533 Human Combustions were reported by Western media from the 1960s to 2002, as counted by Michael Biggs. These were, of course, self-immolations in protest, of which there is a long and rich history, but that wouldn’t have been a very click worthy title. (h/t Zanzibar McFate)
Today, Melinda Wenner Moyer at Scientific American wrote an article entitled “Is Meditation Overrated?,” based on a strange series of studies conducted by Professor Madhav Goyal at John Hopkins. In 47 published series, he would randomly assign ill patients to meditation or therapy. It is pointed out that only 3% of these studies actually meet the proper criteria. It is concluded that it does seem to have the same effect on anxiety, depression and pain, not unlike a mild antidepressant drug therapy.
The Professor then concludes the article sputtering about lack of data. (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/is-meditation-overrated/)
I picture someone laying on their back, peddling their feet in the air and complaining that they are not getting anywhere. You can go through the motions, but it is a tool or method for mental training. It helps you learn that there is something much greater than ‘me.’ I can see that, if someone had no interest in pursuing this path, having it randomly assigned, it might have little effect on their depression.
Studying meditation, itself, for the advertised benefits is like studying a drill to figure out how to build a house.
Picture credit: http://www.adambetweentheworlds.com/fire-in-belly-meditation/
The History of Self-Immolation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-immolation