Evidence of the origins of meditation extends back to a time before recorded history. Archaeologists tell us the practice may have existed among the first Indian civilizations. Indian scriptures dating back 5000 years describe meditation techniques. From its ancient beginnings and over thousands of years, meditation has developed into a structured practice used today by millions of people worldwide of differing nationalities and religious beliefs
There are several types of meditation in Hinduism. Amongst these types are:
- Vedanta, a form of Jnana Yoga.
- Raja Yoga as outlined by Patanjali, which describes eight "limbs" of spiritual practices, half of which might be classified as meditation. Underlying them is the assumption that a yogi should still the fluctuations of his or her mind: Yoga cittavrrti nirodha.
- Surat shabd yoga, or "sound and light meditation"
- Japa Yoga, in which a mantra is repeated aloud or silently
- Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of love and devotion, in which the seeker is focused on an object of devotion, eg Krishna
- Hatha Yoga, in which postures and meditations are aimed at raising the spiritual energy, known as Kundalini, which rises through energy centres known as chakras
- Ksipta defines a very agitated mind, unable to think, listen or remain quiet. It is jumping from one thought to another.
- In Mudha no information seems to reach the brain; the person is absentminded.
- Viksipta is a higher state where the mind receives information but is not able to process it. It moves from one thought to another, in a confused inner speech.
- Ekagra is the state of a calm mind but not asleep. The person is focused and can pay attention.
- Lastly Nirodha, when the mind is not disturbed by erratic thoughts, it is completely focused, as when you are meditating or totally centered in what you are doing.
The ultimate end of meditation according to Patanjali is the destruction of primal ignorance (avidya) and the realization of and establishment in the essential nature of the Self.