The Dark Side of Meditation

17 Sep

There seems to be a cure-all attitude towards meditation, as if it were a panacea for all types of illnesses. This is a dangerous trend in the West, where meditation seems to be de-linked from its ‘spiritual’ (and ethical) component and used as a tool or instrument to solve certain medical problems, thus creating a sort of “spiritual bypassing”.

Here’s the news item from TIME magazine that provoked a lot of comments:


Here’s the abstract of a scientific report that claims that meditation is only moderately (or not really) better than other forms of traditional therapies for treating anxiety,depression, stress/distress, positive mood, mental health–related quality of life, attention, substance use, eating habits, sleep, pain, and weight control.


And finally here’s an excellent interview with one of the most serious investigators in this area, from Brown University and it also includes the issue of lack of scientific validity with a lot of the research done on the effects of meditation:


In my opinion, the larger issue seems to be the de-linking of meditation from its centrality in Buddhist practice, which includes many other factors as outlined in the Eight-Fold Path.

Cherry-picking just one arm of this eight-fold path reduces and maybe even completely eradicates its real significance – which is the development of insight into reality and the associated characteristics of non-self, impermanence and unsatisfactoriness (anatta, anicca and dukkha).

In order for meditation to be truly meaningful in this sense, it needs to be given an ethical context within the five precepts and the skilful development of the Eight-Fold Path.

One Response to “The Dark Side of Meditation”

  1. johnhaspel September 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm #

    Thank so much for this article. The generic application of meditation out of the context of the Eightfold Path has made meditation much less effective and for many simply another distraction.

    John Haspel

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