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The Chosen Way
T 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
QUESTION:  "My question concerns more the ancient wisdom
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??"

grandmaster 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.

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 to myself.

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 loses.

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.

dragon


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.

The common 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.

The 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 equanimity.

dragon


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.

Through 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 flow.



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 existence.

dragon


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.

There is 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 for himself.

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