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?

Post by 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...
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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Post by DNS » 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?

Post by 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.
Through Dzogchen we can really understand what God is and we don’t have to worry if there is a God or not. God always exists as our real nature, the base, for everybody. - Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Post by 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.
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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Post by DNS » 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?

Post by 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.
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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Post by 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?

Post by 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?

Post by 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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That has not arisen, arise and grow;
And may that which has arisen not diminish
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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Post by Oceano » Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:26 am

This is incredibly sad. I've been wondering for a while if this is a "sleeper issue" in Western societies. With all the benefits of meditation, when it comes to asking people to look into their minds - from varying perspectives on detachment from thought, concentration etc - there will inevitably be negative consequences for a number of people.

It would be a nice to see a little more modesty in the mindfulness movement about how radical it is to suggest that vast swathes of society should just get on board with meditation. I meditate - I embrace it and it's helped me incredibly in many ways. But I also like to think I'm relatively ( :smile: ) stable mentally and have good support mechanisms around me. So many of these practices were developed for monks and not lay people (I'm not saying they don't benefit lay people) who had the time and freedom to spend hours a day dealing with paths to insight, including the "dark night" and "fear" associated with it. It's there in the map for insight. The mass promotion of mindfulness mediation is also a big departure because in most Buddhist cultures non-monastics don't meditate much at all - a mix of Pure Land, devotional, prayer and dana underlines their comfort in the tradition. But in the West we of course think it's all about getting back to the roots of it all, stripping away cultural accretions and meditating; we want to say it's Buddhist but want it to be different to how Buddhism as a religion appears in eastern cultures. And then, of course, we have a lot people meditating alone - from Youtube, apps, books, and so on. That can be great. But sanghas spring up for a reason - the support of community and people who can pick up on warning signs is very important.

Huge issue, I know, and I say this out of genuine concern and no desire to offend anybody. It's just very very sad.

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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Post by Dharmic » Wed Aug 02, 2017 7:37 am

Hi,

I quoted some things in my previous post above, I suspect such ideas might be seeping into the movemnent from Goenka's (religious) background. Unhealthy obsession with ritualistic kind of purity and impurity was discouraged by the Buddha. And He explained what makes a person pure and impure. The Buddha gave guidelines about how lay people in a relationship should treat each other in the Sigalovada Sutta and elsewhere. The rules for monks and nuns are different. As with everything it is important to maintain a balance.(Since Goenka's organization practices based on the teachings in the Suttas(/Āgamas), instructions in these texts are more pertinent. Quoted one text below.)

(Abridged)

Souce : Buddhism, Weddings And Marriage
Having been both a husband and a father, the Buddha was able to speak of marriage and parenthood from personal experience.
He said that a couple who are following the Dhamma will “speak loving words to each other” (aññamañña piyaṃvādā, A.II,59) and that “to cherish one’s children and wife is the greatest blessing” (puttadārassa saṅgaho etaṃ maṅgalam uttamaṃ, Sn.262). He said that “a good wife is the best companion” (bharyā va paramā sakhā, S.I,37), and the Jātaka comments that a husband and wife should live “with joyful minds, of one heart and in harmony” (pamodamānā ekacittā samaggavāsaṃ, Ja.II,122). The Buddha criticized the Brahmans for buying their wives rather than “coming together in harmony and out of mutual affection” (sampiyena pi saṃvāsaṃ samaggatthāya sampavattenti, A.III,222), making it clear that he thought this a far better motive for marriage. “In this world, union without love is suffering” says the Jātaka (lokismiṃ hi appiyasampayogo va dukkha, Ja.II,205).

According to the Buddha’s understanding, if a husband and wife love each other deeply and have similar kamma, they may be able to renew their relationship in the next life (A.II,61-2). He also said that the strong affinity two people feel towards each other might be explained by them having had a strong love in a previous life. “By living together in the past and by affection in the present, love is born as surely as a lotus is born in water” (Ja.II,235). This idea is elaborated in the Mahāvastu: “When love enters the mind and the heart is joyful, the intelligent man can say certainty, ‘This woman has lived with me before’.” (Mvu.III,185).

The ideal Buddhist couple would be Nakulapitā and Nakulamātā who were devoted disciples of the Buddha and who had been happily married for many years. Once Nakulapitā told the Buddha in the presence of his wife: “Lord, ever since Nakulamātā was brought to my home when I was a mere boy and she a mere girl, I have never been unfaithful to her, not even in thought, let alone in body” (A.II,61). On another occasion, Nakulamātā devotedly nursed her husband through a long illness, encouraging and reassuring him all the while. When the Buddha came to know of this, he said to Nakulapitā: “You have benefitted, good sir, you have greatly benefitted, in having Nakulamātā full of compassion for you, full of love, as your mentor and teacher” (anukampikā, atthakāmā, ovādikā, anusasikā, A.III,295-8). From the Buddhist perspective, these qualities would be the recipe for an enduring and enriching relationship; faithfulness, mutual love and compassion and being each other’s spiritual mentor and teacher.
Source : Romantic Love
The Buddha had a deep enough understanding of the human heart to know that despite the many tribulations romantic love could bring, it was also a source of great happiness and a real benediction. He often spoke of what he called “the satisfaction and the dangers (assādañ ca ādīnava) in sensual pleasure” (M.I,85), of which romance and sex were the most significant. And there is satisfaction in romantic love – the wonderful feeling of being cherished and having someone to cherish, the companionship, the fun, the exhilaration of sex and the delight of sharing things. It can also nourish virtues such as loyalty, giving, unselfishness and patience.

