Yogic Psychology and the Effects of Meditation

Yogic Psychology and the Effects of Meditation

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.

Durgadas (Rodney) Lingham is a Yoga and Ayurveda Teacher, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Veda Kovid and author of seventeen books on Ayurveda, Yoga and other Vedic sciences and director of the Academy of Traditional Ayurveda and Arogya Ayurvedic Health Ltd in New Zealand. He comes from a traditional Vedic lineage deriving from Northern India and is a student of Acharya David Frawley in Vedic sciences.


  1. Namaste Joe!

    Actually Patanjali’s system is a smalller system than the traditional Hindu Yoga system in which there are ten yamas and ten niyamas.

    Mastering yamas and niyamas themselves in full takes several years and actually even lifetimes for some. Each have their own sub-limbs also. I have a book on them coming out later this year. As an example, traditionally, mastering swadhyaya for example studying the Vedas, Ithihasas, Puranas, Vedas, Upanishads, Stotras, Bhajans and their commentaries etc. as also how they relate to the deity. For Vaishnavas, Shaivas and Shaktas, each have their own set of Puranas as also Samhitas, Agamas and Tantras that should also be studied and rituals known, and studying the Deity within one’s Self – also the Shad darshanas, such as Vedanta, Samkhya and the Upavedas etc. etc.). The the West today, hardly anyone reads or knows much of the Vedas, save for a few Upanishads, which are auxiliary to them. Ishvarapranidhana, the highest of Patanjali’s niyamas before Asana means one has to master also the poojas, homas, yajnas etc. of various devatas, work with one’s own planetary afflictions and others on a daily basis as a part of sadhana and also know these various homas and poojas respective etc. That is what traditional Yogis learnt and why it took them, several years, before even Asana.

    Specifics of meditations goes beyond even Ayurvedic doshic models also, where subtleties are considered. The deeper Hindu Yoga approach was based on karma also as per birth charts etc. and even specific forms of deities and different mantras and pranayamas given for each individual. As an example, even Ganesha and goddess Kali have several forms within themselves, each with specific dhyanas or meditations and specific mantras for each form and effects relative to the doshas, vikara etc. of the person in the deeper Vedic-Tantric Yoga traditions or broader Hindu Yoga system. Yet today, only the generic forms and mantras are given rather than a tailored approach which requires an in-depth knowledge of these forms, as in the Vedic and Tantric traditions and their background energetics.

    I could not address all of these in the above article, but outlined them. So hopefully this gives more perspective here.

    Note my article on “Understanding Ayurvedic Examination Beyond the Dosha Quiz” on this site also.

    Sadly even that coming west by most Hindu Gurus and Swamis doesn’t reflect this deeper tradition but more the pasteurised system.

    Patanjali was also one of the latest teachers of Yoga which started with Hiranyagarbha and included many as Agastya, Vasishtha, Vishwamitra, Dattatreya, Parashurama, Yajnavalkya, Krishna and others thousands of years before him.

    Shankaracharya also restored the older Hindu system of Panchadashanga of fifteen limbs of Yoga as reflected in the Vedas and Vedic Yoga, which is also seldom taught.

    My book “Agni Rahasya: Secrets of the Celestial Fire in Yoga and Ayurveda” (available through Amazon) discusses some of these points in more detail also.

    Namah Shivaya!

  2. A wonderfully written article, thank you a lot for that. A minor thing I would like to say, in this modern approach we consider a meditation per person, according to Ayurveda maybe. In Yoga, there are those meditations, and all are learning the same method, no a tailored-to-fit kind of meditation, maybe it will be better if it were so, however, I guess linages of Yogis prove different. Yoga cannot be taught to masses (although it does today), it is somehow very appealing to some people, and to some not (and I mean Yoga which start with Yama and Niyama and the rest of Ashtanga of Patnajali, not the gym exercises of today), this way Yoga is preserved for the true aspirants of it.


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