Meditation doesn’t belong to any one tradition. There are countless methods in every major religious tradition, and these techniques are being adopted in secular life to improve health, wellness, and performance.
However, the rigorous study and practice of meditation is central to the Buddhist and yogic paths, where its various forms have been mastered and preserved over centuries. Those paths started in India.
There, thousands of years ago, the word for “meditation” in Sanskrit was bhavana. This comes from the verb bhu, which means to become something else—to transform.
The Tibetan word for meditation is gom, which means to habituate yourself to something… but not just anything. For the Tibetans, gom means habituating yourself to something virtuous. For them, if you stew in anger, you are habituating your mind to anger. But that is not meditation, because you are not habituating your mind to something virtuous.
Je Tsongkapa, the founder of the lineage of the Dalai Lamas, explains meditation as “repeatedly focusing your mind on a virtuous object.”
Pabongka Rinpoche, considered the greatest Buddhist teacher of 19th Century Tibet, defines meditation as “focusing your mind on a particular object in order to become habituated to it.”
Dharmamitra, the great 9th century Indian scholar-saint, wrote in his Clear Words Commentary: “Meditating is making the mind take on the state or condition of the object of meditation.”
So we’re starting to get a definition of meditation that has everything to do with the very practical, cause-and-effect purpose of meditation:
Meditation is tethering your mind to a virtuous object, in order to become more like that object.
Because your mind is as malleable as silly putty, it can take on new qualities. Meditate on love, and you will become more loving. Meditate on wisdom, and you become more wise. It is this kind of transformation—the original meaning and purpose of meditation—that GoBeyond.org is dedicated to sharing and preserving.