Sitting Still Doing Nothing

Let the Void be your cauldron; let Nature be your furnace; for your primary ingredient, take stillness; for your reagent; use quietude; for mercury, take your vital essence; for lead, use your vital energy; for water, use restraint; for fire, take meditation.

[Union of the Triple Equation]

Triple Equation of essence, energy and spirit unites to form the Golden Elixir of immortality during deep meditation. According to Master Chao Pi Chen the generative force changes into vitality when the body is still; vitality changes into spirit when the heart is unstirred; and spirit returns to nothingnessb because of immutable thought. The Elixir Field (Dantien) under the navel is where the genrative force [essence] is sublimated into vitality [energy]; the middle Elixir Field in the solar plexus (Middle Dantien) is where vitality is sublimated into spirit; and the upper Elixir Field in the brain (Upper Dantien) is where spirit is sublimated for its flight into space.

“When the mind is stilled, the spirit radiates a brilliance that illuminates all the great mysteries of the universe”. Chao Pi Chen

Reference: The Tao of Health, Sex & Longevity by Daniel P. Reid
ISBN 067164811X

P. 373

The Golden Flower

By Master Lu Tzu

1. Heavenly Consciousness of the Heart
Master Lu Tzu said: That which exists through itself is called Meaning. (Tao). Meaning has neither name nor force. It is the one essence, the one primordial spirit. Essence and life cannot be seen. It is contained in the Light of Heaven. The light of Heaven cannot be seen. It is contained in the two eyes. Today I will be your guide and will first reveal to you the secret of the Golden Flower of the Great One, and, starting from that, I will explain the rest in detail.

The Great One is the term given to that which has nothing above it. The secret of the magic of life consists in using action in order to achieve non-action. One must not wish to leave out the steps between and penetrate directly. The maxim handed down to us is to take in hand the work on the essence. In doing this it is important not to follow the wrong road.

The Golden Flower is the Light. What color has the light? One uses the Golden Flower as an image. It is the true power of the transcendent Great One. The phrase, “The lead of the water-region has but one taste,” refers to it. The work on the circulation of the Light depends entirely on the backward-flowing movement, so that the thoughts are gathered together (the place of Heavenly Consciousness, the Heavenly Heart). The Heavenly Heart lies between sun and moon (i.e., the two eyes).

The Book of the Yellow Castle says: In the field of the square inch of the house of the square foot, life can be regulated. The house of the square foot is the face. The field of the square inch in the face: What could that be other than the Heavenly Heart? In the middle of the square inch dwells the splendor. In the purple hall of the city of jade dwells the god of utmost emptiness and life.

The Confucians call it the center of emptiness; the Buddhists, the terrace of life; the Taoists, the ancestral land, or the yellow castle, or the dark pass, or the space of former Heaven. The Heavenly Heart is like the dwelling place, the Light is the master. Therefore when the Light circulates, the powers of the whole body arrange themselves before its throne, just as when a holy king has taken possession of the capital and has laid down the fundamental rules of order, all the states approach with tribute, or, just as when the master is quiet and calm, men-servants and maids obey his orders of their own accord, and each does his work.

Therefore you only have to make the Light circulate: that is the deepest and most wonderful secret. The Light is easy to move, but difficult to fix. If it is allowed to go long enough in a circle, then it crystallizes itself: that is the natural spirit -body. This crystallized spirit is formed beyond the nine Heavens. It is the condition of which it is said in the Book of the Seal of the Heart: Silently in the morning thou fliest upward.

In carrying out this fundamental truth you need to seek for no other methods, but must only concentrate your thoughts on it. The book Leng Yen says: By collecting the thoughts one can fly and will be born in Heaven. Heaven is not the wide blue sky, but the place where the body is made in the house of the creative. If one keeps this up for a long time, there develops quite naturally in addition to the body, yet another spirit-body.

The Golden Flower is the Elixir of Life (literally, golden ball, golden pill). All changes of spiritual consciousness depend upon the Heart. Here is a secret charm, which, although it works very accurately, is yet so fluent that it needs extreme intelligence and clarity, and complete absorption and calm. People without this highest degree of intelligence and understanding do not find the way to apply the charm; People without this utmost capacity for concentration and calm cannot keep fast hold of it.

2. The Primordial Spirit and the Conscious Spirit
Master Lu Tzu said: In comparison with Heaven and earth, man is like a mayfly. But compared to the Great Meaning, Heaven and earth, too, are like a bubble and a shadow. Only the primordial spirit and the true essence overcome time and space.         

The power of the seed, like Heaven and earth, is subject to mortality, but the primordial spirit is beyond the polar differences. Here is the place whence Heaven and Earth derive their being. When students understand how to grasp the primordial spirit, they overcome the polar opposites of Light and darkness and tarry no longer in the three worlds. But only he who has looked on essence in its original manifestation is able to do this.

When men are set free from the womb the primordial spirit dwells in the square inch (between the eyes), but the conscious spirit dwells below in the heart. This lower fleshly heart has the shape of a large peach: it is covered by the wings of the lungs, supported by the liver, and served by the bowels. This heart is dependent on the outside world. If a man does not eat for one day even, it feels extremely uncomfortable. If it hears something terrifying it throbs; if it hears something enraging it stops; if its is faced with death it becomes sad; if it sees something beautiful it is dazzled.

But the Heavenly Heart in the head, when would it have been in the leased moved? Dost thou ask: Can the Heavenly Heart not be moved? Then I answer: How could the true thought in the square inch be moved? If it really moves, it is not well. For when ordinary men die, then it moves, but that is not good. It is best indeed if the Light has already fortified itself in a spirit body and its life force gradually penetrated the instincts and movements. But that is a secret which has not been revealed for thousands of years.

The lower heart moves like a strong, powerful commander who despises the Heavenly ruler because of his weakness, and has seized for himself the leadership of the affairs of state. But when the primordial castle can be fortified and defended, then it is as if a strong and wise ruler sat upon the throne. The two eyes start the Light circulating like two ministers at the right and left who support the ruler with all their might. When the ruler in the center is thus in order, all those rebellious heroes will present themselves with lances reversed ready to take orders.

The way to the Elixir of life recognizes as supreme magic, seed-water, spirit-fire, and thought-earth; these three. What is seed-water? It is the true, one power (eros) of former Heaven. Spirit-fire is the Light (logos). Thought-earth is the Heavenly Heart of the middle house (intuition). Spirit-fire is used for effecting, thought-earth for substance, and seed-water for the foundation. Ordinary men make their bodies through thoughts.

The body is not only the 7 ft. tall outer body. In the body is the anima. The anima, having produced consciousness, adheres to it. Consciousness depends for its origin on the anima. The anima is feminine, the substance of consciousness. As long as this consciousness is not interrupted, it continues to beget from generation to generation, and the changes of form of the anima and the transformations of substance are unceasing.

But, besides this, there is the animus in which the spirit shelters. The animus lives in the daytime in the eyes; at night it houses in the liver. When living in the eyes, it sees; when housing itself in the liver, it dreams. Dreams are the wanderings of the spirit through all nine Heavens and all the nine earths. But whoever is dull and moody on waking, and chained to his bodily form, is fettered by the anima.

Therefore the concentration of the animus is effected by the circulation of the Light, and in this way the spirit is protected, the anima subjected, and consciousness is annulled. The method used by the ancients for escaping from the world consisted in burning out completely the slag of darkness in order to return to the purely creative. This is nothing more than a reduction of the anima and a bringing to perfection of the animus. And the circulation of the Light is the magical means of limiting the dark powers and gaining mastery of the anima. Even if the work is not directed toward bringing back the creative, but confines itself to the magical means of the circulation, one returns to the creative, If this method is followed, plenty of seed-water will be present of itself; the spirit-fire will be ignited, and the thought-earth will solidify and crystallize. And thus can the holy fruit mature.

