The Wudang Myth Exposed

Prior to the Cultural Revolution, Wudang martial arts were practiced virtually in secret. There were no martial arts schools on Wudangshan. There were no students. Only the priests that resided at the various temples were taught qigong, taiji and kung fu – no one else. Then along came Mao Zedong and his Red Guard. All hell broke loose on all of the sacred mountains across China as priests, nuns and monks were murdered or beaten and driven from their temples.

During the 1960’s and 70’s Daoist activity at Wudangshan was almost completely halted. By 1979 when the Cultural Revolution ended, there were no more than 20 monastics living on the mountain.  Most of the Daoists had experienced relocation into labor camps.  Only the eldest ones were allowed to stay in the temples. Many were beaten by the Red Guard, and none were allowed to take on disciples.  Li Cheng Yu, almost 100 years old at the time, escaped beatings by gluing her lips together and sitting on the temple steps in meditation without food or water for three days. Amazed by her skill, the Red Guard let her remain along with a few high-ranking Daoists.

However, many martial artists did indeed flee China and filtered into Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam. Eventually some made it to the United States as well. That exodus gave rise to a myth with widespread origins which has become quite commonplace in taiji and martial arts circles. Many believe that today’s Wudang kung fu and taiji are newly-invented external styles that may provide health and wellness but have no internal foundation or internal power and bear no relevance to the Wudang lineages prior to the 1960s.

It is the aim of this blog to show that nothing could be further from the truth. (Of course, these critics when they mention health and wellness are only referring to physical health. Wudang Daoists, on the other hand, consider health of the mind and spirit as the ultimate aim of Taiji, but more on this later)

So then, how did this myth get started? Well, let’s back up a few decades.

Since students naturally have a special fondness for their teachers, those with masters, who had fled China, felt as though the very best of the best had left. Appalled by stories from embittered masters who had lost status and wealth, they felt that no master with any skill whatsoever had survived on the Mainland. Either they had been slaughtered on sight, beaten to death, forced into labor camps or had escaped the country. But they forgot to consider that, even in a labor camp, one can cultivate his qi and polish internal skills chopping wood and carrying heavy bags of soil. In fact, their skills may have become more developed than masters in foreign lands who taught students during the day then sat around drinking, smoking and gambling all night.

The truth of the matter is many Daoists had indeed fled their temples, but not all of them escaped to other countries. Many mingled among the farmers and laborers in their hometowns and began working in the fields, others in restaurants and kitchens, and still others in labor camps. Tasks like digging, planting and carrying bags of grains or grinding rice and cooking over a hot wok gave them a chance to secretly hone their skills. Even today Wudang Daoists practice the Convenient Shovel (Fang Bian Chan).

In 1979 chairman Deng Xiaoping 邓小平 established reforms to open up China, which effectively brought an end to the Cultural Revolution and eased the repression of  religious freedom.  This began a slow trickle of Daoists returning to Wudang.  Most importantly for the San Feng Pai sect, Guogaoyi 郭高一 (1921-1996) and Zhuchengde 朱诚德 (1898-1990), both dragon gate (Longmen Pai) masters, returned in 1980-81.

Born in Shangqiu, Henan Province, Guo Gaoyi as a child practiced the rudiments of Erlang Quan and Shaolin Quan. Later, he met high-level Taiji masters, Yang Kuishan and Guo Yingshan, while fighing in the Sino-Japanese war as a teenager. After the war he took vows at a temple in Liaoning Province where he studied Wudang Sanfeng Taiji quan from Yang Mingzhen (杨明真). During the Cultural Revolution he was forced out of the temple and returned to his hometown. In 1981 he entered a temple on White Cloud Mountain (Henan Province), where was ordained as a Daoist under Priest Tang Zhongliang, a Longmen Pai Taijiquan master.  After the death of his teacher, he moved to Wudang Mountain and began teaching.

Master Zhu as a young boy met a wandering Daoist and was accepted as his disciple. In 1932 he was forcibly conscripted into the Nationalist army. In 1939 he was discharged for health reasons and became a Daoist priest. He came to Wudang Mountain looking for his master, who had already passed away. During the Culture Revolution he was assigned to a hard-labor brigade where he chopped wood and carried fertilizer. After returning to Wudang Mountain, he continued his practice and received national attention for his qigong skills.

At that time, the 13th generation leader of San Feng Pai was Wang Guang De 王光德, who also became the head of Wudang Daoist Association once religious practice was legalized in 1979.  Master Wang was a local from the nearby town of Danjiangkou who had been studying under various Daoist masters since childhood – having taken Dragon Gate (Longmen Pai) master Li Cheng Yu 李诚玉 (1885-2003) as a master from a very young age.  Later he studied Gongfu under Xiao Yao Wan 萧耀宛 (1911-1997), the 12th generation head of Wudang San Feng Pai.

These three, Masters Wang, Guo and Zhu became the teachers of the 14th generation of Wudang students, which included a 19 year-old disciple, Zhong Yun Long, who came to Wudang in 1981. Zhong, a native of Huangxi City, Hubei Province, a hotbed of kung fu styles, was no stranger to external martial arts.

In Zhong’s own words from a 2003 Kung Fu Magazine interview with Gene Ching, he explains: “Under my first master, I studied Yue family boxing and Yang family boxing. That’s Yue as in the famous Song General Yue Fei, and Yang kung fu, not Yang Taiji. This Yang was another general from the Song Dynasty. According to legend, all the men in the family were generals that died in battle, so the women of the family had to become generals to defend the country against the Jin invasion. Anyway, I studied with that master for about six years, and then at 18, I went to Shaolin Temple to study for about six months.”

Next on the list, Wudang: “At 19, I came to Wudang to study formally. Mostly, I studied under masters Guo Gaoyi and Zhu Chende. Wang Kuangde also taught me a lot. At that time, Wudang was not as open as it is today. Not everybody could go there to study. They had rigid restrictions on who could be accepted as students.”

Zhong went on to explain what it was like in those earlier years: “Back then, the living standard was very hard. The old masters were very strict. They only taught me in secret at night, so no one would see it during the day. There were no kung fu schools up there. The only people who could learn Wudang kung fu were formal priests. Wudang had very exacting rules about who you could teach and who you could learn from.

“Then, in 1984, the Wudang Taoist Association was founded and that began to open things up. Before that, only the older Taoist priests lived in the temples. Due to China’s turbulent recent history, there was a missing generation. All the masters from the last generation are very old. I am the part of the younger generation of priests to come in. It was the first time they recruited new blood for the Wudang Association and I was among the first recruits.”

In 1985 master Wang, as the head of the Wudang Daoist Association, put out a call for Daoists scattered by the Cultural Revolution to return to Wudangshan. Among the several that answered his call were two famous masters: the Bagua master Lu Zi Jian 吕紫剑 and the Daoist nun and master of eight immortals sword Zhao Jian Ying 赵剑英.  Both returned in 1986.

Born into a martial arts family in Yichang, Hubei Province, Master Lu began training with his mother at age 7. At age 18, he moved to Beijing and studied Baguazhang with Master Li Changye and Xingyiquan with Master Yu Shirong, and finally he returned in Chongqinq, Sichuan Province to study Taijiquan with Master Li Guocao  In the 1920s he served as a member of the Nationalist Party military committee. When the Nationalist leaders fled to Taiwan, like many, Master Lu stayed in mainland China and served in a labor camp. In 1980s he won a number of martial arts competitions, garnering national attention. Then in 1986, he answered Master Wang’s call.

Master Zhao was born on Wudangshan. She was a very sickly child. When she was six years old, a soldier noticed just how sick she was and offered to teach her Kung Fu, an art form that literally saved her life. Though she was a girl and it was uncommon at that time for girls to learn Kung Fu, it was her passion for Kung Fu that shaped her life. She began studying martial arts to improve her health. When she was 15 she became active in war efforts during the Sino-Japanese War. She nursed injured soldiers and taught hand-to-hand combat. In the early years of the Communist Party she lived with her husband in Guangxi Province where she taught martial arts. In 1980, after two decades of silence, she came back to Wudang Mountain and is credited with preserving Wudang’s Taiyi 5 Element form.

Along with Master Wang, Masters Zhu, Guo, Lu, and Zhao were at the core of a renaissance of martial arts activity at Wudang that had not been seen since the fall of the Qing dynasty. Decades of turmoil were ending and a new resurgence emerging. And soon, a new leader would arise.

At the time that he put out his call for Daoists to return to Wudangshan, Master Wang also gave fourteenth generation San Feng disciple Master Zhong Yun Long 钟云龙 the enormous task of traveling around China to search out the different Daoist masters who had fled from persecution during the calamities of The Cultural Revolution and to bring their practices back to Wudang so they would not be lost.  Zhong spent 3 years seeking out and training with different Masters including Kuang Chang Xiu 匡常修 in Laoshan, famous for his unbelievable kicks.  A tradition of kicks that remains strong within the San Feng lineage to this day.

