in Guru Ploys, Meditation

Escaping the psychological trap of meditation techniques

by Aditya Doshi, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

by Aditya Doshi, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

When the disciple is ready (read: suggestible) the guru gives techniques that have a specified goal and predicted end result.

Followers are told they will eventually acheive, by meditating in a specific way, experiences such as:

  • See a white star surrounded by blue light inside a golden halo (the spiritual eye); or,
  • Feel subtle energies in an astral body (such as chakras or awaken kundalini); or,
  • Hear astral sounds or hear the cosmic sound of Om; or,
  • Unite their consciousness with God or feel One with everything; or,
  • Attain cosmic consciousness, enlightenment, nirvana, or samadhi (the states the guru supposedly has attained).

The particular promised results do not matter.

“The mind can eventually construct any image it focuses upon”, say Kramer and Alstad in The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power.

The disciple is told that regular practice of the given meditation techniques will eventually bring higher states of consciousness and possibly even the highest states of cosmic or unity consciousness, samadhi, or enlightenment1. Though, attaining these states may take years or lifetimes2.

The given meditation techniques work on dismantling self-image and self-trust3, and repeated practices help to make the disciple highly susceptible to suggestions from the guru and the group.

by David Dávila Vilanova, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

by David Dávila Vilanova, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

The most vulnerable to manipulation

The people most vulnerable to manipulation are those who are extremely serious about seeking enlightenment or those who may be psychologically unstable.

By psychologically unstable we are referring to persons who may have a tendency or history for psychological disorders, the three most common are derealization, depression, or anxiety4.

The extremely serious and the psychologically unstable devotee are at greater risk from mental techniques that are aimed at disassembling or breaking down the ego personality or self-concept. These kinds of staunch practicers may be prone to believing that hallucinations or delusions are real, glimpses of subtle dimensions or astral energies.

Devotees that are extremely serious in practice of given techniques, who surrender themselves (read: self-image) completely to, and who literally obey the instructions of the guru and group are in the process of breaking down the ego personality or self-concept. Serious disciples are those who attempt to surrender completely, to give up their will (“Thy will be done”, Matthew 6:10) to the guru, to the power of the techniques. 

Psychological danger and vulnerability increases as the disciple gets “hell-bent” on emptying self of ego, in an attempt to instead get filled (read: channel) the Higher Self, guru or god. (I recall while I was a monk in the SRF order it was common to hear statements such as “when the ego steps out, god steps in” or “let go [of self] and let god [or guru]”).

The person who is neither extremely serious nor psychologically unstable often harbors reservations or doubts about the given techniques. The doubts prevent some persons from succumbing to psychological break down and submission of self that requires validation by the guru and group.

The premise or the bait of this psychological trap is that the disciple is somehow inherently broken, sinful, and blocked from receiving subtle astral energies, enlightenment, or whatever results may be promised to followers. Faithful practice of the given techniques plus obedience to the guru or master are the solution to the problems of the disciples.

False proofs given for mental techniques

The meditation techniques are often presented as “scientific” or are promised to work like mathematics. They [given techniques] can’t fail5 if practiced with complete devotion and surrender to the guru.

When the disciple has had the predicted experience, say Kramer and Alstad, the guru and the group validate her belief that the results from meditation are important6. Each experience is presented as a sign that the techniques are working and that the devotee is progressing in her given practice.

All this actually proves is that the experiences can be induced through mental techniques, and are therefore predictable7. The techniques involve mental meditations, visualizations, and emotionalizations. The experiences are not unlike the hypnotic, trance-states when a person is repeatedly made suggestible and manipulable. With an open, receptive mind the beliefs of the guru and the group are easily implanted in the disciple’s mind.

Disciples who won’t wholly commit to the given techniques or who harbor doubts seldom get the promised results, often stop their practice, and leave the group. This is why the guru and the group are designed to get and to keep disciples committed to a regular regimen of practice of the meditation techniques.

♊ M., Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

♊ M., Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Serious practitioners and the psychologically unstable

Whereas extremely serious disciples or those who may be unstable psychologically are fairly easy to influence and are the most likely to get trapped within the closed group or belief system. This is also when we may find the serious disciple has separated herself from family, friends, or anyone who doesn’t reinforce the beliefs of the guru or group.

