passion it is that we have to direct it toward God. Like it or not, we all worship something, or someone. The opposite of Christianity is not athiesm, it is IDOLATRY. And Vipassana is clearly idolatry. It is worshiping Goenka, or the technique, or the desire for enlightenment, or an experience, or MY TRUTH, or MY PATH. Whatever is true for ME! When I went out back to talk with the organizers I saw a picture of Goenka and his wife above the door with the credo "May all beings be happy". How can anyone argue that this is NOT idolatry and worshiping a false God and a false philosophy/religion.

      They seem to be focused on generating a liberating experience for people and encourage people to "see things as they are" and find "the truth that can only be experienced," whatever that means to each individual. Even afterwards when the organizers were talking with me and calming me down, they were still backing the technique and how great it is. One of them emphasized to me that they did not use organic food in the meals just so nobody could claim that experiences were achieved from nutritional goodness. It seemed that they were focused on maintaining that "Vipassana produces dramatic experiences and results." It's not the's the technique.

      But the thing that stuck me the most is the emptiness, the hollowness in the eyes of the vipassana veterans. Yes, they seemed calm, and in the moment and concerned with others and helpful and such. But there was something missing. I can't explain it. It was in their eyes. And, if I can have the freedom to be so dramatic, it terrified me. Not for me, but for them. I looked into their eyes and I yearned to speak truth into their lives. Their eyes. Those big, clear, fully in the moment eyes that stared through me and when I stared back I saw nothing of substance in them. Those hollow eyes. Their green tea and toast and bananas and peanut butter. "May all beings be happy." Their whole lives are based on work, effort and control with power only coming from them. On the technque. On the path to enlightenment. No wonder they have no hope. All they have is themselves.

      After I returned home I thought about the experience and received prayer. A friend who has a special prayer gifting said that when she prayed over me that she didn't get the sense that God was saying there were any unwanted spirits on me. She seemed to think that it was more God protecting me and bringing me out of that environment because I would not quit on my own (nor would I have been allowed to really).

      When I first filled out the registration form when I arrived on the first day, I was initially told that I wasn't able to participate in the course because I had taken the course a month before and had left on THE FORTH DAY because I COULDN'T HANDLE IT. Apparently someone with a very similar name to mine had taken the course and left early. He had left early and they thought I was THAT guy coming back to try again and they said that it was too early for me to try and do the course again. So when I arrived to a cold reception, I had to convinve them that I had NOT taken the course before and that they DID NOT send me an email saying I couldn't attend. But THEN, I ended up leaving on THE FORTH DAY! So I thought that was ironic and could explain it by saying that God did not want me at that retreat and was giving me a sign right from the start.

      Anyway, I don't expect many people to understand this that are not Christians. But for those that are reading this that have the holy spirit living within them, just take your stuff to God. Do not try Vipassana. It is extremely dangerous and is a complete lie and may actually harm you as it did with me. Meditate on God only.

      And no, I'm not going to say may all beings be happy, because happiness, as you know is transient, impermanent. But not everything is impermanent. Jesus was, is, and is to come, and that JOY is permanent for those who love Him.

      "We are certain that we come from God and that the rest of the world in under the power of the devil. We know that Jesus Christ the Son of God has come and has shown us the true God. And because of Jesus, we now belong to the true God who gives eternal life. Children, you must stay away from idols." 1 John 5:19-21
      • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

        Sun, January 30, 2011 - 3:57 PM
        You cannot separate technique from esoteric system. The fact that Goenka has done so suggests that he is a fraud.

        It is clear why Vipassana is dangerous and crux of the matter is to be found reason in Mark van Bommel's account of his traumatic experiences. Like TM and sundry other fashionable meditation courses, Vipassana is alien to the Western psyche.

        It is particularly alien to Westerners brought up in a Christian culture and most likely baptized as Christians. This is indisputable when you take into account clinical psychology. The existence of the subconscious has been postulated (and demonstrated experimentally) at least as long ago as Pierre Janet's Automatisme psychologique (1889), although it was common parlance in France by the mid Nineteenth Century. I particularly dislike the New Age's hijacking of this term, but the subconscious explains, for instance, why hypnotism works.

