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HINDU: The practice of Hindu meditation has been traced back to the ancient yogic culture of India and to certain spiritual practices of the Vedic seers (rsis) and Upanishadic sages. Along with the development of Upanishadic Brahmanism and Classical Yoga there arose a special method of meditation aimed at achieving the desired end of liberation from life's suffering, which is caused by ignorance (avidya), the results of one's actions (karma), and the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (samsara).

According to Patanjalian Yoga and the Bhagavad Gita, the spiritual journey involves elimination of passions and detachment from the illusory world (vairagya), as well as spiritual practice (abhyasa). Central in this process is the method of concentration (dharana) -- a focusing of one's thoughts and consciousness on a single point. This tendency toward "cosmicization" or "totalization," which characterizes all yoga techniques, reflects the basic imperative that one's physical and mental life must become a harmonious whole before the advanced stages of liberation and self-realization can be attained.

The spiritual path proceeds through contemplation (dhyana) to yogic meditative absorption or samadhi ("union"). Though samadhi is defined differently by various schools, it always denotes transcendence of ignorance, illusion, and the ego-self (aharnkara).

Such transcendence of prior conditioning and consciousness prepares the Hindu aspirant for rebirth or transformation. Whether conceived as an extrarational and extrasensory experience or as a "rain of dharma," the recovery of one's true nature (svarupa) or the descent of divine grace (shaktipata), this stage is marked by a reconstitution of one's inner being.

Having experienced psychic union, transcendence of illusion, and an inner transformation, the adept integrates these into an enlightened life of freedom and compassionate action. Whether one's goal is worship through ritual, a loving relationship (bhakti) with the Lord, the bliss of meditative absorption, or service to humanity, meditation plays a central role in Hindu paths to the Divine.

Text courtesy of the Museum of World Religions.

Traditions of Meditation:

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