When most people hear about meditative traditions and practices, Buddhism or Hinduism spring to mind. Though Asian cultures are conventionally associated with these traditions, they are in fact universal.
Various cultures from around the world, including major religions, adopted different forms of such practices for purposes of spiritual development, including a host of acts having to dealing with healing, or praying for rain from the heavens.
Below is information on the origins of meditative practices, and why people engage in them. The question about where does meditation come from?, is likely to reveal surprising insights, even to individuals that have been engaging in it for a while.
Meditative traditions have been part of human culture for centuries, pre-dating written records of when it where it began originally. Nevertheless, in Judaism, for example, the Kabala is in essence a form of meditative inquiry. Islam contains two such practices, while Buddhism has various strands including, for instance, Zen or Tibetan Buddhism.
Scholars on the subject generally agree that these practices evolved out of the earliest spiritual or religious questions concerning the origins of the universe, and the meanings behind why life, including human beings, exist.
Though a number of very old and different religious texts – including Christian, Judaic and Taoist records – contain evidence of meditative practices, Hindu scriptures that go back about 5,000 years are some of the earliest recorded ones. Such records also show that by then, these methods for developing spirituality and gaining insights into existential issues, had already become formal rituals with specific objectives.
However, it is fair to say that even before written records were kept on the matter, the earliest human beings – puzzled by life and its myriad challenges and wonders, must have engaged in similar rituals to gauge answers that were not readily available.
Although there are many records of religious contemplative traditions and rituals in Asian societies, history shows that Aboriginal tribes in Australia, and early American Indian populations, for example, had varieties of similar practices. Meditative trance-like states were induced in shaman to help divine the future, ask the gods for rain and plentiful harvests, or to effect healing among the ailing and injured. In short, contemplative practices are much older than what current written records show.
As a conventional Buddhist practice, meditative contemplation became a formal ritual about 2,500 years ago in India. Inspired by the Buddha – who achieved enlightenment through quiet contemplation, and developing mental detachment from the material world as a consequence – it became an important avenue in the pursuit of personal spiritual truths. The idea was, and still remains, that spiritual development and insights can be had through regular acts of silent introspection that stills the usual thinking noises of the egoic mind in the head.
By the time Buddhism arrived in China via Tibet around the first century, it had already attracted considerable attention and power as a philosophy and way of life. It made profound inroads into local Chinese customs, so much so that it even replaced the then prevalent teachings of Taoism and Confucianism. When it eventually reached and flourished in Japan, various forms of Buddhist meditative traditions had already been in place, though they all the same ultimate goal as a means for spiritual development and achieving enlightenment.
Aside from it religious and spiritual connotations, today millions of people all over the world perform regular meditative practices because of its numerous advantages.
One does not have to adhere or subscribe to a religious or spiritual ethic to derive benefit from engaging in it. It leaves people feel physically, emotionally, and spiritually balanced, contribute to an inner sense of harmony and meaning, and has various positive effects on physical and mental health. Most practitioners find it helps to reduce and manage stress, stills anxiety, and is great for boosting self-esteem, while keeping depression away.
It also contributes to clear, calm thinking, which is ideal for making decisions on a daily basis. Moreover, it helps individuals overcome addictions of all kinds, while it does wonders for blood pressure levels, among other things.
Mindfulness meditative practices have become especially popular as these increase awareness of, and encourages living in, the present moment. When performed on a daily basis, it helps to cultivate a sense of inner quiet and distance from all experience, similar to the one the Buddha had when the great one achieved sudden enlightenment.
One of the most remarkable aspects about meditative practice is that it still delivers the desired outcomes today as it has been doing for centuries wherever human beings engaged with it.