        The point is that for most Westerners, Christianity is deeply embedded in the psyche from early childhood. The powerful imagery of the Passion, Nativity and miracle stories, even bedtime prayer, form a gestalt in the subconscious. This was the deliberate intention of the writers of the Synoptic Gospels. Ceremonial magicians such as Aleister Crowley spent their whole lives grappling with this conundrum.

        It is simple common sense to realize that vipassana meditation, as practiced according to Goenka without spiritual connection with one's psyche as described above, will lead to self-destruction. Vipassana is not even Buddhism, it is a New Age fad. If a Westerner wants to become a Buddhist in anything more than name only, it's surely obvious that he or she would have to enter a monastery following all esoteric traditions and spend many years in spiritual preparation. Otherwise, meditation is simply narcissism and slow poison for the psyche. As Mark van Bommel rightly says, prayer and developing a connection with Jesus is the right path for all brought up as Christians; it is an old adage that one should never deny the religion of one's birth.

        This is also true for Muslims, who should embrace Sufism, a genuine esoteric tradition.

        Be wise, read the accounts of the damage which meditation causes to those without knowledge or understanding.
  • Hi everyone,

    I came across this post while looking for other vipassana courses that embrace the tradition of dana or dontation as it seems to be that paying thousands of dollars to do a 30 day retreat is a bit much (and here, if anyone knows longer courses that work on the basis of donation, please reply to this post!).

    I have taken the course two times, and both times, my reason for doing it was precisely for the schedule which I would not be able to follow on my own at a beginner level, and the enforced silence. I do not want to hear people singing in the shower or talking to themselves while I am learning not to be distracted. I have noise at home. I make noise at home. There, I appreciate the silence. Beyond that, there are so many reasons silence is necessary for deep meditation, but at the surface level, just because one person feels like making noise in a place where they undertook a vow of silence, and got repremanded for it -- this does not make for a good reason to post negative things about the courses.

    And the schedule is such to ensure that people who go develop. It is not a vacation or a spa retreat but a rather serious course with a challenging schedule. And the reason it is such is because the progress is slow and difficult. If it were easy, we would not need the retreats.

    The food is plentiful and nutrious. The sleep is more than adequate and the volunteers do a great job ensuring that complains or issues are addressed. People do not check your bags for banned items and you are free to bring food though you do not need to at all. Eating too much and having attachment to this food or that food goes against the purpose of being there. I have taken the courses in Japan and the volunteers are wonderful -- efficient and caring, but they do enforce all of the rules to the letter, as they should, as we agreed to follow them before signing on and while some may feel like breaking them, others like me, would appreciate that others follow the rules. In our daily life, peole break all kinds of rules all the times, spoken and unspoken, and there, it is nice to be irritated by others or be an irritation to others as this creates a hostile environment not useful to meditation.

    In terms of it being a cult, I can see how people may take it as such, and how they may feel obliged to warn others of the impending dangers. However, in response to other techniques, on the 9th or 10th day, Goenka clearly states that if you find another technique is useful, follow that path. He says not to come to course after course unless you commit to the technique and that it is best to commit to something and follow that, rather than do a little of this and a little of that. What that is is completely up to the person to decide. After the course, there is no unwanted contact from the center. No emails or phone calls, no letters or solicitations. If you find the technique useful, go back. If you don't, go forward with something else. That is his teaching, which to me, suggests no double sided meaning or cult flavoring.

    Anyway, I just wanted to post this because I believe that the centers are an excellent idea and a wonderful inspiration. It is great to have the space to do some serious practice away from distractions without outrageous fees for bare necessities. Many of us are not able to both take long vacations and pay huge prices for the opportunity to live quietly and simply and watch our breath and sensations, so the centers are wonderful and as far as I know, people are free to come back time and time again, regardless of their devotion to either the practice or to Goenka.

