Monday, May 30, 2011

Dangers of Meditation-- Correspond to Hellish States

"One often hears and reads about the dangers of Yoga, particularly of the ill-reputed Kundalini Yoga. The deliberately induced psychotic state, which in certain unstable individuals might easily lead to a real psychosis, is a danger that needs to be taken very seriously indeed. These things really are dangerous and ought not to be meddled with in our typically Western way. It is a meddling with Fate, which strikes at the very roots of human existence and can let loose a flood of sufferings of which no sane person ever dreamed. These sufferings correspond to the hellish torments of the chönyid state..." C. G. Jung, Introduction to The Tibetan book of the Dead *


Years ago when I was in Self Realization, I found a book at the local library, Living with Kundalini by Gopi Krishna. I thought it would be an exciting read, and actually it was just that. What I read rather frightened me because Gopi Krishna's kundalini awaking left him seeking out help, but actually, no one could help him. I gave the book away, thinking to myself, Yogananda wouldn’t teach us a dangerous technique.

Then one day I was on the Kriya Board, (Yogananda taught Kriya), and a poster was asking for help. I remember his talking about meditation and what he was feeling inside, and I thought, “This sounds just like Gopi Krisna's experience. He was also talking about killing himself because of his bodily sensations, but he added that no doctor could help him, and those at SRF Headquarters told him that it can’t be from his Kriya practice because Kriya only gives you peace. I made a post to him and told him about Gopi Krishna, and that the Vedanta Society might be able to help himt. The next day I came online to see if he had read my post, it had been deleted. They never wanted anyone to think that meditation was anything other than good. Did he see that post? I never forgot that man, and it has been over 20 years.

Here is what I found again in Gopi Krishna's book:

“With the awakening of kundalini, the arrangement suffers a radical alteration affecting the entire nervous system,..in most cases it results in a great instability of the emotional nature and a great liability to aberrant mental conditions in the subject, mainly resulting from tainted heredity, faulty modes of conduct, or immoderation in any shape or forum.

Leaving out the extreme cases, which end in madness, this generalization applies to all the categories of those in whom kundalini is congenitally more or less active, comprising mystics, mediums, men and women of genius, and those of an exceptionally high intellectual or artistic development. In the case of those in whom the awakening occurs all at once as the result of yoga or other spiritual practices, the sudden impact or powerful vital currents on the brain and other organs is often attended with grave risk and strange mental conditions, varying from moment to moment, exhibiting in the beginning the abnormal peculiarities of a medium, mystic, genius, and madman all rolled into one."

His experience:

"…On the third day of the awakening I did not feel myself in a mood for meditation and passed the time in bed…I completely lacked the power to concentrate…

For a few days I thought I was suffering from hallucinations…I passed every minute of the time in a state of acute anxiety and tension, at a loss to know what had happened to me and why my system was functioning in such an entirely abnormal manner…

There was no remission in the current rising from the seat of kundalini. I could feel it leaping across the nerves in the back and even across those lining the front part of my body from the loins upwards…I felt as if I were looking at the world from a higher elevation than that from which I saw it before…

The few brief intervals of mental elation were followed by fits of depression much more prolonged and so acute that I had to muster all my strength and willpower to keep myself from succumbing completely to their influence…

I lost all feelings of love for my wife and children. I had loved them fondly from the depths of my being…”

He sought out all kinds of gurus for help, but no one could help him, and this is the reason why I always say that even having a teacher may not help when something goes wrong in meditation because even the gurus of India couldn't help.

Then when I was in the Vedanta Society, I learned that those who practiced Kriya Yoga sometimes showed up at the Vedanta Society in mental pain or even physical from the practice of Kriya. The comment from the swami was something to the effect that it could harm your nervous system, and that that was one of the problems SRF members were having when they came to them for help. I also remember a couple coming to the fireside room where discussions took place every Sunday. It was obvious to me that the man had some emotional problems when he asked about the practice of pranayama breathing, which kriya is a form. He told the man that it was dangerous to practice it because it could harm your heart and lungs and in some cases cause insanity. (I had already stopped practicing Kriya, having had all initiations, some from SRF and some from Eugene Roy Davis, and I was glad.)

