Early Christianity, which had taken off throughout the area of the Middle East and Asia Minor, began to spread rapidly in the first two centuries along with alterations and variations of what Christianity was. Scholars of the time created three general categories for the types of Christianity, that is, Jewish Christianity, Gnosticism, and orthodoxy. And these alterations and variations were eventually dubbed "heresies" by the Orthodox Church and were considered false Christianity.
○Teachings of Wisdom
According to Mr. David M. Reis, Visiting Assistant Professor of Department of Religious Studies at the University of Oregon, while the Jewish Christians have too much of the Jewish religion woven into their Christianity, and therefore were considered unorthodox, the gnostic Christians were on the opposite end of the spectrum and had little to no Jewish ties and often took more of a platonic stance on Christianity. Gnosticism by definition comes from the Greek word for knowledge, gnosis. However, the term "Gnosticism" wasn't officially given until the 18th century.
By the way, the period when early Christianity took off throughout the area of the Middle East and Asia Minor, pointed out by Mr. Reis, seems to overlap with the period when Judaism spread to these areas and the numbers of gentile believers increased dramatically. Therefore Ecclesias (churches for the non-circumcision gentile believers, who could not formally attend Synagogue) were formed in many places around the Mediterranean including Rome. Perhaps, Jesus began his missionary work when the church movement, which might have had started from a few hundred years before the advent of Jesus, grew into a tidal wave and finally reached Jerusalem, the headquarters of Judaism and Barnabas, Luke and others promptly embarked on organizing the church movement standing in with Paul. This seems to be the main cause of the rapid growth of early Christianity during the first two centuries.
That is Jesus who preached the supreme wisdom, the truth which will set us free and lead to ultimate salvation. (John 8:32) Gnostics called this supreme wisdom "mystery." In that sense, Jesus may be called the founder of Gnosticism. On the other hand, people belonging to the Jerusalem church led by James the Just, the younger brother of Jesus and followers of Paul the Apostle might have been the origins of "Jewish Christianity" and "orthodoxy" respectively.
According to Mr. Reis, Valentinus, who had been born in Egypt in the early second century and had educated in Alexandria, became well learned in Platonic philosophy and even at one point was expected to become the next bishop of Rome. So-called 'Valentinian Gnosticism' came after him. However, he died after many attacks on him as a theologian around the year 165 and his individual impact also ended. The heresiological polemic against Valentinus was very successful, and the vast majority of his personal writings were destroyed. And the majority of what we know about Valentinus the person comes from what others wrote about him.
Orthodoxy insists that there is no such thing as "mystery" in the teaching of Jesus. But Valentinus is said to have claimed that he learned Paul's secret teaching from Theudas, one of Paul's own disciples and received from him some kind of apostolic sanction and authority. Paul himself stated about this "mystery" as follows; "The wisdom we speak of is the mystery of God -- his plan that was previously hidden, even though he made it for our ultimate glory before the world began. (1 Corinthians 2:7) I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don't know -- only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)"
○Truth without deception
One day his followers asked Jesus and said to him, "Do you want us to fast? How should we pray? Should we give to charity? What diet should we observe?"
Jesus said, "Do not lie, and do not do what you hate, because all things are disclosed before heaven. For there is nothing hidden that will not revealed, and there is nothing covered that will remain undisclosed." (Thomas 6)
Jesus said to them, "If you fast, you will bring sin upon yourselves, and if you pray, you will be condemned, and if you give to charity, you will harm your spirits. When you go into any region and walk through the countryside, when people receive you, eat what they serve you and heal the sick among them. For what goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it is what comes out of your mouth that will defile you." (Thomas 14)
When his disciples asked Jesus regarding fasting, prayer and almsgiving, which were considered the "three pillars of Judaism," and manners of the meal, he did not explain one by one but told them straight away, saying, "Do not lie, and do not do what you hate. That's enough, because all things are disclosed before heaven."
Fasting, prayer, almsgiving and manners of the meal are practices to face God with truth. The essence of each of these practices is no deception. Thus one who lives without falsehood does not need to intentionally pray or fast. Not only that, if some one, without truth, prays, he will be condemned, fasts, he will bring sin upon himself or gives to charity, he will harm his spirit.
And Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas preaches us to live according to the order of the supreme god (propator) instead of the Creator, the God of the Old Testament. The supreme god is inherent in everything. That is the original self, Holy Spirit. Therefore he told his disciples, "When you go into any region and walk through the countryside, when people receive you, eat what they serve you and heal the sick among them. For what goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it is what comes out of your mouth that will defile you."