    For people who are thinking about taking a course, I strongly encourage it as will be very useful to lesson aggravation and irritation, hostility and negativity in your life after the retreat. I did not sit after the second week coming home, and yet I found I responded to bad things with less force, and had a more pleasant life of calm and goodness. If you don't like it, don't go back and don't pay for it, or at worst, leave early. One person in both courses left early. Some people are not made for the course or find other things along the way that work better for them. That's cool. I may too. But I just want to say too that this is a good course, and I hope other people give it a chance and find it useful.

    Best to all,
  • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

    Thu, February 3, 2011 - 5:40 AM
    Hi Everyone

    Thank you very much for all your insights about the Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka. They have been very useful.

    I am considering to join on of those 10 days Vipassana course. I know someone who did it. He says it was great for him. He marked the point that it was a serious commitment not some vacation. But reading their code of discipline make me worried. It appears like an indoctrination by the way it is wordy. Therefore, after investigating the pros and cons I ended up on this discussion...

    Most of the rules I understand them for the technique to be efficient, being disciplined is an important quality but:
    why no small religious item? it is not going against the technique which is said to not interfere with your religion
    why no stretching exercices? you stay seated for about 10hours you body need some exercises. A healthy mind in a healthy body ? in what it will affect the meditation
    and most of all why adding some stress by stipulating that you can't leave the course...and from what I read on this post it is not easy to leave on your own decision... they try to convince you to stay, it is fine if they don't play with your mind ...but from what I read it is not the case..

    From reading how the meditation is run ..with a tape playing, singing etc ... and the effect that can have on certain person is is like they try to hypnotise you ... Why the assistant teacher cannot talk during the session instead of the tape?

    In addition, I knew the person before he started to practice Vipassana taught by Goenka since a few years. I noticed that it changed him, in good or bad I am not a competent person to say. However, I know that I don't want to become like him disconnected or empty is may be a better word...

    So it confirms me that the way Goenka taught looks like a sect or a military camp where you loose your self critical analyse... may be because it is missing the spirituality or may be because it is not for me?

    Vipassana meditation is not only taught by Goenka...does anyone have try to the technique taught by Mahasi? or know another school who teach the vipassana technique?

    Thank you very much for sharing your experiences.
    • Learning Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka at home

      Wed, February 9, 2011 - 10:41 AM
      Candy, you, and everyone else too, can learn vipassana at home by following the first five and the eighth exercises from the book 'Sadhna: A way to God' by Anthony de Mello S.J. Or better still hear the CD Sadhana of Fr de Mellp giving the instructions of the exercises, while you sit and meditate.
      Anthony de Mello had done a 10 day Vipassana course in the 1970s and he went on to become an enlightened mystic. His way of teaching Vipassana is very simple and effective. The exercises mentioned above are totally secular with no mention of God or Christ in them. The other exercises are contemplation on God, which you need not listen to. You can do the exercises at home for an hour or two each day (The 1st CD of the first five exercises lasts for an hour, which you can listen to while meditating.)
      After you develop in your practice, you can listen to ex. 8 which is the Vipassana directions that are given on the 4th day of the 10 day course. After you start doing this exercise, I would strongly urge you to go for a 10-Day Vipassana course. After all, 'Continuity of practice is the secret of success' in meditation. You will not find a better atmosphere, quiet and serene, than at the Vipassana courses. And if you find Goenkaji's voice and chantings too disturbing, do take a good pair of ear-plugs to the course, and continue doing your meditation there.
      Much metta
  • P2: It may also be of some help to old meditators who are doubtful but cannot put their finger on what is wrong with this technique.
     Not a very objective introduction. Generally speaking, an objective discourse does not lead with the implication of determining wrong.

    p7: Most of these assumptions are archaic or mystical or factually incorrect.
     Indeed? You list 12 items. Number 1 and 4 are your own interpretations that were not taught as you are writing them.
     Of the other 10, you list 7 as correct (even if simplified). Two you list as "belief in the mystical" but number 11 seems to be another one of your unusual interpretations.
     This does not comprise as most… perhaps you should recheck your math.

