June 2002 (Part 2)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
As a Buddhist layperson, I use the Five Precepts as my guide to living. I have a question with regards to the precept “not to have licentious sex”. Is it possible to break this precept within one's own marriage? Are there times when one's relationship with one's own wife could be considered “licentious”?
My wife and I currently avoid sex if angry or exhausted, and I once thought that this was sufficient. As my practice has deepened I have come to realize that I cannot depend upon my limited understanding, nor make assumptions. I am not clear about this one precept, and most books that I have read (and even teachers spoken to) tend to sum it up as “if single, avoid sex; if married, avoid sex with all but your wife.”
— Shua, USA
The Five Precepts — not to kill, not to steal, not to tell untruths, not to have licentious sex, and not to be intoxicated — are an excellent guide to happy, wholesome living, irrespective of whether one is a Buddhist or not.
The Five Precepts should be used as such, as an excellent guide, and not as a rigid dogma. Indeed there are no dogmas in Buddhism. Each one of the more than 200 rules monks arduously follow, was made individually by the Buddha as an expedient mean to overcome a particular difficult situation as it arose.
The Buddha even went to the extent of saying that his teaching was like a raft, to ferry humanity from suffering to bliss. Once we have reached the shores of bliss, we can discard the raft. This, of course, does not mean we can be ungrateful to Him and His teaching once we have arrived. But the Buddha wants us to differentiate between means and ends.
Hence, we need not be unduly worried over the exact meaning of “licentious sex”, or of any other precept, so long as our following the precepts leads us to our objectives according to the Buddha's teaching. Of course, again this does not mean we can interpret “licentious sex” in whatever way that suits us. The Buddha's teaching is to set us free, not to enslave us. If we limit ourselves to the definition we give to “licentious sex” and follow it rigidly even if it leads us astray, then not only we have enslaved ourselves to our artificial definition of “licentious sex”, we also have missed the spirit of this precept.
Generally speaking, “if single, avoid sex; if married, avoid sex with all but your wife.”, as explained by many books and teachers, is the most sensible working definition of the precept. It was with this in mind that the Buddha made this precept — and not with the intention of asking some followers not to have sex when they or their spouses were angry or exhausted.
But conditions have since changed very much. In the West today it is prevalent and acceptable that couples live together although they are not legally married. Would such Buddhist couples be following the precept of not having licentious sex, if they have sex together but not with any other people. I believe they are following the spirit of the precept, though not its exact words. On the other hand, if a husband forced sex onto his unwilling wife despite her objection and anguish although they were legally married, he would not be following the spirit of the precept even though he followed its definition.
Not having sex when one is angry or exhausted, is wise, irrespective of the definition one may give to “licentious sex”. Suppose a Buddhist follower having defined “licentious sex” as extra-marital sex, justified his having sex with his wife while they were angry at each other, he would then be abusing the precept. On the other hand, if a person regarded having sex while being angry or exhausted as “licentious sex”, but he did not know whether his sex would be “licentious” when he was not angry or exhausted but nervous or fearful, he would have missed the spirit of the precept due to his following its literal meaning.
I am a reader of your books, and have been performing “Lifting the Sky” daily for some weeks. Recently I have been feeling a pressure between my eyebrows (sometimes it moves to one eyebrow) when practicing and during Standing Zen afterwards. In my last practice the pressure was quite strong (almost painful) and continued after I had finished. My immediate reaction was to consider it a blockage, but I do not know how to deal with one.
I was reminded however of one of your Question/Answers on your website, Feb 2002 Part 3 Question 1, where one of your students describes a similar problem. However I feel it is arrogant to presume that I, a beginner, am about to experience the opening of my third eye. Either way, I would like to know what to do. Is it safe to continue to practice with a blockage? I recall in one of your books you mentioned that increasing chi flow when suffering a blockage could cause serious problems. I would be very grateful if you could help.
— Marshall, Scotland
From your description it appears that you are opening your third eye. Congratulations. It is not usual for a beginner to have such a good result so fast, so you are one of the very few exceptions.
Here are some reasons why you have such a good result. You follow my instructions respectfully, including practicing only one exercise, and not attempting many at the same time.
Secondly, “Lifting the Sky” is a wonderful exercise. It is a safe exercise, and while beginners performing it at a low level can derive benefits like good posture and relaxation, those with suitable conditions may obtain fantastic results.
