Kundalini and Samadhi Cultivation in Christianity is Accomplished Through Prayer and Practice That Achieves a State of No-Thought
When people refer to the fact that kundalini "burns," they're actually referring to the preliminary friction encountered when the body's chi channels first try to open up. Properly speaking, this isn't kundalini at all. Rather, it's really just a manifestation of friction as the chi moves through obstructed chi channels, and the process can be compared to an internal infection. For instance, this is what the Japanese scientist, Hiroshi Motoyama, experienced after several months of pranayama practice that served to "ignite" the kundalini, or "ascending" chi:
"During continued practice, I began to notice some new sensations. I had an itchy feeling at the coccyx, a tingling feeling on the forehead and at the top of the head, and a feverish sensation in the lower abdomen. I could hear a sound something like the buzzing of bees around the coccyx. In ordinary daily life my sense of smell became so sensitive [because the olfactory chi mai were opening and attendant nerves being stimulated] that I could not endure offensive odors. These conditions continued for two or three months. One day, when I was meditating before the altar as usual, I felt particularly feverish in the lower abdomen and saw there was a round blackish-red light like a ball of fire about to explode in the midst of a white vapor. Suddenly, an incredible power rushed through my spine to the top of the head and, though it lasted only a second or two, my body levitated off the floor a few centimeters. I was terrified. My whole body was burning, and a severe headache prevented me from doing anything all day."
Because this is a nondenominational phenomenon, quite a few Christian mystics have described their experiences with this preliminary stage of chi mai purification. Richard Rolle, the fourteenth century English "Hermit of Hampole," is the Christian contemplative most often associated with the kundalini phenomenon, which he personally termed the "fire of love" and associated with excess religious coloring.
This fixation on a religious interpretation along with excessive emotions is the problem which has plagued Christian cultivation just as an over-emphasis on cultivating the physical form has plagued the form-based cultivation schools of yoga, Taoism and Tibetan Buddhism. Nevertheless, Rolle correctly noted that kundalini cultivation was involved with cultivating mental emptiness, for he wrote "I have found that to love Christ above all else will involve three things: warmth and song and sweetness. And these three, as I know from personal experience, cannot exist for long without there being great quiet." [Note that-a Christian talking about empty mind again.]
Rolle reported of his own kundalini experiences saying,
"It was real warmth, too, and it felt as if it were actually on fire. I was astonished at the way the heat surged up, and how this new sensation brought great and unexpected comfort. I had to keep feeling my breast to make sure there was no physical reason for it! But once I realized that it came entirely from within, that this fire of love had no cause, material or sinful, but was the gift of my Maker, I was absolutely delighted, and wanted my love to be even greater. ? If we put our finger near a fire we feel the heat; in much the same way a soul on fire with love feels, I say, a genuine warmth."
The Polish Catholic nun, Sister Maria Faustina also wrote of her own kundalini experiences, saying, "I was all afire, but without burning up ? I felt some kind of fire in my heart ? I was so enveloped in the great interior fire of God's love ? I feel I am all aflame. ? Today, a living flame of divine love entered my soul." These, too, she also associated with the wordlessness of silence, which is how one cultivates the Stage of Warming practice.
Naturally, Rolle and Faustina were not the only Christian contemplatives who wrote of the kundalini phenomena associated with the Warming stage of the path, which is the first tier of transformation in the Stage of Intensified Preparatory Practices. Fire, warmth and heat - often interpreted as mystical love, divine warmth, or incendium amoris - was also reported by Macarius, Symeon the New Theologian, Theophan the Recluse, Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, Hildegard of Bingen, John Tauler, Angela of Foligno, Catherine of Genoa, Francisco de Osuna, Margery Kempe, Marie of the Incarnation, Madame Guyon, George Fox, William Law, and even Blaise Pascal. It's such a rudimentary stage of the path that its common occurrence often goes without mention.
