The Chosen Way
he spark that ignited this article is an e-mail
message I recently received. It came from an
inquiring practitioner of the Shao-lin arts. The
question he posed and the way he posed it caught
my full attention. Let me state the question
"My question concerns more the ancient wisdom
The fact is, nobody can be sure if the road they are traveling is the correct
road. The only way to know if you have found the correct path is to travel
it for a time and see if, in fact, you found a way that meets your inner
demands for peace and harmony.
and dynamic knowledge of the Grandmaster,
than any commercial or technical aspects of
this great Art itself.... could the Grandmaster
enlighten us as to how and when he knew that this was to be his
chosen way? ...and how an untrained 'being' find from within what
'it' is that he truly seeks??"
My reason for learning a martial art had
nothing to do with spiritual nature of the arts, but rather I sought the
defensive skills. I wasn't looking for anything except how to defend myself
in the streets of New York City. My teacher didn't mean anything special
to me, he was just that old Chinese man that ran the herb store. But boy,
could he fight!
I was too young to even realize there was a path. I fell in
love with the power of kung fu. It made me feel invincible. The techniques
of defense simply intrigued me. My teacher's techniques were awesome in
power and devastatingly effective for self defense. This is what caused me
to continue my study of Shao-lin. I craved to learn more of the fighting
skills. All of a sudden the streets of New York didn't look so dangerous to
me anymore. Shao-lin provided a new found confidence in myself.
Knowing that I now had something strong with which to fight back left me
feeling strong and capable. This is why I continued to train, hoping at each
class that teacher would show me more fighting applications.
Of course my
teacher always spoke of the 'Way' and its relationship to Shao-lin training,
but who listened? Surely it was not I. At that time Shao-lin was not a 'Way'
for me, it was just a great self defense method and nothing more.
As more techniques were learned, I began to see the intense training that
was needed to master the more advanced movements. Teacher would
often comment to me, telling me to calm down, clear my mind, and stop
playing up to my emotions. As I took on each newly learned posture
teacher would comment to me saying, "look at yourself, is your posture like
mine?" To me they were the same, that is until the teacher pointed out all the
differences. My face turned bright red, realizing just how blind I really was
The Journey Into Self
It was then I started my journey into myself. I had a realization
that there was indeed something more to techniques training than
movement. It was then that I listened closely to the teacher as he spoke of the
'Way of Shao-lin.' Each time he spoke of the "Way" he would arouse my
interest to learn more. I wondered how I could conquer myself and
hopefully find a path of my own. My teacher would often mentioned in
class, "It is the first fight that is most important. It is then that you
find out if you are indeed a true master."
I always thought my teacher
was referring to my first fight in the streets. I thought he was saying I'll find
out if my kung fu is good or not in my first encounter with someone.
However, this is not what my teacher meant. It was the fight with the self he
was referring to. This is the greatest battle, which the average person often
This is the meaning of the word master in Shao-lin. It is one who
has conquered the self, and in being the victor becomes master of the self.
I knew I had to go on and learn more, but still it was not for spiritual
gratification, it was to improve my techniques. I was still in my battle
mode. My mind still did not understand the spiritual connection. All I
wanted was to be as fast and powerful as my teacher, and I would do
anything to reach that perfection.
I was in love with Shao-lin Kung Fu. I
could not get enough. With each new form or technique my teacher taught I
sought to learn ten more. I was in love with learning how to learn. Each
new form or technique became a new and exciting challenge,
something else to master. The thought of knowing that you could not learn it all
in one life time frustrated me completely. I was eager enough to try
anyway, and I worked all the more furiously to learn from anyone who
could teach me more.
All my teachers had the skill, power, coupled with
an indefinable beauty that is contained in each Shao-lin forms and
techniques. I ate it up like a man dying of hunger.
I listened to all that my teacher spoke of concerning the human mind, how
it tricks us, how we often fail to see the reality of the moment. As he
spoke, I turned my eye on myself and for the first time began to take some
kind of control of my feelings - anger, fear, hate, jealously, envy. These and
more were affecting the quality of my techniques. I discovered that
movement becomes different when moving from a different mind set.
When we move from anger we are blind and cannot see the dangers before us.
When we move from fear we fail to see anything except, how to escape
from the situation. When we move from hate tunnel visions occurs, we are
blind to reason. When we move from jealous we usually end up
outwitting ourselves to prove a point. When we move out of envy we lose
sight of our own merits and fail to cultivate them. With each negative
emotion we become weaker and weaker as a human being.
As I began to
understand the connection between mind and body I decided
to look harder at how I could overcome these shortcomings of my
character. This inquiry started my search into the mind. But
where to begin? I pushed all my teachers for answers.
response was to learn the arts that center on the mind. This in turn caused
me to turn my attention to the internal arts. My teacher often spoke about
the internal arts and the true value, but they seemed dull compared to the
flamboyant moves of the external Shao-lin Kung Fu.
Learning Tai Chi Ch'uan
I started learning Tai
Chi Ch'uan and soon realized it was hard work to focus my mind with the
intensity Tai Chi Ch'uan demanded. Tai Chi showed up my every flaw in
movement. You had to move slowly and the forms had to be perfectly
performed with the correct frame of mind. The secret was learning how to
surrender to your opponent, thereby overcoming him or her.
But this was easier
said than done. It can take years to find this kind of control. I came to
know that the weakness of my techniques stemmed from my mind. I did
not know how to surrender.
