February 2005 (Part 2)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Malaysia

While we emphasize direct experience, philosophical understanding is also important as it enables us to get the best benefits in relatively short time. Here Sifu Wong eplained some philosophical points during the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in November 2004. On his right was the youngest participant at the course, Sifu Wong's youngest son, Wong Chun Yian.

Question 1

Dear Sigung,

I have just arrived back in the UK after attending your intensive KungFu course. First of all I just thank you sincerely for all theteachings and guidance that you have given to my Wahnam brothers and meduring the course. My only desire now back in the UK, despite thefreezing weather, is to get outside and practice, practice, practice.May I also say what a beautiful country you have, with wonderful peopleand some of the best food I've ever had. It is even possible, after afew days, to get use to the very humid weather.

I do have one question and I would be grateful for youropinions on my experience. I think it was on the second day, the lastchi flow of the morning session. My mind had emptied and I was in whatI consider to be a chi kung state of mind. All my negative thoughts,bad feeling and dislikes had gone and my mind was still.

It was then (with us still in chi flow) that you asked us all to bless someone. Itwas at this point that I realized that as well as my hates and dislikes disappearing, all my love and compassion had also gone. The people around me could have been crowned king or slaughtered and I would not have cared either way! My once peaceful chi kung state of mind was suddenly replaced by a empty void which, if I had cared more for it,would have brought me to tears. It is very hard to describe the exact feeling and I don't normally like talking about chi kung experiences, but this one had such an effect that I took a good few hours to recover from it, and it still haunts me occasionally.

It opened up so many questions but I guess the main one is if everything is really just energy then what room is there for love, other emotions and even karma? Because where my mind went to, there was nothing, not even, and don't worry I'm not suicidal, a reason to live.

Your thoughts on this would be very much appreciated. Thanks once again for the course and sharing the Shaolin arts with us.

— Simon, England

Answer

That Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course (23rd to 29th November 2004), with the largest number (31) of participants so far, was fantastic. As Markus Kahila has aptly mentioned in the Shaolin Wahnam Discussion Forum, I pushed everyone to his limits — so that everyone would emerge from the course a better person in every aspect. A few participants, at some stages of the course, were pushed so far to their mental limit that they could not tell their front leg from their back!

Yours was even more profound. You went beyond your spiritual limit! But take note that my use of the terms “mental” and “spiritual” here follows Western nomenclature, whereby a person's dimensions are classified into physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. In Chinese terms, a person's dimensions are classified only into two parts, namely “shen” and “xin”, or “body” and “heart”. “Heart” here includes the emotional, mental and spiritual.

What you attained at the course was a very high level satori, or spiritual awakening. You were awakened to the cosmic fact that at a very high spiritual level, there are no forms, no emotions, no thoughts and no souls! It is just the Great Void, just Emptiness. In Western terms, it is just God.

What you experienced was what the great Bodhidharma meant when he told Emperor Liang Wu Ti that there is no holiness, just emptiness, as the Emperor asked our First Patriarch what the first principle of holiness was.

It was also what the Buddha meant when, as recorded in the Heart Sutra, he explained that as the Great Bodhisattva Guan Yin attained Enlightenment, the great Bodhisattva discovered that there is “no eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, will; no form, sound, smell, taste, touch, sub-atomic particles.”

Congratulations. Yours was a great attainment.

At that very high spiritual state, not only your hates and dislikes had disappeared, even your love and compassion had also gone. It was because at that state there are no emotions.

Your mind was empty because at that state there were no thoughts. You did not find even a reason to live because at the highest level, there were no souls.

Most people may find this state disturbing or frightening. This is so because they are limited by their intellectualization, and they operate in the phenomenal realm.

Those who experience such a state directly will not have any fear, because there are no emotions. Instead, speaking provisionally, there is only tremendous joy, eternal peace and limitless freedom. There is also no “life” (as mere mortals understand the term) because there is no differentiation into individual persons or souls.

