5 Misunderstandings About Christian Prayer, Christian Meditation and Christian Cultivation.
To understand proper Christian meditation and cultivation practice, first of all we have to understand the basic principles of cultivation. The first principle we have to understand is all religions of the world - including the teachings of the Christian saints - maintain that God is not a person.
When we read the descriptions of the Tao, original nature, Brahman, God or however Tao is referred to in the various religions and in the teachings of realized saints -- from realized prophets, masters, gurus, sages, adepts, avatars, immortals, saints, etc. rather than the intellectuals -- they all tell you that you have to let go of the idea that God is a person. God, or original nature is beyond form and formlessness, being and non-being... so how can God be a person or being? They all unanimously said this is an incorrect idea.
The First Principle
This is the first REAL BIG problem in spiritual cultivation. People believe in one ultra-mega-uber-God as a person or being (there are lots of Gods in all sorts of realms, but no one in charge of it all) because people lack prajna transcendental wisdom and want to cling to something rather than cultivate to realize that original nature or fundamental essence of everything themselves. What they want to cling to are false thoughts of what they want to think and believe in, and what they believe in are their own notions. People believe in God as a being because they just don't know any better, their cultivation level is very low and because they are stuck in the 5 errant perspectives.
That's why Christianity has over 30,000 different sects, because people all want to believe in their own notions rather than cultivate to find out what's true and real then KNOW for a fact what's true versus what's false Christian dogma. People don't want to cultivate and discover the truth, the nondenominationality of cultivation across the world and heavens, but simply wan to love their own opinions and the ideas they grew up with.
Frankly, people just aren't humble enough when they fail to heed the common teachings of sages and saints from different traditions. They're prejudiced due to karma; they were born into a certain people, race, society, family and religion because of karma, and stick with it because of karma. Only with wisdom and merit can they start to free themselves for better karma.
Now this idea of God as a person is a big problem in many religions, including Hinduism, though in the West this idea is particularly prevalent, especially due to artistic works such as the Sistine Chapel and incorrect, incomplete teachings.
The Ten Commandments tell us not to make any image of the divine, which points to the problem directly telling us what NOT TO DO, but nonetheless we stray from this fundamental principle in thinking of God as a person. So of course, people lacking the proper high level spiritual teachings, and transcendental wisdom, always think of God as a person and that's where the first problem comes in for Christian Cultivation. They want to cling to an image rather than cultivate emptiness, which envelops the fullness of All Reality. By fixating on a thought image, they've already limited their spiritual potential.
This is funny because the people who have historically succeeded in Christian Cultivation commonly agree with people who've succeeded in other cultivation schools that God is not a being, and that the way to God is to get rid of all notions and selfishness in this regards, but common people don't want to hear it. The methods are there in Christian cultivation, but people think that worshipping a being is enough, and they're saved from that alone.
Now if you go look up Meister Eckhart and the writings of the early Church Fathers, such as Origen and others, you'll find the correct cultivation path. These were people who achieved some stage of cultivation attainment due to cultivation practice. Go to a book like "Mystics of the Christian Tradition" and you'll find all the correct cultivation teachings and stages of kung-fu that masters in other traditions achieve as well. The commonality is there because the truth is there--Christianity doesn't hold a monopoly as a path to higher spirituality when practiced correctly. Christian mystsics always talk about the ultimate nature -- God -- as being beyond form and thoughts and marks and characteristics, and thus real Christian cultivation involved giving away thoughts to become one witht he Supreme, our original nature. If you really want to understand this, paradoxically you have to go to the Eastern religions to obtain the meaning and then bring that back to Christianity.
Next, go look up Zen masters or Hindu and Tao school masters who succeeded in samadhi cultivation or even in enlightenment and see what they have to say. To get the Tao, you must rely on the teachings of sages such as this rather than the words of intelligent people or holy people who have not succeeded in cultivation (virtuous though they may be), because those who have some degree of the Tao are far better guides than those who don't have any level of accomplishment whatsoever. Unfortunately, that lack of achievement is what we find with friars, priests, reverends, bishops, cardinals and monks today. Even great people like Calvin and Luther, great though they were, lacked any sort of samadhi attainments. And so countless branches of Christianity were born due to intellectuals rather than due to spiritual adepts with real transcendental achievements.
But let's now put this first principle to the side.
The Second Principle
The second principle you have to understand is that in order to "lead the people," "rule the people" or "control the people" -- since "controlling the people" or "ruling the people" would be the words used one thousand or two thousand years ago (today we would say "lead the people") - you have to use simple, expedient means for the masses as well as simple concepts everyone can understand.
