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Retreat Centers

SN Goenka Centers

SN Goenka Centers Wet Paint 3/30/08 7:19 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Hokai Sobol 3/30/08 7:23 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Hokai Sobol 3/30/08 7:34 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Wet Paint 3/30/08 7:38 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Hokai Sobol 3/30/08 8:35 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Vincent Horn 3/30/08 2:40 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Wet Paint 3/30/08 4:20 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Daniel M. Ingram 3/30/08 4:33 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Andy Coke 10/5/09 12:23 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Tom O. 10/5/09 9:20 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Andy Coke 11/30/09 5:19 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Daniel Johnson 12/31/09 2:10 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Wet Paint 4/4/08 7:04 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Vincent Horn 4/4/08 9:31 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Nathan I S 4/4/08 10:03 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Daniel M. Ingram 4/4/08 10:52 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Nathan I S 4/5/08 4:11 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Wet Paint 4/9/08 8:00 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Wet Paint 4/10/08 4:26 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Nathan I S 4/10/08 5:04 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Wet Paint 4/10/08 6:21 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Chuck Kasmire 4/12/08 12:35 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Martin Mai 5/29/08 4:54 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Wet Paint 12/3/08 7:54 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers lena lozano 12/6/08 5:52 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Wet Paint 2/24/09 12:14 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Wet Paint 8/11/09 5:21 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Ted Weinstein 2/2/10 12:52 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Dark Night Yogi 4/11/10 9:42 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Aziz Solomon 4/11/10 5:45 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Daniel M. Ingram 4/13/10 11:20 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Aziz Solomon 4/14/10 6:23 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Daniel M. Ingram 4/16/10 1:57 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Dm Mat 9/28/17 5:24 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Dm Mat 9/28/17 7:47 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers neko 9/29/17 6:33 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Dm Mat 9/29/17 6:44 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers neko 9/29/17 7:16 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Nikolai . 9/29/17 12:09 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Dm Mat 9/30/17 9:41 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers neko 9/30/17 10:56 AM
RE: SN Goenka Centers Matt 9/30/17 1:18 PM
RE: SN Goenka Centers neko 10/2/17 2:42 AM
SN Goenka Centers
3/30/08 7:19 AM
Author: Tracy.
Forum: Places to Practice

I want to start a category for info on SN Goenka centers. I know they aren't recommended by Daniel, but I think a lot of serious practice is possible there, especially for beginners. Each center has its own issues and facilities (for example, the Massachusetts center is building a huge, obnoxious pagoda which many community members oppose), but then again they have many things in common. Could we have a general SN Goenka review/discussion page, with sub-pages for the different geographic sites? I don't know how to set this up on the wiki.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
3/30/08 7:23 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Hi Tracy. You need to go to the "Places to practice" page (see on the left under WIKI PAGES) and select "Add page" (again, on the left). Next, give the new page a name, and choose the template "Places to practice". Follow through. When you finish the basic input, save the page. Later you may edit and add info and pictures as often as you wish.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
3/30/08 7:34 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
I just notices you made a page on CIMC, so you figured it out. Good!

RE: SN Goenka Centers
3/30/08 7:38 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Tracy.

But can I add new pages "under" that page? I'm thinking of a structure like Places to Practice >> SN Goenka Centers >> Massachusetts, Texas, etc.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
3/30/08 8:35 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
There's a list with quite a few details at
Not sure how to go about this here. Send a message to Daniel and Vince to get their feedback on this.

You could start a thread on Goenka related stuff in each of our sections here, but not in the way to create a sub-wiki. For that purpose you can start a separate wetpaint wiki altogether and have all the structure and options as you like them. Just thinking. Sorry I can't help more.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
3/30/08 2:40 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.

You can totally have different centers under the SN Goenka Centers menu. All you need to do is once you've created a new page (ex. "Massachusetts" then click the "more tools" link at the top of the page. There are several options under there, but the one you are looking for is "move page". Click that, and then select the SN Goenka Centers page. That will place the Massachusetts page as a sub-page for that sub-page. A sub-sub-page if you will. ;-D



RE: SN Goenka Centers
3/30/08 4:20 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Tracy.

Awesome. Thanks, Vince!

RE: SN Goenka Centers
3/30/08 4:33 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Please don't misunderstand me, it is not that I do not recommend Goenka centers, as I know a good number of people who have gotten some real benefit from them, the price is clearly right, they are pretty on the up and up as centers and traditions go, I know numerous people who have crossed the Arising and Passing Away during their courses, and thus, there is much to be said for them.

I do have some critiques, however, about a few things. I do know that during the first 3 month retreat at IMS where they used the Mahasi method over body-scanning that they got many more stream enterers and others with deep insights and they basically never looked back. I know that many who have gotten into interesting territory on Goenka retreats have not had teachers there who could tell them what was happening, what to do next, how it might effect their daily life, etc., all of which I consider suboptimal and unfortunate. The tradition is a bit sectarian without necessarily the track record to justify this, though again, as a widespread, dana-based insight movement, the world is clearly a better place for it, and many do get their start there. In short, a mixed bag, but that is not the same as me not recommending them.

