Steve Pavlina is a professional speaker and writer, and one of the inspirations for this blog. Much of his personal development advice is smart—by which I mean to say that I agree with it. His theories on the nature of reality, however, are inaccurate and misleading.
For centuries, dedicated martial artists have worked to shed the layers of egoistic and social insulation that prevent a direct experience of reality. Some have risked their lives in empirical testing, to verify and refine the martial path to enlightenment. What can the discipline of martial arts teach us about subjective reality?
Shi Yongxin, Abbot of Shaolin Temple, speaks on the greatest benefit of studying martial arts:
The ultimate Shaolin Kung Fu is to train to have a mind that does not stir. If you develop a mind that does not stir, then you won’t be afraid of death. Not being afraid of death does not mean not loving life. In contrast, you will love life even more. To love life is the real purpose of learning zen! What kind of life is worth loving? Only a life without worries and pain is worth loving. To reach a state where there is no worry and pain, one must practice to have a mind that does not stir. Martial arts zen is a path towards a mind that does not stir.
Translation provided by Kah Joon Liow, author of Shaolin: Legends of Zen and Kung Fu
A martial arts school is defined primarily by the skills and the personality of its teachers. While technical ability is important, and universally known to be so, the importance of a teacher’s personality and attitude is often underestimated.
Teachers invest far more time and effort sharpening their martial skills, than in improving their attitude. It is attitude that determines how much they are willing to teach, and what they expect from students in return.
Looking beyond duality is the king-like view;
defeating all distractions is the king-like practice;
the practice of non-practice is the deed of the Buddhas.
– Mahasiddha Tilopa
How is this related to your Tai Chi practice? It depends.
Are you trying hard to become more internal, with the help of some dusty old books?
The only Zen you find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.
From the book Zen to Go: Bite-Sized Bits of Wisdom
After dedicating most of my day to work and family obligations, I am lucky to find a spare hour or two for my martial arts hobby. Many of you have a similar problem, no doubt.
We could practice an hour per day for our entire lives, without exhausting the breadth and depth of martial arts. Considering the scope and challenge of the task, can we really afford to spend our precious time blogging about practice, at the expense of time spent in practice?
Few of us can match Miyamoto Musashi’s single-minded devotion to the pursuit of excellence in martial arts.
In fighting over sixty duels, many to the death, Musashi demonstrated great courage. And in winning every one, he showed superior skill and technique. Musashi attributed his outstanding swordsmanship to unrelenting practice of self-reliance and self-discipline.
In his final years, Musashi retired to a cave for a life of quiet contemplation. It was during this time that he composed his famous guide on strategy, The Book of Five Rings.
In his very last days, this Kensei (Saint of Swords) further distilled his insights on self-discipline and personal development into 21 points.