Swami Prabhavananda of the Vedanta Society (Ramakrisha Order) warns about the dangers of yogic breathing exercises in his book, Yoga and Mysticism:


"Now we come to breathing exercises. Let me caution you: they can be very dangerous. Unless properly done, there is a good chance of injuring the brain. And those who practice such breathing without proper supervision can suffer a disease which no known science or doctor can cure. It is impossible even for a medical person to diagnose such an illness."
Shree Purohit Swami’s Commentary on Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras warns:


"In India and Europe, I came across some three hundred people who suffered permanently from wrong practices. The doctors, upon examination, found there was nothing organically wrong and consequently could not prescribe treatment."

United Nations spiritual adviser and spiritist Sri Chinmoy, author of Yoga and the Spiritual Life, observes: "To practice pranayama without real guidance is very dangerous. I know of three persons who have died from it."
Hans-Ulrich Rieker admonishes in The Yoga of Light: ''
"Yoga is not a trifling jest if we consider that any misunderstanding in the practice of yoga can mean death or insanity," and that in kundalini yoga, if the breath or prana is "prematurely exhausted [exhaled] there is immediate danger of death for the yogi."

Gopi Krishna, another yoga authority, also warns of the possible dangers of yoga practice, including "drastic effects" on the central nervous system and the possibility of death. Gopi Krishna, "The True Aim of Yoga," Psychic, January-February, 1973, p. 13.


The standard authority on hatha yoga, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (Chapter 2, verse 15), cautions: "Just as lions, elephants, and tigers are tamed, so the prana [breath; actually prana is the alleged divine energy underlying the breath] should be kept under control. Otherwise it can kill the practitioner."

Hindu master Sri Krishna Prem cautions in The Yoga of the Bhagavat Gita: "As stated before, nothing but dangerous, mediumistic psychisms or neurotic dissociations of personality can result from the practice of [yoga] meditation without the qualifications mentioned at the end of the last chapter." He warns, "To practice it, as many do, out of curiosity... is a mistake which is punished with futility, neurosis, or worse [‘even insanity itself’]."

Swami Prabhavananda’s Yoga and Mysticism lists brain injury, incurable diseases, and insanity as potential hazards of wrong yoga practice; Ulrich-Rieker author of The Yoga of Light lists cancer of the throat, all sorts of ailments, blackouts, strange trance states, or insanity from even "the slightest mistake."

In The Seven Schools of Yoga, Ernest Wood warns of "the imminent risk of most serious
bodily disorder, disease, and even madness."

I had a friend in Siddha Yoga who had been meditating for a number of years, and one day she told me that her left side felt on fire and that when she was in meditation she saw red and yellow flames. I told her that her kundalini was rising, and that it could be very dangerous and that she should quit meditating. I lost contact with her and so don't know what happened to her.
Then I went to a Zen monastery, and I told the abbot about my experience in meditation when my mind expanded. He looked concerned and told me that it was dangerous to allow your mind to expand, that it could cause insanity. As if one could stop the process while meditating, and I knew I couldn't, so I seldom meditated after that.

It was then that I began doing research, and that is how I found the dissertation, Meditation-Related Psychosis that I have posted here in my blog. 
I also found a book by Dr. Margaret Singer, and so I am posting some of her findings. She was a famous psychologist who worked on court cases and also helped people to get out of cults as well as with those who had severe problems from meditating. Here is what she found.
Cults in Our Midst by Dr. Margaret Singer, PhD
By the Mid 1970s clinical reports of negative outcomes resulting from various mantra meditation programs began to dot the psychiatric literature. Clinicians reported that some meditators were finding themselves in self-induced altered states, wherein they felt unreal or found their surroundings unreal. Some persons became unemployable because they were unable to control these episodes. Other clinical report indicated that indiscriminate use of mantra meditation could precipitate more serious psychiatric problems ranging from depression and agitation to psychotic decompensation.

