Dangers of samatha meditation

Adrian, modified 4 Years ago.

Dangers of samatha meditation

Posts: 12 Join Date: 11/23/16 Recent Posts
In TMI, Culadasa writes that when pacifiying your mind, you're training all the different unconscious sub-minds to not project their stuff into consciousness. The goal is to keep all the thoughts originating from them in the unconscious.

Couldn't this have very dangerous consequences?

Wouldn't his make working on destructive beliefs, habits, etc. nearly impossible?

Say you have some deeply held irrational fear.
Next time you are in a situation where this fear gets triggered, wouldn't pacifying your mind lead to you shaking, having a increased heart-rate, etc., but in your consciousness there would be no indicator of the cause of these things.
You wouldn't feel the emotion of fear and not experience the thoughts that triggered it.

So my main concern is, that pacifying your mind leads to you becoming stuck with destructive beliefs, fears, reactions, etc.
You'll experience behavior, but your access to the genesis of the behavior will be reduced due to training your sub-minds to not project thoughts into consciousness.

To clarify, this are just thoughts I had while reading the book. I don't know if this would actually happen.
I hope that someone can explain me that my concerns are wrong, because they started some doubts in me regarding Culadasa's method.

What do you think? Could the scenario I described actually happen?

Daniel M. Ingram, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Dangers of samatha meditation

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Yeah, so that is an old questions.

Suppressing the emotions can clearly have both positive and negative consequnces.

It is definitely true that we have to strip our consciousness down to get into jhanas, and that means ignoring a lot of material or tuning out from it or keeping it from arising or whatever. In this way, by suppressing the "hindrances", we seclude our minds from them, and allow jhanic factors to arise in their place. This is clearly skillful.

However, habitually suppressing aspects of ourselves can also make people neurotic, narrow bandwidth, and have large shadow sides, as endless examples attest to.

So, one might balance the two, suppressing the hindrances when trying to attain to deep states of concentration, and then bringing them up when doing less structures insight practices, psychotherapeutic work, or other types of investigation that doesn't involve rarified states of consciousness.
Ben V., modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Dangers of samatha meditation

Posts: 366 Join Date: 3/3/15 Recent Posts
As a psychoanalytic therapist, I'd like to clarify something about supression and repression. Freud initiated the theory that repressed material produces symptoms, and this belief became part of Western culture. The problem is that it is often misunderstood.

Repression and supression are two things and we need to distinguish them. Repression is unconscious, and it is unhealthy, whereas supression is a conscious mechanism and is healthy. In both cases some material is being ignored. If one has fear and doesn't know why, this could point to unconscious material not yet assimilated consciously, perhaps because it is being repressed. Being unconscious, it will produce symptoms until it is addressed consciously. Repression happens outside of our awareness. 

Supression is the ability to ignore some conscious material in order to focus skillfully on something else. If you're about to give a Dhamma talk but you feel upset at a disute you had with someone a few hours before, supression is the ability to consciously put your upset feelings aside for awhile and focus on your Dhamma talk. Supression would mean not even being aware of your upset feelings (though feeling unease without knowing why) and give your Dhamma talk pretending to yourself that everything is alright. 

Concerning practicing for Jhana, one consciously puts aside hindrances, lets them go, not pay attention to them, with the intention to get into a concentrated state. That's not problematic at all.

And if there is unconscious repression occuring while you meditate, your unconscious will still find a way to communicate to you what needs to be assimilated in some ways in your life: symptoms, noteworthy noctural dreams, relational issues emerging, synchronicities, etc. 

So basically I would not worry about Jhanas putting one out of touch with the unconscious. It may even give one power to address it easier.

I also agree with Daniel's recommendation. The mind can be worked on different axis of development in a complementary way: doing jhana practices, vipassana, psychological work, etc.

With metta,

Jinxed P, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Dangers of samatha meditation

Posts: 346 Join Date: 8/29/11 Recent Posts
Quite the opposite happens in my experience and many others. During stage four of the TMI you will go through Purification where all these deeply held irrational fears, trauma's etc will bubble to the surface and you'll be able to deal with them with more equanimity. 
Derek2, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Dangers of samatha meditation

Posts: 189 Join Date: 9/21/16 Recent Posts
Adrian, I don't think anyone on DhO is advocating pure samatha to the exclusion of all else. In my experience, samatha is a practice that makes the psyche more amenable to other practices.

