Meditation

Various depictions of meditation. The Hindu Swami Vivekananda, the Buddhist monk Hsuan Hua, Taoist Baduanjin Qigong, the Christian St Francis, the Stoic sage Epictetus and Muslim Sufis in Dhikr.

Swami Vivekananda 1896
Hsuan Hua Hong Kong 1.jpeg
Baduanjin qigong edit1
Carracci, Lodovico - St Francis in Meditation - Google Art Project
Discourses - Epictetus (illustration 1) (9021700938)
Dhikr Rifa-iyya

Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness, or focusing their mind on a particular object, thought or activity – to train attention and awareness, and achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm and stable state.[1]:228–29[2]:180[3]:415[4]:107[5][6]

Some of the earliest written records of meditation (Dhyana), come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism around 1500 BCE. Meditation has been practiced since antiquity in numerous religious traditions and beliefs, often as part of the path towards enlightenment and self realization. Since the 19th century, it has spread from its origins to other cultures where it is commonly practiced in private and business life.

Meditation may be used with the aim of reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and pain, and increasing peace, perception,[7] self-concept, and well-being.[8][9][10][11] Meditation is under research to define its possible health (psychological, neurological, and cardiovascular) and other effects.

Etymology

The English meditation is derived from Old French meditacioun and the Latin meditatio from a verb meditari, meaning "to think, contemplate, devise, ponder".[12][13] The use of the term meditatio as part of a formal, stepwise process of meditation goes back to the 12th century monk Guigo II.[13][14]

Apart from its historical usage, the term meditation was introduced as a translation for Eastern spiritual practices, referred to as dhyāna in Hinduism and Buddhism and which comes from the Sanskrit root dhyai, meaning to contemplate or meditate.[15][16] The term "meditation" in English may also refer to practices from Islamic Sufism,[17] or other traditions such as Jewish Kabbalah and Christian Hesychasm.[4]

Definitions

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.[4][18] What is considered meditation can include almost any practice that trains the attention or teaches calm or compassion.[19]

Dictionary definitions

Definitions in the Oxford and Cambridge living dictionaries and Merriam-Webster include both the original Latin meaning of "think[ing] deeply about (something)";[6] as well as the popular usage of "to focus one's mind for a period of time,"[6] "the act of giving your attention to only one thing,"[20] and "to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness."[5]

Scholarly definitions

Criteria for defining a practice as meditation "for use in a comprehensive systematic review of the therapeutic use of meditation" were identified by Bond et al. (2009), using "a 5-round Delphi study with a panel of 7 experts in meditation research" who were also trained in diverse but empirically highly studied (clinical or Eastern-derived,) forms of meditation[21];

three main criteria [...] as essential to any meditation practice: the use of a defined technique, logic relaxation,[note 1] 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.[22]:135

[...] It is plausible that meditation is best thought of as a natural category of techniques best captured by 'family resemblances' [...] or by the related 'prototype' model of concepts."[22]:135[23]

The table shows several other definitions of meditation that have been used by influential modern reviews of research on meditation across multiple traditions.

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"[1]:228–29 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"[2]:180 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"[3]:415 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"[4]:107 Goleman (1988)
*Influential reviews encompassing multiple methods of meditation

(The first 3 are cited >80 times in PsycINFO.[24]

Goleman's book has 33 editions listed in WorldCat: 17 editions as The meditative mind: The varieties of meditative experience and 16 editions as The varieties of meditative experience. Citation and edition counts are as of August 2018 and September 2018 respectively.)

In modern psychological research, meditation has been defined and characterized in a variety of ways; many of these emphasize the role of attention.[4][1][2][3] 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.[25]:499 One review of the field provides a detailed set of questions as a starting point in reaching this goal.[19]

The practitioner of meditation attempts to get beyond the reflexive, "thinking" mind[26] (sometimes called "discursive thinking"[27] or "logic"[28]) This may be to achieve a deeper, more devout, or more relaxed state. In this article the terms "meditative practice" and "meditation" are mostly used in this broad sense. However, in some contexts more specialized meanings of "meditation" may be intended.

Separation of technique from tradition

Some of the difficulty in precisely defining meditation has been the difficulty in recognizing the particularities of the many various traditions.[25] There may be differences between the theories of one tradition of meditation as to what it means to practice meditation.[29] The differences between the various traditions themselves, which have grown up a great distance apart from each other, may be even starker.[29] Taylor noted that to refer only to meditation from a particular faith (e.g., "Hindu" or "Buddhist")

...is not enough, since the cultural traditions from which a particular kind of meditation comes are quite different and even within a single tradition differ in complex ways. The specific name of a school of thought or a teacher or the title of a specific text is often quite important for identifying a particular type of meditation.[30]:2

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."[31]:143 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 Zen, Tibetan and Theravadan contexts, and these similarities or "typologies" are noted here.

Forms of meditation

Focused vs open monitoring meditation

In the West, meditation techniques have sometimes been thought of in two broad categories: focused (or concentrative) meditation and open monitoring (or mindfulness) meditation.[32]

One style, Focused Attention (FA) meditation, entails the voluntary focusing of attention on a chosen object, breathing, image, or words. The other style, Open Monitoring (OM) meditation, involves non-reactive monitoring of the content of experience from moment to moment.[32]

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.[22]:130[33]

Focused attention methods

These include paying attention to the breath, to an idea or feeling (such as mettā (loving-kindness)), to a kōan, or to a mantra (such as in transcendental meditation), and single point meditation.[34][35]

Open monitoring methods

These include mindfulness, shikantaza and other awareness states.[36]

Practices using both methods

Some practices use both techniques,[37][38][39] including vipassana (which uses anapanasati as a preparation), samatha/calm-abiding,[40][41] and Headspace.[42]

No thought

In these methods, "the practitioner is fully alert, aware, and in control of their faculties but does not experience any unwanted thought activity."[43] This is in contrast to the common meditative approaches of being detached from, and non-judgmental of, thoughts, but not of aiming for thoughts to cease.[44] In the meditation practice of the Sahaja yoga spiritual movement, the focus is on thoughts ceasing.[45] Clear light yoga also aims at a state of no mental content, as does the no thought (wu nian) state taught by Huineng,[46] and the teaching of Yaoshan Weiyan.

Automatic self-transcending

One proposal is that transcendental meditation and possibly other techniques be grouped as an 'automatic self-transcending' set of techniques.[47]

Other typologies

Other typologies include dividing meditation into concentrative, generative, receptive and reflective practices.[48]

Meditation methods used by some well-known meditators

Meditation practice

Common practice timings

The transcendental meditation technique recommends practice of 20 minutes twice per day.[58] Some techniques suggest less time,[37] especially when starting meditation,[59] and Richie Davidson has quoted research saying benefits can be achieved with a practice of only 8 minutes per day.[60] Some meditators practice for much longer,[61][62] particularly when on a course or retreat.[63] Some meditators find practice best in the hours before dawn.[64]

Physical postures and techniques

1590-MT-au-Peru-2011-Consciousness-Based-Education
Young children practicing meditation in a Peruvian school

Whilst asanas and positions such as the full-lotus, half-lotus, Burmese, Seiza, and kneeling positions are popular in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism,[65] other postures such as sitting, supine (lying), and standing are also used. Meditation is also sometimes done while walking, known as kinhin, or while doing a simple task mindfully, known as samu.[66]

Use of prayer beads

Some ancient religions of the world have a tradition of using prayer beads as tools in devotional meditation.[67][68][69] Most prayer beads and Christian rosaries consist of pearls or beads linked together by a thread.[67][68] The Roman Catholic rosary is a string of beads containing five sets with ten small beads. The Hindu japa mala has 108 beads (the figure 108 in itself having spiritual significance, as well as those used in Jainism and Buddhist prayer beads.[70] Each bead is counted once as a person recites a mantra until the person has gone all the way around the mala.[70] The Muslim misbaha has 99 beads.

