Christian Cultivation is Emptiness Meditation
When I was young, I used to read Christian books about medieval monks and their prayers, Desert Fathers and all sorts of Christian saints. I would read their explanations of how to pray to God, and it occurred to me they were all describing a giving up of thought so that nothing stood in the way of your union with God, the ultimate nature. Since thoughts were selfish, you had to give up even this egoity to become one with God, and hence prayer became a means of freeing oneself from thoughts.
Fast forward many decades later. I had a chance to read Zen, Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, Taoist, Islamic, Jewish and many other works ... but I focused on the works of RECOGNIZED SAINTS AND SAGES rather than intellectuals. These are the ACCOMPLISHED individuals, the ones who offer guidance who should matter. What was their common theme?
The problem is, had I restricted myself to just one tradition, I would have never realized that this IS the only way to cultivate to God, and other religions simply called God -- the fundamental nature -- by other names. God is neither a being or thing, and so cannot be reached by thoughts and images. Hence the need for cultivation methods that silence thoughts and cultivate a state free of thoughts and images. But how do you make such methods survive? By coating them with all sorts of religious dogma and drapery.
Here's one simple example, out of hundreds I've collected, explaining that true Christian cultivation is emptiness cultivation, just as it is in other religions, and that one must be mindful of this sort of practice to reach some stage of accomplishment:
"The soul of prayer is attention. As a body without a soul is dead, so is prayer without attention. Prayer said without attention is vain speech. He who prays in this way calls on God in vain. The mind during prayer must be carefully kept formless, ejecting all imagination, because God is formless and cannot be pictured in any form. Images, if the mind admits them, become a curtain and a wall which separate the soul from God. Those who see nothing during their prayer see God, according to St. Meletius the Confessor." [Russian Mystics, Sergius Bolshakoff, Cisterian Publications, 1976, pp. 150-151]
Now here's the point. Christian priests, pastors, monks and reverends don't tell you this. They don't instruct you in this. And yet this is the crux of Christian cultivation.
It's the crux of Taoist cultivation, Buddhist cultivation, Hindu cultivation, Jewish cultivation (Judaism called emptiness "ayin"). In fact, I laugh at the Taoists who miss the fact that Taoism is about emptiness cultivation. Many just pick up the texts that say spin your chi and imagine this and that and bypass all the other texts on emptiness and freedom from thought. In fact, they miss these books on Christianity, too, or Buddhism, or Judaism. What do you want me to say? People have to help themselves and awaken themselves.
The only people who get a deep insight into this are my STAGES students. When the STAGES course opens up, and if this type of information grabs you (or the fact that you've been missing it), you should think about the course.
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