Can meditating be dangerous?

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
han
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Joined: Sun Nov 03, 2013 1:40 am

Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby han » Sat Nov 30, 2013 12:55 pm

Those of you who have seen me in Prayers forum know that my Mother has recently had some trouble.

She started some qigong and meditation exercises about a year or two ago. I do not really know what happened, but we are a very ordinary, boring :) family and my Mother has always been a good, decent, honest and fair person who is also considerate of others and unselfish in her dealings.

Now many people are pointing out to me how meditating can be dangerous. Even a friend who is a Chinese Buddhist said their Master only teaches chanting but never meditation. This is new to me as I thought all Buddhist schools emphasise meditation.

Does anyone know why or how entity issues might arise with meditation, and is meditating really a risk like so many say? I would have never believed this but after the current difficulties with Mother, I too am more questioning.

:namaste:
The highest teaching is selfless love . Who can meet this standard?

TheSpirit
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby TheSpirit » Sat Nov 30, 2013 3:01 pm

I know meditation can be bad if the meditator get attached to an arising phenomenon or experience while meditating and get tangled up in it. However I know alot of Vietnamese Buddhism also warn against meditation because even the monks and nuns don't do it either since most are Pure Land Buddhist. I think it might have more to do with the belief of the geographic region.

They might also confuse Buddhist meditation to maybe Taoist or Kundalini Meditation which have different objective. I read about Kundalini Awakening can cause an unprepared person to go completely insane. It also cause people to deal with a lot of internal problems which they can't handle, they might also feel physical pain as it purifies the body and supposedly cause people uncontrollably go into strange yoga poses as it purifies which might cause those who is not purified yet have shaking or seizure problem. From others point of view, this is the same as being possessed. This feminine energy known as Shakti takes over the body. I never experience a Kundalini Awakening and really have no interest, but either way none of this is really Buddhism. Buddhism meditate to be in the present moment and focus on breath or counting it to bring the mind to the present moment and to stay mindful of the present moment.

So in conclusion, it depends on what sort of Meditation she is doing that can be extreme or be very healthy for the mind.
“To be fully alive is to have an aesthetic perception of life because a major part of the world's goodness lies in its often unspeakable beauty.”
― Yukitaka Yamamoto

KonchokZoepa
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby KonchokZoepa » Sat Nov 30, 2013 4:57 pm

basically you have to know how to meditate, you cant just assume that if you sit down cross legged and close your eyes that you are meditating. I have read warnings that if this is the case solely, you can do your self more harm than good. you need to be skillful and know what you are doing. the technique, the pitfalls, what to observe, what NOT to do while meditating etc. in example if you suppress thoughts and emotions when meditating this can be very harmful and it can cause the suppressed energy to manifest i.e hearing voices or something like that. but no i dont think meditation is dangerous, i think it is very healing and transformative practice if you know what you are doing, or at least know what not to do. although you learn as you go. also meditating for wrong reasons like to suppress thoughts is in my opinion extremely harmful if not dangerous. you need to be honest with yourself.
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls6P9tOYmdo

Sherab Dorje
Former staff member
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Nov 30, 2013 5:44 pm

Meditation, taught and guided/overseen by an official teacher belonging to a proper Dharma lineage, or meditation practices as spelt out in Sutta, cannot even come close to being dangerous (unless somebody already has underlying psychiatric/psychological problems). Even in the case of individuals with psychiatric problems, if the person is taking their medication and their practice is being observed by a proper teacher, even then it will be beneficial and not dangerous.

As a psychologist, I even teach meditation techniques for people to use in order to overcome certain psychological problems (stress, anxiety, etc...).

No, proper meditation techniques are not dangerous at all.
:namaste:
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

smcj
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby smcj » Sat Nov 30, 2013 6:39 pm

No, proper meditation techniques are not dangerous at all.

I've heard that trying to undertake advanced practices, such as the 6 Yogas, before one is ready can have bad results. But that wouldn't happen in a formal teaching environment.
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN

Nemo
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby Nemo » Sun Dec 01, 2013 1:24 am

Meditation is contraindicated for certain serious psychiatric disorders. It is harmless if you are sane, but since few are the effects can be entertaining.