    p9: The benefits claimed to be the results of this technique need to be reexamined.
     Hmmmm? Perhaps the benefits first need to be established? I have spoken to several old students and, after taking the course, would be happy to fill out a questionnaire on benefits I've noticed. Perhaps you should bother to research and establish the benefits before "reexamining" the benefits?

    p9: If Mr Gautam had indeed re-discovered this technique which had been lost to humanity, it is reasonable to expect that he would codify this technique or this practice quite descriptively in some discourse or text.
     Really? Why do you think this is reasonable? Perhaps because you believe the course should be defended with a discussion of "reasonable codification"? I believe the answer to this supposition lies with my previous point... what are the benefits? I really think you should research this. And with people that stayed the entire time; not those that stopped after day 7 and said it didn't do anything.

    p10: Here sensation is clearly the sensation which follows a contact with an external sense object and can be any one of the various sensory experiences (i.e. sound, vision, taste, smell or touch, or mental processes), and not just the sensations on the skin or under the skin as claimed by Mr Goenka and VRI.
     If this what you think they were claiming? Me too, until day 6 when I asked the instructor "what about these 'gut' wrenching 'emotional' feeling that I am sensing in my chest, gut, head, neck, back, etc. It turns out that these are to be examined, also. Turns out that examining these with equanimity opened new doors of understanding for me. Your phraseology at this point is a bit ignorant of the practice.

    p11: And also, clearly, sankh¹ar¹s are not a cause of sensation (they occur later in the chain of origination). This will be dealt with in more detail later.
     Heh? Who said they are the cause of sensation? Is that what you gathered? This is certainly not what I learned. The do occur later, much later in the chain of origination. That is what was taught in the course.

    p11: To be sure, Vipassana has fewer cultist aspects than many other communities or new-age practices. But educated and otherwise intelligent people may conclude there are none...
     Yep... intelligence does conclude that all the cult-like/etc aspects are no more than the cult-like aspects of a given community activity, high-school clique, or corporate department. Sadly, your discussions indicate that you wish to discard intelligence while indicating that everything has a cult-like existence.

    p14: The discourses happen at the end of the day, when students have had a hard day, with their minds numb from focusing, and when they are looking forward to rest.
     I was not going to comment on your cult ramblings, but I could not help it on this one. Every difficult endeavor is assisted with a pep-talk at the end. This is applicable to the corporate world, the sports world, the marriage world, and so on. Your bias towards 'factually' presenting it here seems to be something you may want to look at within yourself.

    p14: First of all, this is a dissociative meditation practice with the professed (intermediate) goal of making one the detached observer of phenomena rather than an involved party.
     Not quite. This goal is to sense without reacting. To feel without judging. There is not detachment here. Simply an impartial view of our learned reactions. Not sure how you could miss that... Perhaps you are really not the best person to be writing this paper...?
     To take it one step further, as these reactions are reviewed, we find that they are indeed learned. As we "unlearn" them we find that were are able to react to anything with compassion rather than anger. The example given in one discourse is a big person beating up a younger person. We would react to stop that with compassion for both parties... not anger or hatred towards one and sympathy to the other.

    p15: He does not, however, question or raise the issue of who or what exactly it is that is to be liberated?
     Ahhh... now you're sounding very American/Western. He did address this, as did the instructors when asked. The answer was simple. You experience that for yourself... it will be your own personal experience. And they went on to say "use this method or any other method to do that".

    p15: The Soul that is identified with the body or which considers itself the body is sought to be liberated. But whether the Soul is real or illusory or not is not questioned. Only its identification is questioned. Mr Goenka repeatedly claims that it makes no difference if one believes or does not believe in a Soul, but dissociative practices all implicitly believe in an entity (or awareness) which can be dissociated. Mr Goenka explicitly discourages discussion about this topic.
     Now you're just rambling. All discussion regarding the soul was encouraged. I asked and was answered at length regarding this during my time with the instructor. I also asked about things like confession, how come during the period of the course one can't have sex (even self gratifying), and why no eating after 12PM. All answers were forthcoming and instructive.

