Chi kung can be practiced by people of different religions or of no religion
However, I am a Christian and believe one should develop mind, body and soul to be a better person. Whereas, it seems chi kung and meditation divert more into Buddhism. Do you think I could still learn and practice chi kung and meditation and benefit from them without mixing both religions?
— Alex, Malaysia
Definitely you can learn and practice chi kung and meditation and benefit from them without mixing Christianity and Buddhism. Many people did, have done, are doing, and will do that. Many Shaolin and Taijiquan masters expert in chi kung and meditation were, and are, pious Christians.
Due to history and culture, some people mistakenly think that chi kung and meditation are Buddhist or Taoist practices. Similarly some people in remote parts of Asia mistakenly think that all those who speak English are Christians! As many of their early practitioners were Buddhists or Taoists — just as many of the early Christians who came to Asia were English speaking — it was easy to make the mistaken connotation.
Actually chi kung and meditation were practiced by the early Christian Fathers in classical Europe, although they did not call the practices “chi kung” and “meditation”. Faith heeling by Christian priests, which was a major form of medical treatment in Europe during the Middle Ages was a form of chi kung. Reflection on God, which was a major part of training of Christian monks, was a form of meditation.
Chi kung and meditation are non-religious. People of any religion or no official religion can practice and benefit from them without distracting from their religion. On the contrary, many people have become more pious in their own religion after practicing chi kung or meditation because their practice confirms for them by direct experience the validity of some of their beliefs. For example, in deep moments of Standing Meditation in my Intensive Chi Kung Course when they personally experienced tremendous joy as they felt their spirit expanding, many participants suddenly realized the beauty and majesty of God.
The above is taken from Question 7 of May 2003 Part 1 of the Selection of Questions and Answers.
A combat application from the Triple Stretch kungfu set
With the help of Sam Tuck, Luk Ah Choy, Fong Sai Yuk and Wu Wei Thien from Guangzhou, Hoong Hei Khoon set up a kungfu school at Foshan, which was a big city some distance from the province capital at Guangzhou. Hoong Hei Khoon named his school “Siu Lam Hoong Koon” or “Shaolin Hoong Kungfu School”.
Soon it was New Year day. Many kungfu schools celebrated the New Year festive session with lion dance. Amongst the famous lion dance teams were from Chan Kungfu School, Leong Kungfu School, Li Kungfu School and Lu Kungfu School.
A wealthy shop, called Toi Woh Hong, hung up a “green” (i.e. vegetable with a red packet containing money) tens of feet in the sky for the lions to gather. Attached to the “green” was a banner clearly stating that gathering the “green” depended on the personal kungfu skill of the head and the tail lion dancers, and other people were not permitted to help.
The first lion team that saw the “green” was from Lu Kungfu School. The master and students of the Lu Kungfu School found the “green” too high, so they just passed it. Then came the lion teams from Leong Kungfu School and Li Kungfu School. The kungfu masters and students had a look at the “green”, and then walked away.
The lion team from Chan Kungfu School soon followed. The kungfu master and his students discussed how they could gather the “green”. Some students suggested using human formation, called Lohan formation, which was forming different tiers of people one on top of the other. Their sifu mentioned that this was not permitted as stated in the banner. As they could not find a good solution, they also passed the “green” without gathering it.
The last to arrive was the lion team from Hoong Kungfu School. Some students reported to Hoong Hei Khoon that the “green” was very high, but human formation, which was a usual way to gather high “green”, was not allowed. They also suggested that the lion would by pass the “green”.
Hoong Hei Khoon exclaimed, “We should not by pass the ‘green’, which would show that we lack ability.”
“But how would we gather the green if human formations are not allowed?” declared some students.
“I’ll show you,” Hoong Hei Khoon answered. He took over the lion head, and a senior student took the tail. The lion dance music, which comprised a gigantic drum, a massive gong and some pairs of copper cymbals, sounded majestically.
The lion danced magnificently beneath the “green”, with the lion music creating a joyful din. After some time, Hoong Hei Khoon opened the mouth of the lion and sent out a flying dart, which neatly cut the thread tying the “green”, causing it fall into the lion mouth. All those present applauded loudly and noisily.
