Is it essential to go to SN Goenka centre for 10 days to learn Vipassana? Or is it fine to learn Vipassana online?
Doing an intensive course at a dedicated meditation centre is incomparably better than online learning, but doing an online course or something similar is actually better in my opinion as a first step.
Often when people come to our centre having never practiced or having practiced a different tradition, they spend quite a bit of time becoming accustomed to the practice and accepting it. They waste a lot of time doubting and fumbling, and given they often have a limited number of vacation days it often makes finishing a foundation course difficult.
Much of the doubt and fumbling is mitigated by online teachings - most people coming to our centre have little doubt and lots of practice based on static teachings they have found on the internet. Moreover, those meditators who have completed our online course (which just means they practiced at least an hour a day and we talked once a week, giving them new exercises weekly) veritably and invariably sail through the intensive course since they are very well prepared for it.
So, yes, online meditation is perfectly valid, but I think it serves better as a preparation, rather than a replacement, for intensive practice which is best done with a teacher at a centre.
You can check out https:/meditation.sirimangalo.org/ for our online course system. There are some testimonials you can read I think, but I can say myself the online courses have made a big difference in our community.
Going to a centre has the following advantages:
- unburdens you from responsibility
- provide you with proper instructions and guidance
When doing a course online you are not unburdened from responsibilities which might need your attention. This,
- breaks your attention on meditation
- creates fabrication which is avoided in a centre
In a 10 day course is intense. Generally in the oldern days courses were longer. So much instructions were packed into the 10 days. If you are doing a course online it might be easy that you might miss some crucial instruction or skip over something and there is nobody to check and correct you.
Though there are teachers who teach online now, it is always best to go to a centre for the 1st course and when you learn the technique in full then you can do it one your own.
I don't think one should put off starting the training until one gets the opportunity to learn from a teacher in person. That being said it's definitely good to get the guidance if the opportunity presents itself.
My advice is to keep it simple as in sticking to what is least confusing. Second advice is to inquire about the experiences of other people and doing your own experimentation. The third is to study the canon yourself because therein is a lot of guidance that is not generally taught on retreats or courses.
I have never been to a meditation retreat. All that I learned was reading books and watching Youtube videos by various monks. You can listen to the ten-day Goenka meditation by Goenka in youtube. Perhaps it is not a bad idea you familiarise yourself reading and listening to retreat set up before you undertake a real one or do a short retreat. The great thing about attending a retreat is you can clarify your questions then and there.