History of Meditation
Today’s culture might not have invented meditation, but we seem to have cornered the market on meditative styles. From yoga to Autogenic Training, methods of meditation have become a booming business in the Western world. Professional trainers and physicians alike tout the benefits of relaxation and meditation. Finding an instructor to teach you this art is easy, finding the origins of meditation is not quite as straightforward.
The practice of meditation dates back to ancient times. Early recorded history shows evidence of Taoist meditative techniques practiced in China as early as the 6th century BC. Almost as early as 4000 BC, Hindu holy books like the Vedas emphasized meditation as the road to enlightenment. It is through the Buddhist writings that meditation reaches a wider audience. Buddhist teachings spread across the Asian continent and around 500 BC, meditation became an essential part of virtually every Asian culture.
During the Middle Ages, meditation appeared in texts relative to Judaism and Christianity. Biblical references to meditation appear in the Old Testament. Both Genesis and the Book of Joshua encourage sacred scripts or prayers. The Islamic practices of remembrance or recollection, called Dhikr, chronicle specific postures and breathing techniques as well as repetitious phrases. The combination of these postures and phrases are meant to create a connection with the universe and God. In many religions, meditation is a crucial part of feeling a closeness to God.
The oldest known writings of almost any culture that you might imagine, mention some form of meditation. Although most meditative techniques come from religious works, there are nonreligious styles of meditation, as well. Later in history, especially in the 19th century, meditation became a more intellectual pursuit. Rather than encouraging a person to reach a state of commune with God, the meditations sought a oneness with the universe. This type of meditation stemmed mainly from Buddhist practices, but became quite extensive in martial arts.
Increasing the power and concentration of a participant is the aim of meditation in martial art forms such as karate and judo. Many classes began with a brief period of meditation involving no particular religious preference. This style of meditation is directly descended from the Buddhist practices of centuries ago. The Asian influence on modern martial arts programs remains strong to this day.
Although meditation comes from ancient people, today’s practices have evolved in a huge way. Since the 1890s, yoga and Transcendental Meditation continue to remain popular. Physicians in many medical disciplines use meditation as a technique to combat disease. More recently, guided meditation has become increasingly important in cancer recovery and in overcoming addiction.
From the ancient Vedas texts to modern ashrams, meditation has been and continues to be an important part of human culture. Across the world, people of all cultures enjoy the benefits of meditation. Internet websites devoted to meditation help to bring these ancient practices to the masses.
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