(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/general/qualities.html)
Having a good master is definitely a tremendous blessing in kungfu, taijiquan and chi kung training. As mediocre instructors are socommon nowadays – some even start to teach after having attended only a few week-end seminars – finding a great master is like finding a gem in a hay stack. Here are some guidelines to help you find one.
A living example
A good master must be a living example of what he teaches. A kungfu master must be able to defend himself, a taijiquan master must have some internal force, and a qigong master must exhibit radiant health, as these are the basic qualities these arts are meant to develop.
A master of kungfu, taijiquan or qigong does not enjoy the luxury of many coaches in modern sports like football and athletics who often cannot dribble a ball or run a race half as well as the students they teach. There are also some kungfu, taijiquan or qigong instructors today who cannot perform half as well as their average students, but they are certainly not masters, although as a form of courtesy they may be addressed as such by their students, or the general public.
Understanding Dimension and Depth
Besides being skillful, a good master should preferably be knowledgeable. He should have a sound understanding of the dimension and depth of the art he is teaching, and be able to answer basic questions his students may have concerning the what, why and how of their practice. Without this knowledge, a master will be limited in helping his students to derive the greatest potential benefits in their training.
However, especially in the East, some masters may be very skillful, but may not be knowledgeable. This is acceptable if we take the term “master” to mean someone who has attained a very high level in his art, but who may not be a teacher.
The reverse is unacceptable, i.e. someone who is very knowledgeable, but not skillful – a situation quite common in the West. A person may have read a lot about kungfu, taijiquan or qigong, and have written a few books on it, but has little kungfu, taijiquan or qigong skills. We may call him a scholar, but certainly not a master.
Systematic and Generous
The third quality of a master as a good teacher is that he must be both systematic and generous in his teaching. Someone who is very skillful and knowledgeable, but teaches haphazardly or withholds much of his advance art, is an expert or scholar but not a good master.
On the other hand, it is significant to note that a good master teaches according to the needs and attainment of his students. If his students have not attained the required standard, he would not teach them beyond their ability (although secretly he might long to), for doing so is usually not to the students’ best interest. In such a situation he may often be mistaken as withholding secrets.
The fourth quality, a quality that transforms a good master into a great master, is that he radiates inspiration. It is a joy to learn from a great master even though his training is tough.
He makes complicated concepts easy to understand, implicitly provides assurance that should anything goes wrong he is able and ready to rectify it, and spurs his students to do their best, even beyond the level that he himself has attained.
High Moral Values
The most important quality of a great master is that he teaches and exhibits in his daily living high moral values. Hence, the best world fighter who brutally wounds his opponents, or the best teacher of any art who does not practise what he preaches, cannot qualify to be called a great master.
A great master is tolerant, compassionate, courageous, righteous and shows a great love and respect for life. Great masters are understandably rare; they are more than worth their weight in gold.
(reproduced from http://shaolin.org/answers/ans15a/apr15-3.html)
You said that past masters took years to attain chi flowing at various levels. Why is it that we could achieve this in just a day?
— David, UK
It is just ridiculous but true that past masters took years to attain chi flowing at various levels, but our students can achieve the same result in just one day! It is understandable of others do not believe what we way, but there is no doubt that all the students present today (9th June 2014) on this Bone Marrow Cleansing Course know this is true.
How do we know it is true? It is like someone asking you how do you know you are now sitting on a chair. In both cases, you know from direct experience. You know you are sitting on a chair because you are sitting on a chair. You know you can direct chi to flow at the levels of your skin, muscles, meridians, organs and bone marrow, because you can clearly feel chi flowing at all these levels.
Now the question. Why did past masters took years to attain these skills whereas you take only just one day? There are a few reasons, like we understand the underlying philosophy of the art, we are generous to teach it, and our methodology is very cost-effective, but the most important reason is that I transmit the skills to you from heart to heart.
An analogy is becoming a millionaire. If you work to become a millionaire, you will take many years to succeed, if you ever will. But if a benefactor transmits the money to you, you become a millionaire immediately. If you train to have chi flowing at five levels, you will need many years to succeed, if you ever will. But if master transmits the skill to you, you have the ability to have chi flow at the five levels immediately.
On the other hand, when past masters as students learned chi kung they had to practice appropriate techniques for many months or a year or two to develop the necessary skills. Normally they were unaware of the skills though they had developed the skills through dedicated practice. With the skills chi first flowed at their skin level. This development was spontaneous.
As they continued their dedicated practice for many more months or another year or two, chi next flowed at their muscle levels. In the same way, after may years chi flowed at the levels of their meridians, organs and bone marrow.
It should also be noted that these students did not learn these advanced techniques of chi flow at various levels at the start of their learning career. It was only after a few years when they had won the trust of their masters that their masters taught them the appropriate technques.
Secondly, not all those who learned the techniques would developed the skills and eventually succeeded in the art. Only a small percentage, probably less than 10%, would succeed and eventually became masters themselves.
