Reply To: Goenka´s Vipassana


Greetings, I hope it is fine for me to open up a 1 year old topic.

After reading through the entire thread at length, I’d like to add several points about the technique that may have been omitted, mainly drawing from personal observation and hopefully elucidate the potential reader of the benefits, drawbacks and pitfalls that can be encountered through practice of said technique.
The observations will be listed and somewhat briefly discussed below in separate points. As lucas.cambon and others already offered thorough descriptions of the technique and the retreat scheme in posts above, I will try to avoid repeating what has already been written and focus on these observations.

I will try to use Pali descriptions where possible to avoid potential confusion or misrepresentation of the described processes, hopefully tying the points in the context of excellent content of this website.

For background, personally I’ve attended two 10-day retreats and served on one. I do not practice the technique on a daily basis in formal sittings, but try to be aware of vedana at all waking times throughout the day. My experience with this technique ranges from miniscule to extreme, though I will only touch upon it in this post. If anyone is interested in to hear it, let me know and I’ll write a separate post.

On to the observations themselves.

– The technique is methodic with very clear instructions of what to do and what to avoid doing. It is thus good for developing Sati in the mundane sense. With enough practice, one can mantain focused attention on the task at hand with little to no distraction, even in spite of dukkha vedana arising in the context of Avyākata PS, simply because one sits too long in one posture (as encouraged by the so called Addhittana sittings where one is encouraged to essentially become a statue for an hour).

– However, this is not very useful unless one has the corresponding samma ditthi, which can result in needless torture under the belief that one has to endure these dukkha vedana in order to purify the mind, leading only to frustration.

– In spite of all this, through the combination of breath meditation and deep samadhi (though not necessarily samma samadhi) gained from persistent absorption in the bhavana, one can reach a what I presume is a jhanic state of razor-sharp concentration. As others have mentioned before, sukha vedana can be felt with enough concentration, showing up as a subtle ‘energy flow’ covering the entire body.

(I will now describe a series of phenomena that arose within my subjective experience, I’m sorry for the unavoidable ambiguity. These may or may not be in line with Goenka’s Vipassana. I’ll try to describe the phenomena in a purely descriptive manner)

– Eventually, even this ‘flow’ dissipates and only wavelengths can be felt – fast oscillations for sukha vedana and slow oscillations for dukkha vedana. After some time, the ‘field of attention’ can be tightened enough so that individual suddhāṭṭhaka can be discerned, showing up as tiny particles passing almost as soon as they arise. Eventually, through a process I don’t fully understand, even this process slows down until only a single wavelength “underlying” the entire body structure remains. What I presume to be Samphassa-ja-vedana arises and “turns”, cycling between intense dukkha vedana and intense sukha vedana based on the “phase” of the wave. Involuntary kaya-sankhara can show up at this point, tracing the phase motion of the wave, along with descriptive vaci-sankhara. Eventually, the wave “flattens out” and when it does, individual indriya simply stop providing any input, with only “nothingness” left – no arising and no passing. (To elaborate, in this specific case I didn’t see through my left eye, didn’t hear through my left ear, and didn’t feel the left half of my body.) At some point, this “nothingness” started propagating through all the indriya in waves, but I specifically remember that there was an impression of the mind ‘not letting go’ and actively resisting this “nothingness”. Eventually, the “nothingness” went away and all of experience returned to “normal” – with none of these phenomena appearing again.

That is as far as my experience goes. Whether it is connected in any way with Buddha Dhamma, or even Goenka’s Vipassana for that matter, is dubious at best. Nevertheless, it is where the practice of the technique led in my experience and what is written above is an honest account of it, although I omitted many details. What I can say with complete certainty though is that it did not provide a permanent release of the mind from the rebirth process. At best, it was only partial and/or temporary. Many of the micca ditthi were present before, during and after this experience, some of which were dispelled only after I discovered this excellent website. Whether the result could have been different if the mind embraced and eased into the “nothingness” is a possibility, though. Nevertheless, I can report that the technique did have a positive effect on the mind somewhat, and thus is not a complete waste of time.