Back From First Goenka 10-Day

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Mind over easy, modified 7 Years ago.

Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 216 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Howdy!

I just got back from my first retreat. What a cool experience. How cool that it's free! How great of an opportunity, to have 10 days to just go for it, with minimal distractions and all necessary basic physical needs provided for! Very good opportunity, highly highly recommended.

So I'll just dive in to recounting some stuff. I decided to "use and abuse" as Nikolai called it, practicing in my own way rather than strictly adhering to the technique being taught. Taboo, definitely, but as someone basically stated in another thread, you're going for yourself and you only, you are the only one who is getting the benefits, and you should do what will help you do what you're trying to do. If you're relatively new to meditation and vipassana, it's not a bad idea to have a technique locked down so you have a solid framework to work. But as I've also read somewhere, I realized that I needed to be like a thief to get insight, using all my resources to maximize my time spent.

First off, I'll point out the dissonance of worlds that started pressing on my mind. In the Goenka course, the stress was on working purely at the level of sensations in the body, and cultivating equanimity towards them. The theory seemed to be that as you continue to do this, more and more sensations will be seen, and that the mind will tend to get sharper and sharper, and that sankharas will continue to be weeded out, and one will progress and progress, until it comes to the point where the whole field of mind and matter has been explored and the mind jumps to nirvana. I generally agree with the premise of working at the sensate level, versus the content level. But there are definitely some problems with this world when you compare it to the "MTCB" world, where the model basically says: there are a definite number of stages, and to get enlightened, you just go up all those stages, get to the last one, and let awareness sync up with the 3 characteristics to get your hit. Then the benefits are locked in. I am curious as to how the sankhara model of enlightenment meets with the "bust stages and get your hit" model. I see equanimity towards sensation as a good tendency, and probably a large portion of what getting enlightened is about, but in MTCB, the stress is more placed on the idea that the permanent and truly beneficial shifts happen at path, that the whole point is to get the paths and then work from there. I experienced some doubt/guilt with mixing techniques and for a few of the first days, switched to only Goenka style scanning. But then I had a shift in perspective where I realized, I am here to apply maximum effort and efficiency to attaining path, so I'm going to note the hell out of everything, still developing equanimity.

A few problems I have with the Goenka course...

-Body scanning seems to be more beneficial in the 1st vipassana jhana, building up concentration to get to the A&P, as the 1st VJ is more physical. I remember thinking... screw this physical pain and stuff, bring on the mental territory (screw just working in 1st VJ if your concentration is good enough to cross A&P and get into 3rd VJ, where some of the most difficult work takes place)

-After noble silence ended, I talked with some of the helpers who had taken a large number of courses, and I got the impression that none of these people were getting path and that there was so much doubt and general non-expectancy as to the possibility of that happening. I don't know what the later courses are like, but there wasn't really any talk of the end goal, besides some reference to the idea that eventually, the whole mind-matter complex is explored and the mind transcends the field and finds something beyond it.

-Goenka mentioned 7th and 8th jhana in a discourse and said something that sounded like he was saying that no one attains those anymore, that they were "lost" or something. B.S.! Another full time meditator said that if the breath, heartbeat, and brain activity don't completely stop, you're not in jhana. I say this: You have toddlers banging on keys and then you have Horowitz at the peak of his powers. You don't say that only Horowitz at the peak of his powers is piano playing, and that all else is just approaching piano playing and not actually playing piano. B.S.!

-Lots of talk about how getting enlightened was the work of multiple lifetimes, that developing the paramis was important since they had to be completely filled before one could think about hitting the end goal

-Subtle dogma about how enlightenment works and how strict adherence to the traditional words of Buddha are key, that no other traditions do the work that causes enlightenment

-Asking Goenka to teach you the technique, A.K.A, talking to a tape recorder... I could have said "please teach me how to eat horse poop", and he still would have responded "Good good, you are on the holy path, I shall teach". Small point, but I'm sure it turns some people off.

