Vipassana of S.N Goenka and others

doo's picture

Average: 4.4 (18 votes)

Anyone did the Vipassana meditation a la Goenka? I heard the man and he sounds profound... Is it hard?

What's the difference between Goenka's Vipassana and the other versions?

solomon's picture

10-day Vipassana Course

The 10-day Goenka retreat is most recommended. I did it several times, it's much easier than it seems and so so effective, and it is free of charge (you can give a donation at the end only if you did the whole 10 days).

Goenka's tapes are wonderful and amusing but hardly effective without actually doing the Vipassana course. It is the same case as with many of us that read a lot of spiritual stuff which is partially a candy for the mind but when it comes to meditation and practice they refrain. This is a barrier a true seeker should be aware of and pass. The mind wants the intellectual amusement but not to meditate because meditation weakens it and it fights for its survival...

solomon | Thu, 04/24/2008 - 12:50
Quantum's picture

The effect?

It develops the witnessing, observer,aspect?

Quantum | Tue, 10/08/2013 - 16:00
hugo's picture

information about the vipassana course

See here under locations at S.N. Goenka's guru profile:

They have centers in every corner of the world.

hugo | Fri, 04/25/2008 - 12:55
Gaston's picture

Thanks Hugo, I just

Thanks Hugo,
I just registered for a 10 days course this coming March. Not sure if I'm accepted or how that works but whatever happens is what is supposed to be!


Gaston | Thu, 01/07/2010 - 05:49
avi's picture

Criticism about Goenka's Vipassana

Goenka's Vipassana is not the only Vipassana and is not necessarily the Vipassana instructed by the Buddha as claimed.

It is yet another, though very popular nowadays, interpretation of the Buddhist Satipatthana Sutra, and an extremely narrow interpretation.

Goenka (following his master and the Burmese tradition) took the Vipassana to a too narrow interpretation of only observing body sensations.

The Satipatthana Sutra speaks about 4 types of objects to observe, only one of them is the body sensations. If you are vigilant, you will notice that Goenka disregards the other types of objects in an elegant way (maybe in order to keep the technique as simple as possible for the masses).

For beginners, this radical interpretation serves well as the mind is focused on one type of object and has no escape to invent bypasses and personal versions.

But for old students who practice Vipassana for a long time at some point the narrowed interpretation is not enough, they feel that something is missing, that the mind has found another back route of reacting. This is the time for such people to check on the other 3 objects: to ask who is that meditate, to observe the body as a whole, and to observe emotions as they apear directly as the sutra instructs to do.

avi | Fri, 04/25/2008 - 13:16
shira's picture

Narrowing of the technique

The narrowing of the technique is not only the focus on body sensations but also the systematic scanning from head to toe and back only. And also the prohibition to associate sensations with the counterpart feelings and emotions they represent.

This is indeed in order to make the the technique as simple as possible otherwise the cunning mind will do the usual stuff of spoiling the effectiveness of the meditation by introducing concepts and bypasses.

For advanced students, it is problematic. Goenka had to broaden the scopes and loosen the rules for those who are into it for several years. Consequently, the unfortunate senior students abandon the technique after sometime (most of them), the few luckier ones loosen it by themselves, they continue doing it in the more broader way and assimilate it into their daily life, not limiting it to formal meditation sitting only.

If you feel you are about to abandon the technique because of its strictness then abandon the strictness.

It is better to stay with the original strict rules of Goenka. But if you feel you are about to abandon the technique because of its strictness then abandon the strictness. But make sure you do not do it out of boredom or desire for excitements. And if you broaden it, make sure this is not your mind deceiving you in order to eliminate the effectiveness of this meditation.

shira | Mon, 08/18/2008 - 10:00
Tania's picture

Daily life vipassana

Great observations, both of you. I agree.

You feel some emotion in daily life, observe it a bit and then observe the corresponding body sensations. With time you will find it easier to track the corresponding body sensations.

Always make sure you do not skip the area of the head when you look for the sensations associated with the emotion. There is somewhat a tendency to do this.