I remember reading some years back a Taichiquan book that stated whilst practicing you must concentrate on breathing, body weight, points on the body and the self defence aspect.
— Wiliem, Zimbabwe
It is helpful to know that different advice is applicable to different people or to the same person at different stages of his development.
If you practice on your own without a teacher’s supervision, it is best for you not to worry about breathing, body weight, points on the body, and self-defence aspects. Just practice whatever you can in a relaxed manner without any intellectualization.
I am from a small town in Zimbabwe, have tried some Karate which is not for me and am looking for some simple, practical exercise to do as my work involved sitting by a computer all day. I found a detailed simple 18 form Shibashi Taichi exercise which I am learning at “Everyday Tai Chi” and was wondering if you have some advice on application. I have included the chart.
“Taiji Shibashi” means “Taiji 18 Forms”. It is a set of chi kung exercises invented by a modern chi kung master from China, Sifu Lin Hou Sheng, in the 20th century. For a time, it was widely practiced n Southeast Asia. One could find Taiji Shibashi groups in most public parks, and any person could just walk in to join a group to practice. Instructors taught without charging fees.
Despite its name “Taiji”, these exercises are not related to Taijiquan or even to Taiji dance. In fact, Sifu Lin Hou Sheng practiced Shaolin wushu before. I guess that the term “Taiji” is used because the exercises are meant to be performed flowingly in a relaxed manner like what Taijiquan should be performed.
As a type of chi kung, Taiji Shibashi works on a physical level to generate energy flow. Students have to performs many forms for a long time, usually about an hour. However, most students perform Taiji Shibashi as gentle physical exercise, and not as chi kung. Like most other chi kung practitioners, they do not realize this fact because they do not know the difference between chi kung and gentle physical exercise.
Taiji Shibashi was not meant to be a martial art. Hence when Sifu Lin Hou Sheng invented the exercises, he did not have self-defence aspects in mind. It is therefore unwise of you to try to find combat application in these exercises where combat application was not there in the first place. You would have done extremely well if you could perform Taiji Shibashi as chi kung, which would then place you at the top 20% of Taiji Shibashi practitioners anywhere in world, even better than most Taiji Shibashi instructors. You would have a chance to achieve this feat if you follow my advice of performing Taiji Shibashi exercises in a relaxed manner without any intellectuzlization.
However, a genuine kungfu practitioner may still be able to use the Taiji Shibashi exercises for self-defence, although these exercises will not be his first choice for the combat purposes. For example, “Rase Arms” in Exercise 1 may be used to release grips on his wrists, “Open Chest” in Exercise 2 may be used to release a body-lock, and “Paint a Rainbow” in Exercise 3 may be used to deflect a shoot from a arestler.
If you want to learn self-defence, you should learn it from a competent teacher. Like most other people, you will probably be surprised that genuine arts of self-defence are rare today. Most martial artists today, including black belts, do not know how to defend themselves. They just hit and kick each other in free sparring. Worse, and usually without their conscious knowing, their training is detrimental to both their physical and emotional health.
Next I am contemplating a 36 sword form to compliment my tonfa katas.
Frankly I believe you would spend your time better by taking your wife out for a walk, or getting a wife if you haven’t one yet.
But if you still want to learn a sword set, perform it in a flowing and relaxed manner. Remember that performing with a sword is different from performing with a tonfa. They have different nature and characteristics..
I had an experience today I would be gracious for your feedback. I was riding in a car with a friend and her young child. Upon thinking of the child, I saw in my mind a red energy flow linking us together. This energy flow ran from my lower back and to the child. Upon observing the flow, I became aware that I could use this flow to direct energy from me to the child, or draw energy from the child to me. I could also direct blockages to or from the child in the same way. My initial reaction to this awareness was concern over the ability to potentially cause harm, as the last thing I would want to do is harm the child. So I did my best to let go of my focus on the energy flow.
Shortly after, I was driving home by myself several miles from the child and became aware of the energy flow connecting us again. This time, I felt the energy pressing into my lower back as if it wanted to flow into me. I resisted the flow and did my best to let it go (worried that I might be inadvertently taking his chi), but ultimately felt that I should stop resisting it. When I did this, I sensed energy flowing into me and instantly felt sick. I immediately began coughing out bad chi. However, after absorbing the energy the tension in the flow disappeared and it returned to the usual loving, positive feeling I always have toward the child.
During both moments of sensing this energetic connection with the child, I had a sense that the energy flow was a karmic connection. It felt very similar to when I sense chi blockages in myself; emotionally overwhelming and turbulent. I believe that in my becoming aware of this karmic connection, I may have unknowingly drawn bad chi out of the child and into myself as a sort of karmic balancing/cleansing between the two of us. I have felt the blockage in my lower back periodically throughout the rest of my day, and have also coughed out some more bad chi. But overall I feel fine, and the blockage seems significantly diminished after doing chi kung this evening.
