Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Training In and Out of the Temple

I was cleaning my files out this morning and came across an old correspondence with a shaolin shifu. He had some great advice:

Your desire for deeper understanding is to be encouraged. However, be careful of thinking that happiness lies somewhere else or in doing something else. There are insightful masters who instruct their students to do those things they least like in order to find happiness even in that. The truth is happiness has nothing to do with what activity you are engaged in. That said, truly learning this comes after trying and trying thing after thing and discovering it is not in the thing. Happiness - or freedom from desire and illusion - is always there. It is about letting go, not about gaining. The true master is one who can live this while still engaging in everyday life. That said, it is helpful to develop skills, to practice, to engage in "hard work" (the literal translation of (k)gung fu) towards becoming better at letting go of that which we grasp.

This work can be done anywhere, and need not but can involve martial practice. Any body-centered or somatic endeavor can fit the bill to supplement your practice. The key is engaging in devoted practice towards ultimate compassion. Our recommendation is to find a good meditation instructor, and the most widely available are usually through Zen sitting groups. Begin with this and develop your meditation skills. Seek not to escape to that "better place' but to fully be wherever you are.

Buddhism is not about finding a place that is always happy. It is about realizing there will always be both pleasure and pain, and about recognizing our tendencies to be attracted to pleasure and repulsed by pain, and to find peace in the ebb and flow. And it is about helping others to this realization as well if they wish to be helped. That is the Shaolin way. Yes, martial training can be a tool in this endeavor, but not more so than anything else.

Also, be wary of those claiming to be Shaolin, even or possibly especially in China. You would do well to look closely at the history of China to determine if you think Shaolin is where you think it is today.

We wish you good practice.

1 comment:

  1. My work is so boring right now. I don't have any work to do.

    I guess I should find happiness from within then. It's not what I do. It's not what I do. It's me.