As I progressed into learning the remaining
two internal arts of Pa Kua and Hsing-I, I came face to face with the
mystery of yin and yang, with the mysteries of the I-Ching (book of
Changes) which can confound the keenest mind. However, studying the
internal arts can help us better understand the meaning of these great
theories, so I studied them intently.
How can we come away from
studying the I-Ching principles of Pa Kua, or the Yin Yang theory of Tai
Chi or the Wu Using, the five elements of the Hsing-I and come away
unaffected if we truly apply ourselves. Through my continuous
investigation of mind, I soon come to the final answer: I had to look deep
within myself and make some sense of all the theories I was learning.
time had arrived. I had to learn the ultimate secrets which were only
accessible through meditation practice. If you think about it, the Shao-lin
Way is a logical progression. First the body, then the mind. Once you look
at the mind you have no choice but to follow it to the door of the spirit. By
passing the four stages we enter the light. First is observation, and
reflection, pure concentration, and awakened awareness, perfect
Meditation is the ultimate technique for transformation from novice to
master. This was my shortcoming. Until then I was neglecting the very
source of my nature. Once the meditation began, my spirit began to
manifest itself to me, and I found an inner calm never known before. My
direction and goals changed and I soon noticed a different me emerging.
Meditation was the final key to the metamorphosis. Soon I would discover
the highest secret of the Shao-lin skills: finding the soul and then cultivating
the soul. To find the soul we must learn to surrender the dream, which is
the hardest part of the transformation.
Until you realize it's all a dream, you
will remain sleeping your life away. We must let go of the illusion, we must
came face to face with our inner being, the one that is perfect. It is the
spirit that we carry from life time to life time.
Paul writes: "If you are guided by the spirit you will be in no
danger of self-indulgence, since self-indulgence is the opposite of
the Spirit. If you are led by the spirit no law can touch you. The
study of the spiritual brings with it love, joy, peace, kindness. The
illusion of separateness is washed away. With it comes the feeling of
oneness with all of nature".
If you sit in Zen (Chan) with your eyes half
closed you will at some point sense your inner being. When the connection
between the real you and reality is made, you will have a direct
communication with your spirit nature without the distractions of the
illusionary mind. The path before you will become clear. Knowing these
facts, I continued my meditation training so as to break the chains of illusion
that bound me. My meditative practice became intense. Retreat after
retreat, until I made some breakthrough, until I received some insight.
my efforts to improve I did achieve a higher level of Shao-lin skills. As the
mind clears, techniques become better. The Shao-lin was becoming pure,
clear, well defined, powerful, yet totally different from what I had known it to be
before. My mind was becoming clear and devoid of egotistical gains. My
Shao-lin took on a different perspective. It began to resemble my teacher's
Shao-lin. I started to grasp the meaning of surrendering and following the
The more I flowed with the current of life the more serene and at
peace I became. My 'Way' was found. I know now what my teacher
knew. I found the connection. I found the power and have joined with it.
The Shao-lin 'Way' is a total transformation, from the outside inward.
No one can be sure if he or she has found their own way. There are many
roads to the top of the mountain. Everyone need not follow my own
particular path, nor can they. My journey is my journey and your journey is
your journey. We all experience different obstacles as we move along life's
path. How we deal with them will depend on the self discipline we are
following, for all our paths will differ slightly. But, we all have the same
chance to find our Chosen Way as long as life exists.
The path of Shao-lin
works for me, so I go on training my aging body. I go on educating my
ignorant mind, and most of all, I go on searching for the seat of my soul. I
am now preparing myself for the next migration from this life to the next
The question was posed, "How can an untrained 'being' find from within
what 'it' is that he truly seeks?" The answer is: by trail and error.
no one who can say to you, this is the way or that is the way. You
simply must never give up your search to find the great inner harmony.
There are many philosophies in the world from which to pick, follow, and
analyze. My choice was the Chinese philosophy. Yours may be different,
but that makes little difference, for all great philosophies have the potential
to awaken you.
The important thing is that you believe in what you choose
and follow it sincerely with full effort. You will know before long if your
choice was the right one for you. Your heart never lies, it's your mind that
does that. If you find the peace of which I speak you will know it. No human
will have to tell you that you are wrong or right. Your heart will know and
your life will change.
Finding the 'Way'
If you have found the correct 'Way' you will surely
know it deeply within yourself. It simply feels right, your doubts began to
disappear, you began to take control of your life, and you see yourself
growing in ways you never thought possible. Your determination to
succeed will burn like the sun. Nothing will deter you from your growth.
There is no mystery in finding the proper Chosen Way, it awaits your
discovery. If you but try you will find it. Your awakening will come
suddenly without warning. Yaeko, an enlightened being, writes: "Yesterday
morning I was still hazy, so I felt I must search more deeply.
When I awoke suddenly last midnight, it had become far clearer.
All I could do was raise my hands, palms together out of joy, sheer
joy. Truly I see that there are degrees of depth in Enlightenment."
This sudden enlightenment is not a rare instance with special people. It can
happen to anyone who seeks it. But effort is the main ingredient.
Meditative thinking does not just happen by itself any more than calculative
thinking. At times it requires a great effort. But, if you have the deep desire
to learn there is no one who is left out. We are all, in fact, a living Buddhas. We
just don't know it yet. Keep looking, keep asking, keep trying. If you
seek, you surely will find.
The Way in the universe cannot be augmented or diminished.
Neither can it be taken or be given away. Man must find this out