Satipatthana course Diary: Vipassanacharya Goenka is most probably atleast a Sotapanna

There has been some small murmur about the Status of Acharya Goenka’s attainments in Vipassana meditation. For the uninitiated, here is a small link explaining the various stages of enlightenment as per the Pali Canon.

There are some stories/legends I had heard previously from other meditators. One said that he had Dibba Cakkhu or divine vision. Another claims that he developed the ability to perceive ethereal beings during a 20 day course. Still another story circulates that when asked what his attainment was, he is reputed to have answered, “If I said I was an arahant, would you believe me?” Aaaaaah! stories, gossip, hearsay, rumours, speculations, theories. What would our world be like without them?

In this spirit, I will submit my own two cents based on a recently concluded satipatthana course. The last day discourse basically. This was a video recording from probably 1982, but I can’t be sure. Anyway that detail is not important. One question posed to Acharya Goenka was, “Are you an Arahant?” His answer in summary from the best of my recollection, “I am not an Arahant, but I am on the way to being an arahant. I do not have any doubt that by following this path, I will eventually attain arahanthood.” There it is, Gentlemen. Words from the man himself. Okay, so he is not an arahant. But what is he then? An anagami? A sakadagami? a sotapanna? Or none? So many questions. So few answers. So without much ado, let us analyze his statement in light of buddhist theory sprinkled with my own brand of reasoning choc-a-bloc with my own assumptions and beliefs. Can never really escape them assumptions or beliefs, can I?

1. We can be sure that he was not an arahant when he made that statement. Had he been an arahant, he would have said so since arahants do not lie.

2. I will now make an extremely strong assumption here that Acharya Goenka would not lie. The man’s sincerity is beyond doubt. What he says may not always be correct (though I myself have yet to encounter such an event), but that would be because he is mistaken rather than an attempt at deception, i.e. telling a lie.

3. I will now make a strong assumption that he is probably not mistaken either.

4. Finally I will take his statement that, “I have no doubt that by following this path, I will become an arahant.” There is a difference between Goenkaji making such a statement and your average meditator making  such a statement. Several meditators make similar statements. But their statements are more in the spirit rather than in the letter. A sample conversation

Meditator: I too have no doubt that this path leads to arahanthood.

Masculineffort: But are you always sure? Do you never have a moment of doubt regarding the path or your practice of it? During this 8 day course, were you sure every second of
every day that this was the path? Did doubts never arise even for a moment.

Meditator: Oh! I did have doubts. I do have doubts now and then. But they did not last very long. They always go away eventually.

Masculineffort: Well, so you were mistaken in your initial statement that you have no doubts. If doubts arise now and then at the level of the surface mind, that means they are always there in the depths of your mind. So factually you do have doubts.

Meditator: Well, yeah! But you should see my statement in the spirit rather than the letter.

Masculineffort: I believe Goenkaji’s statement was in the letter as well as the spirit. When he says he has no doubts, he means he has no doubts.

5. Now let’s analyze his statement in light of Buddhist theory. According to Buddhist theory, a Sotapanna has no doubts regarding the path since he has seen the end point of the path. He therefore, has complete confidence in the path. He has glimpsed Nibbana if even for a moment. Doubts regarding the path vanish only when the end point of the path is seen. Before that point, doubts, however small will always persist. Therefore, I conclude that Acharya Goenka has glimpsed Nibbana.

6. Thus he is a Stream-enterer or a Sotapanna at the very least.

7. Qod Erat Demonstrandum. Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.


About masculineffort

A Man should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, seduce a woman, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
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