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A very short summary of the Vipassanā technique taught by S.N. Goenka would be: "observe your bodily sensations with equanimity". The role of physical bodily sensations is the key aspect of the technique and other traditions do not attach such a great importance to them. It is said that Goenka's technique of scanning the body to feel increasingly subtle sensations was passed on though several lay teachers and that it goes back to the Burmese monk Ledi Sayadaw.

Ledi Sayadaw left a large quantity of writings; some of them are available here and/or here. I looked through some of them, and in no place did I see any passage that would present observing bodily sensations as the technique to be followed. If he really taught this, it is hard to imagine he would not mention that this is the key aspect of the technique. Can anyone provide a relevant quote from Ledi Sayadaw's texts?

Update: The question is whether Ledi-style Vipassanā should be practised by observing bodily sensations/body scanning. Mindfulness of the body in Ānāpāna Dīpanī is presented as something distinct from Vipassanā, so it doesn't answer my question. Moreover, it looks like Ledi Sayadaw understood "mindfulness of the body" to mean "mindfulness of the breath", not body scanning. See Ānāpāna Dīpanī, part XIV:

[...] establishing mindfulness of the body (kāyānupassana satipaṭṭhāna). The out-breath and in-breath, being part of the aggregate of materiality (rūpakkhandha) are called body (kāya).

  • Did Goenka teach "body sensations" are "vedana"??? – Dhammadhatu Mar 11 at 19:29
  • "Some of my friends insisted that vedana is a part of nama and hence it has no relation to the bodily sensations. Differences of opinion may exist. But for me the entire Tipitaka bears testimony to the fact that the bodily sensations are as much a part of vedana as mental feelings; rather, bodily sensations are much more important in the Buddha's teaching. The Patthana gave an added incontrovertible proof that bodily sensations are of utmost importance on the path of liberation. I have immensely benefited from this and I continue to teach." – Dhammadhatu Mar 11 at 19:30
  • " Vipassana as I learnt it from my revered teacher, giving importance to bodily sensations." vridhamma.org/research/Why-Vedana-and-What-is-Vedana – Dhammadhatu Mar 11 at 19:30
  • @Dhammadhatu Was that a question, or are you just expressing your surprise? Anyway, the quotations are pretty clear, I guess. – michau Mar 12 at 15:40
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In this passage Ledi Sayadaw adheres very closely to the Sutta + observes the body etc. etc. = to come to the realization of impermanence. If there is another passage Goenka is referring to, it must be in another text.

The Manual of Insight Vipassanā Dīpanī By Ledi Sayadaw Mahathera Translated by U Nana Mahathera:

The Practice of Insight Meditation

I will now indicate the main points necessary to those who practise the exercises of insight. Of the three knowledges of insight, the knowledge of impermanence must first and foremost be acquired. How? If we carefully watch the cinematograph show, we will see how quick are the changes of the numerous series of photographs representing the wonderful scene, all in a moment of time. We will also see that a hundred or more photographs are required to represent the scene of a moving body. These are, in fact, the functions of viparinama and annathabhava, or the representation of impermanence or death, or cessation of movements. If we carefully examine the movements in a scene, such as the walking, standing, sitting, sleeping, bending, stretching, and so forth, of the parts of the body during a moment of time, we will see that these are full of changes, or full of impermanence. Even in a moment of walking, in a single step, there are numerous changes of pictures which may be called impermanence or death. It is also the same with the rest of the movements. Now, we must apply this to ourselves. The impermanence and the death of mental and material phenomena are to be found to the full in our bodies, our heads, and in every part of the body. If we are able to discern clearly those functions of impermanence and death which are always operating in our bodies, we shall acquire the insight of the destruction ( bhanga-nana ), into the breaking-up, falling-off, cessation, and changes of the various parts of the body in each second, in each fraction of a second. That is, we shall discern the changes of every part of the body, small and great, of head, of legs, of hands, and so forth. If this be thus discerned, then it may be said that the exercise on the contemplation of impermanence is well accomplished. And if the exercise on the contemplation of impermanence is well accomplished, then that of the contemplation of non-soul is also accomplished. If this is thus discerned, then it may be said that the exercise on the contemplation of impermanence is well accomplished. By the word "accomplished," it is meant that the exercise has been properly worked out so as to remain a permanent possession, during the whole term of life; but it is not meant that the knowledge of the path and of fruition has been attained. The attainment of the knowledge of the path and fruition, however, is quick or slow, according to opportunity or lack of opportunity in the practice of higher virtues.

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I think you could find Goenka’s instruction in the Anapana Dipani from Ledi Sayadaw. The Anapana Dipani is based on the Anapana Sutta, which is divided into four tetrads. The first three deal with Anapana meditation and the development of the jhanas, and the last one with vipassana meditation. Since Goenka it is not much interested in the development of jhanas, but in we all getting the nearest possible to the final goal, he’s instruction only refer to the frist and the last tetrad. This is perfectly accepted way to practice, in Ledi Sayada’s words:

“When Can One Proceed to Vipassanā? As the Ānāpānasati Sutta and its Commentary explain the order of practice in mindfulness of breathing, one is to take up work in the fourth tetrad only after one has attained the four jhānas. If one can adhere strictly to this order of practice, that is ideal, but if one cannot follow this sequence one may proceed to vipassanā, or insight, from the third jhāna. It is also permissible to proceed to vipassanā from the second jhāna, or from the first, or from the access stage prior to full attainment of jhāna, or from the connection stage, or even from the counting stage after one has overcome the wandering tendencies of the mind.”