(The San Feng Pai Xuan Zhen style, also known as Wudang Northern style, forms the foundation from which everything else stems. This Dark Gate style Master Zhong learned in Laoshan 崂山 from Golden Mountain sect master Kuang Chang Xiu 匡常修)

In his Kung Fu Magazine interview, Grandmaster Zhong recounted his arduous three-year trek: “In winter of 1985, the Wudang masters asked me to go down the mountain and spend three years to search for lost Wudang masters and schools. I first studied under Gansu Chen Ye and inherited Wudang Bashenmen (8 Immortals Gate) In spring of 1986, I traveled to Lao Mountain in Shandong and studied Xuanmen Wuxue (dark gate martial study.) That autumn, I went to Zhongnan Mountain in Shaanxi to study Huan Yen Dan Ba (Taoist alchemy) under Gansu Li Yue. I continued my studies on Zhongnan Mountain through the spring of 1987, inheriting Wudang Xingyimen and Baguamen. Then in June I was ordered to return for the first Wudang open tournament.”

Through his travels and training, master Zhong amassed a huge body of knowledge ranging from Daoist martial arts to inner alchemy and healing practices.  In 1989 together with master Wang, Zhong founded the Daoist Association Martial Arts Academy at Purple Cloud Palace, with Master Guo serving as head martial arts instructor and Master Zhu as head qigong instructor.

Why is all of this important? Well, from 1966 to 1979, not only had Wudang lost a generation of experienced Daoist-trained martial artists but also an entire generation of novice recruits. Perhaps, even more importantly, until Master Zhong returned from his journey across China, Wudang had lost decades, if not centuries, of structure. Master Zhong brought back the missing elements to complete that structure and dispel those critics who claim that the new generation of Wudang Daoists replaced that structure with newly reinvented forms.

Taken from Wudang Houston’s Wudang San Feng Pai History, the structure of San Feng Pai is currently composed of the following sets:

First the Martial Set:

  1. Taiji Gate 太极门
  2. Xingyi Gate 形意门 (form mind)
  3. Bagua Gate 八卦门 (eight trigrams)
  4. Baji Gate 八极门 (eight extremes)
  5. Xuan Zhen Gate 玄真门 (the mystic work from Kuang Chang Xiu)
  6. Eight Immortals Gate 八仙门 (Baxian)
  7. Six Harmonies Gate 六合门 (Liuhe)
  8. Nine Palaces Gate 九宫门 (Jiugong)

Tracing these 8 categories, you begin to see the disparate strands that contribute to present-day San Feng sect. Taijiquan comes principally through two dragon gate (Longmen Pai) masters (Guo Gaoyi and Zhu Chengde), while Xingyi comes from both northern (Shang Ji 尚济) and southern lineages (Huang Wan Yang 黄万祥).  Bagua comes from another dragon gate master (Liu Cheng Xi 刘诚喜), while Bajiquan is simply comprised of the standard Jing Wu Academy set. Xuan Zhen Gate, also known as Wudang Northern style, forms the foundation from which everything else stems (this style Master Zhong learned in Laoshan 崂山 from Golden Mountain sect Master Kuang Chang Xiu 匡常修).  The eight immortals style he learned from a wandering Daoist Gansu Chen Ye 甘肃陈爷 during his travels in Hunan province.  And the last two gates are elaborations of Xingyi and Bagua respectively.

The second Set is San Feng Health Cultivation 三丰养生功

This middle section of the San Feng Pai curriculum is not organized like the first or last sections.  There is a proliferation of health cultivation techniques, from the five elements qigong 五行气功 to standing and seated eight pieces of brocade 八段锦.  There are also classical medical qigong sets like the five animal frolics 五禽戏 and “expelling the old and taking in the new” 吐故纳新.  Aside from this there is martial qigong, like iron body 筒子功, iron arm 铁臂功, iron palm 铁砂掌, iron throat 铁脖功, mystical two-finger skill 二指玄功, and Taiyi Qigong 太乙气功.  Later there are forms of health cultivation which border on inner alchemical practice like the Three Heaven Gate Enlightenment Training 三天门悟性气功 (also known as Tongzigong 童子功).  These techniques were transmitted primarily through Dragon Gate (Longmen Pai) Masters Guo Gaoyi and Zhu Chengde.

The Third and most secretive set is the San Feng Elixir Path 三丰丹道

The highest level of San Feng Pai is concerned with the practice of inner alchemy.  Most of these teachings are closely-guarded secrets.  The first step is known as “establishing the foundation,” 筑基 and it is divided into the following parts: regulate the body  身體要正常, engender sufficient energy 能量(陽氣)要充足, purify the heart and lessen desires  清心寡欲.

After this, one begins the practice of refining the heart 練心, which has two parts.  This is followed by regulating the breath 調息, which has three methods, the last of which is turtle breathing 龜息.  At this point one is ready to begin training in cosmic circulation method 周天運行法.

In training the cosmic circulation method one begins with small cosmic circulation 小周天, which has two sections – collecting the medicine and leading it to the stove 采藥入爐 and regulating the fire timing 調理火候.  After the creation of the small medicine 小药, the fruit of the above practices, one proceeds to large cosmic circulation 大周天, which has several parts. Through this practice one moves on to embryonic breathing 胎息, after which he or she can begin the second phase of the inner-alchemical enterprise.

So, you can see from the above training and structure, Wudang Taiji and Kung Fu are focused on developing internal power as opposed to purely external force. As for health and wellness, there is so little here that most outsiders can begin to comprehend. It is the ultimate aim for Daoism and Taiji to unite and bring about the total union of the body, mind and spirit, which includes all six individual energy bodies and two universal ones. Until that is accomplished, one’s Taiji, even though at a very high level, is not complete.

It is important to understand Master Zhong Yun Long’s thoughts on this final point since, as the 14th generation leader of San Feng Pai, he had the responsibility of training the 15th generation of disciples who would become the current masters of Wudangshan like his nephew Zhong Xuechao, who began informal study with his uncle at the age of six then formal study at Wudang after high school in 1992, Yuan Xiu Gang, (Shi Mao) Wudang Daoist Traditional Internal Kung Fu Academy at Yao Ling, Chen Shiyu, The Wudang Daoist (Traditional) Martial Arts Academy at the Temple of the Returning Dragon (Huilong Guan 回龙观), and Gu Shining, Wudang Taoist Wellness Academy, to name a few.

In his Kung Fu Magazine interview, Master Zhong explained it this way: “Wudang kung fu is one of two main streams of Chinese martial arts. Shaolin kung fu is famous for its strength and explosive power, its external power. Wudang kung fu is exactly the opposite. Softness or yin power is used to overcome hardness. Stillness overcomes motion. Four ounces overcomes 1000 pounds. Of course, it also has a hard part. There is external power. Wudang forms appear soft on the outside, but internally it is really hard. By hard, I mean qi, because internal forms cultivate qi. When you train in this, the qi is very strong and becomes hard inside. But on the outside, touching and seeing it, it is very soft. It’s also like lightning when it comes – fresh and electric. When it explodes, fajin (explosive power) is like thunder.

“These days, mainstream Wudang focuses on Taiji. But Taiji is the big brother, so to speak. Beneath Taiji are three concepts: Liangyi (literally “two gifts” but it can be analogous to “heaven and earth”), Taiji (literally “grand utmost”) and Wuji (literally “void utmost.”) We say Zhang San Feng absorbed a hundred different styles. He took these specific styles, ideals and philosophies and focused them on the life nourishing culture that is Taoism to invent internal martial arts. According to Taoist beliefs, from Wuji arises Taiji, from Taiji arises Liangyi. Liangyi became sixiang (literally “four elephants” – this represents the four pillars or forms) and this created Bagua (eight trigrams, same as used in I Ching divination). From this we say ‘one created two, two created three, three created ten thousand.’ This philosophy is the foundation of internal form. That’s why Liangyi, Taiji and Wuji are all under the Taiji umbrella.

“Yin and yang combined together in balance creates Taiji. When you separate yin and yang, we call it Liangyi. Liangyi separates the hard and the soft. Put them together and they become Taiji. Within the taiji is the Tao of life nourishing culture. Before, I said that Zhang San Feng absorbed a hundred styles and mixed them with Taoist life nourishing culture. What is really meant by this is that our style has combined the methods of tuna (breathing methods), daoyin (stretching techniques), caibu (collecting and nourishing) and hunyuan (akin to qigong). Now under Taiji there are three different levels, first Liangyi, then Taiji, then Wuji. But if you talk about the form itself, it also has different levels. First is tuna, the breathing method, second is caibu, collecting and nourishing, and third is called hunyuan. Hunyuan means combining yin and yang, so it’s an internal meditation method. These three levels comprise Taijiquan technique.

“We use internal power to support external movement. Through many years of study, Wudang has developed many internal forms. In different periods, each form had a different creator. And each creator had his own basic form to base the foundation of his style. At Wudang, we have a basic entry-level form called Wudang changquan (long fist) but this is not like Shaolin long fist. It trains the stances, hand techniques and body techniques, combining all of them together.”