    p15: In modern psychiatry, dissociation is treated as a disorder.
     Seriously...? Modern psychiatry? Not being able to pay attention is considered a disorder...
     But in all seriousness, this entire section is based on your definition of 'dissociative meditation" which is simply not what is being taught.
     You're simply wrong.

    p16: The problem of suffering is quite real. But the solution might be quite different than dissociating from this world.
     It is funny how one incorrect concept just snowballs into so many paragraphs/pages. Much like what happens in one's mind until they start practicing Vipassana (or other techniques of their choosing). To be clear, no one is disassociating from the world. It is a matter of disassociating from learned reactions to sensory input.
     As taught in the course, these learned reactions can come from four sources. Events in this life, Events in past lives, and Two sources of physical/environmental-like stimuli (such as getting cold, being burned, etc). The meditation technique discussed focuses on the reactions of the first two. If you did not get that or understand that then you were not paying attention. It was discussed in detail in one of the discourses.

    p16: The hard regimen of Vipassana retreats puts off many people.
     True. But also true for the hard regiment of anything.
     Sadly, you start rambling about this specific to this technique as if there is a reasonable point to be made.

    p16: Secondly, students are not allowed any time for reflection or thinking over what they are being taught, nor are they allowed to discuss the technique with others or to read/write about it.
     False. Totally false. We were allowed discussion with the instructor twice a day and at length at the end of the course. I utilized this time to its fullest extent. In addition, I found that the discourses answered a number of my questions which allowed me to focus on the remaining issues/problems/uncertainties that I had.

    p16: The experiential deprivation allows the mind the focus on the only sensory experience possible: the bodily sensations.
     Heh? What nonsense is this? If that were only the case... my mind was able to focus on a billion memories, thoughts, food, nature, sleep, showering in 5 minutes, the annoying noises my roommate made, the ability to maintain equanimity with those noises (and a slew of other things), and so on and so on.
     What nonsense are you promoting here? The more I read this the more I believe that you should go back and take the course again - your experience seems to have left you with an incredible defense mechanism based on some very negative biases.

    p16: Fifthly, the hard regimen and the jail-like conditions have a special effect on the tenth day, which will be described in section 6.
     Jail-like conditions? I suggest you take a tour of a local jail facility. It may be an eye opening experience...
     I slept in a large modern room shared with only one other person and in a comfortable bed with running hot water and shower/toilet in a private bath. I could leave that room anytime I wanted and was provided tasty food (not bland as you state) and more space to walk around than most city dwellers. In fact, one night almost everyone stayed outside and watched the stars for an extended period of time (clear night, no city lights, most amazing view most of us had seen in quite some time). Additionally, the grounds had impressive walking paths and large fields where family of deer grazed.

    p17: Students crave for each successive state and are deeply frustrated at not reaching the milestones described by Mr Goenka. The 12-day retreat becomes an exercise in reaching the goals described by Mr Goenka, and not in understanding one's mind or responses...
     For you maybe... Not for me. In fact, this is one of the items I discussed with the instructor early on. Perhaps you should have also. Afterwards, it became one of the sensations (refer to my earlier discussion on sensations) that I would experience (without reacting to it). By recognizing this and maintaining equanimity towards the feeling, I have reduced the senseless competition that has been a recurring pattern in my life. Instead, I now strive for partnership and cooperation.

    p17/18: The last six days involve a lot of tiresome movement of the mental focus through the body, stopping at inert body parts, making the traversal in different ways. The mind becomes almost numb with this repeated traversal of the body while looking for sensations.
     Sigh... This is so overloaded with bias... first, what's wrong with tiresome? You sound spoiled.
     Second, inert body parts? What the heck is an inert body part? If your body parts are inert then you missed everything here. Everything in you is moving/changing/etc. Calling it inert indicates you have really missed the idea of Vipassana.
     Even bigger sigh... the mind becomes "almost" numb? Kinda like working out and your muscles become tired. Oh My God! What a terrible thing.