Thirdly, you have suitable conditions, in what are called “pre-natal qualities”. In other words, you are born with qualities which are conducive for the opening of the third eyes when the opportunity arises, and the opportunity is your practicing “Lifting the Sky”. It is likely that you practiced chi kung to a fairly high level in your past lives. If you do not believe in past lives, just treat this as non- sense.
You need not do anything special; just carry on with your chi kung training as usual. The opening of the third eye may sometimes cause some pain, but you need not worry. In due time the pain will disappear. However, if the pain becomes sharp, you should slow down your training or rest a day or two to let the pain subside.
This type of pain is what we call the “good” pain, which is due to chi opening some blockage. This blockage is natural. In ordinary persons, their third eye is blocked. It is the clearing of this natural blockage that brings about the opening of the third eye.
However, in the unlikelihood that your case is not opening the third eye but is due to some unnatural blockage as a result of injury or illness, you also need not worry. Either way, you carry on practicing “Lifting the Sky” as usual. If it is natural blockage, chi will open your third eye. If it is unnatural blockage, chi will clear your injury or illness.
While it is not necessary, it will be very beneficial if you can attend my Intensive Chi Kung Course. The course can enable you to bring out your full potential.
And I would like to thank you greatly for sharing with me through your books the wisdom of Zen, Chi Kung, and Taijiquan. Other books such as D.T. Suzuki's “Introduction to Zen Buddhism” would have been incomprehensible if I had not read your books first.
I am glad you have found my books useful. We live in an amazing age where never before has been so much information available so readily. In the past, many people would be glad to pay a fortune to exchange some of the “secrets” I explain in my books.
My “The Complete Book of Zen” is one of the books I myself like best. One of the reasons that first prompted me to write this book was that I found most of the books on Zen written in English I had read, was confusing. The impression I got from reading those books was that someone who started with some knowledge of Zen would be more confused after reading them. This is ironical, as Zen is simple, direct and effective.
Incidentally, I am now in Austria, having just completed a series of chi kung classes. A student specially came forward to thank me for having written “The Complete Book of Zen”. He told me that since 30 years ago he had studied and practiced Zen and had read many books on it. Yet he was all confused until he read my book. The wonderful thing was that while practising Standing Zen during a class, when I mentioned about the Original Face, in an instant everything fell together and became very clear to him. He had an awakening.
I have been practicing the first two positions of Zhan Zhuang for about 4 weeks. I would like to include Ba Duan Jin at the beginning of my Zhan Zhuang. Can you tell me if it is safe to do Ba Duan Jin, or is there a danger of doing them too soon. I am 57 years old.
— Kevin, UK
Zhan zhuang is a generic term referring to a category of chi kung exercises where a practitioner remains stationary in one chosen poise for a length of time. The Horse-Riding Stance and the Three-Circle Stance are two most popular examples.
In some modern kungfu literature written in English in the West, Zhan zhuang is sometimes translated as “standing on stakes”. In my opinion, this is a mis-translation and may give a most misleading picture of what zhan zhuang is. This problem is due to mistaking “zhuang” as “stakes”.
“Zhuang” has a few meanings, and although one of them is “stakes”, the correct one in this context is “stances”. Literally “zhan zhuang”, which is in Mandarin pronunciation, means “standing at stances”. Hence, stance training is a better translation for zhan zhuang.
The term zhan zhuang is popularly used in north China, where the Mandarin pronunciation of the Chinese language is prevalent. In south China, stance training is more popularly known as “chat ma”, which is in Cantonese pronunciation, the prevalent dialect in the south.
Cantonese is a very interesting and poetic language. “Chat ma” literally means “tying up a horse”! But if you mention “chat ma” to any Cantonese speaking kungfu practitioner, he knows you mean “stance training”. Translating “chat ma” as “tying up a horse” is as misleading, and comical, as translating “zhan zhuang” as “standing on stakes”.
Many kungfu students have heard that “zhan zhuang” or “chat ma” is very important in kungfu, but most of them do not know why. They think that stance training develops solid stances, which is only part of the picture. More important than solid stances, stance training develops internal force and mental clarity. It is a most ingenuous method evolved by masters through the centuries where a practitioner reduces his form to the bare minimum so that he can focus on his energy and mind. It is probably the single most decisive method from which kungfu masters derive their tremendous internal force.
