History of Meditation

Origin of Meditation

Origin of Meditation

The origin of the practice of meditation is seen mainly in religious contexts throughout history.  It can be traced back to prehistoric 5000 BC.

The earliest writings to be discovered were concerning meditation (Dhyana) originating from the Vedas of Hindu traditions around 1500 BCE.

Nearing 6 to 5 century BCE, was the period of the first development of other forms of meditation in Taoist China and Buddhist India.

Dhyana Meditation 

   Early Buddhism

The word Dhyana, as influenced by the Vedas in early Buddhism, means “contemplation and meditation” in all three religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, but the technical context is varied in each religion.

Meditation/Dhyana was incorporated into Yoga exercises, the goal being the extracting the various aspects of self-knowledge.

Over time meditation was developed further by the traditions of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist, influenced independently of the specific religions or by one influencing the other.

The most influential part of the traditions of the Hindu religion was that it involved self-directed awareness and is the part of the process where the yogi would find self, seek the self’s relationship with all living beings and where Ultimate Reality was to be found.

There is much debate concerning the origin of meditation on Buddhism but there are historical records dating to the 1st century BC, in the sutras of the Pāli Canon which set forth levels and states of meditation in Buddhism in India, and the formula for salvation:

(1) observance of the rules of morality

(2) contemplative concentration

(3) knowledge; and

(4) liberation.

This specifically places meditation as part of the path to salvation.

 

  Taoist Meditation

Soon, when Buddhism was spreading to and through China, the writings of the Vimalakirti Sutra (100CE) included meditations and enlightened wisdom which was practiced by the Zen.

(Zen is a combination of Indian Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism which started in China before spreading to Korea and Japan).

Harmonizing Greek and Jewish Philosophy

By 20 BCE a form of “exercises” of a spiritual nature had been written by Philo of Alexandria (who believed in the literal Hebrew Bible and who first attempted to harmonize Greek and Jewish philosophy). These spiritual exercises involved concentration and attention (prosoche).

By the 3rd century, a Greek philosopher named Plotinus developed meditation techniques based on his philosophy of “The One, The Intellect and The Soul.”

In Judaism in the Torah, Isaac is described as “lasuach” in the field. It has been interpreted by some that he was participating in some type of meditative practice.

In the King James Version of the Bible, in the Book of Genesis, “lasuach” is translated “meditation,” yet all commentaries define his action as prayer.

Throughout the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible and a textual source of the Christian Old Testament) it is strongly suggested that Judaism always contained a tradition of meditation.

 

Japanese Buddhism

Beginning in the 8th century, the expansion of Japanese Buddhism meditation practices spread into Japan.

The first meditation hall was opened at Nara, Japan by monk Dosho after being introduced to Zen in China. The Japanese modified Chinese practices.

In Japan, around 1227, the first sitting meditation instructions (Zazen) were written by Dogen and the first community of monks was established.

Early Jewish meditation practices grew and developed and included meditative approaches to prayer.

Different forms of meditation were practiced, including Kabbalistic practices. Some involved approaches of Jewish philosophy.

Dhikr

The concept of Dhikr, or Remembrance of God in Islam, is interpreted by various meditative techniques and became one of the essential elements of Sufism, or Islamic mysticism, in the 11th and 12th centuries.

In Sufism, thinking leads to knowledge, and its followers practiced control of breathing as well as incorporated the repetition of holy words.

 

Christian Meditation

Eastern Christian meditation also involved the repetition of a phrase while in a specific posture and is traced back to the Byzantine Teresa of Avilaperiod.

Hesychasm was developed on Mount Athos, Greece, and involves the repetition of the Jesus Prayer. This form of meditation is still being practiced today.

Western Christian meditation progressed from the 6th century Bible reading among the Benedictine monks (Lectio Divina or “divine reading”) but did not involve the repetition of phrases, actions or specific body posture.

In the 12th century, monk Guigo II termed four formal steps in Latin:  lectio, meditatio, oratio, and contemplatio, which interprets “read, ponder, pray, contemplate.”

In the 16th Century of Western Christian meditation, saints such as Ignatius of Loyola and Teresa of Avila were instrumental in its development.

By the 18th century, the study of Buddhism in the West was a topic mainly focused upon by intellectuals.

French philosopher Voltaire sought toleration towards the Buddhists.

The first English translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead was published in 1927.

 

Yoga

Schools of yoga began forming in Hindu revivalism in the 1890’s.

Gurus began introducing yoga schools to the West. Some yoga schools were designed particularly as secularized variations of yoga traditions to be used by non-Hindus.

One example is the Transcendental Meditation system which began its popularity in the 1960s.

