Meditation
Overview
 
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds
MINDS
Initiated as an EU-funded project in 2004, MINDS International was founded as an Association in fall 2007 by 11 news agencies from Europe and the USA...

 or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit.

Meditation is generally an inwardly oriented, personal practice, which individuals can do by themselves. Prayer beads
Prayer beads
Prayer beads are used by members of various religious traditions such as Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, Anglicanism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Bahá'í Faith to count the repetitions of prayers, chants or devotions, such as the rosary of Virgin Mary in Christianity and dhikr ...

 or other ritual objects may be used during meditation. Meditation may involve invoking or cultivating a feeling or internal state, such as compassion, or attending to a specific focal point.
Quotations

Meditation is the soul's perspective glass, whereby, in her long remove, she discerneth God, as if He were nearer at hand.

Owen Feltham, p. 406.

It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most on Divine truth, that will prove the choicest, wisest, strongest Christian.

Bishop Joseph Hall, p. 406.

For with all our pretension to enlightenment, are we not now a talking, desultory, rather than a meditative generation?

John Campbell Shairp, p. 406.

It is an excellent sign, that after the cares and labors of the day, you can return to your pious exercises and meditations with undiminished attention.

Hannah More, p. 406.

Night by night I will lie down and sleep in the thought of God, and in the thought, too, that my waking may be in the bosom of the Father; and some time it will be, so I trust.

William Mountford, p. 406.

Avoid all refined speculations; confine yourself to simple reflections, and recur to them frequently. Those who pass too rapidly from one truth to another feed their curiosity and restlessness; they even distract their intellect with too great a multiplicity of views. Give every truth time to send down deep root into the heart.

François Fénelon, p. 407.

Encyclopedia
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds
MINDS
Initiated as an EU-funded project in 2004, MINDS International was founded as an Association in fall 2007 by 11 news agencies from Europe and the USA...

 or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit.

Meditation is generally an inwardly oriented, personal practice, which individuals can do by themselves. Prayer beads
Prayer beads
Prayer beads are used by members of various religious traditions such as Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, Anglicanism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Bahá'í Faith to count the repetitions of prayers, chants or devotions, such as the rosary of Virgin Mary in Christianity and dhikr ...

 or other ritual objects may be used during meditation. Meditation may involve invoking or cultivating a feeling or internal state, such as compassion, or attending to a specific focal point. The term can refer to the state itself, as well as to practices or techniques employed to cultivate the state.

There are dozens of specific styles of meditation practice; the word meditation may carry different meanings in different contexts. Meditation has been practiced since antiquity as a component of numerous religious traditions.

A 2007 study by the U.S. government found that nearly 9.4% of U.S. adults (over 20 million) had practiced meditation within the past 12 months, up from 7.6% (more than 15 million people) in 2002.

Since the 1960s, meditation has been the focus of increasing scientific research of uneven rigor and quality. In over 1,000 published research studies, various methods of meditation have been linked to changes in metabolism, blood pressure, brain activation, and other bodily processes. Meditation has been used in clinical settings as a method of stress and pain reduction.

Terminology

The English meditation is derived from the Latin  meditatio, from a verb meditari, meaning "to think, contemplate, devise, ponder, meditate".

In the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 hāgâ (Hebrew: הגה‎), means to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate. When the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 was translated into Greek, hāgâ became the Greek melete. The Latin Bible then translated hāgâ/melete into meditatio.
The use of the term meditatio as part of a formal, stepwise process of meditation goes back to the 12th-century monk Guigo II
Guigo II
Guigo II was a Carthusian monk and the 9th prior of Grande Chartreuse monastery in the 12th century. He died about 1193, and is distinct from Guigo I, the 5th prior of the same monastery.Surnamed "angelic" he was the 9th prior of the monastery...

.

Apart from its historical usage, the term meditation was introduced as a translation for Eastern spiritual practices, referred to as dhyāna in Buddhism
Dhyāna in Buddhism
Dhyāna in Sanskrit or jhāna in Pāli can refer to either meditation or meditative states. Equivalent terms are "Chán" in modern Chinese, "Zen" in Japanese, "Seon" in Korean, "Thien" in Vietnamese, and "Samten" in Tibetan....

 and in Hinduism
Dhyana in Hinduism
According to the Hindu Yoga Sutra, written by Patanjali, dhyana is one of the eight limbs of Yoga, ....

, which comes from the Sanskrit root dhyai, meaning to contemplate or meditate. The term "meditation" in English may also refer to practices from Islamic Sufism
Sufism
Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

, or other traditions such as Jewish Kabbalah
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

 and Christian Hesychasm
Hesychasm
Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

.
An edited book about "meditation" published in 2003, for example, included chapter contributions by authors describing Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islamic, and Taoist traditions.
Scholars have noted that "the term 'meditation' as it has entered contemporary usage" is parallel to the term "contemplation" in Christianity.

History

The history of meditation is intimately bound up with the religious context within which it was practiced.
Even in prehistoric times civilizations used repetitive, rhythmic chants and offerings to appease the gods. Some authors have even suggested the hypothesis that the emergence of the capacity for focused attention, an element of many methods of meditation, may have contributed to the final phases of human biological evolution. Earliest references to meditation are found all the way back in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, dating around 1400 B.C. Around 500-600BC Taoists in China and Buddhists in India began to develop meditative practices.

In the west, by 20BCE Philo of Alexandria had written on some form of "spiritual exercises" involving attention (prosoche) and concentration and by the 3rd century Plotinus
Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

 had developed meditative techniques.

The Pāli Canon
Pāli Canon
The Pāli Canon is the standard collection of scriptures in the Theravada Buddhist tradition, as preserved in the Pāli language. It is the only completely surviving early Buddhist canon, and one of the first to be written down...

, which dates to 1st century BCE considers Indian Buddhist meditation as a step towards salvation. By the time Buddhism was spreading in China, the Vimalakirti Sutra
Vimalakirti Sutra
The Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra , or Vimalakīrti Sūtra, is a Mahāyāna Buddhist sūtra. Among other subjects, the sutra teaches the meaning of nonduality...

 which dates to 100CE included a number of passages on meditation, clearly pointing to Zen
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

. The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism
Silk Road transmission of Buddhism
The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism to China is most commonly thought to have started in the late 2nd or the 1st century CE.The first documented translation efforts by Buddhist monks in China were in the 2nd century CE, possibly as a consequence of the expansion of the Kushan Empire into the...

 introduced meditation to other oriental countries, and in 653 the first meditation hall was opened in Japan. Returning from China around 1227, Dōgen wrote the instructions for Zazen
Zazen
In Zen Buddhism, zazen is a meditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind, and be able to concentrate enough to experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain enlightenment .- Significance :Zazen is considered the heart of Zen Buddhist practice...

.

The Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

ic practice of Dhikr
Dhikr
Dhikr , plural ; ), is an Islamic devotional act, typically involving the repetition of the Names of God, supplications or formulas taken from hadith texts and verses of the Qur'an. Dhikr is usually done individually, but in some Sufi orders it is instituted as a ceremonial activity...

 had involved the repetition of the 99 Names of God since the 8th or 9th century. By the 12th century, the practice of Sufism included specific meditative techniques, and its followers practiced breathing controls and the repetition of holy words. Interactions with Indians or the Sufis may have influenced the Eastern Christian meditation approach to hesychasm
Hesychasm
Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

, but this can not be proved. Between the 10th and 14th centuries, hesychasm
Hesychasm
Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches, such as the Byzantine Rite, practised by the Hesychast Hesychasm is an eremitic tradition of prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some of the Eastern Catholic Churches,...

 was developed, particularly on Mount Athos
Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

 in Greece, and involves the repetition of the Jesus prayer
Jesus Prayer
The Jesus Prayer or "The Prayer" is a short, formulaic prayer esteemed and advocated within the Eastern Orthodox church:The prayer has been widely taught and discussed throughout the history of the Eastern Churches. It is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice, its use...

.

Western Christian meditation contrasts with most other approaches in that it does not involve the repetition of any phrase or action and requires no specific posture. Western Christian meditation
Christian meditation
Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditārī, which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice...

 progressed from the 6th century practice of Bible reading among Benedictine
Order of Saint Benedict
The Order of Saint Benedict is a Roman Catholic religious order of independent monastic communities that observe the Rule of St. Benedict. Within the order, each individual community maintains its own autonomy, while the organization as a whole exists to represent their mutual interests...

 monks called Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina
In Christianity, Lectio Divina is a traditional Catholic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God's Word...

, i.e. divine reading. Its four formal steps as a "ladder" were defined by the monk Guigo II
Guigo II
Guigo II was a Carthusian monk and the 9th prior of Grande Chartreuse monastery in the 12th century. He died about 1193, and is distinct from Guigo I, the 5th prior of the same monastery.Surnamed "angelic" he was the 9th prior of the monastery...

 in the 12th century with the Latin terms lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio (i.e. read, ponder, pray, contemplate). Western Christian meditation
Christian meditation
Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditārī, which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice...

 was further developed by saints such as Ignatius of Loyola
Ignatius of Loyola
Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish knight from a Basque noble family, hermit, priest since 1537, and theologian, who founded the Society of Jesus and was its first Superior General. Ignatius emerged as a religious leader during the Counter-Reformation...

 and Teresa of Avila
Teresa of Ávila
Saint Teresa of Ávila, also called Saint Teresa of Jesus, baptized as Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, and writer of the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer...

 in the 16th century.

By the 18th century, the study of Buddhism in the West
Buddhism in the West
Buddhism in the West broadly encompasses the knowledge and practice of Buddhism outside of Asia. Occasional intersections between Western civilization and the Buddhist world have been occurring for thousands of years, but it was not until the era of European colonization of Buddhist countries in...

 was a topic for intellectuals. The philosopher Schopenhauer discussed it, and Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

 asked for toleration towards Buddhists. The first English translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead was published in 1927.

Secular forms of meditation were introduced in India in the 1950s as a Westernized form of Hindu meditative techniques and arrived in the United States and Europe in the 1960s. Rather than focusing on spiritual growth, secular meditation emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation and self improvement. Both spiritual and secular forms of meditation have been subjects of scientific analyses. Research on meditation began in 1931, with scientific research increasing dramatically during the 1970s and 1980s. Since the beginning of the '70s more than a thousand studies of meditation in English-language have been reported. However, after 60 years of scientific study, the exact mechanism at work in meditation remains unclear.

