Monday, January 23, 2012

Directions in Verse for Great Achievemnts

Master Wang Xiangzhai

Integrated with spirit and mind,
This boxing is named Dacheng.
With plain truth easy to understand,
It is both interesting and enlightening.

It has no method yet every method,
for in boxing all methods are of no avail.
With profound knowledge it helps to mould your temperament,
Cultivating you in faithfulness, sense of justice, benevolence and bravery.

Propelled by natural strength,
you are as strong as a dragon.
Inhaling and exhaling naturally and quietly,
You perceive the mechanism of all movements.

Be neither too familiar nor too distant towards others,
Show them courtesy, modesty and respect.
Avail yourself of the force of the Universe,
And bring your instinctive ability into full play.

Stand at the centre holding the key,
Act according to circumstances without a trace.
Eyes seeing nothing and ears hearing only your breathing sound,
You train your mind and regulate your nerve system.

In motion you are like the angry tiger,
In quietness you are like the hibernating dragon.
Your expression is as awesome as the leopard,

Your strength is as powerful as that of a rhino.

Preserving the heavenly wisdom and maintaining the state of meditation,
You are ready to act in response to all possible situations.

All sorts of strengths originate in the void and nothingness, 
which can only be felt gradually by the tiny edges and corners of the body.
We must, first and foremost, avoid the use of clumsy force, in body and in mind. 
Using this force makes the qi stagnant.  
When the qi is stagnant, the yi stops; when the yi stops, the spirit is broken.

A small movement is better than a big movement,
No movement is better than a small movement,
Stillness is the mother of all movements.
In quietude you are like a maiden
In motion you are like a dragon.

The mountains seem to fly when you apply your mind,
The seas overflow when you apply your power.

One should know that if one can take the time to practice martial arts, do it without any method, freely and slowly perceiving by intuition, the results will be great.

To sum up, what cannot lead to comfort, happiness, and gaining strength
does not deserve to be called martial art.

In movement, slow excels over quick, be relaxed rather than impatient, the movement should be slight and the spirit full. When one wants to move one will stop, when one wants to stop one will move, furthermore, when moving one cannot help but stop, when stopped, one cannot help but move.
Why move? Why be still?
What are the results?
What is the phenomenon in the middle of the process?
Thus perceive by intuition, and you will be approaching the truth!

One account suggests that Master Wang confirmed his notions about meditation by traveling to the ancient Buddhist caves along the old Silk Road in central Asia. There he saw his own posture and attitude reflected in the murals of Buddhist saints painted on the walls of the old caves. These days, most people associate meditation with sitting, either on the floor or in a chair. However, as portrayed by contemporary artists, Buddha and his followers spent a lot of time standing as well, often with hands and arms in specific positions. Traditionally, meditation is conducted walking, standing, sitting, and lying down, which almost inevitably leads to sleep. Almost all practices include sitting, some include walking, but very few include standing or lying down without falling asleep. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Classic of Purity

D. Khing Käng King, 'The Classic of Purity'

THIS BROCHURE may also be termed 'The classic of Purity and Rest'. It is called vague and shadowy, but 'treats the mental faculties.,' according to Wylie.
      Another point: "Lao-tzu said that all existing being came out of nothingness, though he does not indicate how." - James Legge.
The treatise is attributed to Ko Yüan (or Hsüan), a Taoist of the Wû dynasty (AD 222-277). Of him it is said that he attained to the state of an Immortal, and is generally so called - a worker of miracles - addicted to intemperance - very eccentric. When shipwrecked on one occasion, he emerged from beneath the water with his clothes unwet, and walked freely on its surface.
Ko is made to say, 'When I obtained the true Tao, I had recited this King [book]. . . it is what the spirits of heaven practise . . .'


1: Make a little effort, you too . . .

Lao the Master said that the Great Tao has no bodily form, but it produced and nourishes heaven and earth. The Great Tao has no passions, but it causes the sun and moon to revolve as they do.
The Great Tao has no name, but it effects the growth and maintenance of all things.
I don't know its name, but I make an effort, and call it the Tao.

2: Two forms of Tao

Now, the Tao (shows itself in two forms); the Pure and the Turbid, and has (the two conditions of) Motion and Rest. Heaven is pure and earth is turbid; heaven moves and earth is at rest. The masculine is pure and the feminine is turbid; the masculine moves and the feminine is still. The radical (Purity) descended, and the (turbid) issue flowed abroad; and thus all things were produced.
The pure is the source of the turbid, and motion is the foundation of rest.
If man could always be pure and still, heaven and earth would both revert (to non-existence).