When the real kundalini arises, a cultivator should try to keep away from food and any thoughts that might transform into sexual desire. They shouldn't try to match any thoughts with their body when sexual desires arise, but should strive to remain pure like a newborn baby. If they eat overly nutritious foods or nutritional supplements at this time, they're likely to overly stimulate themselves leading to sexual excess and all sorts of other problems. In Chinese history, various Tao school practitioners, as well as kings and high officials, made this same mistake in the past, and shortened their life spans as a result. As the Taoist Classic, The Secrets of Cultivating Essential Nature and Eternal Life (Hsin Ming Fa Chueh Ming Chih), explained regarding sexual desires:
"When the eyes see the opposite sex thereby giving rise to (evil) thoughts, the heart moves in sympathy and arouses the genital organ, if the practiser then tries to gather the alchemical agent, the impure generative fluid will produce an illusory agent. This illusory agent is likened to a football which, being kicked continuously, will lose air and shrink. Likewise as thoughts increase the evil fire which becomes more intense, the genital organ will be aroused more frequently. If you wrongly think that the alchemical agent is being produced and strive to gather it, your efforts will be sterile, and you will only harm yourself. Your body seems to be strong (so long as this evil fire lasts) but your health suffers from the consequences and will really decline. Frequent arousal of sexual desire is likened to putting straw on the head while going to extinguish a big fire; you will only injure your own body, and will not only fail to achieve immortality but will also run the risk of shortening your life."
Sexual desire is something to stay away from at this stage of cultivation because of the retrogressing and damage it can cause. So any stimulating foods that might arouse sexual desire should be avoided such as onions, garlic and leeks. Rather than eat too much food, a person at this stage should also just drink water and perhaps their first morning urine. After they've gone without food for many days and cleaned their entire body and intestines, then they can switch to a different sort of Taoist practice if they like.
As to the earth element of our body, the earth element corresponds to the densest parts of our physical structure such as our bones, hair, nails and teeth. Finally, the space element refers to all the intracellular spaces in the body, as well as the much larger empty spaces that separate our joints and internal organs. Together these five elements are said to compose everything there is concerning our physical structure.
During the process of spiritual cultivation, you already know that the physical body will undergo tremendous transformations. These various transformations represent physical purifications that correspond to the progress you make in spiritual development. If you achieve these transformations you're making progress, and if you don't achieve these transformations then you haven't yet reached that particular stage of spiritual attainment. Read that again: if you achieve these physical transformations then you've reached that stage of spiritual progress, and if you haven't experienced or achieved these transformations, then you haven't reached that corresponding degree of spiritual advancement.
Now the list of Christian spiritual phenomena, from ardent religious practitioners, doesn't just include kundalini. It also includes visions, the reading of another's thoughts, incendium amoris [kundalini heat], stigmata, bilocation [yang shen emanations], levitation, compenetration of bodies, bodily incombustibility, inedia [the body becomes full of chi], bodily incorruptibility [the mai have been transformed], locutions, and so on.
So here we have a typical Western spiritual tradition, yet its listing of possible cultivation gong-fu acknowledges the very same phenomena experienced by practitioners of Eastern spiritual schools.
Because progress on the spiritual path is nondenominational. Over and over again I must tell people that their religion is not ultimate or unique in terms of the stages of gong-fu achieved through spiritual practice. To think otherwise is simply ignorance or arrogance, and most usually prejudice.
Whether for the East or West, the various stages of spiritual attainment are the same. Since we are all human beings, how could they be different? A perfect example is the heat phenomenon involved with the purification of the chi channels, related to the "kundalini" of yoga, "clumsy fire" of Taoism, and "tumo heat" of Tibetan Buddhism. Everyone experiences some degree of this purifying (frictional) heat when their chi channels undergo a particular stage in the purifying process. That's why the Catholic saint Philip Neri often felt the heat throughout his entire body:
"(I)t sometimes extended over his whole body, and for all his age, thinness and spare diet, in the coldest days of winter it was necessary, even in the midst of the night, to open the windows, to cool the bed, to fan him while in bed, and in various ways to moderate the great heat. Sometimes it burned his throat, and in all his medicines something cooling was generally mixed to relieve him. Cardinal Crescenzi said that sometimes when he touched his hand, it burned as if the saint was suffering from a raging fever. ? Even in winter he almost always had his clothes open from the girdle upwards, and sometimes when they told him to fasten them lest he should do himself some injury, he used to say he really could not because of the excessive heat he felt. One day, at Rome, when a great quantity of snow had fallen, he was walking in the streets with his cassock unbuttoned; and when some of his penitents who were with him were hardly able to endure the cold, he laughed at them and said it was a shame for young men to feel cold when old men did not."
