An esoteric interpretation of the crucifixion of Jesus

by Anny Vos on March 17, 2015

jesus crossAt the moment we live in the period leading up to Passion Week again, and therefore I would like to give an explanation of some of the names and words that figure prominently in the Passion story, interpreted from the hidden meaning of the Hebrew translation of these words, as they already explain what this story is really about.


Obviously the first name to look at is the name Jesus itself. In Christian doctrine Jesus is the only Son of God, who has incarnated on earth in order to take the punishment for our sins upon himself and save those who believe in him. He is the Messiah that has been promised and foretold in the Old Testament already.

However, this name in Hebrew is Jeshua, which is not only a name but also a word and that word means ‘salvation, rescue, help.’

This word had been used before in the Bible when the people of Israel were on the verge of leaving Egypt, and the pharaoh, after first having given them permission to leave, came after them again to bring them back into slavery. In Ex.14:13 is written: “And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you today: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen today, ye shall see them again no more for ever.”

The word ‘salvation’ in this text is the translation of the word ‘jeshua’, which is not a name here. It could also have been translated as ‘rescue’ or ‘help’. In my articles The Inner Beauty of the Bible Stories: The Soul’s Journey… and The Exodus and Crucifixion and How it Applies to You! I already described that the exodus from Egypt is a metaphor for our delivery by God from our addictions and enslavement by our ego. After this initial delivery however, we have to apply ourselves to the task of overcoming these addictions and this enslavement completely. We have to do our utmost to become master over our emotions and our ego with God’s help. That had been the condition for this rescue.

The same, I think, is the case with the salvation by Jesus.

Jesus, Jeshua, came to remind us of Who we really are – sons and daughters of God, divine sparks of All that Is – and to show us how to regain (awareness of) our divine nature. He taught us the way and showed it by example. He showed the process of the crucifixion of our ego and that process is the jeshua, the rescue or salvation. We have to go this way ourselves, just like the people of Israel had to do in the ‘desert’ where they spent the next ‘forty’ years. Forty is the Hebrew character mem, which as a word meansmajim, water, and as such is often seen as a symbol of emotions and ego, and during this ‘time’ they had to apply themselves to the task of ‘crucifying’ these emotions and this ego.


So the next concept to look at are the words ‘cross’ and ‘crucifixion’, which of course are also metaphors. In short:

The original cross form has four arms of equal length. Or rather, it is a horizontal line and a vertical line of equal length, crossing each other at ninety degree angles at their centre point, a total balance. To form this cross means we have to bring everything into balance.

Jesus tells us to take up our cross and bear it. What does this mean?

The word ‘cross’ in Hebrew is:

  • tselav, 90-30-2, tsel-2, shadow of the two, or: the world of duality.

* Bear in mind that in Hebrew the alphabet does not have vowels and the letters are also numbers

Jesus tells us to accept this world of duality as it is when we are born into it, instead of thinking that God should really see to it that nothing ‘bad’ ever happens to us as long as we believe in Him. We may have forgotten it, but we have entered this world in order to have certain experiences and grow in awareness from them. We should take it on with Love and without judgment. We should take responsibility and let go of fear. We should learn that nothing is good or bad in itself, but that we make something good or bad by how we act on it and feel about it. Jesus himself showed us the way and gave the example.

To make things clear: it does not mean that we should leave things as we find them, but that we should not become angry because things are as they are. We should accept that is what is, that happened what happened, without judgment. And go from there in a positive direction.

This process is not easy, and sometimes bitter, but if we succeed in persevering and in letting go of everything that might hold us back, we will make a wonderful discovery. There is a totally different meaning of the cross as well:

  • tselav, 90-30-2, 90lev, birth (90, after this process; remember Sara giving birth to Isaac at age 90) of the heart, lev.

Then the cross will prove to be the regained Unconditional Love of the world of Oneness and Unity and all will be Good after all, without an opposite evil, as we will have moved out of duality by then.


The Passion Story starts in earnest in Gethsemane, the Garden that lies at the foot of the Mount of Olives.

Gethsemane is Gat shemen, or ‘oil press’ in Hebrew. So with the names ‘Mount of Olives’ and ‘Gethsemane’ it is clear that we are talking here about a process involving olives, and about raising one’s awareness, which a mountain always refers to in the Bible. Remember in this context that Jesus finally ascends from the top of the Mount of Olives, after having mastered this process of the olives.

The concept of creation in the Bible is divided into seven days, of which the first six are part of the descending side of the involution / evolution cycle that I recently gave an explanation about in my article The Tree of Judgement?. The seventh day, at the bottom of the cycle, was called Jom ha Assiyah – the world of doing things – during which God rests and mankind has to become master of his ego and emotions, in order to be able to start the ascending part of the cycle again on the eighth day. These numbers six, seven and eight are therefore important.

Fruits and metals are used as symbols to make this clear and are arranged according to a system of seven items each. Olives are the sixth fruit in this system of fruits and the metal bronze, nechoshet in Hebrew, is the sixth metal in the system of metals.

The serpent from the Garden of Eden, nachash, 50-8-300, is a word that is related to nechoshet and is therefore also connected to the number six and the descending part of the cycle. Its numerical value is 358 (the total sum of the numbers that make up the word ‘nachash’).

The word ‘mashiach’, 40-300-10-8, has the same numerical value. This word means ‘messiah’, ‘anointed one’, and is connected to the number eight through the anointing oil, shemen, that is related to the word ‘shmonah’, which means ‘eight’.

  • So the descending nachash (6), who has to become the mashiach (8) in order to start ascending again, first has to traverse the seven
  • and the olive, also (6), has to go through the oil press (from necessity seven as well) in order to become oil, shemen= shmonah (8).

This shows why Gethsemane stands for the number seven, and for the seventh day, during which the fruit of the sixth day is processed and digested in order to prepare the shemen, oil, eight, that is necessary for the anointment of the messiah, mashiach, and the ushering in of the eighth day.

