Saint Seraphim the Staretz and Russian Christian Cultivation Practice
So I'm reading this book on a Russian cultivator, Saint Seraphim, who really attained some degree of samadhi. Christians love to read his story but can never figure out how he was able to accomplish the various supernatural feats attributed to the man, nor do they understand the stages of cultivation kung-fu and practice he went through. But when we analyze his story, once again it is the same old story of cultivation 101 I've been telling you about over and over. To understand this story, we need to review some details on the first and second dhyana, which are the initial targets of meditation practice.
A wise cultivation practitioner, after succeeding with meditation, will achieve the first dhyana (samadhi) which is characterized by mental joy, physical bliss, and emptiness. Abiding in the first dhyana, they will eventually realize its coarse nature and attempt to detach from its grosser aspects to ascend to the next higher level of spirituality, which is the second dhyana attainment. As St. Seraphim said, you have to cultivate and make progress like climbing a ladder, rung by rung. Though of course, the Zen school says this is the second best method, the first best being to get the Tao directly, and then finish up the cultivation of the body by concentrating on the samadhi attainments.
To cultivate any of the dhyana-samadhi through meditation, you must always remember the rule of discipline-"not to let the elixir leak"-because this is what enables the joys and blisses of the various samadhi to manifest. In other words, you need chi and jing (hormones and semen) and shen to produce the blisses and joys of the dhyana. If they leak through sexual dissipation, you'll never achieve any of the higher stages of the path. That's why (borrowing from the Tao school) in the famous Chinese cultivation novel, Journey to the West, the monkey king Wu-Kung was given the following instructions by his teacher which enabled him to achieve so many supernatural feats:
"Know well this secret formula wondrous and true: Spare and nurse the vital forces, this and nothing else. All power resides in the semen, the breath, and the spirit [jing, chi, and shen]; Guard these with care, securely, lest there be a leak. Lest there be a leak! Keep within the body! Hearken to my teaching and the Way itself will prosper."
In cultivation you must learn to detach from the sensations of the body and pulls of the mind in order to maintain your jing and chi. If you cultivate an empty mind and retain these essences, your body will transform and eventually you'll experience the blisses and joys of the samadhi attainments. It all comes from letting go, rather than trying to make things rotate or circulate.
As Buddha said, "from this joy and bliss born from detachment, the body is imbued and so saturated that not a single part of it remains unaffected." Basically, you detach from the body, cultivate emptiness, and your hormones and chi become enervated to produce physical bliss and kung-fu transformations and experiences. Because this happens EVERYWHERE in the body, that's why the permeating bliss of the dhyana are greater than sexual orgasm, and why the saturating bliss of the dhyana can bring about various transformations of the body such as the formation of the yin-shen emanation body.
If you cultivate long enough, you can then accomplish the yang shen emanation body, which is a physical double that others can touch, see and feel. When we read accounts of Christian saints who had this capability and were often seen in multiple locations at the same time, such as the famous Russian St. Seraphim of Sarov, it is exactly this stage of cultivation they have accomplished. People always think this is something mystical but as I have explained many times, and in the free Stages download, it's just a kung-fu accomplishment. It's a scientific accomplishment. You cultivate, follow the steps, and in 3 years you can do this, too.
Speaking of St. Seraphim, because of success at Christian cultivation he was recognized as a Russian "Staretz" or accomplished Holy Man. As usual, the jealous priests and monks at the time refused to recognize him, but of course his superpowers were legendary and experienced by countless people. It is unfortunate that Christians today do not know how to rank and how to duplicate his stage of cultivation, for they don't know anything about the basic non-denominational principles of cultivation practice.
Saint Seraphim used to kneel for hours on logs in the cold, as well as engage in other ascetic practices while praying, and thereby learned how to forget his physical body (detach from it). At the same time he repeated the Jesus Prayer while focusing on his heart. This is the practice he recommended to people -- no matter what they were doing, to be reciting the Jesus Prayer while focusing on the heart.
This cultivation method is equivalent to the standard tantric practice of reciting a mantra while focusing upon a chi nexus within the body, such as the heart chakra, belly chakra, or third eye chakra, which will then eventually pull chi to the area and open up the surrounding chi channels. Of course the method only works if one learns how to cultivate emptiness and let go of the physical nature when so doing, otherwise you'll be crimping the chi channels while hoping to open them at the same time.
It's like crimping a garden hose at the same time you're trying to pump water through it. That's why you have to forget your body and it's chi rotations, and let it be. Let whatever is supposed to happen just happen naturally in regards to the body, and by letting go rather than by trying to guide something you'll finally succeed in spiritual cultivation. This bit of advice is told in so many cultivation schools and cultures, and it's too bad today that people keep ignoring this advice, which is why they never succeed.
The reason most people never succeed at most cultivation practices is because they hold tightly to their physical body, which inhibits their internal chi flow. Combine this with the fact that it usually takes a long period of time for the chi channels to open before they can fully reach through to the areas of visualization focus, and you can understand why so few succeed. You have to forget your body and mind without worrying about the results of practice - JUST SIT as the Japanese Zen school used to say. Sit without expectations means sitting in meditation without clinging, and that accomplishes everything. But in order to understand those words, you need the principles explained as I've done over and over again on the site articles and in our publications.
However, for those people who are relatively empty-minded to begin with, their chi channels will be accordingly more open along their lengths than those of the average individual, and these individuals typically experience meditation and kung-fu progress very quickly.
Such individuals can become psychic extremely fast just by focusing on their third eye and bringing chi to that region from down below (because the entire chi channel is relatively open), whereas other people will focus on the same region, but because the other chi channels from the perineum reaching upwards aren't open yet, will not experience much progress until years of no-effort, no-clinging practice effort go by. They can concentrate all they want on the third eye and nothing will happen! So the people who want it the most, and who thereby cling, never get anywhere because they cannot let go enough to let their chi channels open all the way!
