June 2002 (Part 1)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Are the Ten Shaolin Laws directed to the superior man through Heaven, and are they therefore eternal? Do you see the Lord of Hosts as the Creator of the Kingdom of Heaven, or does Buddhism leave that question to be a mystery one has to experience? My profession is studying comparative religions. From the depths of my heart I thank you for sharing your great wisdom inherited from past masters and for you being a present superior master.
— Mitchal, USA
It would be helpful to other visitors of my website if I first briefly explain some terms. In Confucian philosophy, one aspires to be a superior man, i.e. one who is cultured and practices high moral values. “Heaven” in Confucian philosophy is the equivalent of the Christian concept of God. I do not know what do you mean by the “Lord of Hosts”, but I guess you may be referring to the Jade Emperor, who rules as the emperor in heaven in Taoist philosophy.
The Ten Shaolin Laws are not directed to the superior man; rather, they are practical means to help an ordinary man to become a superior man. They are also not made by or in Heaven, or enacted through Heaven. They are the crystallization of the kind of philosophical values and practical behaviour Shaolin disciples cherish as ideal.
They are not eternal in the sense that they are unchangeable. Different Shaolin schools may have different sets of ten Shaolin laws. These laws were not made by God; they were made by man.
The Jade Emperor is not the creator of Kingdom of Heaven, though he is the ruler of the Kingdom. In Taoist philosophy, the Cosmos evolves itself from the Great Void due to the interplay of yin and yang. This is an arcane way of saying, as in modern scientific language, that the so-called external world we see is made up of protons and electrons. The Kingdom of Heaven ruled by the Jade Emperor is only a part of the infinite Cosmos.
Buddhism never seeks to be mysterious. It is the other way round. Buddhist philosophy explains the question of creation very clearly. In fact, the Buddhist explanation, the Taoist explanation and the scientific explanation are exactly the same! But because the terms used are different — due to historical, cultural, linguistic and other factors — many people do not see their similarity.
In all the three disciplines — Buddhism, Taoism and modern science — ultimate reality is understood as devoid of any physical, objective entities. In other words, the physical, objective entities like tables and people, stars and butterflies that we experience in our everyday consciousness, are actually not there. What we see as tables and people, stars and butterflies is actually a continuous spread of energy.
Buddhism explains that we see this continuous spread of energy not as energy but as separate entities like tables and people, stars and butterflies because of our “six-entries” (eye, ear, nose, tongue, skin, mind). It is our interpretation of this energy by our six senses that results in the creation of the phenomenal world. Taoism and modern science explain that due to yin and yang, or positive charge and negative charge, energy constantly coalesces to form particles, and particles constantly disintegrate into energy.
Is the opening of microcosmic orbit safe?
— Adine, Malaysia
Yes, it is perfectly safe if done under the supervision of a master, or at least a qualified instructor who himself has had such an opening. But it can cause serious problems if one attempts it himself or learns from a bogus teacher.
In my school, Shaolin Wahnam, we call the opening of the Microcosmic Obit, the break-through of the Small Universe. The Small Universe, or the Microcosmic Obit, refers to the flow of chi, or vital energy, round the body along the Ren Meridian and the Du Meridian. The Ren Meridian runs from just below the lower lip down the front part of the body to just before the anus. The Du Meridian runs from just after the anus up the back part of the body, round the head and down the face to just above the upper lip.
In a new-born baby, vital energy flows vigorously along the Small Universe, resulting in good health and vitality. As he grows, due to various factors, this harmonious flow is interrupted at many places, resulting in illness and weakness. Good health and vitality are restored when the blockage along the flow is cleared, resulting in a break-through.
There are two types of break-through — apparent break-through and real break-through. In an apparent break-through, a powerful bubble of energy pushes through the Small Universe. This break-through is temporary. When the bubble of energy dissipates, the blockage may return and the flow is interrupted again.
In a real break-through, the accumulation of vital energy at the abdominal energy field, or tan dian, becomes more and more, resulting in a column of flowing energy until it completely fills the Small Universe. When this happens, the practitioner will be free from illness and full of vitality.
Will the Small Universe burst if more energy is added when it is already full? No, because the Ren Meridian and the Du Meridian which form the Small Universe, have no physical boundary; they are just lines of energy flow. When more energy is added, the lines or volume of flow become bigger and bigger, and the “extra” energy may flow into other meridians, gradually resulting in the break-through of the Big Universe, or the Macrocosmic Obit.