-The idea that if the morality training given by Buddha wasn't followed exactly, meditation would collapse and not be possible. Eh, not really true

-Little points here and there that I didn't agree with. Not that they were a big deal or anything, but the idea that you can't meditate with glasses on since the sensations are artificial or something, you can't meditate outside since the wind will throw off your sensations, you can't meditate in the sunlight... stuff like that. All sensations are sensations, IMO

-Very strong insistence that sitting on the floor was fairly necessary, that the pain was sankharas coming to the surface, that it was necessary to investigate in order to eliminate craving and aversion. I agree to some extent, especially with the fact that the 1st VJ can cause a lot of physical discomfort and that investigating and cultivating mindfulness to these things will make you move along. But oh, how much pain I had, every single sit. My knees and butt (I don't have a butt, this might have been part of the problem) still hurt, and they basically were aching 24/7. I was bouncing between EQ and reobservation the whole time, but when I'd get to EQ and the hall sits would come, the pain would just be so overwhelming that the subtle sensations escaped me and I found myself completely absorbed in the task of just watching gross physical pain and being mindful of it. Which honestly should not be the main focus in 4th VJ! I set my cushions down in the hall and got a drink, and when I came back, an old man had taken them and was using them. I wasn't going to take them from him, since he has enough physical discomfort to work with, I'm sure. I was left with the very last cushion that remained, which was extremely hard and uncomfortable. They gave me pads to put under my knees and then a back jack, but the pain in the knees never left and the back jack put even more pain on my ankles. It was clear I wasn't going to get a chair though, so I just dealt with the cards and did most of my deeper practice while in my cell. This was honestly the biggest bummer about the retreat. 3-5 times a day, my practice was severely knocked down from panoramic awareness and integrating the whole field at once, investigating finer sensations of awareness/space/effort/investigation, to just sitting in agonizing pain, watching focus tighten to gross, solid sensations of throbbing terribleness. This was such a big turn off that I might not ever go to a Goenka course again, because it was just so damn inhibiting and my knees are still in a lot of pain. My biggest warning shouldn't be this, but unfortunately, it is this: do a lot of cushion sitting, tons of stretching/yoga, and get used to sitting on a rock, because unless you have your own cushion, you might be sitting on a lump of what feels like lumber. Shitty, shitty, shitty. Not necessary for deep practice, to put yourself in pain that is probably damaging the body itself. Even when I was getting into jhanas, including 5th jhana, the pain was still extremely visceral. Hitting a formless realm but still feeling throbbing pain... that is a sign that the physical setup requires changing, something that you might not be granted on a Goenka course.


As far as practice goes, like I said, I was bouncing between reobservation and equanimity. I came to the conclusion that I haven't gotten path. The mindfulness was good but not indicative of the kind of mindfulness that is reported by people post 1st path. Jhanas weren't very accessible, but this probably has loads to do with the pain problem. My biggest question is how to actually go from EQ to stream entry. I know I'm close and I'll keep up practice. Maybe it just requires more chewing and then it will naturally happen.

Random notes...

-Re-observation. Everything is vibrating chaotically, the mind can race with negative thoughts if left to do that. Even the field of vision is jarring and shaking. A cricket got trapped in the bathroom, and I nearly puked just from hearing that all night while in reobservation. So many visions of insects crawling while in reobservation. Reobservation will require layers and layers and layers of surrender/gentleness/goodwill, and a very calm and delicate touch of observation. You get to it the first time, you surrender, and then you get to low EQ. The peace is so great and you're happy. But then you drop back, and it's even worse, having gotten your head above the water. One surrender works, but then when you dip back down, it seems that deeper and deeper levels of surrender are necessary, to the point where EQ and reobservation start to blend, where you have the same sense of equanimity in reobservation, with no strong intention of moving to the next stage. The reobservation-EQ-reobservation-EQ loop seems very important to me, teaching some of the deepest hitting lessons about equanimity to pleasant/unpleasant/neutral sensations. But my biggest question... how to break this loop and get path? It got easier and easier to move between the two, but I still have stream entry in my sights. I understand that surrender is key, and that the levels of surrender and equanimity get deeper and deeper in this loop.