You need simple concepts for the masses because not everyone is intelligent, and you need a simple system to lead them and keep them in line because if it requires too much intelligence or wisdom a system is bound to break down. That's why the military tries to make things as simple as possible, and why even McDonald's hamburger establishments try to arrange things so that even the most uneducated people can follow the system and produce hamburgers and fries.
In other words, as a leader you must create a system of simple rules and teachings, including for the field of religion.
You also need to create relationships to keep order and maintain morality and ethics in the great masses of the people. Most people will never cultivate, so you need a virtuous system to at least keep them from doing wrong but also keep them headed upwards, and have them plant the seeds of merit so next time around they can get and accept higher teachings. Remember, even Buddha had 500 Arhats, who were enlightened, walk out on him when he wanted to teach them the higher Mahayana path. They walked out because they didn't want to hear it. His #1 student, MahaKasyapa, groaned a bit when he heard what was involved in saving the people across countless lives, so don't just think because people are spiritually advanced that they are unbiased and have the whole picture.
To guide people, you also need to create a transmission system to keep the true core of cultivation practice alive, but since most people won't actually practice correctly (or at all), you have to spend the most time creating a system for the public which will keep them out of trouble and help them lay the seeds for progress. You have samadhi and wisdom while they have nothing, but since there's only so much you can tell them, you have to create some system that offers enough of the whole truth to lead them upwards and keep them from straying into evil paths.
For those who DO have the motivation to cultivate and who do succeed, those you don't have to worry about because they will discover the whole truth for themselves anyway, and then it's their own job to decide what to teach the people given the circumstances of the time. That's how religious teachings grow over time, though the masters who succeed in each tradition have sometimes higher or lesser degrees of attainment, and that excellence or lack thereof is reflected in the level of teachings that get transmitted by these folks.
remember, not everyone reaches the same level of attainment, and the numbers reaching the highest levels are always less than those at the lower ranks.
In general, because people like power, money, sex, fame and appreciate high ethics (but tend to fall to the lowest denominator of good behavior), you also want some system with disciplinary measures - whether religious or legalwise - to sort of keep things in check and also help lead the masses upward. You need an expedient system to deal with social infractions that are harmful to the public good and which help preserve a cultivation stream to keep it alive.
So whatever system you find, whether it's in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, Confucianism, Hinduism, whatever, Tibetan Buddhism, Bon.... you'll always find strange and unusual disciplinary measures that are not absolutes in themselves, but were simply developed as a response to the times and for various expedient reasons. Buddha, for instance, once had a monk who got drunk and caused trouble, and thereafter created a rule for monks not to drink; before that incident, there was no such rule. That's how all these things develop over time.
They're all developed over time in relationship to the people, the state, the races, the social structure that's there at the time and there is nothing absolute about this type of development. People, however, lack wisdom and cling to rules and regulations as THE WAY, thinking that following them is enough to be saved and win a place in heaven.
While this is a way to generate merit and a better rebirth, once you know of the samadhi realms you can see how deficient this notion is. It IS for the ignorant -- for those who don't think too much.
If you don't understand this you are going to get confused because you will take all the rules and regulations in each and every religion as absolute laws whereas they're not. Friday as the Holy day, Saturday or Sunday makes not one bit of difference. They're just expedient means to help people. They're just a way to help people cultivate virtue, good deeds and get rid of bad behavior. They are guidance mechanisms for the cultivation path, and in terms of the five stages taught by Maitreya, they belong to the cultivation Stage of Virtue and Wisdom Accumulation. This is also called the Stage of Study and Merit Accumulation whereas real cultivation starts in the next Stage of Intensified Preparatory Practices (prayoga).
People who attain Samadhi are free of all sorts of codes of conduct (yes, they still follow them but naturally) and yet they still do what's right. They still cultivate virtue all the time and at every moment, but they don't need all these external rules and regulations because their mind is always disciplined by resting in Samadhi. That's the highest form of discipline there is. Furthermore, more than the regular man they know the karma for every situation, and bad karma they fear since they know it, see it and wish to be free of it. They fear karma more than you or I, so don't worry about them.
However, sometimes they'll do something "wrong" or socially and/or religiously unacceptable (such as the Zen master who burned a Buddha statue to teach a monk) even though there is bad karma simply because they know it's the best thing. I certainly would kill a terrorist ready to flip the trigger on an atom bomb that's going to kill 10 million people, even though I then owe them a life...and you should do the same. Why? When you kill the person, that's a karmic debt you now owe, but you saved 10 million people through actions which placed a burden on your back. So you have great merit as well. No deed is 100% pure or impure...even breathing is injecting poisons into the air, but acting for the greater good is what a Bodhisattva does. So as to religious rules and regulations and codes -- Christian or otherwise -- you have to understand they are just expedient means.
