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The History of meditation
I want to focus, not just on meditations and the huge benefits of what it can do for you, to change your life for the better, but also on how spiritual meditation can be the one thing that unites all humanity. I know it is a bold thing to say, but there is truth in it. So stick around and keep reading.
Practicing meditation goes back a long way, probably to prehistoric times. Meditations are old. The first stone representations of meditation goes back almost ten thousand years. There is evidence of the practice created around 5,000 BCE in India. The relief shows people seated in meditative postures with half-closed eyes. Were the health benefits of meditation understood back then? Was this an early chakra meditation? Was this showing meditation methods, and meditations techniques? Or was this purely a spiritual meditation practice?
There are more questions than answers, and we will probably never know what ancients thought about meditation.
But we might find some early clues in a few written examples that go back to approximtly 1500 BCE. Early Hinduism has this evidence.
The point of spiritual meditation for early Hindus was almost identical to why we meditate today. It was connected to their religion, and was a spiritual meditation practice. In the writings, called the Upanishad, meditation was described as a way to remove ignorance, and to acquire knowledge, and oneness with the Absolute.
In this way, we can see a universal, spiritual truth arise from early meditation methods, which connect with our meditations techniques today. Given the historical evidence, it becomes obvious that meditation is one of the oldest spiritual practices in history. It predates Christianity and Islam, and even Buddhism. It was around the 6th to 5th centuries BCE, when other forms of meditation developed in Taoist China and Buddhist India.
I think the fact that meditations predates religion, and likely comes from prehistoric times, is an important point for us all to consider.
The value of removing ignorance, and becoming one with the whole, seems to be a truth that we have shared throughout the centuries, and is something that most people of belief, and otherwise, can agree on, as even Christianity has a from of spiritual meditation.
Meditation is thus the catalyst that can unite us all, and go beyond religious and philosophical barriers.
So we are lucky to have this early written evidence too, as traditional learning was done between guru and disciple, by word of mouth, in schools that were found in the forest. It helps to tell the story of human spiritual development, and gives us a foot hold to begin our journey.
The exact origins of Buddhist meditation are subject to debate among scholars.
Early written records of the multiple levels and stages of meditation in Buddhism in India, are found in the Sutras of the Pali Canon. This dates to about the 1st century BCE. For the Buddhist meditation was a moral thing to do. It was a way to salvation through contemplative concentration, knowledge and liberation.
Remembrance of God in Islam, which is known by the concept Dhikr, is interpreted in different meditative techniques in Sufism or Islamic mysticism.
The Eastern Christian Byzantine period also had a from of meditation.
In this way the monk would repeat words, and sit a certain way. Hesychasm was also developed, in Greece, and still to this day, continues. It also uses a repetitious prayer to Jesus.