— Ryan, USA
Chi, or energy, is connecting all of us. Everything is connect is not just poetically but factually true, but most people are unaware of it, and their mind power is not strong enough to cause much difference.
However, some rare people with miraculous abilities, like you having practiced high-level chi kung from our school, may see this connection and have influence on it. As I mentioned in my previous reply, you must also use this miraculous ability with great responsibility. We do so due to righteousness.
Even if we leave out righteousness and consider only self-interest, it is also to your self-interest that this miraculous ability must never be abused. Goodness always bring goodness, and evilness always results in evilness, is a universal truth. Many psychics leading miserable lives is clear evidence of this truth.
On the other hand, there are what are called in metaphysical circles as â€œheaven secretsâ€. You should not reveal or interfere with these heaven secrets indiscreetly. For example, at your mortal level, you may think that clearing somebodyâ€™s blockage is doing a service for him. But at a cosmic level, which most mortals do not realize or understand, this action may be a big disservice.
Then, what about patients seeking treatment from chi kung healers, who help their patients to clear blockage? Can that be doing a disservice to the patients? This is a different issue, and here heaven secrets are not involved. Here, helping patients clear their blockage and restore good health is certainly a blessing.
Here the patients ask for help. It would be different if the patients did not ask for help but the healers impose their healing on them.
What you did in the case of the child, i.e. to let go, was correct. When you feel some bad energy entering you, like in the case of the child, you can direct it to a plant or tree instead of taking it in. What is bad energy to the child or to you, is good energy to the plant or tree. Similarly, when you enter a cave and feel the energy there detrimental to you, the same energy is beneficial to other creatures like bats and insects.
I had one other experience similar to this several weeks ago with our family pet dog. I had a sense of “something wrong” with the dog (which was sitting near me as I practiced chi kung), then felt negative chi pushing into me from the dog which in that case I resisted the entire time. I also had a sense that it was a karmic connection between myself and the dog, and that the experience was somehow related to karmic cleansing. I have spent many, many hours with the dog since and have not had any other experiences like this.
Yes, like in the case of the child above, you have some karmic connection with the dog. And like the child too, if you feel the energy from the dog that enters you is negative, you can direct it away to plants or trees instead of taking the negative enrgy in. This negative energy to you and the doy will be positive energy to plants and trees.
Is it possible in rare cases to sense karmic blockages between two beings, and for my chi to cleanse these blockages by momentarily linking my energy flow with them? This is what these experiences have felt like. It was just like when my chi works on blockages in me, except I had another being momentarily as an extension of myself that was also a part of the cleansing.
Yes, it is possible to sense karmic blockages between tow beings. The connection is there all the time but most people are unaware of it.
When you emphasize on the link of energy between you and another being, you may cleanse blockages or cause them. Healing others by cleansing their blockages, or alternatively hurting them by causing blockages in them, require special skills. As you are not trained in these matters, it is unethical to do so. Even when you are trained as a healer, it is also unethical to impose the healing on a person if he does not ask for it.
I have prayed to Gaun Yin on what I should do about these experiences, and the answer was clearly “Let it go” so that’s what I will do However, any input you have on how to best handle these experiences in the future would be most appreciated.
Praying to and asking advice from Guan Yin Bodhidattva is excellent.
My supplement to Guan Yin Bodhidattva’s advice is described above, and may be summarized as follows.
Heaven secrets are not to be disclosed indiscreetly. What mortals think is a service may be a disserve at a cosmic level. Healing another person by clearing his blockage requires specialized skills, and should be performed only when one is properly trained, and when it is requested by the patient.
