Reply To: Goenka´s Vipassana


“Observing the physical and mental phenomena, the meditator cultivates an understanding of the causal interactions between the physical and mental phenomena”

During the days of the Buddha, his disciples both monks and laity people are called Sāvaka (Dhamma hearer). We often see in the suttas depicting accounts of the Buddha delivering desana to prospects whom he deemed were capable of understanding his dhamma. What is not evident in the suttas is the Buddha asking people to straightaway meditate and see mentality and materiality and so on and so forth. Formal meditation is adjunct to listening to dhamma. Here are some rhetorical questions I would like to ask. How authentic is our observation on the physical and mental phenomena? Can we truly be sure that we are seeing the ‘real thing’? Or are they just created by our cunning mind when we crave for what we want to see? We must be careful of many meditation programs out there which are trying to sell us a fast-track way to liberation, which in my opinion is no different from any get-rich-quick scheme. I am certainly very doubtful and cautious on some lineage and meditation teachers who claimed that their method is the most authentic way to attain various stages of Nibbana. Fake Rolex watches are out there simply because there are real ones in the market!

We must not forget the applicability of Buddha Dhamma in our everyday lives is very real and practical. Otherwise, how can it help us alleviate suffering? New age meditation technique like the one described in this post might appeal to some. But is it really effective in helping us handle traumatic incidents? Or are they nothing more than just a clinical experimentation? Citing a hypothetical case, a participant who just ended a retreat was about to leave the meditation centre when he received a call that his next of kin had passed away from a freak accident back home. Can this participant who just ‘saw’ kalapas, ultimate mentality and materiality in this meditation be able to remain composed and unshaken if he has not yet been exposed to Buddha Dhamma and inculcate a steady mindset to accept the Anicca nature? We read the famous story in the suttas of a lady who almost went mad when her son died. Buddha asked her to find mustard seeds from a family who does not have any deceased family members, delivered a desana to her and thereafter, she managed to regain her composure and attained stream entry.

“And so saying, she went into the presence of the master.
Then the master said to her,
“Have you obtained, Gotami, the mustard seed?”
“Finished, sir, is the matter of the mustard seed” she said.
“You have indeed restored me.”

And the master then uttered this verse:
A person with a mind that clings,
Deranged, to sons or possessions,
Is swept away by death that comes
— Like mighty flood to sleeping town.

At the conclusion of this verse, confirmed in the fruit of stream-entry…”

Buddha did not ask the lady to come sit down and meditate on this materiality, that mentality etc.

Another example from the suttas…A rich man’s son Yasha had wandered off into the monastery where Buddha was staying. Yasha listened to the dhamma delivered by the Buddha and attained stream entry. Rich man was frantically searching for his beloved son and arrived at the monastery where Buddha was staying. Buddha wielded his supernatural power to shield his son from the rich man’s vision and delivered a desana to the rich man. Upon listening to the desana, the rich man attained stream entry and his son, Arahantship. Nowhere did the Buddha give both of them the instruction to sit down and meditate on this and that. Even if the Buddha did, what is the likelihood that both of them could observe physical and mental phenomena and their relationship in such a short span of time and attain path and fruition?