The Third Principle
The third principle you have to understand is that there are different stages of spiritual development. What this means is that there are different STAGES on the road to self-realization, Tao-realization or God-realization, and some folks achieve higher stages than others. It's not all the same thing... and in terms of Christian cultivation, most of those who achieved any sort of attainment can only be ranked at the lowest rather than highest stages of the path.
On this point, you can definitely determine whether a person has broken through the form and sensation and conception skandhas as one particular measuring system. You can rank attainments in terms of samadhi and dhyana, such as whether somebody has achieved the first or second dhyana or third dhyana. You can measure spiritual development in terms of whether people have been able to still their sixth consciousness, whether they've been able to purify their seventh consciousness, or whether they're cultivating the eight consciousness. You can go through all the physical phenomena mentioned by yoga, Taoism and the Esoteric schools and you can say, "Have they cultivated their chi, are their chi channels open, are they cultivating their shen, or at the stage of cultivating emptiness? Do they have any understanding of emptiness, which is called "ayin" in Judaism?"
There are so many ranking systems you could use from a wide variety of cultivation schools but here is the main point: All these saints and gurus from various traditions who cultivated and achieved some degree of cultivation realization did not all reach the same stage of attainment. There were the higher and the lower, even among the Jewish prophets in the Bible.
That much is clear.
So we'll see in the Bible that there are various prophets who are basically Samadhi masters, who have cultivated Samadhi in terms of a greater or lesser extent. We'll also find that some of the prophets have a greater degree of cultivation attainment than others, which is the way it's always been in any tradition.
Remember that some spiritual practitioners and aspirants get to the second dhyana, some just to the first dhyana, and some just to the pre-first dhyana stages of attainment, such as a cultivator like Swedenborg. As to getting to the stages of enlightenment called the ten Bodhisattva bhumis, this is very hard and usually only accomplished by practitioners of the wisdom cultivation schools.
Anyway, when you put this all together you can very, very easily ... after you develop your own cultivation gong-fu and start seeing things directly yourself ... realize that some people can attain some degree of the Tao -- perhaps it's just the first Dhyana-Samadhi -- and then they are qualified to start talking and teaching in a particular cultural or religious stream. These are the folks who are much better qualified to lead than the intellectuals, even though they may only have attained just the first dhyana. Even so, the intellectuals (and other leaders currently in power) hate them so much.
Bodhidharma (Zen) had attempts on his life. Buddha (Buddhism) had several attempts. Al-Hallaj (Islam) was killed. Milarepa (Tibetan Buddhism) was poisoned. Jesus (Christianity) was killed. And so on it goes....
Now if a spiritual practitioner only reaches a low level of cultivation, such as just the first or second dhyana, whatever they talk about or give to the people is wise or not very wise (for the long run) in relationship to the stage of their wisdom and cultivation. So for instance in Moses's time, Moses couldn't really say too much to the people because his cultivation level was extremely low and the people themselves were not very educated. Moses Maimonides, who came later, then had the problem of trying to raise up the Jewish tradition as much as possible given what little he had to work with, which was little since it was barren of many high stage cultivation teachings. Judaism was basically a set of tribal customs and rules, ceremonies and spiritual regulations without many forms of cultivation, except for later developments such as the Kaballah, which incorporated cessation-contemplation practice. That's why you needed Hasidism to be born in this stream,otherwise it would lack cultivation content entirely.
Islam has the same problem. Mohammed, when he got started teaching, used a taming method for society that's a derivative of the method used by the Bodhisattva Manjusri. The Bodhisattva Manjushri always holds up a sword and he holds up a book: the sword represents cutting off your thoughts and the book he holds represents wisdom teachings. What Mohammed basically did to tame and uplift the barbaric people of his time was say, "Here is the law I'm giving you. It's here in this book. If you don't follow it I'm going to use the sword on you, so follow it."
As my teacher says, that's what Mohammed used to tame the barbarism of his time, because it was the best expedient method possible for that situation. Mohammed thereby established a mechanism that elevated that particular cultural stream using what was expedient, just as Moses did. By having people pray several times a day in Islam, even that short refraining from evil deeds was a way to insure that the culture would accumulate merit over the centuries. When praying people aren't doing evil deeds or thinking evil thoughts, so over time this sort of discipline produced a richness for the Arab people.
During Confucius' time the problems he confronted for taming society were different, for there were over a hundred states in China. The relationships between the Emperor and the ministers within these states were a mixed jumble of good and bad. Every state had a different political system so Confucius wrote and talked about cultivation in terms of those relationships, trying to straighten things out and leave an example for the nation as a whole. Because that was the medicine needed during his time, that's what he focused on and he didn't need a sword as did Mohammed in trying to tame the people. However, Confucius did edit several classics in order that people could develop the right sort of thinking by referencing these works.
