Meditation has become almost a special “science” and “technique” in itself today, but few realize what actual benefits they are having. Many talk about states of consciousness, however, traditionally speaking, to attain them takes lifetimes of intense study, austerities and practice as also development of sattvas or purity.
First one also requires strong iccha-shakti (will-power) and dharana-shakti (power of concentrated thought) for proper meditation to occur as a flow of continuous consciousness freed from the lesser shackles of the mind. Even few trained Yogis and Gurus can really enter this state on a deeper level, although many aspire to, wish to, but end up teaching others in an incomplete manner instead.
Yoga and Ayurveda also recognize several spheres or levels of mudha (delusional) and also vikshepa (projectory or hallucinating) mind and hence also placebo effects, visions and states of temporal “calmness”, produced by vasanas or mental impressions. These can also be due to (a) malas (wastes) in the mental channels creating disturbances and false visions due to diet, lifestyle etc. (as in dreams) and (b) due to nefarious astral beings assuming forms of Devas (divinities), Rishis (seers) and other or possession by lower astral entities invading one’s prana or life-force / psychic being. The cause of these however, is past-life karmic actions, not simply random fate.
Meditations are also of sattvika (pure), rajasika (agitating) and tamasika (delusional) as per Ayurveda and certain deities have their own forms and mantras specific to these. Certain doshic types are more hypersensitive to certain deities and meditational practices than others. Various mantras, containing various aksharas or syllables and sounds of the Sanskrit language can affect the minds of some in an adverse manner, over long periods of time. Each mantra and deity has specific effects as per the doshas in Ayurveda traditionally.
As an example, Vata (ether and air) types can become easily agitated and aggravated by formless meditations and require more watery and bhakti (devotional) themes with some warmth. Pitta types can become agitated by fiery meditations and fiery deities, forms as reds, oranges, the Sun (as also forms of Yoga as Bikram Yoga) etc. and require more peaceful or cooling meditations and environments as tranquil waters and nature. Themes as Karma-Yoga, the Yoga of service and giving up fruits of results of actions is good for them. Kapha types are easily dreamy and require meditations that will stimulate them and give them more detachment (vairagya), such as fiery and formless meditations. Jnana-Yoga, the path of wisdom and atma-vichara, Self-enquiry is good for them to develop more detachment.
Thus, meditations must be tailored and suited as per the individual.
They cannot be given through mass instructions. Specific mantras, devatas (deities) and their respective pranayamas (breathing techniques) also come into traditional meditations also, but are rarely taught beyond generics today either.
Yet everyone today forgets these important traditional points and believes that their meditations and meditational experiences are “spiritual”. Yet, it fails to understand the depth of Yoga and Ayurvedic psychology that not only encompasses, but expands upon and transcends the views of modern psychology and psychological states. What is more, the teachers, techniques and environments for meditation today are very, very superficial and hence only surface-level effects as explained above will manifest, not the deeper true levels of Consciousness.
One of India’s greatest modern Yogis, reformers and Vedic scholars, Sri Aurobindo also stated in his Letters on Yoga about various visions in meditation:
Visions come from all planes and are of all kinds and different values. Some are of very great value and importance, others are a play of the mind or vital and are good only for their own special purpose, others are formations of the mind and vital plane some of which may have truth, while others are false and misleading, or they may be a sort of artistry of that plane.
India’s greatest modern Saint, Sri Ramana Maharishi once stated, when a devotee asked him about siddhis (mystic powers of Yoga) as a sign of realization, in true fashion, considering them of materialistic and thus lesser value and not signs of enlightenment:
A hypnotist can suddenly render himself invisible. Is he therefore a Sage?
These mudha-bhavas or delusional states of the mind can even extend to lower-astral experiences where one falsely beholds themselves as “being one with consciousness”, as the physical human plane is so dense in this current age, that anything, even indigestion or light-headedness in extremes can make one feel one is “one with consciousness”, which also includes examples as OBEs, which to the limited, untrained human complex, can be a feeling confused with “enlightenment”, as few reach the higher stages beyond this, except for very advanced Yogis (who are usually born from the astral and causal planes in human form for specific missions).
Some meditations are also correctional for the mind and simply instil a state of santosha or contentment and shanta or calmness in individuals, not simply due to the effects of meditation per se, but the direct effects of opposite cures (as a Kapha or heavy and lethargic mind does well with Vatic or wind-increasing formless meditations and fiery ones, or Vata–wind or hyperactive mind–does well with warming and watery or dense or emotional ones, such as on deities). These are biological not simply psychological in nature and should be noted as such. Spiritual effects are rare, very rare and always have been. More often, there are several purely mental states recognized in Yoga and Ayurvedic psychology, such as vibhramsas (delusions, hallucinations) and others that are apart from spiritual ones. We must recognize them, assess and know them when dealing with people as also ourselves when meditating.
We must take these points into account when dealing with “Meditation” in the modern world, which is, in traditional Yoga, a very high and advanced limb, attempted only after all other preliminary limbs have been perfected, not simply practiced or dismissed.