Best of luck posting your pages, and I do think that posting the pros and cons of various centers and where they is a very good thing, as plenty of people need local options, and more insight practice, even if I personally don't consider it the very most effective, sophisticated and fully developed, is definitely a good idea.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/4/08 7:04 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Tracy.

Yes, I very much agree with your assessment, as you can see from my review. I tried to keep an objective tone, so if anyone else sees a negative bias, they're welcome to correct it.

My question in this thread was also trying to get at how tightly or loosely this wiki is meant to conform to Should it (the wiki as opposed to the discussion forum) be a big, expansive democratic site, or a more streamlined collection of high-quality practical information? If it's the latter, then it seems like the wiki will end up re-creating the structure and content of Daniel Ingram's website, with the added feature of a discussion board. The majority of what's on here IS new, but, um... it's not growing very fast. I think that people with all different levels of attainment should use this site to share their experiences and knowledge, even when that experience does not line up with what they've read on Daniel's site. I wonder if the reason why this isn't happening is that new members are afraid to contribute material that could be considered "wrong" by moderators.

Or it could be that the site is still in its initial phase, and those who do post here have Stuff to Do in the Real World.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/4/08 9:31 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
My understanding is this site is definitely aimed at being broader than Daniel's site, but with the same spirit of his work, to have meaningful, practical, and moderated discussion about various techniques, attainments, teachers, places to practice, etc. So, it's certainly broader then Daniel's work but not so broad that anything goes. Moderation, to some degree, is always necessary in a space where there is a clear mission and vision. That being said, it's always a fine line between moderating and squashing discussion. I feel, like you it sounds, that having people of all levels of theoretical and practical understanding contribute will make this a very rich and beautiful project.

I think it is still in an initial phase, with only 41 members (pretty small for a web community), and from my experience is highly active given that number. When there are a few hundred I suspect there will be much more participation, and it will quickly become an extremely useful resources for all practitioners interested in pragmatic dharma. Or at least, that's the hope.


RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/4/08 10:03 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Part of this stems from the relatively small size of the site. Today half my office is out so I obviously have some free time, and our clients are broke now so I've had idle time.

Experiences that don't line up are good, since they might help the map-makers here. This is also a small site, too, there are only a few people here; my only prohibition against sharing experiences or theories are that a lot of it isn't that helpful or pragmatic.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/4/08 10:52 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
I very much hope that this site is far beyond my site, broader than my emphases, includes a wide array of practitioners and traditions, but, as Vince stated, I am very much into certain points, such as practical, you-can-do-it, empowering, straightforward, open, real-world dharma. I personally have drawn from many traditions along the way and gotten a lot out of this, though sorting out what is useful and what is fantasy, what is dogma and what is truth has taken work.

I think that alternate points of view are good, and some of my most interesting dharma conversations have been with people from Christian Mystical, Western Mystery, and other traditions that superficially look very different from some of what is here but in reality share many common elements.

Thus, please feel free to contribute whatever you genuinely feel will help you and the other posters to get these things in the deepest sense.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/5/08 4:11 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
I got too enthusiastic with the cut and paste function--by that I mean "personal prohibiton against sharing my experiences"

RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/9/08 8:00 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Yverc

I might visit a 10 day retreat. However i googled goenka and found some negative reviews about the retreats. This was the most negative review:

Do you think the guy just had bad luck? If i am to visit a retreat i want to be allowed to take a piss if i really need to.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/10/08 4:26 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Tracy.

Wow, that guy's pretentious ("If you have not read the Buddha's four discourses on meditation, I have recently rendered a few improvements in their translation."??).

But his review does raise a couple real issues, especially the possibility that you will get an Assistant Teacher who is unable to guide you in a skillful way. A really good meditation teacher might have explained to this guy that he should try coupling his relaxation and absorption with continued alert observation, just to see what happens. The teacher should have recognized that someone who is so set in his ways is going to need polite and knowledgeable persuasion to change, rather than just an order to change or leave. The problem is that obedience and enthusiasm seem to be the characteristics most valued in students by the organization, so the most obedient and enthusiastic students are trained to be teachers. A student who displays these qualities might be wise and compassionate, or he might not. So it is largely a matter of luck.

Anyway, the thing about the bathrooms is true. There are 4 1-hour periods in each day when you are not allowed to leave the meditation hall. However, if something goes really wrong (bloody nose, bathroom emergency, etc), they're not going to stop you from leaving. That reviewer got to take his bathroom break, but he also got scolded by the course manager. So what? You have to be autonomous and know when you NEED to get up. They want everyone to stay in the hall during these times so that students will learn to break the habit of overreacting to unpleasant sensations. If your problem is going to have real consequences for others (such as urine all over the floor), of course it's better to leave the hall. There is no penalty for getting up during these times.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/10/08 5:04 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
The only thing I think you can conclude from Jhananada's sometimes paranoid review is that you probably don't want to visit that particular center or one led by that particular staff--e.g., they kick someone out for practicing "chakra meditation" after he reports following their technique because he is going through "swaying", a common side-effect?