In a series of studies, Leon Otis, a psychologist at Stanford Research Institute, pointed out that despite benefits for all who take up the practice as advertised by one meditation organization, his research proved otherwise. According to Otis the reverse is true. In fact, the number and severity of complaints are positively related to duration of meditation. Also not supported by research is the notion that the initial uncomfortable feelings are transient. Meditators reported continuing adverse side effects: they had become anxious, confused, frustrated, depressed, and/or withdrawn (or more so) since starting meditation.

Another concern, explored by researchers Michael Murphy and Steven Donovan, is that advanced practioners rank high in suggestibility, meaning that their physical or mental state is easily influence by the process of suggestion. Whether they become more suggestible because of participation in meditation practices or are highly suggestible to being with, a state which might reinforce their continuation of the practice has not been determined. Either way, the suggestibility puts them at risk of losing personal autonomy.

When meditators first reported experiencing depersonalization and derealization (feeling removed from ones body or as if one were watching oneself), it was believed that these altered states were connected to actual periods of meditation. Psychiatrists eventually recognized, however, that these were states of involuntary meditation, for want of a better name, that were intruding into the waking consciousness of meditators when they were not deliberately meditating. Unfortunately and much to the distress of some meditators a depersonalized state can become an apparently permanent mode of functioning, {with} the apparent long-term loss of the ability to feel strong emotions, either negative or positive.

Meditation Causalities

Based on interviewing or providing therapy to more than seventy persons who had meditated from four to seventeen years in various groups.

None had a history of major mental disorders prior to participation in a meditation group.

A few examples of members range of impairments some of which remain after many years out of the cultic group>

1. Blackouts, lack of sensory filters, and anxiety attacks.

John, age 36, meditated off and on for nine years. During the last 2 years of that time, he was encouraged to do intensives. Now he is living on public funds, having been diagnosed as mentally disabled and incapable of working. He suffers from fainting, blackouts, severe and frequent anxiety attacks, and exhaustion. He feels he no longer has protective barriers for his senses.

2. Fog and space

Lisa was in a meditation group for 13 years. During nine of those years, she suffered from unique dissociative experiences in which she would feel space out. Her level of functioning was poor.

3. Altered states and memory difficulties

Rick meditated for 17 years. He experienced his first distressing symptoms at his first advanced course, when over breathing and yogic exercises were added to his mantra meditation. He described states of euphoria; periods of dissociation, depersonalization, confusion, and irritability; and memory difficulties. He had difficulties with reading, memory, concentration, and focusing; had involuntary
body shaking; and experienced frequent episodes of dissociation.


3. Loss of boundaries

Bruno, an architect in this 40s went to his first extended meditation after a year of initial brief meditation. He lost track of time and felt odd and not himself. He finally fled the course after an unsettling experience in his hotel room: Suddenly I become one with the air conditioner It was unspeakable terror after returning home, he remained anxious, had trouble sleeping, and was very tired for some weeks.

4. Inappropriate and unrelated bursts of emotion

Tom, age 26, signed up for a course...he developed RIA symptoms that continued after the course was over he experienced bursts of inappropriate aggressive sexual urges. He said motion was driving him crazy. For several months he feared he was losing his mind, and he was becoming phobic about going out alone to public places because he never knew when these episodes would occur.

5. Muscle jerking

Josh spent more than a dozen years in a meditation group. His major symptom marked head and neck jerking that he could not control. His physician had prescribed him anti-seizure medication.


6. Long-term emotional flatness

June meditated and took courses over 9 years. She had no complaints, but her husband, young adult children, parents, and siblings claimed she had become depressed, spacey, unenthused, not careful or caring about things. June was emotionally flat. She reported to me that she lost an awareness of time, and her eyes went out of focus prior to meditating her family said that June had been a warm and compassionate person, responsive, and involved with what was going on, even prone to temper blow-ups. Today, June appears impersonal in social situations and seems to have ceased experiencing and displaying strong emotional feelings, either positive or negative

7. Seizures

Calvin suffered his first seizure in the fast breathing program. He left the program and is now on anti-seizure medication.


8. Visual hallucinations

Caryn meditated for 17 years. She reported that she had begun seeing little creatures with wings during her intensive meditation. I began to not be able to tell who was a person and was a deva {a Hindu nature spirit.}

I am not saying that everyone who meditates has problems. I have spoken with many persons who find brief meditation relaxing who are enthusiastic about their personal quiet time.

