July 2001 (Part 1)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

A moment of Zen

A photograph capturing Sifu Wong and his family in a moment of Zen. Sifu Wong is totally absorbed with his cine-camera; his youngest son enjoying his candy, his wife and youngest daughter with the scenery. They are in their respective ways keenly aware of the present moment. This is practising Zen.

Question 1

I have written many e-mails but have not received any answers. Please do not ignore me, your help is really necessary for me! I have firmly decided to become a monk and to practise Zen Buddhism in a monastery. I want to devote my life to practice Zen to reach Enlightenment.

— Aleksey, Belarus

Answer

Many people have asked me similar questions and requests.

Becoming a monk to practise Zen in a monastery to attain enlightenment is one of the best things anyone can ever do. But he must be ready for this noble endeavour, and most people, including myself, are not ready.

Nevertheless, it is not necessary to practise in a monastery. You can, and should, practise anywhere, including in your home. And you can practise Zen anytime.

An excellent way to practise Zen is to be keenly aware of your present moment. This is simple, but most people don't do it. When they eat, for example, they are not aware of their eating but are talking to their friends. And when they talk, they are not aware of what they are speaking at the moment, but thinking of what to say next. Hence, you will be practising Zen when you are keenly aware of the taste and texture of the bread you are biting, or fully aware of the meaning and significance of the words you are expressing.

Understandably many people will be puzzled over what eating and speaking have to do with Zen. This is because they do not really know what Zen means, they have a mistaken concept of Zen, possibly thinking that Zen is something to do with giving non-sensical answers to questions or something that can be acquired from a guru during a summer vacation. Zen has a few different though related meanings, and basically it concerns seeking and experiencing Cosmic Reality.

Reality is experienced at different levels. To the spiritually ready, it is experienced transcendentally as the Ultimate Truth, known variously such as Enlightenment, Tao or God. To the great majority it is experienced phenomenally in countless varieties of ways. This is because Cosmic Reality, or Zen, is everywhere. You don't have to enter a temple, listen to prayers or seek a rainbow to find it.

Zen is everywhere yet you don't find it because you are missing it every moment. Just be keenly aware of your every moment, and you may find it, first in a prosaic manner like the taste of bread or meaning of words, and later if you are ripe enough in a transcendental flash of cosmic glimpse.

There are many other ways to seek and experience Zen. Practising meditation, yoga, chi kung, Taijiquan and Shaolin Kungfu as well as chanting sutras or mantras and worshipping deities are some of the established ways. Renouncing worldly life and becoming a monk represents the peak of this noble endeavour in seeking Zen.

Question 2

But there are some problems which prevent me to carry out my dream. First, I do not have the exhaustive information on how I can become a monk and what monastery can accept me. Second, I have no financial assets independently to reach a monastery. Perhaps in China or in other countries there are monasteries in which monks practise Zen Buddhism. I beg you, help me to become a monk of such a monastery. Please render me the feasible financial help in my hard business.

Answer

It is quite obvious that amongst those who have asked me to help them become monks, most if not all do not understand the purpose and responsibility of entering monkhood. They probably thought that their abbots and senior monks would care for and pamper them like their own children, and lead them by the hand along a rosy path to Enlightenment.

There is a Chinese saying that becoming a monk calls for a responsibility heavier than that of a prime minister and an army general. Let us just talk about the most basic responsibilities. If you are so blessed that your parents are still with you, have you fulfilled your responsibilities to them?

Different cultures may call for different filial responsibilities, but universally and the least is that you must be kind to them. If you have a wife and family, you have to love and provide for them. If you just walk away on them to become a monk so as to satisfy your vague desire of seeking enlightenment, you are being selfish and unkind.

Needless to say, selfishness and unkindness are sure obstacles to seeking Zen even if you had become a monk. They will destroy your effort, not because the Buddha or God punishes you for being selfish or unkind, but simply because they are incongruous to Zen, in the way that darkness is incongruous to light, being sick is incongruous to being healthy.

You would then become a frustrated, depressed monk, just the opposite of your purpose. It is more so when, instead of practising Zen towards enlightenment in a garden of roses, you find yourself doing laborious temple duties like chopping firewood and carrying water.

It is obvious that you are not ready to become a monk. You did not have sufficient fund to travel to a monastery but expected someone to provide the money for you. It is like asking the owner of a car manufacturing company, “Sir, driving your car is the dream of my life. But I have no money, not even for the transport of the car from your factory to my house. I shall be very grateful to you if you please send a car to me.”