The news soon reached lion dancers of the Chan Kungfu School. They became jealous, and came back to scold the lion dancers of the Hoong Kungfu School that they had no manners. This caused members of both lion dance teams shouted at each other and some of them exchanged blows.
Hoong Hei Khoon shouted at his students to stop, and then asked lion dancers of the Chan Kungfu School in a polite way, “In what ways we have no manners?”
The master of the Chan Kungfu School was called Chan Tiet Ngow. He was good at kungfu and had much strength, but was arrogant and irrational.
He pointed at Hoong Hei Khoon and shouted, “How dare you ask in what way you have no manners! In your eyes, do you see our Chan Kungfu School? There were reasons why we did not gather the ‘green’ from Toi Woh Hong. The owner thinks that because he is rich, he can buy us. It is not because we lack the skill to gather the ‘green’. As you are also martial artists, you should know even though it is not explicitly explained.”
Hoong Hei Khoon replied, “That’s wrong. Gathering ‘green’ is a form of entertainment. Everyone can gather the ‘green’. If you do not want to gather it, others may want. Without any purpose, you open your mouth and use angry words to hurt others. “
Chan Tiet Ngow did not answer. He went forward and thrust a punch at Hoong Hei Khoon.
Hoong Hei Khoon retreated a small step to avoid the punch. He did not counter. He did not want to change this small matter into a big matter.
But Chan Tiet Ngow did not appreciate it. He moved forward again and hung a buffalo-horn fist at Hoong Hei Khoon’s temple. Hoong Hei Khoon gently brushed off this attack with a thread-hand, using a pattern called “Golden Dragon Plays with Water”. The two masters then exchanged a number of movements.
Chan Tiet Ngow employed a sideway low horse-riding stance and executed a right thrust punch at Hoong Hei Khoon’s abdomen. Hoong Hei Khoon withdrew his front leg into a left lift-leg stance and employed the pattern “Lohan Plays with Tiger”, thrusting his left fist into Chan Tiet Ngow’s ribs, while his left punching arm brushed away Chan Tiet Ngow’s thrust punch. Chan Tiet Ngow could not avoid, and was hit on the ribs.
Instantly, Hoong Hei Khoon pushed away Chan Tiet Ngow’s right hand, and simultaneously hung a left fist on the opponent’s face, and kicked at the opponent’s groin with his right foot, in a pattern called “Rising Dragon Galloping Tiger”. But out of compassion, Hoong Hei Khoon kicked at the opponent’s abdomen instead of the groin. This combat sequence was from the kungfu set called Triple Stretch, which was a specialty of Hoong Hei Khoon.
Hoong Hei Khoon could have broken Chan Tiet Ngow’s bones, smashed his groin, and caused the opponent serious injury or even death. But he did not want to enlarge what to him was a small matter. He just wanted to put Chan Tiet Ngow out of action for some time. Chan Tiet Ngow’s students ran forward and carried their sifu away.
After this incident Hoong Hei Khoon became famous in Foshan. He was also known to be kindhearted. Later he was regarded as the First Patriarch of Southern Shaolin Kungfu, often called Hoong Family Kungfu, in the world.
When Hoong Hei Khoon reached Guangzhou, he went to meet his siheng, the Venerable Sam Tuck, the abbot of West Zen Monastery. At that time, his sidai, Luk Ah Choy, was there.
(“Siheng” referred to a senior kungfu brother, and “sidai” referred to a junior kungfu brother.)
While Sam Tuck, Hoong Hei Khoon and Luk Ah Choy were talking about the good old days, a monk ran in and told Sam Tuck that a group of people were chopping down trees in front of the temple.
The Venerable Sam Tuck told his two sidai, “In front of West Zen Temple, there is a forest of birch trees. They were planted by our ancestors. It looks that today I have to move my limbs (i.e. take action).“
They saw that between twenty and thirty people were chopping down huge birch trees. A few trees were then falling down with a loud noice.
“Anyone who dares to chop trees in my temple must stop!” Sam Tuck shouted. Otherwise, don’t say that monks are not compassionate!”
Those chopping trees stopped their action. They saw that Sam Tuck was the abbot of the temple, and his hand was holding a staff. Behind him stood two persons who were empty handed.