-Mind drops to a very subconscious level in EQ. Weird visions. I remember seeing a giant snake that was a cactus. Giant fractal patterns that fill the field of vision. Odd, detailed images. Weird thoughts that don't make sense. "Your dad called, he has hangnails" was one that kept on popping in my head. Odd, distorted images, faces, physics appearing, with great detail. Sense that no one was causing these visions and thoughts, that they were just floating into and out of the field of awareness.

-I held out well through the mental highs and lows. I definitely had some moments where the whole world seemed to be a big steaming heap of misery, that life was pointless. These thoughts still happen in reobservation even when you start getting deeper EQ, but eventually you start to take the perspective of EQ with you into reobservation, and eventually you can start to feel the same detached feeling to thoughts and sensations in EQ in reobservation, a seemingly important development. I can see some insane potential to go mad in the EQ-Reobservation loop though, with sublime peace juxtaposed with the epitome of madness/chaos/jarring vibrations. Definitely a strong lesson to be learned here. But I do see getting SE to be the solution. But how to break the loop...

I'm curious as to how people's experience of SE happened, what practice was going on, what actually made it click, whether or not it was expected or out of the blue, what important insight occurred before it happened, particular things to investigate, etc... because that's where I'm at. Hovering in EQ as a baseline, looping from reobservation to EQ in sits. It's getting manageable and "under control" as far as the mental content and emotions that happen in this loop, but at some point, I'd like to get 'er done.

Cheers!
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Mind over easy, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 216 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Hmm... is there some glitch in the forum? I see this:

Last Post
Date: 8/4/13 3:26 PM
By: Robin Woods

It's saying Robin Woods posted but I only see my post. Confused...
Robin Woods, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 155 Join Date: 5/28/12 Recent Posts
Sorry- I posted some 'advice' but then realised I'm so confused by the whole process I'm really not in any position to be offering guidance at the mo!

Best of luck with it all!
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Eric G, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 132 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
Amazing amount of jhana chops and meditation knowledge for someone pre-SE. I guess that's the effect of the pragmatic dharma community.

I also wonder if a lot of these (Goenka and other) people are getting path. I feel that one of the problems is that precious few would even have a definition for path, and if they did it would be a vague fetters model.

There have been a few threads here and there on SE. The most consistent advice from this community seems to be to note your ass off. Eventually the mind learns to stay present and relaxed and the original or natural mind shines thru.
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Sweet Nothing, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 164 Join Date: 4/21/13 Recent Posts
I'm glad to know you had an overall positive experience.

What Goenkaji teaches is the use of Concentration and Vipassana to gain experiential Wisdom. Due to the large number of participants from extremely diverse social backgrounds, he does not go into theoretical depth. The assistant teachers are not allowed to discuss attainments or the checkpoints on the path either. The goal is simply to eliminate sankharas/defilements and become happy.

Thus, there is lot of speculation among the participants about what is next and even about Goenkaji's own attainment. I feel the best way to deal with this is to completely avoid speculation and focus on practice. The discourses give away the essential theoretical requirements such as the noble eight fold path, the three characteristics, the hindrances, etc.

Lot of people simply do this because they simply want to become happier and have a happier future rather than go for all out enlightenment. I feel that all assistant teachers are at least at first path or above. The students who have achieved path will also never talk about it, because they feel this knowledge is not beneficial for you. They are generally the people who have done many courses and sit through the 5 min breaks as well without any movements.

Regardless, there are very strong Dharma vibes at the centers that I have been to. My awareness becomes so strong just by being there that I have difficulty getting any sleep at all.
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. Jake ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 698 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
Hi!
I remember that loop very well. It can be incredibly frustrating! which is strangely juxtaposed with that peace and simplicity... When re-ob before SE was mature my experience was that 3rd VJ became like going down rapids in a canoo-- very assymetric, powerful forces, but also exhilerating. re-ob at that point was like the climax of a-tonal chaotic vibes and cross-currents just before getting spat out into 4th VJ. The whole thing became more and more physical in a sense without big aha's or insights. In a sense, it was as if when my baseline had moved to 4th VJ, I was experiencing the whole preceding territory as just modulations within that space. The modulations were smooth, coarse,. subtle, fast, slow, symetric or asymetric depending on the stage; but it was all just like a flow.

