Meditation is practiced in numerous religious traditions. The earliest records of meditation (dhyana) are found in the ancient Hindu texts known as the Vedas, and meditation plays a salient role in the contemplative repertoire of Hinduism and Buddhism. Since the 19th century, Asian meditative techniques have spread to other cultures where they have also found application in non-spiritual contexts, such as business and health.
Meditation has proven difficult to define as it covers a wide range of dissimilar practices in different traditions. In popular usage, the word “meditation” and the phrase “meditative practice” are often used imprecisely to designate practices found across many cultures. These can include almost anything that is claimed to train the attention of mind or to teach calm or compassion. There remains no definition of necessary and sufficient criteria for meditation that has achieved universal or widespread acceptance within the modern scientific community. In 1971, Claudio Naranjo noted that “The word ‘meditation’ has been used to designate a variety of practices that differ enough from one another so that we may find trouble in defining what meditation is.” A 2009 study noted a “persistent lack of consensus in the literature” and a “seeming intractability of defining meditation”.