In Buddha's time the problem was there were too many competing cultivation schools and no one knew which one was right, so Shakyamuni went through all of them, mastered all the degrees of cultivation that each said was supreme, threw out the bad and put a framework around all of them. The great sage Tsong Khapa did the same for Tibetan Buddhism, throwing away what was bad and emphasizing a clear path through the mess that had built up over the centuries. In Socrates' time the problem was altogether different again, because a different time, place and people means a different type of teaching needs to be disseminated, but cultivation is at its core.
Today, what we need is a scientific and nondenominational explanation of all these things including the stages of the path and what you can expect if you cultivate correctly, but we need this coming from people who've attained some degree of cultivation achievement. Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle, while brilliant, were just intellectuals. The same goes for Martin Luther, Calvin and Chu Hsi of China (who through his intellectualism and due to his lack of cultivation achievement destroyed the cultivation content of Confucianism by intellectualizing it). These are very deep issues worth entire books in themselves, so I can only say so much in a tiny article.
So why am I telling you this? I'm telling you this because you have to understand in some cultivation schools -- in Hinduism as an example and even in Christianity or Judaism -- in Hinduism we have some masters who are Samadhi masters, and some masters that made it to the Tao, and some masters that made it to the Bodhisattva bhumis. There were all different levels of achievement by the greats of Hinduism, so when you look at the vast religious literature of India, including the Vedas and the Upanishads and various other Hindu scriptures, some are very high stage and some are extremely low stage because those originated from a low-level master. They are all mixed in together but the people cannot tell the difference, and venerate the high and the bad equally.
Well meaning the teachings of low level master might have been, but usually the contribution was a pollution to Hinduism that hurt the purity of the tradition, even though the teachings were more acceptable to the unwise public (such as telling people they'll be reborn as a donkey for 7 lives if they do X and Y). And yet the low level stuff is honored by the people to the same degree as high level cultivation teachings from the same tradition, but the people can't tell the difference, venerate them both, and definitely prefer the lower teachings than teachings of the non-dual such as Shankara's Vedanta.
The problem is that the low stage stuff is usually bad for people to some extent, and misleading to say the least. It's easy to have tumors develop out of it (such as having snake handlers in Christianity claim this is somehow due to the power of God, etc.) and the high stage stuff the public (being not of bright wisdom) doesn't get.
People usually lump all these teachings together (such as the high level and low level of Taoism) and they can't tell the good from the bad, the higher from the lower, and so forth.
The same thing has happened to Taoism, and the same has happened to Christian doctrine over time, which is why there are so many divisions in the Christian Church. So in the Christian-Judaic tradition you have some prophets -- let's call them "masters" -- who were very high stage such as Elijah and Daniel, and you have others who weren't very high stage at all. People pay just as much attention to the high ones versus the low ones because they lack the wisdom of discriminatory ability, and lack reference to true and pure cultivation principles.
Now you know why.
Most people don't understand these simple points. Even if you tell them they still will not accept this. First of all they think everything in terms of prophet teachings is from God. Actually, what was transmitted to the Jewish people was simply due to the needs of the time, and the clarity or usefulness of what was given depended upon the prophet's degree of cultivation. What a master chooses to teach people -- what they say or not say -- is decided upon in order to help the people of that time. Not knowing anything and lacking any cultivation accomplishments themselves, people don't understand that the "words of God" in the Bible were just the words of a cultivation master filtered through what he thought was the best way to help teach the people and that's all. It's all expedient means.
You can prove this a bit yourself by simply cultivating your third eye for 3-4 months, start to see all sorts of spiritual beings and processes yourself, and then recognize that so much goes unsaid, and for good reason. The world is so much larger than stated in the Bible or in science, and yet everything you see can be validated by Eastern teachings from masters who have experienced such things themselves and KNOW how things really work. But you can't tell the public everything because they are only qualified to handle small weights until they gain some achievement level themselves. Tell too much and you can mislead people. Why do you mislead them? Because they lack wisdom and cannot take the truth wisely, but become fanatics in one extreme or another.
Now if you can understand these principles taken together you can then understand why some cultivation schools have lots of good stuff thrown in with the bad. You need a good measure of wisdom to understand this, and I congratulate you if you've come to that conclusion yourself. And you must also understand that this is the case with Christianity, where a lot of bad has developed with the good over the ages. Of course this has happened to Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Islam and every other school as well, as it's the natural way of deterioration. That's why Catholicism has had many purgings over the centuries.
