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
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.
Meditation is the soul's perspective glass, whereby, in her long remove, she discerneth God, as if He were nearer at hand.
It is not he that reads most, but he that meditates most on Divine truth, that will prove the choicest, wisest, strongest Christian.
For with all our pretension to enlightenment, are we not now a talking, desultory, rather than a meditative generation?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
TerminologyThe English meditation is derived from the Latin meditatio, from a verb meditari, meaning "to think, contemplate, devise, ponder, meditate".
In the Old Testament
hāgâ (Hebrew: הגה), means to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate. When the Hebrew Bible
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
Apart from its historical usage, the term meditation was introduced as a translation for Eastern spiritual practices, referred to as dhyāna in Buddhism
and in Hinduism
, 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
, or other traditions such as Jewish Kabbalah
and Christian Hesychasm
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.
HistoryThe 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
, 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
had developed meditative techniques.
The Pāli Canon
, 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
which dates to 100CE included a number of passages on meditation, clearly pointing to Zen
. The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism
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
ic practice of Dhikr
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
, but this can not be proved. Between the 10th and 14th centuries, hesychasm
was developed, particularly on Mount Athos
in Greece, and involves the repetition of the Jesus prayer
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
progressed from the 6th century practice of Bible reading among Benedictine
monks called Lectio Divina
, i.e. divine reading. Its four formal steps as a "ladder" were defined by the monk Guigo II
in the 12th century with the Latin terms lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio (i.e. read, ponder, pray, contemplate). Western Christian meditation
was further developed by saints such as Ignatius of Loyola
and Teresa of Avila
in the 16th century.
By the 18th century, the study of Buddhism in the West
was a topic for intellectuals. The philosopher Schopenhauer discussed it, and Voltaire
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
|•"[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 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
, an ancient form of Christian prayer. 'Meditation' may also refer to the second of the three steps of Yoga
'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 typologiesOrnstein 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.
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
(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
, and an example of mindfulness meditation is, of course, mindfulness meditation.
Other typologies have also been proposed,
Evidence from neuroimaging studies suggests that the categories of meditation, defined by how they direct attention, appear to generate different brainwave patterns.
Bahá'í FaithIn the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith
meditation, along with prayer
, is one of the primary tools for spiritual development, and it mainly refers to one's reflection on the words of God. While prayer
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
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.
, 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
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
, a nineteen-day period of the year, during which Bahá'ís adhere to a sunrise-to-sunset fast
, is also seen as meditative, where Bahá'ís must meditate and pray to reinvigorate their spiritual forces.
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. Buddhist
s pursue meditation as part of the path toward Enlightenment
. The closest words for meditation in the classical languages of Buddhism are bhāvanā
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
and various recollections (anussati
) — that are used across Buddhist schools
, as well as significant diversity. In the Theravāda
tradition alone, there are over fifty methods for developing mindfulness and forty for developing concentration, while in the Tibetan
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 aggregatesSkandhaIn 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
; and, with the suppression of the hindrances, it is through the meditative development of insight that one gains liberating wisdom
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
. 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
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
in the Bible contrasts with discussions of Krishna
in Indian teachings. Unlike eastern meditations, most styles of Christian meditations do not rely on the repeated use of mantra
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
, 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
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
, but is more structured than the multiple layers of contemplation
, with the omnipresent and non-dual
. This experience is referred to as moksha
by Hindus, and is similar to the concept of Nibbana in Buddhism. The earliest clear references to meditation in Hindu
literature are in the middle Upanishads and the Mahabharata
, which includes the Bhagavad Gita
. According to Gavin Flood
, the earlier Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
refers to meditation when it states that "having becoming calm and concentrated, one perceives the self (ātman
) within oneself".
's ashtanga yoga practice there are eight limbs leading to moksha. These are ethical discipline (yamas
), rules (niyamas), physical postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama
), withdrawal from the senses (pratyahara
), one-pointedness of mind (dharana
), meditation (dhyana
), and finally samadhi
, which is often described as the union of the Self (atman
) with the omnipresent (Brahman
), 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
, 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.
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
by reciting the Qur'an
and engaging in dhikr
to reaffirm and strengthen the bond between Creator and creation, with the purpose of guiding the soul to truth
. Such meditation is intended to help maintain a feeling of spiritual
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
is to be regarded as but another phase of that sustained meditation.
Meditative quiescence is said to have a quality of healing
, and—in contemporary terminology—enhancing creativity
. The Islamic prophet
spent sustained periods in contemplation and meditation. It was during one such period that Muhammad began to receive the revelations
of the Qur'an.
Following are the styles, or schools, of meditation in the Muslim traditions:
- Tafakkur or tadabbur, literally means reflection upon the universeUniverseThe 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 emotionEmotionEmotion 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 inspirationRevelationIn 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 heartHeartThe 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 intellectIntellectIntellect 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 infiniteInfinityInfinity 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 mysticalMysticismMysticism 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 ulemaUlemaUlama , 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 devotionPrayerPrayer 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 TaymiyaIbn TaymiyaTaqi 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'ahBid'ahBid‘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
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
: that of the concentration
technique, involving high-intensity and sharply focused introspection
. In the Oveyssi-Shahmaghsoudi Sufi order, for example, this is particularly evident, where muraqaba
takes the form of tamarkoz, the latter being a Persian
term that means concentration.
