The correct definition of meditation is to think constantly of something. You become that on when you meditate. Think of god, you become god. Think of stone, you become stone. Meditation is a form of religious or spiritual contemplation and the basis of most eastern religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism, as prayer is to the Christians and Islamic religions. The difference between prayer and eastern meditation is that the former is a petition to or dialogue with god and the other is a detached observation of one’s own mind and its processes. Attention is focused on monitoring the breath and noting thoughts crossing the minds.
The earliest recognized practise of meditation is from ancient India, where it has been established for 1000’s of years and was known by a Sanskrit word ‘dhyana’. This became Chan in China and Zen in Japan. Buddha developed meditation in 500 BC and Indian scholar Patanjali systematized this practise in his yoga sutras around 250 BC. A classical yoga is a darsana or a doctrine that is theistic and emphasises purification through meditation. A yogi or a practitioner of yoga meditates in order to achieve true bliss which involves a complete withdrawal from the world.
There are many benefits of meditation. It helps us to get to know ourselves better. It answers questions like ‘who am I’, ‘what is reality’? Meditation helps us to get closer to god. It develops good concentration. It relieves us from the stress and tension of daily life and brings about peace and calm throughout the day. After meditating, there is more clarity of mind as it is free from thoughts. Self-control, self-respect and self-acceptance begin to develop. Supernatural abilities begin to develop as spiritual experiences begin to become more peaceful and blissful.
The stages of meditation are many. The beginning stages of meditation are usually associated with developing posture and adjustment to its practise. This takes about 6months or more. The intermediate stages of meditation begin when the person starts getting spiritual experiences and gets into super-conscious. Self-realization is the name given to the state of super-consciousness. In the advanced stages of meditation, 2yrs or more the next state to achieve is cosmic consciousness. Super-consciousness is only a step on the ladder to cosmic consciousness. In this state, the person finds that he is no longer his body; his spirit and mind escape through the body to encompass the world, the solar system and the entire universe.
These were the benefits and stages of meditation. It has to be known that meditation is for everyone. Meditation has been known to transform the entire character of a person. The answer to everything is within. Turn within. All knowledge, all powers, everything is within. Your destiny is within, your future is within, and the ultimatum is within. So meditation can be learnt from books and practise alone, but it is highly beneficial to find a good teacher and work with a group of students. There are many courses and retreat centres within the different traditions.