Now please also remember that when jing collects you can experience bliss, when shen accumulates you can experience no-thought, and when chi accumulates you can see an inner light. This is seen in the free 189 page download on the Stages page of the website. The big barrier in cultivation is identifying with your physical body as yourself. When you can let go of this identification and cultivate emptiness, you can then eventually achieve the first dhyana. So St. Seraphim suggested the following road of cultivation practice, which is the same basic practice method found in countless schools, though clothed in Christian garb:
He also said: 'When mind and heart are united in prayer, without any distraction, you feel that spiritual warmth which comes from Christ and fills the whole inner being with joy and peace.'
'We have to withdraw from the visible world so that the light of Christ can come down into our heart. Closing our eyes, concentrating our attention on Christ, we must try to unite the mind with the heart and, from the depths of our whole being, we must call on the Name of our Lord, saying: "Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner."'
'To the degree that love for the Lord warms the human heart, one finds in the Name of Jesus a sweetness that is the source of abiding peace.'.. "When the mind is concentrated in the heart through this exercise, then the light of Christ begins to shine, lighting up the temple of the soul with its divine radiance. This light, according to St John the Evangelist, is the life of men (John 1.4). When a man contemplates this eternal light within him his mind remains pure and detached from every carnal image. Lost in contemplation of the uncreated Beauty, he forgets everything sensory, he even forgets himself, and would prefer to be buried in the heart of the earth rather than lose his unique treasure-God."
Naturally, this description is saying to let go of your thought images, emotions, sensory pulls of the body and eventually the chi will mass inside, you'll see an internal light, and onward your progress will proceed. He simply clothed it in Biblical talk, or "Christian talk," but it's exactly the same stage of cultivation we see across all the religious schools. Same old stuff, but everyone is always confused. Folks, wake up! It's always the same thing! They are the same stages of cultivation regardless of the religion. However, when you describe it to people or how to get there, you use the words of THAT religion you're in because that's what's acceptable.
St. Seraphim achieved a cultivation stage much higher than the first dhyana, and in one account when he helped transmit the experience to another whose chi channels were already prepared because of prior cultivation, we can find described all the classical characteristics of the first dhyana (and pre-first dhyana samadhi): mental joy, physical bliss, emptiness (peace of mind, mental stillness or "peace of heart"), and the warmth of kundalini chi flow. In the following Christian account of St. Seraphim, you can find a perfect confirmation of the principles we've just gone over, though of course all the characteristics of the first dhyana are once again explained in Christian verbiage, just as one would expect:
To bring about these necessary spiritual transformations, you definitely need to master empty mind, which you can do by developing one-pointed mental concentration. That's when you'll be able to encounter these experiential realms. We can also explain matters by saying that through concentration you'll be able to settle the mind and with the settlement of wandering discriminatory thought, the body will naturally fill with the arousal of pre-natal vitality. That will give birth to warmth, physical bliss (the transformation of jing to chi) and mental joy.
We know these transformations will naturally happen from empty mind because the extreme of yin-in terms of mental stillness--will always give rise to the birth of yang just as the extreme of yang will give rise to yin. Hence vital energy will arise whenever you cultivate the (yin) tranquility of mental emptiness.
This is why cultivating the stillness of a peaceful, empty mind will bring about the physical changes of the chi and channels and usher in an entrance into samadhi. The mental stillness of samadhi is actually still an external form, for a true empty mind is as open, formless and boundless as the sky. Formlessness is the true form of samadhi and if you achieve this formlessness then you'll see the Tao, which is not a samadhi accomplishment at all. The dhyana and samadhi are experiential realms, but he Tao, or original nature, is our REAL foundational being. As such, it is not a state at all.
People typically work very hard in their spiritual practice and try all sorts of cultivation methods to get to the first dhyana. You can use mantra, prayer, visualizations, breathing practices, the skeleton meditation and all sorts of efforts. After you achieve any of the samadhi mental absorptions because of your practice efforts, the longer you rest in these various samadhi and dhyana, the more quickly your body will continue to transform in line with the cultivation pathway. In turn, the more your body transforms, the easier it will be for you to reenter these states at will and the easier it will be to maintain these states for longer and longer periods of time.
These physical and mental transformations are nothing unnatural or artificial, for they simply represent a stage of physical detoxification and mental purification so that the body can resume its born-in potential for maximum health and longevity. They transpire because you awaken your prenatal vitality through resting the mind, and this vital force will naturally purify the body of accumulated poisons as your chi makes its way through the body's energy circulatory pathways. You hormones will reach maximum optimization, your breathing will harmonize, life force will optimize -- you'll become healthier and live longer.
Normally these various pathways are blocked due to physical obstructions and a squeezing effect we create due to mental attachments, but with meditation these blockages can be cleared. When the chi can finally circulate freely, that's when all the various gong-fu experiences will arise for they represent the inherent capabilities of the body when it's at its optimum natural state.
The reason the various gods and devas have all sorts of special abilities is precisely because their chi channels are all open and they've mastered their mental functions. Hence the samadhi and dhyana are not mental aberrations or artificial developments, for they correspond to the body and mind when they're in their natural states of optimal excellence.
In fact, since they come about through a resting of the artificialities of the mind you can say they represent our purified natural state which we're always destroying through the extra efforts of contamination.
So the question is, how do you cultivate, how do you meditate to achieve quiet mind? There are hundreds of methods available. No, thousands of methods. Take one from your religion, adapt it according to the principles of proper practice, and you'll get there. Or, search the site for about a half dozen or so methods, or pick up our book, Twenty-Five Doors to Meditation wherever you can find it.
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