Grandmaster Zhong  stated that he mainly focuses on Taiji and explained that Wudang Taiji consists of 15 forms. From there it branches out into 18 weapons.

Back in 2003, Master Zhong had a final message for his readers, a message that is still very relevant today, and one, which all those critics of Wudang Taiji should take to heart:

“I want to send a message to the readers that Taiji is not just the Taiji form itself, because it is misleading in the world today. People talk about Taiji and think Taiji is just the form. But as I told you, it’s not just the form. It’s the three main concepts, Liangyi, Taiji and Wuji. Not only are these in the form, they are the philosophy of daily life. Not only are these the daily philosophy, they are Taoist culture. It’s our ancient culture, our ancestor’s culture. The form you learn is not just for self defense. It can also help you develop your intuition and your hidden potential. When you learn this – the style, the form or the internal technique – it can also help you slow the aging process and enjoy a longer, more prosperous life. Wudang Taoist culture is not only in martial arts, but also in learning qigong and nourishing life. This is very important. Wudang Taoist culture is a treasure of our ancestors and our nation. Now Wudang Mountain has opened the doors. Not only me but all the masters of the mountain are willing to share this treasure with the world.”

For further reading, here is a list of sources that I used for this blog:

The Chief Priest of Wudang Mountain by Gene Ching, Kung Fu Magazine, Sep/Oct 2003. View Here

Wudang San Feng Pai History, View at WudangHouston.com

The Truth About Wudang History, View at Daoistgate.com

Old Wudang Masters, View at innersecrets.at

Wudang Teachers, View Here

(Note: For Chinese readers, the Chinese version follows below)

Like many Chinese martial arts, Zhaobao descends from a tradition of secrecy that has just begun to open up to the general public. The lineage left Zhaobao town around 1937 during the Japanese invasion. Japanese troops had made it all the way to Henan Province where Zhaobao Great Grandmaster Zheng Wuqing was a combat instructor for the Guomindang. Zheng was a martial brother of a noted warlord, Feng Yuxiang (冯玉祥) who helped him escape to Xian. In comparison to the small town of Zhaobao, Xian was gigantic. Here, Zheng taught for six decades before passing away at the age of 91, spreading Zhaobao Taijiquan to countless new advocates. Zheng’s successor, Song Yunhua, came from the opposite side of China, Shandong Province, when he was only three years old. His father was a college professor and they both trained together, making them of the same martial generation. That is somewhat unusual in Chinese martial culture where Confucian hierarchy reigns supreme; a good father is always held above a good son. Song’s father objected at first, but Zheng could see that the son had talent, so he convinced the elder Song to overlook the situation. The Song family were wealthy scholars who escaped persecution when the communists came by willingly giving up their businesses and turning over their assets. They managed to keep their mansion and Grandmaster Zheng came to live with them there.

(This is Song Yunhua (from Shandong) successor to 10th generation Zhaobao Great Grandmaster Zheng Wuqing and Grandmaster Wayne Peng’s sifu. Notice the 10-finger Linking forms for qinna half-way through the video.)

 

 

 

Like Chen, Zhaobao Taijiquan has both fast and slow rhythms. However, Peng says that the other styles tend to be more circular, while Zhaobao is more spherical. Where the other styles might move along the same plane, Zhaobao moves in a three-dimensional fashion.

As a former combat trainer for both the military and the police, Master Peng has a more extensive history of sparring than most Taijiquan masters. He was born in Xian in 1968 and boasts that the city’s proud history gives its citizens an innate love of the martial arts. He began his training at age six and studied four different Kung Fu styles: Fanziquan (翻子拳), Sanhuang Paochui (三皇炮锤), Tantui (彈腿) and Zhaobao. He began studying under Grandmaster Song in 1975 and became his disciple in 1980.

Peng always loved fighting, so by 1984 he was very active in Sanshou (free sparring 散手). Back then, Sanshou had not been adopted by the government-sponsored Chinese martial arts associations, so it fell strictly under the auspices of the Chinese military. Peng fought on a military team, as all of those early Sanshou competitions were only military back then. He captured two consecutive Sanshou titles at the National Wujing Competition (wujing means “armed police” 武警). In 1987 he won the 56K title, and the following year he won the 60K title.

After that, Peng followed his master to Hong Kong as an assistant coach. Song had chosen the scholarly road after his father and become a professor at Xian’s illustrious Northwest University (西北大学). He moved to Hong Kong for a while and taught Zhaobao there where it spread throughout Southeast Asia. In 1990, Song authored the first book on Zhaobao. Peng spent some five years following Song in that region. He travelled all around Southern China to teach and was often confronted with the attitude that Taijiquan has no fighting ability. Consequently, he was tested a lot. Peng also went to Thailand, where he decided to stay for a while longer to teach Zhaobao and study Muay Thai. Peng says that even today in Hong Kong there are four Zhaobao schools, all run by teachers that are older than him. One is by the horse track in an affluent area; the other three are converted Karate schools. Even with Hong Kong’s diverse martial arts community, Zhaobao won over a lot of converts. Peng attributes this to the power of Zhaobao qinna.

Peng always loved fighting, so by 1984 he was very active in Sanshou (free sparring 散手). Back then, Sanshou had not been adopted by the government-sponsored Chinese martial arts associations, so it fell strictly under the auspices of the Chinese military. Peng fought on a military team, as all of those early Sanshou competitions were only military back then. He captured two consecutive Sanshou titles at the National Wujing Competition (wujing means “armed police” 武警). In 1987 he won the 56K title, and the following year he won the 60K title.

After that, Peng followed his master to Hong Kong as an assistant coach. Song had chosen the scholarly road after his father and become a professor at Xian’s illustrious Northwest University (西北大学). He moved to Hong Kong for a while and taught Zhaobao there where it spread throughout Southeast Asia. In 1990, Song authored the first book on Zhaobao. Peng spent some five years following Song in that region. He travelled all around Southern China to teach and was often confronted with the attitude that Taijiquan has no fighting ability. Consequently, he was tested a lot. Peng also went to Thailand, where he decided to stay for a while longer to teach Zhaobao and study Muay Thai. Peng says that even today in Hong Kong there are four Zhaobao schools, all run by teachers that are older than him. One is by the horse track in an affluent area; the other three are converted Karate schools. Even with Hong Kong’s diverse martial arts community, Zhaobao won over a lot of converts. Peng attributes this to the power of Zhaobao qinna.

Peng asserts that there are two forms of Push Hands (tuishou 推手) in Zhaobao Taijiquan: one for health and one for combat. The health version is just for the students to learn balance and flow. The combat version is further divided into two flavors. In public, such as at tournaments, Zhaobao follows the general rules and regulations that Chen style implements for competitions. In private, Zhaobao permits a lot more qinna techniques during Push Hands, many of which aren’t allowed in competitions. Zhaobao also includes Sanshou, and Master Peng claims that Zhaobao was the first Taijiquan style to participate in that. When it comes to Taijiquan practice, Zhaobao fighters espouse the philosophy of sanheyi (three are one 三合一). The three elements are Forms (taolu 套路), Push Hands and Sanshou.

Excerpts reprinted from Kung Fu Magazine

http://www.kungfumagazine.com/magazine/a

(Master Peng has a school in Milpitas where he resides. He also has a local branch at 275 South C Street Tustin,‎ CA‎ 92780)…  (714) 656-8660 (714) 730-7853  http://www.zhaobaotaichi.com/

Be sure to check out Master Peng’s video page…Master Wayne Peng Present Forms

 The Chinese Version follows…

目前第12代赵堡大师彭羚
31.十二月2017 · 写评论 ·分类: 未分类
像许多中国的武术一样,赵宝宝从刚刚开始向公众开放的保密传统开始。 1937年左右,在日本入侵期间,这个血统离开了赵堡镇。 日本军队已经到了河南省,赵堡大校长郑武清是国民党的战斗指导员。 郑是一位着名的军阀的兄弟,帮助他逃到西安的冯玉祥(Feng Yuxiang)。 与赵堡这个小镇相比,西安是巨大的。 在这里,郑教了六十年,然后在91岁逝世,把赵堡太极拳推广到无数新的倡导者身上。 郑的继任者宋云华,刚刚从中国山东省的对面,他才三岁。 他的父亲是一名大学教授,他们都一起训练,使他们成为同一代军人。 在儒家统治至上的中国军事文化中,这是有点不寻常的; 一个好父亲永远在一个好儿子之上。 宋的父亲起初反对,但郑可以看到,儿子有天赋,所以他说服了宋老,忽略了情况。 宋氏家族是富裕的学者,当共产党人愿意放弃业务并转移资产时,他们逃脱了迫害。 他们设法保住了他们的豪宅,郑主任和他们住在一起。

(来自山东的宋云华接班人,第十代赵堡大校长郑武清,彭师傅的师傅,注意中途通过视频的十指连接形式。)

