Many are familiar with Eastern meditation in the Western world today due to the incline of the New Age movement and the introduction of Eastern meditation through Western psychologists. Along with this knowledge, many would agree that Eastern meditation has been around for thousands of years.
What many don’t know is that Christian meditation has been around for just as long. Jacob was the first person mentioned to meditate in the Bible, which happened around 2,000 BC. This is roughly about the same time as Eastern Meditation, although the beginning dates of eastern meditation vary.
What is the difference between Eastern and Christian meditation? The difference between Eastern Meditation and Christian Meditation is the goal behind each practice. In Eastern Meditation, the goal is to empty one’s mind with the intention to connect with essential nature. Christian mediation has the goal of filling one’s mind with Scripture with the intention to connect with God.
In this post we will learn the similarities and differences between Eastern and Christian meditation. Through the act of being informed, we will be educated as to how to meditate properly.
Distinct to Eastern Meditation
- Connecting to nature or universe
- Belief that humanity can become one with the universe
- Specific bodily posture
- No emphasis on relationship with the Divine.
Similarities between both
- Connection to the Divine or God
- Spiritual journey
- Belief that meditation is important for human spirituality
- Repetition of words or phrases
- Overall health benefits
Distinct to Christian Meditation
- Discovery of God
- Connecting with God
- Belief that there is only one God, who is a personal being
- Non-specific bodily posture
- Relationship with God
Throughout writing this post, I realized that it is very important to understand what Eastern meditation truly is.
There is actually a lot of variation between sources concerning Eastern meditation. I’m sure that if you asked different people what eastern meditation means to them, you would get very different answers. However, there are overall commonalities, so we will touch on the most agreed upon aspects of Eastern meditation.
Origins are also very important, so we will explore the beginnings of Eastern meditation because we will understand it more if we do so.
Eastern meditation’s origins actually vary. The varying factor actually is what religion you are focusing on concerning Eastern mediation. Whether that be Buddism, Hinduism, and so on. However, the earliest recording of Eastern meditation was in the Hindu Vedas of India. A line from the Vedas translated into English concerning meditation says, “We meditate on that desirable light of the divine Savitri, who influences our pious rites”. The line emphasizes the religious rite of humanity. This is the first writings of Eastern meditation which is rooted in Hinduism.
Later on, however, meditation is introduced as a practice by Confucianism and Taoism in China, and Buddhism in India.
Although Eastern meditation varies from culture to culture, separate religions and traditions, there are two main aspects in which almost all Eastern meditation agrees upon; that is Enlightenment and Self-Realization.
Another crucial belief to Eastern meditation is that man can become one with the highest power, whether that is the Universe, or God, or those may be the same to some.
“The Universe and I are one”
Enlightenment is the “full comprehension of a situation”, and to one who is practicing Eastern meditation, it is an ultimate goal. This term can also be defined as “a clarity of thinking allowing deeper levels of knowledge, perception and reason”. Enlightenment will mean different things based on each religion Eastern meditation has its origins in.
In Eastern meditation, there is the belief that each person has a “True Self”, which is the the self that can become one with the Divine through meditation. Self-realization comes into play, then, when one realizes who they are. This is a self-liberating knowledge that is apart of Enlightenment.
A Common Form of Eastern Meditation
According to Project-meditation.org, “The general belief associated with eastern meditation techniques are the belief that ‘the universe and I are one.’ Powers of positive thinking, clearing the mind of all the past stress factors and focusing on a solitary thought during meditation, are common practices of Transcendental meditation, the most common and widely known form of eastern meditation”.
As we see in this quote, transcendental mediation is the most commonly used form of Eastern meditation. So, we decided to look into this further.
One of the most popular types of Eastern meditation is Transcendental meditation. A definition Transcendental meditation says, “Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a technique for avoiding distracting thoughts and promoting a state of relaxed awareness. The late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi derived TM from the ancient Vedic tradition of India. He brought the technique to the U.S. in the 1960s”.
Many people today will use this type of meditation, but not for spiritual practices. This is called secular meditation. The beneficial uses behind this are the health benefits at secular Transcendental meditation can offer. Many testify that TM can help reduce anxiety and depression, increase overall mental health, and can even lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Christian meditation gives man revelation of God, and brings us close to Him. It is also believed that God is personal, and that through meditation, we can deepen our relationship with Him. Christians do not believe that there are specific body postures for meditation, nor do they believe that we should meditate for self-discovery, but rather for discovery of who God is. In this way, we learn our identities.
We have written extensively on Christian meditation so we will not go into much detail here. If you would like to read more, click this post Christian Meditation: Definition, Biblical Examples, & More to learn all about Christian meditation.
There are similarities between Eastern and Christian meditation. This includes the spiritual joinery through meditation, the importance of meditation, the connection to the divine, and meditating on words or phrases.
In both practices, there is an absolute awareness that meditation is a spiritual journey in which we all embark upon. Eastern and Christian meditation is a process, a journey, of our spirits that should not stop. There is always a deeper connection that we follow through meditation.
The importance of meditation is recognized by both Eastern and Christian practices. It is important to meditate because it brings us into who we truly are. Whether that in the “True Self” of Eastern practices or our real identities through Christ, it is understood how important it is to meditate.
Connection to the Divine
The connection with the Divine also ties in with the importance of meditation. Meditation is so important because it is an avenue in which we can connect with our main source of life and salvation. Salvation varies from religion to religion, but in essence it is provided by the Divine of each religion. Man needs connection to the divine, because it is our true source of life.
Meditation of Words or Phrases
In Eastern meditation, there are often mantras. “A mantra is an instrument of the mind—a powerful sound or vibration that you can use to enter a deep state of meditation”. It is meditated on during Eastern Meditation.
Christian meditation practice will also meditate on a word or phrase, but these words and phrases are from the Bible. There are many possibilities and it is completely up to the individual on what they choose to meditate on. The one practicing Christian meditation should ask the Holy Spirit to guide them on which verse or phrase to meditate on.