The serious practitioner reinforces belief in the unquestionable power of the techniques. Dissociative experiences, depersonalization and derealization8, may make a person feel like they are experiencing the world as if through glass, and are often used by the devotee as proof that the techniques are working. The disciple credits the guru and group as the source of positive feelings and dissociative experiences.

Many devotees practice meditation techniques for hours everyday for years. They convince themselves against their better judgement and justify that they are getting the promised results9.

Repetition reinforces belief in progress with meditation techniques. Yet, the only persons who may accurately interpret whether the experiences are real or not are the guru and the group. There is actually no self-validating method for the disciple to know whether her experiences are real or not. For the devotee is not self-validating but using the guru and group to validate her experiences10.

How does a disciple know for certain her experiences are actual, in reality, and not a result of fiction in her brain?

Escaping the psychological trap

The way to escape the trap of the given meditation techniques is through repeated exposure to contradictory ideas and to people from outside the belief system. Also, by temporarily or permanently stopping practice of techniques a person may be able to experience actual reality, escaping the fiction and self-doubt that is instilled by relying on techniques used by the guru and group. Finally, devotees that feel guilt or anxiety when skipping technique practice may need to get professional psychological or medical help to escape the trap.

The above are important distinctions and methods I’ve used to escape the psychological trap of meditation techniques.

1 The explanation presented in this post about the experiences in meditation are not intended to be a complete or blanket explanation of all so-called mystical experiences. What is intended here is to discuss what is likely going on psychologically, in the practitioner’s mind, that creates any seeming “results”, which are implanted into the devotee’s mind by repeated suggestions from the guru and the group. And, the controls and manipulations that result from the emphasis on mental methods that claim to bring enlightenment.

2 The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power, Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad, Frog Books: Berkeley, CA, 1993, p 63

3 In my blog post, Guru-Manipulation & Self-Mistrust, I discuss how the guru and group undermines the disciples’ trust in their own experience and own thinking.

4 See my post, Connection Between Intensive Meditation and Mental Instability, for further discussion and real-life example of madness and tragic death from over zealous practice of meditation.

5 Paramahansa Yogananda is here quoted by a foremost-disciple, Brother Anandamoy: “And then one day [Master/Yogananda] said to me, ‘Always remember, Kriya Yoga [meditation technique], it works like mathematics. It cannot fail.’ And I thought, boy, when do you give it to me? And this is, it’s true, it’s a science, it works like mathematics, it cannot fail. And those of you who are working on it and you seem sometimes not to get much out of it, keep on! keep on! Remember this, it works like mathematics. It’s a gradual process. It’s a gradual building up of that magnet. And then some day you will see, all of a sudden you have so-called like a break through and you realize all of a sudden that magnet is strong, and that current is strong. [emphasis added]–Bro. Anandamoy, lecture, SRF audio recording, Kriya Yoga: Portal to the Infinite

6 The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power. Frog Books: Berkeley, CA, 1993, p 64

7 ibid

8 For a description of dissociative experiences and their psychological dangers read my posts Depersonalization and Derealization and Psychotherapy and Meditation.

9 For examples of long-time devotees who continue to practice and who rationalize the questionable results of meditation techniques, read my post Decades of Meditation Practice, Wasted?

10 Bill Joslin in his video interview “Meditation: Deconstructing Nonsense“, Gnostic Media #202, at the 1:48:00 minutes mark into this video, gives a clear description of how the guru and group are the only persons who can verify the devotees’ experiences and realities.

Leave a Reply


  1. Good post.
    One thought:
    Both “psychological unstable” and “super serious” needs an operational definition to be meaningful. Heck, “super serious” is almost a form of the colloquial “psychologically unstable”. I mean, whoever joins a group like you did, definitely has issues from the beginning, don’t you think?

  2. Where do these people fit into this scheme of broken/super serious or psychologically unstable?

    The following are heads of state who have learned TM over teh years and many/most still practice it:

    Narendra Modi, current Prime Minister of India;
    Shinzō Abe, current Prime Minister of Japan;
    Yukio Hatoyama, former Prime Minister of Japan;
    Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique;
    Juan Manuel Santos, current President of Colombia;
    Dilma Rouseff, current President of Brazil.

    Does the fact that several of these people are involved in government-level negotiations to have TM taught in schools and/or hospitals and/or prisons throughout the countries that they run mean that they are broken individuals?

