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Looking for centers / teachers
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10/18/19 2:44 PM
Thanks and grattitude in advance to anyone who might be able to help me. I've recently learned about the levels of attainment in insight meditation, and I am interested in progressing on the path. I've always had an intuition that there is "something more" to life, and the attainment states seem like the right life goal for me now, a moment when I've found myself without substantial external responsibilities (profession, family). 

I have done one 10-day retreat at a Goenka center in August, and I'll do another one on October 23rd. I'm drawn to Goenka centers because they are accessible and have a strong Sangha -- an inspiring, generous, and dedicated group of practitioners all over the world. However some parts of Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha gave me an impression that Goenka's body-scanning technique may not facilitate the most rapid attaignment progress. I am really interested in reaching A&P as a way of validating the path of insight meditation and clearing the way for further attainments.

My two questions are: 1) can others comment on whether Goenka's techniques are efficacious in developing insight and progressing toward A&P? 2) Can anyone recommend good non-Goenka teachers or centers that may be accessible to me? I have a preference for teachers or centers that are within several hundred miles of my hometown Boston, or that are in Latin America, where I have affinity for the people, languages, and culture. I'd be willing to travel much farther (i.e. Asia), but it will take more self convincing that this is the best path for me, and that I have enough talent to reach A&P and further attainments. 

Thank you!

My background:
  • I've been practicing concentration meditation lightly for 15 years, but recently upped my commitment to at least two hours per day of Goenka's Anapana and Vipassana practice, with a goal of making progress toward A&P
  • I went on retreat for the first time at a Goenka center in Quebec in early August, but didn't experience anything out of the ordinary like A&P.
  • I'll do another Goenka retreat on October 23
  • I'm in my mid thirties and have some financial/geographical independence for the near/medium future to pursue this goal of meditation attaignement

RE: Looking for centers / teachers
Answer
10/18/19 4:01 PM as a reply to Samuel Taylor.
Hi Samuel,

I can only respond to the first part of your question. Yes, practicing Goenka technique alone got me to A&P. So I have confidence it can get you that far. 

It’s only fair to mention that I quit Goenka practice this year and have begun practing Ajaan Tong’s (a variation of Mahasi) version of Vipassana (taugh in centers in Northern Thailand) & found the technique to be more conducive to real, changing insight.

I have sat many Goenka courses, practiced for 19 years and lived at a Goenka center for a few years practing many hours daily. Overtime I came to the view that Goenka technique alone (not mixed with other methods) is not conducive to attaining stream entry. Or to word it differently I’ve met hundreds of Goenka students, and have many friends in the tradition (including Senior Teaches) have been practicing 10, 20, 30, 30+ years and none have attained stream entry (Nibbana).

If you like Goenka and the community and feel the technique suits you (trial at least 4-5 courses before deciding) then pursue the method - you’ll get benefits but my advice isn’t don’t get caught up in the Goenka ideological belief that other techniques are “dangerous” or shouldn’t be tried or examined. You may find this difficult as you continue because  this belief is strongly instilled in the tradition.

Keep an open mind as The Buddha encouraged us to do!

Metta
UBF 

RE: Looking for centers / teachers
Answer
10/18/19 4:05 PM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
U Ba Fin:
I have sat many Goenka courses, practiced for 19 years and lived at a Goenka center for a few years practing many hours daily. Overtime I came to the view that Goenka technique alone (not mixed with other methods) is not conducive to attaining stream entry. Or to word it differently I’ve met hundreds of Goenka students, and have many friends in the tradition (including Senior Teaches) have been practicing 10, 20, 30, 30+ years and none have attained stream entry (Nibbana).

...my advice isn’t don’t get caught up in the Goenka ideological belief that other techniques are “dangerous” or shouldn’t be tried or examined. You may find this difficult as you continue because  this belief is strongly instilled in the tradition.
30+ years... Jeez... They don't know any better.