The following shows why Golgotha stands for the seventh day as well, because of its connection to the cross and the tamar.

  • The Hebrew word for cross, tselav, starts out by being the shadow (or the world) of duality and matter, which is also the world of the seventh day.
  • The seventh fruit, the date, is tamar, 400-40-200, in Hebrew and you can read it as 400-mar. Mar means ‘bitter’, so you can interpret this as ‘the bitterness of the four hundred’, or ‘the bitterness of slavery and addiction (Egypt = the world of matter)’ but also as ‘the bitterness of the cross’, as the 400, the tav, used to be written as a cross, lying on its side.

The seventh day as Gethsemane, the oil press, provides the oil (eight) for the anointment of the nachash, the downward force in us, to mashiach, messiah, the upward force, by crushing (processing, digesting) the bitter fruit of the sixth day.

As this is our process, this means that we also have to be put through the wringer sometimes, so to speak, but the result will be worth it. If we are not willing to go through this process however, the anointment to messiah cannot take place, nor our resurrection and ascension.

The bitterness of the cross, the tamar, in the end proves to be a date, which is sweet, however, only when we eat it, that is, absorb, digest and process it. If we do not engage in this process, we will never discover that this fruit is sweet.

These are two different ways of describing the difficult, bitter process that has to be engaged in, in order to come up triumphant eventually. We have to accept and surrender to this process, just like Jesus did when he said: “Not my will but Your will be done.” Surrendering to this process, and accepting it however, will take the sting out of it and even make it sweet.

I have been using different terms in this article in order to describe the same concept, each fitting a certain context:

  • the world of duality (and matter)
  • Jom ha Assiyah – the world of doing things
  • the world of the seventh day
  • the world of illusion

There are still more terms that I have not used here but elsewhere in my articles, like:

  • the dream world
  • the world of the deep sleep

All of these describe the world we are still living in today. A world of dense energy and low awareness, that is not real but which we ourselves have created as a kind of game in order to have certain experiences that we could not have in the world of oneness and unity that we originally came from.


Golgotha symbolizes the same process as Gethsemane in yet another way, but there is more to this name. In this context:

  • Words written in bold script refer to outer / external / public aspects.
  • Words that are underlined refer to suffering.
  • Words that are written in italics refer to Spirit, one, oneness, essence, awakening.
  • Words that are written in more than one of these categories belong to both or all of them.
  • Of course all these words are interconnected within the context of this story and when you pay attention to the way they are written, you may discern a meaningful pattern.

In Hebrew Golgotha is called Gulgolet and this name contains the concept ‘gl’, 3-30, 33, that means ‘public, external, superficial, naked’, and that also symbolizes the round aspect of the circle, the igul. This concept ‘gl’ plays a large roll in the story about Jesus and culminates on Golgotha.

Jesus lived a large part of his life in the Galilee, Galil, 3-30-10-30, the part of the country where the ‘external / outer’ part, the ‘body’ of the people of Israel lived, whereas Judea was the residence of the ‘spirit’ that Jakob’s son Judah symbolized.

According to the tradition Jesus lived 33 years among us in the form of the physical body of a human being. He suffered and died on the cross on Golgotha, Gulgolet, 3-30 – 3-30 – 400. Twice 33 and also twice the 400, because the cross itself is originally the form of the character for the 400. So there are two sides to this name.

The meaning of the name Gulgolet is ‘skull’, the outer form of the head, but paradoxically, as part of the skeleton (bones, etsem) it symbolizes also the essence, which means it also is the phase of transformation. The deepest point becomes the highest.

It means resurrection takes place on the cross. The Gnostic Gospel of Philip says the same, both about Jesus and about us.

  • Those who say: “The Lord died first and was resurrected afterwards, they err. Because he was resurrected first and then he died. If someone does not acquire the resurrection first, he cannot die! Only if God comes alive in him, then he can die.”

and in another text:

  • Those who say: “First one dies and then one shall be resurrected”, they err. For if one does not acquire the resurrection during this life, then one will also not acquire anything when one dies.”

All names and concepts that contain the 33 symbolize the external aspect of this world of duality, into which the Spirit, here embodied by Jesus, has descended consciously. At the deepest point of this descent, the 400, Jesus, at the age of 33, was nailed to this cross of the 400, almost naked and in public.

Because of all this the public side of his appearance among us becomes also clear. That is the second side of the 33 and still another meaning of the name Gulgolet. Because of this we can get to know him, and also the Spirit that he embodied, because he had nothing to hide anymore.

Now the whole process can be studied and practiced by everyone.

His descent, the descent of the Spirit, into this world of duality and matter, of the superficial, means ‘the rescue’, ‘the redemption’ of that world. That world had become a world of exile, of galut, 3-30 –6400, in which that external / outer aspect, that superficiality, had reached the stage of slavery.

By descending consciously into this exile, this 3-.-30, the Spirit, the One, accomplishes the rescue, the redemption, the ge’ulah, which is shown by the way it is written: 3130-5.

By constantly raising our awareness, by tending to all these processes, we are rising up to meet the Spirit that is descending into us in order to merge again

The crown of thorns

Besides being a symbol for the outer and superficial aspect, and with that also for all this becoming public, the concept ‘gl’ also symbolizes the round aspect of the circle.

The name Gulgolet shows this aspect as well as the meaning of this name is ‘skull’, which means that it is also round.

We find this round aspect back in the circle of the crown of thorns on Jesus’ head, generally considered to be a symbol of painful humiliation. We see however that this circle contains the thorns that are called kots in Hebrew, and can also be read as the verb (ha)kets, to awaken. These thorns have finally awakened humanity, here symbolized by Jesus as well. This means that this crown of thorns has become and still is his crown of honour. And will be ours too.