如同陈,太极拳的快节奏和慢节奏。 然而,彭说,其他风格更倾向于更圆,而赵堡更加球形。 其他风格可能在同一架飞机上移动,赵堡以三维的方式运动。

作为军事和警察的前任作战训练师,彭师傅比大多数太极拳大师有更广泛的陪练史。 他于1968年出生于西安,并自豪地宣称,这座城市的骄傲历史赋予其公民对武术的天生爱好。 他六岁开始训练,研究了四种不同的功夫风格:翻子拳,三皇炮锤,弹腿和赵堡。 他于1975年开始在宋大师学习,并于1980年成为他的弟子。

彭一直喜欢战斗,所以到1984年,他在散手方面非常活跃(散手)。 那时候,散手还没有被政府资助的中国武术协会所采用,所以严格地在中国军队的主持下。 因为所有那些早期的散打比赛都只是当时的军队而已, 他连续两次在全国吴京大赛中夺取了散打冠军(吴京的意思是“武警”)。 1987年,他赢得了56K的头衔,第二年他赢得了60K的头衔。

之后,彭先生跟随他的主人到香港担任助理教练。 宋以后,他选择了学术之路,成为西安大学西北大学的教授。 他搬到香港一段时间,在那里传播了整个东南亚地区的赵堡。 宋代在1990年撰写了第一本有关赵堡的书。 彭在那个地区跟着宋继续了五年的时间。 他走遍了华南各地教书,常常面临太极拳无战斗的态度。 因此,他被测试了很多。 彭还去了泰国,他决定再留一段时间去教书签和学习泰拳。 彭说,即使在今天,香港也有四所赵堡学校,都是由比他年长的老师来经营的。 一个是在富裕地区的马轨道上; 另外三个是空手道学校。 即使在香港多元化的武术界,赵堡也赢得了很多信徒。 彭将这归功于赵堡秦娜的力量。

彭一直喜欢战斗,所以到1984年他在散手中非常活跃(散手散手)。 那时候,散手还没有被政府资助的中国武术协会所采用,所以严格地在中国军队的主持下。 因为所有那些早期的散打比赛都只是当时的军队而已, 他连续两次在全国吴京大赛中夺取了散打冠军(吴京的意思是“武警”)。 1987年,他赢得了56K的头衔,第二年他赢得了60K的头衔。

之后,彭先生跟随他的主人到香港担任助理教练。 宋以后,他选择了学术之路,成为西安大学西北大学的教授。 他搬到香港一段时间,在那里传播了整个东南亚地区的赵堡。 宋代在1990年撰写了第一本有关赵堡的书。 彭在那个地区跟着宋继续了五年的时间。 他走遍了华南各地教书,常常面临太极拳无战斗的态度。 因此,他被测试了很多。 彭还去了泰国,他决定再留一段时间去教书签和学习泰拳。 彭说,即使在今天,香港也有四所赵堡学校,都是由比他年长的老师来经营的。 一个是在富裕地区的马轨道上; 另外三个是空手道学校。 即使在香港多元化的武术界,赵堡也赢得了很多信徒。 彭将这归功于赵堡秦娜的力量。

彭说,赵堡太极拳有两种推手形式:一种是健康的,一种是战斗的。 健康版本仅供学生学习平衡和流动。 战斗版本进一步分为两个版本。 在公开场合,比如锦标赛,赵堡遵循陈风的比赛规则。 在私下里,赵宝允许在推手中使用更多的琴纳技巧,其中许多技巧在比赛中是不允许的。 赵堡还包括散手,彭师傅声称赵堡是第一个参与太极拳的人。 谈到太极拳的实践,赵堡战士秉持三合一哲学(三合一)。 三个元素是形式(套路),推手和散手。

(彭师傅在他所居住的米尔皮塔斯(Milpitas)有一所学校,他还有一个当地的分支机构, 位于 加利福尼亚州塔斯廷市 南C街9号275号 …(714)656-8660(714)730-7853

转载自“功夫杂志”

This guy Bill Harris has been bombarding with emails urging me to join his Brain Club, designed to increase one’s chances of success. Finally, I decided to reply to his last email with this…

Dear Bill,

For all your time and money and, above all, your observations, you missed the most important aspect of life, of a life well-lived. You don’t need your “Vital 5 Tools.” You just need One and only One. That is to realize that nothing in life is “lasting.” There is no lasting success or lasting happiness or lasting relationships. These are all things we experience, and no experience lasts forever or even a lifetime for that matter. By telling your readers and subscribers that, if they join your Brain Club, you will help them get “lasting” whatever, you are merely holding out the carrot before the horse, so they can haul their tool cart up the road and feel it getting heavier and heavier as they add more and more tools.

That strategic map you speak of is fine – as long as it is a map of the terrain and not a road map. We don’t need to set goals and map out a route to attain them. If we do, either of two things will happen. We will fail to reach that destination and suffer disappointment, or we reach it and discover it was not what we thought it would be, and any satisfaction will soon dwindle. Nothing to do then but set out for a new destination and load up that cart again with more tools.

I fail to see what the problem is, Bill. Why does anyone need a Brain Club? What they need is a Brain – or at least half of one – period! Every human on the face of this glorious Earth is already a success. Think about it. Out of the trillions of life forms across this Universe, out of the gazillion sperms and eggs floating in seminal fluid, one miniscule sperm fertilized one miniscule egg, and you were born. That, my friend, is quite a success.

Just think! You can get up in the morning, take a deep breath of fresh air and watch a true miracle – a Sunrise. You can hike up a pine-scented mountain or stroll along a sandy beach and watch the waves roll in and vanish, like life itself, reminding you that nothing lasts forever. Or you can sit in a park and listen to the laughter of children playing, maybe even your children or grandchildren. You can visit a temple, church or mosque and say a prayer of appreciation simply for being alive. You can watch a spectacular sunset across the sky and view the moon as it rises. See the stars coming out, their twinkling light finally reaching the Earth after a journey of thousands of light years. Truly another miracle if ever there was one. And best of all you are alive to see it. If that’s not a success, I don’t know what is.

You want to put people on that “Cutting Edge.” The only problem is that Edge is on your “Black Hole of Disappointment.” Nothing like falling into an oblivion of misery and depression. So stay away from edges. Walk on solid ground with Mother Earth beneath your feet, take a few deep breaths and – above all – don’t worry. Don’t worry if you don’t get that additional five percent on your investments or if Congress doesn’t pass tax cuts or if they do away with or don’t do away with Obama Care.You don’t need to buy an AK-47 and join a militia like so many fools did because they were worried President Obama would try to take over the nation and become a dictator. Believe me, your fears are much worse than Reality.

So take that map of the terrain and go in any direction you want. Just remember, even if you were to die tomorrow, if you truly appreciate life with each breath you take today, you can never have any greater success. You are the Miracle of Life!

As Tai Chi players we are fortunate to participate in a practice which most exemplifies Nature and the Tao. From mimicking the natural postures of animals to following the movements of planets, Tai Chi forms bring us a certain connection to the intrinsic elements that comprise all of creation and, thus, to the Creator, the Tao.

However, to truly appreciate this special relationship, it is essential that we master the principles of Tai Chi. This does not mean that we must become recognized masters with students in twenty countries, a pageful of Amazon DVDs for sale and interviews in martial arts magazines and on TV and internet talk shows. It does mean that in the very lotus of our hearts, we know with all due humility that we have mastered those principles and feel humbled by the immensity and magnificence of this creation which most merely take for granite.

As true masters, we marvel at the wonders manifested and intricately entwined by the Creator for all to enjoy. But how does one become a true master of Tai Chi and, thus, Life, itself? The answer is simple: by advancing from being a piece of creation to being a Creator, whole and complete. While that answer is simple, the process is not. It involves organizing your mind, which, for many, is mind-boggling in itself.

However, the truth of the matter is simply this: organize your mind in the relentless pursuit of a goal, and your emotions, your physical body and your energies will all follow suit and align with your mind in that very same pursuit.  Once that is accomplished, you need only to keep striving toward that goal with no thought of its possibilities. Leave the possibilities and impossibilities to Nature.

In the following video, yogi and spiritual master Jaggi Vasudev clearly points out how this organization of the mind can be achieved. You can create a joyful, peaceful and loving world for yourself and others through mastery of the principles of Tai Chi.

The main points explained in the video include:

  • Moving from a compulsive state of action to a conscious one.
  • Leaving the possibilities and impossibilities to Nature.
  • It’s not possible means “I don’t want it.”
  • Not being dissuaded by past experiences.

In the Tao de Ching, Laozi states that Nature (Tao) has two qualities – Yin and Yang. However, in the Vedas of Hinduism, which pre-date the Tao de Ching, and particularly in Advaita Vedanta, Nature (Prakriti) is given three qualities or gunas. Two of these gunas correspond to the Chinese Yin and Yang.

Tamas, often translated as inertia or passivity corresponds to Yin, and Rajas, often translated as activity or as passion, corresponds to Yang. Then there is a third quality, the most important one, Sattva. So, is it possible that Laozi missed this vital aspect of Nature?