The scarab rolls his ball and in the ball there develops life as the effect of the undivided effort of his spiritual concentration. If now and embryo can grow in manure, and shed its skin, why should not the dwelling place of our Heavenly Heart also be able to create a body if we concentrate the spirit upon it?

The one effective, true essence (logos united with life), when it descends into the house of the creative, divides into animus and anima. The animus is in the Heavenly Heart. It is of the nature of light; it is the power of lightness and purity. It is that which we have received from the great emptiness, that which has form from the very beginning.

The anima partakes of the nature of darkness. It is the power of the heavy and the turbid; it is bound to the bodily, fleshly heart. The animus loves life. The anima seeks death. All sensuous pleasures and impulses to anger are effects of the anima; it is the conscious spirit which after death is nourished on blood, but which, during life, is in direst need. Darkness returns to darkness and like things attract each other. But the pupil understands how to distill the dark anima so that it transforms itself into Light.

3. Circulation of the Light and Protection of the Center
Master Lu Tzu said: Since when has the expression “circulation of the Light” been revealed? It was revealed by the “true men of the beginning of form”. When the Light is allowed to move in a circle, all the powers of Heaven and earth, of the light and the dark, are crystallized. That is what is described as seed-like, or purification of the power, or purification of the concept.

When one begins to apply this magic, it is as if, in the middle of one’s being, there was a non-being. When in the course of time the work is finished, and beyond the body is another body, it is as if, in the middle of the non-being, there were a being. Only after a completed work of a hundred days will the Light be real, then only will it become spirit-fire.

After a hundred days, there develops by itself in the middle of the Light, a point of the true Light-pole. Suddenly there develops a seed pearl. It is as if man and woman embraced and a conception took place. Then one must be quite still in order to await it. The circulation of the Light is the epoch of fire.

In the midst of primal becoming, the radiance of the Light is the determining thing. In the physical world it is the sun; in man the eye. The emanation and dissemination of spiritual consciousness is chiefly brought about by this power when it is directed outward (flown downward). Therefore the meaning of the Golden Flower depends wholly on the backward-flowing method.

Circulation of the Light is not only a circulation of the seed-blossom of the body, but it is, in the first place, a circulation of the true, creative, formative powers. It has to do, not with a momentary fantasy, but with the exhaustion of the circular course (soul wanderings) of all the eons. Therefore a breath-pause means a year – according to human reckoning – and a hundred years measured by the long night of the nine paths (of reincarnation).

After a person has the one tone of individualization behind them, they will be born outward according to the circumstances, and not until he is old will he turn a single time to the backward-flowing way. The force of the Light exhausts itself and trickles away. That brings the nine-fold darkness (of rebirths) into the world.

In the book Leng Yen it is said: By concentrating the thoughts, one can fly; by concentrating the desires, one falls. When a pupil takes little care of his thoughts and much care of his desires, he gets into the path of depravity. Only through contemplation and quietness does true intuition arise; for that, the backward-flowing method is necessary.

In the book of the Secret Correspondences, it is said: Release is in the eye. In the Simple Questions of the Yellow Ruler, it is said: The seed-blossom of the human body must be concentrated upward in the empty space. That refers to it. Immortality is contained in this sentence and also the overcoming of the world is contained in it. That is the common goal of all religions.

The Light is not in the body alone, neither is it only outside the body. Mountains and rivers and the great earth are lit by sun and moon; all that is this Light. Therefore it is not only within the body. Understanding and clarity, knowing and enlightenment, and all motion (of the spirit), are likewise this Light; therefore it is not just something outside the body. The Light-flower of Heaven and earth fills all thousand spaces.

But also the Light-flower of one body passes through Heaven and covers the earth. Therefore, just as the Light is circulating, so Heaven and earth, mountains and rivers, are all rotating with it at the same time. To concentrate the seed-flower of the human body above in the eyes, that is the great key of the human body. Children, take heed! If for a day you do not practice meditation, this Light streams out, who knows whither? If you only meditate for a quarter of an hour, you can set ten thousand eons and a thousand births at rest. All methods take their source in quietness. This marvelous magic cannot be fathomed.

But when the work is started, one must press on from the obvious to the profound, from the course to the fine. Everything depends on there being no interruption. The beginning and the end of the work must be one. In between there are cooler and warmer moments, that goes without saying. But the goal must be to reach the breadth of Heaven and the depths of the sea, so that all methods seem quite easy and taken for granted. Only then do we have it in hand.

All holy men have bequeathed this to one another: nothing is possible without contemplation. When Confucious says: knowing brings one to the goal; or when Buddha calls it: the view of the Heart; or Lao Tzu says: inward vision, it is all the same.

Anyone can talk about reflection, but he cannot master it if he does not know what the word means. What has to be changed by reflection is the self-conscious heart, which has to direct itself toward that point where the formative spirit is not yet manifest. Within our 6 ft. body, we must strive for the form which existed before the laying down of Heaven and earth. If today people sit and meditate only one or two hours, looking only at their own egos, and call it contemplation, how can anything come of it?

The two founders of Buddhism and Taoism have taught that one should look at the end of one’s nose. But they did not mean that one should fasten one’s thoughts to the end of the nose. Neither did they mean that, while the eyes were looking at the end of the nose, the thoughts should be concentrated on the yellow middle. Wherever the eye looks, the heart is directed also. How can the glance be directed at the same time upward (yellow middle), and downward (end of the nose), or alternating, so that it is now up, now down? All that means confusing the finger with which one points to the moon with the moon itself.

What is really meant by this? The expression, “end of the nose,” is very cleverly chosen. The nose must serve the eyes as a guiding line. If one is not guided by the nose, either one opens wide the eyes and looks into the distance, so that the nose is not seen, or the lids shut too much, so that the eyes close, and again the nose is not seen. But when the eyes are opened too wide, one makes the mistake of directing them outward, whereby one is easily distracted. If they are closed too much then one makes the mistake of letting them turn inward, whereby one easily sinks into a dreamy reverie.

Only when the eyelids are sunk properly halfway, is the end of the nose seen in just the right way. Therefore it is taken as a guiding line. The main thing is to lower the eyelids in the right way, and then allow the Light to stream in of itself, without trying to force the Light to stream in by a concentrated effort. Looking at the nose serves only as the beginning of the inner concentration, so that the eyes are brought into the right direction for looking, and then are held to the guiding line; after that, one can let it be. That is the way a mason hangs up a plumb line. As soon as he has hung it up, he guides his work by it without continually bothering himself to look at the plumb line. Fixating contemplation is a Buddhist method which by no means has been handed down as a secret.

On looks with both eyes at the end of the nose, sits upright and in a comfortable position, and holds the heart to the center in the midst of conditions (on the fixed pole in the flight of phenomena). In Taoism it is called the yellow middle, in Buddhism the center in the midst of conditions. The two are the same. It does not necessarily mean the middle of the head. It is only a matter of fixing one’s thinking on the point that lies exactly between the two eyes. Then all is well. The Light is something extremely mobile. When one fixes the thought on the midpoint between the two eyes, the Light streams in of its own accord. It is not necessary to direct the attention especially to the central castle. In these few words the most important thing is contained.

“The center in the midst of conditions,” is a very fine expression. The center is omnipresent; everything is contained in it; it is connected with the release of the release of the whole process of creation. The condition is the portal. The condition, that is the fulfillment of this condition, makes the beginning, but it does not bring about the rest with inevitable necessity. The meaning of these two words is very fluid and subtle.

Fixating contemplation is indispensable, it ensures the strengthening of illumination. Only one must not stay sitting rigidly if worldly thoughts come up, but one must examine where the thought is, where it began, and where it fades out. Nothing is gained by pushing reflection further, One must be content to see where the thought arose, and not seek beyond the point of origin; for to find the heart (consciousness), to get behind consciousness with consciousness – that cannot be done.