This is the fulfilment of the promise that God had given Adam and Eve after they had eaten from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God had promised that the earth would produce thorns and thistles, which has always been interpreted as a punishment. It is not. The thorns in each person’s life are the means to wake him up again from the dream of the world of illusion that Adam and Eve were going to enter at that point and from which we are waking up now, often because we too have been awakened by the thorns in our lives.


My first conclusion is that all these frightening aspects of the Passion story, Gethsemane, Golgotha, the cross and crucifixion, and the crown of thorns, which all sound very negative, prove to be positive instead. There is no denial of the difficulty of the process but the outcome is always full of love and hope. The point is to approach a difficult process – which is necessary – always from the positive side. This is possible, because once we know that the deeper meaning of it all is positive and loving, we can approach it with a positive attitude and the outcome will be joyful beyond our wildest dreams. That is made clear in every example.

Another thing that occurred to me is that the manner in which all of this seems to come together in one comprehensive interpretation opens up the possibility to come to the conclusion that maybe Jesus never lived on earth at all, as everything proved to be a symbol. And there are many people who claim that this is so and are desperately trying to prove it.

If this were to be the case, the meaning of this story would not be diminished at all but I still believe that the positive energetic impact of persons like Jesus on the world would have been enormous and might have been sorely needed in the times they (are supposed to) have lived.

So personally I believe that he, and many other so-called avatars, did live on earth as historical persons, even if maybe not exactly in the way it is described in the holy scriptures.

I believe in the principle of ‘As above, so below’, and in the possibility of manifestation on more than one level, the physical level in the world of matter included.

I believe in the value of Wayshowers in a time when an involution / evolution cycle has reached a point where mankind seems to have lost its way.

I believe that they were here then and that they are here now because we certainly have reached such a point once more right now.

What if we are meant to be among them?

{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Joshua Tilghman March 18, 2015 at 6:14 pm

Wow, Anny. Another powerful article! I’m still amazed at how much meaning you bring out in all the Biblical names from their numerical values that tell the exact same story that I see esoterically. Your post brings new meaning to the scripture that states all works together for the good of those who love God, which of course means trusting and putting faith into our lives without judgment.

Thanks for this Anny!


anny March 19, 2015 at 2:50 am

Hello Josh,

Thanks for your comment, which once again made it possible for me to see that the article is online as the link to it has not reached me yet.

What you write was one of the first things that amazed me too when I first laid eyes on one of the books by prof. Weinreb because I was also getting acquainted with these esoteric meanings from channellings and other material around the same time. I found it amazing that what was being brought to our attention again in these times, already had been hidden in the Bible texts for thousands of years.

The fact that the same could be found in the New Testament, but only from the Hebrew translations of certain words, were a reason for me to believe that the gospels might originally have been written in Hebrew, as I explained in my previous article.

As you say, it does all work together for the good when we love God, even if we do not see the why’s and how’s of it at the time. The importance of refraining from judgment also comes up for attention time and again these days.




Robert March 19, 2015 at 5:25 pm


This is a great article. There is a lot of support for Hebrew being spoken in Jerusalem in 30 CE. See

I thought you might be interested if you have not come across this one.


anny March 20, 2015 at 1:17 am

Hello Robert,

Thanks for your comment and the link. I’ll check it out when I have time but early tomorrow morning our kids from Vietnam will be arriving so everything is hectic right now.




martina March 20, 2015 at 1:40 pm

Thank you very much , Anny , for this excellent article !

Really wonderful ! Thank you!

Love and LVX!


anny March 21, 2015 at 10:56 am

Thank you Martina for your comment. I am very happy to receive a confirmation that it is indeed understandable for people who are less familiar with this way of explanation. And I am also thankful that more people are beginning to understand this.

In a comment underneath I share a link to a Buddhist song that I received today and that shows exactly the same process.

I love it when it becomes clear that the essence of all religions, and the core truth of all, is the same.




anne golden March 19, 2015 at 2:40 pm

Thankyou,you are very wise and illuminating.


anny March 20, 2015 at 1:19 am

Hello Anne,

Thank you for commenting. I am glad that what I found is valuable for you too.




Robert March 19, 2015 at 7:07 pm


I was a little confused by

“According to the tradition Jesus lived 33 years among us in the form of the physical body of a human being. He suffered and died on the cross on Golgotha, Gulgolet, 3-30 – 3-30 – 400. Twice 33 and also twice the 400, because the cross itself is originally the form of the character for the 400. So there are two sides to this name.”

But I think I understand now. Correct me if I am wrong. The “gl” occurs twice in the word “gulgolet”. When you take out the non-letter vowels (or vowel points, that are extra marks added to the Hebrew letters to remember the vowels in the word), then you remove “u”, “o”, and “e”. You end up with the original unmarked Hebrew 5-letter word glglt. In Hebrew it looks like ת ל ג ל ג if we were to reverse the Hebrew to read from left to right. The Hebrew word glglt calculates by simple Gematria to 3-30-3-30-400. It has two 3-30=33 parts to it and one 400 part. Jesus was crucified on a cross on gulgolet, the cross being the shape of the Hebrew letter t (tav) in earlier forms of Hebrew, so this cross, represented by t (tav), adds another 400.

Then you have two aspects of the “gl” associated with the cross, from two Hebrew words gl ( public, external, superficial, naked) and igl with means round.

It is also interesting that the Hebrew word egl means calf. A calf’s body shape is rounded. The calve is also symbolic of a clean animal used for ritualistic sacrifice.


anny March 20, 2015 at 1:30 am

Hello Robert,

Yes, you are completely right here. The vowels are to be disregarded as they are not actual characters.

It is interesting that you mention the word ‘egel’ here as that formed a part of the original explanation from prof. Weinreb about the concept of ‘gl’. I had forgotten about that. I did look for the place where his original explanation was but could not even remember in which of his books it was. I just used my notes for another article about the crucifixion from ten years ago, where I did not use the word ‘egel’ as it did not seem to have any connection to the subject, but with your description I suppose it has in a way. Thanks!


