Talk:S. N. Goenka

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Untitled[edit]

I tried to verify this article and had some trouble with finding neutral and authoritative sources. Can you help please? I am making allowances for linguistic differences; this is a bit effusive in tone (in my view) but that is not uncommon. - Just zis  Guy, you know? [T]/[C] (W) AfD? 22:47, 15 November 2005 (UTC)

I would suggest that the sources are few simply because Goenka is not at all a "mediatic" personality, nor does he write books and still less seek publicty. Nonetheless he is very well known in India and among Buddhists in general. A more complete article on him is possible, but it may be some time in coming. Mu 23:35, 26 November 2005 (UTC)
Although he doesn't write books himself, there are books outlining his teachings, such as, 'The Art of Living: Vipassana Meditation as taught by S. N. Goenka' By William Hart. This underlines his importance as a teacher in this area. - Solar 17:51, 9 December 2005 (UTC)
S.N. Goenka is a prominent teacher of Vipassana Meditation. He has played significant role to spread the teachings of the Buddha not only in India but throughout the world. His organization has more than hundred centres around the world and thousands of new meditators graduate every month. He does write books--mainly Hindi and perhaps English books too. Undoubtedly, the article on S.N. Goenka deserves importance. Skr 16:09, 4 January 2006 (UTC)
S.N.Goenka is indeed a "mediatic" personality, but, only for the cause of Vipassana as a tool for the benefit of mankind. He has written and contributed to many books on this subject. A search on amazon wil reveal his name as the author of (used) books for sale through the site. There are also many other books available. New copies can be purchased from specialist bookshops or on the net from the research institute. He has also given lectures at the U.N. and the World Economic Forum meeting in Davros. A website for his contribution to Vipassana is http://www.vri.dhamma.org/ or http://www.dhamma.org/. Much more detailed information about his books, lectures, newsletters is available from these sources.
While it may be that the article on the subject is a bit effusive, I do think that an entry must remain on this subject. The work he has done to propogate Vipassana is significant. -- Thaths 23:33, 24 February 2006 (UTC)
JzG - could you please explain which parts you find effusive?

There is opposition to Goenka and his teachings. e.g. http://www.vipassana-cult.co.uk and http://www.factnet.org Although this is vehmently opposed by his supporters I think that the page should reflect a small opposing view of his methods (i.e. that they are not true budhism).

NOTE - He never claims to teach "Buddhism" or "true budhism" or whatever... in fact he claims he does NOT teach Buddhism, but he teaches a meditation technique that can be used by anyone Buddhist or non-Buddhist, regardless of gender, race, nationality, creed, etc... just like Yoga can be practiced for a physical exercise, the meditation he teaches is a mental exercise. Although he talks about the teachings of the Buddha, he is NOT referring to Buddhism.
I don't remember S.N. Goenka claiming to teach buddhism. He does it in another way: he claims to be teaching pure dhamma. This is in fact another way of saying that he is teaching what the Buddha taught. Besides, he quotes buddhist scriptures. He has an aparent non-sectarian aproach but in fact he beats all organized religions in a hard way. Furthermore, if I remember it correctly, he claims that the technique he teaches remained secret trough 2500 years and now its spreading. This should be added to the article, maybe in a criticism section.
Agreed, he does claim to teach what the Buddha taught, at least the essence (he does so openly, in many interviews) -- except I don't think he says it "remained secret"; more like it was preserved by few people (monks) -- "secret" implies they were trying to hide it from the public, which I don't think was the case. If I remember it correctly, one of the reasons why it was preserved by so few is it had been "mixed" with other things (e.g. added other objects, philosophies, etc) and became less effective -- so people stopped practicing and it was lost to more people. Not that it was secret. And the article does say now it's spreading (but not as criticism).
1) I understand that his message discriminating other meditative or religious methodologies is very subtle and easy to misunderstand, as I also often have in the past. I recall that he repeatedly suggests that there is nothing wrong with organized religions and also other seemingly similar meditation techniques such as mantra and visualization. Instead, he explains that this technique is specifically intended to reduce suffering by knowing and refining mental reaction to activity in the body, nothing more. The subtle bit is that he goes on to say that any technique that aims to reduce suffering must simply consider and improve - or that is to say cannot ignore - this simple psychosomatic dynamic if the intention is to reduce sentient suffering. Further, he does not claim this as a generalized ultimate truth (i.e. statement of law applying to the population) that he seeks to impart on his students as a math teacher might, and thus is not condemning other methods outright. To emphasize the non-generality of this statement in practice, he suggests that students experiment and learn for themselves the benefits of various techniques as opposed to taking his - or the Buddha's, Jesus', Brahma's, etc - word for it. Please correct me if I've missed something but I believe this subtly but firmly contradicts any claims that he is "beating" organized religions, constituting material for a criticism section. 2) I would also suggest that it might be equally dangerous to equate a person's claim to teach "pure dhamma" with claiming to teach what the Buddha taught, teaching "buddhist scriptures", or being "buddhist" or not "buddhist". He states that "pure dhamma" is not tied to any one person or teaching, and that truth as consciously perceived by a being is only truth once that being has directly experienced it regardless of who suggested the path that lead to the experience. 3) Describing what delineates a teaching of Vipassanā in it's "pristine purity" and not in it's "pristine purity" is difficult, but important considering he repeatedly states very clearly that his teaching is "pure". Quite possibly contrary to popular understanding, the systematic body-scanning and noting method originated with Goenka's teacher Sayagyi U Ba Kin as as way to easily teach awareness of the impermanence of vedanā, while other "methods" also exist under the umbrella of "Vipassanā" as outlined in the suttas. So it may help to look beyond (without excluding) the actual technical instructions in to the way the courses are organized to develop sufficient samadhi before examining the body, the strong encouragement of criticism and rigorous personal inquiry over blind-faith, the monetary structure of the centers, etc. Patrickkidd (talk) 16:29, 4 September 2015 (UTC)
"in fact he beats all organized religions in a hard way"... He does not really beat organized religions, he beats blind faith, blind devotion in them (or anything). What he criticizes is practicing rituals, schematic following rules without actually living the essence of the religion. He encourages taking examples from the religious figures and developing their qualities in yourself, i.e. living in a way as these people taught. Source: S.N. Goenka - Dhamma Discourses, Day 7, the same video on blind Christianity and blind Buddhism.Galapah (talk) 08:59, 5 September 2015 (UTC)

