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Mindfulness

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

The Insight Knowledge of Fear and Adverse Effects of Mindfulness Practices

  • Bhikkhu Anālayo
ORIGINAL PAPER

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Abbreviations

AN

Aṅguttara-nikāya

Dīrgha-āgama (T 1)

Dhp

Dhammapada

DN

Dīgha-nikāya

Ekottarika-āgama (T 125)

Madhyama-āgama (T 26)

MN

Majjhima-nikāya

P

Peking edition

Paṭis

Paṭisambhidāmagga

Saṃyukta-āgama (T 99)

2

Saṃyukta-āgama (T 100)

T

Taishō edition

Up

Abhidharmakośopāyikā-ṭīkā

Vism

Visuddhimagga.

Notes

Acknowledgments

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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