3: A clean mind brings a pure spirit inside it (hopefully)

Now the spirit of man loves Purity, but his mind disturbs it. The mind of man loves stillness, but his desires draw it away. If he could always send his desires away, his mind would of itself become still. Let his mind be made clean, and his spirit will of itself become pure.
As a matter of course the six desires won't arise, and the three poisons will be taken away and disappear.

4: Serene stillness is had

The reason why men are not able to attain to this, is because their minds have not been cleansed, and their desires have not been sent away.
If one is able to send the desires away, when he then looks in at his mind, it is no longer his; when he looks out at his body, it is no longer his; and when he looks farther off at external things, they are things which he has nothing to do with.
      When he understands these three things, there will appear to him only vacancy. This contemplation of vacancy will awaken the idea of vacuity. Without such vacuity there is no vacancy.
The idea of vacuous space having vanished, that of nothingness itself also disappears; and when the idea of nothingness has disappeared, there ensues serenely the condition of constant stillness.

5: Purity possesses some true Tao

In that condition of rest independently of place how can any desire arise? And when no desire any longer arises, there is the True stillness and rest.
      That True (stillness) becomes (a) constant quality, and responds to external things (without error); yea, that True and Constant quality holds possession of the nature.
In such constant response and constant stillness there is the constant purity and Rest.
He who has this absolute purity enters gradually into the (inspiration of the) True Tao. And having entered thereinto, he is styled Possessor of the Tao.
      Although he is styled Possessor of the Tao, in reality he does not think that he has become possessed of anything. it is as accomplishing the transformation of all living things, that he is styled Possessor of the Tao.
He who is able to understand this may transmit to others the Sacred Tao.


1: Low-class scholars are fond of striving, but are not styled owners of Tao

Lao the Master said,
'Scholars of the highest class do not strive (for anything); those of the lowest class are fond of striving. Those who possess in the highest degree the attributes (of the Tao) do not show them; those who possess them in a low degree hold them fast (and display them). Those who so hold them fast and display them are not styled (Possessors of) the Tao and its attributes.

2: Try to seek and gain a true Tao instead of sinking in the sea of bitterness and worse

The reason why all men do not obtain the True Tao is because their minds are perverted. Their minds being perverted, their spirits become perturbed. Their minds being perturbed, they are attracted towards external things. Being attracted towards external things, they begin to seek for them greedily. This greedy quest leads to perplexities and annoyances; and these again result in disordered thoughts, which cause anxiety and trouble to both body and mind. The parties then meet with foul disgraces, flow wildly on through the phases of life and death, are liable constantly to sink in the sea of bitterness, and for ever lose the True Tao.

3: A still and pure Tao abides too

The True and Abiding Tao! They who understand it naturally obtain it. And they who come to understand. the Tao abide in purity and Stillness. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The real human

This is Geng Xiaghuang (1887-1972), a famous martial arts master. Maybe he is not the same Master Geng mentioned in the text. Maybe he looks like his ancestor.

Ten steps, a hundred steps, a thousand miles, ten thousand miles-- it goes out gradually. If you just let it go with no restraint, it will get lost and never return. 

Master Geng said, "The ancient way has not yet collapsed, it is in people. It was not only in the people of the past; it is also in people of the present day; it will also be in people of the future. The real human has never grown more or less; the real human being has never died or been born."

This is Thomas Cleary's translation of a work attributed to an author who wrote in 1739 under the pen name Cultivator of Realization. Master Geng gives us a lot to think about, which is very different from our every day lives. Email me with your suggestions!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sitting and forgetting by Sima Chengzhen

The root of the substance is the Way itself; but because the mental spirit is subject to influence, its obscurity gradually deepens. After flowing in waves for a long time, eventually, the mind becomes separated from the Way. 

 When you recognize your confusion and work to clear it up, that is called cultivating the Way. When you no longer flow in waves, and you merge with the Way and rest in the Way, this is called returning to the root.

Keeping to the root is calm stabilization. After a long time calmly stabilized, illnesses dissolve and life is restored. It is restored and continued, and you spontaneously attain knowledge of the eternal.

This text, translated by Thomas Cleary, has been preserved for over a thousand years because of the concise explanation of practice. I came across it in one of Cleary's collections of Chinese spiritual teachings, in this case a compilation of many sources over hundreds of years. 

