New teachers

I recall Goenka claiming, like many other contemporary Buddhist teachers, that what he was teaching was not new; it was just the teaching of the Buddha. That statement is not false exactly, but it’s not the whole truth. Like most, he emphasized some teachings at the expense of others. He also taught his preferred form of meditation as a “technique”, available to people from multiple traditions, rather than insisting on a specific commitment to Buddhism per se. Perhaps the biggest innovation: he insisted on a practise devoted entirely to lay people, householders. One person I spoke to at the Goenka meditation centre in Massachusetts noted that while people were allowed to stay at the centre and help with its operations and while living off of donated food for a while, he specifically prohibited people from staying there for a prolonged period of time – effectively, in that respect, prohibiting monasticism. One cannot be a Goenka monk, not because it’s logistically impossible but because Goenka didn’t allow it. That is not, to put it mildly, an approach that the Pali texts recommend. It is unquestionably an innovation.

Amod Lele


Candle Snuffer with Key Image by SammCox on flickr

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