I changed the category from "Indian Buddhists" back to "Indian people" as Goenka appears to find little use in religious classifications. I interpret from that that he would probably not describe himself as a Buddhist.

I reworded some section and removed what I believe are unsourced misunderstandings. It does not appear that Goenka believes he is the only person to teach the path to enlightenment, but rather that he claims that the path he teaches leads to enlightenment. Cornflex 03:18, 11 June 2007 (UTC)

NPOV[edit]

There seems to be no clear reason given for a NPOV tag to remain on the front of the article. The only mention I can find in the discussion is talk of a rather dubious link to a site that stretches credibility with its definition of a cult. The policy here is to include opinions that have support, but two or three unknown websites does not amount to notability IMHO. Allegations against an individual or group are very serious and I would only support inclusion of such ideas if they can be backed up with evidence of abusive behaviour by S. N. Goenka and/or his organisation beyond isolated incidences that may have nothing to do with Goenka. If we include all negative allegations against people regardless of the source we are walking the road to tabloid journalism. I will be removing the NPOV tag, if anyone feels that it should be replaced, please list the reasons here as is policy, and give clear actionable changes to be discussed that you feel break NPOV policy. - Solar 09:12, 28 June 2006 (UTC)

I believe the page does not seem to be of a NPOV which seems to be written by an admirer. But I could not suggest any particular changes. I did remove the Buddha prophecy section. Mr. S.N.Goenka has made a big contribution to spirituality in general and this is not to take away from it.Amitchaudhary 22:46, 18 January 2007 (UTC)

Goenka very clearly states in his talks that teh only way to enlightenment is through Vipassana, and that the only true Vipassana was held only by his lineage, that U Ba Khin was the only holder of that lineage, and that Goenka was the only one to receive that from U Ba Khin (not the only one to receive the technique, but the only one to be able to teach it). "Old students" of Goenka are also clearly forbidden from practicing any other technique if they are to continue to be his students, and are even forbidden from studying under teachers authorized by U Ba Khin, such as Mother Sayamagyi who is seen as being U Ba Khin's closest disciples. Seeing as Goenka is clear on this matter (refer to his talks and instructions if you have doubt about this) I see it as appropriate to be included. Dutaguna 04:25, 11 June 2007 (UTC)

I Never heard Goenka say anywhere that either He or U Ba Khin were the only holders of the lineage - it's even incorrect. In a talk given in Myanmar, he speaks very highly of Mother Sayami, another teacher appointed by U Ba Khin teaching Vipassana. He also never says that His vipassana is the only way, in day 9 or day 10 of the 10day discourses, he says: "(...) you can call it vipassana, Any technique that works with the bodily sensations and teaches you to remain equonimous with them, is a technique of liberation". TjeerdAukes 21:025, 28 August 2007 (UTC)

Controversy Section[edit]

