October 27, 2010

Spiritual Paths and Their Meditation Techniques

Spiritual Paths and their Meditation TechniquesAfter a long wait one of our books, “The Insider’s Guide to The World’s Best and Worst Spiritual Paths and Practices,” is being released as a paperback on Amazon.com.

Totally rewritten, this book will be released in paperback as “Spiritual Paths and Their Meditation Techniques,” will be available next month. Because it’s so useful, here is a list of the 10 great cultivation methods of the world from the new book which summarizes many spiritual and meditation approaches. Your spiritual practice should fall within these Ten Great roads. I’ll send the rest of the methods out bit by bit over the next few days so that the material, just a small sample from the book, is easier to digest. I hope from reading this material you can understand the construction and purpose of many spiritual techniques. Here it starts:

As to the other spiritual schools of the world, Shakyamuni said that they commonly employed ten great roads of spiritual practice. By following one or more of these paths, you can progress towards self-realization. These paths include the following:

(1) Mindfulness of the Buddha (enlightened being) practice involves concentrating on an enlightened being such as Jesus, Buddha, Shiva, Krishna or any other virtuous enlightened saint, and then so identifying with the contemplation on a moment-by-moment basis that one enters into samadhi. “Mindfulness of the Buddha” is not a method to be identified with Buddhism, but simply the name of a mindfulness technique that uses one-pointed concentration on any enlightened being, whom we call “Buddhas” in recognition of their enlightenment. It is a method of developing long one-pointed concentration through mindfulness, akin to leading an ox home from the field by pulling it back on to a path through a tug on its nose every time it goes astray. It is a method of mentally imitating an enlightened being, and seeking what he or she achieved from mind-moment to mind-moment, until one finally achieves that ultimate attainment himself.

The bhakti yoga cultivation technique of India, as is Christian contemplation on Christ, is a form of Buddha mindfulness practice where through intense longing the mind melts in devotion and thoughts and attachment to the concept of an ego are surrendered. One pointed concentration on visualizing a deity, known as the exercise of imaginary cognition, is a popular accompaniment of Buddha mindfulness and a way in which many religious greats across traditions have traditionally achieved samadhi. If you reach a sufficient point of one-pointed concentration then your chi will begin to move, and dropping the visualization you can reach a state of contentment and no-thought. When the mind becomes free of all other thoughts except the meditated form, incessant thoughts become silent and the mind becomes pure with the object of meditation, thereby entering into samadhi after the object is discarded. Similarly, when one surrenders a sense of doership and turns everything over to the imagined enlightened being (including the idea of one’s individual will), this is also a form of Buddha mindfulness for entering into samadhi.

(2) Mindfulness of the Dharma (Teaching) practice involves cultivating samadhi through the road of logic and mental investigation. Studying the Consciousness-only school of Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta teachings of Hinduism or practicing jnana yoga are all ways to help you investigate the mind and consciousness. In Confucianism the idea of “tracing things back to their roots” can also be applied to studying consciousness so as to eventually detach from it to search for its source. When you constantly apply the principles of investigation to a constant introspection of your mind (vipassana) in order to help you let go, you are applying this cultivation method that will directly lead you to samadhi.

Success in dharma mindfulness practice involves applying an understanding of spiritual teachings dealing with consciousness to help you constantly detach from mental states that flow across consciousness, and thereby enter into samadhi that way. When you can fathom the true meaning of some spiritual teaching, and combine that understanding with periods of contemplation or mental watching so that you can let go, this is dharma practice, or dharma mindfulness. The Advaita Vedanta or Zen practice of constantly searching for the source of thoughts or the “I am” is also dharma mindfulness. If you were always watching your mind to purify your behavior and let go of unwholesome thoughts, as Confucians do, or making sure you broke no religious rules of discipline, as the strict Orthodox Jewish try to do, that would be the practice of virtue and discipline mindfulness. In this case, to be aware of dharma principles at every moment in time – such as to always recognize the impermanen ce of phenomena, painfulness of the world, non-existence of the ego, impurity of the physical body and the illusive nature of reality – will result in mentally letting go of attachments and constitutes dharma mindfulness.

Such constant practice on a continual moment-by-moment basis will lead to detachment, and the mental detachment of letting go of consciousness leads to samadhi and realization. Putting oneself in line with the Tao, once you know the principles of the true character of reality, is dharma mindfulness practice, and eventually leads to awakening. This is one reason why people are encouraged to study cultivation teachings, especially those from other schools that deal with matters that strike home. Applying them to daily life in order to become happy, let go of attachments, and experience mental freedom also constitutes mindfulness of dharma because you put dharma teachings into effect.

(3) Mindfulness of the Sangha practice means relying upon a living individual who has attained the Tao for cultivation guidance to reach some stage of spiritual attainment. Tibetan guru yoga is one such technique as is studying with an enlightened Hindu master. You don’t consider the guru as a body or person but as the original nature, or true Self, that can lead you to an experience of your own true self-nature. If you were to surrender yourself and imagine that you became one with the goddess Kali, for instance, that would instead be Buddha mindfulness. In sangha mindfulness you rely on the help and instructions of living human masters, or community of cultivators, to succeed in the spiritual quest for the Tao.

One component of sangha mindfulness is to model yourself on an enlightened teacher’s behavior by visualizing yourself becoming that person, or visualizing that you become united with that person during meditation in order to try to match their stage of attainment. The ancient Indian story of the man who learned archery by imagining that he was one with his teacher illustrates this technique. The intense imitation of a powerful enlightened role model, and trying to merge one’s mental state with the enlightened nature symbolized by that model, is the basis of the technique. Mindfulness of the sangha not only entails asking someone for help in achieving the Tao, but involves trying to match their stage of realization in hopes of achieving what they have achieved. It is often followed in tantric traditions that stress the necessity for a guru to help you see the Tao and not get caught up in the physical transformations of the human body.

Many, schools such as Zen and Vedanta, also stress the benefits of studying under an enlightened master because some teachers are able, at special opportunities, to instantaneously cut off your thoughts to help you recognize the inherent emptiness of your mind. The story of Hui-neng, The Sixth Patriarch of Zen, and his pursuer Hui Ming is one such example.

(4) The Mindfulness of Discipline and Virtue is a road of practice emphasized by the Confucian school, Vinaya school of Buddhism, the Taoist path of Humanity and Heaven, Orthodox Judaism, Jainism, and the early Greeks among others. This technique involves a constant introspection (watching, policing, or witnessing) of one’s mind and motivations so as to instantly cut off any mental faults when seen and thereby eventually attain a pure and clean empty mental state of samadhi. Outwardly the emphasis appears to be on following precepts of discipline, but inwardly the practice is on cultivating awareness of the mind. As soon as you see an error in thought or behavior from watching your mind, then like the sword of Manjushri that slices through mental obstructions, you cut it off instantly. You stop the behavior, drop the thought, empty the mind, or try to transform your negative thoughts into positive ones. The form of discipline is outward behavior but the nature of discipline i s that the mind is stopped, and thus there is no desire for evil doing.

This spiritual road can also be called the mindfulness of morality practice. The meditation practice of cessation and observation (normally known as “vipassana”) is also a form of morality mindfulness, and the Confucian practice of self-correction falls within this category as well. Christian monks who were always practicing introspection to watch their mind for breaches of discipline against religious codes of conduct can be said to also have been following this form of mindfulness practice. The stories of Liao Fan and Benjamin Franklin who changed their fortunes through this type of practice are perfect examples of this technique we should all study. As Benjamin Franklin exemplified, one must watch their mind and cultivate wisdom in their behavior to become effective in the world.

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