Can meditation be dangerous?


Recently I saw a book in a bookstore about "dangers of meditation" and that left me thinking. Are there any dangers or side effects to meditation?

—Nair, India


Dear Nair,

Through teaching Yogananda’s meditation techniques to thousands of people around the world, we have found that almost everyone who learns and faithfully practices meditation is very greatly benefited. The exception would be that small percentage of people who are deeply, mentally disturbed. In most cases, these people need to stay away from silent, sitting meditation.

This would not mean that they wouldn’t be helped by meditative activities such as yoga postures, energization exercises, chanting, satsang (good company), service projects – especially being in nature, and so on.

But we have found through experience and through Swami Kriyananda’s guidance on this subject, that in the case of a person who is suffering from something like paranoid schizophrenia or is severely clinically depressed, silent sitting meditation does not work well for them and probably will make them worse.

They need, for their healing, activities which take them outside themselves rather than deeper inside themselves. Again this does not mean that there is no hope for them or that they should not be encouraged to practice certain meditative activities such as those suggested above.

Remember, we are talking about severe psychosis, not the mild neurotic conditions that most of us experience in one way or another, and at one time or another in our lives.

Otherwise, people who say that meditation might be dangerous or have bad side effects are generally coming from some sort of fundamentalist religious perspective, thinking (wrongly!) that meditation somehow blanks out the mind and makes one susceptible to negativity, darkness, or evil forces.

True meditation does not come from a blank mental space. It comes from a deepening awareness of God’s presence within and all around us.

Meditation is really a form of prayer. Prayer is talking with God. Meditation is listening for the answer. Meditation, like prayer, offers protection from the “dark forces,” rather than the opposite.

For this reason, it is important to pray before meditation; pray deeply for guidance in this meditation and in every aspect of daily life. God can and does answer this prayer, ALWAYS! There is nothing to fear and everything to gain.