The Big Universe refers to the flow of energy along all the twelve major meridians of the body. In some context it refers to the energy of the whole body. Will the body burst if more energy is added when it is already full of energy? No, because our body does not have a boundary!
Our skin which we normally regard as the physical boundary of our body, is an illusion — caused by the limitations of our senses. Our “extra” energy just radiates beyond our skin. We may see this energy as a glow, or aura.
Is the microcosmic obit similar to kundalini energy?
The upward flow of the microcosmic obit or Small Universe from near the anus to the top of the head, is similar to the rise of kundalini energy, but they are not the same.
Both the Small Universe and kundalini give good health and vitality, and at high levels both lead to spiritual fulfilment. But the upward flow of the Small Universe is nearer the surface of the physical body whereas the rise of kundalini is vertical from the anus to the head. In this respect, the rise of kundalini is similar to the break-through of the Rush Meridian.
While the flow of the Small Universe is a never-ending circuit around the body along the Ren and Du Meridians, the flow of the Rush Meridian — like the rise of kundalini — starts from the base near the anus and sprouts out at the crown of the head in “a blossom of five flowers” like a fountain.
When I was training Shaolin Kungfu under Uncle Righteousness and Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, I had a few wonderful experiences of this flow of the Rush Meridian. Without any prior indication, a powerful surge of energy rushed up from my base near my anus to my mouth or crown of my head, with a distinct taste or smell of sweet, fragrant alcohol, and always leaving in me a sense of tremendous power and vitality. The vertical rush of energy took just a second or two.
Is it necessary to practice meditation under the guidance of a teacher, or would it be just as beneficial to practice the method for attaining a focused mind that you describe in “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu”?
— Matthew, USA
While it is not essential, it is certainly very helpful to practice meditation under the guidance of a teacher who himself has practiced meditation for some time, and not one who reads about meditation from books and then teaches others.
What is important in the learning and practice of meditation is not just the technique but the skill. If you read from a book you may know the technique, but you may not have the skill. And if you lack the skill you may practice the technique wrongly, which may lead to harmful effects. This is particularly important in internal arts like meditation.
Nevertheless, if you cannot find a competent teacher but you still want to practice meditation, you can do so by learning from a good book.
My question refers to chi sleep. Is it possible to fall asleep focusing on your dan tian or chi and wake up refreshed and invigorated with energy? If so, is it possible to chi sleep for 3 hours and wake up and feel as if you had just slept for 10 hours?
— Stephen, USA
What you refer to is called “bei mu yang shen” in Chinese, which means “closing the eyes to nourish the spirit”. The practitioner sits in a cross-legged, single-lotus or double lotus position. He may just sit upright on a hard seat with his legs firmly on the ground and his hands gently resting on his thighs. Normally he does not focus on his dan tian or anywhere; he just closes his eyes and relax. Sometimes he may go into sleep while sitting upright. When he wakes up he feels fresh.
This technique of “closing the eyes to nourish the spirit” is usually done for a short period, like a few minutes, but when the practitioner wakes up he feels like having slept for one or two hours. With practice, the technique may be lengthened to 3 hours and have the benefit of having slept for 10 hours. In fact in his later years, my master, Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, did not sleep in bed. Every night he would ”close the eyes to nourish the spirit".
When I wrote my book. “The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu” a few years ago, I often employed this technique. That book was actually written in just one month, but I worked everyday from 3 o'clock in the afternoon to about 6 o'clock in the early morning without stopping, except for showers and meals. I would then “close my eyes to nourish my spirit” for a few minutes, and woke up at about 6 to do my other daily work until 3 o'clock when I would resume my writing. The fact that despite not having normal sleep for a month, I still could have the sanity and energy to complete my book without affecting my normal daily duties, speaks well for the technique of “closing the eye to nourish the spirit”
This technique, unlike many other meditation techniques, is very safe, and can be learnt from books or from my description above, and practiced on your own. It is very useful when you feel tired or sleepy but do not have a bed to lie down. Just find a suitable place to “close the eyes to nourish the spirit” for a few minutes, and you will find yourself fresh when you awake.
At night while I was preparing for bed, I meditated and focused my chi throughout my body so as to heal any internal injuries or problems that I might have encountered in my training. During meditation, a clicking noise appeared in my nasal area, and my left nostril actually quivered and clicked loudly. My body became extremely hot and steam rose off of my forehead. I have experienced the Vajra breaking power in my Shaolin studies, and was wondering if this might be part of my chi healing.