The leader of the group of people chopping trees was called Li Kang. He thought that the monk should get more people if he wanted to stop them felling trees. There were only three of them, with the monk holding a staff. There were more than twenty people chopping trees, and all were holding axes. Wasn’t it moths charging at fire (i.e. were the monk and his two companions committing suicide)?
Not only he did not run away, he went forward a few steps, and said, “These trees grew up naturally. There are no owners. Everyone can chop them down. You say that these trees belong to West Zen Temple. But around here for tens of miles, there are no less than a million birch trees. You can point out each tree to me, telling me what year, what month and what day it was planted. If you can do so, we shall move away. If you cannot do so, we shall continue our chopping.”
The other people laughed out loudly.
“You have forcefully used words to abuse reason. This shows that you all are not good persons. Right, you can chop the trees, but you must ask my companion.”
Li Kang thought that his companions were the two persons, Hoong Hei Khoon and Luk Ah Choy, behind Sam Tuck. So he said, “You ask them yourself. We just watch.”
Sam Tuck held up his staff and exclaimed, “My companion is here. You all can ask it.”
Li Kang was furious. He waved his axe, and asserted, “This monk has no manners. Today let us show him our terror!”
Saying this, he led the group with axes in their hands to attack Sam Tuck.
Sam Tuck just smiled. He told Hoong Hei Khoon and Luk Ah Choy, “This group of robbers’ hair. I alone will be sufficient to handle them. Please just watch and do not help me.
Thus with staff in hand, Sam Tuck rushed into the crowd. Left strikes and right hits, like a tiger entering into a herd of sheep. He knew very well that to catch the thieves, he must first catch the chief. So, without more words, he struck a hard hit onto the shoulder of Li Kang.
Li Kang sustained a hard hit. He cried loudly and ran. Others seeing Li Kang running away, dropped their axes and ran like mice.
Sam Tuck smiled and commented, “A group of crows!” Then he spoke to Hoong Hei Khoon and Luk Ah Choy, “A person who has left his family (i.e. a monk), moves his hands and moves his legs (i.e. performs unnecessary action), has gone against pure rules (i.e. temple rules). This will cause much laughter.”
Hoong Hei Khoon and Luk Ah Choy quickly replied, “We dare not laugh!”
Sung Chan opened the packet to see what was inside the small gift. It was just a small piece of cloth. Sung Chan was baffled. What had this small piece of cloth to do with Hoong Hei Khoon? Suddenly he realized that the color of the cloth and the dress he was wearing was the same.
He dispersed his students and went into his room. He took off his trousers to examine. He was shocked, and his face was pale. There was a small hole in his trousers near the buttock which exactly fit the small piece of cloth in the gift. He realized that when he kicked Hoong Hei Khoon as they left the school, Hoong Hei Khoon’s response was so fast that he did not realize. If Hoong Hei Khoon were less compassionate, he would have died. He knew that Hoong Hei Khoon was far superior to him in kungfu.
Quickly Sung Chan ran to Three-Spring Hotel and knelt before the room where Hoong Hei Khoon stayed. He cried, “This little person should be dead. Sifu Hoong please forgive me!”
Hoong Hei Khoon came out of his hotel room and lifted up Sung Chan.
Sung Chan explained, “My kick was fast and powerful. I dare not say that it is unparallel in the world, but not many people can even notice it. Now, while I kicked, Sifu Hoong reversed his hand and made a hole in my trousers. I didn’t even realize it. “
“When I treated you son, I heard that your art of kicking was very deep. Today, when I arrived at your school, I perceived that the atmosphere was different. So I paid particular attention to your movements. When you kicked me, I just reversed my hand and responded.”
Sung Chan came up from his seat and knelt down again. He said, “Sifu Hoong ‘s kungfu is really very high. I am without talents. I wondered whether Sifu agrees to accept me as a student.”
Hoong Hei Khoon helped Sung Chan to get up, and replied, “You must not speak like this. If other people know about it, your livelihood will be affected. You and I are different. I am alone, without any care and without any worry. But you have a family, with a wife and children. Your family depends on you. Today we have the karma (i.e. cause and effect) to meet. We are friends. It is not necessary to have a teacher-student relationship.”
