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Meditation Historymeditation history

 


The tradition of meditation dates back to the beginning of human history. Thousands of years ago, Patanjali, an Indian Sage of legend, described the process by which the capacity to meditate is actualised. He called it "Self Realisation" since, in the state of meditation, he experienced an absolute awareness of his "Self".

The mechanism by which "Self Realisation" occurred was a closely kept secret that was handed down from a Guru to his disciple after long penances, discipline and purification.

In the 14 th century the great saint Gyaneshwara of Central India took permission from his Guru to translate the secret texts written in Sanskrit into the popular vernacular. Thus the tradition of mysticism and meditation began within the populace in India.


Meditation is both an ancient spiritual practice and a contemporary mind-body technique for relaxing the body and calming the mind. Most meditative techniques have come to the West from Asian religious practices, particularly India, China, and Japan, but similar techniques can be found in many cultures around the world. Until recently, the primary purpose of meditation has been religious, although its
health benefits have long been recognized in these cultures where these methods originated.

In the West, the first view was that meditation induced a type of dissociative state or a type of catatonia. Thirty years ago, meditation was still considered a religious practice, not appropriate for healthcare settings. The first articles on the health benefits of meditation appeared in the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology in 1970. Meditation is the first mind-body intervention to be widely adopted in mainstream health care. Meditation is now widely taught at medical settings such as the VA clinics and Kaiser Permanente where it is prescribed as a technique for relaxing the body and calming mind. 

The search for the true self through the meditative process is not something recently discovered, nor is it in any way alien to the basically rationalistic philosophical and spiritual traditions of the West. Although Western civilization has for the most part directed its energies outward in various efforts to control and exploit the resources of nature, there have always been inner-directed philosophers, saints, and mystics who have dedicated themselves to a higher purpose than material well-being, which is in all cases temporary.


 

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