Meditation is dangerous?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Emi
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Meditation is dangerous?

Postby Emi » Sat Nov 28, 2009 3:23 am

I've been attempting to research this more thoroughly, but people appear to be split right down the middle about it.

Recently, I discovered something called 'binaural' music - forgive my ignorance if you're all already aware of this, but I accidently stumbled across it on YouTube! :embarassed:

Anyway, after reading some comments on various videos, it seemed as though some (possibly) genuine people had 'gone places' whilst listening to the music and meditating, and seen themselves as other things. This immediately strikes me as not so much harmful, but more 'spooky' than anything - if it's true that when one changes their mind, they change their world, what if one were to begin confusing their 'mind-world' with their 'human-life'? The ensuing theoretical problem sounds like a mental structure found in movies!!

On http://www.buddhanet.net, I found this:

To live, we need salt. But if you were to eat a kilogram of salt ;it would kill you. To live in the modern world you need a car but if you don’t follow the traffic rules or if you drive while you are drunk, a car becomes a dangerous machine. Meditation is like this, it is essential for our mental health and well-being but if you practise in stupid ways it could cause problems. - Ven. S. Dhammika


On top of all of this, my religious studies teacher (whilst not a Buddhist herself, but very knowledgeable about the religion) said that to practise meditation without a teacher can be very harmful. She didn't elaborate, despite my pushing of the subject. I am without a teacher, and have been for my entire practising time, as there are none around the area in which I live!

My point is, what about meditation can be harmful/dangerous, if any of it? And if it being harmful is the case, how does one 'abuse' meditation to the point of harming oneself?

Surely we can't find harm in the same place we seek to clarify?

Thanks to any replies, very much ready to be put in my place! :lol:
"When all you've got is nothing, there's a lot to go around."

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby IanAnd » Sat Nov 28, 2009 4:26 am

It may only become harmful if you have a tendency to believe things that are untrue and thus become deluded by them. It isn't meditation per se that is possibly "dangerous," but rather the "dangerous" reaction that some untrained people have as a result of what they "perceive" (delusion) about phenomena that they observe.

Meditation, in and of itself, is harmless. It is meant to help add clarity of vision to the mind if practiced correctly.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Nov 28, 2009 5:15 am

the danger is thinking youve attained states you really havent, or attaching further to a belief in self. i guess some people who probably already have some sort of mental issue could worsen it, become deranged, i dont know. but with all the meditation books out there one would have to assume that the tradition, as it stands, wouldnt really be too concerned with this.

and on the issue of spirit journeys or other experiences where one talks to ascended masters or gods whatever, just because you run into something "out there" doesnt mean anything they have to say is worth listening to or should be believed. your "spirit guide" could be a dream, imagination, hallucination or maybe some inter dimensional jerk trying to screw with your head... Caveat emptor and remember, dont believe everything you think.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby Guy » Sat Nov 28, 2009 5:55 am

Hi Emi,

Before I became a Buddhist I had tried other meditation methods, one of which was a New Age type of meditation where you supposedly contact your "higher self". This "higher self" told me to "kill myself" which frightened me, at which point I ended the meditation. After a few minutes of reflecting on what had just happened I decided that whatever it was that told me to "kill myself" was either a creation of my own mind or some type of "inter-dimensional jerk" :rofl: and so I didn't take it to heart.

To re-emphasise what jcsuperstar has said - If these type of things happen to you in meditation don't worry, you don't have to believe it, it is only dangerous if you believe in it.

With Metta,

Guy
Four types of letting go:

1) Giving; expecting nothing back in return
2) Throwing things away
3) Contentment; wanting to be here, not wanting to be anywhere else
4) "Teflon Mind"; having a mind which doesn't accumulate things

- Ajahn Brahm

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby Emi » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:29 am

Thank you so much for your replies

I've never personally had one of these experiences. Now I understand that the potential 'danger' is not a physical one, but one which can cause mental harm if everything is believed, and self becomes more important.

:namaste: friends, this forum is fantastic.
"When all you've got is nothing, there's a lot to go around."

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby catmoon » Sat Nov 28, 2009 3:05 pm

Thought I'd throw in, though it has been said (sort of) already. It's pretty common for people to have a powerful meditation experience and come out wondering if they are now a buddha. If you have sufficient skepticism in your character, this idea will fall apart, but if not, you get what I would describe as a "mad internet Buddha".

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby Emi » Sat Nov 28, 2009 8:05 pm

catmoon wrote:Thought I'd throw in, though it has been said (sort of) already. It's pretty common for people to have a powerful meditation experience and come out wondering if they are now a buddha. If you have sufficient skepticism in your character, this idea will fall apart, but if not, you get what I would describe as a "mad internet Buddha".



:lol: Have you ever met one? :rofl:
"When all you've got is nothing, there's a lot to go around."

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby poto » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:00 pm

Emi wrote:
catmoon wrote:Thought I'd throw in, though it has been said (sort of) already. It's pretty common for people to have a powerful meditation experience and come out wondering if they are now a buddha. If you have sufficient skepticism in your character, this idea will fall apart, but if not, you get what I would describe as a "mad internet Buddha".



:lol: Have you ever met one? :rofl:


Yeah, if you frequent public forums long enough you're bound to run into a few.