Definitions and scope

Definitions or Characterizations of Meditation:
Examples from Prominent Reviews
*

Definition / Characterization

Review
•"[M]editation refers to a family of self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calm, clarity, and concentration" Walsh & Shapiro (2006)
•"[M]editation is used to describe practices that self-regulate the body and mind, thereby affecting mental events by engaging a specific attentional set.... regulation of attention is the central commonality across the many divergent methods" Cahn & Polich (2006)
•"We define meditation... as a stylized mental technique... repetitively practiced for the purpose of attaining a subjective experience that is frequently described as very restful, silent, and of heightened alertness, often characterized as blissful" Jevning et al. (1992)
•"the need for the meditator to retrain his attention, whether through concentration or mindfulness, is the single invariant ingredient in... every meditation system" Goleman (1988)
*Influential reviews (cited >50 times in PsycINFO
PsycINFO
PsycINFO is a database of abstracts of literature in the field of psychology. It is produced by the American Psychological Association and distributed on the association's and through third-party vendors. It is the electronic version of the now-ceased Psychological Abstracts...

),
encompassing multiple methods of meditation.

As early as 1971, Naranjo noted that "The word 'meditation' has been used to designate a variety of practices that differ enough from one another so that we may find trouble in defining what meditation is." There remains no definition of necessary and sufficient criteria for meditation that has achieved universal or widespread acceptance within the modern scientific community, as one study recently noted a "persistent lack of consensus in the literature" and a "seeming intractability of defining meditation".

In popular usage, the word "meditation" and the phrase "meditative practice" are often used imprecisely to designate broadly similar practices, or sets of practices, that are found across many cultures and traditions.

Some of the difficulty in precisely defining meditation has been the need to recognize the particularities of the many various traditions. There may be differences between the theories of one tradition of meditation as to what it means to practice meditation. The differences between multiple various traditions, which have grown up a great distance apart from each other, may be even starker. The defining of what 'meditation' is has caused difficulties for modern scientists. Scientific reviews have proposed that researchers attempt to more clearly define the type of meditation being practiced in order that the results of their studies be made clearer. Taylor noted that to refer only to meditation from a particular faith (e.g., "Hindu" or "Buddhist")
Within a specific context, more precise meanings are not uncommonly given the word "meditation." For example, 'meditation', is sometimes the translation of meditatio in Latin, which is the third of four steps of Lectio Divina
Lectio Divina
In Christianity, Lectio Divina is a traditional Catholic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God's Word...

, an ancient form of Christian prayer. 'Meditation' may also refer to the second of the three steps of Yoga
Yoga
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on Supersoul...

 in Patanjali
Patañjali
Patañjali is the compiler of the Yoga Sūtras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice. According to tradition, the same Patañjali was also the author of the Mahābhāṣya, a commentary on Kātyāyana's vārttikas on Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī as well as an unspecified work of medicine .In...

's Yoga Sutras, a step called dhyāna in Sanskrit.
Meditation may refer to a mental or spiritual state that may be attained by such practices, and may also refer to the practice of that state.

This article mainly focuses on meditation in the broad sense of a type of discipline, found in various forms in many cultures, by which the practitioner attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "thinking" mind (sometimes called "discursive thinking" or "logic") into a deeper, more devout, or more relaxed state. The terms "meditative practice" and "meditation" are mostly used here in this broad sense. However, usage may vary somewhat by context - readers should be aware that in quotations, or in discussions of particular traditions, more specialized meanings of "meditation" may sometimes be used (with meanings made clear by context whenever possible).

Western typologies

Ornstein noted that "most techniques of meditation do not exist as solitary practices but are only artificially separable from an entire system of practice and belief". This means that, for instance, while monks engage in meditation as a part of their everyday lives, they also engage the codified rules and live together in monasteries in specific cultural settings, that go along with their meditative practices. These meditative practices sometimes have similarities (often noticed by Westerners), for instance concentration on the breath is practiced in both Zen, Tibetan and Theravadan contexts, and these similarities or 'typologies' are noted here.

Progress on the "intractable" problem of defining meditation was attempted by a recent study of views common to 7 experts trained in diverse but empirically highly studied (clinical or Eastern-derived) forms of meditation. The study identified "three main criteria... as essential to any meditation practice: the use of a defined technique, logic relaxation, and a self-induced state/mode. Other criteria deemed important [but not essential] involve a state of psychophysical relaxation, the use of a self-focus skill or anchor, the presence of a state of suspension of logical thought processes, a religious/spiritual/philosophical context, or a state of mental silence". However, the study cautioned that "It is plausible that meditation is best thought of as a natural category of techniques best captured by 'family resemblance
Family resemblance
Family resemblance is a philosophical idea made popular by Ludwig Wittgenstein, with the best known exposition being given in the posthumously published book Philosophical Investigations It has been suggested that Wittgenstein picked the idea and the term from Nietzsche, who had been using it,...

s'... or by the related prototype model of concepts".

In modern psychological research, meditation has been defined and characterized in a variety of ways; many of these emphasize the role of attention
Attention
Attention is the cognitive process of paying attention to one aspect of the environment while ignoring others. Attention is one of the most intensely studied topics within psychology and cognitive neuroscience....

 (see table at right).

In the West, meditation is sometimes thought of in two broad categories: concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation. Note that these two categories cover a small scope of the broad variety of meditation techniques. These two categories are discussed in the following two paragraphs, with concentrative meditation being used interchangeably with focused attention and mindfulness meditation being used interchangeably with open monitoring,

direction of mental attention... A practitioner can focus intensively on one particular object (so-called concentrative meditation), on all mental events that enter the field of awareness (so-called mindfulness meditation), or both specific focal points and the field of awareness.


"One style, Focused Attention (FA) meditation, entails the voluntary focusing of attention on a chosen object. The other style, Open Monitoring (OM) meditation, involves non-reactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment."


An example of concentrative meditation is anapanasati
Anapanasati
Ānāpānasati , meaning 'mindfulness of breathing' , is a form of Buddhist meditation now common to the Tibetan, Zen, Tiantai, and Theravada schools of Buddhism, as well as western-based mindfulness programs.According to tradition, Anapanasati was...

, and an example of mindfulness meditation is, of course, mindfulness meditation.

Other typologies have also been proposed,[additional citations useful] and some techniques shift among major categories.

Evidence from neuroimaging studies suggests that the categories of meditation, defined by how they direct attention, appear to generate different brainwave patterns.[additional citations useful] Evidence also suggests that using different focus objects during meditation may generate different brainwave patterns.

Bahá'í Faith

In the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith
Bahá'í Faith
The Bahá'í Faith is a monotheistic religion founded by Bahá'u'lláh in 19th-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. There are an estimated five to six million Bahá'ís around the world in more than 200 countries and territories....

 meditation, along with prayer
Prayer in the Bahá'í Faith
Prayer in the Bahá'í Faith refers to two distinct concepts: obligatory prayer and devotional prayer . Both types of prayer are composed of reverent words which are addressed to God, and the act of prayer is one of the most important Bahá'í laws for individual discipline...

, is one of the primary tools for spiritual development, and it mainly refers to one's reflection on the words of God. While prayer
Prayer
Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...

 and meditation are linked where meditation happens generally in a prayerful attitude, prayer is seen specifically as turning toward God, and meditation is seen as a communion with one's self where one focuses on the divine.

The Bahá'í teachings
Bahá'í teachings
The Bahá'í teachings represent a considerable number of theological, social, and spiritual ideas that were established in the Bahá'í Faith by Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the religion, and clarified by successive leaders including `Abdu'l-Bahá, Bahá'u'lláh's son, and Shoghi Effendi, `Abdu'l-Bahá's...

 note that the purpose of meditation is to strengthen one's understanding of the words of God, and to make one's soul more susceptible to their potentially transformative power, and that both prayer and meditation are needed to bring about and to maintain a spiritual communion with God.

Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh
Bahá'u'lláh , born ' , was the founder of the Bahá'í Faith. He claimed to be the prophetic fulfilment of Bábism, a 19th-century outgrowth of Shí‘ism, but in a broader sense claimed to be a messenger from God referring to the fulfilment of the eschatological expectations of Islam, Christianity, and...

, the founder of the religion, never specified any particular form of meditation, and thus each person is free to choose their own form. However, he specifically did state that Bahá'ís should read a passage of the Bahá'í writings
Bahá'í literature
Bahá'í literature, like much religious text, covers a variety of topics and forms, including scripture and inspiration, interpretation, history and biography, introduction and study materials, and apologia...

 twice a day, once in the morning, and once in the evening, and meditate on it. He also encouraged people to reflect on one's actions and worth at the end of each day. The Nineteen Day Fast
Nineteen Day Fast
The Nineteen-Day Fast is a nineteen-day period of the year, during which members of the Bahá'í Faith adhere to a sunrise-to-sunset fast. Along with obligatory prayer, it is one of the greatest obligations of a Bahá'í, and its chief purpose is spiritual; to reinvigorate the soul and bring the...

, a nineteen-day period of the year, during which Bahá'ís adhere to a sunrise-to-sunset fast
Fasting
Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a single day , or several days. Other fasts may be only partially restrictive,...

, is also seen as meditative, where Bahá'ís must meditate and pray to reinvigorate their spiritual forces.

Buddhism

Buddhist meditation
Buddhist meditation
Buddhist meditation refers to the meditative practices associated with the religion and philosophy of Buddhism.Core meditation techniques have been preserved in ancient Buddhist texts and have proliferated and diversified through teacher-student transmissions. Buddhists pursue meditation as part of...

 refers to the meditative practices associated with the religion and philosophy of Buddhism. Core meditation techniques have been preserved in ancient Buddhist texts
Buddhist texts
Buddhist texts can be categorized in a number of ways. The Western terms "scripture" and "canonical" are applied to Buddhism in inconsistent ways by Western scholars: for example, one authority refers to "scriptures and other canonical texts", while another says that scriptures can be categorized...

 and have proliferated and diversified through teacher-student transmissions. Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

s pursue meditation as part of the path toward Enlightenment
Bodhi
Bodhi is both a Pāli and Sanskrit word traditionally translated into English with the word "enlightenment", but which means awakened. In Buddhism it is the knowledge possessed by a Buddha into the nature of things...

 and Nirvana
Nirvana
Nirvāṇa ; ) is a central concept in Indian religions. In sramanic thought, it is the state of being free from suffering. In Hindu philosophy, it is the union with the Supreme being through moksha...