What this means to me is that the Way is harmony. Harmony is a form of entrainment. Entrainment is a universal natural tendency for various vibrations to synchronize. An every day example is applause at the end of a performance. At first, each person claps at a different rate, but after prolonged applause, people tend to clap at the same rate. When people start clapping at the same rate (usually without conscious intention), they are becoming entrained. They applaud with identical frequency. If the frequencies are not identical, the result is called a "beat."

"In acoustics, a beat is an interference between two sounds of slightly different frequencies, perceived as periodic variations in volume whose rate is the difference between the two frequencies." Wikipedia.
If two instruments sound the same note, but there is a throbbing beat that is also heard, then the instruments are not exactly in tune. Musicians use this effect to ensure they are in tune. 

With this knowledge, I infer that when Cleary translates Sima Chengzhen's words as "waves," I substituted "beats." So my understanding is that the Way is complete entrainment, synchronized mind and body. When the mind becomes confused, it starts to lose its entrainment. The evidence is the waves or beats that arise from the original harmony of synchrony. As the beats, or the difference between the Way and the obscured mind, the waves (or beats) become stronger and stronger. Eventually, the obscured mind loses its harmony with the Way completely. Now, only the frequency of the obscured mind is apparent, and the frequency of the Way has itself become obscure. That is why it has been always so hard to trace.

After explaining the process of separation from wholeness, the text prescribes the cure. First, I have to recognize my own confusion. Recognizing that I am badly confused about many beliefs I have never thoroughly investigated, is called cultivating the Way. Cultivating the way is a phrase describing the re-entrainment that naturally occurs after a long time. When I "no longer flow in waves" is when I have reduced the beats, the differences between my obscured mind and the Way, finally eliminating any difference. Then I will attain knowledge of the eternal. 

I like this view because it does not require any supernatural beliefs but instead relies on universal phenomena  that occur everywhere. No doctrine is required; no faith. No extreme practices or hardships need to be endured. Best of all, people who practice patiently in this way can see the results for themselves. If you don't practice you don't know. If you do practice, you do know.

This beautiful image is from, a website worth a look.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Human Route

Coming empty handed, going empty-handed, that is human.
When you are born, where do you come from?
When you die, where do you go?
Life is like a floating cloud which appears.
Death is like a floating cloud that disappears,
The floating cloud itself originally does not exist.
Life and death, coming and going, are also like that.
But there is one thing which always remains clear.
It is pure and clear, not depending on life and death.
What, then, is the one pure and clear thing?

This passage appeared in a catalog advertising meditation cushions and other meditation accessories. No author or translator was noted in the catalog. I suppose it is a Taoist or Buddhist poem. Can you tell me where it comes from? 

Though I cannot explain why I find this poem meaningful, and I still wonder, what is the one pure and clear thing?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Thinking is the living potential of the mind

Ancient Philosopher Confucius
Thinking is the living potential of the mind. Freedom from error is the overall principle. The nine thoughts are the specific principles:

1. Thinking how to see clearly
2. Thinking how to hear keenly
3. Thinking how to make a warm impression
4. Thinking how to be respectful in demeanor
5. Thinking how to be truthful in speech
6. Thinking how to be serious at work
7. Thinking how to pose questions when in doubt
8. Thinking about what troubles may occur when angry
9. Thinking about justice when seeing profit to be made.

This recycled wisdom is by the ancient Chinese philosopher we know in English as Confucius. His ideas permanently shaped human behavior in Asia, without having to invoke gods or spirits to enforce social ethics. His words and ideas are worthy of deep study, as has been practiced for over 2000 years in China and throughout Asia. His influence is not well known in the U.S., but throughout Asia he is held in the same regard as Buddha and Lao Tzu, the "founder" of Taoism. 

I printed these words out and refer to them frequently. At my last job, I taped them on the wall next to my computer screen. Other people saw them but no one commented. Describing thought as "the living potential of the mind" galvanized my awareness and lead naturally to the nine specific principles derived from the overall principle, freedom from error.

Throughout my life I have relied on numerous translators and publishers of Asian thought. Regrettably I did not keep bibliographic information on the quotes I have gathered over the years. Therefore I cannot provide specific attribution to recycled wisdom appearing in this blog. My recollection is that this translation was made by Thomas Cleary, who has translated a treasure trove of spiritual and philosophical literature from Chinese and a number of other different languages. In my opinion, he is surely a genius to be able to comprehend and interpret such abstruse, profound, and esoteric wisdom.