My Critique on Vipassana Meditation Courses (retreats in S. N. Goenka tradition / Dhamma)
- Published on Aug 24, 2017
- A critical video on why I didn’t like the 10-day Vipassana Meditation course (Dhamma retreat in Thailand), reasons why this was a negative experience for me, and why it also might not work well for you.
What I don’t like about Vipassana Meditation courses/retreats in the tradition of S. N. Goenka:
- It’s depressing to have to suppress spontaneous expressions of joy such as singing, laughing, dancing, jumping and running, or whatever other way you like to express joy that makes any sound or attracts too much attention. Personally, I liked to not talk with anyone and be in my own space, I do see the value of that, but it made me depressed to not sing and dance and laugh.
- Is Vipassana really a (quick and sure) path to enlightenment? Well, let’s not even talk about the problematic definition of enlightenment (is it really a destination? Or more like a never ending process we’re all already in?) because I don’t even think Vipassana is a quick or sure way to reach enlightenment. They call Vipassana a scientific method, meaning I guess that they know from experience that it will surely lead to enlightenment. This is mainly based on the story that the Buddha who sat under the bodhi tree got enlightened while doing this meditation. Well, how we know that for sure? That happened quite some time ago, and maybe, just like with the bible, things might have gotten delivered to this era a bit differently… Then secondly, even S. N Goenka himself or my teacher at the Dhamma facility in Thailand where I was, didn’t claim to have reached “full enlightenment”. Goenka doesn’t pretend that Vipassana meditation is always enjoyable. He also states you need years and years of Vipassana meditation before you reach enlightenment. And so I asked myself: “Would I be willing to suffer my way through a not always enjoyable meditation for years and years while there’s not even a guarantee for something awesome happening because of that during my lifetime?” Uhmm…. No. Not convinced.
- The first goal of Vipassana meditation is “equanimity”. Ha ha that makes me think of some emo-culture picture I once saw on the internet, it said: “not happy, not sad”. Would I want to actually be equanimous? No thank you! That sounds like having meditated yourself brain-dead! I enjoy things like enthusiasm, love, humor, happiness, and sure even the sadness if it has to come in a package deal. Throughout my life, I notice that while I learn life’s lessons though, I become happier and happier in life. This is a general trend we also see in psychological research: when people get older, they grow happier. Learning and getting happier and happier seem to me like a better way of going about life than mediating myself brain-dead. And in the meantime, I will enjoy the specialness of negative emotions as well.
- Another goal of Vipassana: “Liberation”. Wow, that sounds negative to me! Because it assumes there’s something you need to be liberated of. If you would feel in love with life, and love yourself (all of you, so also your beautiful mind), your life experience feels like a paradise fairy tale, not like a prison you need to be liberated of. For example, I like it when I’m curious. I asked my teacher something, I said “I’m curious to know”, and she replied: “Curiousness is something you need to be liberated of”. I don’t agree.
- Goenka said we have to quiet our minds. And that’s what you’re trying to do in those courses, by focusing on the breath, of scanning the body. While quietude of the mind has a very pristine quality, it seems out of balance to me to try to force your mind to be quiet for 8 or 10 hours a day, 8 or 10 days in a row. I would rather say: enjoy the quietude whenever the mind falls quiet by itself, and enjoy its presence as well when it’s not quiet. And yes, you CAN enjoy your mind. My mind for example comes up with jokes, is playful, remembers beautiful times that happened earlier in my life, solves problems, has an inner laugh I can listen to sometimes when it pops up, downloads inspiration for art, for my work and for how to create my life, my mind organizes things, appreciates things, and sings songs inside my head so that I can listen to music even when there’s silence in the outside world. Isn’t all of that super cool?! I am NOT going to judge that as anything less than divine!
- The method just doesn’t make sense. Consider the following. If I were God…
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