. The closest words for meditation in the classical languages of Buddhism are bhāvanā
Bhavana
Bhāvanā literally means "development" or "cultivating" or "producing" in the sense of "calling into existence." It is an important concept in Buddhist praxis...

 and jhāna/dhyāna
Dhyāna in Buddhism
Dhyāna in Sanskrit or jhāna in Pāli can refer to either meditation or meditative states. Equivalent terms are "Chán" in modern Chinese, "Zen" in Japanese, "Seon" in Korean, "Thien" in Vietnamese, and "Samten" in Tibetan....

.

Buddhist meditation techniques have become increasingly popular in the wider world, with many non-Buddhists taking them up for a variety of reasons. There is considerable homogeneity across meditative practices — such as breath meditation
Anapanasati
Ānāpānasati , meaning 'mindfulness of breathing' , is a form of Buddhist meditation now common to the Tibetan, Zen, Tiantai, and Theravada schools of Buddhism, as well as western-based mindfulness programs.According to tradition, Anapanasati was...

 and various recollections (anussati
Anussati
Anussati means "recollection," "contemplation," "remembrance," "meditation" and "mindfulness." In Buddhism, anussati refers to either:...

) — that are used across Buddhist schools
Schools of Buddhism
Buddhism is an ancient, polyvalent ideological system that originated in the Iron Age Indian subcontinent, referred to variously throughout history by one or more of a myriad of concepts – including, but not limited to any of the following: a Dharmic religion, a philosophy or quasi-philosophical...

, as well as significant diversity. In the Theravāda
Theravada
Theravada ; literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching", is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India...

 tradition alone, there are over fifty methods for developing mindfulness and forty for developing concentration, while in the Tibetan
Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism is the body of Buddhist religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet and certain regions of the Himalayas, including northern Nepal, Bhutan, and India . It is the state religion of Bhutan...

 tradition there are thousands of visualization meditations. Most classical and contemporary Buddhist meditation guides are school-specific.

The Buddha is said to have identified two paramount mental qualities that arise from wholesome meditative practice:
  • "serenity" or "tranquillity" (Pali: samatha) which steadies, composes, unifies and concentrates the mind;
  • "insight" (Pali: vipassana) which enables one to see, explore and discern "formations" (conditioned phenomena based on the five aggregates
    Skandha
    In Buddhist phenomenology and soteriology, the skandhas or khandhas are any of five types of phenomena that serve as objects of clinging and bases for a sense of self...

    ).


Through the meditative development of serenity, one is able to suppress obscuring hindrances
Five hindrances
In Buddhism, the five hindrances are negative mental states that impede success with meditation and lead away from enlightenment...

; and, with the suppression of the hindrances, it is through the meditative development of insight that one gains liberating wisdom
Prajña
Prajñā or paññā is wisdom, understanding, discernment or cognitive acuity. Such wisdom is understood to exist in the universal flux of being and can be intuitively experienced through meditation...

.

Christianity


Christian Meditation
Christian meditation
Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditārī, which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice...

 is a term for form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditari which means to concentrate. Christian meditation is the process of deliberately focusing on specific thoughts (e.g. a biblical scene involving Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 and the Virgin Mary) and reflecting on their meaning in the context of the love of God.

Christian meditation contrasts with cosmic styles of eastern meditation as radically
as the portrayal of God the Father
God the Father
God the Father is a gendered title given to God in many monotheistic religions, particularly patriarchal, Abrahamic ones. In Judaism, God is called Father because he is the creator, life-giver, law-giver, and protector...

 in the Bible contrasts with discussions of Krishna
Krishna
Krishna is a central figure of Hinduism and is traditionally attributed the authorship of the Bhagavad Gita. He is the supreme Being and considered in some monotheistic traditions as an Avatar of Vishnu...

 or Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

 in Indian teachings. Unlike eastern meditations, most styles of Christian meditations do not rely on the repeated use of mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

s, but are intended to stimulate thought and deepen meaning. Christian meditation aims to heighten the personal relationship based on the love of God that marks Christian communion.

In Aspects of Christian meditation
Aspects of Christian meditation
Aspects of Christian meditation was the topic of an October 15, 1989 document of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The document is titled "Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of Christian meditation" and is formally known by its incipit Orationis formas.The...

, the Catholic Church warned of potential incompatibilities in mixing Christian and eastern styles of meditation. In 2003, in A Christian reflection on the New Age
A Christian reflection on the New Age
A Christian reflection on the New Age refers to a six year study by the Roman Catholic Church on the New Age movement. The study, published in 2003, is highly critical of the New Age movement and follows the 1989 document Aspects of Christian meditation in which the Vatican warned Catholics against...

 the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 announced that the "Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age".

Christian meditation is sometimes taken to mean the middle level in a broad three stage characterization of prayer: it then involves more reflection than first level vocal prayer
Prayer
Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...

, but is more structured than the multiple layers of contemplation
Contemplation
The word contemplation comes from the Latin word contemplatio. Its root is also that of the Latin word templum, a piece of ground consecrated for the taking of auspices, or a building for worship, derived either from Proto-Indo-European base *tem- "to cut", and so a "place reserved or cut out" or...

 in Christianity.

Hinduism

There are many, many schools and styles of meditation within Hinduism. Yoga is generally done to prepare one for meditation, and meditation is done to realize union of one's self, one's atman
Ātman (Hinduism)
Ātman is a Sanskrit word that means 'self'. In Hindu philosophy, especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism it refers to one's true self beyond identification with phenomena...

, with the omnipresent and non-dual
Nondualism
Nondualism is a term used to denote affinity, or unity, rather than duality or separateness or multiplicity. In reference to the universe it may be used to denote the idea that things appear distinct while not being separate. The term "nondual" can refer to a belief, condition, theory, practice,...

 Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

. This experience is referred to as moksha
Moksha
Within Indian religions, moksha or mukti , literally "release" , is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.-Origins:It is highly probable that the concept of moksha was first developed in...

 by Hindus, and is similar to the concept of Nibbana in Buddhism. The earliest clear references to meditation in Hindu
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 literature are in the middle Upanishads and the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

, which includes the Bhagavad Gita
Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...

. According to Gavin Flood
Gavin Flood
-See also:* Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies* Krishnology...

, the earlier Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
The Upanishad is one of the older, "primary" Upanishads. It is contained within the Shatapatha Brahmana, and its status as an independent Upanishad may be considered a secondary extraction of a portion of the Brahmana text. This makes it one of the oldest texts of the Upanishad corpus...

 refers to meditation when it states that "having becoming calm and concentrated, one perceives the self (ātman
Ātman (Hinduism)
Ātman is a Sanskrit word that means 'self'. In Hindu philosophy, especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism it refers to one's true self beyond identification with phenomena...

) within oneself".

Within Patañjali
Patañjali
Patañjali is the compiler of the Yoga Sūtras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice. According to tradition, the same Patañjali was also the author of the Mahābhāṣya, a commentary on Kātyāyana's vārttikas on Pāṇini's Aṣṭādhyāyī as well as an unspecified work of medicine .In...

's ashtanga yoga practice there are eight limbs leading to moksha. These are ethical discipline (yamas
Yamas
Yamas, and its complement, Niyamas, represent a series of "right living" or ethical rules within Hinduism and Yoga. These are a form of moral imperatives, commandments, rules or goals...

), rules (niyamas), physical postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama
Pranayama
Pranayama is a Sanskrit word meaning "extension of the prana or breath" or more accurately, "extension of the life force". The word is composed of two Sanskrit words, Prāna, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, and "āyāma", to extend, draw out, restrain, or...

), withdrawal from the senses (pratyahara
Pratyahara
Pratyahara or the 'withdrawal of the senses' is the fifth element among the Eight stages of Patanjali's Ashtanga Yoga, as mentioned in his classical work, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali composed in the 2nd century BCE....

), one-pointedness of mind (dharana
Dharana
Dhāraṇā is translated as "collection or concentration of the mind ", or "the act of holding, bearing, wearing, supporting, maintaining, retaining, keeping back , a good memory", or "firmness, steadfastness, ... , certainty"...

), meditation (dhyana
Dhyana in Hinduism
According to the Hindu Yoga Sutra, written by Patanjali, dhyana is one of the eight limbs of Yoga, ....

), and finally samadhi
Samadhi
Samadhi in Hinduism, Buddhism,Jainism, Sikhism and yogic schools is a higher level of concentrated meditation, or dhyāna. In the yoga tradition, it is the eighth and final limb identified in the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali....

, which is often described as the union of the Self (atman
Ātman (Hinduism)
Ātman is a Sanskrit word that means 'self'. In Hindu philosophy, especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism it refers to one's true self beyond identification with phenomena...

) with the omnipresent (Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

), and is the ultimate aim of all Hindu yogis.

Meditation in Hinduism is not confined to any school or sect and has expanded beyond Hinduism to the West. Today there is a new branch of yoga which combines Christian practices with yogic postures known popularly as Christian Yoga.

The influential modern proponent of Hinduism who first introduced Eastern philosophy to the West in the late 19th century, Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda , born Narendranath Dutta , was the chief disciple of the 19th century mystic Ramakrishna Paramahansa and the founder of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission...

, describes meditation as follows:

Meditation has been laid stress upon by all religions. The meditative state of mind is declared by the Yogis to be the highest state in which the mind exists. When the mind is studying the external object, it gets identified with it, loses itself. To use the simile of the old Indian philosopher: the soul of man is like a piece of crystal, but it takes the colour of whatever is near it. Whatever the soul touches ... it has to take its colour. That is the difficulty. That constitutes the bondage.