Then in the time leading up to SE there was a much deeper awareness of subtle selfing, of an aspect or habit of mind to solidify those flowing sensations into different kinds of selves-- coarse personality; subtle energetic; fragmentary dark night self oscillating all over the place; transpersonal observor self in EQ. Then as that theme began to predominate and more of my sits were smack dab in EQ it became just noticing that very subtle tendency to solidify patches of sensations as subject/object. Noticing they would release spontaneously like little patches of ice dissolving in a river nearly as quickly as they could crystalize. But that noticing and release could happen many many times per second. In a sense, it was very similar to the quality of re-ob where you can't get away from it and this subtle process is happening right at the core of your being and there is a rapid oscilation although by that point (high EQ?) it was completely drained of reactivity, of push and pull, so it didn't have that painful energetic charge and it was easier to relax into the clarity that could see and release repeatedly many times per second.

If you haven't recently checked it out, you might get something out of the sticky thread about the Hierarchy of Vipassana practices.
Rist Ei, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 500 Join Date: 7/14/13 Recent Posts
When you practice surrendering then pay attention to your awareness, it tend to be resting on something(numb). You need to keep(check) yourself constantly to keep the process LIVE, avoid lagging. That should be enough for SE.

stream enterer it feels like flower opening, 2nd path is the same put stronger and detailed and 3rd even more stronger and detailed.
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Mind over easy, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 216 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Rist Ei:
When you practice surrendering then pay attention to your awareness, it tend to be resting on something(numb). You need to keep(check) yourself constantly to keep the process LIVE, avoid lagging. That should be enough for SE.

stream enterer it feels like flower opening, 2nd path is the same put stronger and detailed and 3rd even more stronger and detailed.


Thanks for this! Could you go more in depth on this? My understanding is that it feels like awareness is localized, that it's located somewhere separate from all the stuff I watch, but I can't really find it. What do you mean by checking myself constantly and keeping the process live? Paying attention to awareness itself?
Rist Ei, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 500 Join Date: 7/14/13 Recent Posts
there is master awareness, slave awareness and others(vibrations etc, body, world). Godhead.

What do you mean by checking myself constantly and keeping the process live? Paying attention to awareness itself?


Chair is master, you are slave. You only get points when you sit on the chair and hold to it(the stronger you hold the more faster you get points). Others(maya demons) try to blow you out off the chair or flatter you.

In hinduism scriptures: it is devotion(love) to Lord, holding on to the Lords lotus feet. Srimad Bhagavatam. If you understand scriptures, you can figure out how to practice it or any other culture say it also but all is encripted to methaphors.
Also technical language like vibrations, nanas or whatever is also kind of metaphors.

This practice is like practicing samadhi without object. Being objectless and forcing it.

Doing something what is indescribeable, because its very simple and obvious.

Play with the awareness. Its like expanding yourself in all directions also in depth. Normally(ordinarily) the awareness is narrow and unbalanced emoticon.

When you do it it will result gradual(fast/tangible) progress of going through all the paths and can used to enter higher samadhi and end up in cessation when lucky.

explanations/similes some are better some are not so good but they all tell the same thing.
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Nikolai ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 1648 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
An interesting take on being a goenka practitioner for 20 odd years.
http://www.zenwakeup.com/
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Ian And, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 784 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Nikolai .:
An interesting take on being a goenka practitioner for 20 odd years.
http://www.zenwakeup.com/

I've seen those kinds of comments from more than one former Goenka practitioner.

When and why did everyone abandon Gotama? Isn't he good enough?
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Ian And:
Nikolai .:
An interesting take on being a goenka practitioner for 20 odd years.
http://www.zenwakeup.com/

I've seen those kinds of comments from more than one former Goenka practitioner.

When and why did everyone abandon Gotama? Isn't he good enough?

Surely there are people who you consider to have abandoned Gotama yet that believe they are following the path he laid out. Perhaps Goenka is one of them. How do you know you're not another one of those people?
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Ian And, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 784 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
Ian And:
Nikolai .:
An interesting take on being a goenka practitioner for 20 odd years.
http://www.zenwakeup.com/

I've seen those kinds of comments from more than one former Goenka practitioner.

