A few years ago, I became interested in meditation; however, it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I started practicing it myself. In this article, I will firstly share its origins to better understand how and why this practice started.
Origins of meditation
The oldest known definition of meditation comes from ancient Indian Mahabharata. A meditator is someone who doesn’t think therefore meditation is a practice of mental silence. This is found in many other examples of Eastern literature, for example Lao Tzu says we must empty our mind of all thoughts. On the other hand, in Western philosophy, meditation is an illogical experience; however, studies have shown it reduces the risk of stress and increases mental capacity by 10-20%. Furthermore, mindfulness meditation also helps deal with the everyday life, phobias and other psychological problems.1,2
In addition, origins of meditation are traced to the East, specifically the Buddhism and Yoga practice within the Indian field of psychology. Indian psychology claims there is a monoism between the body and the mind,
consciousness at the center and meditation part of everyday life. Western psychology, on the other hand, says there is a dualism between the body and the mind, ego at the center and meditation just a means towards reaching the goal.1
Humans are not just body (Deha) and soul (Atman), but the soul is divided into Mahākārana-dēha (subtle ego), Manas (mind), and Atman (soul).
Similar to Plato’s epithymetikon the Mahākārana-dēha is that which desires and it often is opposed to the Atman (logistikon). The subtle ego or Mahākārana-dēha is often seen as an impediment to meditation. It is this subtle ego which is connected to material desires that it’s the part of us that seeks for outward happiness.
The Manas (mind) or thymoeides is the part of the soul which controls our temper. This part is also called the ‘high spirit’, because it is the part that manifests as indignation and in general the courage to be good. Most people would recognize this part as the voice they hear inside of their mind which guides them. An interesting detail about this part of the soul is that in many cultures it was seen as being a spirit guide often represented in animal form.
Finally, the Atman is the thinking part of the soul which loves the truth and seeks to learn it. It discerns what is the real and not merely apparent and wisely makes just decisions in accordance with its love for goodness. This part of ourselves is often in a religious context described as our divine spark.
The practice of meditation is not just something one does to feel calm, but something one does so one can free oneself from the subtle ego and connect to ones Manas and Atman letting go of the ego and it’s desires. It is this first realization that life in this mundane world with its clinging and craving to fleeting states and things is unsatisfactory. We expect happiness from states and things which have an end, and therefore we cannot attain real happiness. What the buddhists call nirodha or letting go, is the realization that unhappiness can be confined by letting go of the subtle ego.
Meditation is a process of training your mind through which you learn to focus deeply on your mind and let go of all your thoughts and desires. You learn to let your thoughts wander through your mind while observing them and letting them float and vanish, without judging them. In Buddhist philosophy the greatest benefit of meditation is liberating your mind of attachment to things you can’t control. As an enlightened practitioner, you no longer needlessly follow desires or cling to experiences, but you maintain a calm mind and inner harmony.
Meditation is a great relaxation technique and a great way to manage stress. Studies have even shown that meditation helps fight chronic diseases, including depression, heart disease and chronic pain. Other short term benefits of practicing meditation to our nervous system are: lower blood pressure, improved blood circulation, lower heart rate, less perspiration, slower respiratory rate, less anxiety, lower blood cortisol levels, greater feeling of well-being and deeper relaxation.
Meditation is a skill and like any other skill, it takes time and practice to master. You can start off with just a couple of minutes per day and slowly, as you get more comfortable with the practice, increase the duration of your meditation practice.
In conclusion, through the practice of meditating you control your mind, subdue your consciousness and willingly control your subtle ego. Moreover, yoga and meditation provide a way to transform yourself and eliminate pain. Humans thus function as a combination of body, subtle ego, mind and soul. Lastly, Indian psychology tries to understand someone’s nature, motivations and consequences of their behavior and in what ways they can be transformed towards a perfect, knowledgeable and happy human being.1
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Do you practice meditation and what is your opinion on it? Let us know!
Stay healthy and safe friends!
1 Singla, R. (2011, April 05). Origins of mindfulness & meditation: Interplay of Eastern and Western Psychology.
2 Manocha, R. (2014, April 05). Meditation, Mindfulness and Mind-Emptiness. Retrieved from SteveClarkPrincipal: https://www.scholarsage.com/releasing-the-acquired-mind/