(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/general-2/wisdom-of-living-masters/wisdom06.html)
How would you define spiritual fulfillment?
Spiritual fulfillment is self-explanatory. It is fulfilling spiritual needs.
The difficulty faced by many people in understanding what spiritual fulfilment is, therefore, lies not in its definition but in what actually is meant by spiritual. Spiritual is non-physical, it has no form. Your spirit is the real you. The real you is not your body.
Your spirit may grow and develop, but it does not change. Your body is changing all the time, though the countless changes, like the constantly changing cells that make up your flesh and bones, are so minute that you normally do not see them with your naked eyes.
Indeed, scientists have estimated that the body you have now is totally different from the one you had just seven months ago. Then why do you look the same? It is because the changing cells that constitute you body maintain the same appearance of the previous cells they replace. It is like a flowing river. The water in the river is changing all the time, but it maintains the same appearance.
Depending on various factors, like different education, environment and developmental stage, different people have different spiritual needs to be fulfilled. But all our spiritual needs may be classified into three levels:
- To be happy, peaceful and free here and now.
- To go to heaven in the afterlife.
- To eventually return to our Source, called variously by different peoples as God, Tao, Buddhahood or Supreme Reality.
If these needs are not fulfilled, your spirit, i.e. the real you, will not be at ease, and may be manifested in your physical body. The process works both ways. If your body is dis-ease, you will not be well.
For example, at the fundamental level if a person’s spirit is frustrated, agitated or restricted for a prolonged period of time, he may become unwell and it may be manifested as cancer, cardiovascular disorders and depression. On the other hand, if harmful micro-organisms attack his body, it can also make his spirit unwell, manifested as being gloomy, stressful and depressed.
Hence, to fulfill the needs of his spirit so that he can be happy, peaceful and free again, he has to overcome the causes that bring about the dis-ease of his spirit. If he just removes the symptoms manifested on his body, like taking out the cancerous parts, rectifying the cardiovascular disorders or taking pills to neutralize his depression, he can only succeed in temporary relief. As his spirit is still dis-eased, its symptoms would surface again.
On the other hand, if spiritual dis-ease is caused by physical factors, like harmful bacteria attacking his body, he can regain his spiritual well-being by overcoming the physical cause, like taking appropriate antibiotics.
At the intermediate level, people aspire to go to heaven in their afterlife. This is actually simple, though it may not be easy for some people. Avoid evil and do good. If you avoid evil and do good, you will be sure to go to heaven. This is taught in and guaranteed by all the greatest teachers of all the world’s known religions.
If a person did a lot of evil things in his past in this present life or his previous lives, even he does good now, he may not go to heaven in his immediate afterlife. But as long as he starts to avoid evil and do good, no matter how much evilness he did in the past, he will still inevitably go to heaven.
Is heaven real? It is like asking is the world we now live in real. The answers are the same. Yes, heaven and our phenomenal world are real – relatively real but not absolutely real. Heaven and earth are real relative to our mind. In other words, how that tiny part of Cosmic Reality we currently exist in will appear to us, depends on our mind. At the present stage when we exist in this world, how this world appears to us depends on how we perceive it. That is why it is called our phenomenal world. The adjective “phenomenal” comes from the noun “phenomena” which means “appearances”.
After leaving this world, how the afterlife appears to us, whether it is heaven or hell, also depends on our mind. If a person has avoided evil and done good, he has cultivated his mind with good thoughts, often described as having good karma. He will experience his afterlife as heaven. If he has done a lot of evil, described as having very bad karma, he will experience his afterlife as hell.
Heaven and hell, as well as the world we now live in, are in the phenomenal realm. How we experience our living in it depends on our karma. Its reality is relative to how our mind perceives Cosmic Reality, and is conditioned by karma. If we can break down these conditions and go beyond karma, we go beyond the phenomenal and realize transcendental Cosmic Reality. This is the most supreme and noble of all spiritual cultivation, described differently by different peoples as returning to God, attaining the Tao and seeing the Original Face.
Although our spirit, not our body, is our real self, while our spirit is housed in our body it is important to keep our body healthy and strong. When a person’s body is sick or weak, he may overcome his sickness or weakness by cultivating his spirit, but it is faster and more effective by working on his body directly. An effective way is through the practice of chi kung, spelt as “qigong” in Romanized Chinese. Chi kung is the cultivation of energy, or life force, which links the body and the spirit. In our school, Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan is also chi kung, as they also cultivate energy besides the body and spirit.
When a person’s body is healthy and strong, he is more efficient in cultivating his spirit. There are many different methods of spiritual cultivation. The following are some of the methods we use in our school, Shaolin Wahnam, and they have been proven to be very effective.
To be happy, we smile from our heart, which is a skill we practice every time we start an exercise. To be peaceful we stand in meditation and enjoy the stillness and experience inner peace. To be free we expand our spirit using techniques like Separating Water and Flicking Fingers.
A sure way to go to heaven is to avoid evil and do good. We aspire to this high moral living by following our Ten Shaolin Laws, which is an essential requirement for anyone who wants to learn from us. .
We are not in a hurry to return to our Source yet. We know the world we now live in is phenomenal, and we ensure our time here is well spent – for ourselves as well as for other people. We often have a glimpse of our Source while in deep meditation in such advanced arts like Cosmic Breathing and Expanding into the Cosmos. When we are ready, we can cultivate to return to our Source, using methods like Zen and Taoist meditation.
In all the arts practiced in our school, chi kung, Shaolin Kungfu and Taijiquan, we are keenly aware of triple cultivation, namely cultivating jing, qi and shen, which means body, energy and spirit. We do not merely talk about spiritual cultivation, not even just practice spiritual cultivation, but ensure we have spiritual fulfillment, i.e. enjoying the benefits of spiritual cultivation in our daily life.
The above extract is reproduced from “Your True Nature: Wisdom of Living Masters” by Natalie Deane and Damian Lafont.