We want to bring the status of the heart together in rest – that is true contemplation. What contradicts it is false contemplation. This leads to no goal. When the flight of thoughts keeps extending farther, one should stop and begin contemplating. Let one contemplate and then start concentrating again. That is the double method of strengthening the illumination. It means the circular course of the light. The circular course is fixation. The Light is contemplation. Fixation without contemplation is circulation without Light. Contemplation without fixation is Light without circulation.

4. Circulation of the Light and Making the Breathing Rhythmical
Master Lu Tzu said: The decision must be carried out with a whole heart, and, the result no sought for; the result will come of itself. In the first period of release there are chiefly two mistakes: laziness and distraction. But that can be remedied; the heart must not enter into the breathing too completely. Breathing comes from the heart. What comes out of the heart is breath. When the heart stirs, there develops breath-power. Breath-power is originally transformed activity of the heart.

When our hearts go very fast they imperceptibly pass into fantasies which are always accompanied by the drawing of a breath, because this inner and outer breathing hangs together like tone and echo. Daily we draw innumerable breaths and have an equal number of fantasy-representations. And thus the clarity of the spirit is depleted just as wood dries out and ashes die.

Should a man have no images in his mind? One cannot be without images. Should one not breathe? One cannot do without breathing. The best way is to make a cure out of the illness. Since heart and breath are mutually dependent, the circulation of the Light must be united with the rhythm of breathing.

For this, Light of the ear is above all necessary. There is a Light of the eye and a Light of the ear. The Light of the eye is the united Light of the sun and moon outside. The Light of the ear is the united seed of sun and moon within. The seed is also the Light in crystallized form. Both have the same origin and are different only in name. Therefore, understanding (ear) and clarity (eye) are one and the same effective Light.

In sitting down, after dropping the lids, one establishes a plumb-line with the eyes and shifts the Light downward. But if the transposition downward is not successful, then the heart is directed toward listening to the breathing. One should not be able to hear with the ear the outgoing and inhaling of the breath. What one hears is that it has no tone. As soon as it has tone, the breathing is rough and superficial, and does not penetrate into what is fine.

Then the heart must be made quite light and insignificant. The more it is released, the less important it becomes; the less important, the quieter. All at once it becomes so quiet that it stops. Then the true breathing is manifested and the form of the heart can be made conscious. When the heart is light, the breathing is light, for every movement of the heart brings about breathing power. If breathing is light, the heart is light, for every movement of the breath affects the heart. In order to steady the heart, one begins by cultivating the breathing power. The heart cannot be influenced directly. Therefore the breathing power is used as a handle, and this is what is called protecting the collected breathing power.

Children, do you not understand the nature of motion? Motion can be produced by outside means. It is only another name for mastery. One can make the heart move merely by running. Should one not be able to bring it to rest then by concentrated quietness? The great holy ones who knew how the heart and breathing power mutually influence one another, have thought out an easier procedure as a way of helping posterity.

In the Book of the Elixir, it is said: The hen can hatch her eggs because her heart is always listening. That is an important magic spell. The reason the hen can hatch her eggs is because of the power to heat. But the power of the heat can only warm the shells; it cannot penetrate into the interior. Therefore with her heart she conducts this power inward.

This she does with her hearing. In this way ash concentrates her whole heart. When the heart penetrates, the power penetrates, and the chick receives the power of the heart and begins to live. Therefore a hen, even when she has left her eggs, always has the attitude of listening with a bent ear. Thus the concentration of the spirit is not interrupted.

Because the concentration of the spirit suffers no interruption, neither does the power of heat suffer interruption day or night, and the spirit awakes to life. The awakening of the spirit is accomplished because the heart has first died. When a man can let his heart die, then the primordial spirit wakes to life. To kill the heart does not mean to let it dry and wither away, but it means that it is undivided and gathered into one.

Buddha said: When you fix your heart on one point, then nothing is impossible for you. The heart easily runs away, so it is necessary to gather it together by means of breathing power. Breathing power easily becomes coarse, therefore it has to be refined by the heart. When that is done, can it then happen that it is not fixed?

The two mistakes of laziness and distraction must be combated by quiet work that is carried on daily without interruption; then results will certainly be achieved. If one is not seated during meditation, one will often be distracted without noticing it. To become conscious of the inattention is the mechanism by which to do away with inattention.

Laziness of which a man is conscious, and laziness o f which he is unconscious, are many miles apart. Unconscious laziness is real laziness; conscious laziness is not complete laziness, because there is still some clarity in it. Distraction comes from letting the spirit wander about; laziness comes from the spirit not yet being pure. Distraction is much easier to correct than laziness. It is as in sickness if one feels pains and itches, one can help them with remedies, but laziness is like a disease that is attended by loss of feeling. Distraction can be overcome, confusion can be straightened out, but laziness and absent-minded are heavy and dark. Distraction and confusion at least have a place, but in laziness and absent-mindedness the anima alone is active.

In inattention the animus is still present, but in laziness pure darkness rules. If one becomes sleepy during meditation, that is an effect of laziness. Breathing alone serves to remove laziness. Although the breath that flows in and out through the nose is not the true breath, the flowing in and out of the true breath is connected with it.

While sitting, one must, therefore, always keep the heart quiet and the power concentrated. How can the heart be made quiet? By breathing. The heart alone must be conscious of the flowing in and out of the breath; it must not be heard with the ears. If it is not heard, then the breathing is light; if light, it is pure. If it can be heard, then the breathing power is heavy; if heavy, then it is troubled; if it is troubled, then laziness and absent-mindedness develop and one wants to sleep. That is self-evident.

How to use heart correctly during breathing must be understood. It is use without use. One need only let the Light fall quite gently on the hearing. This sentence contains a secret meaning. What does it mean to let the Light fall? It is the radiance of the Light of one’s own eyes. The eye looks inward and not outward. To sense brightness without looking outward means to look inward; it has nothing to do with an actual looking within.

What does hearing mean? It is hearing the Light of one’s own ear. The ear listens only within and does not listen to what is outside. To sense brightness without listening to what is outside, is to listen to what is within; it has nothing to do with actually listening to what is within. In this sort of hearing, one only hears that there is no sound; in this kind of seeing, one only sees that no shape is there. If the eye is not looking outward and the ear is not harkening outward, they close themselves and are inclined to sink inward. Only when one looks and harkens inward does the organ not go outward nor sink inward. In this way laziness and absent-mindedness are done away with. That is the union of the seed and the Light of the sun and moon.

If, as a result of laziness, one becomes sleepy, one should stand up and walk about. When the spirit has become clear one can sit down again. If there is time in the morning, one may sit during the burning of an incense candle, that is the best. In the afternoon, human affairs interfere and one can therefore easily fall into laziness. It is not necessary to have an incense candle. But one must lay aside all complications and sit quite still for a time. In the course of time there will be success without one’s getting lazy and falling asleep.

5. Mistakes During the Circulation of the Light
Master Lu Tzu said: Your work will gradually draw itself together and mature, but before you reach the condition in which you sit like a withered tree before a cliff, there are many other possibilities of error which I would ;like to bring to your special attention.

These conditions are only recognized when they have been personally experienced. I will enumerate them here, My school differs from the Buddhist yoga school, in that it has confirmatory signs for each step of the way. First I would like to speak of the mistakes and then the confirmatory signs.

