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date: 23 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Ancient Indian spiritual and philosophical approaches contain psychological theories of meditation that specify (a) what meditation is, (b) what its aim is and how it works, and (c) predictions about its effects. This chapter introduces two representative theories that date back more than two millennia, one derived from early Buddhism and the other from the classical Hindu thought systems of Sāṃkhya and Yoga. According to both theories, meditation is not a single technique but a partly differing collection of many different ones. The final aim of meditation, embedded in a spiritual and moral context, is achieving a state of liberation or enlightenment, although it is unclear whether both theories refer to a common state. Both theories also predict that positive effects can already be expected for practitioners still on the way. The cognitive mechanisms that are the basis for these results are clearly described in the two respective psychological models. The two theories allow for deriving predictions that go beyond the research questions currently pursued in Western meditation research, and they can act as building blocks for a comprehensive theory of meditation.

Keywords: psychological theories, meditation, early Buddhism, Samkhya, Sāṃkhya, Yoga

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