There are more than 20 references to meditation in the pages of Scripture, yet the practice remains mysterious to some Christians. Many not only question its usefulness but remain confused about the similarities and differences between biblical meditation vs. eastern meditation.
Although biblical meditation is not as common in modern-day vernacular as is prayer, it nevertheless has been practiced by God’s people for thousands of years. Isaac (Genesis 24:63), Joshua (Joshua 1:8), David (Psalm 19:14) and the Apostle Paul (Philippians 4:8-9) all embraced meditation as a spiritual discipline.
God himself commanded us to meditate (Joshua 1:8): “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”
When we compare biblical meditation vs. eastern meditation, we see there are at least three major differences.
First, the focus is different in biblical meditation vs. eastern meditation.
In eastern meditation, the God of the universe is not the focus. For some, the goal in meditating is to enter into a state of being that transcends their environment. It relies on the belief that every person is inherently good. It focuses on drawing from within the meditator to find peace and tranquility.
By contrast, in biblical meditation, we focus our life, our heart and our soul on God’s Word, each moment and hour of the day. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). The focus is not on “energies” or “awareness” but on the God who created us, loves us, and saved us.
When our dependence is on God, peace can be sustainable regardless of our circumstances. Rather than transcending our experience, we allow God into every experience. When we are in God’s presence, there is fullness of joy.
Second, the posture is different in biblical meditation vs. eastern meditation.
In eastern meditation, people are encouraged to meditate in a relaxed but upright way, usually sitting cross-legged on a cushion. If that doesn’t work for the person’s physical state, they can kneel or sit in a chair. You will often see people who use this form of meditation holding their hands a certain way and repeating a mantra.
Biblical meditation, though, has nothing to do with posture of the body. Posture of the heart comes first. Although God does call his people to “be still” and “know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), he also wants them to meditate on his Word no matter the circumstances. It’s true that a quiet, solitary moment with God can elicit intense moments of spiritual growth. It’s also true that God’s Word can provide comfort and peace during those loud, stress-filled moments of life. Consider that Jesus talked to the Father not only in private (Luke 5:16) but in public (John 11:41-42).
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
“The voice of God indeed daily calls to us; calls to the world to abandon sins and seek the Kingdom of God wholeheartedly. O that we may all hear the call of the Father and, sometime, at last be converted to the Lord. … In silence and in meditation on the eternal truths, I hear the voice of God which excites our hearts to greater love.”
Third, the worldview is different in biblical meditation vs. eastern meditation.
The goal of eastern meditation is to take the individual through a “succession of stages to the final goal of spiritual freedom, nirvana,” according to Britannica.com. Everyone has the opportunity to achieve “godhood.”
Eastern meditation does not acknowledge a Creator God nor the need for a Savior. Rather, it teaches that everyone can draw from the goodness at their core — a belief antithetical to Scripture. Beginners learn to allow their basic goodness to come out. And while it’s true that everyone has love and compassion, wisdom and joy, capability and power, eastern meditation teachers believe these characteristics come from within rather than from God.
In biblical meditation, the Christian acknowledges his or her utter dependence on the triune God of the Bible. The Word of God fills your heart and your mind, convincing you of God’s deep love for you and your place in the kingdom of God. You experience freedom from shame as you become more and more convinced of your worth as God’s child.
The practice of biblical meditation is like a cow patiently and methodically chewing its cud. Did you know that dairy cattle chew nearly 30,000 times each day— a process that spans almost eight hours? It’s how God designed them. It’s how they stay healthy. Similarly, when we practice biblical meditation, we “chew” on Scripture—a verse, a phrase or even a single word—throughout our day, no matter the circumstance. By doing so, we are doing what God designed us to do. We also are nurturing our own spiritual health.
Evangelist Billy Graham (1918-2018)
“If I had it to do over again, I’d spend more time in meditation and prayer and just telling the Lord how much I love him and adore him and [am] looking forward to the time we’re going to spend together for eternity.”
It’s good to do your research and ensure that anything you take up as a spiritual practice is biblical. When you look at the comparison of biblical meditation vs. eastern meditation, it’s clear that biblical meditation is right in line with Scripture.