What are your thoughts on Goenka vipassana?

Does the Goenka method relate more to the first two frames of satipatthana?

The part covered in the essay is about verse 3/16 of anapanasati sutta:

Pali: ‘sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī assasissāmī’ti sikkhati, ‘sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī passasissāmī’ti sikkhati;

Bodhi: He trains thus: ‘I shall breathe in experiencing the whole body of breath’; he trains thus: ‘I shall breathe out experiencing the whole body of breath.’

Sujato: They practice breathing in experiencing the whole body. They practice breathing out experiencing the whole body.

The question Analayo analyzes is the historical precedent for interpreting sabbakāyapaṭisaṃvedī as “experiencing the whole body”, versus “experiencing the breath in the whole body”.

The Goenka method seems to strongly prefer the “whole body” approach, encouraging body scans and analysis of vedana related to the physical body at this stage.

I might be misunderstanding it though! I’m mixing some of the info others posted above with the specifics of the essay.


Thanks for the replies.

I am wondering if there any Monasteries that follow this particular teaching of meditation?

It seems to me that the distinction is rather blurred. When I watch the breath I’m actually noticing specific bodily sensations, it’s then just a case of widening awareness to notice other bodily sensations.
I often notice my weight, ie the bodily feeling of pressure due to gravity.

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In addition to body scanning, Goenka places a strong emphasis on impermanence, which the practitioner can eventually see while performing the body scan, feelings rising and passing away. During his talks, he very frequently utters: "Anicca, Anicca, Anicca. "


I do also find it kind of funny that in the very beginning of the regular retreats, he gives a whole sermon about how what he is teaching is rational, purely secular, and scientific. And then proceeds to have everyone present chanting the Going for Refuge, basically, the bottom-line condition for entering the Buddhist Religion… :thinking:


Would’t that depend on one’s personal belife in what and how to perform and use the act of taking refuge to one’s active daily life?

It’s an interesting point about taking the refuges. I’d assume that before MBSR and Batchelor’s books and all that happened, the bar for a Buddhist practice to be “secular” was a lot lower.

These days there are versions so secular they are unrecognizeable. But in the west at least, until recently most people thought of Vajrayana and Zen as the default types of Buddhism, and both of those involve a lot more than just the refuges in terms of “devotion”.

Maybe, but there is a sneaky touch to it nonetheless. In the tapes he is so insistent that everything is purely scientific, just experiential etc., and then in the tapes of the later days he brings in karma, past lives etc. I somehow can’t imagine it to be an ‘oversight’, especially from someone who must have been very conscious about what he said on recordings.

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Very interesting point. Would like to understand what is Vipassana. I was also thinking that body scan method is Vipassana. Can you give reference of some texts,books where it is explained

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Goenka vipassana has its own website and books available here -

That’s because the science he’s referring to isn’t the current materialistic science, rather the science of mind and matter as he says!
The Buddha statue at the Global Vipassana Pagoda even has the following words describing it - "Buddha -the Superscientist of Spirituality " !!!

The Goenka tapes I listened to sometime back bugged me with their dhamma inaccuracies, and their translation of vedana as body sensations, and vedananupassana as the body scan method. The body scan is nowhere mentioned in that form in the EBTs. I think this is samatha and no The Goenka tapes I listened to sometime back bugged me with their dhamma inaccuracies, and their translation of vedana as body sensations, and vedananupassana as the body scan method. The body scan is nowhere mentioned in that form in the EBTs. I think this is samatha and not Vipassana!/quote]

I had asked the question in context of reply given by Mat .I was not able to link my question given below properly.

“Very interesting point. Would like to understand what is Vipassana. I was also thinking that body scan method is Vipassana. Can you give reference of some texts,books where it is explained”

I truly think the experience of the branch of tradition of the Lady student of Sayagyi U Ba Khin is nice.

The Vipassana tradition is coming from him. He once a monk in Burma. And started the movement.

What I like about the tradition of Mother Sayamagyi they don’t use recording. The books they use to guide are the same talks of the retreat center of the founder Sayagyi U Ba Khin

So there is minimum changing of interpretation from his tradition.

I think Goenka tradition the focus is on his recordings and has shifted away from the founder of the movement, who was his teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin

But I would like to attend one day in Goenka tradition but it’s very hard not to prefer Mother Sayamagyi tradition.

I only 1 attendance at USA. The schedule is nice. The amount of meditation you do. Helps so much. I never slept so good. The food was good. Vegetarian. Only the last there was shrimp also available. I think to break the diet? :joy: I don’t know. Staff is very nice. There is a couple teachers for every few months. But the one I experienced with was very nice. We even had a private chat. And he gave me a Abhidharma book. He said he didn’t need it. :slight_smile: There is replica pagoda of the one at Burma at the back of the meditation hall. Inside it there is Buddha statues with recordings of the founder Sayagyi U Ba Khin chanting.

I invite more people to that tradition. Because they honor the founding teacher more. It seems centered that he was the teacher and it still today. I think there is even a empty chair representing him.