Thus, so far we've gone over just three principles that you have to understand in order to understand Christian cultivation and religious transmissions across all sorts of cultivation schools. On this topic, when it's a genuine high level cultivation stream then inside it people have a means for cultivating Samadhi, dhyana, for cultivating prajna, states of emptiness and bodily transformations and heading for the Tao. A high level school will have all sorts of teachings for these things, such as Buddhism.
I say a "genuine" cultivation school will have this because there are a lot of religions today that have none of that and yet call themselves religions. They have religious teachings, for sure, but these schools are just good at teaching people how to be good people and not too much else. Samadhi attainments? Forget about it. Heavenly realms? There's just one with these babies. As to the gong-fu of the path such as natural clairvoyance, yin-shen and yang shen astral travel, etc. ... "they're all evil." That's how they deal with these natural outcomes of real spiritual cultivation. That's how they deal with the purest type of science and the results of what happens when you just rest your mind to become "one with God" and "know Him."
Unfortunately, if such a school is missing these higher teachings, the people, at best, can only hope to accumulate some merit in this lifetime because they do good deeds and refrain from evil. That's about all. As to becoming saved, liberated, or achieving any higher stages of the path, forget it. Of course they'll claim these things, but now you know what's true. Go glance over at the descriptions of gong-fu and spiritual realms in Eastern religions, and you'll know that something is missing.
The higher spiritual stages exist, are real, and you can see evidence of that in all the genuine religions. The fact that the great religions have common teachings on how to achieve these things ... and the fact you can achieve them yourself if you just cultivate and put in the time TELLS YOU you shouldn't be so ignorant. Nevertheless, people ARE ignorant and always will be (just go work for a government agency for awhile and see what sort of silly problems come your way every day from "educated" people). The point is that spiritual schools or traditions that lack these teachings aren't very worthwhile for the higher attainments. They should be respected and honored for producing good people, but that's a different outcome than producing spiritual salvation, such as realizing the Tao, attaining spiritual enlightenment, and escaping from the round of birth and death so that you can become the ultimate master.
Talk to any of the folks in these deficient traditions about gong-fu and they haven't a clue. Frankly, because their world view is so small, they're really naive and ignorant. They're good people, but you'll have to save them next time around and only hope to plant the seeds of good karma and wisdom in their mind.
Such is what many other cultures say about Christians in general -- they're naive, or ignorant. Part of this is due to the fact that the New Testament lacks the high level wisdom teachings, and partly due to the fact that most American and European Christians grew up in prosperous societies where they didn't have to struggle for survival. Thus they grow up naive and ignorant of what really goes on in the world, and quite gullible because they had no need to stretch their wisdom muscles for survival.
Anyway, remember that most people don't actually spiritually cultivate as to the levels mentioned at www.meditationexpert.com. They just want simple things and simple teachings in life. They want to go to church on Sundays; they want to go to Mosque or temple and say that's enough for the week. The rest of the week they're going to be occupied with making money and sex and taking care of the kids ... and that's overwhelming enough as it is.
So what you do for these folks is give them good moral teachings so they don't get into trouble, and also tell them there is a way to higher states of ascension, and that's about all you can do. For regular folks you wrap cultivation teachings with rules of discipline because ordinary people just want to follow rules, say they followed the rules, and expect to be saved because "I followed all the rules." It's hard to change that sort of mentality, so at times don't expect more. Disciplinary rules do indeed help people accumulate good karma (merit) and plant good seeds for subsequent incarnations and that's all you can do for many people who lack sufficient wisdom and merit stores.
The Fourth Principle
In fact, the methods used to attain samadhi by the prophets of the Bible, or saints of the Christian monastic tradition, are basically the same meditation or cultivation methods used in Taoism, Buddhism, yoga and Hinduism. Everyone is borrowing and using the same basic methods and relying on the same basic principles in some form or another, so make no mistake about this. There is very little unique in Christian cultivation practices, just as now there is nothing very unique in most all the effective traditions.
Your only question is which one, as long as it's virtuous, will be most effective for you. It is perfectly fine in God's eye to borrow a method from another school if you like, clothe it in the religious garb that will make it most acceptable to yourself if you need that, and then go on from there practicing until you achieve something and can dispense with the outer dogma (because you now know the truth). That's appropriate in the search to know God and be one with God.
The cultivation schools of the world have ALWAYS borrowed freely from one another (sometimes due to competitive reasons, for competition does exist between religions) and it SHOULD be that way. Think about it... Why not?
So for instance in Christian cultivation people often recite the rosary, which is the same as reciting a mantra only the words are different. However, if you don't recite the rosary correctly -- in other words by listening to the sounds within so that your mind stills -- then all you are doing is simply creating a little degree of merit by the practice and aspiration ... and because you're refraining from evil deeds and thoughts for that short while.
