Meditation and yoga

Many Hindus engage in meditation as part of their spiritual practice (sadhana), and forms of devotional worship can be seen as meditation in focusing the mind on the divine. However, meditation is perhaps most closely associated with various forms of Yoga. The word Yoga is an umbrella term for different methods to attain spiritual insight and eventually liberation. In the Ashtanga Yoga of classical Yoga, the eight ‘limbs’ combine the moral and the physical with the mental in a process of progressive withdrawal from the external world and ever deeper inward focus culminating in a higher state of consciousness where the Purusha (Person) is no longer confused with Prakriti (material nature, including the ordinary intellect). For more on Purusha and Prakriti see Hindu philosophies and Human nature and destiny. In the Kundalini Yoga of Shakta Tantra (see Human nature and destiny), the discipline involves visualisation of the chakras (centres) in the mystical physiology of the subtle body, together with the chanting of corresponding mantras (ritual utterances) and the employment of pranayama (breathing techniques to control the vital energies) to raise the Kundalini (coiled serpent power) through the Sushumna (central channel), piercing each chakra in turn until Shiva and Shakti (male and female divine principles) are united.

Forms of Yoga, labelled ‘Modern Yoga’ to represent the mixture of Western with Indian ideas and influences made possible and/or necessary by modernity, have proliferated over the last 150 years or so though with greater or lesser emphasis on physical and mental aspects. Examples include Iyengar Yoga which focuses upon asana (posture) and Transcendental Meditation which features twice-daily mantra-based sessions. Both in India and globally, meditation, including many forms of Yoga, has proven popular, often now presented to a wider public as a way to manage stress and enhance well-being, and the ability to draw upon what (apparently) are age-old techniques such as those taught in Hinduism only increase its appeal for many.

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Hindu Worldview Traditions

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