October 2003 (Part 1)
SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
I am 19 years old and have been extremely interested in the Chinese, Indian and any other energy arts for a long time. My interests centre around a philosophy that I have researched for many years. I have spoken to many qigong masters, Ling Kong Jing masters, Taijiquan masters and even masters of psychic and astral abilities, and they have verified the following:
“Absolutely anything is possible, given that you have trained your energy (i.e. prana, mana etc) and your intention (yi) to perform that action. The only limiting factor is that the human life span cuts us short from the more amazing abilities. We do not have the time to generate sufficient energy or practice or intention for long enough.”
I have already seen many things that people would class as impossible or as magic. I have felt qi. I have had a qigong practitioner push and pull me over. I have experienced the incredible power of jing, even from someone who does not train as much as he should.
I would like you to give your opinion on the “anything is possible, pity we don't live that long” that so many times I have had verified by other masters.
— Aidan, England
I would like to tell you a story.
Once upon a time an aspirant respectfully asked a Zen master to accept him as a student. “Master,” he pleaded, “Please teach me the way. I know you do not want to waste time on fresh beginners, so I have done some prior cultivation.”
“What have you cultivated?” the master asked.
“May I show you?” the aspirant said. He made a mudra with his fingers, said a mantra, and stomped his right foot trice on the ground. The local god of the earth emerged from the ground, bowed to him and said, “Sir, what can I do for you?”
“Nothing in particular,” the aspirant replied, “I just wish to say Good Day.” The local god of the earth bowed again, and disappeared into the ground.
Next, the aspirant made another mudra, chanted another mantra, and pointed his open palm towards some bushes in front. A ray shot out from his palm towards the bushes, setting them on fire.
Then the aspirant looked towards the sky, chanted yet another mantra, and held his index and middle finger together and pointed them towards the sky. Some clouds materialized. With his fingers he led the clouds over the fire. Then he opened his five fingers towards the clouds. Rain fell and quenched the fire.
The aspirant then turned respectfully to the master, and said, “Master, I know these are only little tricks, nothing compared to what you teach.”
“What would you like to learn?” the master asked.
“I'd like to perform the impossible.”
“The impossible is impossible,” the master answered as a-matter-of-factly.
“But, with your miraculous powers, you could perform the impossible.”
“Even the Buddha could not perform the impossible!”
The aspirant was stunned. After he had recovered himself, he solemnly said, “I thought nothing was impossible to the Buddha!”
“No,” the master kindly explained. “There were many things the Buddha could not do. For example, the Buddha could not prevent critics ridiculing his teaching. He could not revive the dead, and He could not reverse karmic effects. If someone has done something bad, the Buddha could not make him have good result.”
The aspirant thought for a moment. “Then, what did the Buddha teach?”
“Avoid all evil, do good, and cultivate the mind.”
“I have done that and I have been cultivating my mind,” the aspirant answered.
“You've been cultivating your mind to perform little tricks. Now cultivate your mind to go beyond life and death, to go beyond karma, to attain eternal bliss.”
At this moment the aspirant attained a cosmic awakening. He prostrated three times to thank the master.
At Shaolin Wahnam while we are idealistic in our aspirations — we aim for the best — we are also pragmatic in our endeavor. We realize and accept our limitations. As you know you cannot live forever, even if we presume your theory were true, you would in reality be unable to accomplish the impossible. Then, why do you waste precious time arguing and fussing over what you know would not happen? Instead, you should spend your time doing well what you can, and should, do.
Secondly I would like to ask your opinion on my practice. My wish is to use the energy arts to come up with a system that will do the following:
Strengthen my body without unnecessary bulky muscle and damage to it. I believe this is the 18 Lohan Hands or the Eight Brocade? The “stand still get fit” thing also?
Develop my internal energy, qi, mana, prana not only for my own health, but for the purpose of healing others, to be able to perform ling kong jing, fa jing, Shaolin Golden Bell, and beyond into, of course, the theory that absolutely Anything is Possible if we could train for much longer than our life spans.
