Dharma World

October-December 2015, Volume 42

October-December 2015, Volume 42(PDF)

The Modern Significance of Meditative Practices in Religions

Meditative practices are entering the mainstream of societies in many parts of the world. These practices are not necessarily tied to religions, but as Time magazine observed of “mindfulness meditation” in its February 3, 2014, issue, meditation is becoming popular as a neurophysiological approach to mental stress in hectic contemporary societies, and is even used as a complementary treatment for physical pain.

Meditation, or voluntary self-regulation practices to develop fully focused awareness or gnosis, has been an important component of many religious traditions. Zen Buddhists, for example, hold that zazen is an essential practice on the path to enlightenment, or liberation from suffering.

The aims and forms of meditative practices vary according to different religions, however, and there is also significant diversity within single religious traditions. The meaning of meditation in each religious tradition is also framed by different belief systems. This makes it hard to grasp the significance and meaning of meditative practices in religious traditions other than one’s own.

While meditative practices are drawing attention as forms of mental or physiological fitness, examining their current religious significance would promote understanding of meditative practices as an important aspect of religious training, and not only as methods of stress reduction. Our examination would shed new light on this ancient religious heritage, and we hope meditation will become a more ample religious resource for happier and healthier lifestyles of people today.

To gain an overview of what significance meditation has in religions today, we would like to approach the theme from the following angles: (1) What are the various forms of meditative practices, and are they associated with different effects or mental and physiological benefits? (2) Why have meditation practices (e.g., mindfulness meditation, yoga, etc.) gained mainstream popularity as ostensibly “secular” practices? (3) Can these practices be separated from their religious contexts, and if so, what are the consequences? (4) What does the popularity of meditation practices signal about contemporary culture and the needs of people in advanced technological societies? (5) Are religious meditative practices crossing sectarian lines? Have they become the basis for, or facilitated, intersectarian and interreligious cooperation and understanding? (6) Are meditative practices as medically effective as their advocates claim?

Dharma World

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  6. Spring 2019, Volume 46

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  7. July-December 2018, Volume 45

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  8. January-June 2018, Volume 45

    Buddhism’s One Vehicle in a World of Many Religions

  9. July-December 2017, Volume 44

    Religions Tackling Extremism

  10. January-June 2017, Volume 44

    Religion and Animals

  11. October-December 2016, Volume 43

    Features: Listening

  12. July-September 2016, Volume 43

    Contemporary Ideas about Karma

  13. April-June 2016, Volume 43

    Buddhism and Food

  14. January-March 2016, Volume 43

    Dual Religious Identity: Can One Practice Two Religions?

  15. October-December 2015, Volume 42

    The Modern Significance of Meditative Practices in Religions

  16. July-September 2015, Volume 42

    Religious Rituals and Their Meaning for Today

  17. April-June 2015, Volume 42

    Religion's Contributions to Society

  18. January-March 2015, Volume 42

    Cultivating Hearts That Welcome the Other

  19. October-December 2014, Volume 41

    Buddhism and Language

  20. July-September 2014, Volume 41

    Life After Death

  21. April-June 2014, Volume 41

    Building an East Asian Community: Roles of Religions

  22. January-March 2014, Volume 41

    Aging Societies and Religion

  23. October-December 2013, Volume 40

    Nuclear Power and Contemporary Religion

  24. July-September 2013, Volume 40

    Where Does the Buddha Live Now?

  25. April-June 2013, Volume 40

    Modern Meanings of Festivals

  26. January-March 2013, Volume 40

    Transforming Greed

  27. October-December 2012, Volume 39

    Religions Coping with Prejudice

  28. July-September 2012, Volume 39

    The Significance of Religious Communities

  29. April-June 2012, Volume 39

    Buddhist Teachings on Spiritual Liberation

  30. January-March 2012, Volume 39

    The Meaning of Modern Pilgrimage

  31. October-December 2011, Volume 38

    The Evolution of Funerals in Japan

  32. July-September 2011, Volume 38

    Buddhism in North America

  33. April-June 2011, Volume 38

    Religion and the Power of Women

  34. January-March 2011, Volume 38

    What Is True Wealth?

  35. October-December 2010, Volume 37

    Dialogue Draws Religions Closer

  36. July-September 2010, Volume 37

    Tackling the Question "What Is the Lotus Sutra?"

  37. April-June 2010, Volume 37

    Religion's Role in Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

  38. January-March 2010, Volume 37

    Help in Overcoming Alienation

  39. July-September 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Prayer

  40. July-September 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Media

  41. April-June 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Health

  42. January-March 2009, Volume 36

    The Changing Forms of the Family and the Role of Religion

  43. October-December 2008, Volume 35

    The Meaning of Giving in the Contemporary World

  44. July-September 2008, Volume 35

    Buddhism in the Face of Environmental Crisis

  45. April-June 2008, Volume 35

    The Many Forms of the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin

  46. January-March 2008, Volume 35

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  47. October-December 2007, Volume 34

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  48. July-September 2007, Volume 34

    Respect for Ancestors

  49. April-June 2007, Volume 34

    Self-Examination and Peace Work

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  51. October-December 2006, Volume 33

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  52. July-September 2006, Volume 33

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  54. January-February 2006, Volume 33

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  55. November-December 2005, Volume 32

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  56. September-October 2005, Volume 32

    Spirituality and Development

  57. July-August 2005, Volume 32

    Women in Contemporary Japanese Religion and Society

  58. May-June 2005, Volume 32

    Rissho Kosei-kai 67th

  59. March-April 2005, Volume 32

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  60. January-February 2005, Volume 32

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  61. November-December 2004, Volume 31

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  62. September-October 2004, Volume 31

    The Increasing Importance of Dialogue and Cooperation

  63. July-August 2004, Volume 31

    Paths to Reconciliation

  64. May-June 2004, Volume 31

    Religion in Crisis

  65. March-April 2004, Volume 31

    Spiritual Friendship

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    Resolving Conflict

  67. November-December 2003, Volume 30

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  68. September-October 2003, Volume 30

    Common Truths: Cooperation Among Religions

  69. July-August 2003, Volume 30

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  70. May-June 2003, Volume 30

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  71. March-April 2003, Volume 30

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  72. January-February 2003, Volume 30

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  73. November-December 2002, Volume 29

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  74. September-October 2002, Volume 29

    Sixth Assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

  75. July-August 2002, Volume 29

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  76. May-June 2002, Volume 29

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  77. March-April 2002, Volume 29

    Celebration of the Anniversary of Shakyamuni's Birth

  78. January-February 2002, Volume 29

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