It's not a chainsaw. It's your own mind. Enjoy the show.

Jinzang
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby Jinzang » Sun Dec 01, 2013 1:46 am

Qigong exercises can be dangerous if you do them improperly. It's the same as with tantric practices, you're working with internal energies.
Lamrim, lojong, and mahamudra are the unmistaken path.

han
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Joined: Sun Nov 03, 2013 1:40 am

Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby han » Sun Dec 01, 2013 5:47 am

Jinzang, can you elaborate on your response. And are internal energies different to external energies? Can this type of energy work open up to external energies?

I thought meditation clarifies old karma, allows open spaciousness, consciousness without thought etc. and essentially living in/through the heart. (as a possibility)
I am not familiar with other meditation techniques but I used to scoff at anyone telling me meditation was dangerous.

After seeing this it is now :thinking: :(
The highest teaching is selfless love . Who can meet this standard?

Son of Buddha
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Joined: Wed Dec 21, 2011 5:48 pm

Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun Dec 01, 2013 6:54 am

han wrote:Jinzang, can you elaborate on your response. And are internal energies different to external energies? Can this type of energy work open up to external energies?

I thought meditation clarifies old karma, allows open spaciousness, consciousness without thought etc. and essentially living in/through the heart. (as a possibility)
I am not familiar with other meditation techniques but I used to scoff at anyone telling me meditation was dangerous.

After seeing this it is now :thinking: :(


Concentration and mindfullness meditation is not harmful.

I have heard that working with internal energies can be harmfull.(I dont practice it so im not sure)

My father in law is big on kundalini.......although his description of the experince he had with sexual energy/ chakra of some sort......sounded like a rape scene in some twisted ghost horror story.

Paul
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby Paul » Sun Dec 01, 2013 11:19 am

Energy/breathing practices such as tummo can mess you up if done wrongly, but they are only a small part of Buddhist and non-Buddhist meditation techniques. The vast majority are completely harmless and very beneficial. This kind of thing seems like being afraid of your own shadow, to be honest. A bit of common sense and you'll be able to avoid any potential problems.
Look at the unfathomable spinelessness of man: all the means he's been given to stay alert he uses, in the end, to ornament his sleep. – Rene Daumal

KonchokZoepa
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby KonchokZoepa » Sun Dec 01, 2013 11:22 am

if you are doing basic exercises like mindfulness and concentration meditation, shamatha and vipashyana, it would be the same to ask a question am i dangerous or is my mind dangerous...
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls6P9tOYmdo

tidathep
Posts: 471
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby tidathep » Sun Dec 01, 2013 3:25 pm

Sawaddee Ka,

Yes..yes ..very dangerous! I've heard so many cases about meditators going insane..including monks!!

There was a Thai monk who meditated and saw the moon floating down from the sky...floating in front of him..he reached out trying to catch the moon...but the moon floating away out of the window....the monk followed the moon and fell down from his kuti's window...luckily his kuti was not too high from the ground...no serious injury!

Me..I don't dare to sit-meditation for long time...just counting my malabeads, Buddho 1 till 110....start again ..again. I love walking-meditation...no danger at all.

tidathep :anjali:

Paul
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Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 7:12 pm

Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby Paul » Sun Dec 01, 2013 5:31 pm

tidathep wrote:Yes..yes ..very dangerous! I've heard so many cases about meditators going insane..including monks!!

There was a Thai monk who meditated and saw the moon floating down from the sky...floating in front of him..he reached out trying to catch the moon...but the moon floating away out of the window....the monk followed the moon and fell down from his kuti's window...luckily his kuti was not too high from the ground...no serious injury!