That said, I made a point of steering clear from the prunes or lots of cabbage at the last retreat I was at.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/10/08 6:21 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Tracy.

After searching Jhanananda's website for a little while, it seems like it would be extremely hard to persuade him to go for insight instead of absorption. So it might be unfair to blame the Goenka teacher for failing.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/12/08 12:35 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Regarding Jhanananda, this guy found our local sitting groups listserve a few years ago and eventually I had to block him. We all deal with our demons. Enough said.

I did my first 10-day retreat at the North Fork Center and found it very good and recommend the place to people. They keep you focused and encourage you to work hard. I learned a tremendous amount. They focus on practice. Food was great :-)

They have their quirks and if someone already has a strong practice not in that tradition then I would not recommend them. But it never hurts to check them out - their hearts are in the right place.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
5/29/08 4:54 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Personnally, I startet doing noting practice only and did not try anything else until I had some basic insights. Recently I crossed a point where I find the noting getting in the way of my practice because it´s slowing me down, so I tried something else including the Goenka-method and found it quite suitable for me. So I cannot share the opinions expressed in the posts saying that it is better for real beginners.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
12/3/08 7:54 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: Gavesini

I think Daniel's opinion of Goenka centres is quite accurate. In fact they are very sectarian and not just a bit sectarian. I am speaking from personal experience at one such centre outside the States. They seemed to be very rigid and followed the "rules" of their tradition to the letter which kind of put me off especially like not accepting donations(dana) from my Buddhist friends just because they were not Goenka students and not accepting my offer of service at their retreats for the same reason. They told me I had to do their usual 10 day retreat before my offer could be considered...and that was I did, a year later. Not that I wanted to be one of them. Even though I have 20 years of practice in about 100 Mahasi style of intensive retreats I was quite curious about their way of practice as some of my students had in the past asked for my opinion of the tradition.To be able to do honestly that I had to sit in their retreat. To say the least I was not impressed by the teachers and they did threatened to show me the door if I did not do as instructed. They also objected to me walking slowly and doing walking meditation.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
12/6/08 5:52 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
I use to go to Goenca center every year and feel happy I have this option inside the country since I cant permit myself to go out-money and timewise.I stoped asking questions after getting few nonsatisfying answers from assistant teachers/thanks Daniel book I can use their fasilities and push my practice forvard'concidering the maps until I ll be able to go to some other retreat.basicly even all their strict rules dont prevent the beginners from practicing less seriously then expected.and usually the beguiners are the majority in the course.I also admit that my positive attitude is due not knowing something else for comparison

RE: SN Goenka Centers
2/24/09 12:14 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: yadidb

My only experience of meditation retreats is of those taught by SN Goenka, so i will just like to share that.

I've sat several retreats and served on several others,
the positive aspects i found are: teachers are always volunteers, and never even accept donations, they must earn their livelihood in other ways.
technique wise, 1/3rd of retreats is dedicated to anapanasati at the nostrils, 2/3rds to vipassana, or vedananupassana at the beginning atleast, sensations throughgout the body, in more advanced courses Goenka explains the whole mahasatipatthana sutta and the other foundations of mindfulness (kaya, citta, dhamma).

another positive aspect i found is that centres are dedicated to hardcore, diligent practice, and not to theoretical or philosophical discussions.
a course in this tradition involves over 10 hours of formal sitting practice in the hall or in a meditation cell (in the more ideal centres).

some negative aspects i've found: some people involved in serving tend to be dogmatic in regards to rules of the centre (which are important, but are followed dogmatically sometimes),
ideolizing of goenka.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
8/11/09 5:21 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: AidanPelly

Would like to add my experience of Goenka retreats. I have sat 4. 3 10-days, Japan, Thailand, and Cambodia and a Satipattana in Cambodia. I had been meditating mostly with a Thich Nhat Hanh group and I have done a couple of his retreats.
I found the strict discipline and structure of the retreats very useful. It helped me to get beyond thinking and into the body which was an important shift for me. I have some ambivalence to the technique overall because it is so unrelenting. On the positive side, I have found that this unrelenting quality both leads to sharpened concentration and deeper appreciation of technique and the nature of hindrances etc - though this has been more through abandoning his instructions to a degree and using either the anapana or body scanning (depending on level of concentration) as a basis/ideal resting position but then being pleased to meet/investigate objects as they come up. To an extent this seems to be implied by Goenka himself with anapana/scanning being seen as both the most effective and suitable techniques for beginners.
On a negative side, I find a growing sense of aversion to sitting often develops as I am very tall and not physically made for cross-legged sitting - and this aversion is fatiguing and a barrier to concentration/investigation.
I have not learnt anything or received any advice of value from any of the interviews with the teachers I have had in the Goenka tradition, but the presence of strong meditator leading the group I find useful.
I find listening to him chant rather exhausting - and think he could also create his `positive vibrations` by involving meditors better. However, I loved hearing the 75mins of mahasatipattana on satipattana retreat - though I cheated and went and followed it in my room with the script. Goenka knows how to chant very well. Anyone have an mp3 of it? Found it useful to compare interpetations of the sutta with Analayo`s understanding (ISBN:1899579540).