Robert March 19, 2015 at 7:49 pm


According to, section on “The Names of Deliverance”:

“Some modern writers say the name Yeshua means ‘salvation.’ But it actually means ‘the LORD saves.’ The Hebrew word for salvation is spelled with the final ‘h’: yeshuah.”


anny March 20, 2015 at 1:47 am

You are right that the word ‘jeshua’ as salvation is written with a final ‘h’. As I always see the name Jeshua written like this however, also in American writings, I chose that spelling to show the link.

I believe that it is the related name Jehoshua that means the Lord saves. At least that is what I have been taught (do not ask me where) and that makes more sense to me.


anonymous March 20, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Thanks Anny,

As ever you make my mind wondering again.
My background is Christian, the Kaballah and its meaning are still a secret to me.
The meaning of the cross is interesting, I remember a saying : ‘For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’.
Judgement and being judgmental ( mental !) is part of our life, being in the world of duality.
Bringing our judgments to the cross (looking at things from many ways, the horizontal),
consulting the spirit within (vertical upwards), make a decision (in union) and do it (vertical downward).
Silencing the 5 senses and the mental formations is a solution supplied by the Buddha, it refers to the same process in a scientific way.
I remember a saying I read in the books from Annalee Skarin. She explains the name Jesus Christ with a (for me) wonderful meaning : ‘I am strong because my Body is made of Light’.
It refers to the process of inner alchemy as studied by the inner circles of all religious traditions. The Taoist refer to the process as the Golden Flower, the retention of the oil.
The laying of the Foundation, the collection of the oil, the growing of the inner light, resulting in a body of Light. It is a process of endurance, suffering if you like. But then remember the words speaking of the yoke.
I will the rest of your story under my pillow, to wonder about !

Kind regards,


anny March 21, 2015 at 11:01 am

Thanks Leo for your comment, and for your take on it from the Buddhist side. I had already come to the conclusion that it more or less points to the same, coming from another side,
and then I received today a link to a Buddhist song that I shared in a comment underneath. It says basically the same as I did in my article. I hope you enjoy it.




anny March 21, 2015 at 10:46 am

Today I received the link underneath to a Buddhist song that basically preaches the exact same thing as I have shown in the article above about the process of the crucifixion. It shows that the core essence in most if not all of the religions is the same. It is a beautiful song. Enjoy.



Robert March 23, 2015 at 7:28 pm


The Song of Buddha is a beautiful song. I think we need to also realize that it is not a direct quote from Buddha, but someone’s interpretation in a poem that became popular. I think Buddha’s intent was, yes, to take responsibility for our actions and consequences, but not to eliminate the aspect of grace or that we cannot receive help from others or other sources. The “no one can and no one may” is especially misleading although it fits nicely into the rhyme. Check out


anny March 24, 2015 at 7:13 am

Hi Robert,

I understand what you mean but of course this is not all of the Buddha’s teachings but only a bare outline of its essence, more or less the same as I did in this article, which of course also does not show every aspect of it. I think however both show the essence.

The song says that no one but ourselves can save us, that no one can or even may do that, but it does not say that no one may help us while doing that.




Robert March 24, 2015 at 11:53 am


I totally agree with the capacity of each individual for spiritual empowerment. As you suggest, maybe we are meant to be way showers. I also think it is important to accurately preserve the intent and literal messages of our historical avatars and understand the cultural contexts in which they were meant to be applied. From evidence I have seen so far, the Song of Buddha, as beautiful and meaningful as it is, represents quite a deviation from what Buddha taught. It contains the essence of new age philosophy superimposed upon it, which in itself may be meaningful to many people who embrace that philosophy, but it is not the philosophy of Buddha. According to the website I referenced, not only is the song inaccurate, but at least three of the aphorisms shown in the background of the video are gross distortions of Buddha’s teachings. So the Song of Buddha represents a philosophy that appeals to many people, but it is not the philosophy of Buddha, nor the essence of it.

Why is this important? Because we are in a quest for wisdom that breaks through illusions. So it is important that we see accurately what our avatars have presented, not see what we want to see. It is the only way to distinguish between the nuggets of wisdom sent to us, and the pop cultural norms that are appealing but not based on revelation. It is the only thing that will keep us from becoming groupies instead of seekers. Buddha warned of becoming groupies, of following what has mass appeal instead of true enlightenment.


anny March 24, 2015 at 1:26 pm

Hello Robert,

Thanks for your comment. Of course I respect your opinion but it does not change mine.

You know that I am not the type to research websites for all and sundry; that is not the way I operate, it would suffocate me. What I write comes from the heart and is largely intuitive knowledge, supported by the building blocks of some factual knowledge.

What you find on some website may be true or it may not. I have no way of finding that out for myself but I do not just believe everything some website says. They may be scholars for all I know but so are the theologians who write about the meaning of the Bible texts in a way that is not acceptable for us anymore.

I have read a lot about Buddhism in the past ten or twenty years, enough to know that there are very different forms of it, but I never remember any details. However, if we come down to it, it is very difficult to state what were the original teachings of Buddha as I do not think that he wrote them down himself and when things are passed on from one generation to the next, texts and teachings might have changed, like happened in Christianity as well. So when you write: “I also think it is important to accurately preserve the intent and literal messages of our historical avatars and understand the cultural contexts in which they were meant to be applied”, I do not know if that is even possible.

However, even if that were possible, I think you cannot literally apply something that would be fitting thousands of years ago. I believe that those messages should be translated to something that would be fitting for this day and age. I believe we should not follow the letter but the spirit and that always comes down to unconditional love.

Whatever the case, my Buddhist daughters in law both loved this song and they are not into any kind of new age philosophy but they are both rooted in South East Asia.