Sung Chan was very touched. Then he said, “If Sifu Hoong intends to stay on, you can move to my house. Firstly, you don’t have to be alone to stay in a hotel. Secondly, I can often seek your advice.”
“Thank you for your kindness. I have been away from my home village for almost twenty years. To return to have a look is already more than what I’ve asked for. I have decided to leave tomorrow to go to Guangzhou.”
“Is there anything that make you leave tomorrow?” asked Sung Chan.
“I heard that my sidai (i.e. junior kungfu brothers), Luk Ah Choy and Wu Wei Thein, are in Guangzhou. I want to meet them and also my siheng (i.e. senior kungfu brother) at the West Zen Temple.
Taoist priests, picture taken from Thinklink Oy (FI) on the internet
Black Bone Cheong’s father, Sung Chan, was anxious for his son. But he could not cure him despite being a kungfu master treating injuries. When he heard from his wife that she had invited Hoong Hei Khoon to treat their son, he doubted that Hoong Hei Khoon could do anything. So he did even bother to have a look at them.
However when he heard that his son had recovered completely, he was very surprised. However, if Hoong Hei Khoon were to spread the news, he felt that his future livelihood would be threatened. So he decided to eliminate Hoong Hei Khoon.
He invited Hoong Hei Khoon to his martial school. When Hoong Hei Khoon entered the school, he was surprised. He found a large group of people in martial dress, all ready to have a deadly fight.
Sung Chan gave a greeting and said, “My son suffered a serious problem, if not for sifu’s help his soul would have visited the underworld. I am very grateful, and just regret that we meet rather late.”
“Sifu Sung is well known in the Flower District. For a few hundred miles your big name is on the top. It is an honour to meet you.”
“You need not be courteous,” said Song Chan. “Your theit-ta (i.e. medical treatment for injuries due to falling or being hit) comes from Shaolin. I suppose that before learning theit-ta, you must have practiced kungfu. Your kungfu must be from Shaolin too.”
“I was lucky to learn from the Venerable Chee Seen of Shaolin.”
“I have a question, and wish Sifu Hoong would enlighten me. Although I have entered martial forests (i.e. martial circles) for many years, I am slow and could not find the answer. What is the essence of combat?”
“In front of Sifu Sung, how dare little brother here exercise an axe in front of Pan’s house (i.e. be arrogant by showing my little knowledge. Lu Pan was regarded as the father of furniture making, and he used an axe making furniture.)
Sung Chan pleaded again and again. So Hoong Hei Khoon explained.
“According to little brother, the most important factor in combat is life and death. If a combatant cannot overcome this hurdle of life and death, he will be troubled by many worries. Even when his kungfu is good, he can be defeated by his opponent.
Of course, it is not easy to overcome this hurdle. Some people go into a deep mountain to learn kungfu, hoping to find a solution from the philosophy of Zen, so that at times of life and death, when myriad thoughts arise, he can leave aside everything and does not have a single thought. When the hurdle of life and death is overcome, his heart spontaneously becomes clear and wide, without a single thought. Then, even when he is faced with a million armies, he is not afraid.”
“Well said, well said,” replied Sung Chan. “I’ve benefited deeply.
They then talked about other things. Suddenly, Sung Chan asked, “According to the way of combat, from ancient till now, people of the world mention monks, priests and nuns. I wonder whether Sifu Hoong can comment on one or two things regarding this?”
“To go back would be lengthy,” replied Hoong Hei Khoon. “Since the Shaolin First Patriarch, Bodhidharma, invented Eighteen Lohan Hands, many people learned it. They regarded it as the main school of martial art (as distinct from deviated schools). Those from the house of the Buddha (i.e. the Buddhist system) regarded it as a top treasure. Added to research, the Eighteen Lohan Hands spread profusely and many ultimate arts developed from the house of the Buddha.
“Regarding monks, priests and nuns, they either stay in houses of emptiness (i.e. places of spiritual cultivation, like temples) or they wander like clouds in four directions (i.e. wandered everywhere, especially in natural surroundings). Their heart is focused on one. They have no longings, and no worries, their heart is bright and their spirit full, easy to attain the marvelous.
