The Return to Yourself

(Back to the temple. Enough of worldly affairs and literature for a minute)

I belong to a “holy” “cult”, but if you said that to a chinese or gong fu person, it would perplex them for a second and they would probably say “Yes? But not in the way you understand?” Our lives, so much luckier the younger we get in, are contemplative rather than “devotional” and we are devoted to what is manifest, real, tangible. At least for this brief time. To preach christ risen doesn’t offend us at all. Because it does not conflict with or have much to do with our “religion”….there’s that word of numerous meanings again. Any gong fu person might say it’s not their religion, but, really it is or “also is”. They are kinda helpless to that. Thank the good God we are not forced to choose “one or the other” and thank God they in so many ways are the same. The dumbest one we have is still a good “priest” though we most often use the more honest title of monk. (unless more than you are used to seeing of us is required? In those cases, it is likely you that would use that term?) You may not want the life or the labor, but that intervention sure comes in handy every now & then. We don’t know? We were walking down the road and a curious thing came in our eyes? If we can, typically, we respond? Not always. A monk will only respond in the scope of his present skills and in some things, the USA is “all or nothing”.
For example, in Arkansas one might be and respond as any other doctor. Same really in New Mexico? But contrast that with extreme Kansas, where even the “laying on of hands” is legally defined as “the hands not moving”. Take a moment for a laugh there. (Like poor Colorado. Always claiming “utopia!”, yet more and more filled with the demons and hells these utopias are always full of. Funny, but still tragic.)
Temple blessed temple. Refuge of human mind and flesh. The place where the “rising ape” is left aside to be more like the “falling angel”, that meets the rising ape on the strange and curious path of life in any given day. Here, the stone idols are but decorations. Here, the God moves in and vivifies living flesh. Here, spirits move in flesh and move flesh around in a dance of divine glory. Is it like this? In the festering babylons of modern man, dying daily with fool’s grin and party hat? Never. All that is the person is more and more suffocated, like Einsteins “Holy flower of inquiry”. Boys that would rise like the men they have heard of, are instead crumpled down with lowered eyes – “say your prayers chimp! Good monkey.” (The ancient slaver cults of the mideast seem always the loudest)
Eventually, the surviving worthy will have had enough? Before long, “the human spirit will out” – or at least any still intact American would pray more than ever that it come to be so.
In any case – church, school (private!) or temple, time to seek those things that are truly edifying to you. Time to wander down your “walking question mark”, intact, hidden seed path, perchance to find your temple of “more” and common, easy companions after the calling you all hear and have. To move together yet separate, one not the same, in your orchestral section of the music of the spheres. It’s not a symphony to just be enjoyed. It’s a beckoning acceptance to a living part in all that is. Spiritas pro spiritu, “lux in homine factum”. No one could ever really lie about that.

“Be careful; Strive to be happy” ~ Desiderata

*Desiderata = “Desirable things”, “Things to possess for the good of one’s own”, “Things to be desired”

Sursum corda!

Lyrics
That’s not the beginning of the end
That’s the return to yourself
The return to innocence.
Love
Devotion
Feeling
Emotion
Don’t be afraid to be weak
Don’t be too proud to be strong
Just look into your heart my friend
That will be the return to yourself
The return to innocence.
If you want, then start to laugh
If you must, then start to cry
Be yourself don’t hide
Just believe in destiny.
Don’t care what people say
Just follow your own way
Don’t give up and use the chance
To return to innocence.
That’s not the beginning of the end
That’s the return to yourself
The return to innocence.
Don’t care what people say
Follow just your own way
Follow just your own way
Don’t give up, don’t give up
To return, to return to innocence.
If you want then laugh
If you must then cry
Be yourself don’t hide
Just believe in destiny.
(Songwriters: M.C. Curly
Return To Innocence lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC)
“God is true” – Bible
“So are you” – +Dr. Karl Buchanan, SOtEM
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2 Kinds of Reverence

Ancient & Effervescent.

Both are vital or life doesn’t last very long and isn’t worth living while it does. Ancient Reverence never changes. It was there at the first sunrise, giving Glory and Thanks to the Ancient of Days. It’s great power of steadfastness is also its potential weakness. Like a statue, it’s position is immovable. Effervescent Reverence can change every day, be completely unabashedly spontaneous, an expression at the edge of the next moment, because that is a most important vital truth too.