The great difference is that practising Zen to attain Enlightenment is immeasurably more difficult and also more invaluable than buying a car. If you do not bother to make some effort to earn enough money to enable you to enter a monastery, but expect someone to provide the money for you, obviously you will be unable and unwilling to make the much more difficult effort to practise Zen, but would expect that the Buddha or God or your master hand Enlightenment to you on a silver platter.

Question 3

I am a student of the Hung Gar Toy Gar style. It is a combination of Hung Gar and Choy Gar My teacher pronounces it as Toy Gar. I came across a webpage which mentions that a monk had studied all five family styles and then combined them to create a new form of boxing for the temple called Fut Gar. The start of my Hung Gar Toy Gar style lineage was Leong Sil Jong. Whom did he learn from and is he (or not) the founder of Fut Gar?

— David, USA

Answer

I am sorry I do not know who Leong Sil Jong was. I don't think he was the founder of Fatt Ka.

Fatt Ka means the Buddha's Style, and is often used to refer to Shaolin Lohan Kungfu. There was no founder. Shaolin Lohan Kungfu was first developed from Shaolin Eighteen Lohan Hands by many unnamed Shaolin monks. Many centuries later, after further development and modification in South China by many unnamed masters (who were not monks), it was called Fatt Ka.

The term “Fatt Ka” is also used to differentiate various styles of kungfu with primary Buddhist tradition, from those with primary Taoist tradition, generally called “Tou Ka”. Most of Fatt Gar styles of kungfu are derived from Shaolin. Famous Tou Ka kungfu styles include Taijiquan, Baguaquan and Taoist Drunken Kungfu.

The master who taught Fatt Ka Kungfu to Chen Harng who combined it with Choy Ka and Li Ka to form Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu, was the Venerable Ching Chou. The kungfu style that combines Hoong Ka and Choy Ka is called “Hoong Tau Choy Mei”, which means "Beginning with Hoong Ka Kungfu and Concluding with Choy Ka Kungfu. Its strong points are the hand techniques of Hoong Ka Kungfu, and the leg techniques of Choy Ka Kungfu.

Hoong Tau Choy Mei was founded by a formidable kungfu master name Chow Loong in the later part of the Manchurian Dynasty in south China. He was helped by his younger brother Chow Piew, who was also a formidable fighter. Hence Hoong Tau Choy Mei is also known as Chow Ka Kungfu, which means Kungfu of the Chow Family.

Chow Loong and Chow Piew were revolutionaries aiming to overthrow the Manchurian Dynasty. Chow Ka exponents contributed much to the heroic effort of Dr Sun Yat Sen in establishing the first Chinese Republic. The kungfu set, Chow Ka Big Knife, was taught to the 16th Army of Kuomintang China, and the Kuomintang soldiers used it effectively against Japanese invaders during the Sino-Japanese War.

However, corruption was rampant among the Chinese warlords who were notorious for being more conversant with women and opium than with warfare. It was a joke that instead of carrying guns Chinese soldiers carried opium pipes. No matter how effective the Chow Ka Big Knife was, knives and opium pipes were no match against Japanese guns.

Zen in everyday life

Practising Zen is not necessarily sitting in meditation. You can practise Zen any time, anywhere. When you are keenly aware of the food you are eating, like these happy children are doing, you are practising Zen.

Question 4

I have recently joined a school which teaches Shaolin Kungfu, and I enjoy it very much. I will be 40 years old this year. Do you think that is too old to start, and if not is it reasonable to say I could make good advancements with practice to make up for lost time?

— Tony, UK

Answer

If you practise genuine Shaolin Kungfu , it is never too old to start. You should not practise more to make up for lost time. You have to let your force or skills develop naturally. Rushing in your training may bring serious side-effects. But genuine Shaolin Kungfu is hard to find nowadays

Question 5

I think I did a terrible mistake of not doing the “Lifting The Sky” properly. When my hands reach the top and while straightening my arms by pushing up the sky, I blow up forcefully to my throat without blowing out i.e. I shut my mouth for a few minutes in the hope that the stagnant chi get accumulated in my throat before blow out and up forcefully with loud “ho” sound.

Now my throat feels like there is a lump inside all the time. The worst is my wind pipe and chest, especially at my left lung where I feel painful and tight like there is something inside and I have difficulty/ in breathing. My back especially along my spine feels aching and tight.

Sometimes I feel like I want to vomit and sick, though so far I have never actually vomited. Is this internal injury? I was all the while very underweight (only 53 kg for a man of 1.71m tall) though constant, but recently have lost another 1-2 kg.