Striking the meditator

The Buddhist literature has many stories of Enlightenment being attained through disciples being struck by their masters. According to T. Griffith Foulk professor of Religion at Sarah Lawrence College the encouragement stick was an integral part of the Zen practice:

In the Rinzai monastery where I trained in the mid-1970s, according to an unspoken etiquette, monks who were sitting earnestly and well were shown respect by being hit vigorously and often; those known as laggards were ignored by the hall monitor or given little taps if they requested to be hit. Nobody asked about the “meaning” of the stick, nobody explained, and nobody ever complained about its use.[71]

Possible benefits of supporting meditation practice with a narrative

Richie Davidson has expressed the view that having a narrative can help maintenance of daily practice.[60] For instance he himself prostrates to the teachings, and meditates "not primarily for my benefit, but for the benefit of others."[60]

Religious and spiritual meditation

Christianity

Padre Pio
A strong believer in Christian meditation, Saint Pio of Pietrelcina stated: "Through the study of books one seeks God; by meditation one finds him."[72]

Christian meditation is a term for a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God.[73] 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.[74]

The Rosary is a devotion for the meditation of the mysteries of Jesus and Mary.[75][76]“The gentle repetition of its prayers makes it an excellent means to moving into deeper meditation. It gives us an opportunity to open ourselves to God’s word, to refine our interior gaze by turning our minds to the life of Christ. The first principle is that meditation is learned through practice. Many people who practice rosary meditation begin very simply and gradually develop a more sophisticated meditation. The meditator learns to hear an interior voice, the voice of God”.[77]

Christian meditation contrasts with Eastern forms of meditation as radically as the portrayal of God the Father in the Bible contrasts with depictions of Krishna or Brahman in Indian teachings.[78] Unlike Eastern meditations, most styles of Christian meditations do not rely on the repeated use of mantras, and yet are also 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.[79][80]

In Aspects of Christian meditation, the Catholic Church warned of potential incompatibilities in mixing Christian and Eastern styles of meditation.[81] In 2003, in A Christian reflection on the New Age the Vatican announced that the "Church avoids any concept that is close to those of the New Age".[82][83][84]

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 in Christianity.[85]

In Frankfurt, Germany in 2007 the Centre for Christian Meditation and Spirituality in the Holy Cross Church, Frankfurt-Bornheim was founded by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Limburg. In and by the centre different kinds of church services are offered like for example with elements such as expressionist dance, moreover days of exercises of Christian mysticism, contemplative prayer, meditative singing, meditation courses, Zen-meditation courses, days of reflection, spiritual exercises and retreats[86]

Early studies on states of consciousness conducted by Roland Fischer [87] found evidence of mystical experience description in the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila. In her autobiography she describes that, at the peak of a praying experience "... the soul neither hears nor sees nor feels. While it lasts, none of the senses perceives or knows what is taking place".[88] This corresponds to the fourth stage described by Saint Teresa, "Devotion of Ecstasy", where the consciousness of being in the body disappears, as an effect of deep transcendent meditation in prayer.

Indian religions

Jainism

Kevalajnana
The āsana in which Mahavira attained omniscience

In Jainism, meditation has been a core spiritual practice, one that Jains believe people have undertaken since the teaching of the Tirthankara, Rishabha.[89] All the twenty-four Tirthankaras practiced deep meditation and attained enlightenment.[90] They are all shown in meditative postures in the images or idols. Mahavira practiced deep meditation for twelve years and attained enlightenment.[91] The Acaranga Sutra dating to 500 BCE, addresses the meditation system of Jainism in detail.[92] Acharya Bhadrabahu of the 4th century BCE practiced deep Mahaprana meditation for twelve years.[93] Kundakunda of 1st century BCE, opened new dimensions of meditation in Jain tradition through his books Samayasāra, Pravachansar and others.[94] The 8th century Jain philosopher Haribhadra also contributed to the development of Jain yoga through his Yogadṛṣṭisamuccaya, which compares and analyzes various systems of yoga, including Hindu, Buddhist and Jain systems.

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.[95] Meditation in Jainism aims at realizing the self, attaining salvation, and taking the soul to complete freedom.[96] 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.[97] 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 five Pranas or vital energy.[98] Yogasana and Pranayama balances the functioning of neuro-endocrine system of body and helps in achieving good physical, mental and emotional health.[99]

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, which 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.[97]

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.[100] Numerous Preksha meditation centers came into existence around the world and numerous meditations camps are being organized to impart training in it.

Buddhism

BodhidharmaYoshitoshi1887
Bodhidharma practicing zazen.

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 the path toward awakening and nirvana.[101] The closest words for meditation in the classical languages of Buddhism are bhāvanā,[102] jhāna/dhyāna,[103] and vipassana.

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.[104] Most classical and contemporary Buddhist meditation guides are school-specific.[105]

According to the Theravada and Sarvastivada commentatorial tradition, and also the Tibetan tradition,[106] the Buddha is said to have identified two paramount mental qualities that arise from wholesome meditative practice:

  • "serenity" or "tranquility" (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).[107]

Through the meditative development of serenity, one is able to weaken the obscuring hindrances and bring the mind to a collected, pliant and still state (samadhi). This quality of mind then supports the development of insight and wisdom (Prajñā) which is the quality of mind that can "clearly see" (vi-passana) the nature of phenomena. What exactly is to be seen varies within the Buddhist traditions.[106] In Theravada, all phenomena are to be seen as impermanent, suffering, not-self and empty. When this happens, one develops dispassion (viraga) for all phenomena, including all negative qualities and hindrances and lets them go. It is through the release of the hindrances and ending of craving through the meditative development of insight that one gains liberation.[108]

In the modern era, Buddhist meditation saw increasing popularity due to the influence of Buddhist modernism on Asian Buddhism, and western lay interest in Zen and the Vipassana movement. The spread of Buddhist meditation to the Western world paralleled the spread of Buddhism in the West. Buddhist meditation has also influenced Western Psychology, especially through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) in 1979.[109] The modernized concept of mindfulness (based on the Buddhist term sati) and related meditative practices has in turn led to several mindfulness based therapies.

Hinduism

Patanjali Statue
A statue of Patañjali practicing dhyana in the Padma-asana at Patanjali Yogpeeth.

In pre-modern and traditional Hindu religions, Yoga and Dhyana are done to realize union of one's eternal self or soul, one's ātman. In some Hindu traditions, such as Advaita Vedanta this is equated with the omnipresent and non-dual Brahman. In others, such as the dualistic the Yoga school and Samkhya, the Self is referred to as Purusha, a pure consciousness which is separate from matter. Depending on the tradition, this liberative event is referred to as moksha, vimukti or kaivalya.

The earliest clear references to meditation in Hindu literature are in the middle Upanishads and the Mahabharata, the latter of which includes the Bhagavad Gita.[110][111] According to Gavin Flood, the earlier Brihadaranyaka Upanishad refers to meditation when it states that "having become calm and concentrated, one perceives the self (ātman) within oneself".[112]

One of the most influential texts of classical Hindu Yoga is Patañjali's Yoga sutras (c. 400 CE), a text associated with Yoga and Samkhya, which outlines eight limbs leading to kaivalya ("aloneness"). These are ethical discipline (yamas), rules (niyamas), physical postures (āsanas), breath control (prāṇāyama), withdrawal from the senses (pratyāhāra), one-pointedness of mind (dhāraṇā), meditation (dhyāna), and finally samādhi.

Later developments in Hind meditation include the compilation of Hatha Yoga (forceful yoga) compendiums like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the development of Bhakti yoga as a major form of meditation and Tantra. Another important Hindu yoga text is the Yoga Yajnavalkya, which makes use of Hatha Yoga and Vedanta Philosophy.

In the sixth chapter of Bhāvārthadipikā[113] commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita by Sri Jñāneśvar (Dnyaneshwar)[114] meditation in yoga is described as a state caused by the spontaneous awakening of the sacred energy Kundalini (not Prana or Chi), which creates a connection of the individual soul Ātman with universal Spirit – Paramātman.