Islam

A Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 is obligated to pray five times a day: once before sunrise, at noon, in the afternoon, after sunset, and once at night. During prayer a Muslim focuses and meditates on God
Allah
Allah is a word for God used in the context of Islam. In Arabic, the word means simply "God". It is used primarily by Muslims and Bahá'ís, and often, albeit not exclusively, used by Arabic-speaking Eastern Catholic Christians, Maltese Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mizrahi Jews and...

 by reciting the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 and engaging in dhikr
Dhikr
Dhikr , plural ; ), is an Islamic devotional act, typically involving the repetition of the Names of God, supplications or formulas taken from hadith texts and verses of the Qur'an. Dhikr is usually done individually, but in some Sufi orders it is instituted as a ceremonial activity...

 to reaffirm and strengthen the bond between Creator and creation, with the purpose of guiding the soul to truth
Truth
Truth has a variety of meanings, such as the state of being in accord with fact or reality. It can also mean having fidelity to an original or to a standard or ideal. In a common usage, it also means constancy or sincerity in action or character...

. Such meditation is intended to help maintain a feeling of spiritual
Spirituality
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

 peace, in the face of whatever challenges work, social or family life may present.

The five daily acts of peaceful prayer are to serve as a template and inspiration for conduct during the rest of the day, transforming it, ideally, into one single and sustained meditation: even sleep
Sleep
Sleep is a naturally recurring state characterized by reduced or absent consciousness, relatively suspended sensory activity, and inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles. It is distinguished from quiet wakefulness by a decreased ability to react to stimuli, and is more easily reversible than...

 is to be regarded as but another phase of that sustained meditation.

Meditative quiescence is said to have a quality of healing
Healing
Physiological healing is the restoration of damaged living tissue, organs and biological system to normal function. It is the process by which the cells in the body regenerate and repair to reduce the size of a damaged or necrotic area....

, and—in contemporary terminology—enhancing creativity
Creativity
Creativity refers to the phenomenon whereby a person creates something new that has some kind of value. What counts as "new" may be in reference to the individual creator, or to the society or domain within which the novelty occurs...

. The Islamic prophet
Prophets of Islam
Muslims identify the Prophets of Islam as those humans chosen by God and given revelation to deliver to mankind. Muslims believe that every prophet was given a belief to worship God and their respective followers believed it as well...

 Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 spent sustained periods in contemplation and meditation. It was during one such period that Muhammad began to receive the revelations
Wahy
Wahi is the Arabic word for revelation. In Islamic context, it refers to the revelations of God to his prophets, for all humankind. In Islam, the Qur'an is considered a wahi given to Muhammad.-Awha:...

 of the Qur'an.

Following are the styles, or schools, of meditation in the Muslim traditions:
  • Tafakkur or tadabbur, literally means reflection upon the universe
    Universe
    The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

    : this is considered to permit access to a form of cognitive and emotion
    Emotion
    Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

    al development that can emanate only from the higher level, i.e. from God. The sensation of receiving divine inspiration
    Revelation
    In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

     awakens and liberates both heart
    Heart
    The heart is a myogenic muscular organ found in all animals with a circulatory system , that is responsible for pumping blood throughout the blood vessels by repeated, rhythmic contractions...

     and intellect
    Intellect
    Intellect is a term used in studies of the human mind, and refers to the ability of the mind to come to correct conclusions about what is true or real, and about how to solve problems...

    , permitting such inner growth that the apparently mundane actually takes on the quality of the infinite
    Infinity
    Infinity is a concept in many fields, most predominantly mathematics and physics, that refers to a quantity without bound or end. People have developed various ideas throughout history about the nature of infinity...

    . Muslim teachings embrace life as a test of one's submission to God.
  • Meditation in the Sufi traditions is largely based on a spectrum of mystical
    Mysticism
    Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

     exercises, varying from one lineage to another. Such techniques, particularly the more audacious, can be, and often have been down the ages, a source of controversy among scholars. One broad group of ulema
    Ulema
    Ulama , also spelt ulema, refers to the educated class of Muslim legal scholars engaged in the several fields of Islamic studies. They are best known as the arbiters of shari‘a law...

    , followers of the great Al-Ghazzali, for example, have in general been open to such techniques and forms of devotion
    Prayer
    Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...

    , while another such group, those who concur with the Ibn Taymiya
    Ibn Taymiya
    Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah , full name: Taqī ad-Dīn Abu 'l-ʿAbbās Aḥmad ibn ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm ibn ʿAbd as-Salām Ibn Taymiya al-Ḥarrānī , was an Islamic scholar , theologian and logician born in Harran, located in what is now Turkey, close to the Syrian border. He lived during the troubled times of...

    , reject and generally condemn such procedures as species of bid'ah
    Bid'ah
    Bid‘ah is any type of innovation in Islam. It linguistically means "innovation, novelty, heretical doctrine, heresy". In contrast to the English term "innovation", in Arabic, the word bid'ah generally carries a negative connotation...

     (Arabic: بدعة) or mere innovation.


Numerous Sufi traditions
Sufism
Sufism or ' is defined by its adherents as the inner, mystical dimension of Islam. A practitioner of this tradition is generally known as a '...

 place emphasis upon a meditative procedure similar in its cognitive aspect to one of the two principal approaches to be found in the Buddhist traditions
Buddhist meditation
Buddhist meditation refers to the meditative practices associated with the religion and philosophy of Buddhism.Core meditation techniques have been preserved in ancient Buddhist texts and have proliferated and diversified through teacher-student transmissions. Buddhists pursue meditation as part of...

: that of the concentration
Samadhi (Buddhism)
In Buddhism, samādhi is mental concentration or composing the mind.-In the early Suttas:In the Pāli canon of the Theravada tradition and the related Āgamas of other early Buddhist schools, samādhi is found in the following contexts:* In the noble eightfold path, "right concentration" In Buddhism,...

 technique, involving high-intensity and sharply focused introspection
Introspection
Introspection is the self-observation and reporting of conscious inner thoughts, desires and sensations. It is a conscious and purposive process relying on thinking, reasoning, and examining one's own thoughts, feelings, and, in more spiritual cases, one's soul...

. In the Oveyssi-Shahmaghsoudi Sufi order, for example, this is particularly evident, where muraqaba
Muraqaba
Muraqaba is the Sufi word for meditation. Literally it is an Arabic term which means "to watch over", "to take care of", or "to keep an eye"...

 takes the form of tamarkoz, the latter being a Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 term that means concentration.

Jainism

In Jainism, meditation has been a core spiritual practice, one that Jains believe people have undertaken since the teaching of the Tirthankara, Rishabha
Rishabha (Jain tirthankar)
In Jainism, R̥ṣabha or Ādinātha , also known as the "Lord of Kesariya") was the first of the 24 Tīrthaṅkaras. According to Jain beliefs, R̥ṣabha founded the Ikshvaku dynasty and was the first Tīrthaṅkara of the present age...

. All the twenty four Tirthankaras practiced deep meditation and attained enlightenment. They are all shown in meditative postures in the images or idols. Mahavira
Mahavira
Mahāvīra is the name most commonly used to refer to the Indian sage Vardhamāna who established what are today considered to be the central tenets of Jainism. According to Jain tradition, he was the 24th and the last Tirthankara. In Tamil, he is referred to as Arukaṉ or Arukadevan...

 practiced deep meditation for twelve years and attained enlightenment
Enlightenment (spiritual)
Enlightenment in a secular context often means the "full comprehension of a situation", but in spiritual terms the word alludes to a spiritual revelation or deep insight into the meaning and purpose of all things, communication with or understanding of the mind of God, profound spiritual...

. The Acaranga Sutra
Acaranga Sutra
The Acaranga Sutra is the first of the eleven Angas, part of the agamas which were compiled based on the teachings of Lord Mahavira.The Acaranga Sutra discusses the conduct of a Jain monk...

 dating to 500 BC, addresses the meditation system of Jainism in detail. Acharya Bhadrabahu
Acharya Bhadrabahu
Acharya Bhadrabahu was a Jain monk. He is more famously known as a spiritual teacher of Chandragupta Maurya and author of several texts related to Jainism, including some of the most important works, Upsargahara Stotra and Kalpasutra....

 of the 4th century BC practiced deep Mahaprana meditation for 12 years. Kundakunda
Kundakunda
Kundakunda is a celebrated Jain Acharya, Jain scholar monk, 2nd century CE, composer of spiritual classics such as: Samayasara, Niyamasara, Pancastikayasara, Pravacanasara, Atthapahuda and Barasanuvekkha. He occupies the highest place in the tradition of the Jain acharyas.He belonged to the Mula...

 of 1st century BCE, opened new dimensions of meditation in Jain tradition through his books Samayasāra
Samayasara
' is a famous Jain text by Acharya Kundakunda.Its ten chapters discuss the nature of jiva , its attachment to karmas and moksha....

, Pravachansar and others.

Jain meditation and spiritual practices system were referred to as salvation-path. It has three important parts called the Ratnatraya "Three Jewels": right perception and faith, right knowledge and right conduct. Meditation in Jainism aims at realizing the self, attaining salvation, take the soul to complete freedom. It aims to reach and to remain in the pure state of soul which is believed to be pure consciousness, beyond any attachment or aversion. The practitioner strives to be just a knower-seer (Gyata-Drashta). Jain meditation can be broadly categorized to Dharmya Dhyana and Shukla Dhyana.

There exists a number of meditation techniques such as pindāstha-dhyāna, padāstha-dhyāna, rūpāstha-dhyāna, rūpātita-dhyāna, savīrya-dhyāna, etc. In padāstha dhyāna one focuses on Mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

. A Mantra could be either a combination of core letters or words on deity or themes. There is a rich tradition of Mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

 in Jainism. All Jain followers irrespective of their sect, whether Digambara or Svetambara
Svetambara
The Śvētāmbara is one of the two main sects of Jainism, the other being the Digambar. Śvētāmbara "white-clad" is a term describing its ascetics' practice of wearing white clothes, which sets it apart from the Digambara "sky-clad" Jainas, whose ascetic practitioners go naked...

, practice mantra. Mantra chanting is an important part of daily lives of Jain monks and followers. Mantra chanting can be done either loudly or silently in mind. Yogasana and Pranayama has been an important practice undertaken since ages. Pranayama – breathing exercises – are performed to strengthen the ten Pranas or vital energy. Yogasana and Pranayama balances the functioning of neuro-endocrine system of body and helps in achieving good physical, mental and emotional health.