First of all, what is Sattva? According to Vedanta, Sattva is that quality which is drawn towards Dharma, the order and harmony that makes life and the universe possible. In terms of the Tao, Sattva is the quality that manifests harmony with Nature.

A sattvic person is one who is in balance. Their life is holistic, constructive, creative, positive, luminous, peaceful and virtuous. It is one of equanimity, dispassion and discrimination.

A Rajas or Yang person is full of activity, bustling and often passionate of some desired goal, good or bad. Oftentimes, they are self-centered, egoistical or narcissistic and driven to a fault. A Tamas or Yin person is imbalanced, disordered, and chaotic. They are often anxious, impure, destructive, delusional, dull or inactive, apathetic, lethargic, violent, vicious, and ignorant.

In any one person, a mixture of these qualities has coalesced over the years so that the one quality predominates. To what extent is a matter of degrees. However, this mixture does not pervade through the body, itself, but rather is confined to the mind.

Gross matter, which comprises everything from minerals and rocks to plants and even our bodies, consists of varying amounts of the five elements – ether, air, fire, water, earth – in their grossest forms. If you look at a rock or a dead log, you will notice that it is not conscious because gross matter cannot reflect consciousness.

In that regard, there is little difference between our bodies and a rock. Without the reflection of consciousness, these bodies could not move. Hence, we have expressions like “falling asleep” and “sleeping like a log.” Without waking consciousness to support them, our bodies, which are basically inert (Tamas/Yin) will collapse and become heavy and difficult to move like a log.

Once consciousness leaves the body altogether, the body is no longer pliable but conforms to its original rock-like stiffness called “rigor mortis” in as little as four hours. At this point, just as in the deep-sleep state, the body is completely Tamas or Yin. In other words, the Rajas or Yang quality does not and cannot exist without consciousness.

That brings us to the human mind. Unlike our bodies, our minds are comprised solely of subtle matter, not gross, that is, the five elements in their subtlest form. This is the Sattvic quality. Some may call this quality energy, some may call it spirit. The important point here is that, when first born, our minds are comprised totally of this subtle matter or Sattva. But as we grow and our relationship with the world and all its objects increases, our desires and ambitions increase. We begin to dwell on seeking objects and pleasurable experiences. We resort to manipulating and controlling others. Gradually that Sattvic quality of mind becomes tarnished with Rajas and Tamas until one or the other predominates.

Switching back to the Tao and particularly Tai Chi and the internal martial arts, there is a third quality, a pure form that, although affected by Yin and Yang, is superior to either one. Laozi alludes to it in Chapter 42: “Out of Tao, One is born; Out of One, Two; Out of Two, Three; Out of Three, the created universe.”

The One of which Laozi speaks, often translated as ‘being,’ is Sattva – pure being – the original state of our Minds. In Mandarin, Sattva equates to Sung, often incorrectly translated as Relax. So, the three qualities – Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas – in terms of Tai Chi correspond to Sung, Yang and Yin respectively.

Our original Mind was a clean slate, pure being, before Maya (the illusory power of the Tao or Brahman) corrupted it with Yang and Yin, which correspond to Maya’s two abilities of projection and veiling respectively.

If we look at the Tai Chi symbol, we see Yang in one half and Yin in the other, but where is Sung – the equanimity, the serenity and beauty of pure being? It is the background veiled by Maya, which has superimposed Yang and Yin or Rajas and Tamas upon it.

In Tai Chi training, it is important to note that the body for its part will always remain Tamas or inert. Attempting to make the body Sung – balanced, calm, unaffected – is useless. It is the Mind that must be Sung. The Sattva or Sung quality, which is superior to either Yang or Yin, must transcend both. However, in Vedanta, the verb ‘transcend’ does not mean to separate from or go beyond. Instead, ‘transcend’ means to remain unaffected by any phenomena, whether pleasurable or painful. In Tai Chi, one must stick with an opponent as one and not two and remain unaffected by winning or losing.

Of course, this perception is not easy as Yang Banhou writes in Explaining Tai Chi Principals: “If there is activation and perception, there will be action and realization. If there is no activation or perception, there will be no action or realization. When activation is at its height, action is initiated. When perception is fully lucid, there is realization. Action and realization are the easy part. Activation and perception are tricky.”

For those who still believe that the body, itself, is active, alive, I offer this from Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha, expanding on Yang Banhou’s premise: “Many do not know that the body itself is designed and shaped by the mind, meaning Consciousness, which animates and activates the body right from the beginning. It animates every cell, which is otherwise inert, insentient. In fact the mind is ‘the maker and ruler’ of the body. That is how we have a complex variety of involuntary functions in the body, all of which ceaselessly go on, without our knowledge or interference from us.”

How exactly does this happen?

According to Kundalini and Hatha Yoga, human life actually begins in the Astral Body, the same subtle matter that comprises the Mind. The energy that descends along the Sushumna, the hollow column of the Astral spine, creates the gross physical body from the conception of the original primal cell in the womb and sustains the physical body through all the stages of life but remains in the Astral Body. It brings Prana (Qi), life energy, through the two nadis (channels) on either side of the Sushumna. The Ida on the left has a cooling or inhibiting (Yin) effect while the channel on the right, the Pingala, has a heating or stimulating (Yang) effect. The Sushumna, itself, is empty or Sung.

All three run from the root chakra (energy center) in the perineum and end at the Agnya chakra or third-eye in the mid-brain area of the Astral body. Therefore, an erect spine is necessary for this energy to move properly in yoga, tai chi and meditation.

So, how does it happen that the intellect and ego-sense feel that we are the body?

In the ancient text, Yoga Vasistha, Sage Vasistha explains to his Avatar disciple Sri Rama exactly how this takes effect using common spices as an example:

“O Rama, the infinite consciousness becomes aware of the pungency of the chilli: and this gives rise to the ego-sense, with all its differentiation in time and space.

“The infinite consciousness becomes aware of the savor in salt; and that gives rise to the ego-sense with all the differentiation which seems to exist in time and space.

“The infinite consciousness becomes aware of the sweetness in sugarcane; and thereby arises the awareness of its particular characteristic.

“Similarly, the infinite consciousness, being the indwelling omnipresence, becomes aware of the nature of a rock, a mountain, a tree, of water, of space and thus self-consciousness or individuality arises.

“Thus the natural combination of atomic particles and molecules (which is indwelt by consciousness) apparently acts as a dividing wall, thus giving rise to the divisions of ‘I’, ‘you’ etc., and these then appear to be outside of consciousness as its object.

In fact, all these are but reflections in the consciousness which, becoming aware of them within itself, bestows upon them their apparent individuality.

“Consciousness tastes itself, the awareness being non-different from consciousness: and that appears to give rise to the ego-sense, etc., naught else.

“The crystal of this infinite consciousness reflects its own light of consciousness which is present in all these combinations of atomic particles: and they then gain an apparent self-consciousness and think ‘I am’ etc.

“In reality, because the inner awareness in all these combinations is non-different from the infinite consciousness, there is no subject-object relationship between them: hence one does not experience the other, gain the other, or change or modify the other.”

In short, Sage Vasistha is explaining that what you think you are experiencing as your body is actually your mind. Just as your mind creates your body and the bodies of others as well as an entire world of objects in nightly dreams, so to the Mind creates your body and the entire world of apparent people and objects in your waking dream.

The Taoist sage Zhuangzi simplifies this even more: “The effect of life in society is to complicate and confuse our existence, making us forget who we really are by causing us to become obsessed with what we are not.”

Remaining aware that we are not what we think we are and not what society has told us we are, the Sung Mind does not try to balance yin or yang. Trying to do anything causes the Mind to be overly yang/rajas, and therefore yang/rajas will predominate in the Pranic (Qi) energy field causing the body to be predominantly yang/rajas. Trying not to do anything will result in an overly yin/tamas Mind, and yin/tamas will predominate in the Pranic energy field and thus in the body.

However, there is no need to adjust or harmonize yin and yang energies. If the Mind is predominantly Sung, yin and yang or rajas and tamas will be in harmony naturally.

Just look at an infant’s body and its movements. The body is soft, supple. The limbs are perfectly connected in movement. Why? Because the Mind is Sung. There is no thought of trying to adjust its yin or yang. All is simply natural. The harmonic movement of yin and yang is altogether natural, as it is in a newborn, when the Mind is Sung,.

A baby is completely at ease and gets the best of what Nature endows. She does not have any inhibitions or fears like an adult. She moves naturally and learns naturally. When she learns a language, she is totally attentive, immersing herself in the sounds, tones, and sights around her. When she learns to swim, she lets go and floats; allowing the skills to come to her as if second nature. She learns quickly, because she does not know she is learning and has no intention to learn. She is merely enjoying life and attending to its many wonders around her, curious, having fun, enjoying the process. She has not yet learned from her elders that learning is supposed to be tedious.

In Chapter 10, Laozi implores: “Can you gather your vital breath and yet be tender like a newborn baby?”