RE: SN Goenka Centers
10/5/09 12:23 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.

given the teachers are not very helpful, what would you thing is the best plan to make most of Goenka´s retreats?

Would knowing the maps by heart an excellent idea, or do you think that it would not be of much help?

I did a Goenka retreat a few months ago, but because of my ignorance I couldn't really say how good or bad the teachers were, as I didn´t experienced nothing very fancy. I did feel some funky very pleasant tingling sensation in my hands, growing to the arms, but I never told them anything, just enjoyed and tried to be as equanimous as I could.

I'd love to do a retreat in Mahasi tradition, but I havent found anywhere relatively close to where I live, (Scotland...anyone knows?)

Thanks, and hello everybody, as this is my first post : D


RE: SN Goenka Centers
10/5/09 9:20 PM as a reply to Andy Coke.
Andres Coca Lopez:

given the teachers are not very helpful, what would you thing is the best plan to make most of Goenka´s retreats?
Would knowing the maps by heart an excellent idea, or do you think that it would not be of much help?

I have wondered this myself. There is a Goenka retreat just outside of Toronto, which is far more accessible than, say, Barre, and you can't beat the price. But since the MCTB technique is firmly Mahasi, does their technique hinder, rather than help?

-- tomo

RE: SN Goenka Centers
11/30/09 5:19 AM as a reply to Tom O..
As I said in a different post, here is another teacher from U Ba Khin tradition with centres around the world:

I havent participated myself in any retreat with them, but it looks quite posh, so they may have more helpfull teachers.

Any thougth?


RE: SN Goenka Centers
12/31/09 2:10 PM as a reply to Tom O..
I just got back from 6 months at the Goenka center in North Fork doing long term service. I sat five ten-day courses while there, and served on 6 courses, plus a children's course emoticon

I would pretty much agree with what's been said:

good environment.
good discipline that keeps away the lazy space cadet types.
Teaching is excellent for a new student (but declines from there since you pretty much have to take the same beginner's ten day over and over again).
Donation only - Dana!
All over the world!
Not watered down western style - real Burmese flavor.

cons: some people don't like his chanting (way off key).
Sectarian (in the sense that part of the teaching is to "find a technique and marry it." They don't insist that it should be this technique, but whatever technique/teacher works for you - marry that one and don't be promiscuous. I think this comes from Goenka's Indian culture of gurus and arranged marriages having been met by the influx of uncontrolled lsd dropping freelove hippies who came to his early courses.)
Because the teachers and managers are all volunteers, it changes from course to course, and there is a lot of variance. Some are good, some not so good. Total crapshoot. For the most part, I found the assistant teachers to be unhelpful.
10 day retreats are the max you can do for the first 2 years of practice. Then, you can do 20 day retreats (but ONLY if you tell them that you only practice in the tradition of S.N. Goenka and no other practices whatsoever). Still, you must wait another few months before you can do a 30 day retreat, and the 45 day and 60 day retreats are very rare and hard to get into. Nothing longer than that.
Also, the 10 day retreat is repeated over and over and over and over and over again. It gets old.

One note that's important: It's not that the "teachers" are unhelpful. The "teacher" is S.N. Goenka. He's pretty helpful. Unfortunately, he's not there. It's the "assistant teachers" who are often unhelpful.

My advice to make the best out of it is simple: go and practice exactly as your taught (the core of the teaching is very sound), put your heart into it. Don't have any expectation that the assistant teachers will help you (and if they do, consider it a bonus!) Read Daniel Ingram's "General Advice for Retreats" on his website.

You can get a lot out of it. And mostly, the cons that I listed can be ignored or worked around.

If Goenka was the only access to dhamma that I had - I would still feel 1000000% grateful. Dhamma is dhamma, and Dhamma is wonderful! What magnificent karma we have that we live in a world with so much access to the Dhamma. Incredible! The only reason I'm moving on is because for whatever incredible karmic reason... there are even better places to practice! How cool is that?!

Be happy.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
2/2/10 12:52 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
I will add my comments, which are largely in agreement with the others in this discussion. I have done three 10-day retreats "with" Goenka, one at North Fork (the established center in the Sierra foothills of California) and two at a rented facility near Sebastopol north of San Francisco. Having learned meditation and developed my practice largely with Gil Fronsdal at Insight Meditation Center, my focus is breathing meditation, so Goenka's body scanning style of meditation is not my preference. For many reasons, after these three Goenka retreats I doubt I will do another.

However, I recommend them without reservation. Unlike the less physically demanding and rigorous retreats at Spirit Rock and many other Western centers, the Goenka retreats are really a "Buddhist Boot Camp" and enormously valuable on many levels. I won't offer comments on the specifics of the retreats, as I think it best for first time attendees to go in with as few preconceptions as possible (I literally knew nothing about Goenka when I attended my first retreat and think that made for the best experience), but anyone considering it should feel confident that they are well-run, well-intentioned, and a safe, positive place to learn and practice.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/11/10 5:45 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
The internet is full of unpleasant attacks on the SN Goenka courses, almost all of which center on the fact that they are "too hardcore". By contrast, it is so refreshing to come across such balanced, constructive criticism here. : )

RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/11/10 9:42 AM as a reply to Ted Weinstein.
hello ted, if i may ask, what about the body scanning technique don't u like

i tried the course 2 times, after previously doing noting and experimenting around with other methods.
i find the body scanning technique useful and im right now trying to decide what technique to stick to..

RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/13/10 11:20 AM as a reply to Aziz Solomon.
Dear Aziz,

Glad you like it.

Strangely, while I haven't been on a Goenka retreat, what I hear of them doesn't sound hardcore enough for me, not enough emphasis on every sensation, every second technique from the moment of waking to the moment of sleeping, not enough emphasis on progress, no maps, low expectations on people getting stream entry and beyond, low quality discussion of technical aspects, etc.

Anyway, just one opinion.


RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/14/10 6:23 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Dear Daniel,

And I gather that Mahasi course participants rise at 3.30AM, compared with a leisurely 4AM wake up time on the Goenka course!
At least in my own experience (just one Goenka course), the physical ordeal of sitting for so many hours on end can at times have the quality of a kind of endurance test or an exercise in bodily mortification if you're not used to it. With hindsight, it it is possible that I might have made more progress if some of the time had been spent on walking meditation, which also seems to offer an excellent way for insight to reveal itself amidst daily activity outside the retreat setting too.

Up until coming across your book about a week ago, I had assumed that Goenka's approach was the sole alternative to the norms of the commercialized, superstition-infested, guru-obsessed spiritual supermarket. Without wanting to sound guru-infatuated myself, I really want to express my sincere gratitude to you for making pure Dhamma accessible to so many of us in a new, creative idiom, without fundamentally dumbing it down. It is vitally important work you are doing.


RE: SN Goenka Centers
4/16/10 1:57 AM as a reply to Aziz Solomon.
Thanks for the encouragement. It is always good to hear.

Walking is great: I had some really important breakthroughs while walking. It shouldn't be underestimated. It keeps the energy up, provides durable concentration, and helps us integrate practice into the more motion-oriented, open-eyed world of daily life.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
9/28/17 5:24 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Dear Daniel

I have been consistently practicing Vipassana following the Goenka instructions since 2003. I have kept up 2 hours per day and 1 retreat every year. For the last 5 years I did four 20-day courses and one 30-day course. I also did a good amount of service when I was in the Chicago area. 

However, I still don't know "where" I am in terms of stages and states. 

When I am at home I find your book very helpful for motivation and support. However, as soon as I get on a long retreat I quickly find your recommendations regarding progress and maps less useful. 

One insight I obtained during my last 30 day retreat was that in this tradition the concentration jhanas are not emphasized for good reason. The goal is to get enough concentration so that you can practice Vipassana. But in a 30 day course, we get 10 days to practice concentration only. (yet no emphasis or guidance on jhanas beyond the initial concentration needed for a foundation) 

There is less emphasis on progress. This has an advantage because for me focusing on the results and progress doesn't seem to help me maintain continuity of practice while on a retreat. Yet, when I get home I always feel a sense of unclarity regarding what did I actually achieve after that long retreat. 

We are not provided with a systematic detailed map like your book provides. But I think I like that. However, I don't know where I am at in terms of a system of progress. 

I really respect the fact that I can learn to become very independent. I am not depending on a "system". I am not depending on a teacher. The teachers are there to provide metta and guidance, but I hardly ever ask any questions. I find the answers by myself by continuing to practice as instructed. 

I guess there is a trade-off between getting handed over a map where there is a territory which has been already charted and being on your own to find your way. 

Perhaps I am jumping to my next conclusion too quickly, without establishing my premises. But isn't following maps and systems keeping you inside the "matrix". by matrix, I mean a system of control over humanity, various forms of mind control. If we want total freedom, why would we want to be bound to these maps and systems? 

This brings me to another question which I guess I will make a different post for: what role does imagination play in practice? Is awakening a system or matrix, or can it be freedom from all systems? 


Chengdu, China 

RE: SN Goenka Centers
9/28/17 7:47 AM as a reply to Dm Mat.

Good questions. I haven't reached the Bunga stage, though with these longer retreats I have done the last few years it feels like something is going to happen soon. I still face mainly unpleasant sensations or a mixture of pleasant (and subtle) and unpleasant (gross) simultaneously. I am able to maintain equanimity and awareness for longer periods of time while facing severe pain. 

I am confident I am clearing sankaras (my own sankaras, not Goenkas!. Your message below said Goenka's??) Through the experience of maintaining awareness and equanimity towards all sensations it is like I can see it happening, the cause and effect, the clearing of heavy sankaras. The heavy unpleasant gross sensations keep arising and eventually passing. I am not aware of this at a high-frequency level. I don't think my awareness/concentration is strong enough yet. I tried to follow Daniel's advice from his book while on retreat, but it my mind got agitated as a result of expecting the experience and awareness of sensations to be something other than the reality I was experiencing at the time. So I simply kept it in mind that sensations arise and pass very quickly and it is possible to be aware of more subtle sensations arising at faster rates. I didn't get too fixed on following the maps or stages either. Focusing on those maps seems helpful after the retreat, but during it just kept me away from being aware of my reality. 