Contemplation is a very old and important meditation technique. The practitioner meditates deeply on subtle facts. In agnya vichāya, one contemplates on seven facts - life and non-life, the inflow, bondage, stoppage and removal of karmas, and the final accomplishment of liberation. In apaya vichāya, one contemplates on the incorrect insights one indulges into and that eventually develops right insight. In vipaka vichāya, one reflects on the eight causes or basic types of karma. In sansathan vichāya, one thinks about the vastness of the universe and the loneliness of the soul.

Acharya Mahapragya formulated Preksha meditation
Preksha meditation
Preksha meditation [Preksha Dhyana] is a popular meditation technique of Jainism . It was formulated by the tenth Spiritual head of Terapanth Shvetambara Jain Acharya Mahaprajna in the middle of the 20th century on the guidance of Acharya Tulsi...

 in the 1970s and presented a well-organised system of meditation. Asana
Asana
Asana is a body position, typically associated with the practice of Yoga, originally identified as a mastery of sitting still, with the spine as a conduit of biodynamic union...

 and Pranayama, meditation, contemplation, mantra and therapy are its integral parts. Numerous Preksha meditation centers came into existence around the world and numerous meditations camps are being organized to impart training in it.

Judaism

There is evidence that Judaism has had meditative practices that go back thousands of years. For instance, in the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

, the patriarch Isaac
Isaac
Isaac as described in the Hebrew Bible, was the only son Abraham had with his wife Sarah, and was the father of Jacob and Esau. Isaac was one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites...

 is described as going "לשוח" (lasuach) in the field—a term understood by all commentators as some type of meditative practice (Genesis 24:63), probably prayer.

Similarly, there are indications throughout the Tanach (the Hebrew Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

) that meditation was used by the prophets. In the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

, there are two Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 words for meditation: hāgâ , which means to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate, and , which means to muse, or rehearse in one's mind.

The Jewish mystical tradition, Kabbalah
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

, is inherently a meditative field of study. Traditionally Kabbalah is only taught to orthodox Jews over the age of forty. The Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

 refers to the advantage of the scholar over the prophet, as his understanding takes on intellectual, conceptual form, that deepens mental grasp, and can be communicated to others. The advantage of the prophet over the scholar is in the transcendence of their intuitive vision. The ideal illumination is achieved when the insights of mystical revelation are brought into conceptual structures. For example, Isaac Luria
Isaac Luria
Isaac Luria , also called Yitzhak Ben Shlomo Ashkenazi acronym "The Ari" "Ari-Hakadosh", or "Arizal", meaning "The Lion", was a foremost rabbi and Jewish mystic in the community of Safed in the Galilee region of Ottoman Palestine...

 revealed new doctrines of Kabbalah in the 16th Century, that revolutionised and reordered its teachings into a new system. However, he did not write down his teachings, which were recounted and interpreted instead by his close circle of disciples. After a mystical encounter, called in Kabbalistic tradition an "elevation of the soul" into the spiritual realms, Isaac Luria said that it would take 70 years to explain all that he had experienced. As Kabbalah evolved its teachings took on successively greater conceptual form and philosophical system. Nonetheless, as is implied by the name of Kabbalah, which means "to receive", its exponents see that for the student to understand its teachings requires a spiritual intuitive reception that illuminates and personalises the intellectual structures.

Corresponding to the learning of Kabbalah are its traditional meditative practices, as for the Kabbalist, the ultimate purpose of its study is to understand and cleave to the Divine. Classic methods include the mental visualisation of the supernal realms the soul navigates through to achieve certain ends. One of the best known types of meditation in early Jewish mysticism was the work of the Merkabah
Merkabah
Merkabah is the throne-chariot of God, the four-wheeled vehicle driven by four "chayot" , each of which has four wings and the four faces of a man, lion, ox, and eagle...

, from the root /R-K-B/ meaning "chariot" (of God).

In modern Jewish practice, one of the best known meditative practices is called "hitbodedut
Hitbodedut
Hitbodedut refers to an unstructured, spontaneous and individualized form of prayer and meditation taught by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov...

" (התבודדות, alternatively transliterated as "hisbodedus"), and is explained in Kabbalistic
Kabbalah
Kabbalah/Kabala is a discipline and school of thought concerned with the esoteric aspect of Rabbinic Judaism. It was systematized in 11th-13th century Hachmei Provence and Spain, and again after the Expulsion from Spain, in 16th century Ottoman Palestine...

, Hasidic, and Mussar
Mussar movement
The Musar movement is a Jewish ethical, educational and cultural movement that developed in 19th century Eastern Europe, particularly among Orthodox Lithuanian Jews. The Hebrew term Musar , is from the book of Proverbs 1:2 meaning instruction, discipline, or conduct...

 writings, especially the Hasidic method of Rabbi Nachman of Breslav. The word derives from the Hebrew word "boded" (בודד), meaning the state of being alone. Another Hasidic system is the Habad method of "hisbonenus", related to the Sephirah of "Binah", Hebrew for understanding. This practice is the analytical reflective process of making oneself understand a mystical concept well, that follows and internalises its study in Hasidic writings.

New Age

New Age meditations are often influenced by Eastern philosophy, mysticism, Yoga, Hinduism and Buddhism, yet may contain some degree of Western influence. In the West, meditation found its mainstream roots through the social revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, when many of the youth of the day rebelled against traditional belief systems
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 as a reaction against what some perceived as the failure of Christianity to provide spiritual and ethical guidance.
New Age meditation as practised by the early hippies is regarded for its techniques of blanking out the mind and releasing oneself from conscious thinking. This is often aided by repetitive chanting of a mantra, or focusing on an object.

In Zen Yoga
Zen yoga
-Many Founders, an Eclectic & Growing Practice:Many people use the words zen and yoga together to describe a feeling, a state of mind, an orientation toward yoga that is not usually associated with the yoga practices that have come to us from India...

, Aaron Hoopes talks of meditation as being an avenue to touching the spiritual nature that exists within each of us.

Sikhism

In Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

, the practices of simran and Nām Japō
Nam Japo
Nām Japō , or Naam Japna, refers to the meditation, vocal singing of hymns from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib or of the various Names of God, especially the chanting of the word Waheguru, which means "Wonderful Lord". Singing of hymns generally is also referred to as Nām Jap, sometimes also called Nām...

 encourage quiet meditation. This is focusing one's attention on the attributes of God. Sikhs believe that there are 10 'gates' to the body; 'gates' is another word for 'chakras' or energy centres. The top most energy level is called the tenth gate or Dasam Duaar. When one reaches this stage through continuous practice meditation becomes a habit that continues whilst walking, talking, eating, awake and even sleeping. There is a distinct taste or flavour when a meditator reaches this lofty stage of meditation, as one experiences absolute peace and tranquility inside and outside the body.

Followers of the Sikh religion also believe that love comes through meditation on the lord's name since meditation only conjures up positive emotions in oneself which are portrayed through our actions. The first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji preached the equality of all humankind and stressed the importance of living a householder's life instead of wandering around jungles meditating, the latter of which being a popular practice at the time. The Guru preached that we can obtain liberation from life and death by living a totally normal family life and by spreading love amongst every human being regardless of religion.

In the Sikh religion, kirtan
Kirtan
Kirtan or Kirtana is call-and-response chanting or "responsory" performed in India's devotional traditions. A person performing kirtan is known as a kirtankar. Kirtan practice involves chanting hymns or mantras to the accompaniment of instruments such as the harmonium, tablas, the two-headed...

, otherwise known as singing the hymns of God is seen as one of the most beneficial ways of aiding meditation, and it too in some ways is believed to be a meditation of one kind.

Taoism

Taoism includes a number of meditative and contemplative traditions, said to have their principles described in the I Ching
I Ching
The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

, Tao Te Ching
Tao Te Ching
The Tao Te Ching, Dao De Jing, or Daodejing , also simply referred to as the Laozi, whose authorship has been attributed to Laozi, is a Chinese classic text...

, Chuang Tzu and Tao Tsang
Daozang
Daozang , meaning "Treasury of Dao" or "Daoist Canon", consists of around 1400 texts that were collected circa C.E. 400...

 among other texts. The multitude of schools relating to Qigong
Qigong
Qigong or chi kung is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation...

, Neigong
Neigong
Neigong, also spelled nei kung, neigung, or nae gong, refers to any of a set of Chinese breathing, meditation and spiritual practice disciplines associated with Daoism and especially the Chinese martial arts...

, Internal alchemy, Daoyin
Tao Yin
Tao Yin is a series of breathing exercises practiced by Taoists to cultivate ch'i, the internal energy of the body according to Traditional Chinese Medicine....

 and Zhan zhuang
Zhan zhuang
Zhan zhuang is a method of training in many Chinese martial arts in which static postures are used for physical training, to develop efficiency of movement, perfection of structural alignment; and hence maximal strength, for martial applications....

 is a large, diverse array of breath-training practices in aid of meditation with much influence on later Chinese Buddhism and with much influence on traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage , exercise , and dietary therapy...

 and the Chinese
Chinese martial arts
Chinese martial arts, also referred to by the Mandarin Chinese term wushu and popularly as kung fu , are a number of fighting styles that have developed over the centuries in China. These fighting styles are often classified according to common traits, identified as "families" , "sects" or...

 as well as some Japanese martial arts
Japanese martial arts
Japanese martial arts refers to the enormous variety of martial arts native to Japan. At least three Japanese terms are often used interchangeably with the English phrase "Japanese martial arts": , literally meaning "martial way", , which has no perfect translation but means something like science,...

. The Chinese martial art T'ai chi ch'uan is named after the well-known focus for Taoist and Neo-Confucian meditation, the Taijitu
Taijitu
Taijitu is a term which refers to a Chinese symbol for the concept of yin and yang...

 (T'ai Chi T'u), and is often referred to as “meditation in motion”.

"The Guanzi essay 'Neiye' 內業 (Inward training) is the oldest received writing on the subject of the cultivation of vapor
Qi
In traditional Chinese culture, qì is an active principle forming part of any living thing. Qi is frequently translated as life energy, lifeforce, or energy flow. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts...

 and meditation techniques. The essay was probably composed at the Jixia Academy in Qi in the late fourth century B.C."

Often Taoist Internal martial arts, especially T'ai chi ch'uan are thought of as moving meditation. A common phrase being, "movement in stillness" referring to energetic movement in passive Qigong and seated Taoist meditation; with the converse being "stillness in movement", a state of mental calm and meditation in the tai chi form.