There are many schools and styles of meditation within Hinduism.[112]

Sikhism

Sikhs gather in Gurdwara's and recite Shabad Kirtan, a vocal meditation

In Sikhism, simran (meditation) and good deeds are both necessary to achieve the devotee's Spiritual goals;[115] without good deeds meditation is futile. When Sikhs meditate, they aim to feel God's presence and immerge in the divine light.[116] It is only God's divine will or order that allows a devotee to desire to begin to meditate. Guru Nanak in the Japji Sahib daily Sikh scripture explains:

Visits to temples, penance, compassion and charity gain you but a sesame seed of credit. It is hearkening to His Name, accepting and adoring Him that obtains emancipation by bathing in the shrine of soul. All virtues are Yours, O Lord! I have none; Without good deeds one can't even meditate.[117]

Nām Japnā involves focusing one's attention on the names or great attributes of God.[118]

East Asian religions

Taoism

Stage1
"Gathering the Light", Taoist meditation from The Secret of the Golden Flower

Taoist or Daoist meditation has a long history, and has developed various techniques including concentration, visualization, qi cultivation, contemplation, and mindfulness meditations. Traditional Daoist meditative practices were influenced by Chinese Buddhism beginning around the 5th century, and later had influence upon Traditional Chinese medicine and the Chinese martial arts.

Livia Kohn distinguishes three basic types of Daoist meditation: "concentrative", "insight", and "visualization".[119] Ding (literally means "decide; settle; stabilize") refers to "deep concentration", "intent contemplation", or "perfect absorption". Guan (lit. "watch; observe; view") meditation seeks to merge and attain unity with the Dao. It was developed by Tang Dynasty (618–907) Daoist masters based upon the Tiantai Buddhist practice of Vipassanā "insight" or "wisdom" meditation. Cun (lit. "exist; be present; survive") has a sense of "to cause to exist; to make present" in the meditation techniques popularized by the Daoist Shangqing and Lingbao Schools. A meditator visualizes or actualizes solar and lunar essences, lights, and deities within his/her body, which supposedly results in health and longevity, even xian 仙/仚/僊, "immortality".

The (late 4th century BCE) Guanzi essay Neiye "Inward training" is the oldest received writing on the subject of qi cultivation and breath-control meditation techniques.[120] For instance, "When you enlarge your mind and let go of it, when you relax your vital breath and expand it, when your body is calm and unmoving: And you can maintain the One and discard the myriad disturbances. ... This is called "revolving the vital breath": Your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly."[121]

The (c. 3rd century BCE) Daoist Zhuangzi records zuowang or "sitting forgetting" meditation. Confucius asked his disciple Yan Hui to explain what "sit and forget" means: "I slough off my limbs and trunk, dim my intelligence, depart from my form, leave knowledge behind, and become identical with the Transformational Thoroughfare."[122]

Daoist meditation practices are central to Chinese martial arts (and some Japanese martial arts), especially the qi-related neijia "internal martial arts". Some well-known examples are daoyin "guiding and pulling", qigong "life-energy exercises", neigong "internal exercises", neidan "internal alchemy", and taijiquan "great ultimate boxing", which is thought of as moving meditation. One common explanation contrasts "movement in stillness" referring to energetic visualization of qi circulation in qigong and zuochan "seated meditation",[39] versus "stillness in movement" referring to a state of meditative calm in taijiquan forms.

Iranian religions

Bahá'í Faith

In the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith, meditation along with prayer are both primary tools for spiritual development[123] and mainly refer to one's reflection on the words of God.[124] While prayer and meditation are linked, where meditation happens generally in a prayerful attitude, prayer is seen specifically as turning toward God,[125] and meditation is seen as a communion with one's self where one focuses on the divine.[124]

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,[124] more receptive to the need for both prayer and meditation to bring about and maintain a spiritual communion with God.[126]

Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the religion, never specified any particular form of meditation, and thus each person is free to choose their own form.[123] 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.[124] During the Nineteen Day Fast, a period of the year during which Bahá'ís adhere to a sunrise-to-sunset fast, they meditate and pray to reinvigorate their spiritual forces.[127]

Judaism

There is evidence that Judaism has had meditative practices that go back thousands of years.[128][129] 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).[130]

Similarly, there are indications throughout the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) that meditation was used by the prophets.[131] In the Old Testament, there are two Hebrew words for meditation: hāgâ (Hebrew: הגה‎), which means to sigh or murmur, but also to meditate, and sîḥâ (Hebrew: שיחה‎), which means to muse, or rehearse in one's mind.[132]

Classical Jewish texts espouse a wide range of meditative practices, often associated with the cultivation of Kavanah or intention. The first layer of rabbinic law, the Mishnah describes ancient sages "waiting" for an hour before their prayers, "in order to direct their hearts to the Omnipresent One (Mishnah Berakhot 5:1). Other early rabbinic texts include instructions for visualizing the Divine Presence (B. Talmud Sanhedrin 22a) and breathing with conscious gratitude for every breath (Genesis Rabba 14:9).[133]

Some meditative traditions have been encouraged in the school of Judaism known as Kabbalah, and some Jews have described Kabbalah as an inherently meditative field of study.[134][135][136] Aryeh Kaplan has argued that, for the Kabbalist, the ultimate purpose of meditative practice is to understand and cleave to the Divine.[132] 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).[132]

Meditation has been of interest to a wide variety of modern Jews. 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.[137] Another Hasidic system is the Habad method of "hisbonenus", related to the Sephirah of "Binah", Hebrew for understanding.[138] This practice is the analytical reflective process of making oneself understand a mystical concept well, that follows and internalises its study in Hasidic writings.

The Musar Movement, founded by Rabbi Israel Salanter in the middle of the nineteenth-century, emphasized meditative practices of introspection and visualization that could help to improve moral character.[139]

Jewish Buddhists have adopted Buddhist styles of meditation.[140]

Islam

Salah is a mandatory act of devotion performed by Muslims five times per day. The body goes through sets of different postures, as the mind attains a level of concentration called khushu'.

A second optional type of meditation, called dhikr, meaning remembering and mentioning God, is interpreted in different meditative techniques in Sufism or Islamic mysticism.[141][142] This became one of the essential elements of Sufism as it was systematized traditionally. It is juxtaposed with fikr (thinking) which leads to knowledge.[143] By the 12th century, the practice of Sufism included specific meditative techniques, and its followers practiced breathing controls and the repetition of holy words.[144]

Numerous Sufi traditions place emphasis upon a meditative procedure which comes from the 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".[145]

Tafakkur or tadabbur in Sufism literally means reflection upon the universe: this is considered to permit access to a form of cognitive and emotional development that can emanate only from the higher level, i.e. from God. The sensation of receiving divine inspiration awakens and liberates both heart and intellect, permitting such inner growth that the apparently mundane actually takes on the quality of the infinite. Muslim teachings embrace life as a test of one's submission to God.[146]

Pagan and occult religions

Religions and religious movements which use magic, such as Wicca, Thelema, Neopaganism, occultism etc., often require their adherents to meditate as a preliminary to the magical work. This is because magic is often thought to require a particular state of mind in order to make contact with spirits, or because one has to visualize one's goal or otherwise keep intent focused for a long period during the ritual in order to see the desired outcome. Meditation practice in these religions usually revolves around visualization, absorbing energy from the universe or higher self, directing one's internal energy, and inducing various trance states. Meditation and magic practice often overlap in these religions as meditation is often seen as merely a stepping stone to supernatural power, and the meditation sessions may be peppered with various chants and spells.

Modern spirituality

Mantra meditation, with the use of a japa mala and especially with focus on the Hare Krishna maha-mantra, is a central practice of the Gaudiya Vaishnava faith tradition and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), also known as the Hare Krishna movement. Other popular New Religious Movements include the Ramakrishna Mission, Vedanta Society, Divine Light Mission, Chinmaya Mission, Osho, Sahaja Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Oneness University, Brahma Kumaris and Vihangam Yoga.

