Meditation in popular culture

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Various forms of meditation in popular culture have been described. Science fiction, in particular, often depicts characters meditating or practicing different forms of visualization or contemplation. Typically, but not always, these practices are drawn from or inspired by real-world meditation traditions. Some of the practices occurring in popular fiction are outlined below:

Books[edit]

Dune[edit]

In Frank Herbert's Dune series of novels, various factions use meditation practices for a number of reasons. The Bene Gesserit have a number of practices, such as the Prana-bindu discipline, which trains the mind and body to work as one. The Mentats on the other hand, use visualization and a form of mantra practice ("It is by will alone I set my mind in motion...") to enhance their computer-like mental abilities.

The Glass Bead Game[edit]

In Hermann Hesse's book The Glass Bead Game, Joseph Knecht is taught meditation by the Music Master, and later, by various teachers. Meditation is depicted as a basic subject of teaching in Castalian schools.

Ian M. Banks Culture novels[edit]

In the Culture series by Ian M. Banks, meditation is used as a means of subliming to a higher plane of existence (a process not dissimilar to ascension in the Stargate SG-1 series). Characters in the Culture also use meditation and visualization techniques to control their physiology, adjust their physical features, and change sexes at will.

Saint (Ted Dekker)[edit]

In the Ted Dekker novel Saint, Johnny Drake (then known as Carl) uses a form of meditation to focus his mind. He was able to use the technique of "forming a tunnel" in his mind to affect the temperature of a room and the flight path of a bullet.

Movies and Television[edit]

Babylon 5[edit]

In the Babylon 5 television series, various species, including the Minbari and Narn, are depicted using meditation as part of regular customs and religious rituals. In the season 5 episode entitled Learning Curve, the rangers training on Minbar are shown learning a form of meditation practice.

The Fountain[edit]

In Darren Aronofsky's film The Fountain, The astronaut, Tom (Hugh Jackman), travels toward a golden nebula in an ecospheric spacecraft, which also houses a living tree. Tom meditates in padmasana and practices t'ai chi, but is haunted by visions of his cancer stricken wife Izzi. Jackman researched and prepared for his role by practicing t'ai chi. Jackman took 14 months to achieve the lotus position, which is seen in the film.

Stargate SG-1[edit]

In the Stargate SG-1 television series, the Jaffa warriors practice a form of meditation known as kel no'reem in order to relax, focus their minds, and enhance the regenerative capabilities of their Goa'uld symbiotes. Other species in Stargate, including the Ancients, the Ori, and some humans, have made use of Buddhist-inspired meditation practices to ascend to a higher, energy-based plane of existence.

Star Trek[edit]

The Vulcan culture in Star Trek utilizes visualization and contemplative practices for the disciplining their minds, training their telepathic abilities, and most notably; purging themselves of emotion, which they find to be a dangerous element of their psyches.

Star Wars[edit]

The Jedi and Sith of the Star Wars fictional universe are monastic orders with meditative practices for relaxation, controlling the body (such as slowing the metabolism), and focusing their Force abilities. The force itself is similar to religious concepts of animatism. Jedi meditation may be understood as contemplative practices which better attune the practitioner to the force.

Inspired by the Star Wars stories, many adherents of Jediism make use of meditation techniques as part of their religious practice.

Avatar: The Last Airbender[edit]

In the Avatar: The Last Airbender animated TV series, meditation can be used to enter the spirit world. Numerous related concepts are included in the series, notably martial arts, and an episode detailing the chakra system found in the practice of yoga.

Dragonball[edit]

In Dragonball, during the Piccolo Jr. saga, Goku went to Kami's look out to train to improve his fighting ability after having defeated King Piccolo. Mr. Popo pointed out that Goku fought with many redundant moves, and that meditation would help him make his mind as "still as the sky, but as quick as lightning". Popo pointed out how the ring of a bell suspended from Goku's uniform, as a sound is only made when both back and forth motions occur, indicates when he makes redundant moves (Episode 127). This might be understood as an example of the cycle of cause-and-effect brought about by one's Karma.

The meditation that Goku performed consisted of "being like a stone", completely relaxing and quieting his mind of thoughts (Ep. 127). Also, learning to fish with an old man taught him to still his mind so that he could connect with the fish biting the hook (Ep. 128). This was done by listening to the sensations of the river and sky around him (Ep. 128).

In learning to quiet his mind, Goku can now use his senses to locate and avoid his powerful opponents.

References[edit]