  3. Good point, saijanai. I think the article could be written better because I think Scott is talking about those who join guru-led ashrams for years, leaving behind everything they own — including family. Or something like that. Not just people who practice some form of meditation.

  4. Really good post. Even though I never joined the ashram, what Scott is describing is exactly what I had embraced and experienced. I was a lay member of the same religious organization (SRF). Perhaps SRF is unusual in that devotees can, if they want to, approximate the life of an SRF monastic with all the same disciplines and mental obedience as a monk. The only difference, and it’s a big one, is that there is no one around to police or discipline him. The fact that this self imposed prison of behavior can exist on its own is a very interest phenomenon. As Scott points out in this post, meditation techniques can create a fertile mental environment for hypnotic suggestion. All one has to do is meditate and then read the spiritual teachings and the mind will absorb the written word as truth. If the mind tries to reject what is written, the devotee will consider it a flaw within himself and do whatever he can to be in line with the written word. From what I know, this is what hypnosis does. When the subconscious mind is altered, the conscious mind will automatically try to correct the conflict by realigning itself with the new subconscious material. Also, when one believes a religious teaching is vital to one’s well being, the conscious mind will make adjustments, no matter how irrational the teachings may be. It would seem that the mind cannot withstand long periods of cognitive dissonance without having to either entertain doubt or numb itself (through meditation/drugs) to come back to a place of relative harmony.

  5. Thanks Sabio: I updated the post to better define what I meant by psychologically unstable and super serious.

    1) I changed super serious to extremely serious and added a paragraph or two to define what I meant.
    2) I elaborated on what I meant by psychologically unstable.

    Below is a copy of the new, updated section to try to better define the terms used. Let me know if you think it makes it any clearer or if still not more work.

    The most vulnerable to manipulation

    The people most vulnerable to manipulation are those who are extremely serious about seeking enlightenment or those who may be psychologically unstable.

    By psychologically unstable we are referring to persons who may have a tendency or history for psychological disorders, the three most common are derealization, depression, or anxiety[4].

    The extremely serious and the psychologically unstable devotee are at greater risk from mental techniques that are aimed at disassembling or breaking down the ego personality or self-concept. These kinds of staunch practicers may be prone to believing that hallucinations or delusions are real, glimpses of subtle dimensions or astral energies.

    Devotees that are extremely serious in practice of given techniques, who surrender themselves (read: self-image) completely to, and who literally obey the instructions of the guru and group are in the process of breaking down the ego personality or self-concept. Serious disciples are those who attempt to surrender completely, to give up of their will (“Thy will be done”, Matthew 6:10) to the guru, to the power of the techniques.

    Psychological danger and vulnerability increases as the disciple gets “hell-bent” on emptying self of ego in an attempt to instead get filled (read: channel) the Higher Self, guru or god. (I recall while I was a monk in the SRF order it was common to hear statements such as “when the ego steps out, god steps in” or “let go [of self] and let god [or guru]”).

    The person who is neither extremely serious nor psychologically unstable often harbors reservations or doubts that allow them to avoid succumbing fully to psychological break down from succumbing to the guru and group.

    The premise that seekers must accept is that she is broken, needs to be fixed, has blocked energies, wants enlightenment, or some other lack. The promised results do not matter. The manipulation of the guru and group that creates the need, the desire, the lack, is important. Otherwise, why meditate in a specific way?

  6. @saijanai: First, thank you for commenting.

    First, your question is similar to Sabio’s. See my response to Sabio that attempts to define the terms extremely serious and psychologically unstable.

    Second, as to your question “where do [the] people fit [the heads of state who you cited in your list]?
    My reply–

    1) If institutions or states are reflections of their leaders and societies then I ask which states or governments are you referring to that may be “enlightened” or special because of said TM technique practice?

    2) Are not governments and their heads of state some of the most corrupt systems on the planet. The heads of state you cited and their countries do not have any special ‘enlightened’ attributes. I don’t see what you may be trying to prove or argue. Just because Prime Minister Mubarak practices prayers to Mecca five times a day or that Shinzo may be a TM technique junkie doesn’t seem to prove anything of itself. Does it? If so, what?

    3) Schools, especially hospitals and prisons are precisely the locations you’d expect to find “broken” individuals, filled with person seeking (or needing) fixing.

