What is meditation? Meditation is an ancient practice that is known to improve the spiritual, mental, and physical well-being of a person.
Today it is also considered the highest form of relaxation. In fact tens of millions of people are known to practice this said activity worldwide.
Meditation is also known to have numerous health benefits. It is being used to treat mental issues and other problems related to the body.
What is Meditation? In this guide we dive into the world of meditation and demystify the sometimes shrouded information and illuminate it for the inquisitive mind. Now, Have you ever wondered how did it start?
The Vedas of the Hindu traditions have the earliest records of meditation. Nevertheless, Hinduism does not have monopoly over meditation as a practice, since early records have also been found linking meditative practices to Taoism in China and Buddhism in India.
For many centuries, meditation has served practitioners well. In fact, it has become an accepted approach in dealing with various psychological and physiological conditions that assail modern man. Today, meditation is generally recommended for people who need respite from suffering and stress.
The Purpose Of Meditation
In reference to its religious origins, meditation is originally intended as the means to an end, which is enlightenment or salvation. Through meditation, the end goal can be achieved because it is a practice that increases a person’s awareness of the moment as well as spiritual understanding. Meditation is essentially a spiritual practice; however, its benefits go beyond that of the spiritual. Patanjali, an Indian sage referred to meditation as “self-realization” or absolute awareness of oneself.
In the early days of meditation, the practice could only be bequeathed by a teacher or guru to his student or disciple. Nowadays, anyone can enter into the meditative state and there are no religious sanctions, since the different religions of the world support its practice for as long as their basic tenets are followed.
From The Ancients To Modern Times
Historians believe that meditation was already widely practiced even before recorded history, particularly among the first Indian civilizations that emerged at the banks of the Indus and the Ganges. The best guess is that meditation has been in existence for as long as 5,000 years.
Religions were formed and all of these belief systems incorporated meditative practice based on their tenets and philosophies. The major religions that are known to promote the practice of meditation are Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism. Since then meditation has evolved into the structured practice that it is today.
Development Of Meditation
The Buddhists were the first to formalize the practice of meditation in India about 2,500 years ago. Gautama Buddha, the founder of this world religion was the first to establish an organized approach to enlightenment that was founded on formal meditation. Buddhist scriptures clearly demonstrated the importance of meditative practice in the attainment of “Nirvana.” This form of meditation spread from India into Tibet, reaching China in the Second Century.
Historical records show that the very first translations of Buddhist writings into Chinese appeared in the 6th century. The Chinese played an important role in the increase in the variations of the forms of meditation, which are practiced today. Buddhism eventually became as important to the Chinese as Taoism and Confucianism. Buddhist principals and teachers were assimilated into Chinese culture and soon enough it crossed the sea to be taken in and embraced in Japan.
In turn, the Japanese were instrumental in developing the practice known today as Zen meditation. On the whole, meditation has many faces and it varies no matter where you are situated. One thing is for sure, Meditation can benefit the body and the mind. Now, Let us start this journey into the ancient practice that can promote not just physical but also spiritual and mental health as well.
The Development & Origins Of Meditation
Meditation is now a systemized practice that dates back centuries. In fact, this practice started as early as the ancient time. One of the pervasive arguments that continues to rage about the subject concerns questions of when, where, and how meditation originated.
We may never know for sure, but as we have just seen in the introduction, looking at historical evidence points the location (Where?) as the Indus Valley and the time (When?) at around 4,000 to 5,000 years ago.
“How”- is a question that the experts are still at a loss for an answer, though there is an agreement among experts that informal practice of meditation could date back more than five millennia. It is simply hard to trace back how the practice was actually developed.
Today, meditation is an important activity in all the major world religions. Buddhists spend hours in the lotus position, aspiring to achieve what The Buddha realized after 49 days in the meditative state. Meanwhile, Catholic monks meditate by spending hours on end contemplating and meditating on the Word of God. Meditation is dependent on the religion on where it is being practice.
Diverse Cultures And Civilizations
Early civilizations that thrived in China and Japan studied and developed meditation as well as the Indians. Historians often present the argument that meditation is an important element that helped define the spiritual practices of Eastern philosophies. This common element unites the need of humankind to understand himself, the Universe, and the interplay between the two, no matter what culture or religion he belongs to.
When a civilization starts seeking to improve spiritually and socially, then it is very likely that meditation is practiced not only by the religious leaders but by common folk as well.
Aboriginal cultures that existed in Australia at around the same time are believed to practice meditation. However, there is no definitive evidence on record that they did engage in meditative practices. In the meantime, Native Americans who lived centuries ago have passed on numerous cultural practices to their modern counterparts, one of which is meditation.
Some experts argue that the trance-likes states entered by members of indigenous tribes during certain rituals qualify as a form of meditation. In this case, it is reasonable to assume that their ancestors, who occupied the same land centuries ago, were practicing the same method to achieve self-awareness and focused introspection, which is part of the current definition of “meditation.”