You are on page 1of 5

Meditation is an ancient practice that is believed to originate in India several thousand

years BCE. Throughout early history, the practice was adopted by neighboring countries
quickly and formed a part of many religions throughout the world.
The terminology used today to meditate was not introduced until the 12th century AD,
coming from the Latin word meditatum.

Ancient History
The earliest documented records that mentioned meditation involved Vedantism, a Hindu
tradition in India, around 1500 BCE. However, historians believe that meditation was
practiced before this time, as early as 3000 BCE.
Between 600-500 BCE, the development of other meditation forms was recorded in
Taoist China and Buddhist India, although the exact origins of these practices,
particularly Buddhist meditation, continues to be debated among historians. The formula
to salvation of morality, contemplative concentration, knowledge and liberation were
believed to involve meditation as a central component.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, outlining the eight limbs of yoga, was compiled between
400-100 BCE. In the same period, the Bhagavad Gita was written, which discusses the
philosophy of yoga, meditation and the practice of living a spiritual life.
The practice of meditation also spread to other cultures in the West, via the Silk Road, to
influence religions such as Judaism. Later, in the 3rd century AD, Plotinus developed
meditative techniques, which were not easily integrated into the Christian faith.

Early History
A Japanese monk, Dosho, discovered Zen on a visit to China in 653 and introduced the
practice of meditation to Japan upon return to the country, opening the first hall for
meditation. The practice grew significantly in Japan from 8th century AD onward,
bringing the practice of meditation with it.
The term meditate originates from the Latin word meditatum, which means, to
ponder. Monk Guigo II introduced this terminology for the first time in the 12th century

Middle Ages and Modern History

Throughout the middle ages, the practice of meditation grew and developed into many
religious traditions as a form of prayer, such as Jewish meditation.
In the 18th century, the ancient teachings of meditation began to become more popular
among the population of Western cultures.
In 1927, the book Tibetan Book of the Dead was published, which attracted significant
attention from Westerners and excited interest about the practice. This was followed by
the Vipassana movement, or insight meditation, which began in Burma in the 1950s.

The Dharma Bums was published in 1958, attracting more attention to meditation at
this time.
In 1979, the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program was founded in the
United States, which used meditative techniques in the treatment plans for patients with
chronic diseases.
Since this time, meditation has become increasingly more common, such that a survey
in 2007 found that almost 1 in 10 Americans has meditated. It plays a central role in
many religious traditions and rituals, in addition to helping individuals to manage stress
and improve overall well-being.
Chow, S. (2015) Meditation history. Available at:
(Accessed: 17 May 2016).

Throughout history, meditation has played a large role in many spiritual and religious
practices. Some of these techniques and beliefs are discussed in this article.

Many mediation techniques commonly practiced today originate from ancient Buddhist
meditation texts, which continue to be used by followers of the religion today.
Meditation is important on the pathway to enlightenment and nirvana in the Buddhist
faith, which are believe to help reach a state of serenity and insight. Several techniques
including breath meditation and recollections are widely taught in Buddhist schools, but
there are also distinct methods that differ between different regions. As a result,
Buddhist meditation is a variable practice with many different paths that may lead to
enlightenment and nirvana.
In recent times, many non-Buddhist individuals have adopted their meditative
techniques for various reasons, including increasing awareness of self, and the practice is
becoming more popular.

Taoist meditation was greatly influenced by Buddhist practices and involves various
techniques of concentration, insight and visualization. Followers of the practices may
visualize the solar and lunar essences within their body to give health and long life.
Inward training involves breath control meditation and the enlargement and relaxing of
the mind to achieve qi cultivation. Sitting forgetting meditation involves the mental
removal of the limbs and an existence with Transformation Thoroughfare.

There are various styles used in Hindu meditation taught in different schools. Yoga is
commonly practiced initially to prepare and oneself for meditation and self-realization. .
One yoga practice states there are eight limbs of aloneness: discipline, rules, postures,

breath control, senses withdrawal, one-pointedness of mind, meditation and realization

of self (Samadhi).
Moksha is the desired state of Hinduism, which can be thought of as similar to nirvana of
Buddhism, being calm and concentrated with the self within

Islamic meditation, or Sufism, focuses on thinking that leads to knowledge and utilized
methods of breathing control and the repetition of holy words or mantras. There are
several similarities with Buddhist meditation, such as the concentration technique and
focused introspection.
Meditation is believed to improve healing ability and enhance creativity, in addition to
awakening the heart and mind and allowing inner growth and submission to God.