As for dangers, there are various threads on DhO about the work of Willoughby Britton, and of course there is the book by our very own Silicon Valley Monk.
Kilroy Was Here, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Dangers of samatha meditation

Posts: 10 Join Date: 7/23/15 Recent Posts
This is a quote from the 7th Interlude chapter of The Mind Illuminated. The process of purification, according to TMI, does address material that is hidden, hiding, unresolved, etc:

'As unification increased in Stage 7 it created "pressure" on other unconscious sub-minds to join in the process. That's why you may have experienced another round of purification of mind: for sub-minds to unify, conflicting goals and priorities must first be resolved. Since conflict resolution and integration can only occur in consciousness, the effect of this pressure from below was to force the buried content preventing unification up into consciousness to be purified. The exclusive focus and pacification of mind in Stage Seven created the perfect opportunity to both deeply buried and extremewy subtle material to surface. This is the hidden story behind the subjective experience of purification.

As we mentioned in the last Interlude, piurification is important for minimizing the psychological trauma that can accompany the Insights leading up to Awakening. Therefore, as we enter the adept Stages, with their greatly increased potential for Insight, allowing purification to continue is more crucial than ever.'
Adrian, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Dangers of samatha meditation

Posts: 12 Join Date: 11/23/16 Recent Posts
@Daniel and Ben V.
Thank you both very much for your answers! They are really helpful.
I understand that suppressing your thoughts, emotions, etc. for Jhana is necessary. This isn't the cause for my concerns.

Culadasa describes the process of pacifying the mind as following:
1. You ignore the things that the sub-minds put into consciousness.
2. This conditions the sub-minds to stop putting things into consciousness.

Wouldn't that mean that you are basically training your unconscious sub-minds to repress things?
What if this habit continues after meditation?

@Killroy Was Here and Jinxed P

Thanks a lot for the quote. This might be the solution to the "problem", even though I am not sure if I understand correctly.
Does Culadasa say that before a sub-mind stops projecting things into consciousness, all its“problems” have to be resolved?
And these problems get resolved by the purification-process, right?

So the process of pacification would be more like that:
1. You ignore the things that the sub-minds put into consciousness.
2. Purification of the sub-minds.
3. The sub-minds stop putting things into consciousness.

Is this correct?

@Derek 2

Thanks Derek, I am aware that samatha is “preparation work”.
Thank you for the recommendations, I will definitely check them out.
J C, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Dangers of samatha meditation

Posts: 644 Join Date: 4/24/13 Recent Posts
Ok, so a couple things.
First of all, as Culadasa makes clear, samatha is temporary - whatever calmness you achieve requires regular samatha to maintain. So it's not as if you're permanently repressing anything.

Also, as you suggest, the process of calming does resolve problems rather than repress them. Or more accurately, it resolves that aspect of problems (the internal, mental "this is bothering me" part) that requires your mind to dwell on it and bring it up. But that doesn't mean that you lose access to the real-world part of the problems - you can still, at the appropriate time, look at and take whatever real-world actions help deal with the problems. Samatha facilitates this process - it doesn't impede it.

Another way to look at it is through the lens of the Three Trainings - Samatha is the second training, clarifying the lens of the mind so you can focus on what you need to, and Sila is the first training, dealing with real-world problems by making time to focus on them and make plans.
Kilroy Was Here, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Dangers of samatha meditation

Posts: 10 Join Date: 7/23/15 Recent Posts
Quick question from an old fart:

Why do you put the @ before the name? For example, you said,  "Thanks, @KilroyWasHere"

Abba, modified 4 Years ago.

RE: Dangers of samatha meditation

Posts: 22 Join Date: 6/9/15 Recent Posts
this indicates who are you refering to. @ symbol is translated as "at" (you can think of it also as "to"). so it says that the part that follows is in response to that person's previous text