May 2000 (Part 3)

SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Sifu Wong in traditional Chinese dress

Sifu Wong in traditional Chinese dress n Soeul, Korea where he was invited to present a paper on chi kung at the World Unity of Science Conference in February 2000

Question 1

I have read in various beliefs that sometimes an illness is a result of bad karma that has to be rectified, and that in some cases no one is allowed to interfere until the person has balanced his karma. Is this a belief that you yourself subscribe to, and if so, is there any possible way of knowing whether or not a disease is your karmic fate?

— Alan, Canada

Answer

To better understand your question about karma, it is helpful to remind ourselves of the limitation of words. This means the same words may have different meanings or connotations for different people, or for the same person in different situations.

In the widest sense, every event is due to karma. Hence all illness, or good health, is due to karma. Here, karma means cause and effect, which actually is the original meaning of karma. A person is ill now because of some causes in his past, such as being infected by bacteria two weeks ago, saddened by the loss of a friend, or born with a defective organ as a baby.

Each cause is also the effect of other past causes. For instance, he was infected by bacteria because he ate some contaminated food. The food was contaminated because the cook was careless. The carelessness of the cook was due to his poor training, which was the effect of his low level education, which was in turn the effect of his parents being poor, and so on.

In a narrow sense, karma is frequently taken to mean the effect of some events in past lives. This is the concept taken by most people, and is probably what you meant in your question. The division into “wide” and “narrow” sense of karma is arbitrary; the karmic process is a continuum. In the example above, the cook's parents being poor was the effect of events in their past lives, and the cook being born into poor parents was also the effect of events in his past lives.

Now, suppose a person called P killed his friend F in a past life. He shot F's head point blank with a gun. The event was so vivid that it left a deep impression in P's mind, or soul. Subsequently P died in his past life, and his body disintegrated, but his mind never dies. P, with the same mind, is reborn in his present body. In his present life P has frequent and severe headache. No doctors or therapists could heal him; it is due to his karmic effect.

But can his illness be healed? Yes. How? By rectifying or balancing his karma, to use your terms; or to compensate or to erase bad karma, to use other terms. There are countless ways to rectify or erase bad karmic effects, and they can be generalized into two categories, namely to cultivate blessings and to cultivate wisdom.

Cultivating blessings is to do good, such as giving charity, performing service, and disseminating teaching. Cultivating wisdom is to train the mind, especially in meditation, to perceive and experience reality at various levels, and ultimately at the highest, cosmic level.

Although both cultivating blessings and cultivating wisdom can be carried out at the same time, to most people cultivating blessings is preliminary: it leads to conditions suitable for him to cultivate wisdom. If P habitually spends his time gambling and womanizing, lying and cheating, his habitual conditions are unsuitable for cultivating wisdom. Even if he were to meat a great person who could help him to erase his bad karmic effects, he would not believe it and hence would not do it.

But if he starts to be charitable, to offer service to others, to seek great teachings, he is already on his way to cultivating wisdom. In proverbial terms, when he has accumulated enough blessings, his previous bad karma would be balanced or erased; when he is ready, the master will appear. Depending on various factors, the overcoming of his illness, or the erasing of his bad karma may take many lifetimes, a few years, or an instant. And it can take many forms.

He may start to practise chi kung or meditation. As he progresses, he has glimpses of his past lives. Or he may meet a master who leads him back to his past lives. Suddenly he sees, or re-lives, the event that causes his severe headache. He is in a battlefield. He and a few comrades are retreating under heavy fire. He sees F a few feet ahead, with his both legs blasted by a mine, and F is begging the running soldiers to kill him to end his agony. No one stops because the enemy is closing in. P hesitates a moment. Should he go over to help his friend but face the risk of being caught by the enemy. P goes over and tries to carry F on his shoulder.

“It's no use, mate!” F cries. “Kill me, kill me to end the agony,” F pleads. P hesitates again. “Don't wait. Help me, please help me, shoot at my head.” P places his gun at F's head and fires a shot.

This experience would balance or erase P's karmic effect, and he would be healed of his severe headache. He would also acquire some cosmic wisdom.

This example also shows that the question whether another person is allowed to interfere with another person's karma, is irrelevant. As is common in such cases where the metaphysical is involved, there are no simple “yes” amd “no” answers. The answers depend on various factors, such as different interpretations of respective key words as well the spiritual understanding of the persons involved.