I myself just recognized this in my heart as the essence of what I had learned about Buddhism over the years, which in this case happened to coincide with what I found myself about the essence of what Jesus taught and showed. I cannot go against my heart by first having to reason with my mind whether or not this could be true.

I feel it is the core essence of what it is all about. It is not based on reason. There are things you just know and this is one of them for me. And I was only too happy to find it again in these few words in a Buddhist song. So what if a new form of Buddhism is coming up? Does not every generation have the right to redefine what they believe and how they give it form? Is not that what we are doing as well, coming from our own backgrounds? First of all it should come from the heart in my view. The mind is its servant, not its master or teacher.

Whether right or wrong, I am my own person and in no way becoming a groupie of anyone. And as far as pop cultural norms are concerned, how can you be sure that there is no revelation possible there? I must admit that I do not know the first thing about it but why shouldn’t there be? Just think of the song Imagine by John Lennon. After almost half a century I became amazed by that song! There may have been some revelation, or at least inspiration there.



Robert March 24, 2015 at 1:53 pm


A more accurate and concise understanding of Buddha can be found at

What Buddha said was “Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.”

Here he is referring to reliance on the gradual process of Dhamma as a means to enlightenment. This process is explained fully on a page from the above referenced website at

I have included this page below to show that understanding Buddha’s teachings requires a gradual path of understanding that is derived from personal enlightenment attained by a balanced application of the eightfold path. This is quite a different path of learning than finding intellectual agreement with greeting card kind of misquotes.

Also, Buddha was clear to distinguish his teachings from association with religion, the nature of divinity, or deity. He said his teachings would not be useful for exploring that. But he was careful not to make any statement in opposition to religion. What he offered was a method to decondition the mind from attachments, in order to release the ability for enlightenment.

Does salvation come from above or within? The best answer I can give is “Yes”.


© 2005

A Gradual Training

The Dhamma, the truth taught by the Buddha, is uncovered gradually through sustained practice. The Buddha made clear many times that Awakening does not occur like a bolt out of the blue to the untrained and unprepared mind. Rather, it culminates a long journey of many stages:[1]

Just as the ocean has a gradual shelf, a gradual slope, a gradual inclination, with a sudden drop-off only after a long stretch, in the same way this Doctrine and Discipline (dhamma-vinaya) has a gradual training, a gradual performance, a gradual progression, with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch.

— Ud 5.5

Monks, I do not say that the attainment of gnosis is all at once. Rather, the attainment of gnosis is after gradual training, gradual action, gradual practice. And how is there the attainment of gnosis after gradual training, gradual action, gradual practice? There is the case where, when conviction has arisen, one visits [a teacher]. Having visited, one grows close. Having grown close, one lends ear. Having lent ear, one hears the Dhamma. Having heard the Dhamma, one remembers it. Remembering, one penetrates the meaning of the teachings. Penetrating the meaning, one comes to an agreement through pondering the teachings. There being an agreement through pondering the teachings, desire arises. When desire has arisen, one is willing. When one is willing, one contemplates. Having contemplated, one makes an exertion. Having made an exertion, one realizes with the body the ultimate truth and, having penetrated it with discernment, sees it.

— MN 70

The Buddha’s teachings are infused with this notion of gradual development. His method of “gradual instruction” (anupubbi-katha), which appears in various forms in countless suttas, always follows the same arc: he guides newcomers from first principles through progressively more advanced teachings, all the way to the fulfillment of the Four Noble Truths and the full realization of nibbana:

Then the Blessed One, having encompassed the awareness of the entire assembly with his awareness, asked himself, “Now who here is capable of understanding the Dhamma?” He saw Suppabuddha the leper sitting in the assembly, and on seeing him the thought occurred to him, “This person here is capable of understanding the Dhamma.” So, aiming at Suppabuddha the leper, he gave a step-by-step talk, i.e., a talk on giving, a talk on virtue, a talk on heaven; he declared the drawbacks, degradation, & corruption of sensual passions, and the rewards of renunciation. Then when he saw that Suppabuddha the leper’s mind was ready, malleable, free from hindrances, elated, & bright, he then gave the Dhamma-talk peculiar to Awakened Ones, i.e., stress, origination, cessation, & path. And just as a clean cloth, free of stains, would properly absorb a dye, in the same way, as Suppabuddha the leper was sitting in that very seat, the dustless, stainless Dhamma eye arose within him, “Whatever is subject to origination is all subject to cessation.”

— Ud 5.3

At each stage of this “gradual training” (anupubbi-sikkha), the practitioner discovers a new and important dimension of the law of cause-and-effect — kamma, the cornerstone of Right View. It is thus a very useful organizing framework with which to view the entirety of the Buddha’s teachings.

The gradual training begins with the practice of generosity, which helps begin the long process of weakening the unawakened practitioner’s habitual tendencies to cling — to views, to sensuality, and to unskillful modes of thought and behavior. This is followed by the development of virtue, the basic level of sense-restraint that helps the practitioner develop a healthy and trustworthy sense of self. The peace of mind born from this level of self-respect provides the foundation for all further progress along the path. The practitioner now understands that some kinds of happiness are deeper and more dependable than anything that sense-gratification can ever provide; the happiness born of generosity and virtue can even lead to rebirth in heaven — either literal or metaphorical. But eventually the practitioner begins to recognize the intrinsic drawbacks of even this kind of happiness: as good as rebirth in wholesome states may be, the happiness it brings is not a true and lasting one, for it relies on conditions over which he or she ultimately has no control. This marks a crucial turning point in the training, when the practitioner begins to grasp that true happiness will never be found in the realm of the physical and sensual world. The only possible route to an unconditioned happiness lies in renunciation, in turning away from the sensual realm, by trading the familiar, lower forms of happiness for something far more rewarding and noble. Now, at last, the practitioner is ripe to receive the teachings on the Four Noble Truths, which spell out the course of mental training required to realize the highest happiness: nibbana.

