Of course, nobody can force anyone to practice in a particular way. I cannot remember the specific wording that Goenkaji used in the closing recording. What can be said, is it impressed upon the attendees of the course that they should not mix the body-scan practice with other practices.
The exception to this rule is ‘anapana’ meditation and ‘metta’ meditation. I don’t recall any other meditation practices that were taught at the camps I attended.
When it came to the anapana and metta techniques that were taught, these were also of a particular kind.
The metta technique was only introduced at the very end of the course. I am not sure if Goenkaji would have approved of many of the loving-kindness meditation practices that are in circulation. Particularly, those that involve visualisation techniques.
Goenkaji emphasised that what he was teaching had nothing to do with ‘imagination’. He believed that visualisation techniques were imaginative exercises so they could give rise to fantasies and delusions.
His metta technique was based on a theory of vibrations. The instructions involved charging subtle vibrations felt in the body with loving kindness. Then, sending out loving vibrations or, vibrations charged with loving kindness, out into the surrounding atmosphere.
I did experience subtle vibrations throughout the body - and many other experiences mental/physical - at the courses I attended.
He seemed to be saying that these vibrations are ‘actual’ physical phenomena that a practitioner can develop an awareness of. That does seem to happen in the practice.
The anapana technique Goenkaji taught was to keep the attention below the nostrils and above the upper lip. The focus could be narrowed to the area of the nostrils where the air entered.
Another awareness exercise is to notice through which nostril the air is passing. The flow of air passes at a varying rate between both nostrils.
With regard to ‘jhana’ I remember a recorded teaching - of Goenkaji - during the training camps. He said that people in the past had known how to practice these things but the art had been ‘completely lost’.
This lost art was not as efficacious as the body-scan technique because it only penetrated to superficial levels of the mind - levels that are deeper than ordinary waking consciousness.
It required the body-scan technique without ‘reactivity’ to penetrate into the mind to the level of the ‘old sankharas’ and purify the mind of its past reactions.
What is problematic about this explanation of the technique is there are other possibilities as to why the pleasant, painful and, neutral sensations arise while practicing it.
The Dhamma is apparent here and now, it is recognised because of its clarity and lucid description. It’s not opaque and mystifying to the perspicacious listener.
The greatest of theories is of little use if nobody can understand it without having to make a giant leap of faith - no matter how fascinating it may be.
When there is a heavy reliance on the views of a teacher without an ‘apparent’ and obvious explanation for what is actually taking place when we practice their teachings ‘we know’ we are in a situation where there’s no clear way forward.
The Buddha made it clear: his teachings are apparent, there is no reliance on awe and wonder or, strong experiences to determine there efficacy. Awakening is not an experience of any kind.
When it comes to the Buddha-Dhamma when something is unclear to us, we know it’s unclear and, when it’s clear we know it’s clear. The Buddha didn’t muddy the waters.
There is a theory of the ‘unconscious’ that is part of Goenkaji’s teachings. This is where the old-sankharas were said to be located. Through equanimity with sensation the old-sankharas come into the field of attention and cease.
These reactions to past experience were said to enter the field of attention through not reacting to the sensations felt in the body.
What I found unusual about Goenkaji’s account of Jhanas - as a lost art - was the fact that his own teacher did teach that Jhanas are important.
I have two books that are translations of U Ba Khin’s teachings that has an understanding of practice that is more in line with the EBT’s.
U Ba Khin was steeped in the early teachings. It would seem that the ‘Abbidhamma’ also plays an important role in that lineage.
The Jhanas are important in the teachings of Goenkaji’s teacher ‘Sayagyi U Ba Khin’. The first- jhana seems to be the goal of his anapana-instructions. ‘U Ba Khin’ also identified his teachings as ‘Buddhism’.
Somehow, for reasons that are not clear or specified, Goenkaji seems to have given his own twist to the teachings and practices he received from his teacher while insisting that others should adhere to his teachings assiduously.
The clear message that was given and recieved at the ‘Goenka-style course’ was a student should make a choice between practising as they were taught by Goenkaji or, not, but mixing the technique - the body-scan - with other practices should not be done.
If someone was foolhardy enough to do this it could lead to unwholesome and detrimental outcomes. The teacher knows best - take my word for it!
Its not clear how Goenkaji found out about the dangers and perils of mixing the body-scan technique with other techniques.
He seems to have come from a Brahmin-family and had some knowledge of the Vedas - and the Vedanta-tradition.
He then became a student of ‘U Ba Khin’ and never left and never experimented with other Buddhist practices and traditions. It may have been an anecdotal teaching past on through the lineage he belonged to?
Another clear message was the uniqueness and specialness of the technique that was taught, the source of which was the Buddha himself - this was the claim.
Unfortunately, this body-scan technique doesn’t seem to be a major theme in the Suttas. On the other hand, the lost art of the Jhanas is a central theme in the Suttas and, there relevance in the eightfold path.