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 religion as a reaction against what some perceived as the failure of Christianity to provide spiritual and ethical guidance.[147] 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.[148] New Age meditation evolved into a range of purposes and practices, from serenity and balance to access to other realms of consciousness to the concentration of energy in group meditation to the supreme goal of samadhi, as in the ancient yogic practice of meditation.[149]

Mindfulness

Over the past 20 years, mindfulness and mindfulness-based programs have been used to assist people, whether they be clinically sick or healthy.[150] Jon Kabat-Zinn, who founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program in 1979, has defined mindfulness as 'moment to moment non-judgmental awareness.'[151] 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.[152] Some studies offer evidence that mindfulness practices are beneficial for the brain's self-regulation by increasing activity in the anterior cingulate cortex.[153] A shift from using the right prefrontal cortex is claimed to be associated with a trend away from depression and anxiety, and towards happiness, relaxation, and emotional balance.[154]

Secular applications

As stated by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a US 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."[155][10]

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. Sahaja (mental silence) meditators scored above control group for emotional well-being and mental health measures on SF-36 ratings.[156][157]

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.[158] 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.[159]

Early Morning Meditation
A collective meditation in Sri Lanka

From the point of view of psychology and physiology, meditation can induce an altered state of consciousness.[160] Such altered states of consciousness may correspond to altered neuro-physiologic states.[161]

Today, there are many different types of meditation practiced in western culture. Mindful breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and loving kindness meditations for instance have been found to provide cognitive benefits such as relaxation and decentering. With training in meditation, depressive rumination can be decreased and overall peace of mind can flourish. Different techniques have shown to work better for different people.[162]

Sound-based meditation

Herbert Benson 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.[163] Also in the 1970s, the American psychologist Patricia Carrington developed a similar technique called Clinically Standardized Meditation (CSM).[164] In Norway, another sound-based method called Acem Meditation developed a psychology of meditation and has been the subject of several scientific studies.[165]

Biofeedback has been used by many researchers since the 1950s in an effort to enter deeper states of mind.[166]

History

Brooklyn Museum - Man Meditating in a Garden Setting
Man Meditating in a Garden Setting

The history of meditation is intimately bound up with the religious context within which it was practiced.[167] Some authors have even suggested the hypothesis that the emergence of the capacity for focused attention, an element of many methods of meditation,[168] may have contributed to the latest phases of human biological evolution.[169] Some of the earliest references to meditation are found in the Hindu Vedas of India.[167] Wilson translates the most famous Vedic mantra "Gayatri" as: "We meditate on that desirable light of the divine Savitri, who influences our pious rites" (Rigveda : Mandala-3, Sukta-62, Rcha-10). Around the 6th to 5th centuries BCE, other forms of meditation developed via Confucianism and Taoism in China as well as Hinduism, Jainism, and early Buddhism in Nepal and India.[167]

In the Roman Empire, by 20 BCE Philo of Alexandria had written on some form of "spiritual exercises" involving attention (prosoche) and concentration[170] and by the 3rd century Plotinus had developed meditative techniques.

The Pāli Canon, which dates to 1st century BCE considers Buddhist meditation as a step towards liberation.[171] By the time Buddhism was spreading in China, the Vimalakirti Sutra which dates to 100 CE included a number of passages on meditation, clearly pointing to Zen (known as Chan in China, Thiền in Vietnam, and Seon in Korea).[172] The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism introduced meditation to other Asian countries, and in 653 the first meditation hall was opened in Singapore.[173] Returning from China around 1227, Dōgen wrote the instructions for zazen.[174][175]

The Islamic practice of Dhikr had involved the repetition of the 99 Names of God since the 8th or 9th century.[141][142] By the 12th century, the practice of Sufism included specific meditative techniques, and its followers practiced breathing controls and the repetition of holy words.[144] Interactions with Indians, Nepalese or the Sufis may have influenced the Eastern Christian meditation approach to hesychasm, but this can not be proved.[176][177] Between the 10th and 14th centuries, hesychasm was developed, particularly on Mount Athos in Greece, and involves the repetition of the Jesus prayer.[178]

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.[179][180][181][182]

Secular forms of meditation were introduced in India in the 1950s as a modern form of Hindu meditative techniques and arrived in Australia in the late 1950s[183] and, the United States and Europe in the 1960s. Rather than focusing on spiritual growth, secular meditation emphasizes stress reduction, relaxation and self-improvement.[167][184] 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.[185] Since the beginning of the '70s more than a thousand studies of meditation in English have been reported.[185] However, after 60 years of scientific study, the exact mechanism at work in meditation remains unclear.[167]

Modern dissemination in the west

Methods 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,[186] and these have been disseminated to a limited extent to Asian countries.[187] Also evident is some extent of influence over Enlightenment thinking through Denis Diderot's Encyclopédie, although he states, "I find that a meditation practitioner is often quite useless and that a contemplation practitioner is always insane".[188]

Ideas about Eastern meditation had begun "seeping into American popular culture even before the American Revolution through the various sects of European occult Christianity",[30]:3 and such ideas "came pouring in [to America] during the era of the transcendentalists, especially between the 1840s and the 1880s."[30]:3 The following decades saw further spread of these ideas to America:

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... [founded] various Vedanta ashrams... Anagarika Dharmapala lectured at Harvard on Theravada Buddhist meditation in 1904; Abdul Baha ... [toured] the US teaching the principles of Bahai, and Soyen Shaku toured in 1907 teaching Zen...[30]:4

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."[189]:31 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."[4]:xxiv

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",[30]:7 oftentimes as refugees.[190]

Meditation in the workplace

A 2010 review of the literature on spirituality and performance in organizations found an increase in corporate meditation programs.[191]

As of 2016 around a quarter of U.S. employers were using stress reduction initiatives.[192][193] The goal was to help reduce stress and improve reactions to stress. Aetna now offers its program to its customers. Google also implements mindfulness, offering more than a dozen meditation courses, with the most prominent one, "Search Inside Yourself", having been implemented since 2007.[193] General Mills offers the Mindful Leadership Program Series, a course which uses a combination of mindfulness meditation, yoga and dialog with the intention of developing the mind's capacity to pay attention.[193]

Research on meditation

Research on the processes and effects of meditation is a subfield of neurological research.[9] Modern scientific techniques, such as fMRI and EEG, were used to observe neurological responses during meditation.[194] Since the 1950s, hundreds of studies on meditation have been conducted, though the overall methological quality of meditation research is poor, yielding unreliable results.[195]

Since the 1970s, clinical psychology and psychiatry have developed meditation techniques for numerous psychological conditions.[196] Mindfulness practice is employed in psychology to alleviate mental and physical conditions, such as reducing depression, stress, and anxiety.[9][197][198] Mindfulness is also used in the treatment of drug addiction.[199] Studies demonstrate that meditation has a moderate effect to reduce pain.[9] There is insufficient evidence for any effect of meditation on positive mood, attention, eating habits, sleep, or body weight.[9]

A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of meditation on empathy, compassion, and prosocial behaviors found that meditation practices had small to medium effects on self-reported and observable outcomes, concluding that such practices can "improve positive prosocial emotions and behaviors".[200]

Preliminary studies showed a potential relationship between meditation and job performance, resulting from cognitive and social effects.[201][202]

Concerns have been raised on the quality of much meditation research,[203][204] including the particular characteristics of individuals who tend to participate.[205]

According to Bret Stetka, "many psychologists, neuroscientists and meditation experts are afraid that hype is outpacing the science."[206][207] Richard J. Davidson, director of the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior, and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, cautions against expecting too much of meditation for the treatment of illness:

With respect to physical illness I would say that the data there really are not very strong and certainly do not show that meditation is better than any other method for any disease. I don’t think there is a shred of evidence to suggest that. And with respect to psychiatric illness as we talked about earlier there is some evidence for depression, but for the most part, except for this limited case of Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy with depressive relapse, the evidence suggests again that mindfulness based interventions are no better than any other empirically well validated treatment. So, while someone may prefer a mindfulness based approach, it’s not necessarily going to be any better. And this is a sobering reminder that these practices were not originally designed for treating psychopathology or treating physical illness.[208]

Differences in effects of different methods

Evidence from neuroimaging studies suggests that the categories of meditation, as defined by how they direct attention, appear to generate different brainwave patterns.[32][47] Evidence also suggests that using different focus objects during meditation may generate different brainwave patterns.[209]

Prevalence of meditation

The 2012 US National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) (n = 34,525), found 8.0% of US adults used meditation,[210] with lifetime and 12-month prevalence of meditation use of 5.2% and 4.1% respectively.[211] In the 2017 survey meditation use among workers was 9.9% (up from 8.0% in 2002).[212]

Meditation, religion and drugs

Many major traditions in which meditation is practiced, such as Buddhism[213] and Hinduism,[214] 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 fifth of the five precepts of the Pancasila, the ethical code in the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions, states that adherents must: "abstain from fermented and distilled beverages that cause heedlessness."[215]

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, cannabis is believed to be a gift from Jah and a sacred herb to be used regularly, while alcohol is considered to debase man. Native Americans use peyote, as part of religious ceremony, continuing today.[216] In India, the soma drink has a long history of use alongside prayer and sacrifice, and is mentioned in the Vedas.