The Christian nun, Abbess Hildegard of Bingen, also reported her experience when her own chi channels started to become purified through the arising of kundalini. Naturally she clothed her understanding of the phenomenon in Christian religious terms, which is what everyone does, but it was chi channel purification nonetheless:
"When I was forty-two years and seven months old, Heaven was opened and a fiery light of exceeding brilliance came and permeated my whole brain, and inflamed my whole heart and whole breast, not like a burning but like a warming flame, as the sun warms everything with its rays touch. And immediately I knew the meaning of the exposition of the Scriptures ? though I did not have the interpretation of the words or their texts or the division of syllables or the knowledge of cases or tenses."
The same physical phenomena appear across different schools because spiritual cultivation is actually human being science, and thus these experiences are a nondenominational affair. If you cultivate then you'll experience these phenomena no matter what your spiritual school or religion. However, if you don't cultivate then you'll never experience these things at all, and neither will you genuinely climb the ranks of true spirituality. If the phenomena don't appear, it's not that they don't exist. Rather, it's because your cultivation is wrong or just isn't good enough, or hasn't reached that stage of transformation.
The principle to recognize is that these effects are nondenominational, and so they're due to the process of cultivation rather than to one's membership in any particular sect or religion. Practice and then accomplishment in spiritual cultivation is the important factor, not the fact that you belong to some specific religious group. How would that accord with the stated claim that "we're all God's creatures"?
People have such ridiculous notions, and it's all because they have no gongfu AND no degree of transcendental wisdom.
The commonality of spiritual progress available to anyone-even those who do not follow a sanctioned established religious trail--is the truth even if a religious group claims some particular position of pre-eminence. Furthermore, accomplishment in spiritual cultivation occurs no matter what one's religious school because the basic principles of spiritual practice are the same across the world's spiritual traditions, and the schools commonly borrow the same practices from one another and simply clothe them in their own local traditions.
This is what you should expect from the spiritual traditions, for this is how the world works. The task today is not to turn a Christian into a Buddhist or a Jew into a Hindu, for that will never happen. The task is to help the members of each religious group rediscover the true path, principles and practices of spiritual cultivation we're revealing that are already inherent within their own religious borders. Then they won't be fighting the truth of spiritual cultivation, which is to the great disservice of their adherents and mankind.
If such teachings are found lacking in a particular religious tradition, then it's up to compassionate, wisdom filled leaders in those traditions to use skillful means to create new vehicles to embody these principles, for that's what spiritual progress and evolution are about. This is what it means to work for the greater good.
For instance, let's take the stages of Samadhi. We just talked about kundalini, and the next stage of achievement is Samadhi. Kundalini cultivation DOES NOT guarantee correct Samadhi or Samadhi at all. Having attained Samadhi does not guarantee morality either, so I always warn people to beware of "masters" from poor countries who come to rich countries accumulating tremendous sums of money.
Anyway, on to the topic of samadhi in Christianity, once again just to show you it's a nondenominational thing.
Since the lower dhyana attainments are the easiest samadhi to reach and since the dhyana represent the "common techniques" or shared (nondenominational) stages of the cultivation path, we can easily cite a number of Westerners who did attain some definite samadhi experiences. The descriptions of these attainments perfectly match with the traditional outlines set forth from the Eastern traditions, and so it's easy to see how the experiences from different schools perfectly match with one another.
For instance, Christianity's Saint Teresa called one of her stages of mystical experience ("union mystica") the "orison of union," and at a glance we can see that its description indicates a definite dhyana attainment:
"In the orison of union, the soul is fully awake as regards God [in samadhi the mind retains complete and open wakeful awareness], but wholly asleep as regards things of this world and in respect of herself. During the short time the union lasts [due to lower attainments, she couldn't make her samadhi continuous], she is as it were deprived of every feeling, and even if she would, she could not think of any single thing. Thus she needs to employ no artifice to arrest the use of her understanding [the sixth consciousness is settled]: it remains so stricken with inactivity that she neither knows what she loves, nor in what manner she loves, nor what she wills. In short, she is utterly dead to the things of the world and lives solely in God. ? I do not even know whether in this state she has enough life left to breathe [a state of breath cessation]. It seems to me she has not; or at least if she does breathe, she is unaware of it. Her intellect would fain understand something of what is going on within her, but it has so little force now that it can act in no way whatsoever."