Never did any Goenka practice but I recall him saying really stoopid things about tantra in one of his books.

RE: Looking for centers / teachers
Answer
10/19/19 6:16 AM as a reply to Samuel Taylor.
For what it is worth, a blog from a long time Goenka tradition yogi who wishes to be Anonymous:  Going For Stream Entry On A Goenka 10-Day Vipassana Course 
"Following Goenkaji's instructions to the Tee will get you there [stream entry] in my humble opinion. I speculate that not every yogi does that. And I also speculate that it's because there may be no resolve, no strong determination to get stream entry. So, why even try that hard? Why bother to go for something that I don't believe in or don't believe is possible for me or anyone else for that matter? Then again, maybe you took a vow to not get stream entry yet...hehe! Who knows?"

RE: Looking for centers / teachers
Answer
10/19/19 7:18 AM as a reply to Samuel Taylor.
Samuel,

This center has a pretty good reputation: https://www.dharma.org/  It's nearby Boston (Barre).  I've done a few 10-14 day retreats there. I really like the cult-free-ness of the place and how they don't force people to strictly follow the posted schedule, yet it is a very serious place for practice.

The classic retreat for someone very serious about Stream Entry and beyond is the three month retreat.

Just a note: these teachers will not _talk_about levels of progress, but they are aware of them and teach/guide to support progress, but it is very rare for a student to get guidance like "you are at level 3 and here is how to get to level 4". They will just say "here is what you might want to try."

Another note: these retreats are pretty expensive, so look into the discounted tuitions if that is your situation. If you are wealthy, be sure to contribute additional dollars to support others less well off.

RE: Looking for centers / teachers
Answer
10/19/19 2:54 PM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
U Ba Fin:

It’s only fair to mention that I quit Goenka practice this year and have begun practing Ajaan Tong’s (a variation of Mahasi) version of Vipassana (taugh in centers in Northern Thailand) & found the technique to be more conducive to real, changing insight.

I have sat many Goenka courses, practiced for 19 years and lived at a Goenka center for a few years practing many hours daily. Overtime I came to the view that Goenka technique alone (not mixed with other methods) is not conducive to attaining stream entry. Or to word it differently I’ve met hundreds of Goenka students, and have many friends in the tradition (including Senior Teaches) have been practicing 10, 20, 30, 30+ years and none have attained stream entry (Nibbana).
 


I have a hard time understanding this. I have done 3 Goenka retreats, and all of the teachers I interacted with seemed highly qualified. If they were not stream enterers, then I don't know who is.

Is it possible that they just don't discuss stream entry so explicitly in this tradition?

As for the technique itself...the instructions are clearly worded for beginners, but the technique itself seems rather non-controversial (be aware of bodily sensations and remain equanimous). How would this not lead to stream entry?

I can't imagine practicing this for 30+ years and not getting anywhere. What would that mean? What is being done on the cushion for 10+ hours a day? Sleeping? I wish I could fall asleep in a position like that.

RE: Looking for centers / teachers
Answer
10/21/19 12:30 PM as a reply to Samuel Taylor.
Thank you for the contributions. I'm grateful for the help. My conclusions are:
  1. I'm inclined to give Goenka's method a real shot -- it probably means doing at least 4-5 Goenka retreats. I may be able to reach A&P at one of these retreats
  2. Simultaeniously, I'll start to think about other centers so that I can personally investigate which techniques/teachers support insight most effectively
  3. Keep an open mind
Regarding #2 above, I'll try to sit a course at IMS in Barre. There are many teachers there I haven't heard of, as well as long waitlists in some cases, but I'll do my best. If anyone can recommend a particular teacher or course there, that would be great. Otherwise I'll find a course that has space and "insight" in the title, and I'll expose myself to some new techniques.

Thanks!

RE: Looking for centers / teachers
Answer
10/21/19 2:37 PM as a reply to Samuel Taylor.
Samuel Taylor:
Otherwise I'll find a course that has space and "insight" in the title, and I'll expose myself to some new techniques.


