Reply To: Goenka´s Vipassana


I also started my Dhamma-journey with two Goenka courses around 1.5 years ago. After these courses I found this webpage and meditated under a different teacher here in Myanmar in another technique, very fitting to what Lal is teaching here, in my opinion (mindfulness on the mind and mental states).

Concerning Goenka and the pain, I wanted to say something. In my opinion it might be understood that one should “do something special” when meditating, like sitting in a special way, scanning in a special way and so on. That idea might develop after such meditation courses. Especially westerners that are used to a high effort of doing things (with the idea of “being in control”) might develop some complex of focusing on the stability of the body instead of trying to be aware of the attitude with which one is meditating. In this case, the mind is not calm, not flexible and somehow attached to a kind of calmness.

On the other hand, breaking up the habit of blindly reacting to an initial sense input, and pain as a kaya vedana is one type, might be a useful learning experience for many people. It is training the mind to become more accepting with unpleasant situations in life, and the wisdom behind that is that our sensual experience, the vipaka vedana are also anicca (cannot be maintained as one desires). So, in life there might be moments, for example in the dying times or in times of illness, when pains will be present and no real way to avoid these experiences is possible. If one has overcome these initial reactions (these reactions are samphassa-ja-vedana, which in my experience increase the unpleasantness of the initial pain) and is able to tolerate pain better, it is quite in alignment to what Lal describes as Vedanupassana, in my view.
The aversion of blocking the pain is a samphassa-ja-vedana is something one can change, because it has to do with the attitude of meditation. However, one has to learn that one does not needlessly tortures oneself (which is the other extreme).

I understand the method as follows:
Any samphassa-ja-vedana is a reaction to an initial sense-input coming as a vipaka. While the mind is creating these mind-made feelings, it is not aware in the sense that it is not calm, and seeing with “nicca” (trying to control). These reactions are mano sankhara that will manifest as changes in the bodily energies as well, arising out of the heart-base. From my understanding,pleasant samphassa-ja-vedana (binding with raga, for example agter seeing a pleasant view) will create changes in the body which will result in pleasant kaya vedana as a immediate vipaka. The action of liking results in bodily changes and the mind will pick them up in another 5 door-process. It then might create more samphassa-ja-vedana due to liking on these bodily sensations as well. But someone who has established an upekkha-habit on these bodily processes might see more easily that these processes are arising because of a mental “upadana”, which will make him aware of the underlying attachment and the mano sankharas that were created. He can then consciously decide to abandon to follow these thoughts or mental reactions, which means that he is stopping the generation of more samphassa-ja-vedana.

In this way, the method makes sense to me. But it is a limited method ans can lead to some misunderstandings, as it did for me. When I learned many more ways of meditating from another teacher I learned how to properly understand Goenka’s method. The mind and the defilements as lobha,dosa,moha are the ultimate causes, which means that one single technique cannot really give the understanding of the mind and train the mind in being able to stop defiled thoughts (or become aware of and reflect upon) in many different life situations. This is the ultimate goal, as I understand it.
Especially the understanding about the causes for certain experiences and the whole scope of the rebirth process is missing. But since I have only attended the beginner courses, I don’t know how it will be later.