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Asian Traditions of Meditation$
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Halvor Eifring

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780824855680

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824855680.001.0001

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What Is Meditation?

What Is Meditation?

(p.1) 1 What Is Meditation?
Asian Traditions of Meditation

Halvor Eifring

University of Hawai'i Press

This essay defines meditation as an “attention-based technique for inner transformation”. This generic definition establishes a common point of reference for the cross-cultural study of meditation, and it serves as a basis for discussing cross-cultural issues relating to the foci and modes of meditative attention, the attitudes toward the technical nature of meditation, and the relation between short-term changes of “state” and long-term changes of “trait” in the inner transformation that meditation brings about. Meditation is distinguished from related phenomena that sometimes go by the same name, but are non-technical, state- rather than trait-oriented, or mechanical in a way that fails to modify the mode of attention of the meditator, as in the automated and ritualistic repetition of mantras. The essay also discusses the fuzzy borderlines between meditation and a number of other practices, including prayer, mysticism, ritual, shamanism, medicine, martial arts and modern-day relaxation techniques and psychotherapy.

Keywords:   attention training, technique, inner transformation, state of mind, trait, agency, natural class, monothetic definition

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