In a form of meditation using visualization, such as Chinese Qigong
Qigong
Qigong or chi kung is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation...

, the practitioner concentrates on flows of energy (Qi) in the body, starting in the abdomen and then circulating through the body, until dispersed.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

Indian-born philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti
Jiddu Krishnamurti
Jiddu Krishnamurti or J. Krishnamurti or , was a renowned writer and speaker on philosophical and spiritual subjects. His subject matter included: psychological revolution, the nature of the mind, meditation, human relationships, and bringing about positive change in society...

 used the term "meditation" to mean something entirely different from the practice of any system or method to control the mind, or to consciously achieve a specific goal or state:

Man, in order to escape his conflicts, has invented many forms of meditation. These have been based on desire, will, and the urge for achievement, and imply conflict and a struggle to arrive. This conscious, deliberate striving is always within the limits of a conditioned mind, and in this there is no freedom. All effort to meditate is the denial of meditation. Meditation is the ending of thought. It is only then that there is a different dimension which is beyond time.


For Krishnamurti, meditation was "choiceless awareness
Choiceless awareness
Choiceless Awareness is posited in philosophy, psychology, and spirituality to be the state of unpremeditated, complete awareness of the present without preference, effort, or compulsion. The term was popularized in mid-20th-century by Jiddu Krishnamurti, in whose philosophy it signifies a main theme...

" in the present:

Meditation is a state of mind which looks at everything with complete attention, totally, not just parts of it. And no one can teach you how to be attentive. If any system teaches you how to be attentive, then you are attentive to the system and that is not attention. Meditation is one of the greatest arts in life - perhaps the greatest, and one cannot possibly learn it from anybody, that is the beauty of it. It has no technique and therefore no authority. When you learn about yourself, watch yourself, watch the way you walk, how you eat, what you say, the gossip, the hate, the jealousy - if you are aware of all that in yourself, without any choice, that is part of meditation.

Prayer beads

Most of the ancient religions of the world have a tradition of using some type of prayer beads
Prayer beads
Prayer beads are used by members of various religious traditions such as Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, Anglicanism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Bahá'í Faith to count the repetitions of prayers, chants or devotions, such as the rosary of Virgin Mary in Christianity and dhikr ...

 as tools in devotional meditation. Most prayer beads and Christian rosaries
Rosary based prayers
Rosary-based prayers are mostly Roman Catholic prayers said on a set of rosary beads. These prayers recite specific word sequences on different parts of the rosary beads. They may be directed at Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary or The Father...

 consist of pearls or beads linked together by a thread. The Roman Catholic rosary
Rosary
The rosary or "garland of roses" is a traditional Catholic devotion. The term denotes the prayer beads used to count the series of prayers that make up the rosary...

 is a string of beads containing five sets with ten small beads. Each set of ten is separated by another bead. The Hindu japa mala
Japa mala
A Japa mala or mala is a set of beads commonly used by Hindus and Buddhists, usually made from 108 beads, though other numbers, usually divisible by 9, are also used. Malas are used for keeping count while reciting, chanting, or mentally repeating a mantra or the name or names of a deity...

 has 108 beads, as well as those used in Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

 and Buddhist prayer beads
Buddhist prayer beads
Buddhist prayer beads are a traditional tool used to count the number of times a mantra is recited whilst meditating. They are similar to other forms of prayer beads used in various world religions; thus some call this tool the Buddhist rosary.-Mala:...

. Each bead is counted once as a person recites a mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

 until the person has gone all the way around the mala, which is counted as 100, with an extra 8 there to compensate for missed beads. The Muslim mishbaha has 99 beads. Specific meditations of each religion may be different.

Secular Meditation

As stated by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a U.S. government entity within the National Institutes of Health that advocates various forms of Alternative Medicine
Alternative medicine
Alternative medicine is any healing practice, "that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine." It is based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than on scientific evidence....

, "Meditation may be practiced for many reasons, such as to increase calmness and physical relaxation, to improve psychological balance, to cope with illness, or to enhance overall health and well-being."

Herbert Benson
Herbert Benson
Herbert Benson, M.D. , is an American cardiologist and founder of the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He graduated from Wesleyan University and Harvard Medical School....

 of Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School
Harvard Medical School is the graduate medical school of Harvard University. It is located in the Longwood Medical Area of the Mission Hill neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts....

 conducted a series of clinical tests on meditators from various disciplines, including the Transcendental Meditation technique
Transcendental Meditation technique
The Transcendental Meditation technique is a specific form of mantra meditation often referred to as Transcendental Meditation. It was introduced in India in 1955 by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi...

 and Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism is the body of Buddhist religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet and certain regions of the Himalayas, including northern Nepal, Bhutan, and India . It is the state religion of Bhutan...

. In 1975, Benson published a book titled The Relaxation Response where he outlined his own version of meditation for relaxation.

Biofeedback
Biofeedback
Biofeedback is the process of becoming aware of various physiological functions using instruments that provide information on the activity of those same systems, with a goal of being able to manipulate them at will...

 has been used by many researchers since the 1950s in an effort to enter deeper states of mind.

Mindfulness

Over the past 20 years, mindfulness-based programs
Mindfulness (psychology)
Modern clinical psychology and psychiatry since the 1970s have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation.-Definitions:...

 have become increasingly important to Westerners and in the Western medical and psychological community as a means of helping people, whether they be clinically sick or healthy. Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn
Jon Kabat-Zinn is Professor of Medicine Emeritus and founding director of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Kabat-Zinn was a student of Zen Master Seung Sahn and a founding member of...

, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program
Mindfulness-based stress reduction
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction is a structured complementary medicine program that uses mindfulness in an approach that focuses on alleviating pain and on improving physical and emotional well-being for individuals suffering from a variety of diseases and disorders. The program was established...

 in 1979, has defined mindfulness as 'moment to moment non-judgmental awareness.' Several methods are used during time set aside specifically for mindfulness meditation, such as body scan techniques or letting thought arise and pass, and also during our daily lives, such as being aware of the taste and texture of the food that we eat. Scientifically demonstrated benefits of mindfulness practice include an increase in the body's ability to heal and a shift from a tendency to use the right prefrontal cortex to a tendency to use the left prefrontal cortex, associated with a trend away from depression and anxiety and towards happiness, relaxation, and emotional balance.

Jacobson's Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Jacobson's Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique for reducing anxiety by alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles. It was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920s. Jacobson argued that since muscle tension accompanies anxiety, one can reduce anxiety by learning how to...

 was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson
Edmund Jacobson
Edmund Jacobson was a US-American physician in internal medicine and psychiatry and a physiologist. He was the founder of the Progressive Muscle Relaxation and of Biofeedback....

 in the early 1920s. In this practice one tenses and then relaxes muscle groups in a sequential pattern whilst concentrating on how they feel. The method has been seen to help people with many conditions especially extreme anxiety.

Modern cross-cultural dissemination

Methods of meditation have been cross-culturally disseminated at various times throughout history, such as Buddhism going to East Asia, and Sufi practices
History of Sufism
Sufism is a mystic and ascetic movement which originated in the Golden Age of Islam, from about the 9th to 10th centuries.The emergence of Sufism is a consequence of the wide geographical spread of Islam after the Rashidun conquests, and the resulting absorption of a wide range of mystic traditions...

 going to many Islamic societies. Of special relevance to the modern world is the dissemination of meditative practices since the late 19th century, accompanying increased travel and communication among cultures worldwide. Most prominent has been the transmission of numerous Asian-derived practices to the West. In addition, interest in some Western-based meditative practices has also been revived, and these have been disseminated to a limited extent to Asian countries.

Ideas about Eastern meditation had begun "seeping into American popular culture even before the American Revolution through the various sects of European occult Christianity," and such ideas "came pouring in [to America] during the era of the transcendentalists, especially between the 1840s and the 1880s." But

The World Parliament of Religions, held in Chicago in 1893, was the landmark event that increased Western awareness of meditation. This was the first time that Western audiences on American soil received Asian spiritual teachings from Asians themselves. Thereafter, Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda , born Narendranath Dutta , was the chief disciple of the 19th century mystic Ramakrishna Paramahansa and the founder of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission...

... [founded] various Vedanta
Vedanta
Vedānta was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads. The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta = "Veda-end" = "the appendix to the Vedic hymns." It is also speculated that "Vedānta" means "the purpose or goal...

 ashrams... Anagarika Dharmapala
Anagarika Dharmapala
Anagarika Dharmapala was a leading figure of Buddhism in the twentieth century. He was one of the founding contributors of Sinhalese Buddhist Nationalism and Protestant Buddhism...

 lectured at Harvard on Theravada Buddhist meditation in 1904; Abdul Baha ... [toured] the US teaching the principles of Bahai, and Soyen Shaku
Soyen Shaku
Soyen Shaku was the first Zen Buddhist master to teach in the United States. He was a Roshi of the Rinzai school and was abbot of both Kencho-ji and Engaku-ji temples in Kamakura, Japan...

 toured in 1907 teaching Zen...


More recently, in the 1960s, another surge in Western interest in meditative practices began. Observers have suggested many types of explanations for this interest in Eastern meditation and revived Western contemplation. Thomas Keating
Thomas Keating
For the famous art forger of the same name, see Tom Keating.For the American football player of the same name, see Tom Keating .Fr...

, a founder of Contemplative Outreach
Contemplative Outreach
Contemplative Outreach was established in 1983 to help develop a network of individuals interested in the practice of Centering Prayer as taught by Father Thomas Keating. Three monks of St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts are attributed with developing the practices used by Contemplative...

, wrote that "the rush to the East is a symptom of what is lacking in the West. There is a deep spiritual hunger that is not being satisfied in the West." Daniel Goleman
Daniel Goleman
Daniel Jay Goleman is an author, psychologist, and science journalist. For twelve years, he wrote for The New York Times, specializing in psychology and brain sciences. He is the author of more than 10 books on psychology, education, science, and leadership.-Life:Goleman was born in Stockton,...

, a scholar of meditation, suggested that the shift in interest from "established religions" to meditative practices "is caused by the scarcity of the personal experience of these [meditation-derived] transcendental states - the living spirit at the common core of all religions."

Another suggested contributing factor is the rise of communist political power in Asia, which, "set the stage for an influx of Asian spiritual teachers to the West," oftentimes as refugees.

