A Brief History of Meditation: From Before the Big Bang to Now

A Brief History of Meditation: From Before the Big Bang to Now
Western science says that the universe as you know it began with the Big Bang. However, the obvious question is, “What was there before the bang?” The Vedic answer to this question is Pure Consciousness. An eternal, silent field, which is nothing in itself but holds the potential for everything and, out of which, everything arises. The Absolute.

Being eternal, the Absolute is timeless, an eternal Now. It is also Pure Silence. However, within its eternity, the Absolute decided to experience. All experience is by contrast and as nothing else existed except the Absolute, it moved within itself to experience itself. Movement creates friction, which creates sound. However, by definition, the Absolute is Silent so the first sound had to be forced out of the field of Pure Consciousness, becoming conditioned consciousness or all the manifest creation you experience every day. This first sound is OM.

OM is the original Primordial Sound emerging from the unmanifest silence and diversifying into creation as you know it. This transformation didn’t happen just once, it’s a continuous process. If it stops for a fraction of a second, the whole Universe as you know it would disappear. This Vedic explanation is echoed in the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the Word [the sound of OM], the Word became flesh [manifest creation], the One became many.”

Vedic Concept of Creation

The Vedic scriptures say that the non-dual OM emerged from the Supreme Unmanifest Absolute originally expressed as the three letters—A, U, M. From these emerged the gross physical (Bhuh) and subtle (Bhuvah), celestial (Suvah) universes. These gave rise to the great Gayatri Mantra. From the Gayatri Mantra emerged knowledge of the transcendental nature of the Cosmic Being (Purusha) providing the entire meaning of the Vedas. And finally, from the Vedas, Brahma created the manifest Universe.

The Universe is a projection of Consciousness, an Evolution from Pure Universal Consciousness to individual consciousness to ego, to the intellect and mind, to the senses and finally to the physical body. Meditation is an Involution, a return journey from the gross, manifest world to subtler and subtler levels until you arrive back Home in Pure Consciousness. The good news, therefore, is that in your essence, you’re already Enlightened, perfect in every way. Unfortunately, the bad news is that you’ve forgotten it and live these less-than-perfect lives. Meditation reconnects you with your essence, your perfection.

The Four Yugas

In the Vedic concept of evolution there are four great time periods known as the Four Yugas—Sat, Treta, Dwapara, Kali.

Sat Yuga

This was the Golden Age, a time of purity and goodness. A time of harmony and balance, where conflict and disease were unknown. Where people had access to yogic powers (siddhis). A time of no limitations, infinite possibilities, where everything was perfect so desire was unnecessary. Peace, compassion, and kindness were the only goals of life. It was a period of enlightenment, wholeness, and unity.

During Sat Yuga, people lived Vedic lifestyles, respecting the balance between humankind and nature and embracing the natural forces such as fire, wind, rain, night, dawn, sun, moon, etc. The whole of nature was like a beautiful garden where each tree and plant was a different expression of pure knowledge.

The Great Vedic Rishis (enlightened beings) taught that your true destiny is enlightenment. Their meditations were different from how you practice for yourself; they meditated for the salvation and enlightenment of the world. The Rishis recognized the subtle vibrations in everything and opened their hearts to them, so as to experience their inner meanings and pure light. These vibrations were the origins of the thousands of mantra that are available to you today.

Although Sat Yuga lasted for hundreds of thousands of years, gradually distractions began to creep into people’s lives, leading to a loss of purity, the beginning of ignorance, and forgetting your true essential nature.

Treta Yuga

Now was the start of moral decay, conflicts, and wars. A physical world of land masses, oceans, and deserts are formed, activities such as agriculture and mining began.

This was the beginning of separation, leading to the emergence of a personal God, deities, and religions.

In every age, enlightened redeemers manifest to support those willing to listen. Treta Yuga was the time of Lord Rama and the teachings of the Ramayana and also when the wisdom of the Upanishads became known.

The teachings of the Upanishads brought about the beginnings of meditation practices where individuals began to strive to understand the inner rather than the outer world. The Upanishads provided a science of the mind and a process of learning by direct experience. They introduced the concept of the need for an experienced and qualified teacher to guide your journey back to purity. The Upanishads give you the opportunity to step out of the world of illusion you create and recreate for yourself and reawaken the memory of you we really are.

  • Shvetashvatara Upanishad: With the mantra echoing in your heart, cross over the dread sea of birth and death.
  • Mundaka Upanishad: The Mantra is the bow, the student is the arrow and the Lord is the target. Draw the bowstring of meditation and hitting the target, be one with Him.
  • Beyond the reach of the senses is He, the Lord of Love, but not beyond the reach of a mind stilled through the practice of deep meditation.
  • Isha Upanishad: Those who combine action with meditation, cross the sea of death through action and enter into immortality through the practice of meditation.
During this time, meditation practices would have used mantras such as the Gayatri, the Maha Mrtyunjaya, and the names of the various deities.

As purity diminished, there was the advent of Karma, the law of cause and effect. The soul began to gather its karmic burden and its evolutionary journey to wash (release) that Karma came into being. Everything that happened to the soul from this point was the result of its past thoughts, actions, and desires. Meditation is the door out of the karmic prison.

Dwapara Yuga

In this third of the Yugas, things continued to decline further. Ego, trickery, fraud, disease, disharmony, and conflict all began to dominate everyday life.