If an illness does not response to medical treatment, and practising chi kung for some time does not heal it, it is likely that the illness is due to karma effect of a past life. Performing an advanced self-manifested chi movement exercise to cleanse out deep rooted emotion can help. A faster alternative is to lead the person to re-live his past life. Both types of chi kung exercise must be done by a master.

Some of my students had illness due to such karmic effect. Re-living past lives in self-manifested chi flow and in meditation proved to be very effective in overcoming their illness.

Question 2

I wondered if you were familiar with a Czech magician and mystic by the name of Franz Bardon, and his works, and what your opinions of his teachings were.

Answer

I am sorry I do not know about Franc Bardon or his works.

Nevertheless, the following information is very important to anyone studying or practising magic. Magic is neither black nor white, or putting it in another way, it can be black or white, or somewhere in between. It is its application that makes magic white, black or grey.

Magic is real, and it involves mind over energy. It is utmost important for one who is blessed to have the skilful use of mind over energy, to use this ability always for good and never for evil. He may use it for his own good, but it must never harm others. This advice is for the sake and interest of the magician. If he were so foolish as to use his magic for evil, the effects will certainly bounce back on him.

An evil magician is punished not by God or Buddha or any Supreme Being, but by his own bad karma. In other words, it is not that he is punished because he did something evil, but that he is punished as a result of his evil doing. The karmic law is universal and inevitable. Good cause brings good effect; bad cause brings bad effect — it is so simple, and so profound. Whenever someone did something bad, the thought that preceded the bad action was already imprinted in his mind, and this bad imprint — like a negative in photography — will manifest itself according to its nature. The manifestation may take different forms, but a bad imprint will always result in a bad effect. Hence, it is important for us not only to do good, but always to have good thoughts.

Internal force training

Three-Circle Stance — a very useful method of internal force training in Taijiuquan

Question 3

There are two classes being offered at the school I attend - - one concentrating on gi gong and the other shaolin. I don't know which form would be more appropriate I don't understand what gi gong has to do with self-defense. I thought it was a gentler form in the way of Tai Chi.

— Laurel, USA

Answer

“Gi gong” should be spell as “qigong” and pronounced like “ch'i kung”. Qigong is an umbrella term for various arts of energy management for health, martial arts, mind expansion and spiritual cultivation. In other words, there are many different types of qigong (or chi kung), with widely different purposes as well as levels of attainment. Some forms of qigong, like “Five-Animal Play” and “Abdominal Breathing” can be gentle, but other forms like “Iron Shirt” and “Sinew Metamorphosis” can be very tough.

In the past qigong was a secretive art. taught only to selected disciples, but today it has been widely popularized. One unwelcome effect of the popularization of qigong is that it has been so diluted that much of the qigong taught today has ceased to be an art of energy, and has been debased to some form of gentle exercise.

“Shaolin” refers to “Shaolin Kungfu”, which is the most famous and most widely practised among the numerous styles of Chinese martial arts. Like qigong, Shaolin Kungfu too has been so diluted that most of the Shaolin Kungfu taught today has ceased to be a great martial art but has become some form of gymnastics. Those who practise this diluted form of Shaolin Kungfu may spar, and some of them may be good fighters, but what they use for sparring or fighting is usually not the Shaolin techniques that they have learnt in solo practice, but techniques borrowed from other martial arts like karate, taekwondo and kickboxing.

The “Tai Chi” you mentioned is a form of gentle exercise using the movements of Tai Chi Chuan, which is spelt as Taijiquan in Romanized Chinese. Tai Chi Chuan (or Taijiquan — the pronunciation and meaning are the same) is an internal martial art. Originally “Tai Chi” was meant to be a shortened form of “Tai Chi Chuan”, but it has been so diluted that today there is nothing internal or martial about it, and it has become a sort of dance.

As if to make the terms more confusing, or interesting, modernized kungfu forms are known as “wushu”. Although morphologically “wushu” means “martial art”, modern wushu is now practised as a sport or demonstrative form.