With time the practice will convert into sensation of free flows of energies in the body: all the body is vibrating, you sense the body as a whole vibrating energy. Eckhart Tolle called this the "Inner body", Goenka calls it "Bhanga". It has enormous qualities of unity with whatever is. Just be this vibration and observe it without attachement. If it is then fine, if it is gone then it is also fine.

Tania | Wed, 06/24/2009 - 20:50

Inner body

'Inner body' and 'Bhanga' are the same have been stated by you; please have you really experienced it as the same one.

NIDHI PARKASH | Thu, 01/07/2010 - 18:53
dhyan's picture

Osho Vipassana Meditation

I have not done Goneka Vipassana Meditation but i have practised Vipassana meditation myself.
and i feel for some people it will suit and for some it will not.

Osho has advised to go for Vipassana meditation after doing 3 months Dynamic meditation.

some people have very good experience from Vipassana meditation but some simply run away. so it varies.

i suggest find out for urself which meditation suits u.
as per Osho there is always one meditation which will suit u and will click immediatedly

dhyan | Sat, 08/23/2008 - 13:51
Shankara's picture

Vipassana and cittanupassana (observation of the mind)

Please take a look at these clear instructions on cittanupassana (observation of mind).
Sayadaw U Tejaniya will surely be one of the greatest meditation teacher of this decade. Clear, fresh and understandable with a twist of true realism. He's been a householder until 10 years ago when he decided to become a monk.
Here's a link to some of his teachings (audio and text):

Shankara | Mon, 12/29/2008 - 16:31
M.M.'s picture

Fantastic meditation time if you can ignore the cultish side

First off, please understand that I had a pleasant experience while I was there. In the hills away from city noise and bustle, eating light, no alcohol, lots of stretching (of my own doing - stretching and walking were the only exercises permitted), and of course 11 good hours of meditation a day - this is a good formula for a healthy heart and mind. I was indeed happy, and I was in quite a good mood the whole time. I had just finished a 1200km long pilgrimage on foot (the Shikoku 88 Temples pilgrimage), and thought that following it with a good meditation retreat would have been a wonderful finish before getting back to the rest of the world, if you know what I mean. (c:

When I first arrived, red flags went off in my head with the naivety of the managers. I was in Japan, near where the March 2011 tsunami hit, and thus close to the problematic nuclear power station. During orientation, the female manager told us: if there is an earthquake (there were still aftershocks, even here at two months later), stay in the buildings, do not go out (into the big open field were there are no trees or buildings or anything). She explained that because the buildings were new, they were strong and could withstand an earthquake. Second, do not worry about the water because they had water filters that would kill the radiation. I was surprised to hear this, and reading the surprise on my face, she repeated this, "Some of you look like you may be worried, so I want to make sure you understand: the water is safe, we have water filters and it will kill all the radiation."

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my glasses to the retreat and my right contact tore the very first morning. Although this is a silent retreat, we are permitted to speak with the managers if there is a problem. I went to the male manager and explained the situation and, having had to hand over my phone, I asked if either they or myself could call my wife in Japan and ask her to mail my glasses to the compound. I explained that I wrote her number down as my emergency contact on the registration forms we had to fill out when we arrived. He said he would take care of it. The next day, he informed me that they could not make the call, since it's an overseas phone call, and he needed her email address. I explained again that she is Japanese, we live in Japan, and if he would look at the number I had written down for them, he would see that it was a local call. Just in case, however, he asked if I would give him the email address anyway. I explained the email was in my phone in their safe, and asked if I could see it to get the address. He did a quick, sucking inhalation and hesitated, which those of you familiar with Japanese culture will recognize as meaning that the answer is "no", but he didn't want to say "no". Anyway, he said he would try to call. Later I learned that he was still waiting for her email address, and when I came to him during a lunch break, he had already forgotten what we were talking about. Long story short, it took about two and a half days, but eventually a phone call was made to my wife for the glasses. I mention this as an example of the general absent-mindedness of this manager. He and the woman before were representative of the compound.