Now, there are two methods to practice Vipassana meditation:

“One may proceed to vipassanā while still keeping the attention on the out-breath and in-breath, or one may treat the mindfulness of breathing as preparatory work and then proceed to vipassanā by taking any portion of the five aggregates (pañcakkhandhā) one wishes as the object of attention.”

Now, why did Goenka choose corporeal phenomena? Well, I think there are a number of reasons, but an important one is because the object of attention in Vipassana meditation depends on the level of concentration one has attained. Since a teacher needs to make sure that all he’s students are getting things right, he (I think) assume that the majority of the new students achieve only the counting and connection stages of concentration through Anapana meditation. And

“In these two stages, the work consists solely of keeping the attention on the out-breaths and in-breaths and perceiving them with wisdom. Hence, if one wishes to proceed to vipassanā from these stages, the effort must be based on corporeal phenomena (rūpa-dhamma)”.

Take another look at the Anapana Dipani, and you will find the answers you are looking for. I think that the specific instructions of Goenka are presented as “a way” but not as “the way”. He structured a meditation technique following Ledi Sayadaw’s teachings, but he did it having in mind that he will be teaching lay and wisdomless people. I think he offered us a great gift, kind of a shortcut to Nibbana (nothing short about it), and I’m very grateful for that.

Hope this helps you.

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I'm not sure if this is what you're looking for.

From "A Manual of Respiration (Ānāpāna Dīpanī)" by Ven. Ledi Sayadaw, translated by U Sein Nyo Tun, part IV:

IV Mindfulness of the Body before Tranquillity and Insight

In this present life, if beings continually fail to practise mindfulness of the body, and thus continue to live without control over their minds, although they may be Buddhists, they will be drifting and submerged in Saṃsāra just as they have been in the past. Lacking control over the mind, they are certain to drift in Saṃsāra because without mental control, the work of tranquillity and insight cannot be undertaken. Gaining control of the mind is, on the other hand, the certain path to nibbāna, because it enables the work of tranquillity and insight to be undertaken. Meditation on mindfulness of the body is the effort to gain control of the mind.

Even though one is unable to undertake the higher work of tranquillity and insight, the Buddha said that if one can firmly control one’s mind and succeed in keeping it at will within one’s body, one enjoys the taste of nibbāna:

“Amataṃ tesaṃ viraddhaṃ, yesaṃ kāyagatā sati viraddhā.
Amataṃ tesaṃ aviraddhaṃ, yesaṃ kāyagatā sati aviraddhā.
Amataṃ tesaṃ aparibhuttaṃ, yesaṃ kāyagatā sati aparibhuttā.
Amataṃ tesaṃ paribhuttaṃ, yesaṃ kāyagatā sati paribhuttā.”

“Those who have missed mindfulness of the body, have missed nibbāna. Those who have not missed mindfulness of the body, have not missed nibbāna. Those who have not made use of mindfulness of the body, have not made use of nibbāna. Those who have made use of mindfulness of the body, have made use of nibbāna.” (A.i.46)

The essential meaning is that if one is established in mindfulness of the body one can successfully undertake the work of tranquillity and insight because one has firm control over one’s mind, thus it is certain that in this very life one cannot miss nibbāna. If, however, like the mad man, one has no control over one’s mind because one continues to neglect the work of mindfulness of the body, one is unable to fulfil the work of tranquillity and insight, and hence will miss nibbāna.

There are many degrees of control over one’s mind.

In this world, ordinary persons who are not insane have sufficient control over their minds to perform the various tasks, both individual and social, that arise among humans. This is one kind of control.

Within the Buddha­sāsana, the morality of controlling the senses (indriya saṃvara sīla) is one kind of control. However, it cannot be said to be dependable.

Establishing oneself in mindfulness of the body, being the proximate cause (padaṭṭhāna) of tranquillity and insight meditation, is firm control. The attainment of access concentration (upacāra samādhi) just before entering any of the absorptions, is firmer control. Firmer still is attainment concentration (appanā samādhi) reached during full absorption. The eight stages of attainment concentration are controls that become progressively firmer as each higher stage is reached. In the matter of tranquillity, the attainments of the higher spiritual powers (abhiññāṇa) represents the highest level of control.

This is the path of tranquillity called “Samatha Yānika.”

The path of insight is called “Vipassanā Yānika.”

Here ends the section showing that mindfulness of the body must precede the work of tranquillity and insight.

  • Would the downvoter mind to explain why the downvote? To me as a foreigner of the given problem, that answer seems a sensible one. – Gottfried Helms Mar 13 at 0:56
  • @GottfriedHelms ruben2020: Thanks for your answer, but that's not what I'm looking for. The question is whether Ledi-style Vipassanā should be practised by observing sensations. In your quote, mindfulness of the body is presented as something distinct from Vipassanā. Moreover, it looks like Ledi Sayadaw understood "mindfulness of the body" to mean "mindfulness of the breath", not body scanning. See part XIV: "[...] establishing mindfulness of the body (kāyānupassana satipaṭṭhāna). The out-breath and in-breath, being part of the aggregate of materiality (rūpakkhandha) are called body (kāya)". – michau Mar 18 at 0:13

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