Is Meditation Ever Beneficial?

If, without surrendering your life to a cult, you sit and do one of the two traditional methods of meditation, yes, that can be very helpful.
Other Negative Experiences from other sources:



Otis (1984) described a study done at Stanford Research Institute in 1971 to determine the negative effects of Transcendental Meditation. SRI mailed a survey to every twentieth person on the Students International Meditation Society (TM's parent organization) mailing list of 40,000 individuals. Approximately 47% of the 1,900 people surveyed responded. The survey included a self-concept word list (the Descriptive Personality List) and a checklist of physical and behavioral symptoms (the Physical and Behavioral Inventory). It was found that dropouts reported fewer complaints than experienced meditators, to a statistically significant degree. Furthermore, adverse effects were positively correlated with the length of time in meditation. Long-term meditators reported the following percentages of adverse effects: antisocial behavior, 13.5%; anxiety, 9.0%; confusion, 7.2%; depression, 8.1%; emotional stability, 4.5%; frustration, 9.0%; physical and mental tension, 8.1%; procrastination, 7.2%; restlessness, 9.0%; suspiciousness, 6.3%; tolerance of others, 4.5%; and withdrawal, 7.2%. The author concluded that the longer a person stays in TM and the more committed a person becomes to TM as a way of life, the greater is the likelihood that he or she will experience adverse effects. This contrasts sharply with the promotional statements of the various TM organizations.

Ellis (1984) stated that meditation's greatest danger was its common connection with spirituality and antiscience. He said that it might encourage some individuals to become even more obsessive-compulsive than they had been and to dwell in a ruminative manner on trivia or nonessentials. He also noted that some of his clients had gone into "dissociative semi-trance states and upset themselves considerably by meditating." Ellis views meditation and other therapy procedures as often diverting people from doing that which overcomes their disturbance to focusing on the highly palliative technique itself. Therefore, although individuals might feel better, their chances of acquiring a basically healthy, nonmasturbatory outlook are sabotaged.

Walsh (1979) reported a number of disturbing experiences during meditation, such as anxiety, tension, and anger. Walsh and Rauche (1979) stated that meditation may precipitate a psychotic episode in individuals with a history of schizophrenia. Kornfield (1979 and 1983) reported that body pain is a frequent occurrence during meditation, and that meditators develop new ways to relate to their pain as a result of meditation. Hassett (1978) reported that meditation can be harmful. Carrington (1977) observed that extensive meditation may induce symptoms that range in severity from insomnia to psychotic manifestations with hallucinatory behavior. Lazarus (1976) reported that psychiatric problems such as severe depression and schizophrenic breakdown may be precipitated by TM. French et al. (1975) reported that anxiety, tension, anger, and other disturbing experiences sometimes occur during TM. Carrington and Ephron (1975c) reported a number of complaints from TM meditators who felt themselves overwhelmed by negative and unpleasant thoughts during meditation. Glueck and Stroebel (1975) reported that two experimental subjects made independent suicide attempts in the first two days after beginning the TM program. Kannellakos and Lukas (1974) reported complaints from TM meditators. Otis (1974) reported that five patients suffered a reoccurrence of serious psychosomatic symptoms after commencing meditation. Maupin (1969) stated that the deepest objection to meditation has been its tendency to produce withdrawn, serene people who are not accessible to what is actually going on in their lives. He said that with meditation it is easy to overvalue the internal at the expense of the external.

These and other negative meditation outcomes are described in traditional sources. The path is "sharp like a razor's edge" says the Katha Upanishad. [54] St. John of the Cross wrote an entire book about the dark night of the soul. [55] Several hundred pages of Sri Aurobindo's collected works deal with the problems and dangers of his integral yoga. [56] A large part of Aldous Huxley's The Perennial Philosophy consists of admonitions from various spiritual masters about the difficulties encountered in contemplative practice, [57] and William James explores the negative side of religious life in The Varieties of Religious Experience. [58] These and other sources provide a wide array of warnings and directions for those entering a path of meditation. Though the rewards of contemplative practice can be great, they do not come easily.