Consider the flowers of the field, such a miraculous gift to man. Ancient Reverence always plants in the correct seasonal time, catering to the flower and adept at all those things which please it, urging it to thrive by serving it according to its nature. Because of steadfast consistency, loyalty and the virtues, many wonders and feats are achieved and even the weaker of the flowers come to their own fruition. This is a proof of the love of God. (The flower is taken as the proof of the love of God towards his creatures.)
The Effervescent Reverence knows little ancient wisdom, remembers few songs, traditions or laws. It bursts forth daily immersed in the identity of that very time and moment. Broadcasting seeds of it’s wonder and joy wildly, like spores to all points of the compass, by wind, water and wayfarer. It is history in the making, a cataclysm that Ancient Reverence will, one far future day, preserve and keep also. When it’s glory has become a scroll, a testament too precious to lose. Effervescent Reverence spreads seeds wildly, everywhere, with full faith that good will come. That whatever comes is proof of the blessing of God. It is proof of the divine will, reflected through it’s mortal creatures. All heaven is laughter and spirits “on the go”, except for the all pervading presence of God.
These are identical to the faiths in the contemplative, not one or the other, but both in one body, harmoniously working together for that complete reverence which so satisfies the soul. Oh what true dread is the thought of being stuck in one, blind to the other. Half empowered, half complete. Half hungry and mad all the time. Furiously burning on one necessary expression, without the all saving other, that makes us both human and divine, both truths denying the fixation of the other.

All nature is put together this way. The fool and the hermit are both the practical knowlege of the magician. Hierophant is an office. Bah! That has nothing to do with pure Enkidu. It is odious to honest Gilgamesh. These two friends are the servants of God. Ancient Reverance and Effervescent Reverence. Both declarations in manifest action that “God is true”.

The Ancient renews itself via Effervescense and the Effervescent maintains itself via the Ancient. They do not merely affirm, they also require each other. The power of life and the power of renewal are the gods these two great faiths follow, serve, sense to be true or perhaps think “worthy to be true”. The thousand year old family banner has an heir standing beneath it, bearing the Ancient and once again all Effervescent. Another renewal who would not suffer history at all, if it were not so important to navigating the ever oncoming future.

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“The old wizard Hasish had a sore on his toe and
Though they all knew it, not one priest would go.
So the people went in and saved all the day,
Because life without hashish is all priests, too gay.”

Only at the end of a great age, the finality of an era, do ancient and effervescent unite finally; every awareness amassing all it’s atoms to burn brightly out the glorious spelling of it’s own name. What, who and all it was, like a white hot beacon, in the face of it’s being no more and still more. Shedding the cloak of vaguery for the absolute being it has forged or abandoning what it forged to become it’s absolute again. Maybe neither, shining anyway. If humble in the presence of God, not at all so on the journey toward. The soul is a place where being a leaf on a breeze and an olympic salmon swimmer is not the least bit strange nor in any way awkward, but rather the most graceful of self creating choreographies. It still touches the plane of absolutes and was made to dwell in the vaguery of manifestation, even if temporarily. It is capable of dwelling immunely in any expression of life. It bears witness to the fate of the life it became, perhaps with infinite compassion. Perhaps with complete indifference. Perhaps in a place where both at once is not strange at all. A place that knows there is some sort of necessary separation, a required other side of the rainbow. Some ancients saw the rainbow as a bridge to heaven for souls, that even mortals occaisionally crossed, which appeared after the renewing rains. On the other side of the bridge, the view is different.

Ancient faith and renewing faith, faith in forever things and faith in stability amidst constant, violent change are necessary tools man made first to cope with evolution, later to cope with the rises and falls of the babylons he created. Now, to bear witness to more than man has ever witnessed, with more eyes than have ever been on earth altogether. The flesh beckons the spirit automatically in such times. The spirit comes to the aid of the flesh because that is what is required and there is nothing else for it. Ancient spirit immovable, Effervescent spirit looking looking and a business of busy all over the place. You can see how both are required. Will be required more as the external falls away.

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“Unde mors? Unde vita?”

A Break from all the “What?” for an homage to some of the great reasons “Why” ~ starting off with a delightful refresher of our Lewis Carroll
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

The Walrus and The Carpenter

The sun was shining on the sea,
Shining with all his might:
He did his very best to make
The billows smooth and bright–
And this was odd, because it was
The middle of the night.