If you are referring to their diluted versions, diluted qigong, Tai Chi and even diluted Shaolin as well as modern wushu have nothing to do with self-defence. Typically students of these arts spend little or no time to practise using their arts for combat. Hence, with the exception of diluted Shaolin, one may have practised these arts for years, or have won international titles, yet he will be no match at all against another who have practised other martial arts like karate, taekwondo, kickboxing, western boxing and wrestling, for a few months. Diluted Shaolin students may practise sparring, but they almost never use the techniques in the art; they borrow techniques from other martial systems.

But if you are referring to their genuine, traditional versions, qigong has much to do with self-defence, and with Shaolin and Tai Chi Chuan as well as with other styles of traditional wushu or Chinese martial arts. Just a moment of reflection will show that this is only logical. Qigong is energy management, and how can any martial art be effective if it has no system of energy management?

In my opinion, the energy management systems in non-Chinese martial arts like karate, taekwondo, kickboxing, western boxing and wrestling are comparatively crude; they mainly involve muscles and mechanical strength. In other words, they mainly operate at the physical level. The energy management systems in Chinese martial arts, particularly in Shaolin and Tai Chi Chuan, are highly refined. They involved not only the muscles, but more importantly internal dimensions like energy flow and visualization. In other words, they operate at the physical as well as the energy and mind levels.

One may wonder what have abdominal breathing and meditation, which are an example each of the energy and mind levels of genuine kungfu training, anything to do with actual fighting. If he is contented with a low level of fighting, such as brawls amongst ordinary persons, being able to execute some useful techniques is often sufficient to ensure victory.

But if he wishes to go deeper, such as being able to fell an opponent with just one strike and to see every movement of his opponent calmly and accurately, practising abdominal breathing and meditation, amongst other benefits, can provide him with these abilities. Both abdominal breathing and meditation are skills one develop in qigong training, whereas kungfu such as Shaolin and Tai Chi Chuan provides him with the physical techniques.

Question 4

Could you possibly send me the recipe for the Dit Da Jow mentioned in your “Art of Shaolin Kungfu Fu”? I would be very greatful.

— Pao, USA

Answer

The following is the recipe of the “dit da jow” or kungfu medicated wine mentioned in my book “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu”. It has proven to be very useful for external injuries sustained during sparring, force training and sports and games.

Soak about 12 grammes each of the following ngredients in 3 pints of white rice wine for about two months. Rub some medicated wine on the injued spot and avoid contact with water for at least an hour:

ru xiang, mo yao, chuan hong fa, gui wei. zhi ke, chuan gong, tao ren, mu xiang, chen xiang, jin jie, chi yao, ji geng, zhi ji, hu gu, dan pi.

Question 5

Thank you very much for writing your Question and Answer series. You are clearly extremely busy and yet still find the time to write it three times a month. Furthermore, the lack of respect shown by some of your correspondents astonishes me and yet you reply with such patience and courtesy.

— Christopher, UK

Answer

Thank you for your kind words. As I have been extremely lucky to have learnt genuine Shaolin arts, it saddens me to see the arts being diluted at an alarming rate. I view it as my duty to provide whatever true information of the arts I can.

As these arts are ancient, many people may view them as hobbies, without much direct application for modern living. This in not quite so. In fact, they answer many modern needs and solve many modern problems.

For example, amongst other benefits Shaolin Kungfu train youths to be righteous and confident, yet respectful to the elders. Shaolin Chi Kung helps to overcome many so-called incurable diseases, which are becoming prevalent. Shaolin meditation, or Zen, shows a practical way to spiritual joy, ugently needed in modern societies where despite material affluence many people feel depressed and listless.

But these desirable results are possible only when the arts are genuine. At the rate these arts are being debased and abused, there might be no more genuine Shaolin arts within the next two generations.

Question 6

I would like to thank you for so generously sharing how to chose a real teacher, and telling us the difference between true Tai Chi Chuan and Tai Chi dance. If not for your information, I would be learning some Tai Chi dance for many years thinking it is Tai Chi Chuan. Now I have found a really good Tai Chi Chuan master.

My problem is that all Singaporeans have to undergo military training where western exercises are taught. However, I often hear from you that doing these exercises, including weightlifting and jogging, are detrimental to health according to the Chinese sense. This is where the two views conflict. If I weightlift, do lots of push-ups, I'll be doing harm to myself and contradict what I learn in Tai Chi Chuan. But if I don't do them, I will be viewed as an unfit member of society who is not able to serve his country.