You are just basically accumulating merit, but spiritual advancement from reciting the Christian rosary? Probably not if, as indicated, you don't do it correctly according to the principles of japa or mantra recitation, which will help you still your mind and enable your chi to enter your central channel so that you can attain samadhi. However, if you can recite the rosary in such a way as you do a mantra then you can calm you mind, let go of everything, let go of the outside world, your chi mai will change and you can access Samadhi.
Bingo! That's when reciting the rosary becomes a real cultivation, spiritual method.
See what I mean?
In Islam, and in lots of the Eastern Orthodox Church practices, spiritual aspirants use a variety of breathing methods, mantra methods, visualization practices - and all these methods (and more) came from the esoteric school of Buddhism and from Yoga. India and China are the mother sources of countless methods, and you can find out more from the "Insider's Guide to the World's Best and Worst Spiritual Practices" on the site. This book tells how these schools developed and how they went astray. It's probably the best written of any of our books, and yet it's not so popular because people are afraid to read about what they might be doing wrong in their cultivation practices.
The two mother countries for cultivation methods in the world are definitely India and China. Countless methods from China and India, through various transformations, made their way over to Persian, Middle Eastern and European cultivation streams and then finally into Christian cultivation schools. Don't be misguided on this. When someone talks about "centering prayer" as a Christian cultivation method, it's just regular shamatha/vipassana cultivation meditation practice. There is nothing different about it. People put the words "centering prayer" on it to enable themselves to call it "Christian" and say it's something different, so people get lost or think it's something purely Christian when it's exactly the same thing in terms of the base principles.
To be sure, it differs here or there a bit, but you understand what I'm saying. The basic practice is nondenominational, someone took those nondenominational principles, wrapped them up with Christian wrapping paper, and presented them to the world saying "Hey, do this as it's Christian." That's called expedient means or skillful means, and it's what a Bodhisattva does. That's what SHOULD be done. In fact, that's YOUR DUTY to do this, not mine. But to say that only Christianity has this and this is the best and highest in Christianity and the right way and everyone else is wrong or lost or non-saved is just plain false.
My point is: the fourth principle is most religions, including Christianity, commonly use the same spiritual cultivation methods and depend on the same principles of cultivation for climbing the ranks of spiritual progress. If you think one cultivation school is different in that respect you're wrong. The human body and mind are the same over here or over there, so the rudimentary methods of the path involve common chi transformations and common stages of stilling, pacifying or purifying first the sixth consciousness and then the seventh ego-consciousness, or manas.
Now we come to the fifth principle.
The Fifth Principle
The fifth principle is that the gong-fu achieved across cultivation schools, when people reach the same levels of attainment, is also basically the same. Therefore, Christianity is not the only religion that can take one "closer to God." You don't have to be a Christian to become saved or liberated, and in fact just being a Christian, or Jew, Moslem, Buddhist or Hindu without cultivating won't do anything for you. You have to cultivate.
If somebody achieves the first dhyana-samadhi in one cultivation school - whether it be in Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Shintoism, Christianity or Hinduism - he'll have the same stage of gong-fu as someone who achieves the first dhyana-samadhi from another school, relatively speaking. There are of course tiny differences here and there as to special achievement levels and propensities based on what someone chooses to emphasize in their cultivation, but no fundamental differences. Please understand the principle of what I'm saying, and don't take this idea out of context.
Basically you can't say, "Only our school has this level and yours doesn't." Well, your school has an attainment level if people bother to cultivate it, but if they don't cultivate it then no one has it.
The same goes for all schools.
The spiritual path is denied to no one, but it's just that many schools don't reach too far in their teachings because they never had anybody get to the highest levels of attainment. You cannot say that with Buddhism and some other Eastern streams, but for lack of good teachings and teachers, you can find this is the case in all the Western cultivation streams. Very few people in the West made it past the 2nd dhyana.
Nevertheless, if somebody attained the first Samadhi in one spiritual school, and another person attained the first Samadhi through Taoism... and somebody attained the first dhyana through Buddhism (perhaps using the skeleton method)... and somebody got it using visualization practices from Tibet while somebody used pranayama yogic methods from India, well then, hey, the first dhyana is the first dhyana is the first dhyana. You can get it through so many different methods, if you practice correctly, because all the methods are non-denominational at their roots. They're just wrapped in different religious coverings and wrapping paper for the public. That's the important thing to understand.
With all that behind us, let's summarize all five principles.