Hone my yi (intention) so that I am actually able to use that qi to pursue the Anything Is Possible theory.
Achieve the Zen state of mind, partly for the wisdom to use such things as they are meant to be used, and to upgrade my ability to use my qi, through yi, to quickly, sometimes subconsciously use these abilities when needed.
Cleanse and strengthen my internal organs for health and longevity.
Those are my aims. They are very high, but I appreciate that the reward is in the journey, which of course has no end.
I shall give my honest opinion as requested by you. First, I shall comment on your five aims.
Except your second aim, and despite what you have said, your aims are not high! Basically, you want to be healthy and live a long life, and is expressed in your first and fifth aim. This is the most fundamental purpose of all chi kung training. “Eighteen Lohan Hands” and “Eight Pierces of Brocade” are excellent for fulfilling this aim.
What you refer to as “stand still get fit thing” is Standing Meditation, and should be learnt from a competent instructor. If you practice it wrongly on your own, you will have harmful effects.
Your other three aims — aims number 2, 3 and 4 — suggest that you are not clear on what you actually want to achieve in your training. This is an example of intellectualizing on words without knowing what the words really represent.
Wanting to heal others is a very common aim put forth by many beginners starting chi kung. This may not apply to you, but from my experience those who want to become healers, masters or world saviours even before they learn the art, do not have the patience and endurance to become good students. As a Shaolin Wahnam instructor succinctly said, they just want to inflate their ego.
Aiming to accomplish “Ling Kong Jin” (Striking Across Space) is understandable as your teacher comes from a distinguished Ling Kong Jing lineage. But I suspect that you were attracted to “fa jing” (manifest force) and Shaolin Golden Bell by their fame rather than by their worth.
Honing your yi (intent) and qi (energy) to pursue the Anything is Possible theory is a waste of time as you already know that even if the theory were true, you cannot be successful because of your limited life span.
Even if you were to redefine your aim as developing as much as you could within your lifetime so that you might perform what many would call miracles or magic, you would still waste your time as you would be going round and round without actually knowing where you were going — a situation not unlike most of those who practice chi kung and kungfu today, though their aims are of a lower level.
Your mention of the Zen state of mind is another example of your being captivated by these high sounding words and intellectualizing on them without knowing what they really mean. You may be inspired, or disheartened, to know that most ordinary people without special training are already doing what you regard as your very high aim.
When children are absorbed in their computer games, or adults absorbed in their daily work, they are in a Zen state of mind, using wisdom and “such things as they are meant to be used”, as well as using “qi through yi to quickly, sometimes subconsciously, to use these abilities when needed.”
Needless to say, my comments are not meant to belittle your aims, but to help you to redefine them so that you will find your training rewarding. As they are now, it is likely your journey would turn out to be one of frustrations.
But before you redefine your aims, you should examine my comments on your intention to come up with a system of your own.
Suppose you want to become a good doctor, economist or expert in any profession, what would you do? Do you write to other doctors, economists, etc for suggestions so that you can devise your own training programme. You don't. Even if the other experts give you excellent suggestions, you lack the knowledge and expertise to do so.
The proper and right course of action is for you to attend school, then university, then follow successful doctors, economists, etc as an apprentice. This will not only save you a lot of time in the long run (those who devise their own programmes mistakenly think they have a short-cut) but also ensure you have proper training.
The same principle applies in chi kung and other arts. Generations of masters have worked out, experimented with, perfected and classified numerous systems for us, streamlined into various schools and sub-schools. There are more than enough exercises and sets of exercises for every need.
You are not even a competent practitioner yet. Don't try to be smarter than the masters. You are simply not in any position to know enough chi kung philosophy and practice to devise your own system or training programme yet. If you wish to do so, wait at least you have become a master.