— Tan,

Answer

There is no conflict. You thought there was a conflict because of your mis-conceived ideas, because you thought that a person trained in traditional Chinese martial arts was not as fit and healthy as another trained in conventional western exercises like weight-lifting, push-ups and running. This is certainly not true.

Take me for an example. Except when I did some body-building when I was a school boy, I have never done any training in conventional western exercises like weight-lifting, running and work-outs in a gym. I have lived more than half a century, and am as fit as any youths, and even healthier than them.

Indeed, almost in every chi kung class which often includes doctors and sometimes top atheletes, students remark how full of energy and cheerfulness I am. When I am overseas, my typical working day starts from 8 o'clock in the morning to 10 at night, with only breaks for meals. And in Spain, where I am now, I have dinner after 10 at night (like what many Spaniards normally do). I attend to my e-mails and other work much past midnight, and wake up early the next day to do my Shaolin training.

Once, after a kungfu session there was heavy rain and the roads were flooded. My student, who was taking me home in his car, asked me whether I would prefer to wait till the flood subsided or run home with him. Runing in the rain would be fun, I said. We ran together non-stop for many miles to reach our homes. Later he asked whether I jogged often. Never, I said. He was simply amazed how without training in running, I could keep up with him. He was a marraton runner.

Many people asked me when was the last time I was sick. I honestly told them I couldn't remember. It must be more than 20 years ago. That is one reason why I say I am healthier than many young people.

I am not exceptional, in fact I am the rule. All masters of genuine kungfu and chi kung are healthy and fit like me, and some are already past 70.

The situation is reverse amongst those trained in conventional western exercise. Last week I taught chi kung to a lovely woman who was a former Olympic gymnast. It was sad to see her conditions. She has pain all over her body, takes half a dozen pills every day, and has had numerous nervous break-downs. She sought my advice and treatment because in a recent nervous break-down she could not remember her own name and did not know how to go home. Yet she is only about 35. I am confident that if she practises the chi kung she has learnt from me she will regain her physical, emotional as well as mental health within a year.

Your mis-conception about being unfit if you only practise Tai Chi Chuan and not western exercise like weight-lifting and push-ups is due to your mistaking Tai Chi dance, which is the norm today, for Tai Chi Chuan, which is very rare. Tai Chi dancers may be graceful and elegant, but they may not be fit enough for vigorous military training in national service. Indeed Tai Chi dancers would probably be fitter had they spent their time doing rock-n-roll or aerobics.

If you train internal force correctly, you will be fit and strong in two years, and be a worthy member to serve your country. You forgot that Tai Chi Chuan and other styles of kungfu were martial arts; they were practised for fighting, individually or in mass warfare. But Tai Chi dance is not; it is a form of recreation for those who may not even have the strength or fitness to stretch their legs or skip a rope.

It is not unreasonable for you, like many other people too, to have such a mis-conception, because many of these Tai Chi dancers who themeselves may honestly think that they are doing Tai Chi Chuan, are influential persons in various Tai Chi organizations, and sometimes organize teachers' classes to train other instructors to teach their version of Tai Chi Chuan.

Taijiquan Tai Chi Chuan

Taiji dance is a gentle exercise whereas Taijiquan is an internal martial art

Question 7

Hence, I would like to know if there is some middle line, something I can do without comprimising either health perspectives. Is it okay for me to continue with push-ups, jogging and sit-ups while progressing well in my Tai Chi Chuan, which I'm really passionate about? Or is it possible to gain enough internal force within two years to enable myself to do chin ups and etc, which will qualify me as a fit person in the Western as well as the Eastern sense?

Answer

There is no need for a middle line. The traditional Chinese martial art way is first strengthen yourself, including all your internal organs and life-function systems. Then, as the result of strengthening you can perform any exercise better, including push-ups, jogging and sit-ups. The Chinese martial art way pays great importance to gradual progress; it is utmost important not to over-train yourself.

The western approach is reverse. You do the exercise first, and hope that by doing the exercise you strengthen yourself. Chinese masters call this “confusing branch and root”, or confusing effect and cause. In western terms, it is putting the card before the horse. Strengthening yourself is the cause; being able to do exercise well is the effect. The western approach has reversed cause and effect. Consequently the western approach gives only an apparence of fitness.

