In the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism in which I was trained, there is a daily meditation practice that powerfully prepares the mind for deep insight and transformation. Sustained dedicated practice can have a salutary effect on one's mind, emotions, will, and character, restraining evil and purifying one's consciousness at least relatively. This meditative prayer encapsulates and crystallizes the complete graduated path to enlightenment (lam-rim) and is composed by renowned Buddhist master Tsongkhapa (1357-1419). My main Gelug teacher, who is a sterling holder of Tsongkhapa’s lineage, was Geshe Tashi Tsering.
Reflecting on this practice, I can see how it has prepared me to hear and understand the gospel of Christ in a way that I could not before I began training in lam-rim more than two decades ago. It is as the Bible says: the law serves as a tutor that brings us to the end of ourselves, ready to receive the revealing of salvation in the one and only Christ (see Galatians 3:24). Even though there are non-biblical terms and concepts in the text of this practice that I used to do, one can see resonances and similarities with biblical teachings that pertain to fostering positive qualities of the soul in conformity to Christ. In Reformed circles, one could call the beneficent effects of such spiritual practice a result of God's common grace. For Arminians, this same salutary evil-restraining effect would probably be the result of God's prevenient grace.
In the Christian life, the absolute "guru" is God in Christ who is the one and only true Teacher. Instead of endless rebirths, this is the only life we've got and we need to make it count. Everything on this side of creation is transient and broken, and the principle of sowing and reaping is universal. Abandoning the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, we seek God as our supreme Treasure. Vigilance and patience are traits of a Spirit-led, Word-centred life kept un-besotted with the carnality of the world.
Our love and compassion for all reflects the heart of God for all, seeking to proclaim the gospel of salvation to peoples of all tribes and nations. We can love only because He first loved us and regenerated us in spirit by His Spirit when we give our lives in faith to Christ. By constant renewing of the mind by the Word, we put on the mind of Christ, a sound and sharp mind of wisdom that sees reality as it is in God' perspective. Even as we enter more and more deeply into holy intimacy and communion with God in Christ, we embody and live out a sanctified life of obedience to God's perfect law and commandments by the power of His Spirit. In savouring and delighting in Christ always, we abide in union with Him and He with us to the supreme glory of God for all eternity. What I have just described follows generally the progression of the meditation practice but couched in Christian terms.
Obviously, the gospel is much more than this. The special grace of God in Christ as our redeeming and atoning sacrifice; His incarnation and perfect life of obedience; His perfect finished work on the cross for our justification; His ongoing ministry of intercession for us and sanctification of us; His second coming and eschatological promise of the new creation are not covered in this practice. But one can see how there is a spiritual longing for freedom and sanctification in the words of this meditation, a longing that is ultimately, perfectly, and subversively fulfilled in and by Christ alone. We can access this fulfilment of Christ by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone.
With these words as preface, let me share with you this meditative prayer that I've done daily for years on end:
"The foundation of all good qualities is the kind and venerable guru; Correct devotion to him is the root of the path. By clearly seeing this and applying great effort, Please bless me to rely upon him with great respect.
"Understanding that the precious freedom of this rebirth is found only once. Is greatly meaningful, and is difficult to find again. Please bless me to generate the mind that unceasingly. Day and night, takes its essence.
"This life is as impermanent as a water bubble; Remember how quickly it decays and death comes. After death, just like a shadow follows the body, The results of black and white karma follow.
"Finding firm and definite conviction in this, Please bless me to always be careful To abandon even the slightest negativities And accomplish all virtuous deeds.
"Seeking samsaric pleasures is the door to all suffering: They are uncertain and cannot be relied upon. Recognizing these shortcomings, Please bless me to generate the strong wish for the bliss of liberation.
"Led by this pure thought, Mindfulness, alertness, and great caution arise. The root of the teachings Is keeping the pratimoksha vows: Please bless me to accomplish this essential practice.
"Just as I have fallen into the sea of samsara, So have all mother migratory beings. Please bless me to see this, train in supreme bodhichitta, And bear the responsibility of freeing migratory beings.
"Even if I develop only bodhichitta, but I don't practice the three types of morality, I will not achieve enlightenment. With my clear recognition of this. Please bless me to practice the bodhisattva vows with great energy.
"Once I have pacified distractions to wrong objects And correctly analyzed the meaning of reality, Please bless me to generate Quickly within my mindstream The unified path of calm abiding and special insight.
"Having become a pure vessel by training in the general path. Please bless me to enter The holy gateway of the fortunate ones: The supreme vajra vehicle.
"At that time, the basis of accomplishing the two attainments Is keeping pure vows and samaya. As I have become firmly convinced of this, Please bless me to protect these vows and pledges like my life.
"Then, having realized the importance of the two stages, The essence of the Vajrayana, By practicing with great energy, never giving up the four sessions, Please bless me to realize the teachings of the holy guru.
"Like that, may the gurus who show the noble path And the spiritual friends who practice it have long lives. Please bless me to pacify completely All outer and inner hindrances.
"In all my lives, never separated from perfect gurus, May I enjoy the magnificent Dharma. By completing the qualities of the stages and path, May I quickly attain the state of Vajradhara."
(Text translation and credit: FPMT Publications)
May all who sincerely practice the Dharma find their ultimate fulfilment and completion in the gospel of Christ, who is God the Son come down to save us. He is the one and only Way, Truth, and Life and no one comes to the Father but by Him—Jesus Christ.