    There’s lots of people practicing other techniques (meditation) in other places of power and institutions.

  7. @saijanai: Some extremely serious disciples join ashrams. Like I did. However, extremely serious devotees may live and practice techniques anywhere. Like uwsboi14 describes of his personal journey, that is not isolated to SRF either.

    Geography, location, or living in an ashram is the vital, determining factor of the types of disciples I describe in my post. It is the psychology and the degree or severity of the surrender and obedience to the technique practice [guru and group], that I identified as the critical factor of being trapped.

    You seem to be agreeing with my point in my post that there are disciples “in the middle” or “between” the extremely serious and the psychologically unstable that seem to not be impacted as severely by mental manipulations of practice of techniques of meditation.


  8. @uwsboi14: Thanks for sharing your personal experiences of feeling trapped in techniques of SRF.

    While there’re many similarities between lay members and monks of SRF, for example. I think the nature of the commitment, confinement, and containment within an ashram or monastery does change the psychological game. Monks have got to get more screwed up psychologically than lay members. The degree of psychological manipulation (voluntary and involuntary) is much more severe when one has committed 24/7/365 for a lifetime of renunciation and living to the ideal of the guru and group.

    I don’t know though how you lived exactly. What are your thoughts? Or, do you want to elaborate on your lifestyle as lay member that would make it comparable in severity to living as SRF monastic in an ashram 24/7/365?


  9. I use to work in a drug-rehab half-way house in India. It was a Christian-hippie run institute (Jesus Freaks, in ways). There I saw addicts convert to Christianity, but also saw them carry in their manipulative behavior into their theology.

    Let’s say that all deceptive guru-worshipping Hindu-centered groups suddenly just disappeared. My guess, many of those disciples would find some other arena to express their psychological unhealthy tendencies. Someone else would hook them — religious or secular. These groups are just opportunists, and there are lots of other opportunists waiting to use these people.

    It seems there are some consumers (meditators) that are used by the groups, and others use the group.

  10. @Scott, I agree that being in an ashram has to be more intense and hikes the whole experience up several levels. It would makes sense, as you say, that it is also more psychologically harmful to be in a physically closed environment like an ashram all the time, with no real respite or way to escape. I guess I posted my comment because I could identify with what you wrote so closely, it felt like something I could have written. The monastic in SRF was held up to be the ideal for all, so there were long stretches of time in my life where I attempted to live like a monastic in the world – very little socializing, meditations 4 times a day, went to the weekly long meditations at the Center, all the special services, the Xmas 8 hour dive, serving as much as I could at the Center, reading the teachings regularly. Ugh, what a huge burden it was. How I dreaded meditation. The good part was when I was done with meditating and felt like I had accomplished something good (and wasn’t going to be lost for incarnations), plus feeling the “upliftment” and “aboveness”. I rarely felt peace, though, forget about love and bliss. Only in the first 4 years do I remember having experiences of peace and bliss, but I’m not sure that’s what it was. After that, meditation became less and less enjoyable and more of an exercise in will power and determination, self-control, self-denial. As you said once on this blog, a good poop would have been more pleasurable, lol

  11. @Sabio,
    I agree. We humans are susceptible to being conned, scammed, or manipulated. Some of us seem to be more gullible than others.

    I happened to focus on techniques of meditation, though the psychological methods of operation appear to be similar in other religions or morally motivated ideologies.

    In your last sentence you say that some meditators “use the group”. What do you mean? Are you implying some consumers (meditators) may manipulate the group in similar magnitude as the group manipulates its disciples?

  12. Skeptic Scott,
    Some folks are healthy enough. They just use enough meditation to serve them: either as a status thing, or to give themselves an illusion of meaning or to find friends or such thing, while not buying into all the other hype and manipulation. Casual Meditators, sort of like casual Christians.
    Does that make it clear?
    They use the group instead of letting the group use them.

  13. @uwsboi14,
    Your description of your voluntary sadana (spiritual routine and discipline) sounded rigorous, even monk-like for a lay member. There are many devotees who live like that or try to.

    Extreme asceticism, celibacy, and mental disciplines seem to seldom be sustainable without eventually making the practitioner go mad or get psychotic. The lukewarm meditators are the ones who think the teachings are OK, because they don’t really apply the actual ideas nor the techniques in a literal or intensely serious way.