Those who lift weights or jog, for example, appear to be fit, but actually they are not because they have not strengthened their organs or imporved their systems to do extra work. Instead they force their organs and systems to work hard; they do not feel the strain because they have conditioned themselves to endure.

This is extremely unhealthy. You may now better understand why so many former world champions have become physical and mental wrecks at middle age. At their prime period when their vital organs and life-sustaining systems were still able to endure the strain, they were paragons of the western concept of health and fitness. But later their organs and systems gave way to persistent over-straining. Not many people, however, know about their suffering at middle age. It is indeed sad to see them in such miserable conditions.

You can practise your Tai Chi Chuan and also do your western type exercises if you want to. You don't have to wait for two years; you can perform eastern and western exercises in the same time set. If you perform eastern exercise before western exercise, you prepare yourself for the demand of the western exercise. If you perform eastern exercise after, you minimize the adverse effects of the western exercise. If you incorporate your eastern exercise into your western exercise, such as entering into a relaxed state of mind and regulating your breathing as you do your push-ups or jog, you maiximize the result of the western exercise.

Question 8

I also wonder how am I going to continue to train internal force while serving in the army for two years. Exercise would surely mean Western styled exercise while “internal force” and “Tai Chi Chuan” would be nothing but jokes and weightless words said by those who do not understand the terms. No one would believe that one could be fit by training internal force. I really hope that I will not lose my efforts to train in Tai Chi Chuan by attending military service, for Tai Chi Chuan is truly a great treasure.

Answer

By comparision, internal force training is convenient. In western styled exercise, such as weight-lifting and jogging, you need apparatus and space. What is needed in internal force training is only your time and effort. When you practise your Tai Chi Chuan force training like “Three-Circle Stance” and “Lifting Water”, you can do so in your own room before a window.

If you treat Tai Chi Chuan as a great treasure, whcih in fact it is, you should be proud of it. While you should not show off your Tai Chi Chuan to people, you need not worry about possible jokes and weightless words from those ignorant of it. Most probably this uneasiness is your own creation. It is more likely that other people admire your opportunity of practising a genunie art.

A few persons may pass unwelcomed comments. You can politely tell them that genuine Tai Chi Chuan is a great art that is not easily found today, and that your only concern is whether you are worthy enough to practise it. It is helpful to realize that when a person feels shameful about doing a certain thing, it is usually either his action is unworthy or he is unworthy of the action.

But when those persons find that your internal force training not only gives you health and vitality but also a cheerful spirit and a relaxed mind, even they will admire you, not just for your art but also for your courage of pursuing what you think is worthy. The point is not what other people may or may not believe; but that you will certainly be fit and healthy when you train internal force And they will be amazed that even when you train western-typed exercise less than them, with your internal force you are better than them in their push-ups or weight-lifting.

I recall a priceless lesson I learned from my father. During schooldays, I was a boy scout. Sometmes when we had to attend scout meetings wearing our scout uniforms, we would bring our uniforms to school to change. One day my father asked me, “Are you not proud to be a scout? If you are not, you should leave scouting; if you are, you should not be afraid other people know you are a scout.” Since then I alsways wore my scout uniform when needed, and was very proud of it.

The three main races in Singapore (and also in Malaysia) are Chinese, Malay and Indian. The Chinese can learn something from their Malay and Indian brothers. When they go to mosques or temples to pray, the Malays and the Indians wear their best traditional dresses, which are very beautiful. They are very proud of their traditional dresses.

I just returned from giving a chi kung seminar in public. I wore my chi kung dress from my hotel to the seminar, and after the seminar I had “tapas” (light food) in a crowded restaurant wearing my chi kung dress. Nobody made fun of me.

Irrespective of whether at home in Malaysia or abroad, whenever I attend any kungfu or chi kung activities, I always wear my kungfu or chi kung dress — never take the dress to the place to change. When I am invited to international conferences, I usually wear my traditional dress. I am so used to it that I often forget about it until some people kindly comment how attractive my traditional dress is.

It is the same with your Tai Chi Chuan or whatever art you are proud to be training in. Before long, other people will compliment you on how good your art is.

LINKS

Overview of the Questions-Answers Series

Courses and Classes