How Meditation Exists in Every Religion
You may have never thought about or realized this, but meditation has formed the backbone of many religions across the world…and they are remarkably similar.
That’s because meditation is a universal practice.
Hinduism, however, is the first known religion to discover it. From there, it seems to have spread across the world.
Since Hinduism is the most likely originator of meditation, it’s safe to say that within the religion there are many variations and forms that’re practiced.
However, the whole point of meditation is to lift the kundalini energy in the spine up into the brain to achieve enlightenment; this is known as moksha.
Generally, yoga postures (asanas) are done to prepare the body for meditation, and a variety techniques can be employed: mantras, visualizations, affirmations, and breathing patterns (also known as pranayam).
Of course, Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism, so it makes sense that they would meditate as well. But their approach is slightly different.
Buddhism is more of a focus on mindfulness detached from the concepts of gods and godesses. That is, the process of enlightenment is given more attention than religious beliefs in the traditional teachings.
However, some of the newer Buddhist sects, such as Tibetan Buddhism, embrace gods and goddesses and chant to them in deep meditation.
Other than these differences, there really isn’t that much different about the end goals and meditation practices in these religions.
Buddhism practices mindfulness meditations, impersonal mantra chanting (detached from gods or goddesses), and breath control (similar to pranayam).
Taoism sprang from the ideas and philosophies of Buddhism, so once again there are a lot of similarities here.
Taoists believe in the concept of qi (chi), a similar concept to prana in Hinduism. They believe that enlightenment can be achieved by merging our qi with the qi of the universe.
They also practice meditation techniques very similar to Buddhism, with heavy emphasis on visualization.
Jainism is an offshoot of Hinduism created around 300 AD.
It also focuses on the idea of enlightenment and salvation through right action and meditation.
Besides the usual techniques of breath control, visualization, and mantras, Jainism put a lot of emphasis on the practice of contemplation- focusing on an idea, concept, or religious text- until it’s fully perceived and understood.
While it’s a smaller religion in comparison to some of the others, it’s no doubt an important player in eastern traditions.
Bahá’í practices a lot of meditation and prayer as a means of salvation, because it’s a similar offshoot to Hinduism.
Unlike Buddhism, Bahá’í believes in the concept of god, so many of their meditations revolve around this idea of getting closer to an inward connection to the divine through the use of pranayam techniques, mantras, and visualizations.
Sikhs believe they’re one with god, and the point of prayer and meditation is to remember that.
Meditation often involves dwelling upon attributes of god, either mentally or vocally.
Sikhs believe that there are 10 gates in the body, and when one reaches the 10th gate, meditation becomes effortless and continuous throughout the day and night. This is their version of enlightenment.
It may come as a surprise, but scholars believe there are several references to meditation in the Torah.
In Genesis 24:63, Issac is described as going “into the field”, a term thought to reference meditation by some commentators.
Some of the words in the old testament, such as “sigh” or “murmur” have dual meanings of “meditation”.
There is even a sect of Judaism, known as Kabbalah, that encourages and practices different forms of meditation.
Most of them focus on visualization and introspection on the divine with the sole purpose of creating a relationship with god.
Though somewhat more controversial, there are forms of meditation within Islam.
known as Muraqaba, the concept largely revolves around a constellation of techniques of moving into different states of consciousness by becoming mindful and “watching” one’s own devotion.
After a period of time, the experience becomes deeper, and activates the spiritual eye- a similar concept in Hinduism and Buddhism that involves bringing the energy in the body into the brain and out into the prana of the universe.
At the highest expression and development, the practitioner no longer needs to practice the technique…instead, he/she is completely free of time and space and becomes one with the universe.
…not specifically called enlightenment, but sounds pretty similar, right?
It may not seem obvious, but many Christian traditions place emphasis on meditation.
Christians, and in particular Catholics, practice forms of mantras, chanting, visualizations, and silence in order to draw closer to the divine.
Visualization is used (such as the birth of Jesus) to stimulate devotion or reflection on revelations of god.
The use of the rosary could easily be considered a form of mantra meditation, as their technique is very similar to the Hindu’s. Catholics use the rosary in combination with a mantra such as “Hail Mary”, repeated over and over, in order to feel the presence of god.
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