Monday, 25 July 2016

Mogok Vipassana... in English!



Bhikkhu Obhasa shares his experience practicing Mogok Vipassana for the first time. The above photo shows the American monk's secluded dwelling for the Rains in 2016 in Kalaw, Shan State. For more information Mogok in English, see here.

"Last year I had the chance to attend an eight-day Mogok Vipassana course on the outskirts of Yangon. It has always been sort of an enigma as it's by far the largest and most widespread Vipassana technique in Myanmar with its famous Paticca Samuppada wheel seen everywhere, yet it has remained almost entirely off the radar to foreign meditators.

After understanding the general Myanmar teaching/learning style, it is clear why the technique has such appeal to the laity as it's laid out in a simple system that easily lends itelf to being delivered and learned in a way locals are familiar with.

That being said, although such a delivery would appeal far less to Westerners, both the practice and theory I think have incredible potential. My background in Vipassana has been mostly in the U Ba Khin tradition as taught by Goenka and the Shwe Oo Min tradition under Sayadaw U Tejaniya. I'd actually place these two traditions at opposite ends of a spectrum, the Goenka technique being prescriptive and focused, the other being more open and natural. In the Goenka method, the object, body sensations, is chosen for you whereas the U Tejaniya method, the object is whichever objects of the 6 senses naturally arises in the mind with more attention given to the mind. In the Goenka method, a clear cut technique is specifically laid out and its connection to theory is systematically explained whereas U Tejaniya lays out some basics and then explains more theory as it naturally arises in Q&A's from yogis individual practice. 

The reason I present these two as a spectrum is because some people may be familiar with one or both and it so happens that the Mogok method fits right in between the two. On the one hand, it shares the more choiceless open awareness via any and all of the 6 sense doors as U Tejaniya teaches. On the other hand, the technique is more systematically laid out like Goenka's and the practice is clearly and extensively connected to theory via the famous Mogok Wheel. All three I think have their appeal to different people at different times. I think the Mogok technique then, fills a gap in this spectrum nicely. It seems it would appeal to those that do well with more open awareness yet also enjoy a more explicit structure and clearly explained grounding in theory.

The issue currently is the Mogok method and facilities have yet to be properly adopted for a foreign an especially Western audience. Even though there are at least two teachers that speak English, the current Myanmar presentation style of the technique seems to me to be quite inadequate for foreigners. Also, the available texts in English are straight translations from Myanmar books which again are in a style unsuitable for foreigners and are full of culture specific examples from Myanmar. If these issues get worked out though, I think the Mogok method could fill in a gap and rise to some prominence in the Vipassana spectrum for Westerners."