Many Westerners first encounter the Buddha’s teachings on meditation retreats, which typically begin with instructions in how to develop the skillful qualities of right mindfulness and right concentration. It is worth noting that, as important as these qualities are, the Buddha placed them towards the very end of his gradual course of training. The meaning is clear: to reap the most benefit from meditation practice, to bring to full maturity all the qualities needed for Awakening, the fundamental groundwork must not be overlooked. There is no short-cutting this process.

Here is the Buddha’s six-stage gradual training in more detail:

1.Generosity (dana)

2. Virtue (sila) The 5 Precepts

The 8 Precepts

The 10 Precepts

Uposatha observance days

3. Heaven (sagga) The Thirty-one Planes of Existence

4.Drawbacks (adinava)

5.Renunciation (nekkhamma)

6. The Four Noble Truths (cattari ariya saccani) A. The Noble Truth of Dukkha (dukkha ariya sacca) Dukkha
The round of rebirth (samsara)

B. The Noble Truth of the Cause of Dukkha (dukkha samudayo ariya sacca) Craving (tanha)
Ignorance (avijja)

C. The Noble Truth of the Cessation of Dukkha (dukkha nirodho ariya sacca) Nibbana

D. The Noble Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Dukkha (dukkha nirodha gamini patipada ariya sacca) — The Noble Eightfold Path. The Commentaries group the eight path factors into three divisions: Discernment (pañña):

1. Right View (samma-ditthi) Intentional action (kamma)
Admirable friendship (kalyanamittata)

2. Right Resolve (samma-sankappo)
Virtue (sila):3. Right Speech (samma-vaca)

4. Right Action (samma-kammanto)

5. Right Livelihood (samma-ajivo)
Concentration (samadhi):

6. Right Effort (samma-vayamo)

7. Right Mindfulness (samma-sati)

8. Right Concentration (samma-samadhi) Jhana

1.Countless students over the centuries have invested their time and energy grappling with the question, “Is Enlightenment ‘sudden’ or is it ‘gradual’?” These and other passages from the Canon make the Buddha’s own view on the matter quite clear: The mind develops gradually, until it is ripe to make that sudden leap to Awakening.”

Robert March 24, 2015 at 6:08 pm


I agree that we can re-express language and terms of spiritual system of philosophy into more modern forms that we recognize better and relate to. I disagree that we can make modernistic statements that contradict the original intent.

However, every religion I know has done this. This does not make it acceptable. For instance, I have a good number of Jewish relatives who are Jews by ethnicity and follow a secularized form of Judaism in which they participate in holidays and some customs, but they are agnostics or marginally religious, but certainly not observant, and certainly do not understand the basic meaning of Judaism beyond the most external forms.

The dharma of Buddha were first recorded by monks within 100 years of Buddha’s passing. These have been translated as “the standard translation” and are recognized as the most faithful records of the dharma. They are not written in a style that is creative, but rather a boring recitation of their Master’s words.

Buddha never intended for his dharma to be used as a religion, and shied away from his person being revered. His focus was on teaching the dharma. He was disappointed when people started to make statues of him. People who needed religion hijacked his teachings into their religions. Modern “Buddhism” consists of many schools of religion, but only the most devoted students focus on the dharma as it was intended, and they would have the most objections to making too much out of Buddha’s song, and pointing out its distortions.

I value finding unifying element among different religions, and promoting tolerance and intercultural harmony…. when those unifying elements are clearly present. I do not agree with pushing it too far, especially glossing over or distorting important elements, in order to satisfy an assumed worldview. If we are trying to establish whether all faiths and philosophies came from a common ancient origin, then we need to trace their undistorted forms, and then make accurate contrasts and comparisons. If you have a hunch that there is a common origin, then you have a hunch or a belief, but there is no justification for pounding square pegs into round holes to force things to fit the hunch.

I think a greater testimony to love and tolerance is that we salute each other’s religious perspectives without requiring them to be so harmonious. Love and tolerance are stronger when exercised despite differences.

The damage by asserting “no one but yourself cans save you, no one may and no one can” is that it places negative judgment on other religions that place more emphases on the external aspects of divinity interceding in mankind and individual lives. It places all the emphasis on the self inside, and denies other influences. This was not Buddha’s intent. But people who keep hearing and espousing the Buddha song are dead on opposing the concept of a Savior or a Messiah. It is a total negation of Judaism and Christianity. It directly contradicts the concept of not judging. Buddha did not intend this. He was very careful to maintain a policy of neutrality toward religion.

Buddha did not recommend alternatives to meditation. He prescribed methods of becoming still. This he taught was the most essential step of the eightfold path. According to him you would not comprehend the dharma if you did not meditate according to the prescribed methods. You just wouldn’t get it.

I respect people’s ability to pursue higher consciousness in their own way. I understand the problems some of us have had with listening to other voices in mainstream religions that distorted the religions message and led us astray. Corruption and imperfection is a given in any religion or philosophy. So we can’t just jump on the bandwagon. We need to personally reflect on what people tell us. It may even be necessary to shut all the voices off for a time. But I think if you do this too much and too long, you can go way off somewhere. Maybe you’ll forget what you know or oversimplify it too much. You can end up playing telephone with yourself over the years, drifting further and further away from your original perception. So I think it is important to come out of the cocoon from time to time. Making it a hard fast rule not to get information from any website whatsoever is extreme from my point of view. It reminds me of the Mennonites not talking to the Anglish. I advocate integrating intuition with intellect, trying to find checks and balances between the two, without neglecting developing either.


anny March 25, 2015 at 3:25 am


I do not think it is any use to keep discussing this subject any longer. Obviously we think about this very differently.

