Have you ever asked yourself the question, "Where did meditation originate?'' If you have, then you are asking the same question that has puzzled researchers, scientists, archeologists and millions of others for centuries.
The Earliest Evidence of Meditation
The earliest recorded evidence of meditation dates from approximately 5,000 years ago in Hindu scripture. It was at that time, approximately 3,000 B.C., that the art of writing and recording written histories developed in The Indus Valley, which spanned from India across Pakistan. The ancient Indian scriptures mention meditation, known as tantras.
Further recorded findings of meditation from the Indus Valley, which had a population of over five million people, was found in the 1920s by archeologist, Sir John Marshall. During excavations of Mohenjo-daro, the capital city of the Indus Valley civilization, Marshall discovered a seal with a carved figure of a yogi. The yogi is sitting in a meditation pose. This important finding dates from approximately 2600 B.C.
Many people believe that meditation existed long before the time of the Indus Valley civilization. It is possible that the art of meditation precedes the findings from 3000 B.C. as written history of any kind only dates back to Mesopotamia in 4000 B.C.
Early Mantra Meditation
Mantra meditation was handed down from generation to generation by religious seers in ancient times. The mantras they chanted were Sanskrit words or syllables that when chanted repeatedly helped the person meditating to reach a higher level of consciousness. Mantra meditation has its origins in the Vedic traditions. During the Vedic period mantras were used to influence and control the gods.
Vedic Hinduism is the oldest religion to use meditation for mental and spiritual enlightenment. The Vedic period lasted from approximately 1500 to 500 B.C. predating Buddhism by hundreds of years.
Meditation and Buddhism
Born a prince approximately 500 B.C., Siddhartha Gautama, would become Gautama Buddha the founder of Buddhism. It is said that Siddhartha attained enlightenment after meditating for 49 days under a sacred fig tree. Since that time Buddhism has focused on meditation as a way of experiencing Nirvana and reaching Enlightenment.
There are four main components, or techniques, used in Buddhist meditation:
Today these four techniques are used by many non-Buddhists in the practice of various types of meditation.
Historical Meditation Practices of Various Cultures
Throughout history most cultures have practiced meditation in some form. Many researchers believe that the practice of meditation comes from an instinctive and primal need to connect to the universe and to oneself. The following are examples of cultural variations of meditation.
- Native Americans sweat lodge ceremonies where they offer contemplation, prayers and offerings to the Great Spirit.
- Christian monks practice contemplation and prayer in monasteries
- "Lecto Divina" is the practice of early Christian monks method of reading the Bible. It was read very slowly as the meaning of each verse was carefully contemplated and considered.
- The Sufi religion's dancing meditations known as Whirling Dervishes
- The sound rituals of the Aborigines where they used dancing, singing and playing didgeridoos to keep the world in existence
- The Islamic practice of morning prayers and meditations
How to Answer the Question: Where Did Meditation Originate?
For now the answer to the question "Where did meditation originate?" must be answered that "it originated approximately 5,000 years ago in the India - Pakistan area." Perhaps as archaeologists continue to unearth ancient civilizations they will find proof of the existence of meditation preceding the Hindu Scriptures of the Indus Valley. Or perhaps, those followers that believe that meditation predates all recorded findings are right. That ancient primitive "hunter-gatherer" societies may have meditated, and discovered altered states of consciousness, as they stared into the flames of their fire. They believe that "if" recorded history went back much further there would definitely be proof that meditation existed as long as human existence.