Q: Will meditation alone improve ones moral sensibility? Will one naturally move toward the good as one meditates?
If meditation alone would improve one’s moral sense or automatically move us toward the good, Patanjali would not have outlined the ten principles of yama and niyama for us:
- Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness
- Satya: truthfulness, honesty
- Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness
- Brahmacharya: sexual continence in thought, word and deed as well as control of all the senses
- Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness
- Shaucha: purity, cleanliness
- Santosha: contentment, peacefulness
- Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline
- Swadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study
- Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God
Although these are presented as prerequisites for meditation practice by Patanjali, it has always been considered that meditation can be practiced at the same time the aspirant is striving to embody these observances and non-observances.
However, if these are not developed early on to a goodly degree, the yogi will fail to attain any significant realization. This is why after more than a century of yoga meditation being practiced in the West very few have attained complete realization. Many started well, cooled off and fell away, and others simply started and fell into a worse condition than they had before starting. The reason for all these failures is the same: non-establishment in yama and niyama.
Worthwhile meditation, worthwhile meditator
Of course, many if not most of the practices of these people were worthless and even inherently harmful. Also, many of them simply did not have the capacity for perseverance, so they wandered into the byways of the world for another life. And some of them did not really want the goal of yoga, but some ego-centered result that could not be gained through authentic yoga practice.
Meditation is not Dumbo’s magic feather that he thought enabled him to fly. Nor is initiation or devotion to a guru. There must be right teaching, right method, right practice and a right person to learn and practice.
“Who cares to seek for that perfect freedom? One man, perhaps, in many thousands. Then tell me how many of those who seek freedom shall know the total truth of my being? Perhaps one only” (Bhagavad Gita 7:3).