Origins and Expansion of Meditation

origins of meditation

Origins and Expansion of Meditation

Secular versions of meditation that are now spreading like wildfire around the world are all based on Eastern religious traditions. In fact, these kinds of meditation are becoming popular not just on this side of the world but on other parts as well. Perhaps many people do not realize that the relaxation techniques recommended for people who are dealing with very stressful situations borrow largely from Eastern cultures. The practices are known to cure problems of the modern world.

Origins, development, and expansion of meditative traditions

Historians attribute the origins of meditative practices primarily to India, where an ancient Indus valley civilization that existed 5,000 years ago left cave well figures of men in meditative postures. It was also in India where the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama pioneered the formal integration of meditation into religious practice. From there, meditation spread throughout Asia where it was adopted by different cultures. Every culture has its own interpretation of meditation. There are some cultures that add their own approaches to this practice. This led to the expansion of meditative practices to encompass hundreds of different approaches, which eventually trickled to the West.


Modern meditative practices have already been influenced by other Eastern cultures, which added their own beliefs in principles to the basic tenets set down in early Buddhist traditions. Practitioners of meditation in China and Japan have formulated their own meditative traditions in the effort to reconcile the practice with their culture and beliefs. From a purely religious practice, meditation has since evolved and expanded to include secular forms and medical applications.


Western cultures initially viewed meditation as a purely religious practice and likened it to a certain type of catatonic state. The dissociative stance was not considered as an “appropriate” intervention for use in the healthcare setting. Gradually, meditation was accepted as a beneficial practice after studies and tests were made. In the 1970’s, the very first studies on “mind-body intervention” were published in the “Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. This was the start of the wide acceptance of meditation as a legitimate intervention tool in psychology, particularly in the treatment and prevention of mental health disorders. Today, the world of medicine considers meditation as an effective method in calming the mind and promoting relaxation.

Common characteristics of meditative practices

The use of meditation in religion involves attaining a heightened level of spirituality and understanding, which are not part of the objective of secular meditation. Nevertheless, there are elements that tie them together. All meditative practices have similar elements in common, three of which are a quiet setting, a single-minded focus and a passive attitude. The approaches vary, but the end goal is quite similar—attainment of peace, stillness, and clarity of mind.

Different approaches to meditation

The variety of meditation techniques being practiced today is quite staggering but it is evolving and adjusting to the modern world. There are meditation techniques for stress relief that aims to put to the fore alpha brain wave activity in order to promote a more relaxed attitude. It is being used as a therapy to cure health problems. Meanwhile, some approaches to meditation are more reflective in nature. For instance, Christian meditation is focused specifically on prayer and reflection on the Word of God. This approach is not primarily geared toward relaxation, but more on sensing the presence of God and communing with Him. This type of meditation is also promoted for stress relief and relaxation, however there’s more to the practice in that answers and solutions to problems are being actively sought as well. There is no doubt meditation has gone a long way since its inception thousands of years ago.