I never meant to judge anyone or anything but that does not mean that we are not allowed to think differently about some things. I do not consider that judging at all. If that is so, then that website you advised to check out judges as well by calling the quotes fake. It may or may not be true what they say but the way they call it fake could be seen as judgment.

I cannot be or act other than I am and I feel you are making way too much out of this because it does not appeal to you. To which you have every right of course. I just found something which beautifully described the essence of what I had found and for that I placed it on the site. It was not my intention to start a discussion about what is or is not true in Buddhism.

In his way the Buddha pointed to a way to reach enlightenment. Other teachers did the same in their way. None of them should have been deified the way they have been probably and I agree with you that the Buddha would probably not agree to the statues that have been erected for him. Although the nuns in a pagoda I visited in Vietnam explained that to us as a reminder of the Way and not as worshiping of the person.

We are trying to find our way and that can even be different for each person. The only thing that is important that we all go in the direction of the same destination and do not judge each other for the way in which we do that.

Your way is not my way and my way obviously not yours, nor do they have to be. Let us leave it at that and each follow our own way without judging or having to convince anyone else. And without feeling judgment where none is meant. We still live in a world of illusion remember, which we each created for ourselves, so none of us should be so adamant about anything whatever.

Vernon McVety Jr. (Vern) March 26, 2015 at 10:40 pm

Hello again Anny,

I listened to the Buddhist Song “Self Reliance” and I’d like to say that the essential spirit of the song is real, unchangable and inspirationally indicative of the very purpose of our lives here on this earth, finding our own ways of working out our own salvation. Thanks for such a leading example of influential music and words intended to soothe the soul. – Vern


Vernon McVety Jr. (Vern) March 21, 2015 at 8:19 pm

This is a very instructive and illuminating article. And I am especially pleased to see another esoteric enlightener express belief in the historical Jesus, i.e. that he did live as a person in the flesh according to the Good News.

It’s very true that “there is no inner without an outer.” But the life of Jesus is more than just a metaphor; it’s more than just a story as an exoteric portal to lead us to the development of Christ Consciousness. Some don’t believe that the Son of God is a true story. But I think it takes more than merely believing. It’s something we have to realize within ourselves. – Vern


anny March 23, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Hello Vernon,

Thanks for your comment.

I agree with you here that Jesus lived on earth as someone who knew that he was a son of God and that he taught and showed us that we are too. However, he had realized it within himself already and we still have to do so, as you put it.




Robert March 23, 2015 at 6:53 pm

Anny, Vern,

The model of Jesus being the promised Messiah who teaches awareness of mankind’s divine nature to simple fisherman is not the only model that can lead to awareness, but the best documented and most affirmed by fulfillment of prophecies over at least a 3000 year period.


anny March 24, 2015 at 7:18 am

I agree that Jesus as the Messiah is not the only model of teaching awareness of man’s divine nature to the people. Personally I believe that there were many before and after him who did that, the Buddha being one of them and where they talk about the Buddha’s I believe that Jesus belongs in that category too.


Megan Sullivan March 22, 2015 at 12:27 am


I am checking out this website during some late night meditation time. I remembered hearing about it from Joshua Tilghman. What an awesome article! A little confusing at times given my Baptist roots, but so helpful and eye opening.



anny March 23, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Hello Megan,

Thanks for commenting. I am glad that you were able to follow it, in more senses than one, as it is quite a step to take, coming from your background, as it was for me too. Especially in this time of the year it must be very confronting for people with a traditional faith who start to have questions, as it may feel like a betrayal somehow. But it is not as this is what Jesus himself was teaching people.




Raymond Phelan March 22, 2015 at 1:19 pm

Hi Anny,

Once again you’ve managed to incorporate words and numbers into a wonderful piece of great spiritual value.

You wrote:

“I believe in the value of Wayshowers in a time when an involution / evolution cycle has reached a point where mankind seems to have lost its way”.

I totally agree with this. In other words, whenever Dharma (evolution) is in decline, when ignorance is in the ascendancy, Cosmic Mind will act to restore the imbalance in the form of Teachers.

Thanks for the lesson in Numerology and the accorded Hebraic value of these Numbers. Fascinating how Word and Number express a similar ethos.




anny March 23, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Hello Raymond,

Beautifully put. As did this Buddhist song in the link I shared: …. No one but ourselves can save us, no one can and no one may. We ourselves the Path must walk, Buddha’s merely show the way.

Jesus undoubtedly was one of these Buddha’s.




Vernon McVety Jr. (Vern) March 23, 2015 at 9:54 pm

Hello again Anny,

I listened to the Buddhist Song “Self Reliance” and I’d like to say that the essential spirit of the song is real, unchangable and inspirationally indicative of the very purpose of our lives here on this earth, finding our own ways of working out our own salvation. Thanks for such a leading example of influential music and words intended to soothe the soul. – Vern


anny March 24, 2015 at 7:20 am

Glad to do so, Vern. I love this song too.



Robert March 25, 2015 at 12:30 pm


As you know, I found the Buddha song offensive. I am not trying to change anyone to my course of thinking. I think there is a beauty and attractiveness to this video, and some elements of useful wisdom. I can see how it would resonate with others.

I am exercising a sense of concern for others and a responsibility to express my concern. The last line ” ” just hit me the wrong way. It didn’t sound right. It inferred a denial of Judeo-Christian and Hindu concepts of salvation. From what I knew about Buddha, this didn’t sound like him. So I checked around and found many Buddhist websites complain about Buddha’s teachings being misrepresented by modernized aphorisms. I found one particular website that investigated this particular line and went into a lot of detail into explaining it was a mis-representation. The standard translation of the earliest record of anything related to this in Buddha’s teaching is:

“Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.”

Here Buddha is referring to reliance on the gradual process of Dhamma as a means to enlightenment, not the kind of manifesto of extreme self-reliance that the Buddha song inferred. The website traced the line in the Buddha song to various references, showing how the meaning was distorted much the same way children distort an original message when they play the game “telephone”. So my hunch about this line is justified.