The Buddha was also realistic enough to understand that whatever he said most people would fall in love and probably wish to marry. Therefore he encouraged his lay disciples to be responsible in their intimate relationships. The third of the Five Precepts, the rules of behaviour that all Buddhists undertake to live by, is the vow “I take the Precept to avoid sexual misconduct”. Although this precept is primarily about sexual behaviour it overlaps with romantic love because the two are so closely connected. Wrong sexual behaviour was, the Buddha said, intercourse with those under the guardianship of their parents, i.e. under-aged; those protected by Dhamma, i.e. monastics or those who had taken a vow of celibacy; those already married; those undergoing punishment, i.e. prisoners; or those bedecked in garlands, i.e. already engaged to be married (A.V,264). This does not mean that one already married will never fall in love with such people but it would be wrong from the Buddhist perspective to encourage and pursue such feelings. Romantic love should not be confused with dalliance (nandi or kāmarāga). There can be sex without love just as there can be love without sex. Some people have a strong appetite for sexual gratification and little or no interest in emotional involvement or long-term commitment. They may pretend to be emotionally attached to someone but only as a strategy to get more sex. The Buddha called this sort of thing “sport” (dava), perhaps similar to the Greek ludus, and is what we are talking about when we say that a particular person “sees love as a game.”
Cunda Sutta/Saṃyuktāgama 1039(Chinese Parallel)

https://suttacentral.net/en/an10.176
On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Pava in Cunda the silversmith’s mango grove. Then Cunda the silversmith went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the Blessed One said to him: “Cunda, of whose rites of purification do you approve?”

“The brahmans of the Western lands, lord—those who carry water pots, wear garlands of water plants, worship fire, & purify with water: they have declared purification rites of which I approve.”

“And what kind of purification rites have they declared, those brahmans of the Western lands who carry water pots, wear garlands of water plants, worship fire, & purify with water?”

“There is the case where the brahmans of the Western lands… get their disciples to undertake their practice thus: ‘Come, now, my good man: Get up at the proper time from your bed and touch the earth. If you don’t touch the earth, touch wet cow dung. If you don’t touch wet cow dung, touch green grass. If you don’t touch green grass, worship a fire. If you don’t worship a fire, pay homage to the sun with clasped hands. If you don’t pay homage to the sun with clasped hands, go down into the water three times by nightfall.’ These are the purification rites declared by the brahmans of the Western lands… of which I approve.”

“Cunda, the purification rites declared by the brahmans of the Western lands… are one thing; the purification in the discipline of the noble ones is something else entirely.”

“But how is there purification in the discipline of the noble ones, lord? It would be good if the Blessed One would teach me how there is purification in the discipline of the noble ones.”

“Then in that case, Cunda, listen & pay close attention. I will speak.”

“As you say, lord,” Cunda the silversmith responded.

The Blessed One said: “There are three ways in which one is made impure by bodily action, four ways in which one is made impure by verbal action, and three ways in which one is made impure by mental action.
.......
.......
.......
.......
“These, Cunda, are the ten courses of unskillful action. When a person is endowed with these ten courses of unskillful action, then even if he gets up at the proper time from his bed and touches the earth, he is still impure. If he doesn’t touch the earth, he is still impure. If he touches wet cow dung, he is still impure. If he doesn’t touch wet cow dung, he is still impure. If he touches green grass… If he doesn’t touch green grass… If he worships a fire… If he doesn’t worship a fire… If he pays homage to the sun with clasped hands… If he doesn’t pay homage to the sun with clasped hands… If he goes down into the water three times by nightfall… If he doesn’t go down into the water three times by nightfall, he is still impure. Why is that? Because these ten courses of unskillful action are impure and cause impurity.
.......
.......
“These, Cunda, are the ten courses of skillful action. When a person is endowed with these ten courses of skillful action, then even if he gets up at the proper time from his bed and touches the earth, he is still pure. If he doesn’t touch the earth, he is still pure. If he touches wet cow dung, he is still pure. If he doesn’t touch wet cow dung, he is still pure. If he touches green grass… If he doesn’t touch green grass… If he worships a fire… If he doesn’t worship a fire… If he pays homage to the sun with clasped hands… If he doesn’t pay homage to the sun with clasped hands… If he goes down into the water three times by nightfall… If he doesn’t go down into the water three times by nightfall, he is still pure. Why is that? Because these ten courses of skillful action are pure and cause purity. Furthermore, as a result of being endowed with these ten courses of skillful action, [rebirth among] the devas is declared, [rebirth among] human beings is declared—that or any other good destination.”

When this was said, Cunda the silversmith said to the Blessed One: “Magnificent, lord! Magnificent! Just as if he were to place upright what was overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to show the way to one who was lost, or to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms, in the same way has the Blessed One—through many lines of reasoning—made the Dhamma clear. I go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the community of monks. May the Blessed One remember me as a lay follower who has gone to him for refuge, from this day forward, for life.”
:anjali:
May the supreme Bodhicitta
That has not arisen, arise and grow;
And may that which has arisen not diminish
But increase more and more.

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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Post by odysseus » Thu Sep 07, 2017 2:40 pm

Does anyone think that Goenka is part of the "mindfulness" racket?
Let a man not seek for the respect of his peers, let him seek wisdom.

-- Dhammapada

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Re: Dangers of Meditation?

Post by Dan74 » Thu Sep 07, 2017 4:45 pm

Goenka was definitely Buddhist. My understanding is that he avoided the label "Buddhist" to promote the fact that Vipassana meditation is universally beneficial, even for those who do not follow the Buddhist path wholesale.

http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/vie ... 1-0200.xml

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