The moon was shining sulkily,
Because she thought the sun
Had got no business to be there
After the day was done–
“It’s very rude of him,” she said,
“To come and spoil the fun!”

The sea was wet as wet could be,
The sands were dry as dry.
You could not see a cloud, because
No cloud was in the sky:
No birds were flying overhead–
There were no birds to fly.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”

“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

“O Oysters, come and walk with us!”
The Walrus did beseech.
“A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
Along the briny beach:
We cannot do with more than four,
To give a hand to each.”

The eldest Oyster looked at him,
But never a word he said:
The eldest Oyster winked his eye,
And shook his heavy head–
Meaning to say he did not choose
To leave the oyster-bed.

But four young Oysters hurried up,
All eager for the treat:
Their coats were brushed, their faces washed,
Their shoes were clean and neat–
And this was odd, because, you know,
They hadn’t any feet.

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more–
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock
Conveniently low:
And all the little Oysters stood
And waited in a row.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

“But wait a bit,” the Oysters cried,
“Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!”
“No hurry!” said the Carpenter.
They thanked him much for that.

“A loaf of bread,” the Walrus said,
“Is what we chiefly need:
Pepper and vinegar besides
Are very good indeed–
Now if you’re ready, Oysters dear,
We can begin to feed.”

“But not on us!” the Oysters cried,
Turning a little blue.
“After such kindness, that would be
A dismal thing to do!”
“The night is fine,” the Walrus said.
“Do you admire the view?

“It was so kind of you to come!
And you are very nice!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“Cut us another slice:
I wish you were not quite so deaf–
I’ve had to ask you twice!”

“It seems a shame,” the Walrus said,
“To play them such a trick,
After we’ve brought them out so far,
And made them trot so quick!”
The Carpenter said nothing but
“The butter’s spread too thick!”

“I weep for you,” the Walrus said:
“I deeply sympathize.”
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes.

“O Oysters,” said the Carpenter,
“You’ve had a pleasant run!
Shall we be trotting home again?’
But answer came there none–
And this was scarcely odd, because
They’d eaten every one.

******************************

Now a lament (or hymn?) A call to life over circumstance?

The Straw Men – TS Eliot

Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy

I
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

II
Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

III
This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

IV
The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

V
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

***********************************

A dash of Walt Whitman as a restorative ~ from “I sing the Body Electric!” (which used to be my anthem…)

“I sing the body electric,
The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them,
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul.”
********************************
Inspiration to our Spring day from Emily Dickinson ~

I taste a liquor never brewed –
From Tankards scooped in Pearl –
Not all the Frankfort Berries
Yield such an Alcohol!

Inebriate of air – am I –
And Debauchee of Dew –
Reeling – thro’ endless summer days –
From inns of molten Blue –

When “Landlords” turn the drunken Bee
Out of the Foxglove’s door –
When Butterflies – renounce their “drams” –
I shall but drink the more!

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats –
And Saints – to windows run –
To see the little Tippler
From Manzanilla come!

********************************

Now that we are inspired, some direction from Robert Frost ~

The Road Less Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

*************************************

and reminded, bolstered by such august companions, We are well shored up and looking towards a pleasant day!

lit00158

Cheers!

The Way of The West

The dissemination of gong fu from China into the world was not a singular event, tho it had quantum periods when many or even nearly all shao lin or other monks fled the country.

It is those who made their way to the Western continent that I am focusing on, tho there is a history in most places. Those monks who left during two of the later great suppressions, including the Boxer Rebellion and found refuge here, when there were other than natives present. Few people knew of aisian martial arts at all in the west and the explosion of interest in the late sixties and early seventies in America was the result of a few people who had their “15 minutes” at just the right time. The hippie interest in all things contemplative and mystical helped foster the awareness later of all things aisian and pugilistic. A mysticism of a religion attached to direct physical action couldn’t have more American appeal. Time and tide the tsunammi, as Americans sought a sense of authenticity then, after the stellar and disorienting years that pretty much ended with the “Summer of love”. Cosmic living had begun to lose its luster and a more down to earth grasping for the less wordly, more authentic self and identity was what the people were most hungry for. To identify, culture and propagate all things human that made us American. A quiet golden period when the American statement was the comfort of the clay of each others feet, more than the starryness of everybodys mind.