Is it a contradiction to say that there are no emotions in this high cosmic state and then say that you will experience joy, peace and freedom? No, there is no contradiction. The apparent contradiction is due to the limitation of words. “Joy”, “peace” and “freedom” are mental states, not emotions in the same sense as “fear”, “confidence”, “hatred”, “love”, “cruelty” and “compassion”. You “dissolve” yourself in these mental states and are one with them. Hence these mental states do not cause karma.

But you feel “fear”, “confidence”, “hatred”, “love”, “cruelty” and “compassion”. You are not one with them. These feelings or cravings cause karma, which sets countless processes of transformation into the phenomenal world.

If there were emotions, which would lead to craving, you would be propelled out of this very high level of transcendental cosmic reality back into the phenomenal world. If there were individual persons or souls, then cosmic reality would not be undifferentiated. In Western terms, God would not be omnipresent, because those individual persons or souls would be outside God.

Yes, everything is just an undifferentiated spread of energy, or of consciousness or mind or spirit. In Western terms, it is just God, the infinite, the eternal and the omnipresent. There is no room for love, other emotions and even karma in cosmic reality. Love, other emotions and karma only operate in the phenomenal realm. Indeed, it is precisely because of love and compassion that Bodhisattvas voluntarily delay entering Buddhahood, or come out of Buddhahood into the human or other worlds to help others.

In your case, during those priceless moments when you had a glimpse of cosmic reality, you went beyond karma, and transcended life and death. Then you came back to our phenomenal world, as you still live and work in this phenomenal world, where karma and rebirth operate. This is a manifestation of what Mahayana masters refer to as “nirvana is samsara, samsara is nirvana.”

There is no ontological difference between nirvana and samsara. The difference is only one of spiritual perspective. When you experience reality from the perspective of non-thought and non-emotion, you experience nirvana, or a glimpse of it; when you experience the same reality from the perspective of thought and emotion, you experience samsara.

It is significant that you attained such a high level satori during a Shaolin Kungfu course, and not during chi kung or formal Zen training. This exemplifies the fact that genuine, traditional Shaolin Kungfu, besides being very effective for combat and health, is meant for spiritual cultivation.

What should you do after such a fantastic attainment, which will surely give meaning and profundity to your life? Just carry on and enjoy your practice.

Question 2

I have a small dilemma that I would like to ask for your advice. Recently when I showed a friend the Shaolin Wahnam website he admitted that he felt extremely jealous and upset over all the accomplishments your students had achieved in such a relatively short time. My friend is a very serious and dedicated martial artist and seeks to become a master. He is considering attending one of your intensive summer courses next year.

— Ray, USA

Answer

Indeed the accomplishments of even my ordinary students are quite incredible. For example, in my regional chi kung class on “Generating Energy Flow”, which is the lowest level of my various courses, fresh beginners are able to generate an internal energy flow after less than an hour of training.

Most students elsewhere take many years to attain such a skill. Hence, many people simply do not believe what we claim we can do in our courses. This is understandable, but what is unreasonable is that some people call us liars without bothering to find out whether our claims are true. All they need to do is to attain a course, and if they are not satisfied they can ask for their money back.

My Intensive Chi Kung Course teaches a much higher level of skills. Among many other benefits, students can attain a one-pointed mind, tap energy from the cosmos, direct it to wherever they want, generate an energy flow, build a ball of energy at their dan tian, open their heart and set free their spirit. All these wonderful skills are attained within three days of the course.

We are quite liberal in sharing our arts with deserving students irrespective of race, culture and religion. Our most important condition is upholding and practicing the Ten Shaolin Laws.

Question 3

Personally I feel that although he would definitely uphold the Shaolin Laws and he is a mature and responsible person, I am worried that his competitive nature and failure to accept his own weaknesses may make him unsuitable to attend such a class. I remember when we used to take Tae Kwon Do together and when he would be knocked around a bit during free sparring he would secretly break out into tears because he felt that he should not be so “weak”.