One doubt I frequently have is whether I worked hard enough. Even though I work extremely hard all day, the tension of feeling I must be working continuously at a retreat can be counterproductive at times. I feel the anxiety of not getting any results, even though I never sat down and decided what exactly I could use as a benchmark for my progress. I like the approach of goal setting talked about in Daniel's book. But even showing up and doing my best (working continuously as much as possible) is a great accomplishment which will bring fruit. 

My life has improved since I started, but it has been 14 years so it is hard to say how my life would be if I didn't meditate. There were never any dramatic changes. I don't think my family or old friends noticed any difference in me. (but I don't live with them, I live overseas)

My first course was very transformative in the sense that I knew this is what I wanted to do. I was so inspired to follow the path. 

My outlook on life and wisdom gained to this point have changed for the better. It is like seeing that there is so much more to life and more to be experienced through this path. Even though it is very difficult and painful, something pushes me to keep going, to explore, to experience equanimity more. I want more wisdom. I want true freedom. I want to do less harm. 

This path is very pure, that is what attracted me to it and keeps me going year after year. It has its downsides but I think it is sufficient, no reason to change to a different tradition. I may have been a little dogmatic at times. I never considered any other traditions after finding Goenka's courses. I decided that it takes focus and dedication to one path if you want to make progress. And during retreats, I gain more confidence through experience that it really works, however slowly the results may come. 

We basically learn to work on our own. As old students doing long courses (20 days or more), we are encouraged to find our own answers instead of asking the teacher. I like that. Yet I don't feel totally independent because I would not be able to do a 30 day course by myself. There is something very powerful and supportive about the dhamma atmosphere and the pure vibrations of a good meditation center that helps you go deeper into practice. 


RE: SN Goenka Centers
9/29/17 6:33 AM as a reply to Dm Mat.
Dustin Mattison:

Good questions. I haven't reached the Bunga stage, though with these longer retreats I have done the last few years it feels like something is going to happen soon. I still face mainly unpleasant sensations or a mixture of pleasant (and subtle) and unpleasant (gross) simultaneously. I am able to maintain equanimity and awareness for longer periods of time while facing severe pain. 

Dustin, have you considered the possibility that the Goenka method might not be the best one for you? Bangha nana* is often attainable on the first retreat with good guidance, if the practiontioner and the technique are a good match. I understand that this means that you will not be admitted to long Goenka courses anymore, since Goenka forbids practicing different techniques, but I would consider some Mahasi noting following the MCTB advice at this point, and/or the jhanas following the advice in MCTB, Culadasa's The Mind Illuminated, and/or Leigh Brasington's advice.


* Bangha nana is formally the stage Daniel calls "5. Dissolution" in MCTB, although by Goenka's interpretation of what is going on it looks more like what Daniel calls "4. Arising & Passing Away". Either way, one precipitates the other reliably, so the distinction is not super-important here.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
9/29/17 6:44 AM as a reply to neko.
I am happy with Goenka courses. Thanks.

I just like hearing some new perspectives. 

And since everyone has a different stock of sankaras, how can you say that Bangha is commonly achieved on the first course with a better method? 

Technique has limits. It is the essence that is important. Just by tweaking some of my practice I don't see how that is going to get me to Bangha faster. 

Regarding the rules at Goenka Vipassana centers, it is something like 2 years. If you practice other traditions you have to practice this tradition for another 2 years without changing techniques (doing 10 day courses).


RE: SN Goenka Centers
9/29/17 7:16 AM as a reply to Dm Mat.
Dustin Mattison:

And since everyone has a different stock of sankaras, how can you say that Bangha is commonly achieved on the first course with a better method? 

Technique has limits. It is the essence that is important. Just by tweaking some of my practice I don't see how that is going to get me to Bangha faster. 

Having a little bit of experience with the Goenka method myself, although nowhere near your own (two 10-days courses) I cannot say that "reaching" bangha nana has anything to do with having eradicated a sufficient number of sankharas, to put it in Goenka's terms.

Methods that can unlock the A&P and Dissolution are, for example:

1 - The direct method: See impernanence (anicca), dukkha (which Goenka calls "misery"), or no-self with enough clarity.

2 - The indirect method: accessing jhana (second jhana specifically) and then doing vipassana from inside there and/or upon exiting it, lands you in A&P. Third jhana lands you in Dissolution.

3 - Yet an alternative method: Follow Culadasa's method for concentration, reach what he calls stage 7/8, and then do vipassana with that level of concentration. This is basically Goenka's own method, except that since he does not provide milestones or methods for improving concentration, you can get stuck with insufficient concentration without knowing how or why.

So, as I see it, if you haven't "unlocked" bangha yet, there are two options:

A - you have, and you don't realise it, or

B -something can be done about your technique to help you get there.

Unfortunately, the fact that you basically get zero guidance from Assistant Teachers on Goenka retreats makes the thing complicated. So I am not talking about a "better" method all-around. Some things can be said about better methods in general, of course, but I was more thinking along the lines of maybe U Ba Khin / Goenka not being a great match for you, particularly if you haven't tried other techniques.

