About A Clever Priest and A Shallow Monk

There was once a monk who carried a mirror where ever he went. A priest noticed this behavior one day, and thought to himself, “This monk is so vain and shallow, carrying that mirror around. He shouldn’t concern himself with his external appearance–it is the inside, not the outside that really matters. I’ll teach that monk a lesson today.” Continue reading About A Clever Priest and A Shallow Monk

“Marathon Monk” Runs Away From Worldly Concerns

Genshin Fujinami

For more than seven years, Genshin Fujinami dressed in white from head to toe while covering the backwoods trails of Mount Hiei in one of the world’s most grueling feats–a punishing quest that combined starvation, isolation and the equivalent of a lap around the equator.

For 1,000 days, rising well before dawn, Fujinami embarked alone, rain or shine, on his journey, running or briskly walking more than 50 miles–that’s almost two marathons–each day as the trial neared its climax. Along with his white robes, his only gear was a pair of straw sandals, a long straw hat, candles, a shovel, a length of rope and a short sword.

The rope and sword weren’t for survival. If for some reason he could not complete his daily trek, he was to use them to kill himself.

Continue reading “Marathon Monk” Runs Away From Worldly Concerns

Shaolin Superstars…of Dance?

Matthew Ahmet with 'Shaolin monks'

The extraordinary transformation of an ordinary teenager into wannabe monk began nine years ago, when China’s famed Shaolin monks performed their extraordinary show of martial arts and physical feats at London’s Dominion Theatre.

Matthew says, ‘I was 11 and my older brother and cousin took me along to see the show. I was quite interested in martial arts, and I liked watching Jackie Chan films, but nothing could have prepared me for this.

I sat in the audience absolutely mesmerized. The show started just like it still does today, with a candle burning and soft chanting before the monks start demonstrating gentle tai chi moves. Suddenly, it all explodes into wonderful combat sequences and incredible feats of human endurance. The monks walk up stairways made from razor-sharp knives, lie on beds of knives with concrete slabs on top of them, and break metal bars over their own heads–showing how they can overcome pain.

He says, ‘People say that there is often a moment in life where everything changes, and for me, it was watching that one performance. I knew immediately that all I wanted to do in life was go to China and join the Shaolin monks. When I got home, I told Mum and Dad, and I think they assumed it was just a passing phase. But they were wrong…[continued at Daily Mail]

Superstars of Dance, Episode 2

Continue reading Shaolin Superstars…of Dance?

The Shaolin Temple Definition of Courage

From American Shaolin, a autobiographical tale of Matthew Polly’s intensive training at the modern Shaolin Temple:

American Shaolin

With most TV programming so dull, the boys at Shaolin were kungfu movie freaks, constantly visiting Shaolin’s multiplex to watch the latest blood-spattered Hong Kong releases on VHS. Wanting to undermine the assumption that laowai (non-Chinese outsiders) suck at martial arts, I brought VHS copies of Steven Seagal’s Above the Law, David Carradine’s Kung Fu, and Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Lionheart back to Shaolin after winter vacation.

The monks were used to highly fictionalized portrayals of the Shaolin temple, so they weren’t bothered by the fantasy version of Shaolin in David Carrdine’s Kung Fu. They were, however, shocked by the casting of David Carradine.

“The actor is a laowai,” I said. “He’s pretending to be half-Chinese.”

“That explains why his kungfu is so terrible,” Little Tiger said, as he ducked to the back row to avoid another cuff from monk Deqing.

David Carradine

For the rest of the movie I ignored the slights about Carradine’s kungfu skills, which were admittedly poor. (To be fair, however, he did capture that California New Age, faux-Zen blankness perfectly.) I was waiting for that climactic moment that nearly every American male who was alive in the early 1970s remembers: the scene where Carradine lifts a burning chalice to pass the final Shaolin test, permanently branding a dragon one one forearm and a tiger on the other. I hadn’t seen or heard anything like this legend since my arrival, but I had to know.

“Is the story true?” I asked. “Did that used to be the final test for Shaolin monks?”

Continue reading The Shaolin Temple Definition of Courage

The Zen Habits of Master Hsuan Hua

What is Zen?

Zen Buddhism is a way and a view of life which does not belong to any of the formal categories of modern Western thought. It is not a religion or a philosophy; it is not a psychology or a type of science. It is an example of what is known in India and China as a “way of liberation,” and is similar in this respect to Taoism, Vedanta, and Yoga. A way of liberation can have no positive definition. It has to be suggested by saying what it is not, somewhat as a sculptor reveals an image by the act of removing pieces of stone from a block.
– Alan Watts, The Way of Zen

If Zen has no positive definition, then everything is Zen. And if everything is Zen, then naturally every blog is Zen too. Right?

Actually, this argument is a perfect illustration of New Age rhetorical misdirection. While one can say that everything is Zen in its transcendent sense, such a statement cannot serve as the premise for an immanent logical conclusion. In other words: Zen proves nothing, by definition.

Applying transcendent or non-dual definitions to conventional worldly contexts is a popular tactic amongst false gurus. Continue reading The Zen Habits of Master Hsuan Hua

Jacky Wu Jing, The Tai Chi Master

Wu Jing, The Tai Chi Master
The Tai Chi Master (太極宗師)

Have you ever wondered how the slow and graceful movements of Tai Chi could possibly be applied in a real fight? If so, this expertly choreographed movie will give you some ideas.

In The Tai Chi Master, Chinese action hero Wu Jing (a.k.a. Jacky Wu, Jason Wu) portrays real-life master Yang Lu-Chan, the founder of Yang Style Tai Chi. Here, Wu Jing re-enacts the famous tower sequence from Bruce Lee’s Game of Death. Continue reading Jacky Wu Jing, The Tai Chi Master