    p18: It is a telling comment on a technique which is supposed to teach one about the truths of the mind and the body that it gets boring so soon.
     Yet another phrase full of ambiguity and relative comparisons to nothing. What does it tell? That the typical person today can't focus on anything for more than 30 seconds? What is 'so soon'? Compared to what?
     Huge sigh... "soon" is relative and different for everyone.

    p18: The experiences of inner silence are accompanied by low oxygen supply to the brain (medically called Hypoxia)
     You've entered nut-hood here. As a pilot we study and experience hypoxia. If you think that sitting quietly induces hypoxia (that is, your brain won't have you breathe deeper to avoid it), then you're just wrong. I also suggest you take some time in a hypoxia chamber to experience what hypoxia is all about.

    p19: Why not let the students make up their own mind?
     Are you suggesting that the students are not? Or are not capable of that? Or what?
     How bizarre... are you unable to make up your own mind when you sit down for 10 days straight to experience a technique for the sake of making up your own mind?

     Well... that did it for me... I've read the rest of your paper and you are presenting ideas that are based on suppositions that I simply did not experience in the courses. You are also presenting conclusions that I, as an intelligent and active member in today's engineering and aerospace community, simply did not draw.
     I can only presume that you had a negative internal reaction to the course due to your discouraging results from the course. Rather than view this discouragement with equanimity, it seems that you wrote this paper.

     To anyone that reads this... the 10 days in this course were presented in a thoughtful, non-cult-like, and open manner. Yes, it was very difficult... I had to deal with myself for 10 days straight almost continuously. I found that when most outside stimuli of iPhones, computers, emails, work, family, etc were removed what was left was just me and everything else my mind tried to make up. It was very insightful and I recommend it for anyone that can spare 10 days.
     Also, the food was delicious, the accommodations were clean/modern, and the location was surrounded by incredible nature (I was at the Northwest Vipassana Center in Washington State).
  • Hi posters