When and why did everyone abandon Gotama? Isn't he good enough?

Surely there are people who you consider to have abandoned Gotama yet that believe they are following the path he laid out. Perhaps Goenka is one of them. How do you know you're not another one of those people?

Fair question. The key word in your question is "believe" rather than "to know." I happen to hold the view, based on anecdotal reports such as this one, that Goenka knows what he is doing, yet may be blind to its effects. If that is so, then he hasn't progressed as far as he imagines himself to have. Or, to put a darker hue on this, that he is intentionally leading people in the way he is leading them.

Unless one has never had any association with a cult-like organization, this may be difficult to relate to. If this is so, then the lack (of knowledge about cult-like organizations) is in that person.

First, consider whether or not, in the recorded discourses of Gotama, he ever espoused any of the following:

[indent]If you fully criticise the tradition you are not welcome there.

If you speak out, write or be critical of it in the public eye you are viewed as hampering others progression towards enlightenment, and so you yourself as the bearer of criticism will also miss out on enlightenment.

All of this does not encourage open thinking, open discussion, rather it takes you in the opposite direction.[/indent]

Any time I come across someone who teaches with a closed fist, I KNOW who they ARE.

The question that others have to deal with is: Do you?
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bernd the broter, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 380 Join Date: 6/13/12 Recent Posts
Mind over easy:
Howdy!
I just got back from my first retreat. What a cool experience. How cool that it's free! How great of an opportunity, to have 10 days to just go for it, with minimal distractions and all necessary basic physical needs provided for! Very good opportunity, highly highly recommended.

Right. But don't forget that free isn't the same as donation-based though..

Mind over easy:

A few problems I have with the Goenka course...

(And if you look long enough, you will find even more. The organization seems to have become a giant bureaucratic monster. I keep wondering what happens to it when Goenka's gone...)

Mind over easy:

-The idea that if the morality training given by Buddha wasn't followed exactly, meditation would collapse and not be possible. Eh, not really true

You feel that throwing out the 5 rules for the laity might be a good idea? Why is that?

Mind over easy:

-Body scanning seems to be more beneficial in the 1st vipassana jhana, building up concentration to get to the A&P, as the 1st VJ is more physical. I remember thinking... screw this physical pain and stuff, bring on the mental territory (screw just working in 1st VJ if your concentration is good enough to cross A&P and get into 3rd VJ, where some of the most difficult work takes place)

If you didn't try the body scanning as instructed for 6,5 days, how do you know it's not so beneficial? It seems that you wasted the opportunity to test whether the instructions really are that bad.

Mind over easy:

-Very strong insistence that sitting on the floor was fairly necessary, that the pain was sankharas coming to the surface, that it was necessary to investigate in order to eliminate craving and aversion. I agree to some extent, especially with the fact that the 1st VJ can cause a lot of physical discomfort and that investigating and cultivating mindfulness to these things will make you move along. But oh, how much pain I had, every single sit. My knees and butt (I don't have a butt, this might have been part of the problem) still hurt, and they basically were aching 24/7.[...] This was such a big turn off that I might not ever go to a Goenka course again, because it was just so damn inhibiting and my knees are still in a lot of pain. My biggest warning shouldn't be this, but unfortunately, it is this: do a lot of cushion sitting, tons of stretching/yoga, and get used to sitting on a rock, because unless you have your own cushion, you might be sitting on a lump of what feels like lumber. Shitty, shitty, shitty. Not necessary for deep practice, to put yourself in pain that is probably damaging the body itself. Even when I was getting into jhanas, including 5th jhana, the pain was still extremely visceral. Hitting a formless realm but still feeling throbbing pain... that is a sign that the physical setup requires changing, something that you might not be granted on a Goenka course.


I don't feel qualified to comment on the other experiences you're recounting, but the fat printed (by me) lines caught my attention. I see two possibilities:
1) You weren't explicite enough about how much all of this hurts. You were playing the hero by enduring the pain, although you should have asked for a chair until they would give you one. This is your fault.
2) You were unlucky enough to stumble into one of the few goenka centers which are run by fundamentalist nutjobs. Don't even consider to ever go there again. Warn everyone not to go even close to that center. Pain 24/7(!!!) which endures even after the course(!!!!!) is absolute madness.

