Goenka Vipassana Is Different

Besides committing to a daily practice, the biggest hurdle I’ve faced is accepting that Vipassana meditation taught by S N Goenka is different from other meditation techniques. It’s even different from other Vipassana meditation techniques. The reason this is signficant is not because I’m an elitist snob who thinks my technique is the best. Quite the contrary. At my novice level of this practice, I just want to clump them all together so I can find a community of meditators I can befriend. The problem is, the elders of this tradition have advised me against practicing with meditators from these different traditions, so as I’ve received more benefit from my practice leading me to take my practice more seriously, I’ve been challenged to accept that this tradition is different.

As a westerner from the United States, I didn’t really understand meditation. It wasn’t until I took a 10 day Goenka course that I realized the tremendous strength and potential of meditation, but since this was the only tradition I had experienced, it all seemed the same to me. In my head, meditation equaled good, so I wanted everyone to start meditating, and I wanted to support everyone to establish their practice.

The conflict with that approach is the potential of diluting the tradition. One of the primary goals of the Goenka organization is to maintain the purity of this technique. If people start mixing and matching aspects of different traditions that they like, the pure strength of the teaching will be lost.

The defiant American in me was determined that the organization should be less protective and rule oriented, but maybe my cavalier style is wrong on this point. Maybe the focus of quality over quantity should be the focus. Maybe as one reaches more advanced stages of meditation the nuances of the technique do matter. Who am I to say that it doesn’t?

The bottom line is, each tradition has slightly different goals and slightly different results. While I believe that all of the different meditation techniques probably help in their own way, the technique that’s worked for me is taught by S N Goenka. If my elders say that it’s important to keep some separation between the different techniques, I should accept that. If sometime in the future I find this approach to be harmful, then I need to be prepared to change course, but for now, I think the best choice is to trust the people who have been doing this a lot longer than I have. Time to go meditate.

This entry was posted in Observations by Ryan Shelton. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ryan Shelton

While I'm currently married to a beautiful woman while teaching physics at Padua Academy, these descriptors fail to capture the totality of my adventurous life. I have hiked over 1700 miles, traveled to 5 continents, managed a bakery, started a meditation center, counseled troubled teens, attended Duke, UNC, and Harvard, protected forests as a wildland firefighter, volunteered thousands of hours with Americorps, rafted the Grand Canyon, SCUBA dived on the Great Barrier Reef, and continues to find new adventures. I hope my writing encourages you to pursue your dreams and be the best version of yourself while supporting your communities to work together to solve the current challenges in our world.

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