See how a baby breathes! The air goes right to the tummy, and she inhales in a full capacity for every breath. See how a baby laughs! It comes all the way from her heart. So does the way she cries. Nothing stops her from expressing her true feeling. This was your original Sung nature before life in society, as Zhuangzi observed, “complicated and confused our existence.”

In Chapter 55, Laozi describes how this idea of Sung, which Plato refers to as Virtue, is our original nature or true essence – the essence of a new-born child:

“Whoever is filled with Virtue
is like a new-born child.
Wasps and scorpions will not sting it;
snakes and serpents will not bite it;
wild animals will not attack it;
birds of prey will not swoop down on it.
Its bones are soft, its sinews tender,
and yet its grip is firm.
It does not know of male and female union
and yet its organ stirs;
its vital energy is at its height.
It cries throughout the day
and yet is never hoarse;
its harmony is at its height.
To know harmony is to know the eternal.
To know the eternal is to know enlightenment…”

Then Laozi warns us against aggressive behavior and disharmony between our emotions, our desires and our inherent Nature…

“(But) To speed the growth of life is an omen of disaster; 
to control the breath by will-power is to overstrain it;
to grow too much is to decay.
All this is against the Dao
and whatever is against the Dao soon dies.”

Thus to bring about a Sung Mind one must connect the Spiritual Heart or the Heart-Mind in Tai Chi like that of a child. That means the intellect and the emotions are completely at one with their purpose or intent. No matter what you are doing, the intellect and the emotions must be totally together. You cannot be washing dishes and daydreaming about that new smart phone you want to purchase. You cannot be doing your tai chi form and thinking about a problem at the office. Like the young child, you must be totally focused and intent on what you are doing, completely immersed.

In other words, make your life a meditation, and your Spiritual Heart will remain connected. And, when it comes to meditation, whether seated or standing (Zhan Zhuang), you should have but one purpose, one intent – Abidance in your true Nature. If you can abide in your true Nature while meditating and then carry that over into your tai chi or martial arts practice and eventually into your everyday life, then your mind will become Sung, and Sattva energy will prevail at all three levels – the physical, the mental and the spiritual.

Simply follow As Laozi instructs in Chapter 19:

 “Reveal thy simple self,
Embrace thy original nature,
Check thy selfishness,
Curtail thy desires.”

Thus, there will be motion in stillness and stillness in motion. Yin and Yang will be in perfect balance while you abide in that peace, that beauty, that essence which is your original Nature.

 

Vedanta Meets Lao Tzu

“Despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, we remain prehistoric, Paleolithic paradigms ignorant of the Einsteinian universe around us.”

In Memory of Swami Dayananda Saraswati (1930-2015)

Millennia ago our ancestors truly believed that they lived on a solid, flat piece of land that stretched over vast distances. Yes, there were hills and mountains, but essentially the Earth appeared stretched straight out. And, if you ventured far enough, you would drop into oblivion.

They also believed that the Sun, stars and planets revolved around the Earth. They noticed that objects like leaves on trees always fell down, never up. It was simply natural, they surmised.

Today, we know so much more about our planet and its place in the Universe. We know that most of the notions held by our ancient ancestors have been scientifically disproven. Nevertheless, when we rise from bed in the morning, we experience this world and the Universe in the same exact way that ancient peoples did.

We look up at the Sun and see an orange ball rising overhead and never give a thought to the fact that it is the Earth which is moving and circling the Sun. We get into our cars and drive along flat stretches of freeway without ever considering the fact that the Earth is actually round, even though we often refer to it as “the Globe.” But as we walk or drive along, the Earth is as flat to us as it was to our ancestors ages ago.

We see leaves falling and streams and rivers flowing down hillsides and mountains and never give any thought to gravity. As we move about our planet on foot, in cars, trains or planes, we feel that the Earth is still, motionless. We never consider it spinning around that orange ball in the sky at a tremendous speed. In all our hectic, helter-skelter movement, we fail to realize that we are pinned inside an encapsulated, pressurized, electromagnetic rock that is spiraling through the cold darkness of space.

Our everyday awareness of the world around us has not changed since the beginning of human history. If we still sense this everyday apparent reality exactly the way our ancestor did, how then can we expect to sense the true reality of non-dual limitless, unchanging Awareness? Or, as James Swartz (Ramji) asked in Essence of Enlightenment under the heading of Self-inquiry: “How does the identity I have right now jibe with my identity as awareness?”1

Well, I suppose it doesn’t jibe. But then again why should it? Instead of decrying this confusion, let us praise it, for it attests to the absolutely brilliant mystique of Maya (ignorance), which has not only clouded over who we truly are with an apparent reality of suns and planets and entire galaxies in a stark, macrocosmic dance of immense proportions. But astoundingly, Maya has clouded over that apparent macrocosmic reality with yet another thick fog – a beautifully vivid microcosmic dream of a still and motionless world.

The effect then is this: Despite all the scientific evidence to the contrary, we remain prehistoric, Paleolithic paradigms ignorant of this Einsteinian universe in which we find ourselves.

Since the discoveries of science have done little to snap modern everyday man out of his dream world, let us then return to the ancients to see what kind of remedy they might suggest.

Let us go back 2600 years to Lao Tzu in China and the popular Tao de Ching and superimpose his contemplative findings over the teachings of Vedanta, a system of knowledge presented to the Rishis of Northern India, a thousand or more years prior to Lao Tzu. Thus we can equate Lao Tzu’s Tao, the Unmanifest, with Paramatman or Brahman (the Absolute; limitless, changeless Awareness). Teh, Tao manifested or embodied, equates with Brahma (without the final ‘n’), God the Creator, also called Isvara. Maya (Ignorance or Illusion) is a power in Awareness (Brahman) that gives Awareness the ability to create. When it is associated with Maya, which it controls, Brahman becomes Brahma or Isvara.

James Swartz explains: “When ignorance or Maya does manifest, Isvara in its capacity as a creator appears, followed by the apparent creation, the world of sentient beings and insentient elements…”2 As Lao Tzu puts it: “the ten thousand things” or simply Nature.

In essence Swartz and other Vedantists agree with Shri Adi Shankaracharya, an eighth century sage, who reinterpreted Hindu scriptures and revived the Upanishads and especially Advaita (Non-Dual) Vedanta. In his reinterpretation of scriptures, Shankara described God (Isvara) as an effect of Maya (illusion or ignorance) and therefore not the Supreme Brahman (The Absolute). In other words, Shankara established Brahman (The Paramatman) as that which is before and beyond God or Brahma (Isvara).

This is exactly what Lao Tzu was hinting at in Chapter 4: “I do not know whose son it is. It might appear to have been before God.”3

In Chapter 1, Lao Tzu states one of the main qualifications that Vedanta stresses in preparation for Self-inquiry, namely, Vairagya or Dispassion. “Ever desireless, one can see the mystery; ever desiring, one sees only the manifestations. And the mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding.”4

Both Vedanta and the Tao de Ching stress feminine qualities as the gateway to understanding the mystery of who we are. For example, in the Gita Dhyanam (hymn of praise) that opens the Bhagavad Gita, Swami Dayananda Saraswati translates it thusly:

“Om. Goddess Mother Bhagavadgita! I repeatedly invoke you who were taught by Bhagavan Narayana himself for the sake of Arjuna , the son of Prtha (Kunti), (you who were) faithfully collected and reported by the ancient sage, Vyasa, (and placed) in the middle of the Mahabharata, (you who are) in eighteen chapter, you who have the nature of showering the nectar of non-duality, and who is the destroyer of the life of becoming (samsara, rebirth).”5

In this opening hymn, the Bhagavad Gita is likened to a goddess, a Divine Mother who presents a manual of instruction for attaining self-realization and stopping the cycle of rebirths.

In Chapter 6 of the Tao de Ching Lao Tzu expresses the same solution:
“The spirit of the Valley never dies. It is called the Mystic Female. The Door of the Mystic Female is the root of Heaven and Earth.”6

In Chapter 10: “In opening and shutting the Gate of Heaven, Can you play the part of the Female?”7

In Chapter 28: “He who is aware of the Male But keeps to the Female Becomes the ravine of the world. Being the ravine of the world, He has the original character which is not cut up, and returns again to the innocence of the babe.”8

Here the Male refers to the physical body while the Female refers to the Mind or Subtle Body as it is called in Vedanta. Original character which is not cut up is Paramatman (The Absolute, the Primordial Self) and its reflection exists within the deepest part of our Subtle Body, referred to as the ravine of the world when the Mind is calm and not conflicted with distracting vasanas (tendencies).

The ability of feminine energy to realize the Self is further emphasized in the story of a royal couple, King Shikhidhvaja and Queen Cudala9 from the Yoga Vasishtha, an Advaita Vedanta text. The couple was so greatly devoted to each other that they seemed like one jiva (an individual person) in two bodies. They did everything together including studying spiritual texts from which they concluded that only self-knowledge could enable one to overcome sorrow.