From your report it seems that the 2nd possibility seems to be more likely. But don't blame it on Goenka centers in general that you have to endure torture there. I didn't experience it this way (chair ftw), and I sincerely hope that I'm not in the minority. If you ever find yourself in such a situation I guess you should just run...
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Mind over easy, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Back From First Goenka 10-Day

Posts: 216 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
bernd the broter:

You feel that throwing out the 5 rules for the laity might be a good idea? Why is that?

Well... It isn't that I think they're not conductive to staying concentrated, as I generally think they are indeed good rules for staying concentrated. But I think it's a bit dogmatic to assume that if you break even one of the rules, your meditation will collapse, which is basically an almost direct quote I heard from Goenka. For example... the nights have been a little cold lately, and the dorm wasn't heated, or the heat wasn't up much. The dude next to me was shivering like crazy, tossing and turning all night, and making comments to one of the helpers about not getting good sleep, sleeping when he was supposed to be meditating in the dorms (not that I was supervising him, but... he snored, so it wasn't hard to tell). So, for less than 30 seconds worth of time, I broke noble silence and silently offered him my sweatshirt. After this, I sat down in my room and landed 4th jhana, so it's a bit untrue to claim that simply breaking a precept will make meditation collapse.

But no, I'm not saying that people should be chatting about whatever, having sexual encounters, getting drunk, stealing stuff, and committing murder on retreat... ha ha.
emoticon

Just saying that it would be better to explain that the rules are there in order to give you a solid platform from which YOU develop YOUR OWN concentration, rather than saying that the precepts are a magic formula which will result in concentration so long as you follow them. Just like having good concentration doesn't necessarily lead to (but is indeed supportive to) gaining insight, having good morality doesn't necessarily lead to (but is indeed supportive to) gaining concentration. Just like people are practicing insight without really doing any concentration practices, people are doing concentration practices and insight practices without making a big deal out of morality practices. I'm not advocating bending the rules or doing whatever you want to do, but just saying that it's not as simple as following a rule and getting concentration or not following the rule and not getting concentration.


If you didn't try the body scanning as instructed for 6,5 days, how do you know it's not so beneficial? It seems that you wasted the opportunity to test whether the instructions really are that bad.


Yeah, you're right that I didn't get the opportunity to see how well doing only body scanning works. But I did practice a bit of body scanning, along with jhana, noting, and choice-less awareness style noting. But I went with the goal of moving my baseline as far up the nanas as possible, if not stream entry. Goenka scanning seems nice, but in general, it seemed like even the people who worked quite diligently were only getting to 1st vipassana jhana, if not 2nd. Of course, this is using one map as a critique of a different technique and system that doesn't necessarily use the progress of insight as a basis for progress. But I don't really care so much. I spent a little time in doubt, thinking that I should practice only with body scanning, with all the warning that the meditation will fall apart with mixing techniques, that Buddha only worked with bodily sensations (something I'm still not really seeing a scriptural basis for, as Buddha mentioned guarding the six sense spheres, which implies watching more than just the bodily sensations... Pali masters, please correct me if I'm mistaken here). But a point came when I started thinking... this is clearly 1st VJ territory, and I can clear 1st to 2nd VJ just by noting with great rapidity, so why should I waste days doing this at snail's pace when I can cross the A&P in less than an hour? So I did just that, and spent the rest of the time bouncing between reobservation and equanimity, which was clearly much more useful and conductive to building up some good insight and equanimity, and clearly helped me develop my horizon of practice. So yes, I failed on giving Goenka's instructions a pure trial, but he is trying to get people enlightened, and judging by the conversations I had with people on the last day, I'm almost confident that even the old students who have sat his courses over and over and over again are getting to A&P territory very late on in the courses, and maybe hitting some dissolution and then, well, I don't know. Some people talked about dark night type stuff after leaving. Most people seemed shocked by the idea that you could get enlightened, most didn't have any idea about the idea of getting a path, making a permanent change. Most seemed to view the plan as practicing, practicing, removing sankhara, removing sankhara, feeling better, feeling better, more and more pleasant sensation, progress, progress, better, better, more focused, more focused, etc. etc., which really seems to miss the stark truth of the stages of insight, which is that many are extremely unpleasant, that many will viscerally point out the 3 C's beyond just feeling tingles, that unpleasantness of the mind (especially in 3rd VJ) is indeed progress.