There is anecdoctical evidence of many people who have practiced Goenka-style for many years without getting beyond the Equanimity nana (by their own accounts), and unlocking Stream Entry after switching to other techinques. Of course we don't know what happens to those who keep practicing Goenka-style, given the culture of not talking about attainments there... so these ex-Goenka guys might be a small minority, or a very representative sample of Goenka practitioners who just happened to try something else. We might never know.

Have a nice evening (it's evening in China now, right?) emoticon

RE: SN Goenka Centers
9/29/17 12:09 PM as a reply to neko.
Hi Dustin,

I was in a similar boat myself to you. Lots of courses over years, long courses too. But no idea about progress through stages. I stumbled on this place back in 2008, tried to switch to Mahasi Sayafaw’s notjng technique at first finding it difficult but eventually mastering it. 

The the switch was accompanied by all the uncomfortable attachment I had concerning being a part of the Goenka tradition, all the rules etc that go along with that. In hindsight, I’m very content that I took my path completely in my own hands and did what needed to be fine fur my own conditioning. 

here are some links to the process. The last link is to some advice I gave long ago to dhamma friends who did not experience the urge to explore other means of getting beyond sankharaupekkhañana I.e knowledge of equanimity of formations, the stage prior to stream entry. If you wish, jump to the last part where I include comments by an anonymous practiinerwho is still within the tradition talking about what to do to get to stream entry.

My 2 cents

kind regards


RE: SN Goenka Centers
9/30/17 9:41 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:
Hi Dustin,

I was in a similar boat myself to you. Lots of courses over years, long courses too. But no idea about progress through stages. 


That article you sent written by the anonymous meditator was interesting. His practice was not different from what anyone at a 10 day course learns and tries to practice. Yet, there were a few things in there that I didn't work on adequately, like how to deal with boredom when you are already in a deep state. I will try some of those things, such as focusing on the six sense doors at the same time. 

I don't know who has achieved Bungha at the Goenka courses because I never asked anyone. Perhaps it is just part of the culture. I never thought I should be overly concerned about it. I do my job and let dhamma do the rest. This is what Goenka reminds us to do. 

Once a start a course there are so many deep sankaras to face that I have no time to try to fit myself within a framework of stages and maps. 

My sense is that it is NOT common for someone to reach the high stages that this anonymous person wrote about on their first course. It must depend on prior paramis. Unless perhaps, his interpretation is subjective. I could probably even convince myself I reached those stages if I tried. When I read his article I saw many things which probably happened to me as well but I never used a map to track where I was. I have been practicing diligently for 14 years, including 5 long courses of 20 days and a 30 day. Even on my first 10 day course I think I reached many of the markers that he talked about in that article, but not in that order or with such precision. My first course actually seemed like I was closest to Bangha. So my conclusion is that Goenka's advice is good. He says it doesn't matter what kind of sensations you experience or whether you get to Bangha or other stages. Just keep working and let Dhamma take care of the rest, things will happen in their due time. 

I admit, my concentration isn't awesomely focused. There are many times when I try my best but the concentration just doesn't stay as straight as I imagine it could. 

Pain is also a huge challenge. I can sit the 1 hour strong determination sittings always, but they can still be extremely painful. During the strong determination sit I can maintain equanimity pretty well. But when the sit is over I can see how intense it really was because getting out of the posture is very painful at times. But it passes away after a few minutes and I feel good and have really strong equanimity. 

I don't agree with the comment made by the person Big Bird below who said Bungha has nothing to do with Sankaras. I don't see how that can be true. The whole practice is about sankaras, first the heavy unpleasant deep sankaras that are associated with the lower planes of existence are uprooted and eliminated, then the subtle pleasant sensations associated with heavenly planes are uprooted and eliminated. That is the core of the practice in my view. How can you possibly experience the subtle free flow of sensations if you have heavy accumulations of gross sankaras? It isn't logical. 

What other purpose would there be in observing sensations with equanimity? It is to let the deep sankaras arise and pass away, while maintaining equanimity and awareness of impermanence. You keep practicing continuously moment to moment. That is all you can do. 

Now it may be a possibility that some of the physical pain I experience is not due to sankaras, but simply my body not being able to handle the long sitting. I tend to get rigid in terms of maintaining perfection, of being a strong meditator who doesn't slack off. I can lessen up on the intensity more often and allow myself to be human. That does seem to work when I am able to do it. 


RE: SN Goenka Centers
9/30/17 10:56 AM as a reply to Dm Mat.
How can you possibly experience the subtle free flow of sensations if you have heavy accumulations of gross sankaras? It isn't logical. 
I have a shitload of sankharas. I am a little obnoxious know-it-all piece of shit (getting better with practice, but much of this still applies). Yet, I can experience the subtle free flow of sensations at will and quite easily. Whatever the reason you would think this is illogical, it is a fact. And if experience contradicts logics, then the conclusion should be that there's something wrong with the logics, in my opinion.