If you do not have a predisposition to mental illness I wouldn't put much stock in such stories. They seem to be little more than urban legends.
Look at the unfathomable spinelessness of man: all the means he's been given to stay alert he uses, in the end, to ornament his sleep. – Rene Daumal

KonchokZoepa
Posts: 1358
Joined: Tue Sep 10, 2013 8:50 pm

Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby KonchokZoepa » Sun Dec 01, 2013 5:38 pm

seriously, it is mentioned in the teachings that if you dont have the correct view and you meditate, you are not really meditating. and if you have the correct view nothing is dangerous, anywhere ever. not while meditating, not while doing anything else. this question is in some sense very relative since meditating is being in the mind, is being in the mind dangerous, how do you define dangerous, look at life, there are lots of disturbing things in life, one could say evil things etc, and lot of mental problems also in people. but if you are healthy minded, with no serious mental illness that you are healthy enough to acquire knowledge and experience of the correct view then there is nothing dangerous since the correct view can not harm anyone, rather it liberates. unskillful meditation on the other hand i could image can cause many problems since you are more intimately with an already crazy mind.
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls6P9tOYmdo

Qing Tian
Posts: 201
Joined: Mon Aug 05, 2013 11:18 am

Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby Qing Tian » Sun Dec 01, 2013 7:51 pm

If anybody has any concerns about practicing one or more of the (literally) hundreds of qigong forms then they should consult with their physician. This is the same advice that would be given to anyone who wants to take up ANY form of exercise and is concerned from a health perspective. There are dangers with any physical practice, but in general, if one doesn't overdo it there should be minimal risk. Qigong places a great deal of emphasis on breathing properly. However, the most common mistake - in my experience - among new practitioners is that they force the breathing into a different pattern and it cuases uneccessary stress, both physical and mental.

Key point: All qigong practices (as far as I know) encourage fang song (letting loose, or relaxing the joints and muscles - but not to the point of limpness).

This is a Good ThingTM. What it does is change the way we use our muscle groups so that instead of constantly over-employing our mobilisers we hand control back to the much stronger stabilisers. The first of these use glucose as a primary energy source, the second relies heavily on energy from oxygen and suggests an obvious link to correct and deep (though relaxed) breathing. When one stands 'like a tree' (zhan zhuang) correctly it feels as though the body is both light and at the same time rooted to the earth and connected to the sky. It can feel as if you are a conduit for energy between the two. It's a terrific feeling!

As far as qigong leading to insanity... well, the same cautions apply as have already been mentioned about meditation and pre-disposed mental states, and often boils down to nothing more than another expression of obsession(with sensations). There are a few Chinese blogs that talk about people going mad from practicing things like 'the 5 Animal Frolics, but these blogs are invariably written by ultra-conservative Christian groups (in my experience) and so are somewhat less than objective.

Energy work (such as microcosmic orbit awareness) is generally harmless. You either feel nothing - in which case nothing happens. Or you feel energy coursing along the meridians. Yet just like in meditation the advice is not to linger on the effects/sensations.

Caution: Even some reputable teachers sometimes play up apparent dangers. In my opinion, as a practitioner, this is (more often than not) nothing more than marketing strategy to get people to buy into the whole "you must have an approved master" thing.
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”

Paul
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby Paul » Sun Dec 01, 2013 7:55 pm

Qing Tian wrote:Key point: All qigong practices (as far as I know) encourage fang song (letting loose, or relaxing the joints and muscles - but not to the point of limpness).


Any good links/books/whatever on that subject?

Caution: Even some reputable teachers sometimes play up apparent dangers. In my opinion, as a practitioner, this is (more often than not) nothing more than marketing strategy to get people to buy into the whole "you must have an approved master" thing.


I completely agree.
Look at the unfathomable spinelessness of man: all the means he's been given to stay alert he uses, in the end, to ornament his sleep. – Rene Daumal

Jesse
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby Jesse » Sun Dec 01, 2013 10:05 pm

In my experience meditation can be dangerous in a few situations.

Becoming very attached to the bliss/euphoria in certain states of meditation. Then one day the bliss goes away, or sometimes you don't have a blissful meditation, and well most of us know what happens when we don't get what we want. :P

Taking experiences too literally, or putting too much stock in them, many experiences can/will/do happen during meditation, and during waking/sleeping hours when someone meditates alot.

I think in deeper levels of meditation, and when someone practices for many hours a day, this is where we begin to need guidance, and advice from an experienced teacher, because in deeper states of meditation we CAN do ourselves real harm. Deep meditation allows for deep rooted change of our psyches, including our sense of self, where an inexperienced person may see devas/demons and gods or hear voices, another more experienced person may understand how our deluded perceptions creates these illusions, and continue into there meditations safely.