During the 1960s and 70s, both 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.[217] Many practitioners 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. A study at Johns Hopkins University found that psilocybin-induced mystical-type experiences brought more lasting positive changes to traits including altruism, gratitude, forgiveness and feeling close to others when they were combined with a regular meditation practice and an extensive spiritual practice support programme.[218][219] 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.[220][221]

Instances of sexual abuse in meditative practices

Buddhist traditions have not been immune from sexual abuse scandals, with victims coming forward in several Zen and Tibetan schools.

Today, one could reasonably assert that of the 30 or 40 important Zen centers in the country, at least 10 have employed head teachers who have been accused of groping, propositioning, seducing, or otherwise exploiting students.[222]

Tibetan Guru Sogyal Rinpoche was similarly accused.[223] “There are huge cover ups in the Catholic church, but what has happened within Tibetan Buddhism is totally along the same lines,” says Mary Finnigan, an author and journalist who has been chronicling such alleged misdemeanours since the mid-80s. [224]

Adverse Effects and Criticism

Meditation has been correlated with unpleasant experiences in some people.[225][226][227][228] More than a quarter of meditators report negative experiences such as anxiety, fear, and distorted emotions and thoughts. Meditators with high levels of repetitive negative thinking and those who only engage in deconstructive meditation are more likely to report unpleasant side effects. Adverse effects are less frequently reported in women and religious meditators.[229]

Mindfulness meditation, in its modern form, is regarded by psychologist Thomas Joiner to have been "corrupted" for commercial gain by self-help celebrities, and he suggests that it encourages narcissistic and self-obsessed mindsets which can be unhealthy.[230][231]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Bond et al. 2009: "Logic relaxation is defined by the authors as “not ‘to intend’ to analyzing (not trying to explain) the possible psychophysi"cal effects,” “not ‘to intend’ to judging (good, bad, right, wrong) the possible psychophysical [effects],” and “not ‘to intend’ to creating any type of expectation regarding the process.” (Cardoso et al., 2004, p. 59)"

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  21. ^ "members were chosen on the basis of their publication record of research on the therapeutic use of meditation, their knowledge of and training in traditional or clinically developed meditation techniques, and their affiliation with universities and research centers. Each member had specific expertise and training in at least one of the following meditation practices: kundalini yoga, Transcendental Meditation, relaxation response, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and vipassana meditation" (Bond, Ospina et al., 2009, p. 131); their views were combined using "the Delphi technique [...] a method of eliciting and refining group judgments to address complex problems with a high level of uncertainty" (p. 131).
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  23. ^ The full quotation from Bond, Ospina et al. (2009, p. 135) reads: "It is plausible that meditation is best thought of as a natural category of techniques best captured by 'family resemblances' (Wittgenstein, 1968) or by the related 'prototype' model of concepts (Rosch, 1973; Rosch & Mervin, 1975)."
  24. ^ Number of citations in PsycINFO: 254 for Walsh & Shapiro, 2006 (26 August 2018); 561 for Cahn & Polich, 2006 (26 August 2018); 83 for Jevning et al. (1992) (26 August 2018).
  25. ^ a b Lutz, Dunne and Davidson, "Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness: An Introduction" in The Cambridge handbook of consciousness by Philip David Zelazo, Morris Moscovitch, Evan Thompson, 2007 ISBN 0-521-85743-0 pp. 499–551 (proof copy) (NB: pagination of published was 499–551 proof was 497–550). Archived March 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ This does not mean that all meditation seeks to take a person beyond all thought processes, only those processes that are sometimes referred to as "discursive" or "logical" (see Shapiro, 1982/1984; Bond, Ospina, et al., 2009; Appendix B, pp. 279–82 in Ospina, Bond, et al., 2007).
  27. ^ An influential definition by Shapiro (1982) states that "meditation refers to a family of techniques which have in common a conscious attempt to focus attention in a nonanalytical way and an attempt not to dwell on discursive, ruminating thought" (p. 6, italics in original); the term "discursive thought" has long been used in Western philosophy, and is often viewed as a synonym to logical thought (Rappe, Sara (2000). Reading neoplatonism : Non-discursive thinking in the texts of plotinus, proclus, and damascius. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-65158-5.).
  28. ^ Bond, Ospina et al. (2009) – see fuller discussion elsewhere on this page – report that 7 expert scholars who had studied different traditions of meditation agreed that an "essential" component of meditation "Involves logic relaxation: not 'to intend' to analyze the possible psychophysical effects, not 'to intend' to judge the possible results, not 'to intend' to create any type of expectation regarding the process" (p. 134, Table 4). In their final consideration, all 7 experts regarded this feature as an "essential" component of meditation; none of them regarded it as merely "important but not essential" (p. 234, Table 4). (This same result is presented in Table B1 in Ospina, Bond, et al., 2007, p. 281)
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  74. ^ An introduction to Christian spirituality by F. Antonisamy, 2000 ISBN 81-7109-429-5 pp. 76–77
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  101. ^ For instance, Kamalashila (2003), p. 4, states that Buddhist meditation "includes any method of meditation that has Enlightenment as its ultimate aim." Likewise, Bodhi (1999) writes: "To arrive at the experiential realization of the truths it is necessary to take up the practice of meditation.... At the climax of such contemplation the mental eye ... shifts its focus to the unconditioned state, Nibbana...." A similar although in some ways slightly broader definition is provided by Fischer-Schreiber et al. (1991), p. 142: "Meditation – general term for a multitude of religious practices, often quite different in method, but all having the same goal: to bring the consciousness of the practitioner to a state in which he can come to an experience of 'awakening,' 'liberation,' 'enlightenment.'" Kamalashila (2003) further allows that some Buddhist meditations are "of a more preparatory nature" (p. 4).
  102. ^ The Pāli and Sanskrit word bhāvanā literally means "development" as in "mental development." For the association of this term with "meditation," see Epstein (1995), p. 105; and, Fischer-Schreiber et al. (1991), p. 20. As an example from a well-known discourse of the Pali Canon, in "The Greater Exhortation to Rahula" (Maha-Rahulovada Sutta, MN 62), Ven. Sariputta tells Ven. Rahula (in Pali, based on VRI, n.d.): ānāpānassatiṃ, rāhula, bhāvanaṃ bhāvehi. Thanissaro (2006) translates this as: "Rahula, develop the meditation [bhāvana] of mindfulness of in-&-out breathing." (Square-bracketed Pali word included based on Thanissaro, 2006, end note.)
  103. ^ See, for example, Rhys Davids & Stede (1921-25), entry for "jhāna1"; Thanissaro (1997); as well as, Kapleau (1989), p. 385, for the derivation of the word "zen" from Sanskrit "dhyāna". Pāli Text Society Secretary Rupert Gethin, in describing the activities of wandering ascetics contemporaneous with the Buddha, wrote:
    [T]here is the cultivation of meditative and contemplative techniques aimed at producing what might, for the lack of a suitable technical term in English, be referred to as "altered states of consciousness". In the technical vocabulary of Indian religious texts such states come to be termed "meditations" ([Skt.:] dhyāna / [Pali:] jhāna) or "concentrations" (samādhi); the attainment of such states of consciousness was generally regarded as bringing the practitioner to deeper knowledge and experience of the nature of the world. (Gethin, 1998, p. 10.)
  104. ^ Goldstein (2003) writes that, in regard to the Satipatthana Sutta, "there are more than fifty different practices outlined in this Sutta. The meditations that derive from these foundations of mindfulness are called vipassana..., and in one form or another – and by whatever name – are found in all the major Buddhist traditions" (p. 92). The forty concentrative meditation subjects refer to Visuddhimagga's oft-referenced enumeration. Regarding Tibetan visualizations, Kamalashila (2003), writes: "The Tara meditation ... is one example out of thousands of subjects for visualization meditation, each one arising out of some meditator's visionary experience of enlightened qualities, seen in the form of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas" (p. 227).
  105. ^ Examples of contemporary school-specific "classics" include, from the Theravada tradition, Nyanaponika (1996) and, from the Zen tradition, Kapleau (1989).
  106. ^ a b Reginald Ray (2004), What is Vipashyana?
  107. ^ These definitions of samatha and vipassana are based on the "Four Kinds of Persons Sutta" (AN 4.94). This article's text is primarily based on Bodhi (2005), pp. 269–70, 440 n. 13. See also Thanissaro (1998d).
  108. ^ See, for instance, AN 2.30 in Bodhi (2005), pp. 267–68, and Thanissaro (1998e).
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  128. ^ The history and varieties of Jewish meditation by Mark Verman 1997 ISBN 978-1-56821-522-8 p. 1
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  150. ^ "In the last 20 years, mindfulness has become the focus of considerable attention for a large community of clinicians and, to a lesser extent, empirical psychology." – Mindfulness: A Proposed Operation Definition
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  152. ^ Kabat-Zinn gives the body scan and food meditations in "Mindfulness for Beginners" the 2CD set, and Matthieu Ricard gives the letting thoughts arise and pass away in his 2CD set "Happiness: A Guide to Cultivating Life's Most Important Skill"
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  164. ^ Patricia Carrington (1977). Freedom in meditation. Anchor Press. ISBN 978-0-385-11392-2.
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  168. ^ Buddhist scholar B. Alan Wallace has argued that focused attention is a basis for the practice of mindfulness. He writes that "Truly effective meditation is impossible without focused attention... the cultivation of attentional stability has been a core element of the meditative traditions throughout the centuries" (p. xi) in Wallace, B. Alan (2006). The attention revolution: Unlocking the power of the focused mind. Boston: Wisdom. ISBN 978-0-86171-276-2.
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Further reading