In a Western context

In the late 19th century, Theosophists
Theosophy
Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

 adopted the word "meditation" to refer to various spiritual practices drawn from Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, Sikhism
Sikhism
Sikhism is a monotheistic religion founded during the 15th century in the Punjab region, by Guru Nanak Dev and continued to progress with ten successive Sikh Gurus . It is the fifth-largest organized religion in the world and one of the fastest-growing...

 and other Indian religions. Thus the English word "meditation" does not exclusively translate to any single term or concept, and can be used to translate words such as the Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 dhāraṇā
Dharana
Dhāraṇā is translated as "collection or concentration of the mind ", or "the act of holding, bearing, wearing, supporting, maintaining, retaining, keeping back , a good memory", or "firmness, steadfastness, ... , certainty"...

, dhyana, samadhi
Samadhi (Buddhism)
In Buddhism, samādhi is mental concentration or composing the mind.-In the early Suttas:In the Pāli canon of the Theravada tradition and the related Āgamas of other early Buddhist schools, samādhi is found in the following contexts:* In the noble eightfold path, "right concentration" In Buddhism,...

 and bhavana
Bhavana
Bhāvanā literally means "development" or "cultivating" or "producing" in the sense of "calling into existence." It is an important concept in Buddhist praxis...

.

Meditation may be for a religious purpose, but even before being brought to the West it was used in secular contexts. Beginning with the Theosophists meditation has been employed in the West by a number of religious and spiritual movements, such as Yoga
Yoga
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on Supersoul...

, New Age
New Age
The New Age movement is a Western spiritual movement that developed in the second half of the 20th century. Its central precepts have been described as "drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational...

 and the New Thought
New Thought
New Thought promotes the ideas that "Infinite Intelligence" or "God" is ubiquitous, spirit is the totality of real things, true human selfhood is divine, divine thought is a force for good, sickness originates in the mind, and "right thinking" has a healing effect.Although New Thought is neither...

  movement.

Meditation techniques have also been used by Western theories of counseling and psychotherapy. Relaxation training works toward achieving mental and muscle relaxation to reduce daily stresses. Jacobson is credited with developing the initial progressive relaxation procedure. These techniques are used in conjunction with other behavioral techniques. Originally used with systematic desensitization
Systematic desensitization
Systematic desensitization is a type of behavioral therapy used in the field of psychology to help effectively overcome phobias and other anxiety disorders. More specifically, it is a type of Pavlovian therapy / classical conditioning therapy developed by a South African psychiatrist, Joseph Wolpe...

, relaxation techniques are now used with other clinical problems. Meditation, hypnosis and biofeedback-induced relaxation are a few of the techniques used with relaxation training. One of the eight essential phases of EMDR (developed by Francine Shapiro), bringing adequate closure to the end of each session, also entails the use of relaxation techniques, including meditation. Multimodal therapy, a technically eclectic approach to behavioral therapy, also employs the use of meditation as a technique used in individual therapy.

From the point of view of psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 and physiology
Physiology
Physiology is the science of the function of living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. The highest honor awarded in physiology is the Nobel Prize in Physiology or...

, meditation can induce an altered state of consciousness
Altered state of consciousness
An altered state of consciousness , also named altered state of mind, is any condition which is significantly different from a normal waking beta wave state. The expression was used as early as 1966 by Arnold M. Ludwig and brought into common usage from 1969 by Charles Tart: it describes induced...

. Such altered states of consciousness may correspond to altered neuro-physiologic states.

Meditation, religion, and drugs

Many traditions in which meditation is practiced, such as Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation
Transcendental Meditation refers to the Transcendental Meditation technique, a specific form of mantra meditation, and to the Transcendental Meditation movement, a spiritual movement...

, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religions, advise members not to consume intoxicants, while others, such as the Rastafarian movements and Native American Church, view drugs as integral to their religious lifestyle.

The fourth of the five precepts of the Pancasila, the ethical code in the Theravada
Theravada
Theravada ; literally, "the Teaching of the Elders" or "the Ancient Teaching", is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It was founded in India...

 and Mahayana
Mahayana
Mahāyāna is one of the two main existing branches of Buddhism and a term for classification of Buddhist philosophies and practice...

 Buddhist traditions, states that adherents must not ingest, "intoxicating drinks and drugs causing heedlessness."

On the other hand, the ingestion of psychoactives has been a central feature in the rituals of many religions, in order to produce altered states of consciousness. In several traditional shamanistic ceremonies, drugs are used as agents of ritual. In the Rastafari movement
Rastafari movement
The Rastafari movement or Rasta is a new religious movement that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica, which at the time was a country with a predominantly Christian culture where 98% of the people were the black descendants of slaves. Its adherents worship Haile Selassie I, Emperor of Ethiopia , as God...

, cannabis
Cannabis (drug)
Cannabis, also known as marijuana among many other names, refers to any number of preparations of the Cannabis plant intended for use as a psychoactive drug or for medicinal purposes. The English term marijuana comes from the Mexican Spanish word marihuana...

 is believed to be a gift from Jah
Jah
Jah is the shortened form of the divine name YHWH , an anglicized version of the Tetragrammaton . The name is most commonly associated with the Rastafari movement or within the word hallelujah, although Christian groups may use the name to varying degrees. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses use a...

 and a sacred herb to be used regularly, while alcohol is considered to debase man. Bob Marley
Bob Marley
Robert Nesta "Bob" Marley, OM was a Jamaican singer-songwriter and musician. He was the rhythm guitarist and lead singer for the ska, rocksteady and reggae band Bob Marley & The Wailers...

 'meditated' daily on his long hammock in a corridor-like room with wooden floor and shutters. Salvia divinorum
Salvia divinorum
Salvia divinorum is a psychoactive plant which can induce dissociative effects and is a potent producer of "visions" and other hallucinatory experiences...

 had a long history of use amongst the Mazatec shamans, who used it to produce visionary states of consciousness in spiritual healing rituals. Native Americans are known to use peyote
Peyote
Lophophora williamsii , better known by its common name Peyote , is a small, spineless cactus with psychoactive alkaloids, particularly mescaline.It is native to southwestern Texas and Mexico...

, as part of religious ceremony, continuing today. In India, the soma
Soma
Soma , or Haoma , from Proto-Indo-Iranian *sauma-, was a ritual drink of importance among the early Indo-Iranians, and the subsequent Vedic and greater Persian cultures. It is frequently mentioned in the Rigveda, whose Soma Mandala contains 114 hymns, many praising its energizing qualities...

 drink has a long history of use alongside prayer and sacrifice, and is mentioned in the Vedas
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

.

During the 1960s, eastern meditation traditions and psychedelics, such as LSD
LSD
Lysergic acid diethylamide, abbreviated LSD or LSD-25, also known as lysergide and colloquially as acid, is a semisynthetic psychedelic drug of the ergoline family, well known for its psychological effects which can include altered thinking processes, closed and open eye visuals, synaesthesia, an...

, became popular in America, and it was suggested that LSD use and meditation were both means to the same spiritual/existential end. Many practictioners of eastern traditions rejected this idea, including many who had tried LSD themselves. In The Master Game, Robert S de Ropp
Robert S de Ropp
Robert Sylvester de Ropp was a biochemist and a researcher and academic in that field. He became a prominent author in the general fields of the realisation of human potential and the search for spiritual enlightenment.-Early life:...

 writes that the "door to full consciousness" can be glimpsed with the aid of substances, but to "pass beyond the door" requires yoga and meditation. Other authors, such as Rick Strassman
Rick Strassman
Dr. Rick Strassman is a medical doctor specialized in psychiatry with a fellowship in clinical psychopharmacology research. Strassman was the first person in the United States after twenty years of intermission to embark in human research with psychedelic, hallucinogenic, or entheogenic substances...

, believe that the relationship between religious experiences reached by way of meditation and through the use of psychedelic drugs deserves further exploration. Also see Psychedelic psychotherapy
Psychedelic psychotherapy
Psychedelic therapy refers to therapeutic practices involving the use of psychedelic drugs, particularly serotonergic psychedelics such as ergine, LSD, psilocin and DMT...

.

Physical postures

Various postures are taken up in meditation. Sitting, supine, and standing postures are used. The bodily positions applied during yoga are described at the Wikipedia page Asana
Asana
Asana is a body position, typically associated with the practice of Yoga, originally identified as a mastery of sitting still, with the spine as a conduit of biodynamic union...

.

Popular in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism are the full-lotus
Lotus position
The Lotus Position is a cross-legged sitting posture originating in meditative practices of ancient India, in which the feet are placed on the opposing thighs. It is an established posture, commonly used for meditation, in the Hindu Yoga and Buddhist contemplative traditions...

, half-lotus, Burmese, and kneeling
Kneeling
Kneeling is a human position in which the weight is distributed on the knees and feet on a surface close to horizontal.The position of kneeling may be assumed for practical reasons and for reasons of social or religious custom.- Practical reasons :...

 positions. Meditation is sometimes done while walking, known as kinhin
Kinhin
In Zen Buddhism, kinhin , or , is the walking meditation that is practiced between long periods of the sitting meditation known as zazen.Practitioners walk clockwise around a room while holding their hands in shashu , with one hand closed in a fist, while the other hand grasps or covers the fist...

, or while doing a simple task mindfully, known as samu
Samu (Zen)
Samu refers to work that is done to promote mindfulness, such as chopping wood or sweeping floors. Samu is popular in Zen monasteries.Mindfulness means accepting reality just as it is...

.