There is also an afterglow after engaging in daily deep meditations, where the line between meditation and waking life merge, and these experiences can creep into daily experience. For someone without good and wise guidance it's possible to get into alot of trouble here also. Think of meditation at an extensive retreat without any guidance or experience what-so-ever. Duh.

Can daily 5-10 minute meditations, or simple mindfulness throughout the day cause people harm without a teacher? Probably not. That wasn't the question though.

Also to the OP, I think I glanced your other post, and while some experiences may be genuine, I would say 99% are mental issues, which are caused by our minds naturally tendency to identify things as solid and existing entities, in reality it's all in the way we perceive what we experience. In Buddhist literature there is a relevant quote.

A man walks into a dark room and sees something coiled on the floor. In a gut reaction he mistakes a coiled rope to be a coiled snake. When he collects his frantic energy enough to turn on the lights and the darkness vanishes, what is illuminated is the true nature of the object.


:shrug:
"We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know." - Albert Einstein

Qing Tian
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby Qing Tian » Sun Dec 01, 2013 11:52 pm

Qing Tian wrote:Key point: All qigong practices (as far as I know) encourage fang song (letting loose, or relaxing the joints and muscles - but not to the point of limpness).

Any good links/books/whatever on that subject?


Not really. It crops up quite a lot in texts on Chinese Internal Martial Arts, though it is often wrongly shortened to just 'song' or 'sung'. I have never seen it written about with regard to qigong except for the practice of zhan zhuang (a core qigong practice). It has been explained to me verbally by various master instructors, and principles being principles it is easy to conclude that it probably applies to all the forms of qigong. The term itself is difficult to translate into English. It does not mean relaxed in the sense that Westerners use the term. It relates more to a looseness in all the joints, a sensation of separation with each joint, and a sense of the skeletal frame settling into correct alignment. It is soft but not limp. Poised but not tense.

It can take years before you get to experience it. When you do though there is a clearly defined 'aha!' moment. After that, the way you move is forever changed. :smile:
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”

reddust
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby reddust » Mon Dec 02, 2013 12:09 am

I've meet some crazy people who became even crazier after retreats (EDIIT not just Goenka Vipassana Retreats), but they had no support or really bad teachers. Going into Goenka's vipassana retreats I had to have my Dharma teacher and my therapist write letters my panic attacks were manageable. I had a lot of support and kindness at my vipassana retreats. No more panic attacks after a couple retreats, but I think I should include I changed my diet, dropped grain and sugar at that time and I started running long distance too.

I had lots of bliss and visions, I didn't want to stop meditation. My Dharma Korean Zen teacher kicked my butt…hahaha, no attaching to phenomena in meditation :buddha1:

EDIT Sunim was in his late 30s and had been a monk since he was 19. I was in my early 30s and knew nothing about meditation or Buddhism, Eastern traditions totally an unknown. He was also my first interaction with the Asian culture and my first totally nice friendship with a man (makes me want to cry when I think about it) I told Sunim I wanted to go to retreat forever, the bliss was amazing after I went through horrible back splitting pain, I felt like I was bleeding to death…OMG the lights and visions were better than Six Flags amusement parks! Anyway Sunim's head (he was six foot tall and a really big bald head) turned bright red and his face became completely still. Sunim just stared at me, I told him I thought Monks weren't supposed to lose their temper :thinking: he quietly told me that everything that happens in meditation should be viewed with equanimity-Upekkha. I had to look that word up, I had no idea what equanimity meant. I try to practice equanimity per Buddhist view through out my sitting and daily life and practice.
Mind and mental events are concepts, mere postulations within the three realms of samsara Longchenpa .... A link to my Garden, Art and Foodie blog Scratch Living

han
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Re: Can meditating be dangerous?

Postby han » Mon Dec 02, 2013 2:50 am

I am talking about entity interference/attachment and or influence/possession.

Just wondering if anyone knew of such things or had experience witnessing it or otherwise.

What does working with internal energies mean? I am not familiar with this.
The highest teaching is selfless love . Who can meet this standard?


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