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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In the West, meditation has been particularly associated with Asian religions and seen as illustrative of the mystical nature of eastern culture. This chapter explores the impact of the colonial encounter between Europe and Asia. In this context, Asian meditative practices became abstracted from their traditional cosmological, ritualistic, and cultural contexts and reframed in terms of key conceptual binaries and assumptions deriving from modern Western culture. These include a Cartesian distinction between mind and body (with mind being associated with meditation and Buddhist mindfulness, and the body linked to “Hindu” yoga and its modern postural forms). Asian forms of meditation were translated according to a modern psychological framework and encountered in relation to the dichotomies between science and religion on the one hand and religious tradition and a de-traditionalized notion of spirituality on the other. The approaches taken in the Western encounter with Asian meditation tell us as much about the intellectual grooves of the modern Western episteme as they do about the Asian meditative traditions to which they relate.

Keywords: yoga, spirituality, science, religion, mysticism, colonialism, translation, psychologization, mindfulness

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