Author: Olivia Goldhill
According to Buddhist teaching, the self is an illusion. The religion preaches a fundamentally selfless worldview, encouraging followers to renounce individual desires and distance themselves from self-concern. To advance this perspective, millions of people around the world practice yoga and meditation.
But a recently published psychological study directly contradicts that approach, finding that contemporary meditation and yoga practices can actually inflate your ego.
In the paper, published online by University of Southampton and due to be published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers note that Buddhism’s teachings that a meditation practice helps overcome the ego conflicts with US psychologist William James’s argument that practicing any skill breeds a sense of self-enhancement (the psychological term for inflated self-regard.)
There was already a fair bit of evidence supporting William James’s theory, broadly speaking, but a team of researchers from University Mannheim in Germany decided to test it specifically in the context of yoga and meditation.
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