In addition, various forms of Hatha Yoga were developed from the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga school, and eventually became simply known as “Yoga” in the West.

 

Secular Meditation

Secular meditation emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation, and self-improvement more than the spiritual aspects, although both secular and spiritual forms of meditation have been heavily analyzed by scientific research.

Scientific studies increase as more studies confirm the benefits of meditation over the past 60 years.

With such diversified history concerning the subject and despite 4500 years of practice and study, the mechanism of meditation that provides health benefits remains unclear.

Research continues with current Clinical studies underway and additional studies scheduled to take place.

 

 


REFERENCES
– A clinical guide to the treatment of human stress response by George S. Everly, Jeffrey M. Lating 2002 ISBN 0-306-46620-1 .
– Joseph, M. 1998, The effect of strong religious beliefs on coping with stress Stress Medicine. Vol 14(4), Oct 1998
– The origin of Buddhist meditation by Alexander Wynne 2007 ISBN 0-415-42387-2
– Zen Buddhism: a History: India and China by Heinrich Dumoulin, James W. Heisig, Paul F. Knitter 2005 ISBN 0-941532-89-5
– Hadot, Pierre; Arnold I. Davidson (1995) Philosophy as a way of life ISBN 0-631-18033-8
– Hans Urs von Balthasar, Christian meditation Ignatius Press ISBN 0-89870-235-6
– The Sutra of perfect enlightenment: Korean Buddhism’s guide to meditation by A. Charles Muller, 1999 ISBN 0-7914-4101-6
– Kaplan, Aryeh (1985). Jewish Meditation. New York: Schocken Books. ISBN 0-8052-1037-7.
– Zen Buddhism: a History: Japan by Heinrich Dumoulin, James W. Heisig, Paul F. Knitter 2005 ISBN 0-941532-90-9
– Soto Zen in Medieval Japan by William Bodiford 2008 ISBN 0-8248-3303-1
– The Cambridge History of Japan: Medieval Japan by Kōzō Yamamura, John Whitney Hall 1990 ISBN 0-521-22354-7,
– Alan Brill, Dwelling with Kabbalah: Meditation, Ritual, and Study in Jewish Spirituality and Divine Law by Adam Mintz, Lawrence H. Schiffman 2005 ISBN 0-88125-865-2
– Prayer: a history by Philip Zaleski, Carol Zaleski 2005 ISBN 0-618-15288-1
– Global Encyclopaedia of Education by Rama Sankar Yadav & B.N. Mandal 2007 ISBN 978-81-8220-227-6
– Sainthood and revelatory discourse by David Emmanuel Singh 2003 ISBN 81-7214-728-7
– Spiritual Psychology by Akbar Husain 2006 ISBN 81-8220-095-4
– “Mount Athos: History”. Macedonian Heritage. Archived from the original
– An introduction to the Christian Orthodox churches by John Binns 2002 ISBN 0-521-66738-0
– “Hesychasm”. OrthodoxWiki.
– Christian Spirituality: A Historical Sketch by George Lane 2005 ISBN 0-8294-2081-9
– Christian spirituality: themes from the tradition by Lawrence S. Cunningham, Keith J. Egan 1996 ISBN 0-8091-3660-0
– The Oblate Life by Gervase Holdaway, 2008 ISBN 0-8146-3176-2
– After Augustine: the meditative reader and the text by Brian Stock 2001 ISBN 0-8122-3602
– Enlightenment and reform in 18th-century Europe by Derek Edward Dawson Beales 2005 ISBN 1-86064-949-1
– Shakya, Tsering “Review of Prisoners of Shangri-la by Donald Lopez”. online
– Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion by David A. Leeming, Kathryn Madden, Stanton Marlan 2009

 

If you like this post:   This is how I learned to do it.

Introduction to Healing with Meditation

Prehistoric Roots


Meditation

Meditation has been practiced since as early as 1500 BC.   If you are curious about the origins and evolution of meditation and how it relates to modern techniques and teachings, the source material is voluminous.

Each method of meditation has its own ancestry.  Each form or technique has developed over 4500 years of cultural and religious influence.

For people like myself who had heard of  meditation and yoga but never learned much, or, technically for beginners, “Meditation” is a catch-all term encompassing forms of self-discipline techniques designed to gain insight into love through self-knowledge and the human connection to the spirit realm by knowing one’s own mind and heart.

As human beings we are eternal spirits with a soul (our mind, will and emotions) and we live in a body. It is the conscious and subconscious mind that bridges the spirit and the body  uniting them in the physical realm and where we can receive conscious revelation of the truth of our beliefs.