JainismIn Jainism, meditation has been a core spiritual practice, one that Jains believe people have undertaken since the teaching of the Tirthankara, Rishabha
. All the twenty four Tirthankaras practiced deep meditation and attained enlightenment. They are all shown in meditative postures in the images or idols. Mahavira
practiced deep meditation for twelve years and attained enlightenment
. The Acaranga Sutra
dating to 500 BC, addresses the meditation system of Jainism in detail. Acharya Bhadrabahu
of the 4th century BC practiced deep Mahaprana meditation for 12 years. Kundakunda
of 1st century BCE, opened new dimensions of meditation in Jain tradition through his books Samayasāra
, 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
. A Mantra could be either a combination of core letters or words on deity or themes. There is a rich tradition of Mantra
in Jainism. All Jain followers irrespective of their sect, whether Digambara or Svetambara
, 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
in the 1970s and presented a well-organised system of meditation. Asana
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.
JudaismThere is evidence that Judaism has had meditative practices that go back thousands of years. For instance, in the Torah
, the patriarch Isaac
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
) that meditation was used by the prophets. In the Old Testament
, there are two Hebrew
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
, is inherently a meditative field of study. Traditionally Kabbalah is only taught to orthodox Jews over the age of forty. The Talmud
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
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
, from the root /R-K-B/ meaning "chariot" (of God).
In modern Jewish practice, one of the best known meditative practices is called "hitbodedut
" (התבודדות, alternatively transliterated as "hisbodedus"), and is explained in Kabbalistic
, Hasidic, and Mussar
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 AgeNew 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
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
, Aaron Hoopes talks of meditation as being an avenue to touching the spiritual nature that exists within each of us.
, the practices of simran and Nām Japō
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
, 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.
, Tao Te Ching
, Chuang Tzu and Tao Tsang
among other texts. The multitude of schools relating to Qigong
, Internal alchemy, Daoyin
and Zhan zhuang
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
and the Chinese
as well as some Japanese martial arts
. The Chinese martial art T'ai chi ch'uan is named after the well-known focus for Taoist and Neo-Confucian meditation, the Taijitu
(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
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
, the practitioner concentrates on flows of energy (Qi) in the body, starting in the abdomen and then circulating through the body, until dispersed.
Jiddu KrishnamurtiIndian-born philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti
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
" 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 beadsMost of the ancient religions of the world have a tradition of using some type of prayer beads
as tools in devotional meditation. Most prayer beads and Christian rosaries
consist of pearls or beads linked together by a thread. The Roman Catholic 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
has 108 beads, as well as those used in Jainism
and Buddhist prayer beads
. Each bead is counted once as a person recites a mantra
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 MeditationAs 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
, "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."
of Harvard Medical School
conducted a series of clinical tests on meditators from various disciplines, including the Transcendental Meditation technique
and Tibetan Buddhism
. In 1975, Benson published a book titled The Relaxation Response where he outlined his own version of meditation for relaxation.
has been used by many researchers since the 1950s in an effort to enter deeper states of mind.
MindfulnessOver the past 20 years, mindfulness-based programs
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
, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program
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
was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson
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 disseminationMethods of meditation have been cross-culturally disseminated at various times throughout history, such as Buddhism going to East Asia, and Sufi practices
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 VivekanandaSwami VivekanandaSwami 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 VedantaVedantaVedānta 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 DharmapalaAnagarika DharmapalaAnagarika 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 ShakuSoyen ShakuSoyen 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
, a founder of Contemplative Outreach
, 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
, 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 contextIn the late 19th century, Theosophists
adopted the word "meditation" to refer to various spiritual practices drawn from Hinduism
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
, dhyana, samadhi
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
, New Age
and the New Thought
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
, 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
, meditation can induce an altered state of consciousness
. Such altered states of consciousness may correspond to altered neuro-physiologic states.
Meditation, religion, and drugsMany traditions in which meditation is practiced, such as Transcendental Meditation
, 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
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
is believed to be a gift from Jah
and a sacred herb to be used regularly, while alcohol is considered to debase man. Bob Marley
'meditated' daily on his long hammock in a corridor-like room with wooden floor and shutters. Salvia divinorum
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
, as part of religious ceremony, continuing today. In India, the soma
drink has a long history of use alongside prayer and sacrifice, and is mentioned in the Vedas
During the 1960s, eastern meditation traditions and psychedelics, such as LSD
, 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
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
, 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
Physical posturesVarious 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
Popular in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism are the full-lotus
, half-lotus, Burmese, and kneeling
positions. Meditation is sometimes done while walking, known as kinhin
, or while doing a simple task mindfully, known as samu
Benefits of MeditationMeditation 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 studiesOver 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
, heart rate, respiration
, blood pressure
and brain activation. Meditation has been used in clinical settings as a method of stress
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
meditation, mindfulness meditation, yoga
, T'ai chi and Qigong
. 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 cultureVarious forms of meditation have been described in popular culture sources. In particular, science fiction
stories such as Frank Herbert
, Star Trek
, Artemis Fowl
, Star Wars
, Maskman, Lost Horizon by James Hilton
, and Stargate SG-1
have featured characters who practice one form of meditation or another. Meditation also appears as overt themes in novels such as Jack Kerouac
's The Dharma Bums
and Herman Hesse's Siddhartha
- 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, EknathEknath EaswaranEknath 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....
. MeditationPassage meditationMeditation, 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 articlePassage meditationMeditation, 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 MeditationPassage meditationMeditation, 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. GoenkaSatya 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, WilliamWilliam HartWilliam 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, JidduJiddu KrishnamurtiJiddu 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 PublicationsShambhala PublicationsShambhala 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, MichalMichal LevinMichal 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, BarryBarry LongBarry 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 MaharishiVethathiri MaharishiYogiraj 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, ErnestErnest WoodProfessor 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, ParamahansaParamahansa YoganandaParamahansa 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.