Mahesh Acharya, a student of computer engineering and beginner in meditation, asked me, “There are so many books, articles and journals updating countless benefits of meditation but none of them inform us its disadvantages. What are side effects of meditation?”
I quickly realised that no matter how many resources are available; there is still a lack of right understanding of meditation. This article attempts to put forth the right understanding of meditation, the nature of mind, the benefits of meditation and the right way of practice as stipulated in authentic sources.
Nature of mind
The human mind is habituated to analyse things in a fixed pattern. The mind analyses everything in duality: whether something is good or bad; in favour or against. However, meditation is something otherworldly. It is beyond right or wrong, beyond duality. Meditation is the absence of mind and mind is the absence of meditation. When we are in a state of meditation, the mind is found nowhere.
Due to wrong habit of thinking ceaselessly, human mind is in a state of restlessness and it collects so many mental defilements: craving, hatred, ignorance and so on. The mind goes sick and consequently the body also. High blood pressure, stress, depression and many other problems follow up. Meditation allows the brain state to slow down. Mind goes to deep rest. Energy gets restored. Repair and healing takes place. Meditation cleanses all mental defilements. When impurities are washed away, we come to realise who we are. We are pure awareness! We are the witnessing consciousness! With this realisation, we stop following the mind. We simply watch its restlessness and smile!
Benefits of meditation
Meditation is beneficial basically in all areas of life. That is why people from different walks of life are attracted to it. Meditation cleanses the dust of ignorance from eyes and our vision becomes clear. When we look outside, we dream; when we look inside, we know things as they are.
The cosmic energy showers upon us as we drop our ego and enter into the sphere of non-local consciousness. That is a common space where everything is possible. We realise the state of Oneness; we receive more energy. We enter into a sacred zone of peace, happiness and harmony. With more meditation, we make a clear path to enter that sacred place again and again. We learn to behave with awareness and thankfulness; we develop the attitude of total acceptance; we begin to see fellow beings with loving kindness.
Meditation helps to calm our mind and enables us to focus our consciousness effectively at the work in hand. It boosts our creativity and productivity as well. Meditation develops clarity of mind and thereby we have better decision making ability and we can handle situations more appropriately.
Life nowadays is growing hectic. Hardly a day passes without a pang of stress or tension. Each stress leaves a scar inside the mind. Each negative thought or act is stored in mind forever. And as stated above, it is only the practice of meditation that heals scars and wounds. At physical level, blockages open and free energy flows all over the body, healing damaged cells or veins. The immune system improves. We can enjoy perfect health of body and mind.
Meditation begins with concentration. If the mind is fixed upon any object, it will become still and achieve one-pointed concentration. However, mere concentration is not meditation. For the right meditation or Samma Samadhi, it is necessary for the mind to be wholesome. A cat may have a full attention on a mouse hole. However, the cat is full of craving for the mouse. It is not right concentration. The concentration should be Kushala Chittassa Ekaggata, as Buddha says; the mind should be free from mental defilements.
Great saints who developed the right way of meditation are no longer available. Even the actual lineage of meditation teachers has been broken. While practicing, knowledge and meditation should go together. However, classical texts on meditation are not easily accessible. Some people sit in meditation for worldly benefits such as pleasing gods who may grant boons for money or fame. It is totally wrong approach to meditation. Meditation is practiced for its own sake and benefits follow on its own. True meditation takes place especially when we make no efforts; actual benefits are received basically when we expect nothing.
For better results, a genuine practitioner observes moral guidance as postulated by Patanjali or Buddha, and develops virtuous habits, behaviours and observations. For him, it does not matter how long he lives, how much richness he accumulates or how much attention he receives. It is the amount of positive vibration he has radiated in life that counts for him. A true practitioner enjoys sharing his best self, his enthusiasm and above all, his radiant presence.
I tell Mahesh it is better to cure the mind that seeks side effects of practicing meditation. The sick mind wants to see dark sides only. Meditation is a process of cleansing old vasanas and there are no side effects provided that the practitioner is mentally stable. However, be patient while practicing meditation because it is not always easy to meditate and the benefits may not appear overnight. Sometimes, it requires maturity that ripens after years of listening, contemplation, reflection and sustained practice.