Thesis: Meditation peddlers often use manipulation techniques to gain follower disciples
Meditation itself is not manipulative, but many guru-teachers are. For example, it is not the act of watching the breath that many Hindu-Buddhist-styled meditators do that is manipulative. It’s what the Guru-Teacher of meditation may promise and claim that is often manipulative.
Trusting saviors or holders of special wisdom as a way to enlightenment, to save humanity or oneself is actually a form of self-doubt that gets peddled as a path to self-realization or salvation.
Here are three key points about the manipulation of meditation peddlers:
1) Vague, unchallengeable, non-falsifiable meditation claims
By making vague and unchallengeable claims, gurus and yoga meditation peddlers avoid both scrutiny and the possibility of falsification.
2) Claims of special revelations: again, unchallangeable
Claims of special access to “truth”, to revelations or special dispensations from supernatural sources that are supposedly beyond material dimensions are inscrutable.
3) Instilling self-doubt and guilt in followers
Instilling self-mistrust is the easiest way of controlling people. Meditation gurus or religious authoritarians indoctrinate their disciple followers in self-doubt. “Once people do not trust themselves, they are subject to easy manipulation” say Kramer and Alstad in The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power2.
Concluding thoughts and concerns:
It seems to me to be a mistake, a misconstruction, to take meditation peddlers, religious authorities and texts at face value3.
There may or may not be nirvana (attainment of release from suffering existence and from the cycle of rebirths (samsara)). There may or may not be samadhi (attainment of meditative concentration as total absorption in absolute truth). There may be chakras, kundalini, or yogic subtle energies. I don’t know. I doubt anyone will ever know.
So why do so many people take meditation peddlers, religious authorities and texts at face value?
1 White, David Gordon, Yoga, Brief History of an Idea, Princeton University Press
2 Kramer, J. and Alstad, D., The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power, Frog Books, 1993
3 Lincoln, Bruce. Interview. Religious Studies Project podcast. 2015