Considering the volume of critiques of Goenka's method and the retreat organization available on the internet, the lack of a controversy section smacks of organized tampering. Many who have been on the retreats express concern that there are elements of hypnotism and brainwashing. There are many accounts of a lack of proper support for the issues that arise, in some cases resulting in suicide. This is not an uncontroversial subject!HiMonkeyMonk (talk) 23:20, 19 June 2015 (UTC)

This section is one of the worst I have seen in Wikipedia, it includes no citations and is written from a single POV. It requires major clean up and references; otherwise I think the best course of action would be to remove it totally until such time as some repeatable sources of criticism come to light. I would like to come to a consensus on what other users feel about this section before I take any further action on it. - Solar 14:52, 6 November 2006 (UTC)

As no one has commented and in line with policy on biography (see the top of this page), I am removing the controversy section. - Solar 16:16, 12 November 2006 (UTC)

Changed "traditional" to "authentic". Vipassana has continued traditionally in many countries across the Buddhist world. Goenka's claim is they are not authentic. I have not noticed him claim that vipassana does not exist traditionally passed down from teacher to student in countries other than Burma. If he does, please correct me. Dutaguna 14:34, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

I have repeatedly added sourced information citing damages Mr Goenka's cult has done to devotees from formal sites [1], but these are systematically deleted after only a few days or hours. The website you are seeing now is horribly biased and is not neutral, which goes against the aims of this encyclopedic website. This desperately needs to be addressed, because this systematic deleting is leading to the website being maintained as a 'starting page', which prevents it being locked from modification without administration approval.

Somebody desperately needs to set up an informative, neutral website which addresses the Vipassana organisation that Mr Goenka runs as a separate entity. As a postgraduate student with a specialisation in Eastern religion I am willing to set this up with another person if they will help and spare some time. The public desperately needs basic information regarding these organisations.--Apmab1 07:24, 5 October 2007 (UTC)Apmab1

Dear Apmab1,
I was one which deleted your input. I do not know about the others but I was not do it systematically. I just was do it because I thought this info you gave is not really connected with the topic. In case I was wrong I ask you for sorry. But still I do not get the connection what this organisation has to do with cults in Australia and why you link this site [2] and other books as a ressource. Maybe you can explain. I am very interesting in this organisation as I have a small but still important role within this organisation, as I practice this tecnique of mediation daily and use it as a great personal ressource, as I am a professional scientist with a PHD in human science and very open to controversial topics. And I think our opinions towards this organisation differs greatly and it would be interesting to learn from each other. If you are opened for this, I suggest to discuss it either on your user site or mine, as it might become a long discussion. Looking forward to here from you. --Guenesch802 16:03, 6 October 2007 (UTC)


Attempts to create 'Vipassana Meditation Organisation' website with critiques of Geonka and seven credible resources denied by administrative resident in Hong Kong.--Apmab1 08:07, 9 October 2007 (UTC)


Hallo Apmab1,
I want to answer to your offer of a new wikipedia term which has been denied Vipassana Meditation Organisation. Please keep in mind that this is a scintific critique. Do not take it personally. You are very welcome to answer if you think my arguments are wrong or also otherwise.
1. The term Vipassana Meditation Organisation does not exist as a real organisation and also otherwise this is as far as I know no common used term. So you create there a new term which is against wikipedia.
2. The term Vipassana Meditation Organisation is also misleading as the content just describes the Goenka-Tradition. In facts there would be many so called "Vipassana Meditation Organisation". Please try google search with this keyword just to get an idea.
3. The article is not neutral, as you give your attention on just a small part of this institution, and this small part you make big.
4. The information you give is partly wrong or a missinterpretation.
4.1 You wrote: "This effectively means participants have only five and a half hours sleep for ten days in a row."
This is wrong! Programm stops at 9pm and starts at 4.30 am. Also between 6.30 - 8:00, 11:00 - 13:00 and 17:00 and 18:00 people can take as much rest they want. So you come easily to eight hours sleep so the following argument you gave there is useless.
4.2 You wrote "constant chanting". Please note this constant chanting is not for 24 hours. It is only for about one hour a day alltogether and even in the morning where it is played for 35 minutes in a row it is optional to join.
4.3 You wrote "Participants will have to learn to sit still in a hall of other people in silence for seventeen hours a day without talking."
Sorry but seventeen hours a day is a nonsense. It is less than 10 hours if you are in the hall during all the regular meditations.
4.4 You wrote "this exerts extreme pain on the legs."
Vipassana (at least in this tradition) is a chiceless observation of personal manifestations. That Vipassana exerts extreme pain is at least not valid with my experience and also with many others I spoke. People are experience so many different things.
4.5 You wrote: "The organisation could then afford to expand itself in the early 1970s into the lucrative Western world, reaching increased concentrations where rural land was cheap, especially Australia (Stark and Bainbridge 1985)."
Sorry but also wrong. First course in the west was in 1979 and first land was in the west was bought only from the 1980s onwards. Especially Australia is also wrong. There have been more centers build in India, Europe or America.
5. You wrote: "Serious allegations were made by a clinical psychologist that these Vipassana courses have resulted in mental illness and increase in general distress in a significant number of attendees who have been forced to seek out clinical intervention"
Please note: this is only a opinion of one clinicle psychologist without giving any references to the ressource. There might be hundrets of clinical psychologist which have different opinions. At least I know some of them.
Beside this you should also try to stay neutral by looking also to the other side. For example: | Research Project of the University of Washington on Vipassana Meditaiton.
Please note: I agree that this organisation has its critqual points (maybe as every organisation and individual), and I agree with you that it is also important to be aware of the week points so that no mysthicism and blind believes are growhting. But first of all I am not sure if wikipedia should give critisism more place than an description of the respective term itself, as it is seen by those who are using it. At least if somone criticies an organisation or an individual it should be checked that information which is given is well researched. Giving credible ressources is to less if it does not fit with the content.
All the best,
--Guenesch802 09:57, 9 October 2007 (UTC)