I also keep on burping whole day long for the past 2-3 months although I never eat or drink any gas-producing food. What is the indication for this burping?

I sincerely need your urgent advice to rectify my mistake. I hope you can advise any remedy for removing this painful symptoms.

— Yap, Malaysia

Answer

Yes, yours are signs that you have sustained internal injury as the result of incorrect practice. You should not just learn a remedial exercise from an e-mail but seek the help of a genuine chi kung master. Make sure that he is genuine. A mediocre chi kung instructor teaching external chi kung forms may make your situation worse.

Alternatively, see a good Chinese herbalist or acupuncturist. I wish to emphasize that he must be good. Unlike in conventional medicine where there are adequate laws to ensure high standard is maintained, there are no proper controls in Chinese medical practice or chi kung treatment. Virtually anyone can claim to be an instructor or healer.

“Lifting the Sky” is actually a very safe exercise, and can produce remarkable result even practising on your own if you follow instructions as well as warning. But if you think you are smarter than the master from whose writing you learn the exercise, and attempt the exercise in ways he has specifically warned against, you are only asking for trouble.

Question 6

At the moment I do this to alleviate the symptom of “needles poking everywhere” due to my dan- dian being struck with a wooden stick 3 months ago: Standing with feet slightly apart, and putting my mind at the point midway between my dan-dian and ming-men, I breathe normally for about 15 mins each time. Then I follow by Reverse Breathing for 3 mins each time. Then I rub 6 times counter-clockwise and 9 times clockwise on the dan-dian.

Answer

If I remember correctly, you developed some serious injury due to wrong training in the past and I prescribed some methods, including “Lifting the Sky”, to help you overcome your injury. Having recovered, you should have learnt from your own experience that practising advanced chi kung from books or mediocre instructors can be dangerous. But you don't seen to have learnt the lesson.

Putting your mind at the point midway between your qi-hai and ming-men vital points, and Reverse Breathing are advanced chi kung techniques. The crucial point is not whether the techniques are right, but whether you can perform the techniques correctly.

Unless you are observed by a master, not just be a mediocre instructor — and before you developed some harmful effects — it is not possible to know whether you have practised correctly. But I can say that it is easy to practise wrongly, and you may not even know it. The adverse effects will be worse than forcing your breathe to your throat.

If you want to practise advanced chi kung you have to learn it personally from a master. If you wish to learn on your own, you have to be contented with something of a much lower standard.

Shaolin Kungfu

It is never too old to practice Shaolin Kungfu

Question 7

Sifu, thank you very much for your beautiful course and your advise concerning my father's cancer. As he does not speak English maybe he takes a private lesson from you, whenever it could fit your schedule, maybe in Barcelona.

My father suffers from prostate cancer, his prostate was removed but we now know that prostate cells have spread to other parts of the body. You cannot see those “micrometastasis” on any scan yet, just through the blood test. The traditional medication is giving hormone therapy, which means that all male hormones are withdrawn and the cancer which grows due to male hormones is blocked for a while. He does this therapy for six months, than pauses six months and than starts again.....until the hormones do not work any more.

I know it would be better not to be on medication while he starts practising chi-kung but I do not think that this is advisable at the moment. He receives medication to withdraw his male hormones. (this keeps his cancer under control). If he now starts chi-kung, won't his organism then be producing male hormones because as you told us, the chi regulates the body functions. Couldn't it be counterproductive?

— Silke, Italy

Answer

Your fear about chi kung being counter-productive in your father's case is not valid. In the conventional approach all his male hormones are withdrawn because doctors suspected (but were not sure, as in the conventional paradigm nothing could be sure in the case of cancer) that the cancerous growth was due to the male hormones. From the chi kung perspective, this is superficial reasoning, and the treatment deals only with the symptoms, not the cause.

When we examine deeper, we will find that not all his male hormones produced cancerous growth, but only the diseased hormones did so. Further, this mal-functioning of the diseased hormones was a symptom of some deeper cause, and not the cause of cancer itself. It is heartening to note that since the day your father was born until the day he was diagnosed with cancer, his male hormones did not produce cancer, which means that this mal-functioning of some hormones now is an abnormality and temporary, and therefore can be rectified.

The main task of chi kung is to rectify this abnormality, expressed in Chinese medical jargon as harmonizing yin-yang. Once, your father regains his natural functioning, he will by nature be able to overcome cancer not just at the male hormones but no matter where it may manifest. More importantly, he will be able to lead a normal healthy and happy life again, not a kind of life where although his cancer is under control his lacking in male hormones may lead to far-reaching consequences.