However, the Queen alone constantly continued her contemplation on the means of self-knowledge:
“Now I see myself and enquire ‘Who am I?’
“How could ignorance of self, and delusion arise?
“The physical body is surely inert and it is certainly not the self. It is experienced only on account of the movement of thought in the mind. “10

She proceeded deeper into self-discovery, finally realizing her true nature. The King, noticing his wife’s radiance, asked her to explain how she attained self-realization. She told him that she remained rooted in Truth and not appearances. But the King, a typical paternalistic type, did not understand that her words signified a higher consciousness. So, he dismissed her teaching and called her “childish and ignorant.”11

Although this story illustrates how male chauvinism has discredited females throughout the ages, the important point here is why Queen Cudala became self-realized and the King did not.

The key rests in the conclusion of the story: ” After enjoying the pleasures of the world, because he was the foremost among kings, after having lived for a very long time, he attained the supreme state, because in him there was but a little residue of satva.”12

Maya is composed of three energies or gunas. Two of them, Rajas and Tamas, keep us identified with our physical bodies and attracted to seeking pleasure or happiness from worldly objects rather than from within. Sattva guna on the other hand is a more feminine energy that calms, purifies and reveals while Rajas energy often excites and accelerates and Tamas, a grounding energy, often decelerates into lethargy.

Thus, Queen Cudala’s subtle body or mind had a predominance of Sattva over Rajas and Tamas, and she was able to assimilate and actualize the knowledge of the true Self. Since the King had a predominance of Rajas guna, he flitted away a long lifetime, ten thousand years, trying to enjoy the pleasures of the world, which blinded him to his real nature. His long life symbolizes many rebirths on the wheel of samsara before attaining enlightenment.

Vedanta teaches that there are four qualities necessary to qualify us for the intense Self-inquiry that Queen Cudala symbolizes: Discrimination (Viveka), Dispassion (Vairagya), Discipline, and a Desire for moksha (freedom). All four of these qualities are also interspersed throughout the 81 chapters of the Tao de Ching.

But how do we realize this greatest of mysteries when Maya’s Ignorance keeps us from even recognizing the apparent reality of the relative world around us?

By cultivating Sattva, the feminine, creative energy, as advised by both the Vedantists and Lao Tzu.
Sattva enables us to rise above the ignorance of Maya, which uses Rajas to project illusion and Tamas to conceal our real identity, but Maya will also reveal when Sattva predominates the Subtle Body.

Thus, if we look to Vedic cosmology for a particular deity that personifies creative intelligence along with an abundance of Sattva energy and the four qualities necessary for Self-inquiry, the Goddess Saraswati stands out.

Saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge as well as Music, Arts, Wisdom and Learning. She is considered the creative intelligence and shakti (power) of Brahma and represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. Her name means “essence of one’s Self.” Thus, she leads one to the essence of self knowledge. Known as the Mother of the Vedas, her name has evolved over time to mean “knowledge that purifies.”

saraswati small

Saraswati is often depicted dressed in pure white and seated on a white lotus, the symbol of Supreme Reality. This means she is rooted in Supreme Reality and engenders supreme knowledge and truth. Her iconography is typically in white themes from dress to flowers to swan – the color symbolizing Sattwa Guna or purity, discrimination for true knowledge, insight and wisdom.

Her four arms denote her omnipresence and omnipotence – the two front arms, the physical world and the two back arms, the spiritual world. The four hands represent the four elements of the Subtle Body – mind (manas), the intellect (buddhi), the conditioned consciousness (chitta) and the rear left hand, the ego (ahankara), which holds a rosary, signifying meditation and contemplation, leading to samadhi or union with God. This indicates that true knowledge acquired with love and devotion melts the ego and results in liberation (moksha) from bondage to the physical world.

She plays the music of love and life, on the Veena, an expression of knowledge that creates harmony. Her swan symbolizes spiritual perfection, transcendence and moksha (liberation). It has the ability to drink pure milk alone from a mixture of milk and water, which symbolizes Viveka, the ability to discriminate between right and wrong, good and evil and between essence, reality (Satya) and apparent reality (Mithya).

There is a peacock, which represents unpredictability, anxiously waiting to serve her. But Saraswati chooses the Swan rather than the peacock as her carrier, signifying that one must overcome fear, anxiety and indecision in order to acquire true knowledge.
By renouncing the fruits of one’s actions and devoting oneself to Saraswati, one can call upon her prior to meditation and Self-inquiry, to open “the door of the Mystic Female” and reveal the root of all creation, the gateway that leads to moksha.

Calling upon Saraswati, we are activating the Sattva Guna within our Mind, the Subtle Body, and prompting the Mind to turn inward to discover that door, that gateway.

And what exactly is that door?

Ramana Maharshi called it the “I-thought.” Queen Cudala called it the “I-idea.” Both used Self-inquiry – ‘Who Am I?’ – to uncover the “I-thought.”

And its exact location? Not the physical heart or any other physical location as Ramana Maharshi often pointed out.

The I-thought is our mental/emotional reset button deep within the Subtle Body. It brings about an entire factory reset, if you will, better known as self-realization. And where exactly is this reset button?

Look at your smart phone, a product of thousands of years of human ingenuity. Where did the evolved human consciousness decide to place that reset button? Mine is located in the Privacy setting. And where is the Privacy setting in our Subtle Body? It is where we store our most intimate, darkest secrets about ourselves – “the ravine of the world” – my particular world. That reset button is buried under all those Tamasic fears and memories that we are most ashamed of.

Let Saraswati’s Sattva energy remove those Tamasic elements and reveal the I-thought, the gateway to the knowledge that enlightens us.

maa-saraswati

Before meditating or beginning Self-inquiry, one can invoke Saraswati’s aid with the following prayer:

May Goddess Saraswati, who is fair like the jasmine-colored moon, and whose pure white garland is like frosty dew drops; who is adorned in radiant white attire, on whose beautiful arm rests the veena, and whose throne is a white lotus; who is surrounded and respected by the Gods, protect and fill me with your Sattva energy. May you fully remove my lethargy, sluggishness, and, above all, my ignorance in order to reveal my true nature – Om Saraswati.

Before beginning any creative activity such as music, dance, art, writing, public speaking or tai chi, you can invoke Saraswati’s creative energy with this prayer:

May the goddess of speech and skillful art enable us to attain all possible eloquence, she who wears on her locks a young moon, who shines with exquisite lustre, who sits reclined on a white lotus, and from the crimson cusp of whose hands pours, radiance on the implements of writing, art, music, dance and other skillful means produced by her favor.– Om Saraswati.

And a word of warning: be careful driving north on Interstate 5.  If you go far enough, you could fall off the face of the Earth.

Footnotes:
1. Essence of Enlightenment, James Swartz, p. 175
2. Ibid. p. 185
3. Tao de Ching, Lao Tzu, Chapter 4
4. Ibid. Chapter 1
5. Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, p 1
6. Tao de Ching, Lao Tzu, Chapter 6
7. Ibid., Chapter 10
8. Ibid., Chapter 28
9. Yoga Visastha, Swami Venkatesananda,Section VI.1, Chapter 77
10. Ibid., Chapter 78
11. Ibid., Chapter 80
12. Ibid., Chapter 87 – 110

Benjamin Pang-Jeng Lo began his studies with Cheng Man Ching in 1949 in Taiwan.  Although many famous disciples like T.T, Liang, Robert W. Smith, and William C.C. Chen followed, Ben Lo was Professor Cheng’s first major disciple and one of his most prominent.

Master Lo was in school at the time and was very weak.  He said he could hardly walk up stairs or cross a street without gasping for breath.  So, he sought out Professor Cheng who was a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner.  While treating his condition, the professor suggested that Ben take up tai chi to make his system strong enough to absorb the herbal medicine he was taking.

After his condition improved, Ben continued his studies with Cheng Man Ching until the Professor moved to New York.  Then in 1974, Ben got a call to join his teacher and help him promote tai chi among American students.  Ben promptly gave up his position with the Taiwanese government and moved to the United States.

He eventually settled in San Francisco where he established his school and where he still resides today at the age of 87.

Hsien Yuan Chen, who leads a small Cheng Man Ching group at Smith Park in San Gabriel, and I drove up to San Francisco to have dinner with Master Lo.  A steep stairway ascends from the garage at street-level to his two-story row home above, which is just a few blocks from Point Lobos and the Cliff House in the northwest corner of the city.

As one might expect, there was a black and white photograph of the Professor with a 25 year-old Ben Lo on the mantle along with calligraphy and Chinese paintings on all the walls.  Stacks of notebooks and photo albums and video racks filled with DVDs were stuffed into the small living room.

Although at 87 his walk is a little wobbly, Master Lo’s spirit, nevertheless, is very much intact and quite infectious.  His internal peng (ward off) energy has not diminished either.  After looking at my form with some displeasure, he proceeded to let me feel his energy.  No matter which way I pushed, I could not uproot him.  Yet, when it was his turn to push, with hardly a touch, my toes were uprooted, and I found myself bounced away.