When one sets out to carry out one’s decision, care must be taken to see that everything can proceed in a comfortable, easy manner. Too much must not be demanded of the heart. On must be careful t hat, quite automatically, heart and power correspond to one another. Only then can a state of quietness be attained. During the quiet state the right conditions and the right place must be provided. One must not sit down (to meditate) in the midst of frivolous affairs. That is to say, one must not have any vacuities in the mind. All entanglements must be put aside and one must be supreme and independent. Nor must the thoughts be directed toward the right procedure. If too much trouble is taken there is danger of doing this. I do not mean that no trouble is to be taken, but the right behavior lies in the middle way between being and non-being. If one can attain purposelessness through purpose, then the thing has been grasped. Supreme and without confusion, one goes along in an independent way. Furthermore, one must not fall victim to the ensnaring world. The ensnaring world is where the five kinds of dark demons disport themselves.

This is the case, for example, when, after fixation, one has chiefly thoughts of dry wood and dead ashes, and few thoughts of the resplendent spring on the great earth. In this way one sinks into the world of darkness. The power is cold there, breathing is heavy, and many images of coldness and decay display themselves. If one tarries there long one enters the world of plants and stones.

Nor must a man be led astray by the ten thousand ensnarements. This happens if, after the quiet state has begun, one after another all sorts of ties suddenly appear. One wants to break through them and cannot; one follows them, and feels relieved by this. This means the matter has become a servant. If a man tarries in this state long he enters the world of illusory desires.

At best, one goes to Heaven; at the worst, one goes among the fox-spirits. Such a fox-spirit might also occupy himself in the famous mountains enjoying the wind and the moon, the flowers and fruits, and taking his pleasure in coral trees and jeweled grass. But after he has been occupied thus for three to five hundred years, or at the most, for a couple of thousand years, his reward is over and he is born again into the world of turmoil.

All of these are wrong paths. When a man knows the wrong paths, he can then inquire into the confirmatory signs.

6. Confirmatory Experiences During the Circulation of the Light
Master Lu Tzu said: There are many kinds of confirmatory experiences. One must not content oneself with small demands but must rise to the thought that all living creatures have to be freed. It is not permissible to be trivial and irresponsible in heart. One must strive to make deeds one’s words.

If, when there is quiet, the spirit has continuously and uninterruptedly a sense of great gaiety as if intoxicated or freshly bathed, it is a sign that the Light principle in the whole body is harmonious; then the Golden Flower begins to bud. When, furthermore, all openings are quiet, and the silver moon stands in the middle of Heaven, and one has the feeling that the great earth is a world of light and brilliancy, that is a sign that the body of the heart opens itself to clarity. It is a sign that the Golden Flower is opening.

Furthermore, the whole body feels strong and firm so that it fears neither storm nor frost. Things by which other men are displeased, when I meet them, cannot cloud the brightness of the seed of the spirit. Yellow gold fills the house; the steps are white jade. Rotten and stinking things on earth that come in contact with one breath of true power will immediately live again. Red blood becomes milk. The fragile body of the flesh is sheer gold and diamonds. That is a sign that the Golden Flower is crystallized.

The Book of Successful contemplation says: The sun sinks in the Great Water and magic pictures of trees in rows arise. The setting sun means that in Chaos (in the world before phenomena, that is, intelligible world), a foundation is laid: that is the condition free of opposites. Highest good is like water, pure and spotless. It is the ruler of the Great Polarity, the god who is revealed in the sign for that which greatly disturbs, Chen. Chen is also symbolized by wood, wherefore the images of trees in rows appears. A sevenfold row of trees means the light of the seven body-openings (or heart-openings). In the northwest is the direction of the creative. When it moves on one place farther, the abysmal is there. The sun which sinking into the Great Water is the image for the creative and abysmal. The abysmal is the direction of midnight (mouse, north). At the winter solstice the thunder (Chen) is in the middle of the earth quite hidden and covered up. Only when the sign Chen is reached, does the Light-pole come over the earth again. That is the picture representing the row of trees. The rest can be correspondingly inferred.

The second part refers to the building of the foundation on this. The great world is like ice, a glassy world of jewels. The brilliancy of the Light is gradually crystallized. That is why a great terrace arises and upon it, in the course of time, Buddha appears. When the Golden Being appears who should it be but Buddha? For Buddha is the Golden Saint of the Great Enlightenment. This is a great confirmatory experience.

Now there are these confirmatory experiences which can be tested. The first is that, when one has entered the state of meditation, the gods are in the valley. Men are heard talking as though at a distance of several hundred paces, each one quite clear. But the sounds are all like an echo in a valley. One can always hear them, but never oneself. This is called the presence of the gods in the valley.

At times the following can be experienced: as soon as one is quiet, the Light of the eyes begins to blaze up, so that everything before one becomes quite bright as if one were in a cloud. If one opens one’s eyes and seeks the body, it is not to be found any more. This is called: In the empty chamber it grows light. Inside and outside, everything is equally light. That is a very favorable sign. Or, when one sits in meditation, the fleshly body becomes quite shining like silk or jade. It seems difficult to remain sitting; one feels as if drawn upward. This is called: The spirit returns and pushes against Heaven. In time, one can experience it in such a way that one really floats upward.

And now it is possible to leave all three of these experiences. But not everything can be expressed. Different things appear to each person according to his gifts. If one experiences these things, it is a sign of a good aptitude. With these things it is just as it is when one drinks water. One can tell for oneself whether the water is swarm or cold. In the same way a man must convince himself about these experiences, then only are they real.

7. The Living Manner of the Circulation of the Light
Master Lu Tzu said: When there is gradual success in producing the circulation of the Light, a person must not give up their ordinary occupation in doing it. The ancients said: When occupations come to us, we must accept them; when things come to us, we must understand them from the ground up. If the occupations are regulated by correct thoughts, the Light is not scattered by outside things, but circulates according to its own law.

Even the still-invisible circulation of the Light gets started this way, how much more then is it the case with the true circulation of the Light which has already manifested itself clearly. When in ordinary life one has the ability always to react to things by reflexes only, without any admixture of a thought of others or of himself, that is a circulation of the Light arising out of circumstances. It is the first secret.

8. A Magic Spell for the Far Journey
Master Lu Tzu said: Yu Ching has left behind him a magic spell for the Far Journey:

Words crystallize the spirit in the place of power.
The sixth month the white snow is suddenly seen to fly.
The third watch the disk of the sun sends out shining rays.
The water blows the wind of gentleness.
Wandering in Heaven, one eats the spirit-power of the receptive.
The deeper secret within the secret:
land that is nowhere, that is the true home. 

These verses are full of mystery. The meaning is: The most important thing in the Great Meaning is the four words: non-action in action. Non-action prevents a person from becoming entangled in form and image (substantiality). Action in non-action prevents a person from sinking into numbing emptiness and a dead nothingness. The effect is in the two eyes. The two eyes are like the pole of the Great Wain which turns the whole of creation; the cause the poles of Light and darkness to rotate. The Elixir depends from beginning to end on the One; the metal in the middle of the water, that is, the lead in the water-region. Heretofore we have spoken of the circulation of the Light, indicating thereby the initial release which works from without upon what lies within. This is to aid one in obtaining the Master. It is for the pupils in the beginning stages. They go through the two lower transitions in order to gain the upper one. After the sequence of events is clear and the nature of the release is known, Heaven no longer withholds the Meaning, but reveals the ultimate truth. Disciples keep it secret and hold to it strictly!