You are lucky to learn from a teacher who not only comes from a distinguished lineage but is also open-minded. Practice according to his instructions. If he asks you to consult other masters too, do so, as you are doing now.
But remember that even when other masters provide useful advice, the actual implementation of the advice requires skills that need to be learnt personally from the masters themselves. For example, a master may rightly suggest that you practice the “Small Universe”, and may even provide you with the methods, but unless you learn personally from him the effects of your “Small Universe” may be very different from what he intended.
I would be very grateful if you could constructively criticize or commend on my training scheme, which I already know is incomplete, taking into account all 5 of my aims.
I travel to train with my sifu two nights in these methods, as I am only too aware that without proper instruction, the time taken for these things increases by almost four times and can stop totally if incorrect practice is done. I was referred to the Shaolin Wahnam Organization by my sifu, who mentioned the name Sifu Wong Kiew Kit as a very good source of information.
This is the training programme which I currently follow, as devised by my sifu.
Silk reeling - 2 exercises, 12 rotations in each direction.
Taiji ruler (a simple form which involves passing the “ruler” over the major energy points on the body, eventually going over the whole body)
Push and pull hands, 36 times in each direction.
Qi generation (I believe this to be the Standing on Stake or zhan zhong form) with the forearms parallel to the floor (12 minutes), then with the hands facing inwards (8 minutes), the arms at a 45 degree angle and the palms facing the eyes (4 minutes), then with the arms at the sides, out at an angle, almost like wings (2 minutes.), followed by cool down patting exercise on all limbs.
Sitting meditation for 1.5 times the length of the qi generation practice (I am told that this stores the energy)
The important thing in chi kung, or energy work, is often not what exercises you train but how you train them. Hence, different persons performing the same exercise can have very different results. For example, many other people perform “Lifting the Sky”, Horse-Riding Stance, or “Grasping Sparrow's Tail” like we do at Shaolin Wahnam, but the results are vastly different.
Secondly, the same person at different times may perform the same exercise for different purposes or at different levels. Take stretching for an example. A Shaolin Wahnam student, like most other people, may perform stretching to loosen his muscles. Or, unlike most other people, he may perform stretching to induce an internal energy flow. On another occasion he may perform stretching to strengthen some internal organs.
Moreover, even for the same exercises and for the same purposes, he may work at different levels. This is a common situation among our Shaolin Wahnam students. When they first learned some chi kung exercises from my books, they fond them fantastic. When they learned the same exercises in my regional chi kung classes, they attained results they had not believed possible. When they performed the same exercises at my Intensive Chi Kung Course in Malaysia, the difference was even more amazing.
Hence, the best cause of action is to practice the exercises the way your sifu has taught you. Even if an exercise is inferior, but if you have learnt it from a living instructor and therefore you can perform it correctly, you are likely to get more benefits from it than a superior exercise you learn on your own from a book or a video.
Nevertheless, I shall give my frank comments on your training programme as requested by you and supported by your sifu. Please bear in mind that if there are any differences between your programme and my suggestions, it does not mean my suggestions are better; it just shows that there are different ways to achieve similar results.
An excellent programme to achieve the same aims you have mentioned is to practice just “Lifting the Sky”, “Flicking Fingers” from Sinew Metamorphosis, and Standing Meditation.
Another excellent programme is to practice just “Lifting the Sky”, Dan Tian Breathing, and Sitting Meditation.
Understandably, many people will be surprised at my answer. Indeed, 30 years ago if someone were to tell me the same answer, I would be very surprised. Like you and many other people, I went round hunting for masters and more techniques. It is an interesting paradox that after many, many years of hunting, I found some of the best techniques were already taught to me right at the beginning of my kungfu career. Moreover, all my four masters told me earlier to focus on essence and not on learning more and more techniques.
