Understand your Life Path through Meditative Practice

The Origins of Meditation in India

In recent years, attention to meditation has grown exponentially, bringing more and more people closer to the numerous benefits of this practice. Nonetheless, its origins and millennial history still remain a mystery to many.

As one of the most famous aphorisms attributed to the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne states, “the greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to yourself”. We think this maxim perfectly summarizes the meaning and purpose of meditation.

In the fast-paced society we live in today, a conscious effort is required to take a moment of awareness and explore who we really are – yet knowing ourselves in depth has always been an innate instinct in man, probably the one from which this practice originated.

The word meditation comes from meditatio, a Latin term meaning “reflection”. In fact, by meditating, we can find a better connection with our body in everyday moments and create a greater awareness of how our emotions affect our behavior. In this article we take a leap into the past to discover the history and origins of this ancient and fascinating practice, which still enriches our lives today.

Origin of Meditation

The practices that we talk about in this article are not from yesterday, but we have records that date back more than 2000 years, where these practices are already referenced in the Vedic-Hindu religion. The sages and ascetics of that time already realized that the main problem that the human being and society had to face had more to do with what happened inside than what happened outside.

The appearance of the great religions later promote the inclusion of this type of techniques to seek transcendence. Buddhism develops a method to achieve liberation or nirvana, and includes the study of meditation to achieve that end. At the same time, in the fourth century, a series of ascetic practices appeared in the Christian religion by the first Christian monks, the so-called “desert fathers”. These monks repeated a prayer connected to the breathing rhythm, seeking to free the mind and focus the attention on God.

Before getting into the whole journey of meditaiton from itsbeginnings to our modern times let’s talk about Siddharta Buddha and his journey.

Siddharta’s Journey

Awareness, attention and meditation have always been connected with the philosophy of India and Buddhism. since the origins and the German romantic world has suffered the attraction to discover the ancient vestiges and the story of Prince Siddhartha, a man rich and unhappy who had left the comforts and certainties to find happiness. Siddhartha had thus become the Buddha, the Awakened One. The one whose mind, out of sleep, had carefully seen the reality of internal and external phenomena: the dynamics of actions and reactions. He is a Tathagata: a Pali term related to the concepts of Tatha-kari and Thata-vadi and which simply means “he who teaches what he does”, “he who does what he says”. The Buddha is neither a god nor a prophet nor a hero, but a kind of philosopher-craftsman: the modernity and practicality of his words also enchant Rilke, Hesse, Schopenhauer; the latter will call himself the Buddha of the West.

Here comes a short story that effectively illustrates the path followed by Buddha Gautama Siddhartha towards meditation. “After leaving his father’s home, Siddhartha lived for years in the forests, practicing extreme forms of asceticism. This was a noble and ancient tradition of spiritual research: to obtain liberation from the karmic wheel, which keeps us bound to conditioned existence, and prisoners of suffering, it is necessary to go beyond all attachment, and this was precisely the meaning of the asceticspractices of the hermits of the forest.

Siddhartha, therefore, devoted himself with extreme rigor to these practices, fasting, sleeping on the bare earth, meditating incessantly, until he was reduced to the exhaustion of his strength and a breath from death. In vain, despite all his efforts, the door of liberation remained stubbornly closed. Until he came to lose all hope. Barely able to drag himself, he sat down at the foot of a tree. Everything was in vain. Once all effort ceased, even the desire for liberation fell, he simply abandoned himself to pure ‘being there’. Without looking for anything, hoping for nothing, desiring nothing, Siddhartha simply sat at the foot of the tree. It was the night of the first full moon of spring. A young peasant woman, mistaking that figure for a god, brought him food offerings. Since his fast was no longer meant to exist, Siddhartha ate, we can imagine with a healthy appetite. And he remained seated. In that abandonment, an unknown peace enveloped him. His consciousness became a clear, still lake, an empty mirror. And when the morning star rose above the horizon he was no longer there. The flame of separate existence was extinguished in him. What pulsed in him was the heart of existence itself. His eyes had become windows to infinity. There was no longer any resistance in him to the infinite dance of life / death / life. Nothing that posed itself as separate from the whole. There was no longer an I, but only a presence, Buddha, “the awakened one”. 

From Buddha we can have an overview of meditation as a journey, a personal spiritual path towards enlighment, awareness and presence in the moment.

Besides the indian tradition, Jewish Kabbalah also includes meditation to quiet the mind and focus attention on a single subject. Also the Sufis, the Muslim mystical current pursue the objective of getting rid of the erratic fraud of the mind.

The desire to manage the mind and orient it to a goal has been practically a universal desire of the human being, since he has realized that the same instrument that has led him to dominate nature and place himself in the highest echelons of the chain has a reverse, in the sense that it is the source of all anguish. It has in its possession a very powerful instrument that can turn against, being therefore essential to learn its operation and acquire the necessary skills to use it, and not, as it usually happens that it is the mind that ends up using us.

In the West, the meditative tradition imported from the East began to be introduced from the 19th century with the rise of European colonialism. Figures such as Swami Vivekananda (1836-1902), Gurdieff (1877-1949) or Krisnahmurti (1890-1986) are key in this regard.

Already in the twentieth century the heyday of these techniques occurred, at the same time that there was an expansion of Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. The West then adopts Vipassana meditation, based on the control of attention and deep observation of mental and physical states.

Science has rescued these types of techniques, stripping them of the religious and ideological aspect and has realized their importance and usefulness in the field of modern psychology and psychiatry. Neuroscience has provided us with an extraordinary way of observation that has allowed us to understand how these methods work, corroborating the enormous benefits that they have on mental and physical health.

The investigations of the doctor Jon Kabat-Zinn and his development of Mindfulness have brought meditation and the experience of the here and now back to the fore as tools and lessons of great value. He has carried out measurements with neuroimaging techniques, has carried out research in very different areas such as prison populations, hospitals, multicultural environments, corporations … Demonstrating the possibilities of these techniques for anxiety management and adequate emotional development. All this led to the practice we know today.

How are yoga and meditation connected?

Life alternates between joys and sorrows, moments of serenity with moments of restlessness, phases of tranquility and periods of great upheaval. If it did not produce a large, chaotic mix of both positive and negative emotions and sensations, on the other hand, it would not be life. And you have to take it as it is, for what it is. Pessimism and melancholy are part of the experience, but breaking down is not an option to contemplate. It is about learning to accept and recognize that ups are often followed by downs, and that to deal with them it is essential to react. Act. Transforming sources of negative energy into strengths to change for the better, grow and evolve as individuals. Today we are talking about precisely this when it comes to finding a connection between yoga and meditation. They are both starting over from self-awareness and self-love to achieve inner balance and stability. Yoga can help you transform the body’s energy while meditation can help you work on the mental energy. The main conductor of these practices is our prana, our breath, our vital force and becoming aware of our presence in the moment, of our existence.

Namaste . Head over to the home page to enjoy some peaceful meditation music !

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