The circulation of the Light is the inclusive term. The further the work advances, the more can the Golden Flower bloom. But there is a still more marvelous kind of circulation. Til now we have worked from the outside on what is within; now we tarry in the center and rule what is external. Hitherto, it was a service in aid of the Master; now it is a dissemination of the commands of this Master. The whole relationship is now reversed. If one wants to penetrate the more delicate regions by this method, one must first see to it that the body and heart are completely controlled, that one is quite free and at peace, letting go of all entanglements, untroubled by the slightest excitement, with the Heavenly Heart exactly in the middle. Then let one lower the lids of the two eyes as if one received a holy edict, a summons to the minister. Who would dare disobey? Then one illumines the house of the abysmal (water) with both eyes. Wherever the Golden Flower appears, the true Light of polarity goes out to meet it. The principle of that which adheres to (lightness), is light outside and dark within; it is the body of the creative. Darkness enters and becomes master. The results is that the heart (consciousness), becomes dependent on things, is directed outward, and is tossed about on the stream. When the rotating Light shines within the heart, it does not become dependent on things, the power of the dark is limited, and the Golden Flower shines with concentration. It is then the collected Light of polarity. Things that are related attract each other. Thus does the polarity Light-line of the abysmal press upward. It is not only the Light in the abyss, but it is creative Light meeting creative Light. As soon as these two substances meet each other, they unite inseparably, and unceasing life begins; it comes and goes, and rises and falls of itself, in the house of primordial power. One is aware of effulgence and infinity. The whole body feels lighter and would like to fly. This is the state of which it is said: Clouds fill the thousand mountains. Gradually it (life) goes here and there quite quietly; it rises and falls imperceptibly. The pulse stands still and breathing stops. This is the moment of true creative unity, the state of which it is said: The moon gathers up the ten thousand waters. In the midst of this darkness, the Heavenly Heart suddenly begins a movement. This is the return of the one Light, the time when the child comes to life.

But the details of this must be carefully explained. When a person looks at something, listens to something, eyes and ears move and follow the things until they have passed. These movements are all underlings, and when the Heavenly ruler follows them in their tasks, it means: To live together with demons.

If now, during every movement and every moment of rest, a person lives together with people and not with demons, then the Heavenly ruler is the t rue man. When he moves and we move with him, the movement is the root of Heaven. When he is quiet and we are quiet with him, this quietness is the cave of the moon. When he continues to alternate movement and quietness, one ought to go on with him unceasingly in movement and quietness. If he rises and falls with inhaling and exhaling, we must rise and fall with him. That is what is called going to and fro between the root of Heaven and the cave of the moon.

When the Heavenly Heart still preserves calm, movement before the right time is a fault of softness. When the Heavenly Heart has already moved, the movement that follows afterwards, corresponding with it, is a fault or rigidity. As soon as the Heavenly Heart is stirring, one must immediately mount with all one’s feeling to the house of the creative. Thus the Light of the spirit sees the summit that is the leader. This movement is in accord with the time. The Heavenly Heart rises to the summit of the creative, where it expands in complete freedom. Then suddenly it wants the deepest silence, and one must lead it speedily and with one’s whole being into the yellow castle. Thus the eyes behold the central yellow dwelling place of the spirit.

When the desire for silence comes, not a single thought arises; he who is look ing inward suddenly forgets that he looks. At this time, body and heart must be left completely free. All entanglements disappear without trace. Then I no longer know at what place the house of my spirit and my crucible are. If a man wants to make certain of his body, he cannot get at it. This condition is the penetration of Heaven into earth, the time when all wonders return to their roots.

The One is the circulation of the Light. If one begins, it is at first scattered and one tries to collect it; the six senses are not active. This is the care and nourishment of one’s own origin, the filling up of the oil when one goes to receive life. When one is far enough to have gathered it, one feels light and free and need take no further trouble. This is the quieting of the spirit in the space of the ancestors, the taking possession of former Heaven.

When one is so far advanced that every shadow and every echo has disappeared, so that one is quiet and firm, it is safe within the cave of power, where all that is miraculous returns to its roots. The place is not changed but divides itself. It is incorporeal space where a thousand and ten thousand places are one place. The time is not changed, but divides itself. It is immeasurable time when all the eons are like a moment.

As long as the heart has not attained complete peace, it cannot move itself. One moves the movement and forgets the movement; this is not movement in itself. Therefore it is said: If, when stimulated by external things, one is moved, it is the instinct of the being. If, when not stimulated by external things, one is moved, it is the movement of Heaven. The being that is placed over against Heaven, can fall and come under the domination of the instincts. The instincts are based upon the fact that there are external things. They are thoughts that go on beyond their own position. Then movement leads to movement. But, when no idea arises, the right ideas come. That is the true idea. If things are quiet and one is quite firm, the release of Heaven suddenly moves. Is this not a movement without purpose? Action in inaction has the same meaning.

As to the beginning of the poem, the first two lines refer entirely to the activity of the Golden Flower. The two next lines are concerned with the mutual interpenetration of sun and moon. The sixth month is the adhering fire. The white snow that flies, is the true darkness of polarity in the middle of the fire sign, that is about to turn into the receptive. The third watch is the abysmal water. The sun’s disk is the one polar line in the sign for water, which is about to turn into the creative. In this is contained the way to take the sign for the abysmal and the way to reverse the sign for the adhering fire. The following two lines have to do with the activity of the pole of the Great Wain, the rise and fall of the whole release of polarity. Water is the sign of the abysmal; the eye is the wind of softness. The light of the eyes illumines the house of the abysmal, and controls there the seed of the great Light. “In Heaven” means the house of the creative. “Wandering, in Heaven, one eats the spirit-power of the receptive.” This shows how the spirit penetrates the power, and how Heaven penetrates the earth; this happens so that the fire can be nourished.

Another source of translation of The Golden Flower:
The Secret of the Golden Flower translated by Thomas Cleary
ISBN 0062501933

The Ten Essentials of Taijiquan

Narrated by Yang Cheng Fu
Recorded by Chen Wei Ming

1. Straightening The Head

Stand straight and hold the head and neck naturally erect, with the mind concentrated on the top. Do not strain or be tense; otherwise, the blood and vital energy cannot circulate smoothly.

2. Correct Position Of Chest And Back

Keep the chest slightly inward, which will enable you to sink your breath to the dan tian (lower belly). Do not protrude your chest, otherwise you will feel uneasy in breathing and somewhat “top heavy”.

Great force can be launched onlly when you keep the vital energy in your lower belly.

3. Relaxation Of Waist

For the human body, the waist is the dominant part. When you relax the waist, your two feet will be strong enough to form a firm base. All the movements depend on the action of the waist, as the saying goes: “Vital force comes from the waist”. Inaccurate movements in taijiquan stem from erroneous actions of the waist.

4. Solid And Empty Stance

It is of primary importance in taijiquan to distinguish between “Xu” (Empty) and “Shi” (Solid). If you shift the weight of the body on to the right leg, then the right leg is solidly planted on the ground and the left leg is in an empty stance. When your weight is on the left leg, then the left leg is firmly planted on the ground and the right leg is in an empty stance. Only in this way can you turn and move your body adroitly and without effort, otherwise you will be slow and clumsy in your movements and not able to remain stable and firm on your feet.

5. Sinking Of Shoulders And Elbows

Keep your shoulder in a natural, relaxed position. If you lift your shoulders, the qi will rise with them and the whole body will be without strength. You should also keep the elbows down, otherwise you will not be able to keep your shoulders relaxed and move your body with ease.

6. Using The Mind Instead Of Force

Among the people who practise taijiquan, it is quite common to hear this comment: “That is entirely using the mind, not force”. In practising taijiquan, the whole body is relaxed, and there is not an iota of stiff or clumsy strength in the veins or joints to hinder the movement of the body. People may ask: How can one increase his strength without exercising force? According to taditional Chinese medicine, there is in the human body a system of pathways called jingluo (or meridian) which link the viscera with different parts of the body, making the human body an integrated whole. If the jingluo is not impeded, then the vital energy will circulate in the body unobstructed. But if the jingluo is filled with stiff strength, the vital energy will not be able to circulate and consequently the body cannot move with ease. One should therefore use the mind instead of force, so that vital energy will follow in the wake of the mind or conciousness and circulate all over the body. Through persistant practice one will be able to have genuine internal force. This is what taijiquan experts call “Lithe in appearance, but powerful in essence”.