#1 is that fact that God is not a person or being. Whether we refer to God as God, dharmakaya, first principle, original nature, fundamental nature Allah, Brahman, and so on...that Tao or fundamental nature is beyond being and non-being. If you think God (Tao)is a person - wrong! You're fixating on a person thought rather than resting in non-ego. In all the cultivation schools - every single one including the writings of Christian saints - they maintain that God is beyond being and non-being. How can that be a person?
#2 The rules, rituals, ceremonies that have developed in Christianity, or any other cultivation school, are not holy in themselves. You can and should say they are "holy" and "sacred" in order to keep the transmission of cultivation teachings and methods alive, but once again there is no absolute standing to this imposed characteristic, as treasured as they should be.
Rather, they are just expedient means developed for keeping the transmissions alive and to protect the cultivation inherent within various schools. That's the important thing rather than the ceremony itself, which is why we have the Hindu saying that one hour in samadhi is better than one million pujas (ceremonies).
Remember that most cultivation schools have a religious component, a theoretical component and actual cultivation teachings and techniques. Knowing that most people are lazy, without deep wisdom roots and unwilling to work too hard, what's given to the masses is a way to help them accumulate some merit so they can slowly, over various incarnations, awaken the wisdom to be able to succeed in the real Tao teachings. Everyone is going to be born into different cultivation streams over time, so you should hope that each religion teaches cultivation as well as how to accumulate merit and wisdom for the path.
#3 There are different stages of spiritual development and you can rank them or measure these stages of achievement (attainment) using a variety of systems from different cultivation schools.
#4 As to cultivation practices, all the cultivation methods used in the world are pretty much based on the same principles, the same techniques, and schools freely borrow from one another which is the way it should be. it's YOUR responsibility to do this for your own tradition. The format becomes a little different and wrapping is changed a bit when one religion borrows from another, due to competitive pressures and the need to differentiate itself, but they are all based on the same principles of practice.
#5 And the fifth principle is that when you reach the same level of achievement by cultivating, your gong-fu is very similar to that of someone from another religion or cultivation school who cultivates the same level of achievement. There's no such thing as "Only we are saved" and "Only we have this." So the Christian saints are no different, fundamentally, than yogic masters of the East, immortals in Taoism, sages in Confucianism, and Arhats in Buddhism. Think about it -- it HAS to be so.
Hence, when you read in the Bible that this prophet perform this certain superpower or miraculous ability, you have to wash your mind that this was God doing something. It's just that the individual cultivated to a certain stage of attainment, wherein he had the superpower of that stage, and demonstrated it because it was expedient to do so for higher purposes of leading the people. A prophet in the Bible is fundamentally no different or higher than other masters of the same level, nor did he have a direct "pipeline to God" while master in other traditions did not.
For instance, the only reason Moses was a little better than the masters of Egypt was because his stage of Samadhi was a little bit higher. That's all, and so of course he won those spiritual battles where gong-fu was demonstrated. Had the Egyptians of the time been a bit higher, they would have won. Perhaps a master in the Egyptian tradition was born later who could have trumped Moses, but it didn't happen at that time. And if a master was later born into the Egyptian tradition, in that case his job or responsibility would have been to uplift the Egyptian tradition in the best way possible.
You'll find in the world hundreds of stories of cultivation schools fighting with one another just like this Biblical story of the battle of Moses ... Bon practitioners competing against Tibetan Buddhists, Christian saints against pagans, Buddhists against Taoists, and so on. All those battles end up proving is that the masters of one tradition were a little higher than those of the challenging tradition at the time, and hence a little closer to the Tao and higher teachings.
You can find these instances with Tibetan Buddhism and Bon, you can find that with some of the Christian Saints who went to Ireland and had spiritual battles with some of the pagans, and on and on it goes. Of course the pagan cultivation schools at that time could also reach some higher stages of attainment, but at that time they were destined to die out and so they did.
Buddha predicted that Buddhism would die out, the Egyptian, Aztec and Assyrian religions are gone, Zoroastrianism is almost gone, the lineage of Jewish prophets died out (of course it can be rejuvenated if the Jews simply cultivated according to the principles we've indicated time and again), the lineage of popes is destined to become terminated soon (see the Christian Saint Malachi and his predictions on this)... no religion or lineage is destined to last forever because all phenomenal things suffer from impermanence.
So even Christianity is destined to die out, as will Judaism, Islam and so on. It's just a matter of time, but new schools will arise to replace them in time, and you can read The Insider's Guide of the Best and Worst Paths if you want to find out about this. You'll find the same in India in that plenty of samadhi master lineages also died out over time, as well as the fact that their termination was predicted (which is why Jesus' coming could be told) and you'll find the same in China and Tibet as well.