Zhan zhuang is therefore a very powerful form of chi kung exercise. Paradoxically, because it looks simple — and is simple — it is easy to make mistakes when one trains without proper supervision. Because there is only one form, if you make just one mistake, you are 100% out. Making mistakes in powerful chi kung training can lead to serious side-effects.
On the other hand, Ba Duan Jin or “Eight Pieces of Brocade” is a gentle form of chi kung. There are eight exercises and each exercise consists of a few movements. Hence, even if you make a few mistaken movements, you are only a few percent out, and the gentle nature of the exercises further minimize their harmful effects.
The way you asked the question, suggests that you practice chi kung without a master's supervision. At 57 it is best for you to leave powerful exercise like zhan zhuang aside. Ba Duan Jin is an excellent set of exercise for you. You can have marvellous results if you practice Ba Duan Jin as chi kung, which is energy exercise; but even if you practice the set as gentle physical exercise, you still can have many benefits, such as loosening your joints and muscles, giving you balance and elegance, making you relaxed and improving your blood circulation.
Before I read your book “The Art Of Chi Kung”, I have been training in Aikido and I could not fill my hands with energy. Using your method described in your book, I succeed to fill my hands. But after some time, when I think about the point below my navel often feel unpleasant vibration in my body . Probably I cannot cope with energy. What would you advise me in this case ?
— Vao, Russia
The vibration in your body is the result of energy flow from your hands. It is a natural characteristic of energy to flow to where it is needed most.
After performing relevant chi kung exercises to fill your hands with energy, the energy remains at your hands for some time. The energy need of your vital organs to maintain life is certainly more important than the energy need of your hands to do Aikido. Hence, later when you relax and be spontaneous, the energy flows from your hands to your vital organs..
But this flow is interrupted along the way due to some blockage in your body. The energy flow attempts to break through the blockage. Therefore you feel the vibration. Sometimes you may feel some pain. For convenience we call this type of pain, “good pain” or “healthy pain” because it is an indication that the energy flow is taking effect for your good.
My advice is that you carry on with your practice but you do not need to think about the point below your naval, i.e. your dan tian. If the vibration — which may be unpleasant, painful or otherwise — occurs, just relax and you need not do anything.. The unpleasant or painful feeling will disappear when your energy flow has cleared your blockage.
You may find the following two points helpful. One, you may think that the energy flowing from your hands is wasted, as your hands become less powerful as a consequence. No, the energy is not wasted. It is put to its best use.
The most important use of energy is to maintain life — a fact many people forget or may not even know. After ensuring that you continue to live — which means all your systems, organs, glands, etc are working properly — the next most important use of energy is to enhance your quality of life. In practical terms it means you can now enjoy good food without worrying about heart problems or diabetes, you won't get angry when caught in a traffic jam, and you can enjoy your work and play without easily feeling tired.
Clearing your blockage is an indication that the energy is doing some of these important jobs for you. Only after performing these and other important jobs, will the energy remain at your hands for you to perform Aikido better.
This point exhibits a crucial difference between internal and external training. If you use external training, like hitting sandbags and lifting weights, your energy is “locked” at the site of training. Hence, your hands may always remain powerful, but you may not enjoy a better quality of life. If you use internal training, like practicing the chi kung exercises in my book, your energy is “alive” and will flow to wherever it is needed most. You may not have powerful hands always, but you may have a better quality of life.
Now, the second point. What, if you want to have powerful hands? There are two ways to achieve this. One, you can direct your energy to flow to your hands. Usually you direct it from your dan tian, your energy bank, but you can also direct it from other parts of your body. Of course, you must learn the skill to do so, and you learn it from a master.
Two, you continue to practice the chi kung exercises regularly for a long time, say, a few years so that you will have developed a lot of energy. Even after doing important and essential jobs like maintaining and enhancing life, there is still a lot of energy to spare, and the extra energy remains not just at your hands but all over your body.
This, in fact, is what internal art masters do. Not only they are healthy and full of vitality, and their hands are always powerful, they can strike you with any part of their body. They can, for example, cause serious injury on an opponent by hitting him with a shoulder at close quarters.
My father is trying to loose weight and he is using your advice from the same book. He rotates his feet while lying down, but his results are not so visible. What would you advise my father?