Ben reiterated Professor Cheng’s five principles or integrities which summarized the tai chi classics: relax, maintain your center, shift your balance (yin and yang), turn your waist (all movements are generated from the waist), and your hands should resemble “beautiful ladies’ hands.”  Ben also added a sixth principle, which is to perform all five integrities together when we do our form.

That fifth principle “beautiful ladies hands” is perhaps the main point of contention among Yang tai chi practitioners.  Most of the Yang stylists descended from Yang Chengfu hold their hands in the “tiger mouth” position with the thumb separated from the fingers.  If the hand is relaxed, then the “tiger mouth” is not an issue.  But Master Lo told a story of an ancient general to illustrate how the “tiger mouth” position can be detrimental if the hand is rigid.

The wayward thumb represents a loose nail on a horseshoe.  The nail gets caught on a rock and is pulled off, the shoe is displaced, the horse stumbles and falls and the general is killed.  The army is defeated, and the war is lost – all because of a loose nail.  Or, in the case of some Yang practitioners, a rigid hand with an extend thumb.

Actually, the idea of “ladies hands” exists in Zhaobao, an early tai chi form which predates Yang style.  Some have even named Zhaobao, the “Fair Lady” form.  Professor Cheng, a scholar as well as an expert in internal energy flow, was simply using what the ancients had known centuries before.   The forearm, wrist and hand held relaxed in a straight line like a lady reaching out actually increases the flow of energy to the fingertips.

Master Lo pointed out that the Professor insisted all beginners incorporate “beautiful ladies hands” into their form to increase the flow of qi and improve its circulation.  Once a student has reached a higher level and increased the qi circulation, the hand can be held in any position as long as it is relaxed.

Ben Lo considers himself on a very low level when compared to Cheng Man Ching.  This is not unusual considering Chinese culture.  It is a matter of deep respect for one’s teachers.  The Professor considered himself on a very low level when compared to his teacher, Yang Chengfu, even though he later reduced the Yang form from 108 postures to 37.

Some say the difference between the Yang and Cheng forms is much more than a reduction of postures but a change in basic fundamentals.  In any case, that is a topic best left for another time.

All in all, the trip was well worth the drive up north to visit with Master Lo and hear him relate the details of his relationship with Cheng Man Ching.  It reinforced my realization that taijiquan is not just an exercise but a way of life to be lived every day to the ultimate.

 

The inspiration for this article came from a discussion I had with one of my Zhaobao brothers.  After practice the other day, we had a conversation about the terms substantial and insubstantial.   We both knew what the terms meant basically.  But did we truly understand the concept at their root?

This very same question can be asked of many terms in Tai Chi such as sung (often translated as relax), yin and yang, heavy and soft, yielding and following, and many more

As it turned out, we both agreed that we did not truly understand substantial and insubstantial, and that was actually a positive not a negative.  So, the title of this article is probably somewhat misleading as I am really writing about NOT understanding Tai Chi as a positive step toward making further progress.

That may seem contradictory as are many of the terms in both Tai Chi and Taoist philosophy, but bear with me and I will explain.

As fate would have it, the next day after our discussion, I sat down to do some meditative reading and came across a passage by Foyan Qingyuan (1067-1120), a notable Chan master during the Sung dynasty when Buddhism flourished in China.

The minute you fixate on recognition that ‘This is it,’ you are immediately bound hand and foot and cannot move around anymore.

So as soon as it is given this recognition, nothing is right, whatever it may be…

It’s like making a boat and outfitting it for a thousand mile journey to a treasure trove; if you drive a stake and tie the boat to it before you jump in and start rowing, you can row till kingdom come and still be on the beach.  You see the boat waving this way and that, and you think you are on the move, but you have never gone a single step.

Tai Chi like Zen Buddhism or Taoism is a lifelong journey that changes daily.  The moment you say to yourself or a teacher tells you that ‘This is it; this is the point,’ all is lost if you buy into that.

Like the I Ching, in the foundation of Tai Chi, there are no points of recognition or understanding, only changes.  The moment you truly believe that you understand, you have driven a stake into the ground and bound yourself hand and foot, tying up all progress.  Your journey has unfortunately come to an end.

Not only students but instructors especially should remember this fact.  It is a great responsibility to have the honor of teaching Tai Chi, an honor and a privilege that many instructors take lightly.

For a few it is a matter of greed.  Once they have received permission to teach from their sifus, they are off to the bank, like college graduates, to make up for all the time and money they spent learning their skills.

For some, their road to mastery is blocked by ignorance.  They ask their students to join them on their journey not realizing their boat is still tied to the dock.

Both types make the mistake of resting their laurels on the teachings they have previously received, believing their knowledge of the fundamentals is complete.

The Bottom Line: No matter how many years you have been practicing, no matter how wonderful your master and grandmaster, no matter how many workshops you have attended or given, don’t think you know it all.  There is always more to learn – much more than you can ever imagine.

“If you seek, how is that different from pursuing sound and form.  If you don’t seek how are you different than soil, wood or stone.  You must seek without seeking.”

Chan (Zen) Master Foyan

Seek without seeking sounds terribly incongruous in terms of Western logic.  But then isn’t that precisely its purpose – to diminish our dependence on rational thought when we inquire into the nature of being?

Haven’t we been warned time and time again by Laozi, Chaungzi and many Taoist and Buddhist masters that words can never access the nature of reality nor can we grasp it with conventional thought?

On the other hand, take the words attributed to Jesus Christ in the New Testament: “Seek and you shall find, Knock and it will be opened unto you.” 

How comforting, how inviting those words seem in contrast with Master Foyan’s admonition.

Of course, we have no way of knowing if Christ actually said those exact words.  Nevertheless, the saying conforms perfectly to the linear process of Western logic based on cause and effect.  First, there is the Seeking which in turn leads us to the Finding.  First, there is the Knocking which causes the Opening.

But in the Taoist and Buddhist traditions the process is circular not linear.   The Seeking and the Finding are one and the same as are the Knocking and the Opening.  Only when we divide the processes into linear increments of time do we create separation – beginnings and endings.

But a circle has no beginning and no end, the same for the nature of being and reality.  So, Master Foyan is urging us to realize that the Seeking and the Finding are one and the same.

How is this possible?  It becomes a circular process when there is no Seeker.  Christ’s phrase from the New Testament implies a Seeker and a separate Thing Found.  In other words, a subject that does the Seeking and an object that is Found.

However, when the Seeker is no longer the subject but the object, then the Seeking is the Finding.  This occurs the moment we seek within ourselves and not externally.

This is the meaning of Master Foyan’s “Seek without Seeking.  When we seek for things outside of ourselves, we are pursuing sound and form – material objects or situations.  But when we look within to come to terms with the meaning of our very own existence, we are seeking without seeking.

Master Foyan emphasizes this kind of seeking when he states: “Those who will not stop and look into themselves go on looking for intellectual understanding.  That pursuit of intellectual understanding, seeking rationalizations and making comparisons, is all wrong.

“If people would turn their attention back to the self, they would understand everything.”

And if we understand everything, then there is nothing that we could ask for that we would not receive, nothing that we could seek that we would not find, and no door that we could knock on that would not be opened to us.

Unlike Christianity and Judaism, Taoism does not have any commandments.  However, Chuang-Tse, the foremost disciple of Lao-Tse and a leading exponent of Taoist philosophy, some 2400 years ago enumerated the ten attributes of the gentleman sage.  These remain rather pertinent today for martial artists, Buddhists and Taoists alike who are trying to maintain peace and calm in our daily lives amidst the hectic frenzy and ambitiousness of this modern technological age.

Chuang-Tse begins by attributing these ten traits to his master, Lao-Tse:

“The Master says, “Great is Tao.  It canopies and sustains all creation.  The gentleman cannot but purge his mind (of personal gain and desires).  To act by not acting is called heaven.  To express without expression is called character.  To love one’s fellowmen and benefit all is called humanity.  To regard different things as belonging in common is called great.  Not to distinguish oneself by conspicuous behavior is called width of character.  To possess diversity is called wealth.  Therefore to preserve one’s character is called self-discipline.  To have one’s character developed is to have power. To follow the Tao is called being complete.  Not to allow external events to injure one’s mind is called whole.  When a gentleman understands these ten (attributes) then he achieves greatness of mind and all things converge toward him like a flowing stream…”

Chuang-Tse then poses collaries to these ten traits of the sage.  “In this case, he leaves the gold in the mountains and leaves the pearls in the sea.  He does not place value upon material goods, and he keeps away from honor and wealth.  He does not rejoice over long life, nor is he sorry to die young.  He does not regard a high position as honor, nor is he ashamed of poverty and failure.  He does not set his mind on the wealth of the world and appropriate it for his own benefit.  He does not consider ruling the world as his personal glory. And when he is in a p;osition of eminence, he regards the world as one common family.  To him life and death are different aspects of the same thing.”