○Parable of groom (original self) and bridal suite (kingdom)
One day his disciples said to Jesus, "Come, let us pray today, and let us fast." Jesus said, "What sin have I committed, or how have I been undone? Rather, when the groom leaves the bridal suite, then let people fast and pray." (Thomas 104)
Pray and fast are practices for one to return to the state of truth or no deception. Thus he said, "Both of I and you do not need to do them now. However, the groom (Jesus = original self) leaves the bridal suite (Father's kingdom), (in other words, on the Second Coming) then let people fast and pray." He meant that both pray and fast are practices to make spiritual rebirth and to return to original Self (Supreme God = Jesus). Paul also preaches in 'Epistle to the Romans,' saying, "Have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection." (Romans 6:3-5)
On another day, Jesus said, "If you do not fast from the world, you will not find the kingdom. If you do not observe the sabbath as a sabbath, you will not see the father." (Thomas 27)
Both 'the father' and 'the kingdom' indicate 'original Self, the supreme god,' while 'fast from the world' means to withdraw oneself from the chain of causes and conditions of this world. Sabbath is none other than the state to withdraw oneself from the chain of causes and conditions of this world. Therefor, "If you do not observe the sabbath as a sabbath, you will not see the father."
One day, his disciples said to him, "When will the kingdom come?" "It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, 'Look, here!' or 'Look, there!' Rather, the Father's kingdom is spread out upon the earth, and people don't see it." (Thomas 113)
The kingdom has existed from the beginning until now. Thus if you find out your original Self which have been one with Supreme God from the beginning, then the kingdom will be realized instantly right before your eyes. Therefore, in India, Buddha was enlightened upon seeing Lucifer while sitting under the bodhi tree and testified "Holy am I alone throughout heaven and earth. Grass, trees and the domains of all living things, all attain buddhahood." And Paul too, he says, "The Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17) "But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning," he adds. (Romans 14:23)
○People may possibly think it's strange.
Time passed to the late Tang Dynasty China, a monk asked Zen Master ZhuYu (茱萸): "What is Practice of Sramana (沙門)?"
Sramana meant priest who respected the practice rather than understanding of scriptures in ancient India and has later been used as synonym of monk. This monk seems to have asked ZhuYu what the practices of Zen Buddhist, which advocates "freedom of scriptures" and "no establishment of words and letters," are like. However, ZhuYu did not give a detailed explanation regarding what Zen Buddhist's practice was, but just said, "People may possibly think it's strange."
"The Original Jesus - Buddhist Sources of Christianity" written by Elmer R. Gruber & Holger Kersten says, "While Jesus liked using parables and meshalim, the meshalim used by him in Q Source and parable-like passages in Udanavarga offer an astonishing parallel. Zen Buddhism later brought the tradition of aphoristic teaching to a peak of mastery in riddle-like koans (公案:Koans are subjects which Zen masters give their students in the meditation hall)."
Master ZhuYu received NanQuan PuYuan's (南泉普願748-835) mind seal and was called ShiXiong (師兄: the honorific title for elder brother) by ZhaoZhou CongShen (趙州従諗778-897), one of famous Zen Masters in China and his alumni, but the details of his origin are not clear. He was called ZhuYuShan-heshang (茱萸山和尚) because he lived at Mount ZhuYu (茱萸山) in E-zhou (鄂州) of Hubei province (湖北省).
Later this monk went to Zen Master DongShan LiangJie (洞山良价807-869) and then recounted the former conversation with ZhuYu. But DongShan said "I do not understand the meaning," and ordered the monk to go back and ask ZhuYu what his true intention was. It seems to have at least 250 kilometers from Dongshan of Jiangxi Province to Mount ZhuYu of Hubei Province even in a straight line. However, the monk bounced back to ZhuYu and said to him, "Master DongShan could not understand and asks what you mean by 'People may possibly think it's strange.'" Then ZhuYu replied, "Buddha practices Buddha's practice." The monk returned to Master DongShan and reported this answer to him. Thereupon Master DongShan remarked: "As for Youzhou (幽州) it is alright; but as for Silla(新羅one of kingdoms in ancient Korea), what a pity!"
DongShan, who lived in the center of Zen Buddhism in south China, may have thought that it might be understood in a frontier town Youzhou of Shanxi province but would not in the undeveloped Korea or Japan. Perhaps ZhuYu originally was from Silla.
○The head is three feet long, the neck two inches.
Then the monk said to DongShan, "Now I ask you Master, What is Practice of Sramana?" DongShan replied: "The head is three feet long, the neck two inches."