I found three other distorted aphorisms displayed in the background of the video. My concern is that this video keeps repeating these over and over again, kind of like a flash presentation of what are really distortions that seem appealing on the surface, especially with the playful melody and song accompanying it like a sugar coating.

Since others like the Buddha song, I am interested to know the reasons why they like it. It aligns with some elements of New Thought, New Age Philosophy that are embraced by popular progressive spirituality. But it does not align anywhere near as well with the most authentic records we have of Buddha’s teachings. So I have a question in the back of my mind. Do people embrace these popular ideas as a result of personal revelation, or because after rejecting conventional religions, they have turned to answers suggested to them through the grapevine of popular progressive theology?


anny March 26, 2015 at 10:08 am


You write: “The standard translation of the earliest record of anything related to this in Buddha’s teaching is:

“Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.”

Here Buddha is referring to reliance on the gradual process of Dhamma as a means to enlightenment ….”

What do you suppose that the Path we all have to walk ourselves in the song means? Of course it is the Dhamma! What other Path could they possibly mean?

The meaning of the song, as I see it, is to make clear that we all have to walk that Path of the Dhamma (or the teachings of Jesus for Christians) ourselves, and that we cannot be saved by someone else doing that for us.


Robert March 26, 2015 at 4:03 pm


I’m sensing that part of our disagreement is that there is a lot of ambiguity. In the conservative Christian theology, believers are “saved by Jesus” by calling on his name, by trusting that his atoning act of sacrifice ensures that their sins will be forgiven, that the Holy Spirit will act upon them, within them, and around them to purify their souls, and that they will be expected to do their part by working out, or walking out, their salvation that is provided for them at the cross with earnest effort, with all they’ve got, and that they inherit eternal life. They don’t believe that salvation is a do it yourself thing. They believe Jesus, the person, saves you.

With this is mind, can you see how the statement “No one but yourself can save you, no one may and no one can” contradicts “Jesus saves you”. It comes across as much too strong a statement to be interpreted as “the universal aspect of grace provides the opportunity to address our need for redemption, but each of us has to take personal responsibility in our actions, thoughts, and decisions to do our best to walk the path
provided”. The stronger statement is shorter though, it also rhymes in the song. Try putting my statement about the universal aspect of grace into a song… no way, but at least it is not ambiguous and misleading. Those are my thoughts about it.

We keep commenting about this and I keep thinking how much more I need to take responsibility for walking the path. So I think I need to get my shoes on.

Thank you for your persistence and interesting exchanges. It all works for good.


Paul March 26, 2015 at 10:49 am

Scripture points out that we need spiritual eyes and spiritual ears in order to understand spiritual truths. What I have found over the past 16 or so years is that the spiritual masters all taught the same ideas, the only differences being the means of expression of those ideas. I didn’t understand any of these things until I began to see them spiritually, rather than naturally. From a spiritual perspective, I personally do not see anything in this song that differs from any of the teachings of Jesus or Buddha, or any of the other spiritual masters. In the final analysis, from an objective standpoint, it really is all a matter of individual perspective.


Robert March 26, 2015 at 4:08 pm


I acknowledge that this is your perspective and mine is different. See my last comment to Anny. Hope you are doing as well as can be expected. As always, I look forward to your articles and comments.


anonymous March 26, 2015 at 8:53 pm

@Robert All wordings are but metaphors pointing to an idea. Getting that idea across in different ages, to different peoples, takes different metaphors. Buddha was never meant to be taken literally. If only we would have sound recordings of his original teachings, and then listen to that, purely concentrating on its intent . . .
Grasping its contents and capturing it one needs to have a framework. The religions of the world with all its circles of influence create this framework in the minds of the people. Once one understands the ideas of the circles one is raised up in, it is time to move on to the next circle towards the center (the inner core, hidden in plain sight ).
Lucky are the people that get a vision, a glimpse, of the road ahead. If a person is almost drowning in a swamp, that person thankfully accepts the hand (dirty or clean) that is extended for help. Being a spectator one can comment about the quality and the cleanness of the help. I sincerely hope that you can appreciate that help is being offered (and accepted). In Dutch we have a saying ‘de beste stuurlui staan aan wal’, in English there is a saying about a mote in the eye.
In short, in my opinion your words about salvation are true, as are Anny’s about each of us will have to walk our own path.
Out in the fog it is good to have help from the outside, pointing us to a more safe area. Once out of the fog and our vision is clear again, we can continue on our own.
Robert, I want thank you for sharing the Buddha’s teaching in these posts. It was the first time I could read it all without a feeling of dispair (of not getting there) arose in me. I am sure I will get ‘there’ as we All will, eventually.

Kind regards to you all,


Vernon McVety Jr. (Vern) March 27, 2015 at 12:52 am


Here’s a song I hope you will be able to relate to, and I hope you might like. Millions of people (global-wide) know this renowned song, made very popular by Anne Murry. But, very few know the actual lyric by Gene Maclellan, the original singer & composer, a Canadian singer & songwriter. Within the song is a very important verse, which has been left out, for some reason by the producing agents, that actually strengthens the meaning of the entire song, in my opinion. Here is that verse: “The mind says that I only want to be, a wanderer and just like you I’m longing to be free. But in my heart I know it’s just a lie, for without your love the vision of my happiness would die.”

Robert, I’m just trying to say that most things, if not every thing produced by the authorities of society isn’t perfect, and they never will be. We have to surrender to what is. If we can do that, the essential results will take care of themselves, in a spiritual way, readable in the hearts of those who really thirst and hunger for spiritual understanding. I hope you understand. Your friend, – Vern


Vernon McVety Jr. (Vern) March 27, 2015 at 9:31 pm

RE: I should have noted above, that left out verse is absent in the rendition recordings, and present only in MaClellan’s original, in the link. – Vern


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