In response to the seven sources cited on attempted wesite creation, member of public produces one article researched by a vipassana teacher who happens to be a psychiatrist and charges 'mindfulness' courses as part of their 'practice', plainly biased research [3]. No real oppositionary evidence provided, majority concerns minor aspects of the organisation which ignores it's purpose and practices. Claims that there is no 'Vipassana Meditation Organisation' registered by S. N. Goenka, is merely evidence this organisation is corrupt, it's elusivity and refusal to be legally registered with authorities is a critical mechanism that keeps it unaccountable for the many legal cases which have been charged. Administrator needs to create new unbiased website which blocks webiste modification of those who are already in these organisations, they are not open to reason because the whole point of these organisations is to brainwash members. Part of a general failure to provide unbiased information on Eastern religions which did not develop rationality that leads to the critique of their own practices, hence there is not even a Criticism of Buddhism website, and the Criticism of Hinduism site is horribly under-developed. Welcome proposals for a collaboration to have both up and running by member of the public not involved in any cults at present as these begin to propagate in the West--Apmab1 09:51, 10 October 2007 (UTC)

What are they "brainwashing" people to do or think? In the few criticisms I've read where people bring up brainwashing (including yours), no one clarifies what the end goal of the supposed brainwashing is. As far as I can tell, people are using this scary word to increase hysteria without explaining what the problem is. Wookless (talk) 17:04, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

Room for analysis and dissent? The article edit on 23:01, 27 February 2008 removed a link to an article that critiques the Goenka style teaching; the comment submitted with the edit claimed the article had "malafide intent". I strongly disagree. The article in fact gives a useful overview of the retreat and then a very serious discussion of the content--more so than any other source I've found. Surely there is room for one dissenting link at the end of this article? I recommend reinstating the link. I'm willing to do so myself, but don't want to start back-and-forth edits, so would like to find some support. Thinkling (talk) 06:09, 8 March 2008 (UTC)

Partly I agree, especially that at the end of this articles is room for one dissenting link partly I disagree "because very serious discussion of the content" is at least partly giving wrong impression and for me not well researched even it is written in a quite well academic way. The text is too long to answer to every chapter so I just want to take some parts out of chapter 4.3: (The Technique itself:)
1. The author is writting about Depersonalization Disorder which is diefined in the text as "Persistent or recurrent experiences of feeling detached from, and as if one is an outside observer of, one's mental processes or body" Even it is true that Vipassana as many techniques is trying to establish a detached observer competence of phenomena rather than an involved party it is completely untrue that Vipassana makes one an outside observer of oneself. On the contrary - main focus in this tradition is given on phenomena inside the obeserver itself. So argument is misleading. Instead of making people dissorder it is rather helping many people to come out of dissorder by bringing there attention to themselves.
2. The aouthor writes: "Secondly, students are not allowed any time for reflection or thinking over what they are being taught,.." Sorry but they have 10-day times to reflect and think what is being taught. People are never asked to stop or prevent thinking or reflection, they are just asked to observe thinking and the reflection of thinking is even cultivated so people get insight of how thinking is function by observing themselve. What is wrong with that?
3. In point 3 the author is completly wrong. Even it is true that body sensation play a key role in the technique is is completely untrue that "progress on the path of Vipassana is clearly marked not by the strength of one's equanimity towards the experience (which is not easily measurable) but by the sensations one is experiencing (which can be easily ascertained)". Exactly the difference is the case. The progress on the path of Vipassana is clearly marked by the strength of one's equanimity towards the experience and not by the sensations one is experiencing. If someone did not understand that I guess he missed the key point of the 10-day seminar.
Conclusion for me: The text as a clear and explicit given personal understanding is okay to add, but the text is written in such a way that someone gets feeling that the text is quite neutral, well researched and objective. My opinion is that the text is either neutral, nor well researched, nor objective and therefore I think it is better to not use the link in Wikipedia.
--Guenesch802 (talk) 10:05, 13 March 2008 (UTC)