More than Mind-Over-Matter

Diet, exercise and proper nutrition regimens nurture the physical body.   It is equally important to nurture to our mind and spirits.  The mere nature of our society promotes stress and anxiety which lead to chronic diseases that decrease the quality of life and increase mortality.  One of the first symptoms of excessive stress is insomnia.  Sleep is one of the most critical needs of the human body because it helps us to maintain brain function. Scientific research and clinical trials support that including periods of meditation and relaxation into our daily schedule will assist with relieving stress and allow us to maintain control over the anxiety that can lead to a complex imbalance of mental, physical and spiritual health.

If we believe what the research suggests, meditation techniques should be as familiar to us as going to bed every night.

MFHL is here to assist everyone who wants motivation to develop a lifestyle of mindfulness through meditation, generating harmony and balance with the spirit, soul and body.

Educate Yourself

While medical advice and seeking medical treatment when it is needed are absolutely necessary, it is equally important that you be educated, informed and take an active participation in treatment decisions affecting your physical and mental health.Yoga Book

Meditation for Healthy Living will offer insight from available sources (and there are many) on how the various techniques and methods of meditation can be easily learned, taught and incorporated into your lifestyle to aid in maintaining the highest quality of health.  We have watched some people realize that they are passionate about meditation, sought training and education and are now teaching and leading others.

Mental and Physical Conditions

For over 70 years medical/scientific research has been conducted by various research facilities, including the Harvard Medical School’s diverse research departments and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, under the National Institutes of Health (a part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services).

Below is a list of the physical and mental health conditions studied at length:

STRESS AND ANXIETY
PANIC DISORDERS
DEPRESSION
INSOMNIA
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
CHRONIC PAIN
CANCER
KNEE, ANKLE, HIP AND SHOULDER JOINTS
HERNIATED AND BULGING DISCS
RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS
Fibromyalgia/Lupus and OTHER Immune Disorders
LIVER CONDITIONS AND DISEASE
DIABETE
NEURALGIA
PANCREATITIS
HEADACHES AND MIGRAINES
JAW CONDITIONS AND TEETH GRINDING
MENOPAUSE/PMS
ADDICTION and DEPENDENCY
FEAR/PHOBIA
OBSESSIONS AND COMPULSIONS
EATING DISORDERS
PARANOIA
SELF ESTEEM – CONFIDENCE

All forms of meditation and hypnosis have been proven effective with allowing us control over our thought processes and beliefs:

MENTAL FOCUS
MOTIVATION
OVERTHINKING
SUBCONSCIOUS NEGATIVITY
SUCCESS
WEALTH
DREAMS
FORGIVENESS
YOUR IDEAL SELF
INNER SELF/INNER CHILD
STRENGTH AND ENERGY
SELF LIMITING BELIEFS
LAW OF ATTRACTION


 

Meditation includes our immediate environment and surroundings.  Teachers of mediation suggest that it take place in a natural environment.

By educating ourselves and experimenting with a variety of techniques we discover the the methods that provide the best benefit.  You will discover your own preferences and may even surprise yourself with what works best for you.  For those who are limited in physical activity it is possible to obtain the same benefits while comfortably sitting or lying down.  One goal should be to designate a room or space in your home that is inviting to meditate.

Curriculum and Meditation Aids

Psychologists, therapists and other trained professionals have compiled specific technique curriculum, webinars, books, affirmation guides, recorded guided meditation and hypnosis sessions on every topic, as well as meditation music and other mood enhancers such as essential oils and incense.  We have selected our favorite items and included them in our All Things Meditation Store.  We believe you will appreciate the diversity.  Check back frequently because we will continue to add interesting and useful items with touches of nostalgia.

If you are looking for something specific please contact me through our Contact Form and we can use our resources to locate anything you are interested in, or make suggestions and recommendations.


Not a Substitute for Medical AdviceMedical Conditions

The information and techniques discussed throughout this website are not a substitute for medical advice, nor should it be interpreted as such.  It is imperative that you consult with your medical providers before making any decisions concerning participation in meditation or other relaxation or hypnosis techniques.  We encourage you to talk with your physician about how meditation can enhance your quality of life.

Physical illness and mental health disease processes vary and must be monitored by mental health professionals.


Interestingly, results of scientific studies are published in medical journals around the world involving 70 years of research that support the health benefits of practicing meditation and relaxation on a regular basis.  It has been confirmed time and time again that meditation does influence healing of the mind and body.  Additional clinical trials continue to take place based on results of previous findings, with plans for future studies.

Have you decided which technique you want to try next?  The menu bar above this blog can give you a few ideas.  Look around and comment below with your own experiences.

NAMASTE!