Anyways, all that, to say, I'm really not confident that people who go to Goenka courses are making much progress towards the goal of stream entry, contrasted to people who practice rapid noting, practice jhanas, practice in a "hardcore", pragmatic community, who are consistently reporting getting stream entry and beyond and describing their practice in simple English. My logical mind and my past practice experience heavily incline me to practicing in the way that seems to make me move along the nanas and increase equanimity and unify more and more stuff in the field of perception.


I don't feel qualified to comment on the other experiences you're recounting, but the fat printed (by me) lines caught my attention. I see two possibilities:
1) You weren't explicite enough about how much all of this hurts. You were playing the hero by enduring the pain, although you should have asked for a chair until they would give you one. This is your fault.
2) You were unlucky enough to stumble into one of the few goenka centers which are run by fundamentalist nutjobs. Don't even consider to ever go there again. Warn everyone not to go even close to that center. Pain 24/7(!!!) which endures even after the course(!!!!!) is absolute madness.

From your report it seems that the 2nd possibility seems to be more likely. But don't blame it on Goenka centers in general that you have to endure torture there. I didn't experience it this way (chair ftw), and I sincerely hope that I'm not in the minority. If you ever find yourself in such a situation I guess you should just run...



I don't know... I told them that I was experiencing pain that was still there when I woke up, and that it was still bad at this level. But noble silence was stressed and talking was discouraged, and there were only a few minutes between sits to try to have this conversation anyways. I wasn't trying to be a hero. I was trying to meditate and I brought it up a few times, and they (and Goenka) say that the pain is just part of the meditation. I don't think they were fundamentalists either though. They were just following the instructions, and Goenka mentions a few times how pain is part and parcel to the course, that everyone will be feeling it, and how it's important to make a resolution to just observe it with equanimity in order to eliminate sankharas. Which from the perspective of the nana of, say... three characteristics, makes complete sense. In 3c's, things can suck, be itchy and achy, there are odd tensions all over, but they tend to resolve if you resolve to watch them with equanimity and great attention and thus cross the A&P. But as I said, the pain was indeed 24/7 and my knees have a weak to moderate ache when I walk. So I'm considering going to a doctor, and maybe writing an email to the leader of the retreat explaining how I'm still in knee pain and how they ought to be more lenient about letting people sit in chairs.

In short, I was trying to make the best of the time and work around the pain, since they weren't that willing to cater to the pain, and they were doing their best to conduct the retreat in the instructions of Goenka, who seems to feel that the pain is somewhat necessary (which in a very specific part of the meditation, parts of 1st VJ, I agree).





So anyways, about current practice...

I'm still practicing, and I'm actually working with a lot of momentum lately (basically not an hour goes by where I haven't sustained at least 20-30 minutes consistent noting, I would like to think that through at least half my day, I am noting). I'm starting to get this brick wall feeling though, like meditation is extremely mundane and that nothing is happening. It isn't like the brick wall of the dark night though, since negativity isn't cropping up. A little doubt will slip in, and the unpleasant sensations in the chest appear, but I regain composure, note the doubt and watch the sensations dissipate, and then I'm at a very calm and steady place again (equanimity?). It feels like nothing happens in my sits though, like everything is extremely basic and not at all meditative. Senses seem basic and it doesn't seem like I'm getting any insight from watching things. I've started to try to watch the sense of a watcher, and I'm having moderate luck with this, feeling like I'm finding what the brick wall consists of. There is a definite "empty" feeling though, when I'm calm, like the head is wide open, almost a 3rd person kind of feel. Still just noting stuff and watching vibrations when they are apparent, assuming this is equanimity territory. It really does feel like there's not much to do at all and that everything is very basic and un-insightful, which is mildly confusing.

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