What in the world did DongShan mean by 'The head is three feet long, the neck two inches'? According to "History of the Northern Dynasties (北史)," one of the official Chinese historical works in the Twenty-Four Histories canon, a Zhejiang (浙江) man called Fang WenMu (方文木) was wrecked and reached a country named Piqian(毗骞). And Piqian king, whose head was three feet long, told Fang, the wrecked man, that the distance from Zhejiang to Piqian was 500 thousand li (里=0.5km). If so, the country Piqian would have existed outside of the Earth. A minister of Piqian handed out a notebook to Fang. Fang opened the book. The book stated that a Zhejiang man called Fang WenMu had been wrecked and had arrived at Piqian in the third year of Kangxi (康煕) Era and so on. It may be mentioned that an era called Kangxi exists in the reign of Emperor Kangxi (康煕帝1654-1722) of Qing Dynasty (清朝). However, the compilation of "History of the Northern Dynasties" was completed in 659 AD, the fourth year of Emperor Gaozong (高宗) of Tang Dynasty (唐朝) and the period recorded in this history book is from 386 AD to 618 AD. Any way, DongShan probably used this ghost story.
Later another monk asked Zen Master GuiZongQuan (帰宗権和尚) what DongShan had meant by 'The head is three feet long, the neck two inches.' The master answered, "The thickness of the wrapping paper is two inches." The usability of 2 inch thick wrapping paper is terrible for ordinary people. So is Practice of Sramana. It is uncontrollable for ordinary people. Only the groom, who comes out from the bridal suite, in other words, the one, who makes spiritual rebirth and return to original Self, can control and do it.
In a word, it is "Practice of Sramana" to live according to the order of original Self (Holy Spirit) which have been one with Supreme God from the beginning. It is the same as the state of "following the desires of one's own heart without transgressing what is right." (Analects of Confucius: Chapter II Politics) However, even Confucius is said to have reached this point at his age of seventy.
But Paul reminds his followers, saying, "Have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection." (Romans 6:3-5) And he continues, "The Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17) And he warns by adding, "But if you have doubts about whether or not you should eat something, you are sinning if you go ahead and do it. For you are not following your convictions. If you do anything you believe is not right, you are sinning." (Romans 14:23) ＜To be continued＞
○early and medieval christian heresy
○《Jingde Chuandeng-lu, Part 15》
A monk came from Master Chu-yli (茱萸) and reported that he had asked him: "What are the actions of a Buddhist monk?"
Master Chu-yli had answered: "To act means no more non-action; to be conscious of one's own actions is wrong."
Master Tung-shan (洞山) sent the same monk back to Chu-yli, saying: "I do not understand what these actions are."
"Buddha's action! Buddha's action!" answered Chu-yli.
The inquiring monk returned to Master Tung-shan and reported this answer to him.
Thereupon Master Tung-shan remarked: "As for Yu-chou (幽州) it is alright; but as for Korea, what a pity!"
But the monk insisted that Tung-shan answer his question about what a monk's actions are.
Master Tung-shan replied: "The head is three feet long, the neck two inches." (Translated by Chang Chung-Yuan)
(Later another monk asked Zen Master GuiZongQuan (帰宗権和尚) what DongShan had meant by 'The head is three feet long, the neck two inches.' The master answered, "The thickness of the wrapping paper is two inches."：Translated by A. Murakami)
○Descriptions excerpted from "History of the Northern Dynasties"
During the reign of Kangxi (康煕), a man called Fang Wenmu (方文木) from Zhejiang (浙江) of China sailed and was hit by a storm. The ship was drifted to a certain place. The palace at that place was tall and magnificent, and it looked classical and glorious. On the gate of the palace, there was a large oblong frame and three big Chinese letters were written on it. It was read as "毗骞殿(Palace of Piqian)." Fang Wenmu was shocked. He kneeled and waited outside the palace. Two cloaked persons led him into the palace. In the middle of the hall sat a long headed king whose crown was as big as a wooden barrel. The king asked, "You are Zhejiang aren't you?" Fang Wenmu answered, "Yes." The king said: "Zhejiang is 500,000 li(里=0.5km) away from here." Fang Wenmu knew that the king had a great magical power and he asked him how to go home. The king told one of his minister: "Take the first Pan Gu (盤古) emperor's case and let Fang Wenmu look it up." Fang Wenmu was very scared. He kowtowed and asked: "Were there several Pan Gu emperors?" The king smiled and said: "There is no beginning or end of the world. Every 120,000 years, a Pangu emperor appeares. Now there have been more than 100 million Pangus who had come to worship God of Heaven (天帝)." (Translated by A. Murakami)
○What is "Baptism with The Holy Spirit"?
According to the dialectic of the Gospel of John,
【Thesis】"A man can possess eternal life through accepting testimony of the Son of man and being baptized by him." (John 5:24)
【Anti-thesis】But "The one who comes from the earth cannot accept the testimony by one from heaven." (John 3:32)
How then can a man possess eternal life?
【Synthesis】"If you want to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, you can just go back to the word which was with God in the beginning (John 1:1) and certify that God is truthful. (John 3:33)"
When he said, "You are Huichao," Zen Master Fayan thrusted vivid Self in Huichao in front of his eyes.
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