A master of Taijiquan has arms which are as strong as steel rods wrapped in cotton with immense power concealed therein. Boxers of the “Outer School” (a branch of wush with emphasis on attack, as opposed to the “Inner School” which places the emphasis on defence) look powerful when they exert force but when they cease to do so, the power no longer exists. So it is merely a kind of superficial force.

7. Coordination Of Upper And Lower Parts

According to the theory of taijiquan, the root is in the feet, the force is launched through the legs, controlled by the waist and expressed by the fingers; the feet, the legs and the waist form a harmonious whole. When the hands, the waist and the legs move, the eyes should follow their movements. This is meant by coordingation of the upper and lower parts. If any part should cease to move, then the movements will be disconnected and fall into disarray.

8. Harmony Between The Internal And External Parts

In practising taijiquan, the focus is on the mind and conciousness. Hence the saying: “The mind is the commander, the body is subservient to it”. With the tranquility of the mind, the movements will be gentle and graceful. As far as the “frame” is concerned, there are only the Xu (empty), shi (solid), kai (open) and he (close). Kai not only means opening the four lims but the mind as well, he means closing the mind along with the four limbs. Perfection is achieved when one unifies the two and harmonizes the internal and external parts into a complete whole.

9. Importance Of Continuity

In the case of the “Outer School” (which emphasizes attack) of boxing, the strength one exerts is still and the movements are not continuous, but are sometimes made off and on, which leaves opening the opponent may take advantage of. In taijiquan, one focuses the attention on the mind instead of force, and the movements from the begenning to the end are continuous and in an endless circle, just “like a river which flows on and on without end” or “like reeling the silk thread off cocoons”.

10. Tranquility In Movement

In the case of the “Outer School” of boxing, the emphasis is on leaping, bouncing, punching and the exertion of force, and so one often gasps for breath after practising. But in taijiquan, the movement is blended with tranquility, and while performing the movements, one maintains tranquility of mind. In practising the “frame”, the slower the movement the better the results. this is because when the movements are slow, one can take deep breath and sink it to the dan tian. It has a soothing effect on the body and the mind.

Learners of taijiquan will get a better understanding of all this through careful study and persistant practice.

Reference: “Yang Style Taijiquan” by Yang Zhen Duo (by courtesy of Peter Lim’s Taijiquan Resource Page www.itcca.it/peterlim/)

The Jade Emperor’s Mind Seal Classic

A Translation of The Jade Emperor’s Mind Seal Classic by Stuart Alve Olson

The Supreme Medicine has three distinctions:
Ching [Essence], Qi [Vitality], and Shen [Spirit],
Which are elusive and obscure.

Keep to non-being, yet hold on to being
And perfection is yours in an instant.

When distant winds blend together,
In one hundred days of spiritual work
And morning recitation to the Shang Ti,
Then in one year will soar as an immortal.

The sages awaken through self-cultivation;
Deep, profound, their practices require great effort.

Fulfilling vows illumines the Heavens.

Breathing nourishes youthfulness.

Departing from the Mysterious, entering the female.
It appears to have perished, yet appears to exist.
Unmovable, its origin is mysterious.

Each person has Ching.
The Shen unites with the Ching.
The Shen unites with the Qi,
The breath then unites with the true nature,
These terms appears to be fanciful exaggerations.

The Shen is capable of entering stone;
The Shen is capable of physical flight.
Entering water is not drowned;
Entering fire is not burned.

The Shen depends on life form;
The Ching depends on sufficient Qi.
If these are neither depleted nor injured
The result will be youthfulness and longevity.

These three distinctions have one principle,
Yet so subtle it cannot be heard.

Their meeting results in existence,
Their parting results in non-exsistence.

The seven apertures interpenetrate
And each emits wisdom light.

The sacred sun and sacred moon
Illuminate the Golden Court.
One attainment is eternal attainment.

The body will naturally become weightless.
When the supreme harmony is replete,
The bone fragments become like winter jade.

Acquiring the Elixir results in immortality,
Not acquiring it results in extinction.

The Elixir is within yourself,
It is not white and not green.

Recite and hold ten thousand times.
These are the subtle principles of self- illumination.

Lu Szu-hsing’s Appended Verses

The two images of the dragon and tiger are unified through Qi;
Chaos blending as One.

It is not possible to attain the eternal just through invocation.

The Elixir is called Green Dragon and White Tiger;
The Elixir is the nature of no-nature,
Emptiness of non-emptiness.

Even if you are unable to make use of the substance,
You can certainly make use of the function.

Frequently both the substance and conditions
for the substance appear together, although
these are not always perceived as identical.

The ancients said, “The Term emptiness embraces the entire teaching.”

Reference:
The Jade Emperor’s Mind Seal Classic: The Taoist Guide to Health, Longevity and Immortality
by Stuart Alve Olson
ISBN 0892811358

p. 114-116

Self-Hypnosis

First say a small prayer to direct the effects towards your Soul. Take 3 deep breaths, then say mentally “Go to sleep ‘name'” (Use your own name). “Every day in every way I’m getting better and better”. (Repeat 3 times). Count down to 7 to go deeper. Then silently “I’m going to make ‘name’ passive, the body obedient, and destroy the ego” (Repeat 3 times). Some ‘current particular suggestion’, e.g. affirmation or psychological mantra (Repeat 3 times). Then remain silent with Deep Mind awareness. Finish with the suggestion “In the next session when I say “Go to sleep ‘name'” I will sink quickly to a deep level. I am about to wake up feeling refreshed and relaxed in body, Mind and Soul. 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Wake up ‘name'”.

( by courtesy of patrickkellytaiji.com )

A Life of Infinity

A world of vastness and emptiness: the deep mountain.
There lives a life of infinity.
You live with no company.
You have no worldly communication.

You enjoy the set of movements.
This is your cultivation.
This is your achievement.
This is your merit.
The movement makes your form unite with your shadow
and your mind join your will.
The surroundings become quiet and join your movement.
With this moment your surpass your life and death.
You also melt years and centuries.
You dissolve all to nothing.

The twilight of morning and the light of the moon
have accompanied you
in smashing the withe cloud to pieces.
It is transformed into dew, flying to all places
to give moisture to many lives.
Your movement is inaudible, yet it has a gentle rythm.
Its like playing, singing and chanting: Holy, Holy, and Holy!
You continue the work of creation of all gods.
You span the bridge of eternity between
existence and non-existence,
ego and non-ego.
With no language and no posture,
but using the language above all languages
and the movement above all movements,
you link the past of no beginning
and the future of no ending.
You leave no trace or seam
on the perfect wielding of these two
into integral oneness.

Reference: Hua-Ching Ni Strength from movement Mastering Chi
ISBN: 0937064734

P. 104

The traditional Japanese method of knowledge transmission

Author: Yukio Takamura, edited by Nanette Okura (by courtesy of shinyokai.com)

“Shu-ha-ri” literally means embracing the kata, diverging from the kata and discarding the kata. The pursuit of training in a classical Japanese endeavor almost always follows this educational process. This unique approach to learning has existed for centuries in Japan and has been instrumental in the survival of many older Japanese knowledge traditions. These include such diverse pursuits as martial arts, flower arranging, puppetry, theater, poetry, painting, sculpture and weaving. As successful as Shu-ha-ri has been into the modern era, new approaches to teaching and learning are altering this traditional Japanese method of knowledge transmission. Whether traditional Japanese arts and endeavors are successfully passed to the next generation of practitioners is up to the sensei (teachers) of today and their wisdom in confronting the inherent strengths and pitfalls of Shu-ha-ri. In this essay I will focus on Shu-ha-ri and its unique application in the honorable martial discipline of Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu jujutsu.