Another example of the nondenominationality of the samadhi experience are the spiritual attainments of Saint John of the Cross. He called the dhyana attainments a "union of love" attained through a method of "dark contemplation" wherein you wrest your personal thoughts and feelings from the soul, separating yourself from them so that you've banished mental discrimination. Sound familiar? In Saint John of the Cross's teachings, you therefore become "dark" in the sense that you had to give up clinging to your normal discrimination thinking and realize emptiness.
You can also became "dark" because you had to give up your typical egotistical attachments. At times, of course, the metaphors of darkness, clouds or fog can be used to suggest the elimination of discursive thinking as well as the obscurity of intellectual knowledge in blocking direct knowing of the divine (original nature). When a spiritual school does not have a clear set of cultivation stages and terminology worked out, as is the case with Christianity and most other western religions, or when cultivation descriptions are infused with too much religious coloring, at times the exact meaning of the teachings remains unclear.
The Cloud of Unknowing, which is another early Christian work, explained it another way:
"Do not think that because I call it a 'darkness' or a 'cloud' it is the sort of cloud you see in the sky, or the kind of darkness you know at home when the light is out. That kind of darkness or cloud you can picture in your mind's eye in the height of summer, just as in the depth of a winter's night you can picture a clear and shining light. I do not mean this at all. By 'darkness' I mean 'a lack of knowing'-just as anything that you do not know or may have forgotten may be said to be 'dark' to you, for you cannot see it with your inward eye. For this reason it is called 'a cloud', not of the sky, of course, but 'of unknowing', a cloud of unknowing between you and your God."
The Cloud of Unknowing also talks of various methods for entering samadhi that are framed, as to be expected, in traditional Christian attire. "Think of nothing but God himself so that nothing will work in your mind or in your will but only God himself. You must then do whatever will help you to forget all the beings [external forms] whom God has created, and all their works":
See to it that there is nothing at work in your mind or will but only God. Try to suppress all knowledge and feeling of anything less than God, and trample it down deep under the cloud of forgetting. You must understand that in this business you are to forget not only all other things than yourself (and their doings-and your own!) but to forget also yourself, and even the things you have done for the sake of God.
This, too, is our standard form of emptiness meditation practice although the description is phrased in the appropriate Christian religious attire. In the Cloud of Unknowing you are also told to "surrender yourself to God, so that you do not admit even a single selfish thought which is your own," whereas Dionysius the Areopagite instructed us on the way to cultivate samadhi as follows:
"Exercise yourself unceasingly in mystical contemplation; abandon feelings; renounce intellectual activities; reject all that belongs to the perceptible and the intelligible; strip yourself totally of non-being and being and lift yourself as far as you are able to the point of being united in unknowing with him who is beyond all being and all knowledge. For it is by passing beyond everything, yourself included, irresistibly and completely, that you will be exalted in pure ecstasy right up to the dark splendour of the divine Superessence, after having abandoned all, and stripped yourself of everything."
It was therefore through such means of cultivation practice, and through other Christian methods such as continuous "vocal prayer" (equivalent to Hindu mantra or japa practice), the visualization practices recommended by Saint Ignatius (similar to Tibetan visualization methods), or the "prayer of quiet" and "sleep of the faculties" methods recommended by Teresa of Avila, that most Christian saints learned how to enter samadhi. Certainly when we examine the Christian tradition of the Desert Fathers, and the spiritual exercises practiced by many of the monastics, we find the same conclusions.
In his own work, Fihi ma fihi, Rumi wrote of prayer as a spiritual practice, saying,
"Prayer does not consist in forms alone. ? Prayer is the drowning and unconsciousness of the soul [emptiness cultivation], so that all these forms remain without. At that time there is no room even for Gabriel, who is pure spirit. One may say that the man who prays in this fashion is exempt from all religious obligations, since he is deprived of his reason [as Hinduism states, the only true puja or worship is samadhi]. Absorption in the Divine Unity is the soul of prayer."