“Thus, when we read legends and discuss tradition, and listen to the transmissions of people, those who have ultimate arts, and bequest their names to prosperity, are mostly monks, priests and nuns. There may be secular disciples who attain similar achievements, but many of them were nurtured inside Zen houses (i.e. monasteries or temples for spiritual cultivation), and then established their own schools.
“Eventually they came from the house of the Buddha. Now, when people of the world talk about martial art, they frequently mention these three families (i.e. monks, priests and nuns). I believe these are the reasons.”
The two of them discussed a lot of topics, but never about crossing hands (i.e their own combat). Those people surrounding them were astonished. The main purpose of Sung Chan tempting Hoong Hei Khoon to the kungfu school was to give Hoong Hei Khoon some severe harm, but now they didn’t move their hands (i.e. didn’t act), but the two only talked and talked.
Some people showed eye-signs to Sung Chan, but he didn’t act. He continued talking courteously. The others were anxious. Some of them stepped their legs. Some of them coughed. Hoong Hei Khoon observed them. He was concerned that a deadly fight might occur. So he asked for leave, and Sung Chan escorted the guest to the door.
When Sung Chan returned to the group, they asked, “Sifu, you have tempted Hoong Hei Khoon to come, why didn’t you act but sent him away.”
Sung Chan replied with a smile. “The thinking of your heart, how can I not know? If we do not know his depth or shallowness, but just move our hands (i.e. act according to our plan), it may be disadvantageous. So, first I used words to test his kungfu. Moreover, we actually have matched!”
Everyone was startled. “Sifu just talked with him, but did not attack.”
“You are still not deep in your experience, so you may not realize it. Just now, while sending him off, he was in front and I was behind. I executed a kick from behind, yet he did not even realize it. Now you can know the extent of his kungfu. You can now go after him, without me doing the attack.”
The students of Sung Chan took their weapons and rushed out of the school after Hoong Hei Khoon. Just as they were outside, a small boy ran forward and passed something to Sung Chan.
The small boy said, “Sifu Hoong thanks Sifu Sung for his hospitality. Sifu Hoong asks me to hand this little gift to Sifu Sung.”
Hoong Hei Khoon, one of the best disciples of the Venerable Chee Seen, was from Fa Yun, or the Flower District, of Guangdong Province. When he was small, he lost his parents. The Venerable Chee Seen found him on the street, and took him back to the Shaolin Monastery.
One day he returned to the Flower District. After many years at the Shaolin Monastery, he found that the Flower District had become prosperous. But when he realized that he had no relations in the district, and not even a place to rest his feet, sadness rose to his heart.
He entered a restaurant to quench his sadness with wine. But there was a saying that:
Lifting a blade to cut water, water continues to flow.
Lifting a glass to drink wine, sadness grows.
He checked his money, and found that it was not much left. So he had a plan to sell medicated pills to overcome injuries due to falling and being hit.
There were a lot of people seeing him perform kungfu as a prelude to selling medicated pills, but when he started to sell, not a single customer bought his pills. Disappointed he was about to pack up to leave, when a woman came forward.
“Sifu,” the woman asked, “can the medicated pills overcome any injury?”
“No,” Hoong Hei Khoon replied honestly, “if the injury is severe, the injured person must consult a master for personal medication.”
“Are you an expert in this kind of medication?”
“I don’t dare to call myself an expert, but I know a thing or two.”
“My son is injured, and his pain is terrible. I wonder whether sifu can have a look at him?”
This woman. Madame Li, was the mother of Black Bone Cheong. Hoong Hei Khoon followed the woman to her house, and she led him straight to her son. Hoong Hei Khoon found Black Bone Cheong was seriously injured and was semi-unconscious, his face pale like death, and he could not even speak. Hoong Hei Khoon gently slapped on an energy point to open it, and clear the energy blockage. Then he prescribed some medicine for Black Bone Cheong to take.
After half a unit of Chinese time (which was an hour), Black Bone Cheong slowly opened his eyes and began to speak softly. He complained of pain.
Madame Li was very happy. She told Hoong Hei Khoon, “Sifu’s hand is marvelous like the return of spring (i.e. very good in medicine). My son was semi-unconscious for two days. Now he can cry pain. I think his injury is reduced. I beseech sifu to stay in my humble house for a few days until my son recovers. I wonder if sifu can agree.”
