Monday, November 30, 2009

The Meditative Custom

Christianity,  Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Shinto, Jainism and the shamanistic and pagan traditions have all taught adherents how to turn their minds inward in order to plumb its mysteries and develop a relationship with the source from which our thoughts arise.  The practice of meditation - and of contemplation and prayer - lies at the heart of the great spiritual traditions.

Although we may refer to these traditions as spiritual, they are also practical psychologies for exploring and training the mind, and in many cases they are systems of philosophy and of physical culture as well.  Only in recent Western history have these various categories become separated from each other, to the detriment of each of them.  And only in recent Western history has the importance of meditation been virtually ignored, requiring us to turn eastward to rediscover those techniques that were once as familiar in the West as they have always been in the East.  Such a need to turn eastward means that particular reference is made to Hindu and Buddhist meditative practices.  But this does not imply a doctrinal approach, as meditation is for those who follow all traditions - or those who follow no tradition at all (it does not require allegiance to any particular faith or creed).

In fact, the more we study the great traditions, the more we recognise that there are many underlying similarities.  It is a strange quirk of human nature that people look for differences and divisions between things (which leads to conflict) rather than for similarities and agreements (which leads to balance and harmony).  Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of ideas and beliefs and of psychological and spiritual practices.  In meditation, all of the great traditions teach the same fundamental steps.  The details may vary, but the bedrock is the same.

The very antiquity and durability of the great traditions provides testament to their efficacy in helping people to live successful lives.  The founders of two of these traditions, Christ and the Buddha, lived respectively 2,000 and 2,500 years ago.  The Hindu rishis, responsible for the Vedas (some of the oldest books in the world), lived in India around 4,000 years ago.  Around the same time, the ancient Egyptians depicted people sitting in what appear to be straight-backed meditative poses.

The first book of the Hebrew Bible was probably written in the 5th century BCE, but dates back to a much earlier oral tradition; the Koran was written down in the 7th century CE; and the Tao Te Ching probably dates from the 4th century BCE.

Source from Learn To Meditate by David Fontana