What Motivates People to Meditate

By George A. Boyd © 2013

Q: What motivates some people to meditate, when others are content to simply live their lives in their waking state of awareness?

A: There are a variety of motivating factors that lead people to seek an altered state of consciousness. These include:

  1. They seek to escape from misery and pain – The dissociative effects of meditation are well known. Those who engage in meditation with this motivation gravitate towards cultic groups that advocate remaining constantly in an altered state of awareness. Others with this motivation will attempt to deaden their pain and escape their misery through using drugs and alcohol, instead of utilizing meditation or hypnosis.
  2. They seek to gain magical powers, so others may regard them as special, respect them, or fear them – This group is often attracted to Kundalini Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Kriya Yoga traditions, which recount tales of their advanced initiates performing miracles or demonstrating magical powers. Similar miracle tales attract seekers with this drive to the Occult and Magical traditions, the Spiritualist and Psychic schools, the “I AM Movement” groups, and the Tibetan Buddhist lineage of Milarepa.
  3. They seek to become famous – These seekers want renown as a great sage or saint, to have a noble reputation, to have many followers who worship them and contribute great wealth to them, and to accrue honorary titles that attest to their greatness and majesty.
  4. They seek to be of service – They are inspired to use their spiritual knowledge and abilities to help others; they have altruistic and compassionate motives. These may seek out service oriented religious traditions and the Karma Yoga Path.
  5. They want to become pure and holy – These seek to develop saintly virtues, holiness, and purity so they may please God, and draw nigh to Him. These ones are attracted to Sant Mat, Meher Baba, and Bhakti Yoga traditions, where their love for God is primary and they surrender all to their Divine Beloved.
  6. They seek to be enlightened – These are looking for wisdom, discernment, and illumination. This group is drawn to the Jnana Yoga traditions, and the Buddhist Paths. Coaching, Process Meditation, and New Age groups, who train their followers to focus their attention on the wave of the present time on the Akashic Aether, and to move through that portal into union and identification with the Divine Atom within the Soul may also appeal to this group of seekers.
  7. They seek to transform, so they may ascend to spiritual Mastery and Liberation – These seekers focus on traditions that offer transformation of their spiritual essence, so they may make progress on the Path, and to gain Mastery and Liberation. Mantra Yoga and Guru Kripa traditions that promise spiritual transformation are a magnet for this type of seeker, as are Nada Yoga traditions of the Transcendental Sphere, and Mudrashram®.

We suggest that unfulfilled personal needs often contaminate motivations one to three, and these may generate ongoing hindrances for those who aim to complete their spiritual journey. The pure motivations of selfless service, love and devotion, the quest for wisdom, and spiritual transformation and progress activate the immortal principles within a human being, whereas egoic impulses often color the other three motivations.

We note that not all players in the spiritual arena are benign, or are based on altruistic motives, so the seeker must be vigilant. For example, there are groups that:

  • Exploit others and form cults, live off the donations of others, and entrap and enslave others—these can deceive seekers with motivations one to seven.
  • Act out motives of revenge and hatred, such as hate groups or terrorist groups, which can draw in those who are driven by motivations one to three.
  • Focus on sexual pleasure or use drugs to get high, which can also waylay those with motivations one and two.

It is important that you recognize what are your motivations for entering the spiritual Path. If your motivations are pure and uncontaminated with egoic agendas, you are setting up the best conditions for authentic and lasting spiritual progress.

We further encourage you to educate yourself about the potential pitfalls of different techniques that can alter your awareness and concomitantly generate perceptual and energetic anomalies, and about the cultic and terrorist groups that can entrap you. We discuss these issues in greater depth in our book, Religions, Cults, and Terrorism: What they Heck Are We Doing? [In 2023, we released the follow up volume to this book, The Path across the Sky. Those who enjoyed Religions, Cults, and Terrorism may wish to add this newer volume that brings new insights into this subject matter to their library.]