Open discussions are rare in the Goenka tradition for good reason. The tradition’s focus is on encouraging people to meditate, and intellectual discussions can lead to confusion and doubt that detract from the personal journey experienced on the cushion. There’s also the problem of determining who is advanced enough in their development to share their opinions. Many people believe that Goenka is the leading authority on the Buddha’s teachings, so we should simply let Goenka’s words carry the message to prevent any adaptations to his teachings.
My concern is that if the only two sources of information that a Goenka student has are Goenka’s recordings and what they learn on the cushion, we’re forcing every student to navigate this difficult path in isolation. That’s certainly how I’ve felt at times. I believe that our peers on the path can be incredibly valuable additional assets if we learn how to communicate skillfully. So what does that look like?
First, individuals need to be confident enough to share their opinions, also known as the wisdom they’ve gained from their personal experiences, while being humble enough to admit their flaws and receive others responses openly.
Second, readers need to be mature enough to parse through complex responses to discover tokens of wisdom while not being misled by others confusions.
Third, when opinions are in conflict and resolution can’t be found, both parties must be able to have respect and compassion for those with a different opinion, and simply move in different directions.
While opening these dialogues may seem like more trouble than they’re worth, I believe they’re a very important evolution of a community. Our world is polarized in so many ways. As one example in America, political views are so divided that counterproductive attacks are the norm and constructive dialogues are rare. As meditators following the dhamma, if we truly want to develop our ability to bring the practice into our daily lives, we need to learn how to have these dialogues alongside our meditation practices. That means we must feel safe and comfortable openly sharing our ideas and criticisms with an audience that’s willing to listen with equanimity even if they disagree. Only then will we be able to help others in our society to resolve much more divergent dilemmas.
I understand that this blog isn’t for everyone, and if you don’t find it helpful, I encourage you to spend your time elsewhere. For those of you who find discussions helpful, and are willing to engage constructively, I invite your participation and enthusiasm. The diversity and cohesion we can bring together on this site will help us all to bring dhamma into our local communities. Thank your for reading.