Reply To: Goenka´s Vipassana


Hello everyone!

I went to one of the Goenka’s retreats this summer and tried to follow all the instructions to the best of my ability, even though I read this thread right before going there, which made me skeptical about the advantages of this meditation. Even though I found Lal’s words pretty convincing, I still decided to give it a shot since I was already going there.

So while meditating in the hall, I eventually reached a state of deeper concentration, which is referred to by Goenka as “bhavanga”. I read a post here on “bhavanga citta’ and as I understood it, It’s a “mindset” free of any thoughts, where there is no processing of sense input. But the “bhavanga” state Goenka was talking about is different – it’s a state of mind when one can feel subtle sensations all over the body, something like an energy flow. In my case that was similar to waves of small particles rushing through my whole body in a way that I couldn’t even discern my body parts, I was just a heap of waves and vibrations. Does it have anything to do with the jhanic states?

Now, this feeling is being described as “pleasurable” and “desirable” by others, including Goenka. So many people get stuck in their practice, trying to get this feeling again. But for me, both times I experienced it, I was pretty much overwhelmed and it started so suddenly that I kind of freaked out. My heart rate increased and I couldn’t help but gasped, therefore leaving that state.

I wonder if anyone else experienced any fear or panic when mediating. What’s the reason for that? I used to have a period of time when I was dealing with mild anxiety episodes back in the days just before the retreat, but those gradually became less and less frequent and I don’t have them now. So I think that in my case, the anxiety I had back then caused my fear of that “bhavanga” state. But I also believe that I’ve always been like this – freaking out when there’s something unpredictable or/and uncomfortable happening with my body. Something I would describe as “fear of loosing control over my body”.

I stopped following Goenka’s technique after maybe 2 weeks of practicing it at home and started contemplating on the three seals and other dhamma concepts. It’s hard to point the mind to the right direction and sometimes I feel like I don’t know what to think next and it seems like I’m forcing myself to review a paragraph from a book I read and now have to make a summary in my head, but sometimes there are moments when I naturally “stick” to some topic and it’s relatively easy to contemplate and to make parallels with my life. In general, it’s much easier to get in a concentrated state when I’m doing a Kasina mediation, but everything I really learned and understood about Buddha Dhamma came to me when I was contemplating on those concepts or doing real Anapana throughout my day.