Shoden/ The beginning level of training
Shu (Embracing the kata)
The kata or form is the educational core of all traditional Japanese knowledge schools. It is the most visible representation of a schools knowledge packaged into one seemingly simple set of movements or concepts. Because the kata is so accessible it is often mistaken to be the most important aspect of determining a students ability or progress. In fact, properly taught the kata does contain within it the ura or hidden level of information, but this information lies beneath the surface or omote of simple observation. Without first devoting oneself entirely to the mastery of the omote of the kata, the student is destined to remain forever a beginner, never able to progress towards the true depth of knowledge that rests hidden in the ura before him. To experience shu and embrace the kata, the student must first resign himself and his ego to a seemingly random series of repetitious exercises. Often these beginning or shoden level kata are by design intended to challenge the students concentration levels and devotion to learning. In some of the more rigorous traditions, kata are intended to create physical discomfort in addition to this exercise. Overcoming physical discomfort in this type of kata is just the first level of training the student to mentally focus exclusively on one task. As the student progresses thru the various kata, different aspects of stress and distraction are encountered. As these challenges grow more intense the student’s mind learns to process information and stress in a much more efficient manner. In time different neuro-muscular processes become intuitively ingrained in such a way that they are no longer consciously realized by the student. Once this level of kata is absorbed and executed satisfactorily, the student has reached the first level of his or her training. Other more advanced kata will be presented throughout training which present greater and more diverse challenges but the mental methodology for learning is now in place. The most basic reason for kata training has been achieved.


The pitfalls of teaching at the shoden level
At this level it is possible for kata to teach all by themselves. They are after all physical repetitions which challenge and instruct in an almost totally private experience. Although it might seem an exaggeration, anyone who knows the basic movements of a kata can take a student to this first level of training. It is even possible for some students to reach this level of training entirely by learning from a device like a book. However, this hands off approach to learning by the sensei places the student in a perilous situation, especially in the teaching of paired kata. The most common downfall here is a sensei’s lack of diligent attention to physical form and proper timing. Simply stated, many low level instructors teaching ability suffers due to their own mediocre instruction. Due to this they now instill poor habits into their students which must be unlearned at a later time. This is not only potentially dangerous but can be quite frustrating to the student. This teaching flaw has resulted in many excellent prospective students becoming disenfranchised with their training experience and discontinuing their pursuit. Diligent instruction even at the most basic level of kata training is absolutely mandatory. Basics are at the core of any pursuits proper execution and should never be undervalued.

Chuden / The intermediate level of training
Shu, at the chuden level
At the chuden level kata study includes a new element. This element is the application or bunkai. The deeper reason for the kata and its construction is now presented to the student. The scenario in which the kata exists is also studied and evaluated. This study and evaluation is however strictly limited to the pure execution of the kata without variation. Only thru this strict study can the kata accurately demonstrate its relevance to the student at a level he can comprehend. During this process the sensei helps the student begin to grasp the existence of the ura, those aspects that lie hidden beneath the surface of the physical form. For some students this realization is a revelation while to others it has been obvious for some time. Either way, the sensei must now accurately present basic concepts on a more abstract level than before. This paves the way for the second aspect of Shu-ha-ri.


Ha (diverging from the kata)
In the traditional Japanese concept of Shu-ha-ri, ha is the first hint of creative expression allowed the student. It is when the henka waza or variation is first experienced. It has been called the “divergent form existing within the form” or the “orthodox variation that co-exists within the confines of the strictly defined greater kata” . This is when the student is encouraged to consider any response to a failure within the pure kata. Extremely attentive instruction is required by the sensei at this juncture because too much deviation will lead to sloppiness or bastardization of technique, while too much restraint can cripple any underlying intuitive talent. Encouraging intuitive creative talent is the purpose here but this creative experience must be diligently tempered by the confines of the greater kata. The kata must remain recognizable as the kata. If the kata diverges too far from the norm, it is no longer related to the original kata and becomes an altogether different expression of technique. It is imperative that such a deviation be avoided at this level of learning.


Ha, at the chuden level
Once the student discovers the boundaries of his training within the greater kata he will find the possibilities of learning almost endless. Progress comes now in leaps of ability not experienced in the past. Most excellent students first demonstrate their real potential during this stage of their study. The concepts and forms of the ryu integrate in a manner that intellectually stimulates the students mind. He now more fully appreciates the kata and recognizes the technical wisdom that exists within it. Consequently, many sensei find this time the most rewarding in a students progress. The fruits of a sensei”s labor demonstrates itself powerfully during this period.

The pitfalls of teaching at the chuden level
Strict adherence to the core concepts of the particular tradition must be adhered to at this time. To deviate from the core concepts that define the ryu will allow the student to proceed in a direction not intended by the Ryuso (founder). The boundaries of the kata must be adhered to for the ryu to maintain its identity and focus. Stepping beyond the confines of the kata at this point can be disastrous and a student”s ultimate potential compromised. Sensei often fall into the trap of becoming too unstructured in their teaching at this level of training. They misread the students progress and take him too far beyond his level of comprehension. The students mind and technique must be constantly challenged during this intermediate stage of learning but occasionally an overzealous student will attempt to move too far too fast. This tendency must be avoided or it will compromise further progress and learning.

Joden / The advanced level of training
Ri ( discarding the kata)
Some practitioners of modern martial traditions dismiss kata and Shu-ha-ri as being too confining or old fashioned. In truth, this position is flawed because the purpose of kata is misinterpreted by them. Like so many arm chair experts, they have not been properly trained beyond the shoden level in kata and are commenting on a subject they simply are unqualified and therefore unable to comprehend. Like most observers outside the experience of deep study they see the kata as the art itself instead of a sophisticated teaching tool that is only a surface reflection of an arts core concepts. The kata, in their flawed interpretation “is” the art. This is like the flaw of assuming a dictionary to be a complete representation of language. Unfortunately numerous older martial traditions in Japan unintentionally reinforce this misinterpretation by overemphasizing the kata. Often with these schools significant core elements and knowledge have been lost to antiquity so that all that remains is the omote or outer shell of the kata. With nothing left but the kata to embrace, these schools often reinterpret their mokuroku (technical syllabus), making the kata the primary driving force of the ryu. When this happens the ryu inevitably degenerates into a simplistic dance where the ura and applications of the kata becomes of secondary focus. These traditions are effectively dead. They are like skeletons attempting to represent a total person.

Ri, What is it?
“Ri” is difficult to explain as it is not so much taught as it is arrived at. It is a state of execution that simply occurs after shu and ha have been internalized. It is the absorption of the kata to such an advanced level that the outer shell of the kata ceases to exist. Only the underlying truth of the kata remains. It is form without being conscious of form. It is intuitive expression of technique that is as efficient as the prearranged form but utterly spontaneous. Technique unbridled by the restriction of conscious thought processes result in an application of waza that is truly a moving meditation. For one who has achieved ri, observation becomes its own expression of reality. The mind is now free to operate on a distinctly higher level than previously possible. To the casual observer it appears that the exponent has become almost psychic, able to recognize an occurrence or threat before it actually exists. In truth the observer is just fooled by his own minds mental inertia. With ri, the lag time between observation and cognitive response is reduced to almost imperceptible levels. It is “ki”. It is “mushin”. It is “ju”. It is all these things in combination. It is the manifestation of the highest level of martial ability. It is what we refer to in the Takamura ryuha as “wa”.
The level of technical execution associated with ri is realistically beyond the ability of many practitioners. Most people are simply incapable of reaching this, the most advanced level of expression of a ryu’s potential. Frequently however, practitioners who never reach this level of technical execution make excellent sensei, able to take a student to the edge of mastery even though they themselves are incapable of making the jump to the intuitive execution that is ri. Some observers try to dismiss this recognition of limitation as elitist. I find this thinking odd. I would like to remind these observers that not all human beings are innately capable of mastery in all pursuits. As individuals we are endowed with certain talents and deficiencies. It is these individual talents and deficiencies that make us humans the diverse and unique species we are. To try to deny this truth is to deny what makes up our individuality. With this in mind it is imperative to remember that the humble individual realizes that mastery in one pursuit does not guaranty even average talent in another. Likewise, technical expertise does not necessarily guaranty teaching expertise.