Answer

It is thoughtful of you to be concerned, but leave the decision as to whether a student is suitable or not to attend my class to be made by me.

The philosophy and training in Taekwondo are very different from those of our school, Shaolin Wahnam. Many Taekwondo practitioners, including some masters, who were competitive and who could not accept their own weaknesses before, changed remarkably after learning from us.

If your friend broke out into tears because he felt himself a weakling for not being able to defend himself, learn Shaolin Kungfu or Wahnam Taijiquan from us is an excellent solution. We shall train him not only to be combat efficiency but also to be compassionate and wise if he is dedicated enough to follow our training.

Footwork

Footwork training is an important part of kungfu training. Stance training and footwork training form the fundamental training in kungfu known as “ma bo” (literally “horse-step”) in Chinese. Many people think that “ma bo” only involves stance training. Even that they merely learn the stances, rather than spend time training them.

Question 4

Furthermore, my friend is not the only person I know that has unrealistic expectations of himself and believe that he should be perfect. I feel that our society stresses too much that a person needs to be a certain way and this makes it difficult for people to accept how they are resulting in anorexics and other people who sacrifice their health for image. I would really appreciate hearing your viewpoint on this.

Answer

Thinking that his expectations are unrealistic is only your opinion, which may be wrong. Many great achievements started as dreams. Often, the difference between day-dreamers and achievers is that the former only dream but the latter put concerted effort towards their dreams.

It is a virtue to aim for perfection. If you friend believes he should be perfect, you should encourage him and help him attain his goal.

Every society demands certain norms, requiring its members to conduct themselves in certain appropriate ways. For example, it is normal for children to respect their parents and teachers, and for men to marry women. This does not make it difficult for normal people to accept how they are.

If some people cannot accept the norms set by their society, they become delinquents. Delinquency is abnormal and is a disorder. Being abnormal is not being progressive, it is being decadent.

When a lot of abnormal people cannot accept how or what they are, the result may not merely be that they become anorexics and sickly, it could be far worse. It may, for example, result in an absurd reverse of values, such as considering it normal for children to abuse their parents and teachers, or for men to marry men, and women to marry women!

Question 5

What is the difference between chi and kungfu? What is moreimportant in life?

— Hugo, Germany

Answer

Chi is energy, the internal force that digests your food, overcomes harmful micro-organisms in your body, flushes out negative emotions, repairs your wear and tear, enables you to walk and talk as well as maintain all other functions to keep you and everyone else alive.

Kungfu is Chinese martial art, which may also be practiced for promoting health and cultivating the spirit.

Chi is more important. No one can do without chi, but most people can do without kungfu.

Question 6

Is chi the center of martial arts and the most important thing in life?What can you say is the most important thing in life when we think aboutthe body?

Answer

While chi is very useful in martial arts, it is not their center. Almost all non-Chinese martial arts and many Chinese martial arts have no concept or training of chi. Even where chi was once an essential part of some Chinese martial arts, like Shaolin Kungfu, Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Hsing Yi Kungfu, many of their practitioners today, including some masters, do not believe in chi!

To most people chi is the most important thing in life when we think about the body. The body may survive for a few weeks without food, a few days without water, a few minutes without air, but not a moment without chi. (Chi is not air, though it is found in air.) Life is a flow if chi. When this chi flow is interrupted, pain and illness occur. Once the chi flow stops, life in the body ceases.

But to the spiritually awakened, spirit is more important than chi, and therefore spirit is the most important thing in life. It is not that you have a spirit. You are the spirit that has a body operated by chi. When chi ceases, the body dies but the spirit never dies. Your spirit then takes another body, resulting in a rebirth of a new life. This process of birth and rebirth goes on endlessly until the spirit unites with the Universal Spirit. This supreme achievement is also known as Return to God or Enlightenment.

Different peoples may call the spirit by different names, such as the mind, the soul, the psyche or the consciousness.

Question 7

Why has nobody combined Shaolin Kungfu and WudangTai Chi Chuan together?