I don't agree with the comment made by the person Big Bird below who said Bungha has nothing to do with Sankaras. I don't see how that can be true. The whole practice is about sankaras, first the heavy unpleasant deep sankaras that are associated with the lower planes of existence are uprooted and eliminated, then the subtle pleasant sensations associated with heavenly planes are uprooted and eliminated. That is the core of the practice in my view.

To be honest, I do not agree with Goenka's take on (what he calls) sankharas, nor with his belief that sitting through pain is what defines / brings to enlightenment, pick your flavour. Let me preface the following by saying that I am a huge admirer of the organisation Goenka has built, and of the generosity and good will of the people who bring his work forward. He was obviously a well meaning and exceptionally talented individual, particularly in the way he designed his organisation.

This being said, I have four main causes for skepticism on Goenka's practice:

1) My own experience. Purification, as defined by Shinzen Young through the equation

Purification = Pain x Equanimity + (Pleasure x Equanimity)

is fantastic. However, as the equation says, ramping up purification through working with Pain is not necessarily the best way to obtain purification. I'd rather cultivate my (Equanimity x Pleasure) hand in hand with the Pain side of the equation. This is a personal preference of course.

2) Purification, in my experience, is not the end-all-be-all of awakening anyway. Personally, I have found practice based on impermanence, dukkha, no-self, emptiness/bliss, emptiness/luminosity, emptiness/compassion, and a practical, moment-by-moment awareness of dependent origination to be immensely more powerful in bringing insight, not to mention an immensely more fun and pleasant ride. Of course it may be different for other people.

3) I have met, sat with, and talked with people who have gone through a bunch of Goenka retreats, and the way they approach practice, this extreme emphasis on "uprooting sankharas"... it really does not resonate with me in any way, and I fail to see in them the progress that I see in people doing other practices. Of course I have met only a very limited sample of practitioners, and I do not want to over-generalise, but I have seen people get really obsessed with this idea of uprooting sankharas, and it did not seem healthy to me. Almost life-denying to be honest.

4) I do not consider myself a Buddhist (at least in the religious sense of the word), but Goenka's technique has a much weaker scriptural basis than he claims. Some examples:

- He only teaches the first two of sixteen steps of anapanasati (noticing long and short breaths), and does not even tell this to his students that he teaches an incomplete version of it, at least in the 10-day courses. AFAIU, this is the same in longer courses.

- He claims, in the 10-day discourses, that the "eight absorptions" (jhanas) are lost to mankind since the time of the Buddha, and this is obviously wrong.

- Body scanning, the way he teaches it, cannot be found anywhere in the Pali canon nor in any Buddhist text as far as I understand. Not to mention the idea of "uprooting sankharas" through body scanning.


RE: SN Goenka Centers
9/30/17 1:18 PM as a reply to Dm Mat.
If I were somehow magically assigned to be an experimental assistant instructor at a Goenak 10 day (it would never happen because I've only sat 2 10-day courses) and I wanted to honor the Goenka scanning method but also wanted to help people reach stream entry, I'd say:

1. Follow the Goenka instuctions exactly... but look for the flexibility in his instructions that make it OK to hone in on the suggestions below.

2. Go ahead with 'strong determination' as instructed, but at the *start* of every sit, if pain was a problem on the last sit, modify pillow/chair/wall arangement to something that you think will be be more comfortable than the last sit. You will have to 'go through' some intense sensations and it's worth it to do so, but if you can short cut some pain with position then that is worth it also.  Some intense stuff is not insight/sankara related, it's just pain.

3. When scanning, proportion your time spent depending on the details or subtleties of the sensations.  Where there is more detailed sensation, slow down.  Where there is zero sensation, give it enough time to be sure there is nothing new but then move on.  Sooner or later there will be subtle sensation everywhere, but you might 'get there' by looking elsewhere.... time well spent in other places may crack open the blank spots.

4. When scanning the head, assume that there is great depth and subtlety to sensations.  Assume that what seems like imaginary or emotionaly related sensations (things that you might think are not real) are actually real sensations that deserve good old fashion inspection.  Perhaps this advise is good for other 'hot' areas as well, for example the base of the spine or the throat or the gut or the heart etc.

5. Use every scheduled sitting hour for scanning. If you find yourself choosing to walk around instead of another hard hour hour of sitting, choose to spend time body scanning in your room with a very lax posture instead. Find a way to mellow out and enjoy the scanning instead of avoiding the sit.

I asked an assistant instructor about training for stream entry.  He said the paramis lead to stream entry and they are taught in later retreats. I'd tell people that stream entry comes from good practice and it could happen on any retreat.

RE: SN Goenka Centers
10/2/17 2:42 AM as a reply to Dm Mat.

The Goenka system is about EQ, and after reading this noticed i left out AWARNESS. EQ and AW. Apologies.

Small note on terminology. (Not trying to be nitpicky, just thought some might find this useful.)

Goenka uses the word 'awareness' to translate the Pali word sati (Sanskrit smṛti). Most people nowadays call it 'mindfulness'.

This is very different from how e.g. Culadasa uses the word 'awareness', which does not really have an equivalent in Pali / Sanskrit, as far as I understand.