    I've got to say I'm horrified by some of the talk that goes on about this technique verses that technique, cult of personality and critique? Wow, you must be sitting in a lofty place. Critique? Like, your personal opinion matters? Am I missing something or aren't we all supposed to be practicing whatever we do with the aim of universal love and tolerance, peace and harmony, good will to all beings. Shouldn't we be looking to our own experiences to gain knowledge, not that of others? There is as much dogma and prejudice in some of these posts as any you'd find in a conventional religion which is pretty disappointing as most people start walking this path to avoid those things. When I learned to meditate at a Goenka Vipassana centre it never occurred to me to sharpen my knife and whinge about the bits I didn't like in a blog. I don't know anything about other forms of meditation and at this point I'm not interested in finding out as I'm stilling learning the one I've been taught. But, you can be sure, if I wanted to seek other techniques I be looking for the positive, not the negative.With Metta...
    • MB
      offline 0
      I was really riveted by what i've been reading here, so much so that I joined just so I could post a reply. I've done 2 10day retreats at the north fork center here in California, and have done a one day sit at the joshua tree, but have been out of practice for a bit but trying to get back into it because I feel what I learned was very beneficial to me.
      The 10 day courses were very challenging, for obvious reasons, I mean I literally meditated 11hours a day and didn't talk or read, yes it was hard but I think I knew that going in. I was not sleep deprived, some times I was tired but I took naps, or walks on breaks, as someone said bed time was early like 9:30 i think and first sit was at like 4:30am or something, yes that was a jolt to my system but again, it's a meditation retreat not a party weekend. Some people slept in, and there were no one reprimanding them for it. I was not starved, the meals were actually very good, some were like real real good. I didn't feel like I was trapped there in a cult like environment, I had the keys to my car and could leave if I wanted to which I didn't. On my first retreat my roommate did leave after the 5th day, it was just too much for him he later wrote to me in an email, but the volunteers did not try to keep him there in the least, they actually drove him to the bus or train ( i forget which). If there is a problem or if you have a question about anything you are allowed to speak to the teacher.
      I spoke to the teacher once and he seemed like a nice normal man. At my second retreat I had a bit of a freak out where I had bugs on me and had to run out of the hall(weird I know) and one of the volunteers followed me to the cabin to make sure I was alright ( he was not mad at me in the least but just concerned for my well being). As for having to sit uncomfortably , yes it can get uncomfortable. But there were people who would sit against the walls or in "other non-traditional" ways and no one seemed to mind. Yes I had to clean the bathroom of my cabin, but everyone in the cabin did as well, we had a sign up sheet. It was no big deal , and I think it helped me be a bit more humble. I was not asked for any money nor told that I should donate anything. I am not very financially successful shall we say so I've only given I think 10 or 20 bucks total to Vipassana, and that was not during the retreats. I left both retreats without giving a dime. Then when I had some money once I thought why not throw a donation to Vipassana. I gave it because I wanted to, I think it is a good cause that helps people. After the retreats no one contacted me, asking me for money or anything like that which I think a cult would do. So I guess I don't see the cult like stuff that other posters have.
      As for the videos of Goenka and his teachings, I quite enjoyed them. One of the main points I took from those discourses was to take what you like and leave the rest. So if there were parts I didn't agree with (like the whole separation of sexes thing, which I guess really didn't bother me but if I had to pick something) I'd just chose not to let it bother me. Also he says it is for everyone, every religion etc. And he says "love", often. Which I liked. I am no scholar so I don't know about different sects, and teachers, and buddhist stuff but I do know from my experience that I don't think what I went through was anything like a cult, nor did I witness anything negative. Nor did I find any of the teachings to be anti-other religions or people or anything. It was really quite a personal experience, and there was really no interference from any teaching or anyone. It was really something I am glad I did...twice and hope when i am able that I'll do again.
      I think if someone is interested in meditation a ten day retreat is a great thing to do.
      • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

        Thu, December 15, 2011 - 12:35 PM
        I was a Buddhist monk for 15 years and I feel like saying something here. Most people who sit using the Goenka method will get some benefit – the mind will inevitably become concentrated and clearer– that's all well and good.

        But what people seem to forget is that the Buddha taught us to “become independent in the teachers dispensation” - which means bringing wisdom to bare on the moment giving rise to fresh and new insights - emerging out of the radiance of wisdom - that are not based on rote techniques. The fact there is no diversity and no new teachers of authority with their own voices emerging from the Goenka tradition is frankly creepy at best and cultish at worst.

        I would never give my authority away to somebody who is not seen to bless and empower the greatness in others as well – being the sole authority in such a long standing organisation where no other voice is tolerated is the definition of tyrannical ( I am something you are nothing) and starry eyed acolytes that abdicate their own authority to anothesr create the perfect complimentar storm ( I am nothing you are something)

        Alive teachings come fresh form the mind as it Lives the process of realization and they are not simply rote repetitions played off an old DVD – there is no transmission of lineage in that – just an addictive impression of being in control.

        Buddhism is essentially a mystical tradition based on Sati (mindfulness) and the 4 foundations of mindfulness which emphasis the application and cultivation of wisdom. The word Vipassana only appears 4 times in the whole Pali canon -

        The Buddha did not teach Vipassana over and above other things – its more of a marketable technique that feeds into peoples insecure need to feel like they have got a grasp on reality - if they understand the technique they don't need to face the underlying bewilderment and insecurity that their reacting to in the first place(defination of arrogance)

        I could go on but I am not here to write a book – having seen a family member sucked into this Geonka rigidity and fundamentalism – I can't stand by in silence.
    • Re: A Critique of Vipassana as taught by S N Goenka

      Thu, December 15, 2011 - 12:40 PM
      Discernment is a good thing – otherwise we are like Snowwhite in the enchanted forest – asleep in the presence of danger – there is no room for individual perspective in this tradition – therefore you get a lot of pissed off people – its inevitable