Hoong Hei Khoon found that the patient was seriously injured. He also wanted to know the cause of his injury. So he agreed.
After taking some medication, Black Bone Cheong slept until evening. When he awoke, he said he was very hungry. Madame Li fed him some broth.
Hoong Hei Khoon asked, “Elder Brother Sung, how were you injured?”
Black Bone Cheong did not want to tell the truth, as it might damage his father’s reputation. So he said, “I was careless. I was accidentally hit by a pole.”
Hoong Hei Khoon said, “At one look I knew that your injury was due to dim-mark (i.e. dotting energy points) in combat. Now the pain is under control, but dead blood is still clogged in the injury. If the injury worsens, it may affect your heart. You haven’t overcome your danger-point yet. If you say that you were hit by a pole, I would treat your injury according to being hit by a pole. You have to think carefully.”
Black Bone Cheong replied, “I have no choice, I have to tell the truth. But sifu promise not to say it out, or else my father’s reputation will be damaged.”
“Right. I promise not to say it out. Quickly tell me the truth.”
Black Bone Cheong told Hoong Hei Khoon everything about his combat in kicking the foundation (i.e. challenging the kungfu master to beat him so that his kungfu school would be close).
Hoong Hei Khoon shook his head and said, “You haven’t entered the world deeply (i.e. you are still inexperienced), how can you imagine yourself to be grandiose? Your injury is due to your pompous behavior.
“Those who have marvelous arts do not want to fight. You just entered the martial forests (i.e. martial circles), and you have become vain. Old Mok Six is compassionate, and lets mercy flows from his hands. Otherwise, even with the art of returning to heaven (i.e. super medical practice), it is insufficient to save you!”
Black Bone Cheong was frightened to the core. He asked, “What techniques does he use. These techniques are so terrible.”
“He used the techniques of dotting energy points.”
“What is this type of kungfu? I haven’t heard of it before.”
Hoong Hei Khoon explained patiently, “This art of dotting energy points (called dim-mark in kungfu terminology) is said to be invented in the Ming Dynasty by Zhang San Feng.”
(Zhang San Feng was reputed to live for over 200 years. He was born in the late Song Dynasty, and extended to the subsequence Ming Dynasty. In Cantonese pronunciation, “Zhang San Feng” was “Cheong Sam Foong”.)
“Later the Taoist priest, Foong Yit Yun, succeeded him, and transmitted the art to the great kungfu knight, Cheong Chun Yit. In the hands of Cheong Chun Yit, the art spread gloriously. From 36 techniques it became 72 techniques. Among the energy points, there were numb points, dumb points, faint points, death points, light points and heavy points.
“Concerning techniques, there were dotting with fingers, slapping with palms, striking with knees, hitting with elbows, using staffs and maces, and secret weapons, without any limitation. Later, Cheong Chun Yit transmitted the art to his special disciple, Wang Feng. Wang Feng further developed the techniques, making a total of 108. Besides dotting, he invented the techniques of chin-na (i.e. holding and gripping). For a time, people in martial arts regarded it as a treasure.
“Those who knew the art, did not easily pass on the art to others, to prevent evil martial artists to use the art to harm others. Thus, until now only a few know the art.”
Black Bone Cheong was touched.
Hoong Hei Khoon continued, “When you have recovered, you must never use your martial art to bully others.”
Black Bone Cheong rose up, and prostrated before Hoong Hei Khoon on his bed. He vowed that he would remember the advice, and be honorable to other people.
Hoong Hei Khoon saw that Black Bone Cheong was brave enough to change, and was very happy. He dedicated himself to cure Black Bone Cheong. Within ten days, Black Bone Cheong did not have any more blockage and pain, and was back to normal.
That day, he celebrated with wine and good food for Hoong Hei Khoon. Grasping his hands in greeting, he said, “Sifu, for saving my life and your golden words and jade advice, even if I die a million times, I could not repay.”
He took out some money, which was 100 taels of silver, and told Hoong Hei Khoon that he hoped Hoong Hei Khoon would accept it with laughter (i.e. accept the money but laugh at it as silly). After some initial refusal, Hoong Hei Khoon eventually accepted it.