History of Meditation

The word meditation comes from the Latin “meditatio" meaning "contemplation". In Webster dictionary the word meditate has the meaning

  1. to engage in contemplation or reflection.

  2. to engage in mental exercise (as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness

  3. to focus one's thoughts on: reflect on or ponder over

Meditation in its current sense refers to Yogic meditation that originated in India. In the late 19th century, Theosophists adopted the word "meditation" to refer to various spiritual practices drawn from Hinduism, Buddhism, and other Eastern religions. Thus the English word "meditation" does not exclusively translate any single term or concept, and can be used to translate words such as the Sanskrit “dhyana” and “Samadhi”.

Meditation is usually defined as one of the following:

  1. A state of

    1. Relaxed concentration on the reality of the present moment.

    2. Mind dissolves and is free of all thoughts.

    3. Concentration in which the attention has been liberated from restlessness.

  2. Focusing the mind on a single object (such as one's breath, or a mantra)

  3. A mental "opening up" to the divine, invoking the guidance of a higher power

  4. Reasoned analysis of religious teachings (such as impermanence, for Buddhists). Impermanence (Sanskrit: anitya; Pali: anicca; Tibetan: mi rtag pa; Chinese: wúcháng; Japanese: mujo) is one of the essential doctrines or three marks of Buddhism. The term expresses the Buddhist notion that everything, without exception, is constantly in flux, even planets, stars and gods. Human life embodies this flux in the aging process, the cycle of birth and rebirth (samsara), and in any experience of loss. Because things are impermanent, attachment to them is futile, and leads to suffering. The only true end of impermanence is nirvana, the one reality that knows no change, decay or death.

  5. From the point of view of psychology, meditation can induce an altered state of consciousness. An altered state of consciousness is any state which is significantly different from a normative waking beta wave state. The expression was coined by Charles Tart and describes induced changes in one's mental state, almost always temporary.

Meditation even before being brought to the West it was used in secular contexts, such as the martial arts.