Rotating the feet while lying down is called "Drawing the Moon". It is an excellent method to loose weight, especially at the belly and the waist. If he does not have visible result, it is probably due to one or more of the following reasons.
He movement was too fast. Each rotation of the feet should take at least half a minute.
He did not practice regularly. He must practice twice every day, once in the morning and once at night.
He has not practice long enough. He has to practice daily for a few months to see result.
In your Tai Chi Chuan book, you mentioned all the martial and health aspects of Tai Chi Chuan. However, I found out that you did not reveal the whole thing about Tai Chi Chuan. I have discovered that every Tai Chi move is directed at a dim mak point, or a pressure point on the body. For example, the 'peng' technique is used for blocking or warding off. However, there is a more sinister application to 'peng'. 'Peng' is used to strike a dim mak point on the neck that causes heart stoppage. I hope that I am not too rude as you are a highly respected master.
— Stephen, USA
Where an attack pattern is directed depends not on the pattern itself but on the attacker. Hence, every Tai Chi Chuan move may or may not be directed at a dim mak, or vital, point.
You are right about the application of the “peng” technique. It is more than just blocking or warding off. Even as a warding off technique, it can also double as an attack, striking the opponent's elbow to dislocate it, or striking a vital point on his arm to numb him.
Besides striking the neck, the “peng” technique can be used to strike other equally deadly points, like the temple, the eyes, the throat, the armpit and the ribs. It is also useful for releasing an opponent's grip, or to “float” his kick to fell him onto the ground.
In some series of Selection of Questions and Answers, you said that high kicks like Bruce Lee's kicks have some disadvantages. In my opinion, high kicks are always not as powerful as low kicks. I would like to have your opinion on jumping kicks which can be found in some kungfu sets like “er qi jiao” or double jumping front kick; and “shuen feng tui” or whirlwind kick. These kicks are also very high. I would like to know how to employ these kinds of kicks in kungfu.
— Julie, Malaysia
High kicks are not necessarily less powerful than low kicks. Whether high or low kicks are more powerful depends on not just the height of the kicks but also on other factors like the force of the attacker and how he uses it, as well as how the kicks are executed.
If all things were equal, which is usually not valid, low kicks are more powerful than high kicks if the kicks are executed with the attacker standing on the ground. If the high kicks are executed while the attacker is “flying” onto an opponent, high kicks can be more powerful. For example, “shuang fei tui” or double flying kick, which is executed by the attacker “flying” with his body weight into his opponent and kicking with both feet while still in the air, is very powerful.
Many people mistakenly think that there are few kicks in kungfu. Actually there are more kicks in Shaolin Kungfu, especially Northern Shaolin, than all the kicks in the other martial arts put together. This is not an exaggeration, although many people may think it is an outlandish claim.The following are 36 types of kicks in Shaolin Kungfu. (The pronunciation is in Cantonese) They are arranged in three groups; the first 17 are low kicks (below waist), the next 14 are middle kicks (between waist and shoulders), and the last 5 are high kicks (above shoulders). This division is for convenience; some kicks can be aimed at any heights.
- liew yam thui — organ-seeking kick
- sou thong thui — floor-sweeping kick
- hou sou thong — reserve floor-sweeping
- kow chin thui — scissors-kick
- hou thun thui — back-thrust kick
- ma hou thui — horse back kick
- kwai tzi thui — clutch-kick
- ngow than kheok — hook-spring leg
- phoon loong thui — dragon-embracing kick
- noi chet khow — internal knee anchor
- ngoi chet khow — external knee anchor
- hak hoong chong shue — hip strike
- chan kheok — low leg shove
- thap thui — stepping kick
- chap thui — side-step
- ha thang thui — low thrust kick
- tham kheok — stumpping leg
- ming chim — toe kick
- ting thui — nail kick
- thow theik kam choong — purple-bell kick
- fu mei keoik — tiger-tail kick
- chak sun fu mei — sideway tiger-tail
- lin wan thui (er qi jiao) — continuous kick
- shiun foong thui (shuen feng tui) — whirlwind kick
- chor pai lin — left swaying lotus
- you pai lin — right swaying lotus
- jing thei chet — front knee strike
- chak thei chet — side knee strike
- chein thung thui — front thrust kick
- chak san thui — side kick
- thow kwa kam ngow — reverse hook kick
- choy hou thui — throat-seeking kick
- khaik thein thui — sky kick
- kwa thui — hanging kick.