— Yaroslav, Canada
Your questions are interesting and important for the future of humanity. Our training has made me and those in our school very optimistic. Not only we wholesomlely enjoy the present, we forgive the wrongs that others may have done to us in the past and look towards the future with hopes and aspirations. If we feel we have wronged oursellves, we forgive ourselves It is not that we are irresponsible with our past, licencious with our present or uncaring with our future. In fact we hold high moral valuses, as guided by our Ten Shaolin Laws , and cultivate spiritually every time we train, and we train conscienciously every day. The wonderful benefits that we get are not just extrinsic, due to verbal or written teaching. More significantly they are intrinsic, due to our dedicated training that results in a purification of our body, intellect and soul. It is pertinent to mention that these are no empty words. These words accurately describe the benefits our students are getting. Many schools also say that their training purifies the body, intellect and soul. Even some schools teaching the most brutal form of martial art where students seem to take pride in causing hurt to their opponents or sparring partners also say that their training is spiritual. But an intelligent observation of the students’ results will tell whether the claims of the schools are true. If the students become more unhealthy as a result of their training, then it is obviously not true that their training purifies the body. If the students do not even realize that they are not getting the benefits their arts are purported to give despite having trained for a long time, it is obvious their training does not purify their intellect. If the students become more dull and depressed, it is obvious their training does not purify their soul. These conclusions are obvious, yet it is shocking that thousands of students all over the world are getting unhealthier and depressed as a result of their training, and are unaware of it. How do we justify our claim that our training purifies the body, the intellect and the soul. After practicing for some time our students overcome their pain and illness and attain good health. This justifies our claim that our training purifies our body, as a pure body is naturally healthy. When the body is chocked with impurities, like toxic waste, viruses and locked emotions, it fails in its natural functions and become sick or in pain. After practicing for some time our students have much mental clarity. They are clear about the aims and objectives of their training, and how well their training helps them to attain their aims and objectives. If you examine how and what they write in our Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum, their mental clarity is quite obvious. This justifies our claim that our training purifies the intellect, as a purified intellect results in mental clarity. The writings of our students in our Discussion Forum also show that they are happy and peaceful with themselves and with other people. In fact, many of our students often expressed how grateful they are for having practiced our arts which make them find life and the world so beautiful. This shows that their practice has purified their soul, for a purified soul will find beauty in life and the world. What has this explanation of purifying the body, intellect and soul to do with your question. It has everything to do with the question. Firstly, it explains how members of our Shaolin Wahnam Family and I look at the world now and in the future. We are grateful for the many good things in our world now. And we are confident that the world in future will be even better. We are living in a golden age. Many people may be surprised at this statement. They think the golden age was a few hundred years ago. No, a few hundred years ago you didn’t even have electricity or tap water, things that we take for granted now but forget how important they are in making life comfortable. A few hundred years ago most people did not have a chance to go to school. Now you can assess amazing information via the internet at the tips of your fingers! More significantly the above explanation will affect how you and many other people see our world in future — whether you will see it as a beautiful home or a doomed place where resources run out. This will become clear as I answer your other questions.
Meditation offers a variety of benefits. For example, it cultivates greater concentration and calm. But perhaps if too much attention is brought to studying the mental and physical benefits, the profound significance of meditation and practices may not be realized. How do we take the next step to the true wakening of spiritual consciousness?
Before answering the question, it would be fruitful to have a clearer understanding of the term “meditation”. It is derived from the verb “to meditate”, which implies thinking and intellectualizing.
Thinking and intellectualizing are in fact the very factors many schools of meditation, including the one I am most familiar with, advice their practitioners not to be involved in. In other words, if you wish to be successful, during your meditation you should not think and intellectualize!
Then, why is the practice called “meditation”? It is because of over-generalization as a result of mistaken translation due to insufficient understanding.
As “meditation” is a Western term, logically it originated from Western culture, referring to a practice employed by early Christian monks in their spiritual cultivation. It involved four processes, namely reading scriptures, praying to God, pondering over God’s words in the scriptures, and reflecting the Truth.
This morphological background is of much significance. It gives assurance to those persons who mistakenly believe that practicing meditation is against Christian culture, that early Christian monks practiced meditation to reflect on God.
Later, various other practices to reflect on God or on Cosmic Reality spread from the East to the West. Although internally they were different, externally they looked similar. Hence, the term “meditation” was used for all these practices.
It was also discovered that those who practiced meditation regularly had many mundane benefits, like reducing anxiety and improving metabolic processes. Soon scientific research proved that meditation enhanced physiological and psychological functions.
This background information enables us to look at both the question and answer with better insight.
We can better understand that if too much attention is brought to studying the mental and physical benefits, like greater concentration and calm, not only we may miss the profound significance of meditation, but also we may deviate from its original aim.
Indeed, this deviation or degradation has begun and has resulted in adverse effects on many practitioners often without their own knowing. Meditation is a training of mind or spirit, and thus mental and physical benefits like improved psychological and physiological functioning, are its bonus, not its goal.
However, not only many practitioners have neither obtained its goal or bonus despite practicing for many years, but instead they have obtained adverse effects! The first requirement as well as the first benefit of meditation is to be relaxed, yet many meditation practitioners have become more stressful the more they practice! Another tell-tale benefit of successful meditation is to be happy and free, yet many practitioners have become more gloomy and depressed!
Meditation, being a training of mind or spirit, is by itself non-religious. In other words, the same meditation exercise can be beneficially practiced by persons of different religions or of no official religion. Its successful practice will make its practitioners more devoted to their own religion, regardless of what religion it is, or more spiritually uplifted if they do not profess a religion.
Why is this so? Why is it that the religious will become more devoted to their religion, and the non-religious will be more spiritually-uplifted? It is because meditation enhances practitioners’ spirit. As all religions deal directly with the spiritual, the religious practitioners will find the teachings in their own religions come alive, whereas those who do not profess a formal religion will have their spirit enhanced. Hence, they become more caring, more compassionate besides becoming happier and more free.
Notwithstanding this, while we become more aware of the goal of meditation, which is the training of the spirit, it does not mean that we will neglect its more mundane benefits, like great concentration and calm, and better physiological and psychological functioning. These are desirable bonuses.
