Meditation and the World’s Religions
Out of all of the world’s religions, nearly all of them practice some form of meditation. This is a testament to the importance of meditation, especially as one considers the diversity of religion both ancient and modern. When one thinks of meditation, especially the Westerner, he or she typically thinks of the meditation espoused by the Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. Despite this, the Western religious tradition is respite with meditative practice as well. To follow we will briefly survey the practice of meditation as practiced by but some of the world’s major religions. Hinduism, the oldest known religion in the world, has an extensive focus upon meditation as a core component of its religious practice (alongside and as a component of Yoga). On the Hindu paradigm, meditation is an essential component of both physical and psychological mastery as defined and espoused by the religion.
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Buddhism, which had its roots as a reform movement of Hinduism, emphasizes meditation perhaps over and above any other religion. It is both a central tenet and practice. To be sure, the various sects of Buddhism approach meditation somewhat differently from one another, but the thing held in common is that meditation is a means for obtaining enlightenment and, subsequently, liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth (Nirvana). The only exception to the above with regard to Buddhism is as it relates to Zen Buddhism. On the Zen conception, meditation is a practice of mindfulness—a state of constant meditation in which one dwells perpetually in the eternal now. The Christian tradition emphasizes a form of meditation that consists of prayer and contemplative reflection. Such meditations are often situated upon God himself, his attributes, the mysteries of his creation and the scriptures. Different from the Buddhist approach to meditation in which one seeks to recognize the unity of all things, Christian tradition emphasizes the distinction between all things, namely the creator and the created. Taking a look at the Jewish tradition with respect to meditation, which predates the Christian tradition by some several thousand years in ancestry, one finds a similar meditative emphasis upon contemplation and reflection, especially upon the scriptures. It is clear that the Christian tradition borrowed this tradition from Judaism.
Islam as well espouses two particular forms of meditation. As Islam is, in a historical sense, a religion rooted largely on the Judeo-Christian religions and scriptures, it only makes sense to see that Muslims as well emphasize the same notion of contemplative reflection. In Islam, however, there exists as well a more mystical form of meditation that isn’t found in the Judaic and Christian traditions, one not embraced by all Muslims, however still practiced by some. It is clear that the world’s major religions, each and every one, have embraced meditation and espouse it in one form or another. It is also clear that meditation has been integral, and remains as such, in the spiritual development of millions the world over and this for thousands of years.