- than fei thui — single flying kick
- seong fei thui — double flying kick
Why are kicking attacks not as frequently used as hand attacks in kungfu when there are so many types of kicks? This is because there are some innate weaknesses in kicking attacks, as follows.
- Kicks are more exposed.
- The intention to execute a kick can often be observed.
- Kicks require a longer time to reach target.
- Kicks require a longer recovery time.
- Mobility is minimized.
- The use of other attacking parts is minimized.
- Kicks are less versatile.
Hence, there must be sufficient advantages in a given combat situation to outweigh its innate disadvantages before an combatant justifiably executes a kick. And he must be aware of the innate disadvantages so that if his opponent exploits them, he would know how to respond.
High kicks may be executed while the attacker is on the ground or jumping up. Jumping up to execute a high kick, like the throat-seeking kick or the single flying kick, not only enables the attacker to gain height but more importantly to cover his other-wise exposed sex organs. However, there is always pro and con. To gain this advantage of coverage, the attacker suffers another disadvantage. While he is in the air, it would be more difficult for him than when he is on the ground, if the opponent counter-attacks.
“Er qi jiao” (double jumping front kick) and “shuen feng tui” (whirlwind kick) are Northern Shaolin kicks. The attacker first executes a front snap kick at the opponent's sex organ. When the opponent attempts to defend against this first kick, the attack withdraws his leg and simultaneously jumps up with a second kick using the other leg at the opponent heart or throat, often catching the opponent by surprise.
A serious weakness of “er qi jiao” is when the attacker is still in the air. The opponent may dodge the kick and simultaneously strike the kicking leg to fracture it. Or he may grasp the kicking foot and twist it to dislocate its ankle. An excellent response is “Swallow Turns its Body”, which can be applied against either of the two counter-attacks. While in the air, the attacker turns his body (which would then neutralize the opponent's strike or grip) and simultaneously drives the toes of his other leg into the opponent's head. Executing this “Swallow” pattern effectively, of course, requires very high level skills.
In “shuen feng tui”, the attacker executes a high sweeping kick at the opponent's temple. When the opponent attempts to defend against the first kick, and irrespective of whether the opponent counter- attacks, the attacker in lighting speed places his kicking leg behind, turns around (this turning around would neutralize any counter-attack) and jumps up with another sweeping kick using the same leg again at the opponent's temple, catching him by surprise.
A sweeping kick by a trained attacker is both forceful and fast. If the opponent blocks the sweeping kick head-on with his arm, his arm may be fractured. If he dodges the sweeping kick then strikes the kicking leg or grip it to dislocate its ankle, the fast sweeping movement would frustrate his counter-attack. A good choice, therefore, is to lower his stance to allow the sweeping leg to pass, then immediately moves forward to strike the attacker. Now he may fall into the attacker's trap. The attacker places his kicking leg behind and turns around, thus neutralizing the opponent's strike, and immediately jumps up to execute a second sweeping kick.
“Er qi jiao” and “shuen feng tui” are known respectively in Southern Shaolin as “lin wan thui” (continuous kicks) and “lin wan kwa thui” (continuous hanging kicks), which are in Cantonese, the most prominent Chinese dialect in the south. “Lin wan thui” is sometimes called “lin wan fei thui” (continuous flying kicks) to differentiate this term from “lin wan kwa thui”.
In “lin wan fei thui” the second kick is usually aimed at the opponent's sex organs again, or sometimes at his heart, and seldom at his throat, because Southern Shaolin kicks are seldom high. Hence, besides “lin wan kwa thui” which is a high whirlwind kick aiming at the head, a low whirlwind kick aiming at the opponent's ribs is more popular.
In high continuous whirlwind kicks, the same leg is used for the kicks. But in low continuous whirlwind kicks, usually different legs are used, i.e. the attacker kicks at the opponent's ribs with one leg, and when the opponent attempts to defend, the attacker kicks the other side of the opponent's ribs with his other leg. Low continuous whirlwind kicks, known as “lean wan shuen feng tui” in Mandarin pronunciation, is a famous kicking technique of Yenqing Kungfu, a Northern Shaolin style well know for its kicks, felling techniques and deceptive moves.