Why do so many practitioners become stressful and depressed when meditation is meant to make them relaxed and happy as bonuses? It is because they fail to realize that meditation is a cultivation of the spirit. Too much focus on studying the mental and physical benefits, ironically aggravates the problem because it further alienates practitioners from cultivating the spirit.
How does meditation, being a training of the spirit, bring physical, emotional and mental benefits? In other words, how does a meditation practitioner, for example, normalize his high blood pressure, overcome his aggressiveness or reduce his mental confusion by cultivating his spirit?
The real person is his spirit, not his body. It is his spirit that has a body, not his body that has a spirit. His spirit is the same throughout. His body, with its physical, emotional and mental manifestations, is changing all the time. Literally millions of his physical cells are disposed off from his body when he breathes out, and millions of new physical cells are born when he breathes in. He may be calm now, and agitated the next moment. Countless thoughts are going through his mind all the time.
When his spirit is well, it is manifested in a healthy body. If his spirit is sick or weak, it is manifested in his body too – physically, emotionally or mentally. To be well is the norm. It is natural to be healthy. To be sick is not. Hence, there is actually nothing fantastic in overcoming high blood pressure, aggressiveness and mental confusion. It is just restoring normalcy, returning to the natural state.
An important principle in traditional Chinese medicine is that all healing starts from the heart. In Chinese the “heart” includes the emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions. The physical dimension is the body.
I have applied this principle in helping thousands of people overcome so-called incurable diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, cancer, depression, phobia and serious viral infection. I do not have to use formal meditation. I use qigong practice and qigong healing, both of which include meditation.
In the same way, when a person is sick, he does not have to do formal meditation which will take a longer time for him to recover. He should see a doctor. By rectifying the bodily disorder, he can restore his spiritual health.
When a person is healthy – physically, emotionally and mentally – he is in a better position to aim for true awakening of spiritual consciousness.
This was in fact what Bodhidharma, the First Patriarch of the Shaolin arts, did at the Shaolin Monastery in the 6th century. He found the Shaolin monks sick and weak, so he taught them the Eighteen Lohan Hands and Sinew Metamorphosis to make them healthy and strengthen them so that they could better practice meditation to attain Enlightenment.
This is also what we do in our school, Shaolin Wahnam. We practice Shaolin Kungfu, Taijiquan or qigong to be healthy and strong so as to enhance our daily work and play as well as for true awakening of spiritual consciousness.
Awakening of spiritual consciousness has a very extensive range, but may be classified into three broad levels as follows.
At the lowest level, it is nurturing the spirit so as to be healthy in all the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual dimensions.
At the middle level, it is to strengthen the spirit to have mental clarity and internal force to attain peak performance in our work and play.
At the highest level, it is to expand the spirit into the Cosmos so as to attain spiritual joys and freedom, and eventually when we are ready to return to our Original State, called variously as Enlightenment, Returning to God’s Kingdom, Attaining the Tao or Union with the Supreme Reality.
But what should you do to take the first step to the true awakening of spiritual consciousness if you were not with Bodhidharma at the Shaolin Monastery or not learning from us in Shaolin Wahnam?
The first step is right understanding. You should understand what awakening of spiritual consciousness is and how to go about it. The second step is to set your aims and objectives. Then you should spend some time and effort to search for the best available teacher within your resources who can help you attain your aims and objectives. The fourth step, which usually takes the most time, is to respectfully practice according to what you teacher teaches. You should also periodically access your progress with reference to your aims and objectives. If you follow these five steps, you will be able to attain the best benefits in a relatively short time.
As mentioned above, awakening of spiritual consciousness has an extensive range. You should set your aims and objectives according to the level you are currently at, and progress accordingly.
If you, like many people today, are stressful, you should first nurture you spirit so that you can be physically and mentally relaxed. If, for example, you are still not satisfied with your work or family life, you should first develop mental clarity and internal force to improve your work and family life.
If you plunge straight to the most advanced level and hope to be enlightened over a summer vacation in an exotic land, not only this is unreasonable and unrealistic, but also you may aggravate your personal, work or family problems instead of enriching your life and the life of other people as spiritual cultivation is meant to be.
The above extract is reproduced from “Your True Nature: Wisdom of Living Masters” by Natalie Deane and Damian Lafont.
In the West, we spend our lives rushing around and looking outside, not within. Everything favours what the Buddhist call the “monkey mind.” How do we best break the cycle of stimulation and attraction to the outside world and turn our attention inward?
This is a problem not only with people in the West but with people all over the world who have been exposed to Westernization, which actually means most people living in our modern world.
It is important to note that this does not mean Westernization is harmful. Indeed, Westernization has brought incredible and unprecedented benefits to us. Without Westernization we would be unable to access information from the internet, view events of the world live over television, talk to friends across the globe over telephone, or even enjoy daily facilities we take for granted like tap water and electricity.
Westernization has made our world a golden age, against which the golden age of the Han Dynasty in China or of the Maurya Empire of India pales in comparison. We have to thank the West for all these benefits.