External links

Anapanasati

Ānāpānasati (Pali; Sanskrit ānāpānasmṛti), meaning "mindfulness of breathing" ("sati" means mindfulness; "ānāpāna" refers to inhalation and exhalation), is a form of Buddhist meditation originally taught by Gautama Buddha in several suttas including the Ānāpānasati Sutta. (MN 118)

Ānāpānasati is now common to Tibetan, Zen, Tiantai and Theravada Buddhism as well as Western-based mindfulness programs. Simply defined, Anapanasati is to feel the sensations caused by the movements of the breath in the body as is practiced in the context of mindfulness meditation.

Buddhism

Buddhism (, US also ) is the world's fourth-largest religion with over 520 million followers, or over 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists.

Buddhism encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on original teachings attributed to the Buddha and resulting interpreted philosophies. Buddhism originated in ancient India as a Sramana tradition sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, spreading through much of Asia. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized by scholars: Theravada (Pali: "The School of the Elders") and Mahayana (Sanskrit: "The Great Vehicle").

Most Buddhist traditions share the goal of overcoming suffering and the cycle of death and rebirth, either by the attainment of Nirvana or through the path of Buddhahood. Buddhist schools vary in their interpretation of the path to liberation, the relative importance and canonicity assigned to the various Buddhist texts, and their specific teachings and practices. Widely observed practices include taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, observance of moral precepts, monasticism, meditation, and the cultivation of the Paramitas (virtues).

Theravada Buddhism has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia such as Myanmar and Thailand. Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Shingon and Tiantai (Tendai), is found throughout East Asia.

Vajrayana, a body of teachings attributed to Indian adepts, may be viewed as a separate branch or as an aspect of Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism, which preserves the Vajrayana teachings of eighth-century India, is practiced in the countries of the Himalayan region, Mongolia, and Kalmykia.

Buddhist meditation

Buddhist meditation is the practice of meditation in Buddhism. The closest words for meditation in the classical languages of Buddhism are bhāvanā ("mental development") and jhāna/dhyāna (mental training resulting in a calm and luminous mind).Buddhists pursue meditation as part of the path toward liberation, awakening and Nirvana, and includes a variety of meditation techniques, most notably asubha bhavana ("reflections on repulsiveness"); reflection on pratityasamutpada (dependent origination); sati (mindfulness) and anussati (recollections), including anapanasati (breath meditation); dhyana (developing an alert and luminous mind); and the Brahma-viharas (loving-kindness and compassion). These techniques aim to develop equanimity and sati (mindfulness); samadhi (concentration) c.q. samatha (tranquility) and vipassanā (insight); and are also said to lead to abhijñā (supramundane powers). These meditation techniques are preceded by and combined with practices which aid this development, such as moral restraint and right effort to develop wholesome states of mind.

While these techniques are used across Buddhist schools, there is also significant diversity. In the Theravada tradition, reflecting developments in early Buddhism, meditation techniques are classified as either samatha (calming the mind) and vipassana (gaining insight). Chinese and Japanese Buddhism preserved a wide range of meditation techniques, which go back to early Buddhism, most notably Sarvastivada. In Tibetan Buddhism, deity yoga includes visualisations, which precede the realization of sunyata ("emptiness").

Dhyana in Hinduism

Dhyana (IAST: Dhyāna) in Hinduism means contemplation and meditation. Dhyana is taken up in Yoga exercises, and is a means to samadhi and self-knowledge.The various concepts of dhyana and its practice originated in the Vedic era of Hinduism, and the practice has been influential within the diverse traditions of Hinduism. It is, in Hinduism, a part of a self-directed awareness and unifying Yoga process by which the yogi realizes Self (Atman, soul), one's relationship with other living beings, and Ultimate Reality. Dhyana is also found in other Indian religions such as Buddhism and Jainism. These developed along with dhyana in Hinduism, partly independently, partly influencing each other.The term Dhyana appears in Aranyaka and Brahmana layers of the Vedas but with unclear meaning, while in the early Upanishads it appears in the sense of "contemplation, meditation" and an important part of self-knowledge process. It is described in numerous Upanishads of Hinduism, and in Patanjali's Yogasutras - a key text of the Yoga school of Hindu philosophy.

Dhyāna in Buddhism

In the oldest texts of Buddhism, dhyāna (Sanskrit) or jhāna (Pali) is the training of the mind, commonly translated as meditation, to withdraw the mind from the automatic responses to sense-impressions, and leading to a "state of perfect equanimity and awareness (upekkhii-sati-piirisuddhl)." Dhyana may have been the core practice of pre-sectarian Buddhism, in combination with several related practices which together lead to perfected mindfulness and detachment, and are fully realized with the practice of dhyana.In the later commentarial tradition, which has survived in present-day Theravada, dhyana is equated with "concentration," a state of one-pointed absorption in which there is a diminished awareness of the surroundings. In the contemporary Theravada-based Vipassana movement, this absorbed state of mind is regarded as unnecessary and even non-beneficial for awakening, which has to be reached by mindfulness of the body and vipassana (insight into impermanence). Since the 1980s, scholars and practitioners have started to question this equation, arguing for a more comprehensive and integrated understanding and approach, based on the oldest descriptions of dhyana in the suttas.

In Chan and Zen, the Chinese and Japanese renderings of dhyana, dhyana is the central practice, which is ultimately based on Sarvastivada meditation practices, and has been transmitted since the beginning of the Common Era.

Five hindrances

In the Buddhist tradition, the five hindrances (Sanskrit: पञ्च निवरण pañca nivāraṇa; Pali: पञ्च नीवरणानि pañca nīvaraṇāni) are identified as mental factors that hinder progress in meditation and in our daily lives. In the Theravada tradition, these factors are identified specifically as obstacles to the jhānas (stages of concentration) within meditation practice. Within the Mahayana tradition, the five hindrances are identified as obstacles to samatha (tranquility) meditation. Contemporary Insight Meditation teachers identify the five hindrances as obstacles to mindfulness meditation.