This research was done on TM by an Independent TM Research:

76% of long-term meditators experience psychological disorders -- including 26% nervous breakdowns
63% experience serious physical complaints
70% recorded a worsening ability to concentrate

Researchers found a startling drop in honesty among long-term meditators
TranceNet: German Transcendental Meditation Research, 4 of 7 a detailed examination of the history, culture, and secret teachings of the TM movement.

The unconscious sense impressions and visions which are brought to the conscious mind during meditation cannot be controlled by the meditator himself. The mainly positive experiences in the earlier stages (pictures, feelings of happiness) are replaced in time - according to reports of the ex-meditators - by terrifying images and feelings of fear or anguish. This is known to the T.M. movement. The theory states that "unstressing" is taking place during these conditions. It is advised that one should meditate more intensively. Only when all of that stress was released, would pleasant experiences again be had.

Because of their initial pleasant experiences with the meditation, coupled with a blind trust in the directions of the T.M. leadership, those concerned meditated more intensively and ended up in many cases in what was for them a dangerous condition, which they could not get out of without outside help.

Over 70% of those in our study had difficulties, statements made on tape list these difficulties mainly as being: problems with sleeping, anguish, increasing pain in the head, stomach, and back, (compare with section 6 of this chapter), problems with concentration, hallucinations, feelings of isolation, depression, over- sensitivity, and instability. http://onwww.net/trancenet.org/research/

In 1978, Psychology Today magazine reported that a "'substantial number' of meditators developed anxiety, depression, physical and mental tension and other adverse effects" (San Francisco Examiner, September 10, 1989, p. E3). "In 1980, the West German government's Institute for Youth and Society produced a report calling TM a 'psychogroup' and saying that the majority of people who went through TM experienced psychological or physical disorders" (Edward Epstein, "Politics and Transcendental Meditation," San Francisco Chronicle, December 29, 1995, p. A1).

Another concern, explored by researchers Michael Murphy and Steven Donovan, is that advanced practioners rank high in suggestibility, meaning that their physical or mental state is easily influence by the process of suggestion. Whether they become more suggestible because of participation in meditation practices or are highly suggestible to being with, a state which might reinforce their continuation of the practice, has not been determined. Either way, the suggestibility puts them at risk of losing personal autonomy.

Here are some testimonials from this website below:

http://www.kundalini-gateway.org/ckress/el03.html

First, it's just too dangerous. It can easily lead to a variety of mental disorders that one doesn't see coming. It's not the "fast path" that many think because it takes a long time to recover from the disassociativeness.

Second, it's not helpful to a life in the world. Samadhi was developed for use in a monastic setting. It's amazing and wondrous, but it's only half-way. The second half of the path, according to the Sufis, is bringing the realization of Samadhi back home and living it out. But for that, the method needs to be completely different. Bringing it home uses the downward energy, flowing in the spine in opposition to Kundalini. Also, if you see "Living from the Heart" as the goal, then enormous progress can occur without much Kundalini. So the meditation to practice in the downward type -- that's the harder part. Kundalini rises on its own, given even a slight boost from conscious breathing. The harder part is to steer But after 30 years of experience with Samadhi, I've stopped teaching it.

And from Zone of Fire:
http://www.elcollie.com/st/fire.html

"Everything becomes fire, and from fire everything is born." -- Herakleitos

Searing heat is Kundalini's classic signature. It may blast up the spine, torch localized areas of the body, or come as hot flash episodes. The heat is so fierce it sometimes feels as if one is about to burst into flames. Religious descriptions of hell fires which torment the soul may have originated as commentary on the suffering endured by initiates in the throes of Kundalini heat.
Serpent-Fire as it is sometimes called, the feminine creative power asleep within a bowl, within a womb, awakening to rhythmic movement in uprushing and downpouring streams of Fire."