But this does not mean that my many years of learning techniques as well as kungfu philosophies and histories were a waste of time. Had I not discovered from personal experience afer many years of searching, I would not have appreciated the concept of “focusing on essence, and not learning more and more techniques”, even though I might have been taught the concept theoretically. Besides, my extensive scope gives me many advantages over merely going deep.
Hence, the two excellent programmes mentioned above, while suitable for those who are ready, may not be suitable for you as well as many other people, including many in Shaolin Wahnam. In your case, the most practical programme is the one provided by your sifu.
I would, however, suggest two additional exercises, namely “Lifting the Sky” and Self-Manifested Chi Movement..
“Lifting the Sky” is to be performed at the start of your training session. It is an excellent exercise to get you into a chi kung state of mind so that the benefits of all your subsequent exercises can be multiple. Self-Manifested Chi Movement is to be performed at any stage about the middle of your training session. It acts as a safety precaution should you practiced wrongly. It is advisable to learn Self-Manifested Chi Movement from a living instructor.
Also, when I feel what is described as a “swollen” feeling in the hands, I have been told to, once a month, try the usage, intention exercises which involve projecting qi into the ground, the sky, circular movements ending with holding the hand towards the “target”, and then motionless, standing and staring intention exercises.
This is a safety precaution against developing blockage unintentionally or developing more energy than your body can cope with. This is quite common in many styles of chi kung when practitioners progress to advanced levels.
An innate setback of this safety method is wastage. You have to drain out energy that you have built. Another setback is that if it is incorrectly performed, it causes much mental stress.
Self-Manifested Chi Movement is a better choice. Not only it avoids the two setbacks but it also clears unintentional deviations more efficiently as well as brings other benefits. As it is very useful, it is one of the earliest exercises students learn in our Shaolin Wahnam school.
I have looked around on the Shaolin Wahnam website and seen much evidence in support of the “Anything is Possible” theory as well as confirmation of the existence of an alternative to the conventional, inefficient and damaging exercise, and bordering on the psychic, cosmos-related phenomena.
Thank you for the kind words you have said about our Shaolin Wahnam website. What we have done may appear to support the “Anything is Possible” theory because we have accomplished what many people would consider incredible or miraculous, such as overcoming so-called incurable diseases and performing unbelievable feats with our internal force. Indeed many people thought that we were boasting or lying.
But actually all that we have done can also be accomplished by anyone if he has a good master, the right method and is prepared to train long and hard. In other words all that we have done are humanly possible. They appear to be miraculous or impossible because very few people can perform these feats, and very few people understand their underlying philosophy. All we have done can be explained by natural laws, although many of these natural laws are unfamiliar or unknown to most ordinary people.
For example, a lot of people who suffered from so-called incurable diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer have recovered after practicing chi kung learnt from us. It is saddening that some people without even bothering to check the facts, straightaway accuse us of lying. I have explained the theory behind their recovery a few times in my website, but due to prejudice, arrogance or other factors many people do not believe the theory or the actual cure.
From the traditional Chinese medical philosophy, there is nothing unnatural or supernatural about someone recovering from diabetes, high blood pressure or cancer. But because they are not familiar with traditional Chinese medical philosophy, those who are hostile think that we are lying, while those who are sympathetic think we have performed the impossible.
Similarly, in martial art we have developed certain abilities not usual to what most ordinary people are used to, such as possessing tremendous force that does not depend on muscular size, or psychic powers not related to our ordinary senses. These abilities can be explained by natural laws, but because they are not familiar with these laws, some people regard those with these extraordinary abilities as lying or as having performed the impossible.
Let's say I am a student of either Shaolin Kungfu, Tai Chi Chuan, or both. I am fighting an opponent who has all Shaolin defensive forces such as Iron Shirt and Golden Bell, and I don't have any defensive forces. Can I still beat him or her, and how?
— Eddie, USA
There are many ways and at different levels you can beat him, depending on whether you are a mean hooligan or a scholar-warrior or somewhere in between.