But this new exercise in the rightness of life came with its own clothes, traditions, ethics and social code which would also be reinterpreted in time and culture. A half a century later, we look back and see that nature took its course in manifold ways. Like the East, we have both temples and pai houses, examples of each end of nearly every scale and a present, if completely informal hierarchy. If all persons “of kung fu” were called in America, it would be a multitude as astonished with itself as the world would be with its size and span, from one end of the continent to the other.

David Carradine in his book “Spirit of Shaolin” defines gong fu as:

“Kung fu is an ancient fitness program through which humankind realizes its full potential through better understanding, learning to set higher limits and standards, transcending rigid and false values and achieving harmony with the laws of nature and the universe. Kung fu is training with a useful purpose, and leads to the learning of refined skills, which will remain with the student for a lifetime, and, perhaps, even longer.” and “The drills of Shaolin kung fu serve to put us in touch mentally with our physical selves, so that we no longer remain strangers to our own bodies”

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Unable to interpret gong fu in its original place and time, the West was forced to interpret it and give it relevance in our society and world. The steps of all those people were the raw forging, the wild stewardship and evolution of that emergence, that tangible body we now call Western because by law, we have all been violently dissociated from Hunan. The eastern temple accredited with our origens is in one of its periods where it neither receives nor rejects it’s orphans – it forcibly denies them. (Larger thought might see that in this lies a great truth affirmed and a natural course of good seeds which took root and multiplied hundreds of fold.)

The half million dollar monastery will still take another half million to prepare and maintain, but it’s quite a bargain comparatively and even more evidence that the Western tradition is housed in its monks and stylists and documented, preserved, honored in its monastery. From that point Western gong fu itself will take care of its temporal home and be a resource to its members.

The Western Temple is more than a cultural foundation. It is the compilation, recognition and factual dignity that should be given the Western Continent, in a monastery that is the current culmination of the highest tradition. Not one from which the Western history came, (because it didn’t) but one which documents and honors it, having arisen from a hundred years of natural development on this side of the Pacific. From the teachings of unknown numbers of monks and practitioners to eventually return to a place of hui, of recalling, of bringing together. A meeting place where one meets more than ones own memories and realizes the largeness and importance that has been bestowed on all of us.  A point of reference from which to draw all things gong fu, as we all forge together what will be later known as the Western continent’s origens and tradition.

龙山寺 Long Shan Si

I’m green I guess. Who wouldn’t be? There are supposed to be plans to build a 360 million dollar “Shao lin temple” in australia, replete with all kinds of hotel and amenities. That would be a impressive place to serve. Huge like disneyland and no shortages or disruptions ever. Frequent new robes. I have not given up on our goal of a one million dollar shao lin sanctuary here in the southwest, but we are not any closer to our goal than the megalith down under is.

We did not want a nut hut, we are wanting a shao lin sanctuary that is for shao lin and all gong fu, more like Fukien temple was at one time. A one million dollar reservation that all could visit and take part in building, rotate on residencies, begin to piece together everything possible about the western diaspora at least on this continent and of course, host events to the benefit of the ones whose event it is. A southwestern park that is geared to the Shao lin more than their fans, where what comes in has a bow, some truly great moves and excellence towards each other in common and the rest? Heaven knows, but we would find out.

An exercise in monks and monastery, not presentation. A reinforcement of tradition and honor for the benefit of each other, surely as important as the things and time shared with the rest of the world. To serve in the documenting, advancement and guidance of gong fu in the west if possible, but exist as a sanctuary first, foremost and as such remain. Not even shops. If you need clothes go to the clothing room, food will be in the dining hall and herbs in the dispensary. Like normal as it should be. No souvenir t-shirts. In buildings of local material similar but not imitative of chinese pagodas but matching the natural environment here.

In the first part of the last century we got shao lin masters and in the last part of the last century, lo here came more. There is no house pledged to receive all in honor as such and it is time for a continent of pai houses and temples to have a hall and a repository. A place where they arrive knowing the customs and fall in as if at home. Where the circle of blessing is exchanged and “strong friendship brings good fortune” as chinese astrology might say.