The five hindrances are:

Sensory desire (kāmacchanda): the particular type of wanting that seeks for happiness through the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and physical feeling.

Ill-will (vyāpāda; also spelled byāpāda): all kinds of thought related to wanting to reject; feelings of hostility, resentment, hatred and bitterness.

Sloth-and-torpor (thīna-middha): heaviness of body and dullness of mind which drag one down into disabling inertia and thick depression.

Restlessness-and-worry (uddhacca-kukkucca): the inability to calm the mind.

Doubt (vicikicchā): lack of conviction or trust.

Kammaṭṭhāna

In Buddhism, kammaṭṭhāna is a Pali word (Sanskrit: karmasthana) which literally means the place of work. Its original meaning was someone's occupation (farming, trading, cattle-tending, etc.). It has several distinct but related usages, all having to do with Buddhist meditation.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (born Mahesh Prasad Varma, 12 January 1918 – 5 February 2008) was an Indian guru, known for developing the Transcendental Meditation technique and for being the leader and guru of a worldwide organization that has been characterized in multiple ways including as a new religious movement and as non-religious. He became known as Maharishi (meaning "great seer") and Yogi as an adult.Maharishi Mahesh Yogi became a disciple and assistant of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, the Shankaracharya (spiritual leader) of Jyotirmath in the Indian Himalayas. The Maharishi credits Brahmananda Saraswati with inspiring his teachings. In 1955, the Maharishi began to introduce his Transcendental Deep Meditation (later renamed Transcendental Meditation) to India and the world. His first global tour began in 1958. His devotees referred to him as His Holiness, and because he often laughed in TV interviews he was sometimes referred to as the "giggling guru".The Maharishi is reported to have trained more than 40,000 TM teachers, taught the Transcendental Meditation technique to "more than five million people" and founded thousands of teaching centres and hundreds of colleges, universities and schools, while TM websites report tens of thousands learned the TM-Sidhi programme. His initiatives include schools and universities with campuses in several countries including India, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. The Maharishi, his family and close associates created charitable organisations and for-profit businesses including health clinics, mail-order health supplements and organic farms. The reported value of the Maharishi's organization has ranged from the millions to billions of U.S. dollars and in 2008, the organization placed the value of their United States assets at about $300 million.In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Maharishi achieved fame as the guru to the Beatles, the Beach Boys and other celebrities. In the late 1970s, he started the TM-Sidhi programme that claimed to offer practitioners the ability to levitate and to create world peace. The Maharishi's Natural Law Party was founded in 1992, and ran campaigns in dozens of countries. He moved to near Vlodrop, the Netherlands, in the same year. In 2000, he created the Global Country of World Peace, a non-profit organization, and appointed its leaders. In 2008, the Maharishi announced his retirement from all administrative activities and went into silence until his death three weeks later.

Mettā

Mettā (Pali) or maitrī (Sanskrit) means benevolence, loving-kindness, friendliness, amity, good will, and active interest in others. It is the first of the four sublime states (Brahmaviharas) and one of the ten pāramīs of the Theravāda school of Buddhism.

The cultivation of benevolence (mettā bhāvanā) is a popular form of Buddhist meditation. It is a part of the four immeasurables in Brahmavihara (divine abidings) meditation. Metta as 'compassion meditation' is often practiced in Asia by broadcast chanting, wherein monks chant for the laity.The compassion and universal loving-kindness concept of Metta is discussed in the Metta Sutta of Buddhism, and is also found in the ancient and medieval texts of Hinduism and Jainism as Metta or Maitri.Small sample studies on the potential of loving-kindness meditation approach on patients suggest potential benefits. However, peer reviews question the quality and sample size of these studies, then suggest caution.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one's attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training. Mindfulness is derived from sati, a significant element of Buddhist traditions, and based on Zen, Vipassanā, and Tibetan meditation techniques. Individuals who have contributed to the popularity of mindfulness in the modern Western context include Thích Nhất Hạnh (1926– ), Herbert Benson (1935– ), Jon Kabat-Zinn (1944– ), and Richard J. Davidson (1951– ).Clinical psychology and psychiatry since the 1970s have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness for helping people experiencing a variety of psychological conditions. Mindfulness practice has been employed to reduce symptoms of depression, to reduce stress, anxiety, and in the treatment of drug addiction. Programs based on Kabat-Zinn's and similar models have been adopted in schools, prisons, hospitals, veterans' centers, and other environments, and mindfulness programs have been applied for additional outcomes such as for healthy aging, weight management, athletic performance, helping children with special needs, and as an intervention during the perinatal period.

Clinical studies have documented both physical- and mental-health benefits of mindfulness in different patient categories as well as in healthy adults and children. Research studies have consistently shown a positive relationship between trait mindfulness and psychological health. The practice of mindfulness appears to provide therapeutic benefits to people with psychiatric disorders, including to those with psychosis. Studies also indicate that rumination and worry contribute to the onset of a variety of mental disorders, and that mindfulness-based interventions significantly reduce both rumination and worry. Further, the practice of mindfulness may be a preventive strategy to halt the development of mental-health problems.The necessity for more high-quality research in this field has also been identified – such as the need for more randomized controlled studies, for providing more methodological details in reported studies and for the use of larger sample sizes.

Rajneesh

Rajneesh (born Chandra Mohan Jain, 11 December 1931 – 19 January 1990), also known as Acharya Rajneesh, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and latterly as Osho (), was an Indian spiritual guru, philosopher and the leader of the Rajneesh movement. During his lifetime he was viewed as a controversial new religious movement leader and mystic. In the 1960s he traveled throughout India as a public speaker and was a vocal critic of socialism, arguing that India was not ready for socialism and that socialism, communism and anarchism could evolve only when capitalism had reached its maturity. Rajneesh also criticised Mahatma Gandhi, and orthodoxy of mainstream religions. Rajneesh emphasized the importance of meditation, mindfulness, love, celebration, courage, creativity and humour—qualities that he viewed as being suppressed by adherence to static belief systems, religious tradition and socialisation. In advocating a more open attitude to human sexuality he caused controversy in India during the late 1960s and became known as "the sex guru".In 1970, Rajneesh spent time in Mumbai initiating followers known as "neo-sannyasins". During this period he expanded his spiritual teachings and commented extensively in discourses on the writings of religious traditions, mystics, and philosophers from around the world. In 1974, Rajneesh relocated to Pune, where an ashram was established and a variety of therapies, incorporating methods first developed by the Human Potential Movement, were offered to a growing Western following. By the late 1970s, the tension between the ruling Janata Party government of Morarji Desai and the movement led to a curbing of the ashram's development and a back taxes claim estimated at $5 million.In 1981, the Rajneesh movement's efforts refocused on activities in the United States and Rajneesh relocated to a facility known as Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, Oregon. Almost immediately the movement ran into conflict with county residents and the state government, and a succession of legal battles concerning the ashram's construction and continued development curtailed its success. In 1985, in the wake of a series of serious crimes by his followers, including a mass food poisoning attack with Salmonella bacteria and an aborted assassination plot to murder U.S. Attorney Charles H. Turner, Rajneesh alleged that his personal secretary Ma Anand Sheela and her close supporters had been responsible. He was later deported from the United States in accordance with an Alford plea bargain.After his deportation, 21 countries denied him entry. He ultimately returned to India and a revived Pune ashram, where he died in 1990. Rajneesh's ashram, now known as OSHO International Meditation Resort, and all associated intellectual property, is managed by the registered Osho International Foundation (formerly Rajneesh International Foundation). Rajneesh's teachings have had a notable impact on Western New Age thought, and their popularity has increased markedly since his death. A notable example is the influence that his thought has had on the German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk.