One prominent feature of Westernization is the worship of the intellect. Intellectuals are respected. It becomes desirable, even fashionable, to intellectualize. It becomes habitual for many people to intellectualize without their conscious knowing, and often without control and purpose.
Let us take an example of a person walking down a path in a park. When he sees some trees he starts his chain of thoughts as follows.
Ah, the trees are beautiful. The leaves are full and green, and flowers are in blossom. The last time I was here there were no flowers. No, not even leaves. It was winter. Pretty cold. But I had my warm clothing. Where did I buy that heavy overcoat? Was it in Paris where I brought the family for a holiday? No, not in Paris. It was a lovely holiday. Must start to plan another one. This time we should go somewhere else. Perhaps to the East. Or may be to Australia. Is Australia in the East? Hei, wait a minute, what am I doing here in the park? Ah yes, I am supposed to go through the park to the subway.
You may not have the same thoughts when walking through a park or going about your daily activities, but if you are like most people, you would have a chain of thoughts, often without your control and without purpose.
This involuntary habit of having uncontrollable, purposeless thoughts going in your head, regardless of whether you are rushing about looking outside or sitting quietly looking within, is not a result of Westernization, though its feature of worshipping the intellect may have aggravated it. Long before Westernization, the Buddha taught his followers to tame the “monkey mind”, and Chinese masters talked about the “mind like monkeys and intentions like horses”.
Before examining methods to break this cycle of stimulation and attraction, let us ask why we do it. It is wise to ask before embarking to pursue the methods. Literally millions of practitioners all over the world have wasted a lot of time, in matter of years, because they never asked this important question before they pursued meditation, qigong, internal kungfu or any course of spiritual cultivation and mind-body awareness.
We can even do better by going back further by asking why the Buddha taught his followers to tame their “monkey mind”, and why Chinese masters talked about the mind being monkeys and intentions being horses.
The Buddha taught his followers to tame the “monkey mind” so as to achieve the highest and most supreme attainment any being can ever attain, called Nirvanna or Enlightenment in Buddhist terms, or returning to God the Holy Spirit, attaining the Tao, union with the Supreme by people of different linguistic, cultural and religions background. It is the same most supreme achievement.
Why is taming a mind full of wandering thoughts necessary for this supreme achievement? It is because in Enlightenment, there are no thoughts. Once there is a thought, it would start the chain of processes to transform the transcendental Cosmic Reality to the phenomenal world.
In Christian terms, the transcendental Cosmic Reality is referred to as God the Holy Spirit, where there is nothing else but God. If there is something else, such as thought, the transcendental will be transformed into the phenomenal.
Interestingly, the latest science is saying the same Truth. Transcendental Cosmic Reality is an undifferentiated spread of energy or consciousness. It is mind, which creates thoughts, that transforms the transcendental into the phenomenal.
The word “phenomenal” means “of appearances”. Our phenomenal world appears to us the way we conceptualize it. For example, an electron, which makes up everything in the phenomenal world, will turn out to be a particle no matter how it is tested if the scientist testing it conceptualizes it as a particle; it will turn out to be a wave if he conceptualizes it as a wave.
The Chinese masters were saying the same thing, i.e. the mind is full of wandering thoughts, when they said that the mind was like monkeys and intentions like horses. Different masters might have different goals in taming these monkeys and horses, but all of them can be divided into two main categories, namely the supra-mundane and the mundane.
At the supra-mundane level, the supreme aim, like what the Buddha taught, was to attain transcendental Cosmic Reality, called by the Chinese as attaining the Tao or attaining Buddhahood.
At the mundane level, the primary aim was to attain a very high level of mindfulness so as to have better results in whatever they did. For these masters, the more immediate purposes lied in the scholarly arts and the martial arts, ie. to be better scholars or better warriors.
Understanding this legacy passed on to us by the Buddha and past masters, we are better set to find out the benefits and the methods of breaking the cycle of stimulation and attraction to the outside world.
If you are prone to uncontrollable, countless thoughts wandering in your mind, you become very stressful.
It will also sap off a lot of your energy, making you mentally tired.
The countless thoughts will distract you from focusing on any topic. You are mentally confused. Hence, your ability to think clearly will be much affected.
If you can control or eliminate these unwanted thoughts, not only you will overcome the above weaknesses, but also you will have their corresponding benefits.
Thus, you will be mentally relaxed, instead of being stressful. You will be mentally strong and fresh, instead of being worn-out and mentally tired.
You will have mental clarity and focus, instead of being mentally confused and distracted.
All these will enable you to do better no matter what you do. Take a minute to reflect on this. If you can clear the monkeys and horses from your mind, you will do better no matter what you do. When you eat your breakfast, you will enjoy better. When you read a book, you can comprehend better. When you present a proposal to your board of directors, you can achieve your objectives better.
There are many methods to tame the “monkey mind”, from which you can choose the best for your needs. But all these methods employ just one of two approaches, namely to reduce the mind to one, or expand the mind to zero.