Going to take a miracle without a hotel and doughnut shop. But who knows? There sometimes are such things even these days and I sometimes wonder if we will not be sipping happy dragon tea whilst doing flying tiger twirls in the 1 million dollar “hotel”, before they get the pro shop up down undet the way it seems to be going for them. A massive thing difficult to do. I do not think a monk-astery will be quite as difficult.

May these words inspire and give joy & peace ~

Oh!   龙山寺 “Long Shan Si” that means Dragon Mountain Monastery. Dragons are big with gong fu people

(Here is a collection of articles about the Australian project at kung fu magazine:

http://www.kungfumagazine.com/forum/showthread.php?64712-Shaolin-Temple-OZ

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Continental Shao Lin History

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Shao lin has become prominent on the western continent from end to end.
Chinese priests and their disciples have spread the tradition in free lands over the last 115 years, irrefutably demonstrating the embrace of the way of the Dragon in the West.
“the unthinkable” in the only available terms there are: truth. Coping with what has happened in a more honest and strong legged fashion by first acknowledging all that has, not just the “quantum” moves.
I am second generation American and my master grew up in Taiwan. We are both immediate lineal products of the more recent post boxer diaspora and the highly faithful and patriotic fleeing for their own lives and refusing to let tradition die. When shao lin has been suppressed in China (every time) monks have migrated to less hostile places and taken the powerful way of the ancient Chinese with them. Though we have never heard of him, there was more than one “Kwai Chang Caine” in the American West and it is a certainty that marks of honor can be found in the railroad graveyards that line tracks across this continent.
The obvious spread of Shao lin in other cultures shows that only distinctions can be made for honest conversation and those distinctions must be honorable. Those born and trained on this continent have a young and prosperous heritage. The Western diaspora has characteristics that differ from the European and though both have the cultural variances of the region, all originated none the less from the same tree and being cut found root and grew on. The Martial Arts Association, International, has been recording members since 1964 and tho not US based, will have in its records numerous shifu and members of the way of the dragon with Western postal codes. Lines here in the West preserve their lineage and their records combined would create a portrait of the Western diaspora and find the tracks of the priests who brought shao lin here and their descendants from the most Northern point to the Southern tip. Shao lin has thrived in free lands and knows it’s duty and homage to it’s origens. There is in this millenia basis for the archetypes of five “continental” monks representing the time and culture affected by shao lin on each continent. Just as there are five elders and five fathers. But whose history occurs in other parts of the world. Five “immortals” effectively born at different times in China’s history and the life of the ancient temples still standing and gone. Each one brought into being by a severance and cast into a foreign land.
The plight of the Chinese monks of yhe last century has been eased considetably by mainstream health pursuits here “on” America and all over the world. The vast adoption of gong fu and tai chi by Westerners and Europeans has summoned many containers of Asian goods and many centuries of Chinese knowledge and wisdom. Chinese monks will hopefully see that things are now a matter of regional terms and making accurate distinctions. Let lines of this last century preserve what they were bequeathed and remember they are not the product of the Hunan of the last hundred years, no, they are descendants of those before and during 1900, who have not been in China these last hundred years. They have not modernized in the same way as Hunan and their ideas of tradition, however limited or imperfect they may be, come from over a century ago. Most are not communists, many of them are not  buddhists, though all regard tao te ching, Buddhist symbolism and teachings. They all know the concept of yin&yang and “right use”. They are not “gu er” (orphans) and many are not Miao xian (the “unshaved”, lay monk) but Western history shows it has accepted both.
These Western devotees are the simple result of the outrages of the world against the temple and order at various times in the vastness of Chinese history.
Dealt more than one of what most would think a mortal blow, the order did the only thing it could. Flee for its life in the lives of priests who have been escaping China more frequently since China became not China anymore. Over a hundred years.
The burdens of honor and tradition are priveleges to uphold. Increasing awareness and cohesion among Western and European descendents remind all of where they ultimately come from and where, ultimately, their way originates.
Because of all Shao lin of all times, there has been great light in the world and a continuing presence of the human and divine without demand of which seems more important. Because of all Shao lin of all times, sanctuaries for both remain in the world.
May these words give awareness, grace, joy and peace ~
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Three Roads to Old

