The History of Meditation

Meditation is an ancient practice that has been around for thousands of years.  The earliest records mention meditation as early as 1500 BCE.  However, according to Medical News, historians believe that meditation was practiced before this time.  They believe it began as early as 3000 BCE.  No matter the exact date meditation started, it has been around and evolved over many centuries.

In the Indus Valley, archeologists discovered evidence of meditation in wall art. The date is approximately between 3,500 and 5,000 BCE; the exact start date of meditation is unknown.  On the wall, images depict people sitting on the ground with crossed legs, hands on their knees, and their eyes slightly narrowed but not closed.  This is what we now recognize as the meditation pose.  Moreover, there are descriptions of this meditation techniques found in Indian scriptures.  These scriptures date back around 3,000 years.

As centuries passed, most of the world’s religions adopted the basic concepts of meditation.  The methods vary from culture to culture, but the fact remains that people around the world believe meditation is an essential cornerstone of spiritual development.

In the early 20th century, Swami Viekananda introduced yoga and meditation to the United States.  Paramehansa Yogananda popularized yoga and meditation.  It was not until the 1960s, when the Maharishi Menesh Yogi began teaching Transcendental Meditation, that interest in meditation exploded.  This explosion was also thanks to the open mindedness of the younger generation of that time.

It took a long time for meditation to get to the United States because it stayed in Asia for many years.  This is not because of fears it would not catch on or other objections to it.  It is simply because for a very long time, travel overseas was hard and dangerous.  To get to the United States from Asia in the 1800s and 1900s took weeks.  Add to that the cost of travel, which was more than many people may make in a lifetime.  This prohibited the spread of meditation from the Far East. Once technology caught up with travel and costs were affordable, meditation spread to the United States and beyond.

Once meditation was in the United States, science took it to a whole different level.  When scientist began to study the positive effects it had on people, it became more and more popular until it became mainstream, like it is today. In fact, in the 1970s, American medical biologists Jon Kabat-Zinn integrated Buddhist teachings with Western science.  He did this to establish mindfulness meditation for the purpose of stress management. His work has influenced research into meditation as a healing modality.  Today, we see a literal explosion of information on the benefits of meditation based on scientific research.

Meditation has a rich and fascinating history.  From drawings on walls, to spreading to the West, to growth through scientific study, meditation has helped people from all walks of life for centuries.  There is no reason to doubt that 5000 years from now, someone may be adding to that history by examining mediation from this point forward.