And I love what Carl Jung says:

"One often hears and reads about the dangers of Yoga, particularly of the ill-reputed Kundalini Yoga. The deliberately induced psychotic state, which in certain unstable individuals might easily lead to a real psychosis, is a danger that needs to be taken very seriously indeed. These things really are dangerous and ought not to be meddled with in our typically Western way. It is a meddling with Fate, which strikes at the very roots of human existence and can let loose a flood of sufferings of which no sane person ever dreamed. These sufferings correspond to the hellish torments of the state..." C. G. Jung, Introduction to The Tibetan book of the Dead

http://kundalini.se/eng/fallgrop.html
And I have always wondered, if God is really available to us, it should be safe, shouldn't it? Meditation isn't always safe, so how can it be about God? Yet, somehow I can believe that it isn't at times when you experience him in the blissful state. And as one person wrote from the above website :

"It is ironic that along with the rapture of remembering our divine connection, there can be intense feelings of depression, madness, detachment, hopelessness and an extraordinary loneliness that is not only relentless but may last for months or years on end. Then comes the waiting, and the wondering if and when the dark night will ever end. Ultimately, it feels as though we have lost control over our lives and, most importantly, that God has truly abandoned us."

Submitted by GU

2 comments:

  1. joseyAug 23, 2011 08:21 AM
    Swami Prabhavananda of the Vedanta Society (Ramakrisha Order) warns about the dangers of yogic breathing exercises in his book, Yoga and Mysticism:

    "Now we come to breathing exercises. Let me caution you: they can be very dangerous. Unless properly done, there is a good chance of injuring the brain. And those who practice such breathing without proper supervision can suffer a disease which no known science or doctor can cure. It is impossible even for a medical person to diagnose such an illness."

    Shree Purohit Swami’s Commentary on Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras warns:

    "In India and Europe, I came across some three hundred people who suffered permanently from wrong practices. The doctors, upon examination, found there was nothing organically wrong and consequently could not prescribe treatment."

    United Nations spiritual adviser and spiritist Sri Chinmoy, author of Yoga and the Spiritual Life, observes: "To practice pranayama without real guidance is very dangerous. I know of three persons who have died from it."

    Hans-Ulrich Rieker admonishes in The Yoga of Light: "Yoga is not a trifling jest if we consider that any misunderstanding in the practice of yoga can mean death or insanity," and that in kundalini yoga, if the breath or prana is "prematurely exhausted [exhaled] there is immediate danger of death for the yogi."

    Gopi Krishna, another yoga authority, also warns of the possible dangers of yoga practice, including "drastic effects" on the central nervous system and the possibility of death. Gopi Krishna, "The True Aim of Yoga," Psychic, January-February, 1973, p. 13.

    The standard authority on hatha yoga, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (Chapter 2, verse 15), cautions: "Just as lions, elephants, and tigers are tamed, so the prana [breath; actually prana is the alleged divine energy underlying the breath] should be kept under control. Otherwise it can kill the practitioner."

    Hindu master Sri Krishna Prem cautions in The Yoga of the Bhagavat Gita: "As stated before, nothing but dangerous, mediumistic psychisms or neurotic dissociations of personality can result from the practice of [yoga] meditation without the qualifications mentioned at the end of the last chapter." He warns, "To practice it, as many do, out of curiosity... is a mistake which is punished with futility, neurosis, or worse [‘even insanity itself’]."

    Swami Prabhavananda’s Yoga and Mysticism lists brain injury, incurable diseases, and insanity as potential hazards of wrong yoga practice; Ulrich-Rieker author of The Yoga of Light lists cancer of the throat, all sorts of ailments, blackouts, strange trance states, or insanity from even "the slightest mistake."

    In The Seven Schools of Yoga, Ernest Wood warns of "the imminent risk of most serious bodily disorder, disease, and even madness."

    ReplyDelete
  2. joseyAug 23, 2011 08:22 AM
    In 1978, Psychology Today magazine reported that a "'substantial number' of meditators developed anxiety, depression, physical and mental tension and other adverse effects" (San Francisco Examiner, September 10, 1989, p. E3). "In 1980, the West German government's Institute for Youth and Society produced a report calling TM a 'psychogroup' and saying that the majority of people who went through TM experienced psychological or physical disorders" (Edward Epstein, "Politics and Transcendental Meditation," San Francisco Chronicle, December 29, 1995, p. A1).

    ReplyDelete