Shao lin gong fu is a living system that seems very much like a religion, although opinions vary on defining that. Master Don once said “Kung Fu is everything, yet it is nothing” and he was being quite literal. The salute of honor, of the book and the fist are direct signs of the extensive knowledge of shao lin priests. (A sign of many meanings see: https://sites.google.com/site/utsjingwu/articles/origins-and-meaning-of-the-kung-fu-salute-by-shuai-zheng-2012 )
The nature and content of this knowledge is placed under three acquired masteries that create the fourth, which as you will see, nature creates anyway and a monk’s time is short to vast accomplishments.
From time immemorial and all over the earth, the 3 traditional priestly schools, called the “School of Life” by the Egyptians, have always been Theology, Agriculture and Medicine.
In shao lin, these are to attain shifu, nongfu & daifu. Mastery of the body, mind and spiritual awareness, mastery of agriculture and also wild foods and mastery of medicine, the knowledge of blood and dust.
Even tho these studies are vigorously pursued and attained, they are continuous and life long, for they are wells that exceed us no matter how much we learn and grow. After this life time of study, practice, mastery, the priest has become finally Lao-fu, which is sometimes called “a wild tree” but generally means “old/good at it”. Laofu is the last title of the fulfilled monk which as I already pointed out, will be awarded by nature of its own accord one day and it is the priests challenge not to attain the status, but rather to prepare for it’s coming, as powerfully as he is able.
Venerable is a title of respect for brothers past 75 and most commonly used. A monk’s laofu is a deeply personal, individual and in that universal way, sacred journey. Nobody calls anyone laofu lightly ever, lest it provoke “venerable wushu”. None the less, the monk in his priesthood becomes laofu at the last of his terrestrial career, even tho he may qualify for it quite young. It is an honest title that can not be taken out of it’s time, nor can it be denied in it’s time and it is the culmination of devotion and the record of a price paid. Monks strive so that it is also a testimony of wisdom, strength and grace, a good value for the price of life, paid anyway by all, whatever else they may find.
So this is the life of a shao lin “compartmentalized”, a less than desirable concept which goes against the grain of the truth he knows. He knows there is not shifu, not nongfu, not daifu or laofu, there is only he and all in a great continuation and communion. It is the life of those who must follow it. Gong fu is in the monk before he is one. A priest is of shao lin, his acceptance an acknowledgement of that. His performance and success falling to him.
In the highest realm of earthly gong fu, the one who approves is the self, as is the one who guides. A man after a great journey, finds his self at one, bearing the natural and obvious title he did way, way back before his training began – “he who is most his self”.
May these apologetics give grace, wisdom and peace.
~ Laofu
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“Kung Fu” Came True