The chanting also surprised me, as I didn't know Vipassana "followers" did a chanting call-response, or any kind of chanting at all for that matter. About every hour, one of several clips are played with Goenka chanting in a language said to be the language of Buddha. At certain times during the chanting, the students give a slow respond chant of "sadhu, sadhu, sadhu". Goenka explains this to simply mean "well done" or "well said", to assuage any questioning newbies such as myself. The question is of course not what the chanting means, but why followers get involved in this call-response chant with their leader in something that is touted to not be a religion, only a technique. As a further note, I later learned that the workers at the retreat all keep tapes of Goenka's chanting playing when the students aren't around. This is their mantra.

The chanting during meditation sessions put my meditations off just a bit. I found that I could meditate much better without it, but this isn't so important. The 90 minute discourse videos that we were subjected to watch every evening were a bit disturbing, however. I am indeed about to call Goenka's Vipassana retreats cultish. I don't mean to offend anyone, but I do have experience with cult mentality through family members that got involved with such things, and Goenka's Vipassana retreats, as benign as they may be, do indeed show traits of cult mentality. And I specify "Goenka's" Vipassana as there are other ways to learn Vipassana, despite his followers are likely to tell you that you can only learn it through Goenka. I believe this is called a personality cult.

Again, I was in very good spirits while I was there. Furthermore, the people, as misled as I may think them, were kind and I never felt myself threatened at any time. There are indeed pros and cons to the experience.

The video tapes. Most of the time, Goenka is teaching rudimentary Buddhism mixed with very inaccurate and dogmatic "facts". (The compound leaders told me however that he does not teach religion or any sort of "-ism".) Goenka is very long-winded, talks in circles, and gives poor or misleading examples. You could take all the information from a 90 minute video and consolidate it probably into about 10 minutes or less. Here are some of the things he taught in the videos, in order:

1) Those who do not complete a Vipassana course are weak-willed. You absolutely must finish the course. (This pressure permeates the facility.)
2) People sometimes come to him whining about how from so much meditation their legs ache, their backs ache, or they have headaches. (Goenka actually put on a whining, mocking voice when saying this.) These aches are not to be taken seriously. They are nothing more than manifestations of the mind trying to escape the meditation technique. After a few days of Vipassana, you will not need to move your body while meditating, even when meditating for hours on end.
3) Vipassana comes from Buddha. It was what he used to become enlightened. Furthermore, all saints and all buddhas and all enlightened people in history became thus by using Vipassana. (I have since read an interview with Goenka where, when asked if Vipassana is the only way to become enlightened, he responded that it seems there are exceptions where some people learn it spontaneously, without knowing the name Vipassana.)
4) As you practice Vipassana, you will understand through experience (the experience being that of the meditation itself) the Law of Nature. The Law of Nature begins with the 5 precepts: Do not kill (or eat meat), Do not steal, Do not engage in sexual activity outside of marriage, Do not lie, Do not take intoxicants.
5) All religions have the same message: do good/pious things, and do not to bad/cruel things. The Law of Nature is this message. Religions however often make two mistakes: they do not use all of the 5 precepts, and they do not use Vipassana. Vipassana is the only way to liberation and happiness. ("But," Goenka repeats regarding other religions after saying they are all incomplete because they lack Vipassana, "I do not condemn them!, I do not condemn them!")
6) Vipassana is most rational, and it is scientific.
7) As you practice Vipassana, you will become more and more aware of subtle levels of your body. This will progress until you can feel actual individual atoms in your body. The Buddha himself felt this level, which is why he knew and taught that we are made of trillions of tiny components.
8) Western science through machines has made some of the discoveries that Buddha did through Vipassana. A western scientist made a "bubble" machine that allowed him to find out exactly how small an atom is. A few Indians were excited when they learned that science could know for sure the same things Buddha said, and they went to find this scientist. When they found him, however, they were disappointed in that he was a man of great suffering, and with a miserable life. This was because he did not use Vipassana.

