Dangers of Meditation?

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
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Queequeg
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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Postby Queequeg » Mon Jul 10, 2017 10:52 pm

dzogchungpa wrote:
Here is Bhikkhu Bodhis' summary of the commentary's take on this story:

In the past, it is said, five hundred men earned their living together as hunters. They were reborn in hell, but later, through some good kamma, they took rebirth as human beings and went forth as monks under the Blessed One. However, a portion of their original bad kamma had gained the opportunity to ripen during this fortnight and was due to bring on their deaths both by suicide and homicide. The Blessed One foresaw this and realized he could do nothing about it. Among those monks, some were worldlings, some stream-enterers, some once-returners, some nonreturners, some arahants. The arahants would not take rebirth, the other noble disciples were bound for a happy rebirth, but the worldlings were of uncertain destiny. The Buddha spoke of foulness to remove their attachment to the body so that they would lose their fear of death and could thus be reborn in heaven. Therefore he spoke on foulness in order to help them, not with the intention of extolling death. Realizing he could not turn back the course of events, he went into seclusion to avoid being present when destiny took its toll.

So the commentary, but the idea of a kammically predetermined suicide seems difficult to reconcile with the conception of suicide as a volitionally induced act.


Thanks for that.

All I can say, that's an unsatisfying explanation...
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

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David N. Snyder
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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Jul 10, 2017 10:57 pm

A tragic suicide and it appears she reached out to the organizers at least a few times too and was mostly ignored.

Christopher Titmuss has written some suggested proposals for the Goenka-style retreats:
https://www.christophertitmussblog.org/ ... -proposals

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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Postby dzogchungpa » Mon Jul 10, 2017 11:44 pm

Queequeg wrote:All I can say, that's an unsatisfying explanation...


A bit on the unsatisfying side, it's true.
The true condition is beyond numbers. If we think in terms of an "individual being" this means that we are limiting, and consequently everything becomes complicated. If we want to understand, then we must not limit. - Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Postby Queequeg » Tue Jul 11, 2017 3:02 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:A tragic suicide and it appears she reached out to the organizers at least a few times too and was mostly ignored.

Christopher Titmuss has written some suggested proposals for the Goenka-style retreats:
https://www.christophertitmussblog.org/ ... -proposals


I know little of Goenka and his network of centers, and nothing of the blogger.

I suspect these suggestions will not reach the intended audience and I can't see Goenka's tradition developing the pliability necessary to take the next stage of development, at least in this generation. That is a shame because it will likely lead to extinction of the tradition. It simply lacks the breadth to remain vital, it seems.

The lessons here may be for others - to see what made this such an effective vehicle for the propagation of the wisdom it had to offer, as well as a cautionary example of what to avoid.
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Jul 11, 2017 4:03 pm

Queequeg wrote:I suspect these suggestions will not reach the intended audience and I can't see Goenka's tradition developing the pliability necessary to take the next stage of development, at least in this generation. That is a shame because it will likely lead to extinction of the tradition. It simply lacks the breadth to remain vital, it seems.

The lessons here may be for others - to see what made this such an effective vehicle for the propagation of the wisdom it had to offer, as well as a cautionary example of what to avoid.


The Goenka technique always insisted that they were not "Buddhist" but it was always clear that they base their teachings off some of the suttas in the Pali Canon, especially the 4 foundations of mindfulness suttas. Numerous people have reported bad things about the organization and their bad experiences at the retreats. I have always avoided critiquing them in the past because so many others have benefited from the teachings and technique and I saw it as a great tool for Dharma propagation. But now, people are dying and I think real changes need to be made to this organization in general. The pros and cons from my perspective:

Pros: Dharma propagation, people really benefiting from the meditation retreats, continuing the practice after finishing the retreats.

Cons: As noted in the Titmuss article plus:
1. The teachers at the centers may not be fully qualified to teach and can't handle the cases where there are mental health issues.
2. The "assistant teachers" at the centers were never given a full teacher title, perhaps because they were not qualified.
3. The initial course of 10 day retreats with 10 hours or more of meditation per day is too long for beginners; it should be shortened to 3 days or so.
4. Apparently participants are not allowed to take any medications at the Goenka style retreats? This can potentially have devastating effects for those with health issues, both physical and/or mental. Taking medications (not beyond prescribed doses) should be allowed. The Buddha allowed his monks and nuns to take medicine.

Considering number 4 above, how do the meditation centers protect themselves form legal liability? I suppose they have them sign waivers?