I was 8 years old over 40 years ago when I looked at the TV Guide to see what our “Movie of the Week” was going to be. Two words that took me a moment to process – “Kung Fu”.
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I could not believe my eyes and was there glued to our dad-built-it television the first time we saw Rademas Pera standing out in the rain (cool!) waiting to be denied entry to the place of honor (and way cool stuff!) I was a fan. I never missed an episode except when they changed it at the end a couple times. I could not believe when it was gone (the series ran for three seasons between 1972 and 1974) I was disappointed but knew “Nobody wants to be right”. There were perfectly reasonable reasons given for ending the show, but I was 8 and “Grasshopper” was my personal role model. You couldn’t fool me.
What a lot of people did not know was that “Kung Fu” was real, or rather, authentic. When the idea for a martial arts western came up, the producers contacted every Asian actor in Hollywood and by all accounts, they had a lot to say and were understandably touchy about the show and David Carradine. The result was enormous contribution and high authenticity in the show.
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Even the “supernatural” episodes were drawn from gong fu and chinese myth and legend. There were variations, like the big fire pot that branded Kwai Chang Caine’s arms with the marks of honor – it was true, but in the temple in China it was actually an iron ball that sat on a small fire and was lifted up bestowing the brands. According to Shao Lin (not of Hunan) today, the marks of honor are coming back. In China, the temple is still heavily repressed and monitored. Almost everything except necessary tourism is forbidden. You actually have to leave China to be a Shao Lin these days. A true diaspora that has been happening since the boxer rebellion and suppression of the order over 100 years ago. Today we look back, as all our cultures, foundations and ancestors lay in ruins bearing insult and say “The boxers were right. The true defenders were defiled”. But the condition of japan, Europe, China  and the US today speaks for itself. We learn to filter polluted waters.
But I have digressed – “Kung Fu” was replaced by the Era of “aren’t we all feel good losers?” TV shows which somehow people of the time gobbled up, greatful to be rescued from reminders of conscience. We have gone crazier and zanier trying to block out our conscience ever since.
But I didn’t. Not me. I followed the Grasshopper. Amazingly enough, 4 years later when I was twelve, there appeared a sign one day on the side of the highway, pointing around to the back of a building and the sign said “Kung Fu”.
There were karate schools in Independence, judo, jujitsu and maybe others, but i could not get the funding for those. When master brought the Shao Lin school to town, my parents brought it up to me. Another “couldn’t believe it” and the immediate intimidation that I was hurrying as fast as I could go to a pass or fail interview. I grabbed the reigns on 50,000 volts of spaz and we walked up to the door. It said “Brothers of the Dragon Shao lin” I did not have to wait in the rain like the Grasshopper, we went in the door and I could not look at one place for all the looking around. Not only that, the master was from Taipei and he was a half breed too.
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The rest is history and I had my master Kahn, Po and Caine all in one guy that I pretty much immediately placed on the highest pedastal and engaged enthusiastically in his challenges. I became the youngest after a slightly younger boy left and like my hero on TV, I was surrounded by older students and learned every detail I could. In my mind, I would not fail to keep up with them. How great and generous they were. How fascinating. Even though it took me awhile to believe it, every time I went, I got in. Still. “…and life couldn’t possibly, not even probably, bet-ter be!”
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All the older guys were going around being like David Carradine, “Caine”, talking to mean dummies and giving out foot when they could, but I was in the cat bird seat. I was the “grasshopper”. It was not nearly as perfect as the TV set, but neither was I and one day master called me “Weedhopper” and the joke I will not give up for the world. Put it on my tombstone and eat your heart out Jackie Chan. I was in the middle of the dragon circle, happy to admire these fine and mystical beings and my job was not to mess it up.
The rest is a long collection of many tales, but I will mention the dreadful bed of nails. Master being retired to his weaponeering these days most likely won’t see this, but yes yes, that horrible device I was not about to back down from in front of everybody. I watched master precisely measure and place all those nails, all perfectly straight and was mighty impressed. Then he flipped it over and invited us all to hop on. I suppose it is obligatory and how else to learn that….but I have to say my least favorite is bed of nails. When I finally put one in, those fellas will do it and I suppose so will I again. The deadliest thing a monk can do to his self is get soft in the hard spots or hard in the soft ones.
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But I am getting older and in my complete piggish ingratitude, I have never once wrote “the role model that became real” and thanked him for a way I had to find on my own. A fan letter that says “you made it out of real stuff, so it isn’t my fault it became real for me – but it has been my blessing.” I owe my health and even life to Shao Lin, which is why I have retired to teach it now. Like we did. Back when Bruce Lee had just hit the silver screen and “everybody was kung fu fighting” like Carl Douglas said. I always imagined Grasshopper was way too cool for me – he was nearly too cool for planet earth! I don’t know what I thought the Grasshopper did in the world? But it was full of lights, space ships and meeting kings, I can remember I was sure of that. At our age now, it looks like my role model had his self a pretty good life too.
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He has aged better than me, but then again, his temple was lots fancier in the show. He was from somewhere wonderful far away and Weedhopper was living it out in Independence, leaving too much to pursue medicine that I have begun to reclaim now. Things that have waited long enough are getting done and one of them is my fan letter I haven’t figured out how to write. I watched a conversation with Mr. Pera, David Carradine and others where he asked Carradine “when you met fans, did you ever feel like you had to live up to the character for them?” Honest good ‘ol grasshopper. Everyone else gave stylish, completely safe Hollywood answers. They were not Shao Lin ~
Grasshopper already lived up to Rademas Pera for me. I am the one that would be hoping I had lived up to something if I ever met him. But I have often thought about how to write just to say “Thanks for something better to live up to Grasshopper” Because in the case of “Kung Fu”, you actually could believe the television ~
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On the Burden of Rademas, and joy ~
Man, It is pretty simple to me. You recreated from authentic material, in an authentic vocation which, in so far as mankind is concerned has always had significant positive social impact. A vague sense of responsibility that was satisfied in “I was a plausable representation of a chinese/American orphan in 1800’s China. It is difficult to immerse oneself in such a powerful creation without feeling like you honor what you represented no matter what part any of it may be in your own life.” You are, if not disciple, then ambassador to the almost completely contemplative and ethical part of gong fu. You always answered the questions, but weren’t so much giving out footy.
I think your words on it showed me that and express that you understand that may be your one sociopolitical burden.
Thank the powers you didn’t have a job recreating some little furtive monster or malicious alien! Then all “those” guys would think you were cool and want to be thanking you and hanging out and oy! 😉
I sometimes contemplate the concept of destiny and quiver at the thought…any of them really, because that’s all we get. Wondering if wonderful things are true, or we created them because of the better of us.
But if within you are your deepest ethics undenied and generous spirit toward all life, you did snatch the pebble. Pretty sure you already know all that sorry. I have always wanted the chance to say it.
In my mind, you had a rare chance to do something wonderful for the world and you did. You did it well. Who goes ill after the way of the Grasshopper?
Thanks man. Bravo! Got to check out your music ~