Samadhi

Samādhi (Tamil: Samādhi சமாதி, Sanskrit: समाधि, Kannada: ಸಮಾಧಿ, Hindi pronunciation: [səˈmaːdʱi]), also called samāpatti, in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and yogic schools refers to a state of meditative consciousness. In the Yogic traditions, and the Buddhist commentarial tradition on which the Burmese Vipassana movement and the Thai Forest tradition rely, it is a meditative absorption or trance, attained by the practice of dhyāna. In the oldest Buddhist suttas, on which several contemporary western Theravada teachers rely, it refers to the development of a luminous mind which is equanimous and mindful.

In Buddhism, it is the last of the eight elements of the Noble Eightfold Path. In the Ashtanga Yoga tradition, it is the eighth and final limb identified in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Samatha

Samatha (Pāli) or śamatha (Sanskrit: शमथ; Chinese: 止 zhǐ) is a quality of mind which is developed (bhāvanā भावना) in tandem with vipassana (insight) by calming the mind (citta चित्त) and its 'formations' (saṅkhāra संस्कार). This is done by practicing single-pointed meditation, most commonly through mindfulness of breathing. Samatha is common to many Buddhist traditions.

Transcendental Meditation

Transcendental Meditation (TM) refers to a specific form of silent mantra meditation and less commonly to the organizations that constitute the Transcendental Meditation movement. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi created and introduced the TM technique and TM movement in India in the mid-1950s.

The Maharishi taught thousands of people during a series of world tours from 1958 to 1965, expressing his teachings in spiritual and religious terms. TM became more popular in the 1960s and 1970s, as the Maharishi shifted to a more technical presentation, and his meditation technique was practiced by celebrities. At this time, he began training TM teachers and created specialized organizations to present TM to specific segments of the population such as business people and students. By the early 2000s, TM had been taught to millions of people; the worldwide TM organization had grown to include educational programs, health products, and related services.

The TM technique involves the use of a sound called a mantra, and is practiced for 15–20 minutes twice per day. It is taught by certified teachers through a standard course of instruction, which costs a fee that varies by country. According to the Transcendental Meditation movement, it is a non-religious method for relaxation, stress reduction, and self-development. The technique has been seen as both religious and non-religious; sociologists, scholars, and a New Jersey judge and court are among those who have expressed views. The United States Court of Appeals upheld the federal ruling that TM was essentially "religious in nature" and therefore could not be taught in public schools.TM is one of the most widely practiced and researched meditation techniques. It is not possible to say whether it has any effect on health as the research, as of 2007, is of poor quality.

Transcendental Meditation technique

The Transcendental Meditation technique or TM is a form of silent mantra meditation, developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The meditation practice involves the use of a mantra and is practiced for 20 minutes twice per day while sitting with one's eyes closed. It is one of the most-widely practiced, and among the most widely researched meditation techniques, with over 340 peer-reviewed studies published. Beginning in 1965, the Transcendental Meditation technique has been incorporated into schools, universities, corporations, and prison programs in the United States, Latin America, Europe, and India. In 1977, a U.S. federal district court ruled that a curriculum in TM and the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI) being taught in some New Jersey schools was religious in nature and in violation of the First Amendment. However, the technique has since been included in a number of educational and social programs around the world.The technique has been described as both religious and non-religious, as an aspect of a new religious movement, as rooted in Hinduism, and as a non-religious practice for self-development. Over its 50-year history the technique has had high visibility in the mass media and effective global propagation, and used celebrity and scientific endorsements as a marketing tool. Advanced courses supplement the TM technique and include an advanced meditation called the TM-Sidhi program. In 1970 the Science of Creative Intelligence, described as "modern science with ancient Vedic science", became the theoretical basis for the Transcendental Meditation technique. The Science of Creative Intelligence is widely seen as being a pseudoscience.

Vipassanā

Vipassanā (Pāli) or vipaśyanā (Sanskrit), "insight," is prajñā "insight into the true nature of reality", defined as dukkha "suffering, unsatisfactoriness", anatta "non-self", and anicca "impermanence", the three marks of existence in the Theravada tradition, and as śūnyatā "emptiness" and Buddha-nature in the Mahayana traditions.

Meditation practice in the Theravada tradition ended in the 10th century, but was reintroduced in Toungoo and Konbaung Burma in the 18th century, based on contemporary readings of the Satipaṭṭhāna sutta, the Visuddhimagga, and other texts. A new tradition developed in the 19th and 20th century, centering on bare insight in conjunction with samatha. It became of central importance in the 20th century Vipassanā movement as developed by Ledi Sayadaw and U Vimala and popularised by Mahasi Sayadaw, V. R. Dhiravamsa, and S. N. Goenka.In modern Theravada, the combination or disjunction of vipassanā and samatha is a matter of dispute. While the Pali sutras hardly mention vipassanā, describing it as a mental quality alongside with samatha which develop in tandem and lead to liberation, the Abhidhamma Pitaka and the commentaries describe samatha and vipassanā as two separate meditation techniques. The Vipassanā movement favours vipassanā over samatha, but critics point out that both are necessary elements of the Buddhist training.

Yoga

Yoga (; Sanskrit: योग; pronunciation) is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. Yoga is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophical traditions. There is a broad variety of yoga schools, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The term "yoga" in the Western world often denotes a modern form of Hatha yoga, consisting largely of the postures called asanas.

The origins of yoga have been speculated to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions; it is mentioned in the Rigveda, but most likely developed around the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, in ancient India's ascetic and śramaṇa movements. The chronology of earliest texts describing yoga-practices is unclear, varyingly credited to Upanishads. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali date from the first half of the 1st millennium CE, but only gained prominence in the West in the 20th century. Hatha yoga texts emerged around the 11th century with origins in tantra.Yoga gurus from India later introduced yoga to the West, following the success of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th century with his adaptation of yoga tradition, excluding asanas. In the 1980s, a very different form of modern yoga, with an increasing number of asanas and few other practices, became popular as a system of exercise across the Western world. Yoga in Indian traditions, however, is more than physical exercise; it has a meditative and spiritual core. One of the six major orthodox schools of Hinduism is also called Yoga, which has its own epistemology and metaphysics, and is closely related to Hindu Samkhya philosophy.Many studies have tried to determine the effectiveness of modern yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer, schizophrenia, asthma, and heart disease. The results of these studies have been mixed and inconclusive. On December 1, 2016, yoga was listed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.

Zazen

Zazen (literally "seated meditation"; Japanese: 座禅; simplified Chinese: 坐禅; traditional Chinese: 坐禪; pinyin: zuò chán; Wade–Giles: tso4-ch'an2, pronounced [tswô ʈʂʰǎn]) is a meditative discipline that is typically the primary practice of the Zen Buddhist tradition. The precise meaning and method of zazen varies from school to school, but in general it can be regarded as a means of insight into the nature of existence. In the Japanese Rinzai school, zazen is usually associated with the study of koans. The Sōtō School of Japan, on the other hand, only rarely incorporates koans into zazen, preferring an approach where the mind has no object at all, known as shikantaza.

Zen

Zen (Chinese: 禪; pinyin: Chán; Korean: 선, romanized: Seon) is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China during the Tang dynasty as the Chan school (Chánzong) of Chinese Buddhism and later developed into various schools. Chán Buddhism was also influenced by Taoist philosophy, especially Neo-Daoist thought. From China, Chán spread south to Vietnam and became Vietnamese Thiền, northeast to Korea to become Seon Buddhism, and east to Japan, becoming Japanese Zen.The term Zen is derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Middle Chinese word 禪 (Chán), which traces its roots to the Indian practice of dhyāna ("meditation"). Zen emphasizes rigorous self-control, meditation-practice, insight into the nature of things (Ch. jianxing, Jp. kensho, "perceiving the true nature"), and the personal expression of this insight in daily life, especially for the benefit of others. As such, it de-emphasizes mere knowledge of sutras and doctrine and favors direct understanding through spiritual practice and interaction with an accomplished teacher.The teachings of Zen include various sources of Mahayana thought, especially Yogachara, the Tathāgatagarbha sūtras and the Huayan school, with their emphasis on Buddha-nature, totality, and the Bodhisattva-ideal. The Prajñāpāramitā literature as well as Madhyamaka thought have also been influential in the shaping of the apophatic and sometimes iconoclastic nature of Zen rhetoric.

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