— Tom, USA

Answer

This is because they produce better results when practiced on their own. Both Shaolin Kungfu and Wudang Tai Chi Chuan have reached their peak after having gone through centuries of development.

Only those who have attained merely a superficial level of the two arts, or worse, have practiced merely the external forms as dance, would be egoistic enough to believe he is smarter than centuries of Shaolin and Tai Chi Chuan masters to be able to improve the arts by combining them.

This does not mean there cannot be influences between them that bring mutual benefits. Such processes constitute a natural evolution of the arts, which is going on all the time, and not an artificial combination by particular individuals.

Such an evolution usually took place over centuries involving contributions of many masters, but on a few occasions in kungfu history also took place over years in the life of a single master. For example, when the great master, Chen Harng, evolved Choy-Li-Fatt Kungfu, he did not artificially combine Choy Ka Kungfu, Li Ka Kungfu and Fatt Ka Kungfu which he had learnt from his three masters into one style. Rather, he taught his students what he practiced, which contained the best elements from these three styles.

We in Shaolin Wahnam are experiencing and benefiting from this process. I learned from four masters, and I teach my students the best of what I learned. Hence, what my students practice is different from (and better than) what I learned individually from each of my four masters. I did not artificially combine the art of one master with that of another, but the best from these four masters evolved naturally into one style that I teach.

Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Malaysia

Another essential aspect of kungfu training is combat application, without which kungfu ceases to be kungfu but what past masters referred to as “flowery fists and embroidery kicks”. Here Todd and Keith (who are brothers) were engaged in sparring practice during the Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Malaysia in November 2004.

Question 8

I have been training the art of traditional Okinawa-Te for as long as Ican remember. I think that my fighting ability is at a good level, but in order to keepit, I have to practice at least two hours a day. When I practice less, even for a week, my responses and reactions become inadequate.

I would think that after more than 10 years of training, daily physical exercise should not be so crucial to my fighting ability. Or was there something wrong in my training? With a job and study I can no longer train as much as I would like to and I do want to grow

— Jan, Czech Republic

Answer

You are right to say that after more than 10 years of training, daily physical exercise should not be so crucial to your fighting ability. In other words, having built a foundation over 10 years, your fighting ability should not drop drastically just because you have trained less than two hours a day for a week.

Something is wrong in your training. You did not have accumulative effect from your past training. What you train today, you lose tomorrow. Hence you have to training daily just to maintain your present form.

An analogy will make this clear. Suppose you need 30 dollars to live your day. And each day you earn 30 dollars, just enough to survive with nothing left for saving. Therefore, if stop working for a few days you would go starving.

But if you earn 50 dollars a day and use only 30 dollars, after working for 10 years you would have accumulated quite a lot of money. Even if you stop working for a year, you would still have enough money from your saving to live comfortably.

If you are a smart worker, you would have increased your daily income over the years. After a few years you would be earning more than 50 dollars a day. Your expenditure would also be more, but if you have managed your account wisely you would be saving more per day than at the beginning.

The same principles apply to martial art training. Therefore, after 10 years of training, not only you would have developed substantial combat skills, you would also be more cost effective in your training. You would gain more in 15 minutes than what you gained in an hour 10 years ago. Even if you stop training for a month, you would still be more combat efficient than you were a few years ago.

The main reason for your ineffective training is that you use what we call “water-buffalo methods”. A crucial aspect in “water-buffalo methods” is that the training involves only the physical level, without the energy and the mind levels. Other aspects are that the training involves a lot of tough and rough work but is not cost-effective. You may train for two hours but gain little, yet your body is painful all over.

As a comparison, another student using a smart method to train “One-Finger Shoot Zen” may get more force in 15 minutes than what you get in 2 hours. He will also get mental freshness and spiritual joy which you may never get in “water-buffalo methods” irrespective of how many years you may train.

Hence, to overcome your problem, you should learn genuine chi kung from a real master, and incorporate it into your Okinawa-Te training. This is a good way for you to grow.

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