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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Postby Queequeg » Tue Jul 11, 2017 9:21 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:Cons: As noted in the Titmuss article plus:
1. The teachers at the centers may not be fully qualified to teach and can't handle the cases where there are mental health issues.
2. The "assistant teachers" at the centers were never given a full teacher title, perhaps because they were not qualified.
3. The initial course of 10 day retreats with 10 hours or more of meditation per day is too long for beginners; it should be shortened to 3 days or so.
4. Apparently participants are not allowed to take any medications at the Goenka style retreats? This can potentially have devastating effects for those with health issues, both physical and/or mental. Taking medications (not beyond prescribed doses) should be allowed. The Buddha allowed his monks and nuns to take medicine.

Considering number 4 above, how do the meditation centers protect themselves form legal liability? I suppose they have them sign waivers?


I suspect, as the whole "mindfulness" industry continues to grow, there will inevitably be lawsuits - just imagine what may come if meditative practices become really mainstream. All that digging around in people's skulls is going to uncover a whole lot of impurities before we get to the good stuff.

If the particular injury is bad enough, and depending on how negligent or reckless the behavior, I could see a judge fashioning a decision to set aside a waiver. But that would be one hurdle. Establishing liability will present a whole other problem - I'm not even sure what the theory of recovery would be.

Reaching back to 1L, the elements of a tort are:

Duty
Breach
Proximate Cause
Damages

What is the duty of a meditation center or instructor?
As far as I know, this is not a regulated profession in any jurisdiction so the laws and regulations would not provide a standard. The relative novelty of the discipline would make it hard to establish. Eventually, it might become a regulated profession, or alternatively, might become widespread enough that standards and expectations might emerge organically.

What would constitute a Breach?
This would depend on the duty.

Proximate Cause... development of this area of the law will be interesting.
There are so many directions this could go - whether the condition of the injured person or some other factor or event was an intervening cause, whether the injury was foreseeable, etc. etc.
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Postby odysseus » Tue Jul 11, 2017 9:34 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:The Goenka technique always insisted that they were not "Buddhist"


Thanks I did not know that. Glad to hear he is not claiming this. Because I always had the suspicion that he was not Buddhist. Therefore he creates problems. But the whole mindfulness racket is not so great.

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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Jul 12, 2017 4:35 am

I did one ten-day retreat, 10 years ago. It seemed clearly Buddhist as the entire technique is based on Buddhist teachings. At the end of each one-hour sit, there was a recording of Goenka chanting Pali verses which I'm sure were from the Canon. The whole practice, philosophy, and culture sorrounding the retreat is Buddhist, and the retreat center I attended is called 'Dhamma Bhumi'.

I think the Goenka centres are on the whole benign, but I also think that in reality it is a new religious movement. (I would consider doing another retreat there.)

As for the dangers - it would seem to me a case of correlation not equating to causation, on the basis of a sample of one. If there were a number of cases it might be a different matter but considering the numbers who go through it, I don't think a single case proves anything.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Postby Dharmic » Wed Jul 12, 2017 6:26 am

Hi,

I've not attended a 10-day retreat but I've read some books written by Goenka.

The articles linked in the previous posts are eye-opening.

Practices followed by some of the meditators seem un-Buddhist to me.

I recall one man sobbing in the meditation hall and nobody giving him support. On another course, a woman was screaming alone in the hall.


“After 17 years with Goenka’s tradition, a couple of weeks ago I was banned from attending any retreats on the grounds that “I’m practising other techniques and I’m facilitating mindfulness courses” and it is for “my protection”.

There is a belief among a number of senior Goenka students that a person can go mad if they mix techniques. The students base their standpoints on the views of Goenka.

“I lost my Sangha and my Dharma friends” she told me.

Another student in the USA told me that her husband, who has sat numerous Goenka courses, had moved into their spare room. She said he did not want to share the same bed with her, or let her touch him. He said he wanted to preserve the purity of his practice.

She told me: “I am not interested in attending these meditation courses. My husband is married to a Buddhist sect.”

A number of assistant teachers and senior students regard celibacy as a sign of spiritual development since it ends communication and inter-action of bodily sensations. Such students believe that celibacy shows the transcendence of the desire for pleasurable body sensations. Some married assistant teachers and other long standing students now sleep in separate bedrooms.


I hear in Germany that assistant teachers washed their cutlery in separate water from the students in case they picked up impurities.


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