Many people suffering from cancer, including prostate cancer, have recovered by practising genuine chi kung. Your father can continue his medication to check his cancerous growth, while his chi kung is taking effect to restore his normal functioning. When he has regained normality, he can discontinue the medication.

The best is for your father to attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course in Malaysia, but the problem is that if he does not understand English he would be unable to get the best of my teaching. An alternative is to attend some of my chi kung classes in Europe where the lessons are translated into languages he knows. Meanwhile he should ask Ricarrdo to teach him some chi kung exercises. But the most important is that he himself has the strong will to conquer cancer and believes that chi kung can help him.

Question 8

Dear Sifu Wong,

To begin, I would like to thank you for the great pleasure I received while reading “Chi Kung for Health and Vitality”. I found it a clearer and more informative account than I have found elsewhere. I found your e-mail address at "http://www.shaolin-wahnam.org" and would like to ask you a few questions. I understand, though, that you must be a very busy person, so if you do not have tune to reply I fully understand.

First, a little background. My name is Justin Koonin. I am now twenty years old, and live in Sydney, Australia. I have suffered since birth from eye disorders (cataracts and nystagmus) and associated postural problems (because I have to strain to see things, my neck and back become quite painful). Until a few months ago, I managed quite well. However the situation has deteriorated - eyestrain means I can only read for about ten minutes at a time, and the tension in my neck and jaw is quite uncomfortable, and seems to rob me of my energy. I have had to withdraw from my university studies for these reasons.

I figured that qigong would be helpful — if not to address the specific condition, then to achieve better overall health. Have you treated similar cases before? Anyhow, I have been learning qigong from a well-respected school for the past three months, and practising an hour daily, on average. It is perhaps unfair for a beginner like myself to comment, but it seems we are only taught the external form — my teacher says one has to concentrate on the form alone for a long time before progressing.

Symptomatically, I do not feel very different from when I started. So I am in a bit of a quandary...I do not know whether I should continue training in this way, or whether I am wasting my time. I am very determined to get better, and would consider coming to Malaysia for an intensive course, should you think it would be beneficial.

— Justin, Australia

Answer

It is a pleasure to receive your e-mail, and thank you for your kind words. Of the thousands of e-mails I have received (some of which are without the writers' names and many are full of careless errors), I am much impressed by yours — much impressed by its simplicity and beauty, as well as the thoughtfulness and respectfulness shown by the writer.

I intend, therefore, to reproduce your e-mail in full in my question-answer series (please see another of my website, but if for any reasons you wish not to be published, please let me know and I shall respect your wish.

I am certain that qigong will be very useful to you. Not only qigong will help to rectify your present specific health problems, it will help you to actualize your full potentialities. From your e-mail I reckon you are a promising young man. I feel I would have failed my duty if I do not let you know of this opportunity.

You will be pleased to know that from the qigong perspective, your eye disorders, postural problems, inability to concentrate for long periods, neck and jaw tension, and lack of energy are easy to be overcome, and I have helped many people overcome such problems. Qigong will not only enable you to resume your university studies but to excel in both the scholarly and the sporting fields.

But of course you have to practise genuine qigong, which for various reasons is rare today. What is usually taught today as qigong is actually some form of gentle physical exercise making use of external qigong forms. The crucial difference is that gentle physical exercise works on the physical body, like joints and muscles, whereas genuine qigong works on energy.

If somebody asks, “What is working on energy?” or “How do you know you are working on energy?”, it is an indication he has not practised genuine qigong. It is like asking “What is an orange?” or “How do you know you are eating an orange?”. If he has practised genuine qigong, or eaten an orange, he will know what it is.

What you have learnt is probably gentle physical exercise, or at best low level qigong. If you practise high level qigong you should have some qi or energy experience after three months. If you attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course, where you will learn very high level qigong, you will experience qi the very first day. And you need to practise only about 15 minutes a session, preferably two sessions a day.

I would strongly recommend you to attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course in Malaysia. Please refer to http://www.shaolin.org/general/ck-course.html for details. At the course, identify yourself to me and remind me of your eye disorders so that I can teach you some specific exercises to overcome this problem. You need not pay extra for this.

But if you cannot attend the course, please let me know. I shall describe some exercises for you to practise on your own. You also need not pay for this. Learning from me via e-mail cannot be compared to learning from me personally, but at least it is better than nothing.

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