Monday, May 23, 2011

Does Meditation Make You a Better Person?

I once believed that the Love (Bliss) state that you experienced in meditation would change you into a kind, loving, and compassionate person, and that the lack of meditation in Christianity was the reason why it appeared to me that they did not have these fine qualities, at least not the Christians that I had known. But then I learned that these qualities that I saw in meditators were only on the surface. All you had to do was say something that they didn’t like, and you could easily rile them up, even gurus can get riled, only they call it “destroying the ego” and claim it is not done out of meanness. This in turn, made me wonder, have they never experienced this blissful state of Love? I know of one hostile swami who said that he never had.

So I left Hinduism when I learned that the gurus were no better than some Christian ministers I had met. Then I decided to check out Buddhism since the Buddha has always been known for Compassion. But wasn’t Christ known for those same qualities?

I took my questions to the abbot of the Zen group that I was joined, and I learned that meditation does not make you a better person or even a moral one; you have to work hard at developing these qualities. The abbots and the monks did just that, and as a result they were both kind and loving. So perhaps they are right, you just had to work hard to develop compassion.  But still, it seems that bliss states should change people, after all, these states, as I understand it, arise from your Soul or your Mind, depending on your view, and so why can’t they be with you in normal states of consciousness?

Then I read Bhagavan Das' autobiography, It's Here now, Are You?, and he was constantly in a state of bliss and felt so much love for God, that at times, I felt a little envious. Then then I read how he cheated on his wife, abandoned his children, was narcissistic, ran away from his responsibilities, gave a woman drugs (who then ended up in a mental hospital), and was just basically amoral. He was not just in Hinduism but Tibetan Buddhism as well. And when I was in these groups I noticed that there was a big element of amoral behavior in them, which is why I left. People were really getting hurt. So for Bhagavan Das, feeling this blissful state of love for God and mankind did not change his behavior. And I ask, why not? Maybe he didn’t experience these states of mind as often as he made it sound in his book. Could that be it?

And now scientists do these brain wave tests on monks while they are meditating, and it appears that these tests prove that meditation increases feelings of compassion:

“Eight Buddhist adepts and 10 volunteers who had had a crash course in meditation engaged in the form of meditation called nonreferential compassion. In this state, the meditator focuses on unlimited compassion and loving kindness toward all living beings.

As the volunteers began meditating, one kind of brain wave grew exceptionally strong: gamma waves. These, scientists believe, are a signature of neuronal activity that knits together far-flung circuits -- consciousness, in a sense. Gamma waves appear when the brain brings together different features of an object, such as look, feel, sound and other attributes that lead the brain to its aha moment of, yup, that's an armadillo.

Some of the novices 'showed a slight but significant increase in the gamma signal,' Prof. Davidson explained to the Dalai Lama. But at the moment the monks switched on compassion meditation, the gamma signal began rising and kept rising. On its own, that is hardly astounding: Everything the mind does has a physical correlate, so the gamma waves (much more intense than in the novice meditators) might just have been the mark of compassion meditation.

Except for one thing. In between meditations, the gamma signal in the monks never died down. Even when they were not meditating, their brains were different from the novices' brains, marked by waves associated with perception, problem solving and consciousness. Moreover, the more hours of meditation training a monk had had, the stronger and more enduring the gamma signal.”

Okay, but I would like to see how this translates into their every day behavior. Are they always kind towards others? How long did the gamma signal last after meditation? Remember, these tests are done on Tibetan Buddhists, and if you have read other posts I have made you will find that Tibetan Buddhism is an amoral religion. Why is this? Why is it that after they have learned compassion and taking the higher tantra empowerments they can now drink alcohol, have sex, lie, steal, kill, and etc?

Even Bhagavan Das’ book shows this amoral behavior, as I noted. He thinks nothing of talking about the sexual affairs that Choygen Rinpoche had or that he was an alcoholic. It was all okay to him that these masters were amoral or should I call it “immoral”? 

So I thought back then, if meditation didn’t help one to become a better person, why meditate? What was meditation for? Enlightenment? What about that? I never met an enlightened teacher, only met those who claimed to be, and I can't say much for them. And I never wanted to be enlightened in the first place.

And then I read about the dangers of meditation and just quit meditating and wrote about my findings in my blog:
But this state of bliss which feels like heaven, can also turn into its opposite, and you don't know if or when this will ever happen. So our minds have states of heaven and hell. Kundalini is like that.  It is always a surprised just as LSD had been for many people.

I am beginning to think that praying to God is much safer. And if there is a God, wouldn’t you think that he would have made a safer way to feel his/her/Its presence than that of meditation?  Shouldn’t it be as safe as prayer? But of course that state of bliss is wonderful, I have to admit that, and so I don’t really want to even try take that desire away from anyone. I just want people to be aware of the dangers and to be careful. It is an experience that I will never forget. But just don’t think, as I did, that it will turn you into a kind and loving person no matter what those tests show, especially in view of how gurus behave.

One thing that meditation does do is this: it causes a person to become more charismatic, just as it did the little pilgrim in the book, The Way of the Pilgrim, for he said that people were now drawn to him. Just make sure that those teachers that you are drawn to are not just charismatic immoral teachers that will not only destroy your ego but your soul as well.

In the end, compassion and morality take discipline, dedicated mindfulness, and opening the heart. If the bliss state were the be-all, end-all, the Buddha wouldn't have devoted so much time and energy to teaching virtue.

by GU


  1. I think what the bliss state does, is turn people into bliss junkies. They become like drug addicts, except that the bliss is a natural high. But that's all it is, it has nothing to do with making them a better person. Instead, it seems to convince them that they're semi-divine, and therefore can lead others while behaving any way they want without heed to the consequences. Maybe they use the bliss to evade any guilt feelings or remorse for the lives they trash. It's a convenient escape.

    Bliss is not at all the same thing as Enlightenment. Enlightenment involves an understanding of cause and effect, the effect our words and actions have on people. It also involves a highly-developed sense of compassion, something these bliss-junkies lack altogether.

  2. i was wondering if the author belongs to any religion that he can vouch for

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The author no longer belongs to any one religion but holds on to various teachings that old true to her. All organizations and teachers are imperfect. It is best to choose one of your own choice. If the teachers prove to be corrupt, then leave, but do your best to not leave the teachings. I admit, though, some teachings are corrupt. For example, Tibetan Buddhism is a corruption of Buddha's teachings, and some Tantra teachings in Hinduism are a corruption of the Vedas.