— Mark, Scotland
In your case it is difficult to tell from your description, without actually seeing you in person, whether yours was a case of chi healing. Nevertheless, as you did not have any internal injury at your nose and the healing of internal injury by chi break-through usually, though not always, occurs at its site, I believe yours is not chi healing.
It could be a case of some vigorous chi flow through your nasal area. But you need not worry about what it was, as chi always flows in ways for your best benefits if you allow it to flow spontaneously.
Unless you are at a master's level, it is generally unwise to employ meditation as a way to overcome internal injuries. Meditation is mind training, and should be practiced when you are already healthy and fit.
If you wish to overcome internal injuries and other problems which you might have sustained in your training, an excellent way is to practice self-manifested chi flow. Once you have generated a vigorous chi flow, and if you allow it to flow spontaneously, it will flow to problems areas to overcome the problems even if you do not consciously know where the problems are!
Please consider my words carefully so as to read them from your heart, as I have written them from mine. You are a great man to be so generous to share your knowledge. I need you to check the following websites and tell me what you can conclude of the teachers. My dream is to find a genuine martial art and it has been a long journey.
— Heri, USA
Yours is a sensitive question, and normally I would not like to answer it because my answer, when given honestly, may create some ill feelings, although on my part I never intend to do so. Yet, I shall answer your question honestly, partly because you have respectfully sent me the same question many times and you are sincere in seeking the answer, and partly because not doing so would make me feel not measuring to the courage expected of a Shaolin disciple.
As it is not proper to comment on specific schools and teachers, I shall give you some general comments. Almost all kungfu schools today fall into one of the following two categories — those teaching modernized wushu, which is beautiful to watch but not genuine traditional kungfu; and those teaching traditional kungfu forms but without internal force and genuine kungfu sparring.
Almost all those schools with links to China today, including those whose masters or grandmasters say that they learnt from the modern Shaolin Monastery in China, belong to the first group. These practitioners, including the masters and grandmasters who have migrated from China recently, generally cannot defend themselves because combat application has never been a part of their training.
Almost all those schools which have existed before modernized wushu spread overseas from China, belong to the second group. Their practitioners are generally good fighters but they often do not use traditional kungfu forms in their sparring although they can perform these forms beautifully in solo practice.
The schools you have mentioned are no exception. If you wish to realize your dream of finding a genuine martial art, I would suggest the following. Learn for about a year from a school which teaches modernized wushu, and from a school which teaches traditional kungfu forms. You can choose from those schools you have mentioned. Then attend my Intensive Shaolin Kungfu Course in Malaysia. The reason for learning from other schools first before learning from me, is not for you to compare their teaching with mine, but for you to be familiar with kungfu forms so that when you later learn from me, you do not have to waste time learning kungfu forms again but to go straight to internal force training and combat application.
Why do many teachers also teach Taiji as their program?
There are different ways to answer the above question. One answer is that many teachers teach Taiji (by which I mean Taiji dance) because they do not know Taijiquan, which is a wonderful internal martial art. Another answer is that it is easy to teach Taiji, especially if the teachers are Chinese, and they need not worry if ever anyone would test their combat efficiency because Taiji in the West is seldom regarded as a martial art.
However, if your intention is to ask why many teachers of hard or external martial arts (including what many people call "kungfu") also include Taiji as supplementary training, my answer is that they think Taiji would moderate their hard styles. In my opinion either their art is shallow or their thinking is superficial. If their art is deep, it is complete by itself and there is no need to add Taiji or techniques from any other martial arts to it.
For example, Choy-Li-Fatt is a hard kungfu style, but there is no need to add Taiji or even Taijiquan to soften it. In fact, doing so not only does not add to the combat or health aspects of Choy-Li-Fatt, but will actually be detrimental because Choy-Li-Fatt and Taijiquan principles may not be compatible.
Their thinking is superficial because they have not understood both their own art and Taijiquan deep enough. If their own art is deep and they have understood it, they would have realized that incorporating Taiji is unnecessary. If they have understood Taijiquan, they would have realized the Taiji which they incorporate is only a dance and therefore would not add much to their own martial art.
What do you think of Bruce Lee?
I have much respect for Bruce Lee as a great martial art master, but what he practiced and taught was not traditional kungfu. Please refer to my detailed opinion of Bruce Lee in Question 5 of April 2002 Part 3 of my Question-Answer series.