That's probably what I would do, too. I've basically just tried to find a retreat that worked for my schedule, not targeted specific teachers.

RE: Looking for centers / teachers
Answer
10/23/19 11:33 AM as a reply to Samuel Taylor.
Samuel Taylor:
Thank you for the contributions. I'm grateful for the help. My conclusions are:
  1. I'm inclined to give Goenka's method a real shot -- it probably means doing at least 4-5 Goenka retreats. I may be able to reach A&P at one of these retreats
  2. Simultaeniously, I'll start to think about other centers so that I can personally investigate which techniques/teachers support insight most effectively
  3. Keep an open mind
Regarding #2 above, I'll try to sit a course at IMS in Barre. There are many teachers there I haven't heard of, as well as long waitlists in some cases, but I'll do my best. If anyone can recommend a particular teacher or course there, that would be great. Otherwise I'll find a course that has space and "insight" in the title, and I'll expose myself to some new techniques.

Thanks!

You've sat a Goenka retreat already and have a regular practice. It's unlikely that you haven't already gotten to the A&P. It doesn't take very long. A few months of serious daily practice of an hour and a half a day plus a retreat tends to do it. Do you feel vibratory energy sensations? If you do, you've had the A&P. Dukha ñanas usually follow. I had been in the equanimity ñana for years when I did my first Mahasi retreat and hoped that I could possibly get the first ñana, since I didn't understand how the various ñanas felt to know that I'd already been through most of them.

You mentioned doing a Goenka retreat in Quebec. I assume that's the one in Montebello. If you're ever in Montreal and want to talk about this stuff in person and go over the ñanas, jhanas, how to do noting (Mahasi and Shinzen Young styles) and how to integrate body scanning with the style of anapana meditation in The Mind Illuminated (same system as the first two days of a Goenka retreat, much more detailed technique, works fine with noting and has a concentration map), you're welcome to give me a shout.

RE: Looking for centers / teachers
Answer
12/23/19 12:22 PM as a reply to Jigme Sengye.
Jigme Sengye:
[quote=If you're ever in Montreal and want to talk about this stuff in person and go over the ñanas, jhanas, how to do noting (Mahasi and Shinzen Young styles) and how to integrate body scanning with the style of anapana meditation in The Mind Illuminated (same system as the first two days of a Goenka retreat, much more detailed technique, works fine with noting and has a concentration map), you're welcome to give me a shout.
]

Jigme, I'm very grateful for your message, and it seems that I had missed it before. Update since my first message: I've now sat three Goenka retreats and served two. So I've practice a lot in the past five months. I had been believing that I still haven't reached A&P, but now I realize based on your message that I just don't know where I am in the maps at all. Yes, I feel some of the subtle sensation during Goenka body-scanning sittings, although they are fleeting and never covering all nooks and crannies of the body.  

Moreover, I'm not sure where to practice next. I have a sense that it makes sense to go deep in one lineage (this bias may come from my time at Goenka centers, as Goenka hammers this point home again and again). And having done 5 intense months of the Goenka body scanning, I'm interested in exploring other techniques for the next 6-12 months before deciding which lineage to go deep in. There's a "Pointing out the Great Way" retreat with Daniel Brown near me in Boston, and I may try that. I also want to try Mahasi Noting as many people seem interested in that.

If I can boil my questions to 2 specific ones, they are:
1) Where should I practice next and is "Pointing out the Great Way" a good thing to check out?
2) Does it matter to figure out "where I am" in the maps? I have half a mind to not worry about the maps for a while, as I can see that thinking about them can sometimes be ungrounding.

Moreover, you offered to connect. I live in Boston, not Montreal, but if I could speak to you on the phone, I'd be very grateful. Someday maybe I could make a trip up to Montreal to practice with you or a teacher there you recommend if you think it's worth it. 

Thanks!