“When all the senses are stilled, when the mind is at rest but alert, when the intellect wavers not, then is known the highest state of Divinity.”
—Katha Upanishad 77
Meditation—Dhyana—in Hindu theology, is the art and technique of experiencing the “divine” within. Many a sage sat on mountaintops, in caves, in forests, and on riverbanks and meditated deeply, for long periods of time. Even so, meditation is essentially an esoteric practice. An inert mountain or forest cannot be a substitute for an awakened and spiritual mind. In the sages’ vast sojourns, varied ingenious techniques were discovered, which were then passed on to the disciples, thus creating a chain of guru/shishya, or the teacher/disciple relationship.
The art and practice of “Meditation” has truly been regarded as Hindu philosophy’s shining jewel. Its origin has been traced to most ancient prehistoric times, much before the formal establishment of Hinduism. There is evidence of monks practicing “austerity” and “meditation” in the “Sindhu-Saraswati civilization” (Harappa civilization); this was later named as the Sramana ideology. Sraman in Sanskrit means monk.
It is said that in “Prayer”, a person talks to God, and requests for help while in “Meditation”, God talks to the person, and prompts him toward the right path. In effect, the purpose of Meditation is to listen to the word of God with utmost attention, and then act in accordance with it in any situation. The most ancient scriptures of Hinduism – the Vedas and the Upanishads are compilations of such “words of God” as heard internally by the sages and Rishis as “Shrutis”, after extended meditations on river banks, in forests, and on hill tops. God in Hinduism is conceived as the epitome and embodiment of all truth and wisdom, of righteousness and knowledge. Meditation thus forms the very basis of religion; the search for such divine guidance becomes the purpose life. Hindu scriptures are generally developed and assembled around God’s tales in various manifestations, all in different situations and circumstances. Always Keeping God in mind, a human being may meditate to find the answer to all his or her problems and challenges.
In their deep meditation, ancient Rishis connected God with infinite knowledge, infinite virtue, and infinite power, beyond any human understanding. They comprehended that when we meditate and pray to God, we in effect seek His divine guidance in our own life situations. In prayer and meditation, we may seek divine direction and support, and in full faith and sincerity try to carry out our duty in accordance with God’s command. Gradually over a period of time, with diligence and practice, we may know what is sanctioned or not sanctioned by God.
In recent times, meditation has become a watchword of human endeavor in all walks of life, and in all places. Although Buddhism has been more associated with the ritual and method of meditation, its origin in Hinduism remains uncontested. Modern science has accepted the art of meditation as an important tool in combating disease and malady of different types. The Hindu concept of union of religion and science has been vindicated and supported by such efforts worldwide.