I suggest reinstating the critique mentioned above. It is a thorough, intelligent paper. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 24.87.8.159 (talk) 16:53, 25 September 2015 (UTC)

Added Sections[edit]

I added sections to the information that was already here based on the notice at the top of the page. I did not add any new information or delete any information but rather moved some paragraphs around to fit the headings of:

Biography, Teachings, Meditation Centers, Vipassana Research Institute

I hope that this is helpful. I did not remove the notice asking for sections at the top of the page as I am new to this and not sure if I did it correctly. I will check back in a week or so I guess and if there are no objections and no one has removed it already, then I will remove it myself.

Thanks --Autumm393 (talk) 15:09, 6 April 2008 (UTC)

Birthdate uncertain?[edit]

There seems to be confusion/unclarity about Goenka's exact birthdate. The Vipassana Research Institute (his organization) home page (www.vridhamma.org) shows Jan 30, 1924. But in the past it was stated he was born Feb 7 of the same year. Someone @ 59.93.192.129 changed his birthdate to Feb 7; I reverted based on this reference. But there are zero corroborating sources. Suggest leaving as Jan 30th per vridhamma.org unless/until someone can demonstrate otherwise from an authoritative source. — Preceding unsignedcomment added by 108.8.206.141 (talk) 00:42, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

The incorrect addition has been corrected, missed out on the age template. There is no need to add the link, especially as it takes to the homepage which will soon change. Please link to a permanent page. Plus we have plenty third party, independent references now. --Ekabhishektalk04:42, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

Deathless[edit]

This piece sounds inaccurate to me: "the goal of the technique is to attain the deathless." I have been practicing Vipassana under Goenka for 4.5 years and haven't heard him refer to the goal of Vipassana in this way. I have heard it expressed in these ways: "to reach enlightenment, to reach real peace and harmony, to reach real happiness, to reach liberation," etc.

Could someone with expertise cite the source of the "deathless" phrase?

Abrusletten (talk) 15:19, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

I've been practising Vipassana under Goenka for even longer (since 1986), have participated in many 10-, 20- and 30-day courses and I don't recognise "attaining the deathless" as a major theme of his teaching at all. Furthermore, the long quote starting "Fight this battle ..." is not about deathlessness but about lust. With respect to theory, Goenka's main emphasis has been on his interpretation of Vedana and Sampajanna, which differs from how the terms are typically understood in Buddhism. I've taken out the sections on Deathlessness, and added something about Sampajanna instead.

PiersMessum 10:37, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

Ba Khin[edit]

I feel that the following line in the section Career it seem that Ba Khin was still alive in 2000, however he died in 1971.:

It was built as a tribute to his teacher, who in turn wanted to pay back the debt to India, the land of origin of Vipassana. However, unlike his protégé, Ba Khin was unable to acquire a passport, and thus had been unable to travel to India in person.

--Webhat (talk) 20:54, 14 January 2016 (UTC)

Assessment comment[edit]

The comment(s) below were originally left at Talk:S. N. Goenka/Comments, and are posted here for posterity. Following several discussions in past years, these subpages are now deprecated. The comments may be irrelevant or outdated; if so, please feel free to remove this section.

Last edited at 19:50, 1 October 2007 (UTC). Substituted at 05:10, 30 April 2016 (UTC)

Distracting HTML Anchors.[edit]

This article suffers from a cosmetic disease that infests the whole of Wikipedia, the proliferation of silly HTML anchors. "New York City," "migraine" and "Huffington Post" are just three examples here.

In the case of the Huffington Post, footnote 15 accurately and appropriately ties to the article under discussion. The immediately preceding anchor leads us on a digression about the newspaper itself, utterly unconnected to the subject of Goenka, the learned and distinguished teacher.

I think everybody knows that New York City is a city. It's in New York State, in the United States. Of America.

David Lloyd-Jones (talk) 17:45, 14 November 2016 (UTC)