    Haha. A good poop…

  14. I hope you guys don’t mind me playing “devil’s advocate”. What if one doesn’t have to be psychologically unstable to take meditation so seriously and/or be a guru’s disciple? I’m going to go out on a limb and expose myself a bit to make my point.

    The rigorous spiritual discipline which I voluntarily chose to engage in, along with a big dose of fear, was very much like the environment which I grew up in as a child. My parents were not religious, but they could be very strict and abusive in their methods of discipline. There were also many instances of abandonment which made me afraid to make mistakes or else I would lose my parents’ love. With that as my background, the fear tactics and hyper discipline in SRF felt very familiar to me, but without knowing why. It was not difficult for me to adopt the SRF way, rather it was just like putting on a perfectly fitting glove. The familiarity made it feel good, even though it was just a continuation of something harmful. I should remember that the false public face of these types of religious organizations is always love and compassion, so I couldn’t see the monster hiding behind the curtain.

    I’m trying to put a human face on what we’re calling psychologically unstable. I’m trying to take the stigma out of it and avoid the next word which comes to mind, “crazy”. So often it is really good, kind people that get sucked into these types of situations. They’re good people who genuinely care about the world and care about others. These are the types of people that these monstrous institutions love to exploit. Sometimes it’s good to remember who is the perpetrator. It’s a very unpopular thing to say these days, but victims exist and I know was one myself.

  15. I agree, uwsboi14 and have fought a similar mislabeling on atheist sites.
    I was uncomfortable with Scott’s using the term “mentally unstable” in the first place. It is not technical and equivalent to lay people use of the word “crazy”.

    Many blogging atheists think that if you are religious, you have to be a bit crazy.
    That is why on my blog I offer tons of examples of weird examples I had but no one would even think me crazy, especially when you see me taking care of my patients.

    That said, there must be some commonalities that those who are susceptible to the manipulations of such groups have — some mental similarities. But I’d want better classifications than “unstable” or “extremely serious”. The categories are too simple and not really helpful. Instead, perhaps it is important to list exactly the traits that make one potentially vulnerable — risk factors.

  16. @Sabio, there are commonalities. I can only speak about the members of the group I belonged to. Most of the members are afraid of their own shadows and cannot handle their emotions without suppressing them. I had that problem before I joined. The organization helped me run further away from myself and “burn the bridge of feeling”, something which the guru promised would happen. (horrible idea!!!)

  17. what you described can be liken to the muslim prayers of 5 times a day…before my deconversion from religion entirely i was a strong advocate of what is seems as extreme benefit of praying 5times a day…the guilt that rushed within me if i ever forgot or tried not to complete my five daily prayer was always alarming, it was always felt as if i had killed someone or did something so bad that warrant serious punishment but now i know better that it was all the workings of my mind… the mind is the architect of what we eventually become..
    in my own case repetitions over a long number of years reinforced my belief in the praying concept of 5times daily….now i smile when i see extremely serious folks start a fight or disown their very good friends and families for dissenting views as per their belief system…..

    great article,it was worth reading through

  18. @ uwsboi14: indeed, horrible. I was probably one of those people who used his groups, rather than be used by him.

    @ beejay: fascinating — thanks for sharing.

  19. @beejay: Thanks for your comments and sharing your experiences from Muslim “techniques” perspective. Looking forward to reading more about you and hearing your perspectives on our discussions!

    @uwsboi14 & Sabio:
    I plan to develop my explanations and hypothesis of “extremely serious” and “psychologically unstable”. (I have to start developing these distinctions somewhere. And your questions and comments are helping me to develop these ideas and put them in clearer words).