Empires wax and wane, states coalesce and cleave asunder...religions and peoples and nations and societies suffer the same fate.
Anyway, you must understand that the stages of gong-fu you can cultivate are the same across the religions if they proceed far enough in their teachings. You need only to practice cultivation. So when you read of a Christian saint who could do superpowers, know that it's because he had gong-fu, because he had cultivated. In Christian parlance we say he was "beloved by God," or whatever, but why don't you have the same superpowers? It's not that you aren't beloved by God. You simply have not cultivated to the same stage of gong-fu and if you haven't, then it doesn't mean that this stage of gong-fu does not exist or is unattainable. It just means you haven't worked hard enough, while this guy or that guy did. Whether you use the terminology of "God's love" or not, cultivate and work hard enough and you'll get the Tao.
You've got to get the idea out of your mind that something comes from a God-being, because everything comes from your own efforts. Everything you win or enjoy is from karma, so you have to expend effort and create the karma for cultivation achievement. Frankly, it's hard work.
When a master succeeds in cultivating samadhi, it was because he burned up bard karma, cultivated a store of good karma, cultivated certain meditation techniques propounded by a cultural or religious stream and usually those techniques were wrapped with religious coloring. So of course the master is going to explain what he does, to lead the people, with the religious terms of the time otherwise he's going to get killed or no one's going to listen to him.
That's the proper way of expedient means to uplift a religion. That's why you have the same sort of phenomenon/superpowers being shown in all sorts of religions.
To be sure, some religions have teachings that lead you farther on the path than others, as is clear with Buddhism, but people cling to and are attracted to whatever they like due to their own karma and fixations. Once they abandon clinging to thoughts, prejudices and the 5 perspectives and reach the Tao, then you'll find them talking about each road as a valid pathway to God, recognizing that most people are never going to cultivate so just save them in a next life since there's too little you can do now except plant the seeds for their eventual success.
Do you see how this works?
You cannot save everyone in one life, for if you could then Buddha would have done so already. So you give expedient teachings to the people and make friends with them so that you have good karmic connections for subsequent lives when they are more wisdom-prone to cultivate and can heed your advice. Smile, make friends, wish them well, help them but efficiently use your efforts where they count based on your own wisdom synopsis of the situation, and based on your own vows of what you want to do.
This is perfectly clear when you understand wisdom and expedient means (go read the Lotus Sutra, even though not a Christian text), the stages of the path, gong-fu and cultivation techniques and principles as well as what to expect from enlightened behavior when you have an audience of unenlightened folks. Basically, from all this you have to drop the idea that Christian cultivation is the highest cultivation school around, or the only way to become saved or liberated. That's just nonsense.
When you see the fact that there are over 30,000 different Christian denominations and sects, that's telling you there are lots of misconceptions within Christianity as to what is and isn't true, and the arguments will never be settled unless people cultivate and achieve the Tao and see for themselves. Wars were fought over Christianity, and that certainly wasn't the Christian way, was it? While samadhi masters can clear up a lot of the problems, the only people really qualified to lead others in Christianity are those in the Bodhisattva ranks, and to date this stream has been absent of cultivators high enough to present the real teachings.
For instance, the early Christian Church took Jesus as an example of the fact that anyone could cultivate and reach oneness with the Father principle, or original nature, though later this view was changed. Just a few hundred years ago some preachers, without any cultivation abilities of their own and in defiance of any sort of logic, principles or tradition, also came up with a newly invented idea that there will be a Rapture event where decomposed bodies will become reanimated with life again. All sorts of new views like this develop over the ages by intellectuals without any knowledge of what is and is not possible.
So the final point is that these words are useless on this topic. As Buddha said, don't believe me or books or sages of old. Cultivate to prove what's true and find out for yourself. But if you do, then this will happen, and this and this and this and this. All you need to do is let go of thoughts and cultivate a free mind. That mental resting is nothing evil, it's not artificial, it will lead to attainment of the Tao.
In Christianity, they tell you to give up all personal thoughts because they are selfish and a barrier between you and the Father. Is this not the same instruction as resting your mind? Frankly, if you follow the instructions of Christianity in light of the wisdom principles of the East, Christianity can become the new Bodhisattva path it was meant to be. Judaism can experience a rebirth as well because it will finally gain some samadhi masters again.
So much more can be said on all sorts of aspects of this topic, but that deserves an entire book. Be careful not to take things out of context or misinterpret what's written. Be careful not to criticize unless you have some measure of gong-fu yourself. All the religions and schools are meant to lead people upwards IF they follow the right cultivation principles. As long as a path espouses absence of desire, good deeds, refraining from evil and virtuous ways, it is to be respected.
Be careful, be careful!
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