A long way to a Shao Lin Cottage

“Hard and soft, light and heavy, inner and outer, kung fu is flowing through all these things in a continuous, dynamic state of desire for harmony. A harmony of forces is a priest’s power; the power of the whole earth because he rightly cooperates with the harmony of all power.” A priest has power over the whole earth because he accepts it’s demands and pays it’s prices, rather than seeking to disregard it by trying to overpower what men do not have the strength to. Can anyone overpower their life? No. If they seem to, it was the life they attained that was them. It was their cooperation with power.

If all persons loved the true technology of nature more than man made and faulty aberrations, a priest would not be discernable from anyone else and everyone would share in living power and joy. At one time not so long ago, but far back, we did. We have seen and been so much in the last 100 years, it has brought us back to a place where to some “speaking from the heart” is a too rare and even more desirable trait. In every generation, people are sold a deal that never turns out like it was supposed to be. However in these accelerated times, having had so much that is artificial shoved forcefully upon us, returning to ourselves as humans would seem like an edifying thing. A foot on the earth can still stand tip-toe as it reaches for stars. Having no foundation or net at all, we can’t recover too easily from the falls life is subject to. From the heights we have sailed to, the down is pretty far. Hopefully, we can glide closer to the earth ourselves before we have to drop.

It is a legend of priesthood that one day man will, despite all the most impossible odds, join all life in the sky and in the earth creating a haven for souls where now a wasteland and a battle ground exists. The Jews call that “tikkun olam”, to repair the world and the species thereby. Others simply call it right living and repair now all that can be, piece by piece, not waiting for a great day or movement that rarely seems to come. When it comes if it does, we will already be there. If it never comes, then it was there in us all along. Because of this, any monks simple actions seem large when they are small and things which are small seem as large as them. They exhibit the equanimity of life. “Such is the manner of heaven ~ “

I have never managed the isolation and austerity many have. I have patched my own way along, towards the home I was taught to make. Someday. The serenity of a shao lin cottage. Each piece, even the pegs therapeutic. A circumference within which harmony and happiness resonates. It will be a long time. I may never, like many, make it.

I have friends littler than me and clients older and weaker. I have not been alone in a long time and G-d’s grace holding it will be some time before I am alone again. There is nothing that makes me live for the Glory of the Divine or I am sure I would protest it. I do what my nature demands. When I heal or comfort others I am healing and comforting myself as well. It is not always so, but if we do it anyway, we know it matters beyond our self and we contribute. When I heal or comfort myself, what is around me is healed and comforted too. If one heals and comforts yet feels only loss and does it only for “alms” they rob their self. Even giving alms to another is a two way street. A temporary purchase of “alright” between both parties. But those who withdraw from that get no gain and expend until their own resources go dry. If we follow our nature, we only lose the battles we were going to, not a thousand more we invited going against our own self. My nature is towards these refugee creatures and those who aid them. In that respect, I am already in a very fine shao lin cottage. Even if I never make it, I will have made it anyway.

Some things in life are not so vague, ephemeral or mysterious. Anyone can think about what “self defeating” may mean in their life. Even a child knows what is wrong to it and makes crucial decisions about right and wrong, truth and less than. The harder road will always be worth the journey. As we see more and more in America, the easy road never ends up being worth the time wasted on it. Nonetheless, many choose. Choose your road for your own happiness now and at the end of your life. Good travelling, Self friend ~ KL