    @uwsboi14: I may not have been clear so far, but I think its important that you understand I am NOT stating that the “extremely serious” type person is the same as psychologically unstable. They are two distinct types of persons. I plan to explain further in another post but quickly:

      1) My “extremely serious” disciple distinction is roughly synonymous with: a devotee or follower who is intensely pious, or severely disciplined, fanatical in commitment, “hell bent” on attaining enlightenment, desperate and intent on ending one’s real or imaginary anguish/suffering through practice of given technique.

      a) I considered myself in this category, intensely pious. Even before my 14 years commitment as a monastic renunciant, I was intensely pious, severely disciplined, and extreme in my ideological commitments to my hobbies and music (had nothing to do directly with religions per se). When I got into SRF and meditation, monasticism especially fit my personality at the time. I felt like it was my calling to be a monk and fit the lifestyle well. From childhood, age 10ish, I had existential thoughts and felt there had to be more to life than what I saw or experienced. So meditation was the secret answer, gateway to knowledge and realization into the “more than meets the eye”.

      b) I venture that uswboi14 is also in intensely pious type category. It’s a personality type and an attitude. It’s an all or nothing, do or die approach to practicing the given techniques. Perhaps coupled with a degree of desperation to end one’s own existential anguish or suffering.

      2) Psychologically unstable, as I mentioned in my revised post (hope you read that revised section), includes further clarification. The “unstable” are disciples who may be clinically, psychologically diagnosable for depression, anxiety, or depersonalization. These disciples may have had history of prior diagnoses or an undiagnosed history. The unstable distinction may be more challenging to specify without a clinical psychologist. The “unstable” disciple tends to exhibit internally or externally the above clinical, psychological behaviors, whether or not diagnosed. These disciples are most at high risk from techniques of further destablization from the (adverse) effects of meditation. Mental methods could push them over the psychotic edge quickly. Anecdotally, I’ve seen several monks I knew “lose their minds” literally and figuratively.

    uwsboi14, Would you please let me know if what I describe seem to help define the two better? Psychological unstable versus intensely pious/serious disciple.

    @sabio: Feel free to offer constructive feedback on any of the distinctions I’m trying to make above? I’m using meditation techniques specifically and the psychology of the disciples who practice them, that may have commonalities with other extremist or intensely pious religious ideologies.


  20. @Scott, your clarification is excellent, thanks. I can see now how you’ve separated the two types, why they are different, and how it is possible for the two to be unrelated to one another.

    I think you’re right that I fall into the “intensely pious type category”. Disclaimer: I don’t think I’m a spiritually advanced person. I just make sure I wipe my bum thoroughly when I’m finished.

    How awful that there are monks that have literally lost their minds trying to find enlightenment. Very sobering.

  21. @uwsboi14: I appreciate your feedback. We have much in common then, eh? Too intense and serious, sometimes. But the ass-wipe and poop humor is a clear indicator that you are a highly advanced of the subtle brown dimension.

  22. Hi Scott,

    This is fascinating. Really well written. So without doing a full on open kimona on myself here, let me say that I relate in a very real way. And in more ways than one.

    I think that people who are suffering with anxiety and clinical depression problems are prime not just for a meditation discipline but also the strictures and structure of a religious environment. I’m sure that this could provide a feeling “safety”.

    Unfortunately, because of the nature of these environments, I suspect that most people would not get treated by a medical professional. My guess is that if a person is having these types of problems he/she might react
    with a feeling of inadequacy in applying the techniques and practices of the organization. So maybe “if I just meditated longer” or “if I just prayed harder” everything would be ok. Not realizing that there was a real medical need that is the actual problem. I’m wondering as well if the organization would not be motivated to have people “fixed”. The person might take a pill, then wake up thinking “what the heck am I doing here?” “I feel great and I don’t need this place!” Just some thoughts.

  23. Hi Brent: I would like to see behind the “kimono”, no need to reveal fully but some personal history or background may help me understand where you are coming from.

    In my own case, I clearly see the psychological traps of meditation–need for certainty, security, and community that the meditation group and guru’s teachings offered. Answers to every question.

    The premises behind following are that there is something wrong, broken, or wicked within us that needs to be fixed. Guess what? the guru and meditation offers the fix–if not in this life, then the next maybe.

    Serious meditators and disciples that I know are just much if not more psychotic than other people I’ve known. There’s often a pretense of bliss and peace. Disciples have to pretend they are pure and perfect while inside they wonder why they are so messed up (especially when compared to the perfect gurus and masters that push the meditation). Shame, guilt, and fear often keep devotees from seeking medical or psychological help. Sometimes they do get help. I know I sought help. Most of the monks I know who did left the ashram within 1-2 years after getting help. Some stayed inside the ashram–the senior most monks who perhaps could not see how they could make their way outside of the ashram/church. The, for example, is a support group for current and former clergy who lost faith (atheists or non-believers in their selected religion).