Let us start from the lowest, meanest level. You could throw concentrated acid at his face, and while he cringes in pain, you smash his skull with a heavy stone. Happily, such a downright low, mean creature rarely exists today, but a properly trained kungfu student must be prepared to meet one. This servers to remind armchair critics who are used to regarding kungfu as a sport and who passionately argue whether a kungfu master has enough force to fell a tough wrestler, that genuine kungfu is a serious, deadly art.
At the next level, you should only go for his eyes, throat and genitals. As your opponent has Iron Shirt and Golden Bell, and if you have no internal force, hitting other parts of his body causes him little or no harm. This is also cruel, and I will certainly not recommend you to do it.
A practical way is to strike his joints, not with an ordinary fist but with a leopard punch, formed by bending your knuckles at their second (instead of at the third) joints. Useful targets include the shoulder joint between the collar bone and the upper arm, the elbow joint between the upper arm and the forearm, and the knee joint between the upper leg and the lower leg. A well placed leopard strike to any of these targets will dislocate the joints, disabling your opponent from fighting despite his Iron Shirt and Golden Bell.
A better way is for you to develop internal force. You will need to invest some time and effort, besides finding a generous master to teach you, but your investment is worthwhile. Not only you can break Iron Shirt and Golden Bell — unless your opponent is very powerful in these arts — you will also have good health, vitality, longevity, mental freshness and spiritual joy.
A more advanced way is to specialize in arts that are meant to break Iron Shirt and Golden Bell, such as Phoenix-Eye Fist, Tiger-Claw and One-Finger Zen. These arts aim at vital points and joints — the weakness of Iron Shirt and Golden Bell.
The best way, the way of the scholar-warrior, is to win without physical fighting. You win him over with your kindness and wisdom, as well as the confidence you command and the radiance of your invisible but perceptible force.
I have a question concerning longevity after reviewing the material in your book “Sukhavati”. Why would anyone want to prolong their life if they could be assured that they would pass on to a realm where cultivation was much easier? I agree with the idea of avoiding illness, so as not to be a burden on anyone, but the whole idea of striving to achieve longevity now seems quite pointless for someone whose goal is spiritual cultivation.
— Douglas, Spain
AnswerThis is an interesting and perceptive question. For those who may not know, Sukhavati, or the Western Paradise, is a heavenly world in another galaxy presided by Amitabha Buddha, who is different from Sakyamuni Buddha (also known as Guatama Buddha) of our world. Please see my book, "Sukhavati: the Western Paradise — Going to Heaven as Taught by the Buddha.
Firstly I would point out that many people who practice chi kung or any art to attain longevity, do not know of the method to go to Sukhavati. This is, of course, not what you ask.
Now, if a person is already assured of rebirth in “Sukhavati”, is there any purpose for him to prolong his life? To stretch the question further, would it be better to end one's life so that he could enter Sukhavati immediately?
Yes, there is purpose for continuing life or attaining longevity even when entry to Sukhavati is assured, and for different reasons. No, it is not right to end life, even one's own. Even when this being is reborn in Sukhavati, he will be at the lowest of the three main levels of beings. And even though he may not suffer — as there is no suffering in Sukhavati, he will take a much longer time to attain eventual Enlightenment.
Different people have different reasons for prolonging their lives, or at least continuing their allotted life-span without conscious effort to prolong it. They may want to accomplish their life work here on earth before going to Sukhavati. They may wish to experience as much as they could before leaving this world. Prolonging life is closely related to promoting health and vitality, and may result as a bye-product.
Actually, there were masters who could prolong their life if they wished, but because they had accomplished what they wanted to do in this world, when their time was up, they readily left this world to enter Sukhavati or other heavens.
How much easier would cultivation be without a gross body to deal with and without all the distractions of everyday life?
Spiritual cultivation to attain Enlightenment is so much easier in Sukhavati than in our Saha world. This is because spiritual cultivation here is hindered by “five defilements”, namely the defilements of time, perverse views, passions, sentient beings, and samsara.
