A key part of modern meditation is the separation of the practice from the religious faith or the rituals so long connected to it. In doing so, we are not disavowing any faith. In fact, our belief is quite the opposite. For modern meditation practitioners meditation is, and always has been, a way to connect with the creator energy, by whatever name you wish to call it. For us, meditation is a practice that transcends any single religion; it is a doorway to our own divinity. Dare I say, it could even be the one practice that eventually unites all religions in a true commonality?
With this in mind, I thought to demonstrate how all religions include meditation as a way to explore and search for greater meaning, in oneself and to connect with whatever spiritual beliefs they follow.
Buddhism -- At the center of Buddhism is the act of meditation. Different lineages trace their approach back thousands of years through texts and word of mouth transference from teacher to student. Here, meditation is done with the goal of enlightenment and the freedom from suffering as the Buddha set forth.
Christianity -- Meditation has been a part of Christianity for thousands of years as way to connect with God. Through prayer and contemplation, it is believed that an individual can touch the Holy Spirit and reach the Divine. With Christian practices, there are no mantras. There is prayer and contemplation, leading to deep personal insight.
Tao -- In Taoism, individuals meditate as a way to establish a connection with the natural life forces [chi, ki, gi]. Contemplation and insight is refined through the actions of mind and body, and as a way to transcend.
Hindu -- Many view Hinduism as the source of meditation. In many ways, meditation grew from the ancient spiritual rites and rituals of the region. It has been memorialized in ancient texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Avadhuta Gita by Dattatreya. In Hinduism the goal of meditation is to create a union between the Self with the ever-present Brahman, or infinite life force.
Islam and Sufism -- These faiths incorporate meditation as a way to enhance awareness and healing. In Islamic practices, meditation is used to cultivate tadabbur -- which means to ponder, reflect and think. As noted in Tadabbur-e-Quran practice, this is a path upon which to reach divine inspiration and to awaken the mind and the spirit.
Judaism -- Meditation dates back to the more mystical sources that pre-date Judaism such as Kabbalah. It remains a part of the faith as a way to approach the Divine while developing a greater understanding of the self.
Modern Meditation -- Around the world meditation is being refined in ad-hoc ways to help people overcome substance abuse, personal issues, and to help maintain a greater sense of self in our increasingly complex world. Therapists, counseling centers, prisons and even the military have adopted non-religious approaches to helping others seek the balance and the calm they need to be happy. At the same time, Western science, neuroscience and research has shown proof of the effects that meditation has toward physical and mental health for practitioners.
As one physicist said to me, "We are creating a metaphysical bridge over the Pacific uniting Eastern Philosophy and Western Science," and that will be a grant moment indeed. As you can see, throughout every faith, meditation is a way to connect the self with the divine. It is a way to contemplate, to ponder, and to integrate the body with the spirit.
It is not for us to find the points of difference in individual meditation practices but to create a bridge over the perceived divides. Whether meditation is used by the individual, within groups, for spiritual or professional growth, it is a positive life force that transcends cultural and spiritual traditions.
Let us make use of it as such.