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 ~
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.