Goenka Meditation Retreats
Doing a meditation retreat is an excellent way to deepen your practice. In today’s guest post we learn all about the Goenka Meditation Tradition and what to expect in a Goenka Meditation Retreat. The guest author is Axel Gjertsen, who had a great deal of insight and experience with Buddhist Meditation traditions. You can get more great wisdom and knowledge from his wonderful website, Axel G.
If you would like to be a guest author on Mastery of Meditation and Yoga, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Goenka Meditation Retreat Centers
This is the first part in a series of two posts about popular retreat centers. Here, we’ll take a look at Goenka retreat centers while the second article is about Mahasi retreat centers.
The beauty of these meditation powerhouses is that they have plenty of international branches. So, no matter where you live in the world, you’ll never be too far from a top quality retreat facility.
Hopefully, these posts will offer you some guidance and inspire you to do a meditation retreat…
The Founder S.D. Goenka
Goenka was born into a well-to-do Indian family in Burma. He became a really successful industrialist at a young age but was burdened by never-ending migraines. It got to the point, where he was afraid he would get stuck in drug addiction.
Finally, Goenka met a physician who suggested he should do a meditation retreat. At first Goenka didn’t like the idea, because he knew you’re not allowed to drink alcohol or take drugs while in retreat. But the teacher Sayagyi U Ba Khin convinced him to attend a 10-day course.
Goenka quickly developed excellent meditation skills and overcame his migraines. And after about 14 years of practice, the teacher granted him permission to teach.
For the past 40 years, Goenka has taught and established meditation centers all around the world, most of which are located in India.
The meditation technique taught at Goenka centers is called vipassana or insight meditation. This technique was developed by Buddha over 2500 years ago. In vipassana, you observe the five senses and the mind.
There are several types of vipassana. Goenka’s style of insight meditation focuses on observing bodily sensations, in a sitting posture. The technique is well suited for beginners and experienced meditators alike.
In the beginning, Goenka did all the teaching himself. But as the organization grew larger he decided to train assistant teachers. Today, there are probably over 500 active assistant teachers around the world.
Regardless of where you do a Goenka retreat, the meditation instructions are given by Goenka himself, in the form of audio and video presentations.
Then, the assistant teacher helps you whenever you experience difficulties in your meditation practice.
Retreat Costs And Meals
All Goenka retreats are completely free of charge. It’s possible to give a donation at the end of the course, though. The funds are used to cover the running costs and maintenance of the centers.
In addition to breakfast and lunch, first-time students are served a light meal in the afternoons. The food is strictly vegan.
Code Of Discipline
During retreats it’s not allowed to use mobile phones or computers. You’re also asked to observe 5 precepts or rules:
Not to kill
Not to steal
Not to lie
Not to masturbate
Not to take alcohol or recreational drugs
Since it’s a silent retreat, you can only speak to the assistant teacher. Moreover, the code of discipline supports conditions that are conducive to meditation practice.
Generally speaking, the stricter the discipline, the more you benefit from the meditation practice. However, if it’s too difficult for you, it becomes contra productive.
Senior Goenka students can apply for longer retreats, ranging from 20-60 days.
In the next post we’ll take a look at Mahasi retreat centers, which offer their own type of insight meditation.
Until then, best of luck with your meditation practice!
Axel Gjertsen is a former Buddhist monk and lives in Thailand. He runs axel g which is a personal development site with a focus on meditation. Visit his website to learn more about Goenka meditation retreats.