An effective method is to use a qigong exercise called “Lifting the Sky”. If you do not know “Lifting the Sky”, you may use any dynamic (not static) qigong exercise, or any gentle physical exercise.
As you perform the exercise with its appropriate breathing, gently be aware of your breathing. When you breathe in, just be gently aware of your breathing in. When you breathe out, just be gently aware of your breathing out.
If you are not familiar with its breathing procedure, or if regulating the breath is not necessary in the exercise, then just be gently away of your movement. When you lift your hand, for example, be gently aware that you are lifting your hand. When you lower it, be gently aware that you are lowering it.
You may use the same approach, i.e. reducing the mind to one, sitting in a lotus or semi-lotus position, or simply sitting comfortably on a chair. Gently focus your mind on an object, which may be real or imaginary, inside or outside you.
For example, you may gently focus on your abdominal energy field inside your abdomen, or on an imaginary flower. Or you may place a real flower in front of you and gently focus on it.
Instead of focusing on an object, you may repeatedly recite, without thinking of its meaning, a mantra, a phrase from your scripture or any series of sounds. Or you may mentally count from 1 to 10 and keep repeating the process.
For example, you may repeatedly recite “a mi tor for” (which is the Chinese pronunciation for Amitabha Buddha) or “the quick, brown fox jumps over a lazy dog” (which some of you used when you learned how to type).
The underlying principle of this reducing-to-one approach is to gently focus your mind on one thought to keep out all other thoughts.
The other approach, expanding the mind to zero, is more simple and direct, but is usually more difficult for most people.
You can adopt any comfortable position. Standing upright and be relaxed, or sitting in a lotus or semi-lotus position is excellent for formal practice. Then just keep your mind free from any thoughts. As soon as a thought comes into your mind, gently throw it out without fuss and without question.
Many people are in the habit of saying they can’t do it. What they actually mean is that they are too lazy to give it a try.
It is simpler not to think of anything than to think of anything. You just don’t do it. If you are in the unconscious habit of having countless wandering thoughts in your mind, this may not be easy, though it is simple, but it certainly can be done.
Suppose you are at one side of a busy street. Which is simpler, to cross the street or not to cross the street? You are at the bottom of a talk tree. Which is simpler, to climb the tree or not to climb? Of course, not to cross or climb is simpler, and in these two cases it is also easier, than to cross or climb. Not to do anything is simpler than to do anything.
It is the same with thinking. Not to think is simpler than to think.
It is also important to explain further this skill of not thinking. Some people have the mis-conception that if they don’t think, they may become a moron! This is certainly not true, and may be due to the influence of the worship of the intellect in Western culture.
Not to think is categorically different from the inability to think. Here, one chooses not to think, not that he is unable to think. In fact, when he has this skill of not thinking by choice, when he wants to think, he can think more efficiently.
When a person is troubled by many thoughts, he is mentally confused. When he clears his mind of all thought, he attains mental clarity. Definitely a person with mental clarity thinks more efficiently than one with mental confusion.
Similarly, when we have the skill of clearing our mind of all thoughts, i.e breaking the cycle of stimulation and attraction to the outside world and turning our attention inward, it does not mean that we would ignore the outside world, or regard the inside world as more important than the outside. In Zen terms, we should not be dualistic, thinking that if one side is black the other side must be white.
If your wife or girlfriend has dressed up beautifully for you, for example, it is for your interest and hers, that you should pay attention to the outside world. You should not turn inside, and say, “No, no beautiful woman. I must clear her from my mind!”
The wonderful skills of attaining a one-pointed mind or of expanding into the Great Void, like all other skills, must always be used for good – for your own good as well as the good of other people.
The above extract is reproduced from “Your True Nature: Wisdom of Living Masters” by Natalie Deane and Damian Lafont.
Reproduced from http://shaolin.org/comments-2/angeline.html
In December 2014 Sifu Anthony Korahais resigned from Shaolin Wahnam, denounced Grandmaster Wong Kiew Kit as his teacher, and explained his action in a post, Why I Left Sifu Wong After 17 Years. (The post has since been removed by Sifu Anthony Korahais.) The post drew many comments. Below is one from a courageous victim, Angeline.
Predator and Prey
What does it mean to be a victim? We want to side with the victim, to rally on their behalf, to listen to their story and offer support and understanding. Perhaps we want to do something to right the wrongs in the world. But this is a very complex issue.
I have been a victim, I am a survivor. I have spoken out. I have been angry, and wanted those inflicting pain and suffering on others to be persecuted. There are many types of sexual abuse. It sounds to me that the predator in this situation used manipulation tactics on a physiological/spirit level. As an adult I have fallen prey to manipulation on the psychological level. I have been coerced, and felt deep regret. Powers of manipulation can be dark, confusing, and subversive. I would also add vile.