These are the standard techniques of spiritual cultivation regardless of the religious tradition one follows. From these examples it's also easy to prove that the basic methods of spiritual cultivation are commonly shared across all the world's various traditions because they all follow the same common principles of practice. For instance, in following these techniques of spiritual practice, Saint John of the Cross was able to describe his own spiritual experiences as follows:
"We receive this mystical knowledge of God clothed in none of the kinds of images, in none of the sensible representations, which our mind makes use of in other circumstances [the samadhi experience is beyond the ideational, discriminative consciousness]. Accordingly in this knowledge, since the senses and the imagination are not employed, we get neither form nor impression, nor can we give any account or furnish any likeness, although the mysterious and sweet-tasting wisdom comes home so clearly to the inmost parts of our soul [one withdraws from their thoughts and senses, but still has the inner experience of samadhi]. Fancy a man seeing a certain kind of thing for the first time in his life. He can understand it, use and enjoy it, but he cannot apply a name to it, nor communicate any idea of it, even though all the while it be a mere thing of sense. How much greater will be his powerlessness when it goes beyond the senses! This is the peculiarity of the divine language. The more infused, intimate, spiritual, and supersensible it is, the more does it exceed the senses, both inner and outer, and impose silence upon them. ? The soul then feels as if placed in a vast and profound solitude, to which no created thing has access, in an immense and boundless desert, [a] desert the more delicious the more solitary it is."
Don't immediately make the mistake of concluding that such descriptions are indeed the first or second dhyana, as these samadhi realms are not the easiest thing to reach. In fact, most "masters" you may meet haven't really achieved even the true first dhyana attainment. Rather, most have simply cultivated concentration achievements and can therefore enter states that reach toward the first or second dhyana in resemblance, but their cultivation practice is "off " in the sense that you can't say they've really accessed the genuine degree of these levels of attainment. For instance, in the real first dhyana attainment you'll be free of sexual desire, but most masters will still feel the vestiges of sexual desire.
Thus we must recognize that it is truly rare to find individuals who've truly achieved these states, and because of all the different descriptive schemes people use to describe their spiritual experiences, we can't just assume that an experience which sounds like the first or second dhyana is truly the first or second dhyana. As I've often stated, many times it's just a much lower, fractional stage of attainment, or simply a semblance dharma phenomenon.
I hope that sheds some light on things, namely everyone who cultivates correctly experiences the purification of the body (kundalini, chi channels opening, harmonization of the four elements or however you want to word it) at the early stages of the path. Then, if lucky, samadhi. And the description of samadhi -- take a look! -- a quiet mind, namely EMPTINESS meditation. Christian, Jew, Moslem, Jain, Buddhist, Taoist, Hindu, it's all the same stages ... but you clothe what you learn in words appropriate to that tradition.
The common method -- emptiness cultivation, silence of the mind, absence of discriminatory thoughts, disappearance of the ego (which spins thoughts), etc.
Same old story.
The Jewish prophets in the Bible were no different. They cultivated, though today we don't know exactly what methods they used, some achieved samadhi and gongfu (kung-fu) if they were lucky, some reached higher stages than others (the Biblical prophets weren't all at the same level of achievement), and they used their wisdom to guide people saying that instructions were coming from God.
See how it works? No one is "selected" -- you select yourself by your own personal hard work at cultivation. If you cultivate you get "grace", if not you get nothing. "Grace" is simply a loose term that refers to a stage of cultivation achievement. Because the term is too loose, that's why we usually use Eastern terms in our discussions.
Secondly, know that people achieve different stages of cultivation; if you don't achieve a particular stage that does not mean it doesn't exist. Rather, it means your cultivation isn't high enough yet. Period. Many we claim are enlightened just have samadhi.
If you can understand these points, you understand a LOT and are better than 99% of the people out there. The point is, YES, Christianity also has the same stages of cultivation and same practices. I could have listed dozens more quotes to prove it (next year I'll release a book on this topic) but we're running out of space.
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