Finally, after day 4, I had a meeting with the male AT (assistant teachers - Goenka's Vipassana has him as the sole teacher, and all other facility leaders as assistants) and the silent leader of the camp - an older, much more experienced monk-looking Japanese gentleman who would come to meditations and sit silently with the ATs. Although he had never been introduced or even referenced during the course, it was clear that he was some kind of leader.

In the meeting, which was very civil and again pleasant in general, I explained my heart: I loved the meditation, and everyone was very kind. However, the chanting and particularly the videos I found were disturbing my meditations.

"What is it that disturbs you?"

So, I went on to recount things from the list above. However, I was quickly stopped.

"We cannot discuss the philosophy with you. We can only help you with the meditation. If the chanting is disturbing you, you may meditate in the dormitory instead of the main hall."

I told them I loved that idea, and asked if I could also meditate during the video presentations. It was, after all, really the videos that were disturbing me. Unfortunately, the videos were a requirement. I told them I did not think the videos necessary, as all he really does is talk about his Vipassana-philosophy, and that the techniques are taught once a day on the CDs played in the main hall. But still, all new students were required to view all of Goenka's daily 90-minute discourses.

I told them that while I might leave, I would give it more time. I later asked one of the managers, "Is Goenka the only person that teaches Vipassana correctly?" He told me that yes, only Goenka teaches Vipassana. (I think most of us know this to be very incorrect.) I told the AT and compound leader that I had come across the meditation used in Vipassana before. (It is a basic sensory-sensation meditation, pleasant, but not unusual or a great secret). When I said this, they both nearly jumped out of their seats, "Really?! Where?!" They explained that after Buddha, the technique fell into the hands of Burmese monks, where it was kept a secret in their order for nearly 2000 years. Then, about 150 years ago, they began teaching certain people, starting with a farmer. When Goenka was lucky enough to learn the technique, he started a campaign to spread the secret and the truth to the world.

I decided to leave.

To summarize, the experience was all in all pleasant. The people were kind, albeit a bit misled. Goenka's teaching is largely harmless, although it is inaccurate and carries strong traits of a cult of personality. Having the opportunity to get in so much meditation in such quiet and natural surroundings is fantastic, and if weren't for the daily required dogmatic videos (which in my opinion are indoctrination videos), I would indeed have recommend the retreat.

M.M. | Sun, 05/29/2011 - 02:19
Oshoglory's picture

Osho Neo Vipassana Meditation

Osho Neo Vipassana facilitated by Sw. Chaitanya Keerti

It is not a traditional Vipassana group in which you sit for 10 hours daily. No, it is actually very dynamic, playful and leading you naturally into a space of deep silence and serenity. Osho explains: First you have to dance, first you have to shout in joy, and sing, and so your life becomes more vital. First you have to cathart, so all that you have repressed is thrown out and your body is purified of toxins and poisons, and your psyche also is purified from repressed traumas and wounds. When this has happened and you have become able to laugh and you have become able to love, then vipassana. Now vipassana will not drive you serious, will not drive you in any way into some ego trip. Now you can sit silently; now sitting silently is not serious. That is the special quality that I am trying to create here in vipassana -- it does not exist anywhere in the world.

Oshoglory | Thu, 11/10/2011 - 16:49
mariposa's picture

Osho's Vipassana is not Goenka's Vipassana

This post discusses the original and pure Vipassana method. Osho's Vipassana has nothing to do with the original Vipassana of Goenka or others that are based on the Satipatana Sutra and hence lacks the tremendous benefits of the pure Vipassana that focuses on body sensations.

Vipassana means in Sanskrit wisdom. That is the only reason the Osho's Vipassana is called by that name.

mariposa | Fri, 11/11/2011 - 13:53
flance_raw's picture

Meditation Retreat

Meditation often involves an internal effort to self-regulate the mind in some way and can help in clearing the mind and ease many health issues, such as high blood pressure, depression. I really like you thoughts.

Meditation Retreat

flance_raw | Wed, 02/13/2013 - 09:26