Again there were those who came to restore balance to the world. This was the time of the great teachers of the Old Testament and other ancient religions. Meditations would have been more of a prayer or contemplative nature.

In the Vedic tradition, Lord Krishna was born, bringing the Divine wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita, often referred to as the Song of God, is a spiritual map or guide book to help you climb out of the misery and you we have created for yourself. Much of the meditation practices had become ritualistic but now Krishna gave the foundation for spiritual practices (Sadhana) that could be practiced by everyone.

Krishna said to, “Work without expectation of reward; have no ego; practice non-violence; live simply; do service to your teachers and others; practice inner and outer purity; control your senses; contemplate your faults; practice silence.” This he codified into what are now known as the four paths of Yoga:

  1. Bhakti: The path of love and devotion
  2. Karma: The path of selfless service
  3. Gyana: The path of knowledge and self-reflection
  4. Raja: The path of techniques, including meditation
Krishna’s great statement, “Established in Yoga (union) perform action,” is the foundation of today’s meditation practices.

Krishna not only explained what you should do, he also advised as to what to stay away from in the Six Enemies of the Soul or the Gateways to Hell:

  1. Excessive desire for sensory pleasures
  2. Anger
  3. Greed
  4. Delusion and infatuation
  5. Pride
  6. Jealousy

Kali Yuga

Unfortunately, very few heed Krishna’s or the other teachers' advice and this is the current time period known as Kali Yuga. This is the time of darkness, ignorance, lies, materialism, chaos, destruction, pollution, focus on the physical, and separation. It is referred to as “God’s nightmare.” It is said that during Kali Yuga, the subtle or energetic body of the planet is inverted in relationship to its physical body, causing chaos, confusion, wrong thinking, destruction of the environment, and each other. Much of the meditation practices were lost or retreated into the mountain caves and forest hermitages.

Again, great teachers came to help guide you back to Truth sharing a wide diversity of meditation practices—Buddha, Mahavira, Christ, Muhammad, Patanjali, and Shankara. It is said that in this age, the spiritual heart is blocked by three knots:

  1. Kama: Excessive sensory desires
  2. Karma: Effect of past actions
  3. Avidya: Ignorance, anger, lust, greed
These knots must be loosened and eliminated for your spiritual journey to be complete. In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali gave recommendations: “Friendship to those who are equal to us, compassion for those who have less than us or who are suffering, delight and happiness for those who have successes and more than we do, indifference to those who are hostile towards us.

If allowed to run its course, Kali Yuga will continue to deteriorate and the challenges that you see around you every day will continue to grow and multiply.

The Good News

So that’s the bad news but the good news is that time is just an illusion. Albert Einstein said, “The distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

The Bhagavad Gita says, “There has never been a time when you and I have not existed, nor will there be a time when we cease to exist. The wise are not deluded by these changes.”

True Reality is ultimately TIMELESS. Therefore, if time doesn’t exist, Sat Yuga must still be here right now. It’s all a matter of awareness or what you put your attention on.

  • Fear contracts = Kali Yuga
  • Love expands = Sat Yuga
It’s up to you to decide if you want to continue to live in the chaos and confusion of Kali Yuga or the joy and bliss of Sat Yuga. It’s all about making that shift in awareness. Meditation is the tool that allows you to make that shift easily and effortlessly.

Today there are many different types of meditation available to you, each having its own value. However, the true purpose of meditation is ultimately to reconnect you with your true essence, the field of Infinite Possibilities and Pure Love, hidden deep within you. These types of meditation involve the silent repetition of a mantra specially selected by a qualified teacher. Because mantras represent the vibrations and qualities of everything in creation, there are mantras for all purposes. However, the only purpose of mantras used in silent meditation is to take your awareness from activity to silence. These mantras are an encapsulated version of your essential self and, as such, carry you effortlessly on your homeward journey. Silent meditation is the path to Love, the path back to Sat Yuga.

Meditation has been present since the beginning of time when the primordial sound OM emerged from the infinite silence. However, it has always been up to you as to whether you made use of it or not. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, founder of the Transcendental Meditation program, did more than anyone to bring meditation to the West and make it a household word. In recent times many other great teachers have shared their teachings and they are owed a deep debt of gratitude. Not too long ago, if you had wanted to learn to meditate, you would have travelled to India, searched for a teacher, and perhaps spent months waiting to receive instruction. Now meditation is easily available to everyone, either through the thousands of qualified teachers worldwide or, in the comfort of your own home through programs such as the Chopra Meditation Foundations program.

Paramhansa Yogananda said, “When all desires are concentrated into one desire, the desire for Self Realization, the spiritual journey begins.” Throughout the Yugas there are those who have had this desire and stepped out of the illusion and into Joy. Those who didn’t or weren’t ready, continued to the present-day situation. It’s a choice, to continue to be bound by limitations or to be free. Meditation draws your awareness away from the noise and activity to the silence within. Meditation frees you from wandering lost and confused and brings you home to the peace, harmony, and love that you truly are. While you appear to be in the darkest period of human existence, the way out has never been more easily available. It’s your choice.

Continue your journey with the four Yugas and the history of Vedic meditation in From OM to Home: A Vedic Journey Through Time, a four-part series with Roger Gabriel, available now on the Chopra App.