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Hic Sunt Dracones
Apr 3, 2004
Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

Is this an appropriate thread in which to discuss Buddhism-derived meditation practices? If it's more about Buddhist cosmology, sacred texts, and the like, I will see myself out, but I thought the subject might be on topic given the discussion of "secular Buddhism" a couple pages back.

I completed my first 10-day Goenka Vipassana course last summer, and I've found the technique I learned there extraordinarily useful for general improvement of mental health, mood regulation, and impulse control, both during the retreat and in the months since. I had a few quibbles with the presentation, particularly the way Metta meditation was taught (it felt rushed and too brief to be properly integrated), but overall it was a highly positive and beneficial experience. It was a great introduction to serious, intensive meditation, especially because it was completely free of charge and provided everything needed to focus entirely on the practice. I think I'll almost certainly do another long retreat in the future, but I'm not necessarily locked into the idea of another Goenka one.

I'd be happy to discuss my experience with that course if anyone is interested or planning to attend one, but I'd also like to discuss Buddhist meditation in general with those of you who have invested significantly more time into it. A few questions/topics come to mind, in no particular order.

Are there any meditation teachers you'd recommend, ideally ones whose work is available online? On YouTube I have found valuable the teachings of Rupert Spira and Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu. Spira teaches from the Advaita Vedanta tradition, which is Hindu rather than Buddhist, but I think there's a great deal of overlap in the meditation-related teachings (as I understand them, anyway - I'm open to correction). Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu is a Buddhist monk whose meditation and mindfulness discussions are especially clear and well articulated, though I don't usually watch his scriptural readings.

How important is it (if at all?) to adhere to a single tradition and method in one's practice? The (Goenka) organization, for example, offers retreats of 20 days and longer but specifies that they're open only to those who practice exclusively Goenka's flavor of Vipassana for at least a couple years and never mix it with other practices. I've noticed this is fairly common theme (but not universal) among other schools I've researched. Is it just a matter of focusing on one method to ensure your practice deepens rather than only widens?

For those who would consider yourselves religiously Buddhist: Do you think it's possible to separate Buddhist meditation from Buddhist metaphysics? As much as the Goenka retreat is carefully framed as strictly secular in nature, I found it more overtly religious/spiritual than I'd expected. I'm hardly offended by this element; it's more that it just doesn't ring true with me like the practice itself and the theory of self around it do. For example, Goenka's explanation of "sankhara" to describe a habituated pattern of reaction made a lot of sense to me as a way to conceptualize the tendencies one can use meditation to overcome, but he lost me when he then explained that a primary reason to remove sankharas is because one carries them into one's next reincarnation. Is practicing without accepting such teachings ultimately incomplete, insufficient, or even disrespectful, or do you think it's OK to separate them?


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