I have recently participated in a 10 days S.N. Goenka Vipassna course, which had incredible positive results. I feel like I shed 20 tons off my heart, and most importantly I am able to practice daily and to be aware of Sankaras before they 'stick'. My life has improved significantly in each and every aspect, and I was even able to bring positive awareness to the lives of my beloved ones.
Naturally I want everyone to participate in a course immediately, especially people I am close to, and especially those who are in great suffering. But while trying to understand whether the course is safe for everyone or not, I've developed some doubt. Some experiences sound really unhealthy, like these:
- The 10 Day (Goenka) Vipassana Retreat – A Warning
- TERRIBLE and TRAUMATIC experience at Goenka retreat
- Vipassana : Diary of a Bipolar episode following meditation
- Mental breakdown triggered by Goenka retreat meditation
(TL;DR - People are describing long periods of suffering, depression and even a bipolar episode).
To be fair, it's not that easy to find many negative reports about the course, but seems like some people were significantly hurt, and the Vipassana course organizers / teachers weren't able to screen them beforehand or to guide them to the safe, healing zone of the technique.
Another issue is the big amount of people leaving the course in the middle. This doesn't necessarily indicate they had an overall bad experience, but surely for many people leaving in the middle comes with some negative effects. I assume going on a course at a bad time, and leaving in the middle, might cause the participant to lose the chance of acquiring the technique for life (which is, IMHO, quite terrible).
I have the option of remaining totally neutral towards whether a friend goes on a course or not, but I believe this is not necessarily the right, responsible approach. If I have the power to influence someone to acquire this amazing tool in a healthy manner, I think I also have the responsibility to do so. Similarly, if the course might be dangerous for someone, I must at least warn her / him.
What approach should be taken while deciding whether to go on a course or not, or whether to encourage someone to go on a course?