Some of the "mad internet Buddhas" even go so far as claiming to self-ordain and try to lure people to false schools of Buddhism like this guy:
http://www.greatwesternvehicle.org/Self-Ordination.htm
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Nov 28, 2009 11:26 pm

in all fareness anyone who has been practicing long enough will have these experiances, I myself had one which lasted about 6 weeks, and some which lasted only a few moments, or a day or so, the trick is to keep looking.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Nov 29, 2009 12:57 am

poto wrote:
Emi wrote:
catmoon wrote::lol: Have you ever met one? :rofl:

Yeah, if you frequent public forums long enough you're bound to run into a few.

Yes, these sorts of characters have popped up from time to time on E-Sangha and Dhammawheel...

This is why a teacher that you trust is really essential at some points, especially when you think you are enlightened!

Clearly, if the Eightfold Path is as powerful as advertised, it has the capacity to radically shift the mind, especially the sense of self. This can be rather disconcerting for many people.

Fortunately (?), for most people living normal lives it's difficult to have such really deep meditative experiences without doing a few retreats, where you are likely to get some instruction. So I would not be too concerned about the possible problems if you are doing daily meditation fitted around normal activities and you are developing it as an eight-fold path, with the sila and wisdom aspects, not just a one-fold mediation path.

Metta
Mike

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Nov 29, 2009 2:21 am

Emi wrote:I've been attempting to research this more thoroughly

Jack Kornfeild's A PATH WITH HEART might be interest to you. It is discusses from a very practical, experienced place such issues.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby Ben » Sun Nov 29, 2009 4:03 am

Hi Mike
A'hem....
mikenz66 wrote:not just a one-fold mediation path.

Ah yes, the noble single-fold path for counsellors, social workers and family lawyers!
I'm only joking! From time to time, we all need a dose of mediation!
metta

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Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Nov 29, 2009 8:47 am

Hi Ben,

Yes, if only the counsellors had an Eight-Fold Mediation Path. No more disagreements... :tongue:

Mike

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby Ben » Sun Nov 29, 2009 9:43 am

Hi Mike
Speaking of counsellors & psychologists - my wife is off tomorrow for the Mind & its Potential conference in Sydney with the Dalai Lama. I wouldn't mind going along myself! My wife's already embraced 'Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy'. So who knows what would happen if more psychologists, social workers and lawyers advocated for and practiced the Eightfold Path.
metta

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby cooran » Sun Nov 29, 2009 10:33 am

Hey! just leave us Social Workers alone you blokes ....

In spite of hard working Social Workers, Psychologists and Lawyers ... Dukkha IS!

metta
Chris
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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby Sanghamitta » Sun Nov 29, 2009 11:45 am

Going back to the topic, I dont think the big danger is people declaring themselves Buddhas, I am sure it happens but its very rare, its just that we hear about the ones that go off in that direction. What is a much bigger danger in my opinion is reductionism. Reducing the sublime message of the Buddha to a self help course or a form of comfort. Or the assumption that all we need do is pay attention to our own internal processes and everything will magically resolve its self due to some inbuilt nature. I have seen people wander in circles for years due to an unacknowledged need to be advised by someone with experience and the authority that brings. The more fragmented and individualistic our culture becomes the bigger the danger of becoming isolated monads who can debate the Dhamma endlessly.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby smokey » Wed Dec 02, 2009 5:16 pm

There is only one thing that can potentially be dangerous in Buddhist meditation. That is falling in wrong concentration. Wrong concentration is concentration without mindfulness. So if you practice Vipassana be sure that you are not just concentrated upon meditation object, but also mindful of it. Wrong concentration in long meditations can cause headaches and even hallucinations.

With Metta and Karuna -smokey

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby Monkey Mind » Tue Dec 08, 2009 5:15 pm

At a 10 day vipassana retreat I experienced hallucinations and delusions. I'm not complaining, I thought the experience was AWESOME, but I could see why some people would feel disturbed by it.

A woman with whom I attend a meditation group claims that while meditating she is visited by spirits who speak to her. She knows that psychic experiences are not the point or focus of the meditation, but it happens anyway. The instructor told her to attend to the phenomena like any other.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby Dan74 » Sun Dec 13, 2009 8:50 am

All sorts of things can happen in meditation. I think the best approach is not to attach to anything that happens, keeping the focus on the breath as your anchor.

In meditation practice, one thing that is very important is a deep commitment to Dhamma. It's what helps you through the stormy seas. Dabbling one either stays on the surface or ends up in a mess.

_/|\_
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Re: Meditation is dangerous?

Postby Laurens » Sun Dec 13, 2009 2:59 pm

I think the harm in meditation comes from following un-buddhist techniques, such as those that supposedly open up our third eye, or take us out of our bodies. Basically meditation with something other than the ceasation of suffering and the devolopment of wisdom as its goal is harmful in my view. As Ajahn Chah says "We don't meditate to see heaven, we meditate to end suffering".

I don't think there is any danger in meditation if you know what your focus is, and you know what to avoid. The dangers that I can see would be, either meditating to pursue the strange experiences that may occur, or pursuing any strange occurance that arises. If we stick with our object and ask questions when needed, I don't see any harm really.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

Carl Sagan


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