Bahai Faith
Meditation and prayer both play a central role in the Bahai faith to reflect upon the
message from God. It is encouraged for followers of the faith to meditate with a
prayerful demeanor to turn towards God and focus on the divine power.
Meditation is commonly used to reflect on the Word of God and deepen the
understanding of his teachings. This is believed to maintain spiritual communion with
God, increasing the transformative power that receptive prayer can facilitate.
However, the place of meditation in the religion is flexible as the founder of the religion,
Bahaullah, left the type and purpose of the practice up to the interpretation of the

Meditation is central to the spiritual practice of Jainism and is thought to help attain
enlightenment and the 24 Tirthankaras are all exist in meditative postures.
Jain meditation is thought to be the pathway to salvation and attainment of the three
jewels: faith, knowledge and conduct. With these jewels, a state of complete freedom is

Meditation has a long history in Judaism, including from references from early religious
texts, the Tanach. The purpose of the practice is thought to be to understand the Divine.
Various methods may be used, including mental visualization and hisbonenus to reflect
on oneself and obtain greater understanding.

Meditation, known as simran, is needed to achieve spiritual goals alongside good deeds
in Sikhism. The practice is used to feel Gods presence and become one with the divine
There are believed to be ten gateways to the body, nine of which are physical holes (e.g.
nostrils, eyes, ears, mouth, urethra, anus) and the tenth is the Dasam Duaay, an
invisible hole for spiritual uses that is needed for enlightenment.

Meditation can be used as a form of prayer in the Christian faith, to connect with and
reflect upon the word of God. It commonly consists of focusing on a series of thoughts,
such as a passage from the Bible, and reflecting on its meaning.
It differs from other forms of meditation that originated in the East, as it does not utilize
mantras that are repeated to help in the process of enlightenment. Instead, it is believed
to deepen the personal relationship with God. Christian leaders have warned against the
integration of Christian meditation with Eastern meditative techniques.
Chow, S. (2015b) Meditation spirituality and religion. Available at: (Accessed: 17 May 2016).

Meditation has existed for many thousands of years. It is the practice of turning ones
attention to a sole point of reference by eliminating the distracting and stressful thoughts
abundant in the external environment.
The reasoning underlying meditation is that happiness is a state of mind and a product
of internal thought, one should be able to discard the external environment as irrelevant
and still obtain real happiness.
Meditation is known for its emotional benefits - of these, the key one is teaching a
person how to understand their own mind. This allows one to transform their mental
state at will from disturbed or negative to peaceful, positive and constructive.
This brings a person closer to a life of true happiness even if their external living
conditions are not ideal. After training in meditation, the mind will gradually become
more and more peaceful, and it is possible to experience a purer form of happiness.
Eventually, one will gain the ability to remain happy at any time, even in the most
difficult circumstances.
There is also growing research to support the positive effect of meditation on those
suffering from a medical condition this is particularly true if stress has been shown to
worsen the condition. These conditions include anxiety, depression stress and addictive
Unfortunately, not all those suffering from medical conditions benefit from meditation as
they may have trouble sitting quietly, comfortably and breathing deeply for prolonged
periods of time. Such people include those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or

In order to mediate the following four elements prove necessary to know:

A quiet setting
This is particularly vital if one is new to meditation with practice, a person becomes
more skilled and will be able to meditate in noisy, crowded places or stressful situations.

A comfortable or poised posture

This need not be in a sitting up position but can be lying down, standing up, walking as
long as the person is comfortable. With this said, meditation postures across numerous
traditions all maintain a straight spine as important.
Many postures (Half-Lotus, Lotus, Burmese and Egyptian) exist but the classically
practiced one is the Lotus posture i.e. the person is cross-legged but with their feet
firmly on their thighs.

A passive but receptive attitude

This is possibly the most important element of meditation because it is what keeps your
mind away from the many distractions which cause stress and worry. It requires a
passive attitude to prevent your both the external environment and internal thoughts
from disturbing your mindset.
Instead all the distractions should be able to pass freely through the mind in a detached
manner. With time it becomes easier to discard yourself of thoughts and meditate.

An object of focus
You may choose to focus your attention on an object, a mantra (often a Sanskrit word)
or the rhythm of your own inhaling and exhaling.
Interestingly, the word mantra is derived from the Sanskrit word man which means
to think and tra which means to liberate together these mean to liberate from
thought. Common mantras include those with peace-bringing associations such as
peace or Om.
Khetrapal, A. (2016) What is meditation? Available at: (Accessed: 17 May 2016).