, Volume 10, Issue 10, pp 2172–2185 | Cite as

The Insight Knowledge of Fear and Adverse Effects of Mindfulness Practices

  • Bhikkhu Anālayo


The insight knowledges, descriptive of meditative experiences in Theravāda vipassanā meditation, are the outcome of a historical development and are specific to this Buddhist tradition; the challenging experiences they describe are not representative of conceptions of the path to awakening in early Buddhism and are of no direct relevance to mindfulness-based interventions. Adverse effects of meditation are recognized in early Buddhism, where the response to a drastic case of mental imbalance leading to suicidal tendencies takes the form of recommending the cultivation of mindfulness. In fact, adverse effects can occur with a range of different meditation practices, which need not have any relationship to mindfulness. Although the practice of mindfulness is clearly not a panacea and in case of trauma and mental illness requires being combined with professional assistance, it has a potential to support and facilitate the facing of difficult emotions.


Adverse meditative experiences Anxiety Depression Fear Insight knowledges Joy Meditation accidents Mental health: progress of insight MBIs Religious suicide Vipassanā 




Dīrgha-āgama (T 1)





Ekottarika-āgama (T 125)

Madhyama-āgama (T 26)




Peking edition



Saṃyukta-āgama (T 99)


Saṃyukta-āgama (T 100)


Taishō edition







The author is indebted to Chris Burke and Jack Kornfield for comments on a draft version of this article.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies performed by the author with human participants or animals.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Barre Center for Buddhist StudiesBarreUSA

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