Meditation and the 36th Chamber of Shaolin

Meditation and the 36th Chamber of Shaolin September 19, 2018

One of my favorite Kung-Fu movies is called The 36thChamber of Shaolin from 1979. It is based on the simple premise that a Kung-Fu student must pass through successive stages of training, each referred to as a chamber, in order to achieve mastery. The training in the movie is tough, described by one reviewer as a succession of “horrendous ordeals”, and mastery is achieved at chamber 35… I won’t reveal what the 36thchamber is if you haven’t seen the movie.

Mastering the Basics

Of course, this is the old style of teaching. The student must master the basics, the foundation, before he takes on the successive practices. To quote another karate movie, it’s the “wax on, wax off” method.

Things have changed today. In the age of information, we have access to everything. No one has to master the basics before having the next stage of learning revealed to him.

However, that does not mean that the mechanics of learning have changed.

We understand this in relation to the body, where a certain degree of strength, stamina, and agility must be achieved before an athlete can master difficult techniques.

The Step-by-Step Method Also Applies to the Mind

Many people think that this step-by-step approach does not apply to the mind. Yet, knowing about certain mental techniques is not the same as mastering them. Reading quotes on Twitter or watching YouTube videos does not bring about mastery.

That is one reason why I went back to a layered system of teaching meditation. First, I provide students with understanding and motivation, the mental preparation for the practice. Second, I teach relaxation techniques and give students mile markers that must be reached before advancing to the next step. Third, I teach students to prepare the mind with concentration… and so on. Each successive step is built on the successful completion of the previous step.

My method somewhat resembles the 36 chamber model, except there are only four baby-steps and the process is not “horrendous” but rather pleasant, as each step brings with it added benefits.

Gudjon Bergmann
Interfaith Minister and Author
Founder of Harmony Interfaith Initiative

Read more about this approach to meditation in the book, Baby Steps to Meditation

Pictures: CC0 License

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