I have done a lot to work on my own inner healing. I was only four when I was first abused. I later worked as an artist and did my graduating work based on women who suffered from sexual abuse. I interviewed women and read many books. But there is a danger taking on someone’s battle, defending and listening to personal issues of sexual abuse. I have wanted to protect with righteous indignation. I have also wanted to understand.
Exploring my sexuality as a woman has been difficult, messy, mistakes have been made, I have gone down some wrong roads. It’s a place of extreme vulnerability and exploration. I have fallen prey – it was a learning journey. Unfortunately, I had to endure being hurt to learn some lessons. I also understand that even if a sexual act is consensual does not necessarily mean it won’t hurt someone.
But even accepting the previous statement I would be careful when using the word rape. And rape by definition is: “unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by a sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim.” Consent being a key word here. And this territory is not always clear.
I have wondered about myself as a child, why was I singled out? And later why have I been targeted, as an adult? Also, how can I find some silver lining in this? Having been a victim I have great compassion, empathy, sensitivity and sometimes understanding. I try to form my own opinions and am very careful in sharing information. I am not out to sway opinion or even receive support. It is my process and can be at times painful.
People siding with me or even speaking out loud on my behalf have not been helpful on my spiritual healing journey. Pointing fingers and feeling anger and vengeance are extremely unhelpful.
The journey is not easy, but for me I eventually had to do it alone. I had to pass through and not be the victim; I also had to pass through depression. Psychotherapy, medication, reading, talking, making art did not guide or help me, though perhaps a little.
My guide was internal, and I had to trust and be honest with myself. I had to observe, listen, trust with ‘eyes open’ and Chi Kung is what helped me the most in this personal process of healing and ‘letting go’. I also had to make a leap of faith. I had to be open to the wondrous beauty of our world.
I would have no defence if I was attacked and brutally raped (though if I practiced Kung Fu I might). But I do have the defence and ability to see psychological forms of manipulation. I have an important internal gauge that steers me away from manipulative, destructive, subversive forces.
I also practice being a good person. I try to be open and truthful to myself, and trust my intuitive side (which was not an easy process at first). When I encountered someone who I discovered was cruel and abusive I reacted with wanting them to suffer and be hurt (justified by my internal struggle), it turned around and made things worse for me on a deeper level. And these were only thoughts. Though the road has its difficulties Sifu’s teachings and my Chi Kung practice helped me heal and move on and lead a happy life.
I try to be honest with myself. Therefore I am very careful who and how I tell anyone about my path. Getting people behind me to rally for me has not been helpful, maybe in the short term. But actually I found it quite damaging. I think if the abused women feel strongly wronged they need to bring it to police/court.
I understand that predators are not always found guilty and the court system not necessarily just and the process painful, the boundaries at times vague. But it brings information in the open. Or perhaps open/honest statements by the abused, sent privately or publicly. Does it leave you open, even to attack? Yes. But honesty and truth will prevail. It cannot be someone else’s narrative of events.
The path is difficult whether you speak or do not speak. Ultimately it can be a difficult road, and there is no avoiding it, but how you approach it and with what kind of heart (open /closed) is very important.
As I said before I have taken on women’s feelings, sentiments and battles and fought for them, for me and alongside. This has not been helpful to my psyche. The fight might have looked like I was defending someone, fighting for them against injustices, but it was also damaging and made me sick.
We all have a path with hurdles, blockages and deep psychological roles. Doing good and avoiding evil is the right path.
I met someone on a course once who was elderly and severely ill. People were very respectful and helping him in many ways. During the course Sifu spoke directly to him in harsh and loud tones. It struck me as odd and a different approach to healing. I later approached the student about it and found out he was hard of hearing and did not experience the same situation as loud and harsh. Perhaps Sifu needed to use a different energetic approach with this student.
I also had a strange revelation after, where I understood that the student’s ailment was self created. It was a strange moment in the path of compassion. Oddly, I still feel for this person but not in the same way. I am also very careful not to take on someone’s personal/emotional life.
Sifu’s role is not to judge and persecute. He is not condoning abuse. He is acting compassionately. Sifu’s approach can be confusing and very different. But he is working on a different energetic level.
Someone taking my side and battling for me is not helpful in the long run for me or them. Both predator and prey have blockages, and both need to grow and overcome. It is Sifu’s job to help both, as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Anthony, getting people to back you, rally in your support, take on you your perspective, side with you will also not help you down the line, nor the abused women. You are misleading, even thou you and your supporters feel you are taking the moral high ground and trying to put an end to wrong doings and bring a predator out in the open. I don’t think you are guiding appropriately.
Also, someone acting as martyr “one who makes a great show of suffering in order to arouse sympathy”, makes me immediately wary. Ultimately there are so many facets of manipulation. I have never felt any level of manipulation from Sifu as a student. Because if I did I would never be his student.
Sifu has the capacity to help those affected to heal, recover, lead a happy life and experience spiritual joy in an amazing short period of time. And yet you steer people away from him. This saddens me deeply. For I do not believe you have this ability.
December 20, 2014