How the West Stole Meditation

A South Asian tradition rooted in spirituality is now a multibillion-dollar industry about productivity.

meditation article feature
Buddhists dressed in their new saffron robes wait in the meditation hall (Thierry Falise/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Naya Jorgensen


July 11, 2023


8 min

So you’ve decided to start meditating — for real this time. Google is more than eager to help you change your life, presenting you with over a billion results when you search “meditation.”

Hundreds of apps will supposedly show you the light, and you click on the website for the most popular one. You get a blurb about a man named Andy, who ditched school, became a monk, and then returned to the U.K. He seems nice, but he’s not quite what you’re looking for; after a little more clicking around, though, you find it’s the same story on almost every site. White person discovers meditation sometime in their 20s, takes a trip to Asia, and now wants to bestow their gifts upon you (for only $69.99 a year).

It doesn’t take long for you to give up and just give Andy your money. But in a world where nearly all of meditation’s voices, literal and metaphorical, are white, it’s often easy to forget that meditation wasn’t always this way.

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