The meditation hall is simply. Seems empty. Not a lot to distract you.

Break times we usually just walk around the landscape.

I went in December. And it snowed. The air around the center is clean. Which helped a lot with my meditation.

Sayagyi U Ba Khin became a highly respected meditation teacher in Burma. He taught students from all over the world until his demise in 1971. From then until her demise in January 2017, his leading disciple Mother Sayamagyi carried on the tradition.

She taught meditation for more than fifty years and established additional International Meditation Centers worldwide.

Ten-day residential meditation courses are held approximately every other month at IMC-USA. They begin on a Friday evening and end early on a Monday morning. The courses are led by a regional teacher under the auspices of the International Meditation Center, United Kingdom, where Mother Sayamagyi lived and taught for forty years. Anyone who comes with an open mind can gain the necessary confidence in the technique. The students who attend the meditation courses are from all walks of life, professions, religions and cultural backgrounds.

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It is considered vipassana because at the same time your learning that things are changing. They are impermanence. In Samatha the object is different. In the tradition I went(see above) the focus is that the change, is seeing impermanence and non-self then etc

Maybe the interpretation in Goenka tradition is not correctly explained?

The thing is you have to understand Buddhism correctly for these retreats to benefit you.

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There is ofcourse. I have seen on internet once one in Sri Lanka. And since actually the tradition is coming from Burma. There must be more there. But maybe not using Goenka name. Its just normal there at Burma.

This is what is done in Vipassana retreat.

when they experience any kind of feeling—pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral—they meditate observing impermanence, dispassion, cessation, and letting go in those feelings. Meditating in this way, they don’t grasp at anything in the world. Not grasping, they’re not anxious. Not being anxious, they personally become extinguished.

So cultivating directly what was early Buddhism goal.


This post is to share my personal impressions of Goenka’s teachings of vipassana and I make no claims of any personal attainments.

In 2004 I first heard of a retreat where you meditated in silence for 10 days and I instantly knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that sitting for an extended period of time alone with my mind, unable to turn away and run was the key to getting to the bottom of everything in my life. I also knew that it would take great courage and 100% devotion on my part. It was several years before I was finally able to gather the courage and determination to do it. I had never meditated before and knew absolutely nothing about the Buddha or Buddhism.

I was blown away by the retreat and it altered the course of my life. Just now I read the notes I made after the retreat. My main impressions about what Goenka was teaching was impermanence, training the mind to notice sensations and associated thoughts and accept them knowing change is inevitable, to train one’s awareness to be sharper, that thoughts are expressed in the body.

After the retreat I started meditating every day. But after a while I found it rather boring and I felt like I was forgetting or missing something. So about 18 months later I did another retreat. It was difficult and rewarding, but I came away thinking that there was more to mediation than was being presented.

I started searching for dharma talks and stumbled on Joseph Goldstein’s 47 part series on Analayo’s book on the Satipatthana sutta. I jumped in at his talks on the 5 aggregates of clinging and it was like a miner striking gold. Suddenly it seemed like there was a structure and a plan to Buddhism and meditation and the entire world of the Dhamma began to open up for me.

So how do I now regard the Goenka retreats? Mixed. Overall, I can’t deny that it introduces scores of people to a Buddhist meditation “technique” (as Goenka describes it) and that is a good thing.

However, I’ve met and noticed that many people who attend Goenka retreats tend to stay in that introductory mode of understanding and practice of Buddhism and never move on. Mention of The Four Noble Truths, Dependent Origination or any of the 37 Wings To Awakening is new and incomprehensible. Practice of breath meditation is delightful and bears fruit, however, Anapansati is sixteen steps, not one. At some point there needs to be exposure to more of the teachings of the Buddha. A very close friend of mine is a psychologist and he’s told me several times that he’s known many people who have done Goenka retreats and I’m the only person he knows who continued meditating long term after attending a retreat.

Also, Goenka’s emphasis on equanimity seems somehow like it’s putting the cart before the horse. Can one fulfill the Seven Factors of Awakening without even knowing that they exist or what they are?

There were some other things about the retreats that didn’t make sense to me until much later but I don’t want to come across here as being too critical. After all, I found Buddhism through Goenka. That said, I’m not sure I would recommend a Goenka retreat to most people, at least not without caveats or a pre-retreat briefing and a post-retreat debriefing.


I liked reading your writing. Your question I just found out a sutta a couple days ago.

If you have ethics and hear dhamma. This sutta say yes.

So it seems all natural process


Can you provide a link to the Goldstein series pl? Or its full name? Thanks. :slight_smile:


Here’s the series on Dharmaseed:





Can you provide a link to the Goldstein series pl? Or its full name? Thanks. :slight_smile:
<Dharma Seed - Joseph Goldstein's Dharma Talks

2006-03-20 Satipatthana Sutta - part 23 - The 5 Aggregates: Non-Self 63:14

Adutiya, are the above links from part 21 to part 23 of the series on the five aggregates you are referring to.