Our world is affected by the four cyclic times of birth, growth, decay and death — at the human as well as the planetary level. Numerous perverse views — like “enjoy now and forget the future” or “there is no life after death” — hinders spiritual cultivation. Humans are frequently too afflicted by passions to cultivate.
Sentient beings are too pre-occupied with their work to cultivate — like humans pre-occupied with their jobs, ghosts with hunger, animals with survival, asuaras (titans) with fighting one another, and gods with enjoying themselves! These sentient beings are embroilded in samsara, or the cycle of birth and rebirth, which affects their devotion to cultivation.
Sukhavati is free of these “five defilements”, hence conditions for cultivation are so much better. Moreover, there are excellent teachers in Sukhavati, and also heaven music gently reminds the inhabitants of spiritual cultivation.
My practice has not been going very well recently so I hope you could give me some advice. My form practice is okay, but my stance training is not going so well. I have practiced 5 minutes of Golden Bridge daily since the course. I began to feel some pain in my chest two weeks ago and I also developed a small ganglion (a harmless small lump) in my wrist. I have reverted to qigong since and the pain in my chest disappeared and so did the lump, both within two days!
— Paschal, Ireland
Despite what you said, your practice has been going well. When you met me in Australia and showed me your kungfu forms, I was very impressed with them, especially that you did not have any prior kungfu experience and you learned them from my books. Now you can remain at the Golden Bridge for 5 minutes. That is quite an achievement.
The pain in your chest was probably due to your being tensed while performing the stance. It could also be caused by your not opening your mouth enough. The ganglion was probably the outward manifestation of your internal cleansing. You did correctly by inducing chi flow to clear the problems. What was remarkable indeed was your ability to clear the problems within just two days.
So, carry on with your kungfu practice. I would suggest that now you focus on combat sequences. After each stage of your training, such as after Golden Bridge or combat sequence training, have a chi flow or “Flowing Breeze and Swaying Willows”, which will not only clear any blockage unwittingly sustained but also enhanced your force and skills. Your can induce chi flow by performing a dynamic pattern like “Lifting the Sky” or “Carrying the Moon”, or just by standing still and letting go.
Remember that our kungfu practice is also chi kung practice. In other words, you need not have to perform special chi kung exercise to circulate or consolidate chi; the kungfu training itself will accomplish these two fundamental chi kung tasks.
I was talking to someone recently and he said a few things to me that I did not know how to respond to. I hope you could give me your opinions. He said, "Good and harmonious qi is called real qi. This is in contrast with martial arts qi which is dense by nature. Any form of created qi is called evil qi by Chinese medicine. The cultivation of real qi is dependant on two factors: (a) a complete void of strength; (b) a complete cessation of thoughts and intentions.”
What that person has said is a good example of how information in Chinese can be distorted when poorly translated into English. This happens frequently in translations of traditional Chinese medical texts into English.
I would say the same facts above as follows.
Qi, or energy, that is beneficial and is necessary for the harmonious working of our bodily (and mental) systems is called “vital energy”, or “zhen qi” in Chinese. This is different from “hard energy”, or “ying qi”, which is found in martial art and is “consolidated” in nature. Any form of energy that works against the natural functioning of the body is called “evil energy”, or “xie qi”, in Chinese medicine. The cultivation of “vital energy' is dependent on two factors — being totally relaxed and being free from disturbing thoughts.
You would have no problems understanding my translation. I have some advantages over the other translator. Not only I know the two languages but also the content matter well. Hence, I am able to translate the material into a language the intended readers can understand, without stumbling into linguistic or cultural pitfalls that someone unfamiliar with the languages or the material or both, would easily succumb.
For example, an uninformed translator would translate “zhen qi” literally as “real energy” instead of figuratively as “vital energy”; and refer to “being totally relaxed” as “a complete void of strength”.