Benefits of Meditation

Meditation has been linked to a variety of health benefits. In a study conducted on college students by Oman, Shapiro, Thoresen, Plante, and Flinders (2008), they were able to demonstrate findings that meditation may tend to changes in the neurological process cultivating physiological health benefits. This finding was supported by an expert panel at the National Institutes of Health. The practice of meditation has also been linked with various favourable outcomes that include: “effective functioning, including academic performance, concentration, perceptual sensitivity, reaction time, memory, self control, empathy, and self esteem.”(Oman et al., 2008, pg. 570) In their evaluation of the effects of two meditation-based programs they were able to conclude that meditating had stress reducing effects and cogitation, and also increased forgiveness. (Oman et al., 2008)

A cross sectional survey research design study lead by Li Chuan Chu (2009), Chu demonstrated that benefits to the psychological state of the participants in the study arose from practicing meditation. Meditation enhances overall psychological health and preserves a positive attitude towards stress. (Chu, 2009)

Mindfulness Meditation has now entered the health care domain because of evidence suggesting a positive correlation between the practice and emotional and physical health. Examples of such benefits include: reduction in stress, anxiety, depression, headaches, pain, elevated blood pressure, etc. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that those who meditated approximately half an hour per day during an eight week period reported that at the end of the period, they were better able to act in a state of awareness and observation. Respondents also said they felt non-judgmental. (Harvard’s Women’s Health Watch, 2011)

Scientific studies

Over 1,000 publications on meditation have appeared to date. Many of the early studies lack a theoretically unified perspective, often resulting in poor methodological quality, as discussed in Meditation#Definitions and scope.

A review of scientific studies identified relaxation, concentration, an altered state of awareness, a suspension of logical thought and the maintenance of a self-observing attitude as the behavioral components of meditation; it is accompanied by a host of biochemical and physical changes in the body that alter metabolism
Metabolism
Metabolism is the set of chemical reactions that happen in the cells of living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories...

, heart rate, respiration
Breathing
Breathing is the process that moves air in and out of the lungs. Aerobic organisms require oxygen to release energy via respiration, in the form of the metabolism of energy-rich molecules such as glucose. Breathing is only one process that delivers oxygen to where it is needed in the body and...

, blood pressure
Blood pressure
Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by circulating blood upon the walls of blood vessels, and is one of the principal vital signs. When used without further specification, "blood pressure" usually refers to the arterial pressure of the systemic circulation. During each heartbeat, BP varies...

 and brain activation. Meditation has been used in clinical settings as a method of stress
Stress (medicine)
Stress is a term in psychology and biology, borrowed from physics and engineering and first used in the biological context in the 1930s, which has in more recent decades become commonly used in popular parlance...

 and pain
Pain
Pain is an unpleasant sensation often caused by intense or damaging stimuli such as stubbing a toe, burning a finger, putting iodine on a cut, and bumping the "funny bone."...

 reduction. Meditation has also been studied specifically for its effects on stress.

In June, 2007 the United States National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine published an independent, peer-reviewed, meta-analysis of the state of research on meditation and health outcomes. The report reviewed 813 studies in five broad categories of meditation: mantra
Mantra
A mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation"...

 meditation, mindfulness meditation, yoga
Yoga
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on Supersoul...

, T'ai chi and Qigong
Qigong
Qigong or chi kung is a practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness for exercise, healing, and meditation...

. The result was mixed. The report concluded that "firm conclusions on the effects of meditation practices in healthcare cannot be drawn based on the available evidence. However, the results analyzed from methodologically stronger research include findings sufficiently favorable to emphasize the value of further research in this field." More rigor in future studies was called for.

More recent research suggests that meditation may increase attention spans. A recent randomized study published in Psychological Science reported that practicing meditation led to doing better on a task related to sustained attention.

In popular culture

Various forms of meditation have been described in popular culture sources. In particular, science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 stories such as Frank Herbert
Frank Herbert
Franklin Patrick Herbert, Jr. was a critically acclaimed and commercially successful American science fiction author. Although a short story author, he is best known for his novels, most notably Dune and its five sequels...

's Dune
Dune (novel)
Dune is a science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert, published in 1965. It won the Hugo Award in 1966, and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel...

, Star Trek
Star Trek
Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. The core of Star Trek is its six television series: The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise...

, Artemis Fowl
Artemis Fowl (series)
Artemis Fowl is a series of fantasy novels written by Irish author Eoin Colfer and all the books are best sellers, starring the teenage criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl II. The author summed up the series as: "Die Hard with fairies." There are seven novels in the series; the first was published in...

, Star Wars
Star Wars
Star Wars is an American epic space opera film series created by George Lucas. The first film in the series was originally released on May 25, 1977, under the title Star Wars, by 20th Century Fox, and became a worldwide pop culture phenomenon, followed by two sequels, released at three-year...

, Maskman, Lost Horizon by James Hilton
James Hilton
James Hilton was an English novelist who wrote several best-sellers, including Lost Horizon and Goodbye, Mr. Chips.-Biography:...

, and Stargate SG-1
Stargate SG-1
Stargate SG-1 is a Canadian-American adventure and military science fiction television series and part of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Stargate franchise. The show, created by Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner, is based on the 1994 feature film Stargate by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich...

 have featured characters who practice one form of meditation or another. Meditation also appears as overt themes in novels such as Jack Kerouac
Jack Kerouac
Jean-Louis "Jack" Lebris de Kerouac was an American novelist and poet. He is considered a literary iconoclast and, alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, a pioneer of the Beat Generation. Kerouac is recognized for his spontaneous method of writing, covering topics such as Catholic...

's The Dharma Bums
The Dharma Bums
The Dharma Bums is a 1958 novel by Beat Generation author Jack Kerouac. The semi-fictional accounts in the novel are based upon events that occurred years after the events of On the Road...

 and Herman Hesse's Siddhartha
Siddhartha (novel)
Siddhartha is a novel by Hermann Hesse that deals with the spiritual journey of an Indian man named Siddhartha during the time of the Buddha.The book, Hesse's ninth novel , was written in German, in a simple, powerful, and lyrical style. It was published in the U.S. in 1951 and became influential...

.

Further reading

  • Ajahn Brahm, Mindfulness Bliss and Beyond. ISBN 978-0-86171-275-5
  • Cooper, David. A. The Art of Meditation: A Complete Guide. ISBN 81-7992-164-6
  • Easwaran, Eknath
    Eknath Easwaran
    Eknath Easwaran was a spiritual teacher, an author of books on meditation and ways to lead a fulfilling life, as well as a translator and interpreter of Indian literature....

    . Meditation
    Passage meditation
    Meditation, also published as Passage Meditation, is a 1978 book by Eknath Easwaran.It describes a meditation program developed by Easwaran from the 1960s, first taught systematically by him at the University of California, Berkeley....

     (see article
    Passage meditation
    Meditation, also published as Passage Meditation, is a 1978 book by Eknath Easwaran.It describes a meditation program developed by Easwaran from the 1960s, first taught systematically by him at the University of California, Berkeley....

    ). ISBN 0-915132-66-4 new edition: Passage Meditation
    Passage meditation
    Meditation, also published as Passage Meditation, is a 1978 book by Eknath Easwaran.It describes a meditation program developed by Easwaran from the 1960s, first taught systematically by him at the University of California, Berkeley....

    . ISBN 978-1-58638-026-7. The Mantram Handbook ISBN 978-1-58638-028-1
  • Glickman, Marshall (2002) Beyond the Breath: Extraordinary Mindfulness Through Whole-Body Vipassana. ISBN 1582900434
  • Goenka, S. N.
    S. N. Goenka
    Satya Narayan Goenka is a leading lay teacher of Vipassanā meditation and a student of U Ba Khin. He has trained more than 800 assistant teachers and each year more than 100,000 people attend Goenka sponsored Vipassana courses....

    . Meditation Now: Inner Peace through Inner Wisdom, ISBN 1-928706-23-1, ISBN 978-1-928706-23-6
  • Hart, William
    William Hart
    William Hart may refer to:In arts and entertainment:* William Hart , English Caroline actor* William Hart , Scottish-American painter* William Matthew Hart , British lithographer and bird artist...

    . Art of Living, Vipassana Meditation, ISBN 0-06-063724-2, ISBN 978-0-06-063724-8
  • Krishnamurti, Jiddu
    Jiddu Krishnamurti
    Jiddu Krishnamurti or J. Krishnamurti or , was a renowned writer and speaker on philosophical and spiritual subjects. His subject matter included: psychological revolution, the nature of the mind, meditation, human relationships, and bringing about positive change in society...

    . This Light in Oneself: True Meditation, 1999, Shambhala Publications
    Shambhala Publications
    Shambhala Publications is an independent publishing company based in Boston, Massachusetts. According to the company, it specializes in "books that present creative and conscious ways of transforming the individual, the society, and the planet". Many of its books deal with Buddhism or related topics...

    . ISBN 1-57062-442-9
  • Levin, Michal
    Michal Levin
    Michal Levin is a writer, spiritual teacher, and pioneer of her own independently developed LEAP Meditation, that she also describes as a chakra meditation. Since 1991 she has been involved with teaching about subtle Energy and how working with it can, as she claims, transform both the individual...

    . Meditation, Path to the Deepest Self, Dorling Kindersley, 2002. ISBN 978-0-7894-8333-1
  • Long, Barry
    Barry Long
    Barry Long was an Australian spiritual teacher and writer.Barry Long was born and raised in Australia and had little formal education. In his twenties he became editor of a Sunday newspaper and later press secretary in the New South Wales Parliament. At this time he was married with two children...

    . Meditation: A Foundation Course — A Book of Ten Lessons. ISBN 1-899324-00-3
  • Meiche, Michele. Meditation for Everyday Living. ISBN 0-9710374-6-9

  • Monaghan, Patricia and Eleanor G. Viereck. Meditation: The Complete Guide. ISBN 1-57731-088-8
  • Vethathiri Maharishi
    Vethathiri Maharishi
    Yogiraj Shri Vethathiri Maharishi was a spiritual leader and founder-trustee of the World Community Service Center in 1958 in Chennai. He had founded over 300 yoga centres around the world and wrote about 80 books, many of which became academic textbooks...

    . Yoga for Modern life.
  • Wood, Ernest
    Ernest Wood
    Professor Ernest Egerton Wood was a noted yogi, theosophist, Sanskrit scholar, and author of numerous books, including Concentration - An Approach to Meditation and Yoga.-Youth and Education:Wood was educated at the Manchester Municipal College of Technology, where he studied chemistry,...

    . Concentration - An Approach to Meditation. Theosophical Publishing House 1949. ISBN 0-8356-0176-5.
  • Yogananda, Paramahansa
    Paramahansa Yogananda
    Paramahansa Yogananda , born Mukunda Lal Ghosh , was an Indian yogi and guru who introduced many westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his book, Autobiography of a...

    . Autobiography of a Yogi.
  • Understanding Confucianism by Jennifer Oldstone-Moore.

External links

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