LotusKing

What exactly is Cultivation?

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Hello, I'm fairly new to the concept of cultivation and only recently got a basic idea of what it may be. However, I would like to hear from the experts to actually come to a precise conclusion.

This is my first post so I'm not really sure as to how things go around here... If there's something that I had messed up on then I'm sorry.

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Posted (edited)

If you do something in order to achieve a goal, you're "cultivating". Let's say if you practice breathing, and your goal is to increase your qi for self healing...then you're cultivating qi and health. The term could be used for anything...like if you're in school, and have the goal of entering a certain profession - you're cultivating your profession in that instance. Working toward a goal is cultivating the goal, just like planting a seed and tending to it is cultivating the plant.

In another sense, cultivation is about your choices in each moment. For example - you can choose to look at porn, in which case you're cultivating the results of that. You can choose to say a kind word to someone who could use it, and in that case you're cultivating those results. You can enjoy a cup of tea, and get those results. You can go into the bad part of town, and get those results. Every choice we make, what we focus on, what we do which shapes who we are, is cultivating us. Buddhists say we have our body, speech, and mind; so our actions, our words, and our thoughts either improve or worsen things.

 

Some choices feel good in the moment, and have good results. Some feel good in the moment and have bad results. Some feel bad in the moment and have good results. Some feel bad in the moment and have bad results. Generally, it's good to cultivate so that you avoid bad results and bring more good results. As we can see, sometimes that involves making choices which don't feel good at the time. For instance, if you're cultivating your profession, you might not want to study...but if you do, you'll pass the test. Or if you're trying to lose weight, you might not want to eat the healthier meal...but if you do, your weight will keep going down.

It's also about avoiding things that feel good temporarily but are ultimately harmful. For instance, hanging out with friends is a lot more fun than studying...but failing the test and ruining your career is much worse. Or, eating donuts and ice cream is enjoyable, but it makes you fatter.

So, the first definition involved working toward a goal. The second definition was our choices and what we pay attention to in every moment. Those are two different ways of thinking about this term, cultivation.

A person on the spiritual (or related) path is commonly called a "cultivator", and what they practice is commonly called "cultivation", no matter what it is. It's just a general term that's in common usage. This sort of makes sense, because people on the spiritual path do have an end goal in mind: at the very least, they want to improve things or themselves somehow. Most want enlightenment of some sort. Also, they are conscious of doing the right things and avoiding wrong things, in some form or another. At the very least, they have something that they practice or do, which they think will increase what they want in their lives, or bring them closer to that end goal.

It's helpful if their idea of cultivation expands to include what they're becoming with every choice in every moment. And to think about what makes a good life, and what a good person is. What's fulfilling? What makes us proud when thinking back on life?

Cultivation doesn't start and stop; we're becoming who we are to be at all times. If we get trashed on Friday, and then sit on the meditation cushion on Sunday, we still have to answer for our choices on Friday in some form or another. If we have lofty goals (like true enlightenment), this is very important to think about...because we will need to rectify who we are if we want to reach those goals.

Edited by Aetherous
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For me, cultivation is returning to the present moment, returning to presence. It never ends, I always have to remember to return. Each moment brings its own set of distractions, and I have to find my way back - though I never really went anywhere. 

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Very good. Thank you both. Aetherous, thank you for the great explanation. That definitely helps a lot. I'm not too sure if either of you will see this but regardless I thank you. Now then, on to my next task...

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Spiritual cultivation is the training of the mind with specific methods that are practiced every day for many years. The goal is to achieve moral perfection and emotional mastery as well as extraordinary health. 

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Aetherous gave a great explanation. I’m offering just a slightly different, maybe more metaphorical, perspective on the same thing.

 

Spiritual cultivation, I believe, is much like cultivating a garden... I think this metaphor is quite deep and useful and probably where the idea of ‘cultivation’ came from.

 

Now imagine finding yourself on a parcel of land. The land you get may be a rocky, dry place or maybe you got lucky and it’s a lush fertile plot. Either way, you must cultivate it - taking it from it’s wild, chaotic nature to create a productive garden. This points to your natural ability - your karma maybe... But either way with great ability or with a poor situation there’s a lot to be done...

 

You’ll have to clear the rocks and pile them up to create shelter from the frosts. You’ll have to cut down the thickets and weedy plants. You’ll need to manage the trees, thinning them and pruning away unneeded branches that hide the sun... but keeping just enough to protect from winds and too much sun. This points to managing your own state of being - taking control of your mind and emotions, your body and energetic system and managing it just right to make conditions favourable for further development.

 

You’ll need to cultivate the soil. All the prunings and dug up weeds will need to be composted to create fertility. You’ll need to manage water - find water sources, tap in, dig channels to reach your plot. This is where you further refine the foundations of your practice, you further enhance the conditions for the next stage.

 

This is the phase of great effort. The next phase is of a lot less effort, but a lot of diligent attention.

 

You sow the seeds in your prepared soil and you watch them grow. They may need more or less water... there might be a weed or two to take out... you may need to protect your seedlings from infestations... but generally you let things develop on their own natural path - only tending to small issues here and there. But always aware and never negligent. This points to a shift in how you manage yourself... you’ve created the conditions, sowed the spiritual seeds and now you have to sit in stillness allowing them to flourish, while guarding against influences that would ruin your work - whether ‘weeds’ from your own mind or ‘infestations’ from outside...

 

Then there’s the phase where after tending your garden perfectly, your chosen plants have grown and become mature, resilient and fruitful... now you have even less tending to weeds and other issues... now you must harvest. What you harvest, of course, depends on how you cultivated, what you sowed and what you weeded out...

 

you may well have planted the wrong seeds... you may have been negligent and let a small weed flower and spread thousands of seeds through your plot... maybe you managed your water incorrectly and some plants got more and some less than they needed. This points to all the pitfalls on the path - you must have correct methods and good teachers, as well as the vigilance and discipline to get a good harvest...

 

Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of gardening, but I find the metaphor quite profound and helpful... maybe it’s useful for others here too :)

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Cultivation is work, hard work, conducted over a long period of time in order to better certain conditions.

And don't apologise for asking questions. Most of us are civil around here.

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5 hours ago, lifeforce said:

And don't apologise for asking questions.

That's not what I was apologizing for but ok.

 

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