It is no secret to anyone that knows me that I owe a great debt of gratitude to my beloved teacher, Vipassanacharya Goenkaji. It is he who introduced this most sublime teaching of the Lord Buddha to this miserable young man out of nothing but a desire for the welfare of all living beings, not just the sentient ones. A teaching so sublime, so superlative, so delightful, so beneficial, so magnificent that one’s only reaction is to be awestruck. I have only just begun to scratch at it’s surface. I have only just begun to come out of my misery. And I hope that I am able to make the most of out this human life by studying and practicing it to the very best of my ability. And I hope that all beings are able to come out of their misery and be happy and live fulfilling fruitful lives.
Now that I have expressed my love for my teacher and benefactor, let me get down to the nitty gritty of this post. This post, as the title indicates is a rebuttal to Mr. Jeffrey Brooks a.k.a. Jhanananda views on Mr. Goenka. Let me make it amply clear that this is not a defense of my beloved teacher. He needs no defense from anyone, least of all from an ignorant fool like me. No, this defense is primarily for my own benefit. It is actually a defense of my own deeply held views. This being said, I am perfectly willing to re-examine my views if Mr. Jeffrey Brooks can come up with reasonable arguments refuting my views. But he must also be willing to defend and re-examine his own deeply held beliefs. This should not be seen as an argument. Rather, it should be seen as a friendly discussion helping one another understand the sublime teaching of the Beloved Lord Buddha, The Perfect One, that most Magnificent Being in the Universe, one who has no superior in time or in space.
By way of introduction to Mr Brooks views, here are a few links
1. http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/criticism/goenka.htm : Details his account of being kicked out of a meditation retreat
2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDSuiGLw8K4 : Youtube page
A rebuttal of minor points
Now let us analyse Mr Brooks’ argument logically from the first link which has his account of being kicked out of the retreat
1. Mr Brooks’ first bristles at the suggestion that he is considered a new student even though he has been meditating for over 30 years and has also attended a meditation course headed by Robert Hover who was a brother disciple of Mr. Goenka
My Response and opinion: This is just an administrative process of classification. Nobody, including the assistant teachers take this as an indication of a man’s attainment. One of Mr Goenkaji’s Doctor friends experienced Bhanga on the very first day of a 10-Day course and became a sotapanna by the end of that very first 10-Day course. This indicates he was way more advanced than several long time practitioners even before he came to the course. I will post a link to this account the moment I find it. Thus, the classification is just for administrative convenience, not a judgement about one’s attainment. Finally, it is my sincere opinion that one who is interested in nothing but the way out of suffering, whether he is considered a new student or an advanced student is hardly worth contemplating. This is NOT a valid criticism.
2. Mr. Brooks feels that he is being treated like a criminal since he is not allowed access to his car during the retreat
My response: Mike’s answer regarding drug use is partly satisfactory. My understanding is that this is also to bring the distractions down to a minimum. Generally, it is very hard to treat people on a case by case basis in a situation like this. Still, I feel that this is not an inconvenience really. If you forget something important in your car and need it in the middle of a retreat, the AT will always allow you to access it. Again, this should hardly matter to someone who is single mindedly looking for a way out of suffering. This is NOT a valid criticism
3. Mr Brooks is not happy with Mr Goenka using the term Vipassana. He claims that the Buddha himself never used the term Vipassana and the term Vipassana itself is not found in the Pali Canon.
My response: In my reading of the Pali Canon, I too have not come across any term called Vipassana. But, where does Goenkaji claim that Buddha used the term Vipassana? Second, who cares what the practice is called? Vipassana or Vidarsana or sati or Sadhana. A modern day Indian would call it Sadhana. So what? Who cares? All one should reasonably care for is whether the practice leads to the way out of suffering. This seems like a non-sequitor. This is NOT a valid criticism
4. Mr. Brooks is forced to leave the Dhamma hall in the middle of a discourse to empty his bowels. He bristles that the course manager follows him to the bathroom. He likens this measure of control to a cult.
Generally, I have seen student being forced to leave the meditation hall during discourses as well as the one hour aditthana group sits to respond to calls of nature. On occasions student also leave because they temporarily are not aware of what’s happening. When the course manager follows you out, it is not a control issue. He is there only to make sure you are okay and have no real problem. He accompanies you also as gentle encouragement to continue on your efforts. Sure we are all motivated, but we all need some prodding from time to time. People into sports/body building will understand what I’m saying. Having a partner, workout buddy to prod you when you are feeling lazy or unmotivated works wonders long term. That is all this is. This is again NOT a valid criticism.
The next post contains my analysis of the confrontation between Mr. Nothnagel an AT with the tradition and Mr Brooks.