Pitfalls of teaching at and beyond the joden level
Once a student has reached the level of realizing ri on a regular basis he has essentially achieved all the technical ability a sensei can strictly teach him. The process of instruction and teaching must now evolve. The relationship between teacher and student must be allowed by the sensei to evolve as well. At this point the student is charged by the traditions of his ryu and the vows of his keppan to maintain control of his ego and recognize that without the sensei and the ryu he would never have achieved his ultimate potential as a student. He must acknowledge that he owes all that he has learned to his sensei’s devotion to teaching and his sensei’s sensei. His behavior must reflect that he is forever in debt to the ryu and that he is compelled to be humbled in his teachers presence. Likewise the sensei must now allow autonomy and self expression by the student in a way never previously permitted. More a leader and pointer of the way, the sensei should proudly stand beside his student with a glad heart. He is likewise humbly compelled and called by his responsibility to the ryu to continue to live up to the principles and standards he impressed upon his student. His task of teaching is over. He is now a grandfather instead of a father.
Unfortunately it is at this time, the time of a sensei’s highest calling to the ryu that many fail. Instead of demonstrating confidence in themselves and pride in their students accomplishments they fall prey to vanity and insecurities of the spirit. The failing of a sensei now is usually associated with a perceived end of respect from the student, an end of respect that doesn’t actually exist. Frequently this problem manifests itself when the sensei attempts to reintroduce a strict student-teacher relationship that prevents the student from realizing his mature position of authority within the ryu. At this time some sensei perceive deviation from their own path as a students rejection of their teachings. In truth some of a sensei’s teachings must be denied for a student to reach the highest levels of self expression within the ryu. Some sensei are also unwilling to recognize that a deviation from their own teaching at this level is actually a manifestation of the students individuality and mature confidence. This confidence it must be remembered was imparted by the sensei’s own teachings as part of the bargain between student and teacher. The sensei must remember his duty and charge as simply a member within the ryu. He must humble his heart and reacquaint himself with his own past as a student. This he must do to remain an effective leader of “the way”.

Conclusion
White, becomes black, becomes white again.

It is the calling of every member of the kai to acknowledge his charge and regularly peer into the kamidana’s mirror, the mirror that reflects undistorted truth. And to humbly ask the kami to assist him in viewing his own heart and motivations with a critical eye, to scrutinize that small voice that is the harbinger of vanity and rationalization. Only thru the expression of truth can the process of Shu-ha-ri successfully embrace student and teacher in the charge of passing the knowledge and wisdom of our kai’s ancestors forward responsibly.

Y. Takamura , 1986

I have arrived

I have arrived
I am home
in the here
in the now
I am solid
I am free
in the ultimate
I dwell

Reference: The Long Road Turns to Joy – A Guide To Walking Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh
ISBN: 093807783X

Page 1

Yang’s Ten Important Points

by Yang Cheng-fu (1883 – 1936)
as researched by Lee N. Scheele

1.) Head upright to let the shen [spirit of vitality] rise to the top of the head. Don’t use li [external strength], or the neck will be stiff and the ch’i [vital life energy] and blood cannot flow through. It is necessary to have a natural and lively feeling. If the spirit cannot reach the headtop, it cannot raise.

2.) Sink the chest and pluck up the back. The chest is depressed naturally inward so that the ch’i can sink to the tan-t’ien [field of elixir]. Don’t expand the chest: the ch’i gets stuck there and the body becomes top-heavy. The heel will be too light and can be uprooted. Pluck up the back and the ch’i sticks to the back; depress the chest and you can pluck up the back. Then you can discharge force through the spine. You will be a peerless boxer.

3.) Sung [Relax] the waist. The waist is the commander of the whole body. If you can sung the waist, then the two legs will have power and the lower part will be firm and stable. Substantial and insubstantial change, and this is based on the turning of the waist. It is said “the source of the postures lies in the waist. If you cannot get power, seek the defect in the legs and waist.”

4.) Differentiate between insubstantial and substantial. This is the first principle in T’ai Chi Ch’uan. If the weight of the whole body is resting on the right leg, then the right leg is substantial and the left leg is insubstantial, and vice versa. When you can separate substantial and insubstantial, you can turn lightly without using strength. If you cannot separate, the step is heavy and slow. The stance is not firm and can be easily thrown of balance.

5.) Sink the shoulders and drop the elbows. The shoulders will be completely relaxed and open. If you cannot relax and sink, the two shoulders will be raised up and tense. The ch’i will follow them up and the whole body cannot get power. “Sink the elbows” means the elbows go down and relax. If the elbows raise, the shoulders are not able to sink and you cannot discharge people far. The discharge will then be close to the broken force of the external schools.

6.) Use the mind instead of force. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics say, “all of this means use I [mind-intent] and not li.” In practicing T’ai Chi Ch’uan the whole body relaxes. Don’t let one ounce of force remain in the blood vessels, bones, and ligaments to tie yourself up. Then you can be agile and able to change. You will be able to turn freely and easily. Doubting this, how can you increase your power?

The body has meridians like the ground has ditches and trenches. If not obstructed the water can flow. If the meridian is not closed, the ch’i goes through. If the whole body has hard force and it fills up the meridians, the ch’i and the blood stop and the turning is not smooth and agile. Just pull one hair and the whole body is off-balance. If you use I, and not li, then the I goes to a place in the body and the ch’i follows it. The ch’i and the blood circulate. If you do this every day and never stop, after a long time you will have nei chin [real internal strength]. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics say, “when you are extremely soft, you become extremely hard and strong.” Someone who has extremely good T’ai Chi Ch’uan kung fu has arms like iron wrapped with cotton and the weight is very heavy. As for the external schools, when they use li, they reveal li. When they don’t use li, they are too light and floating. There chin is external and locked together. The li of the external schools is easily led and moved, and not too be esteemed.

7.) Coordinate the upper and lower parts of the body. The T’ai Chi Ch’uan Classics say “the motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, controlled by the waist and manifested through the fingers.” Everything acts simultaneously. When the hand, waist and foot move together, the eyes follow. If one part doesn’t follow, the whole body is disordered.

8.) Harmonize the internal and external. In the practice of T’ai Chi Ch’uan the main thing is the spirit. Therefore it is said “the spirit is the commander and the body is subordinate.” If you can raise the spirit, then the movements will naturally be agile. The postures are not beyond insubstantial and substantial, opening and closing. That which is called open means not only the hands and feet are open, but the mind is also open. That which is called closed means not only the hands and feet are closed, but the mind is also closed. When you can make the inside and outside become one, then it becomes complete.

9.) Move with continuity. As to the external schools, their chin is the Latter Heaven brute chin. Therefore it is finite. There are connections and breaks. During the breaks the old force is exhausted and the new force has not yet been born. At these moments it is very easy for others to take advantage. T’ai Chi Ch’uan uses I and not li. From beginning to end it is continuous and not broken. It is circular and again resumes. It revolves and has no limits. The original Classics say it is “like a great river rolling on unceasingly.” and that the circulation of the chin is “drawing silk from a cocoon ” They all talk about being connected together.

10.) Move with tranquility [Seek stillness in movement]. The external schools assume jumping about is good and they use all their energy. That is why after practice everyone pants. T’ai Chi Ch’uan uses stillness to control movement. Although one moves, there is also stillness. Therefore in practicing the form, slower is better. If it is slow, the inhalation and exhalation are long and deep and the ch’i sinks to the tan-t’ien. Naturally there is no injurious practice such as engorgement of the blood vessels. The learner should be careful to comprehend it. Then you will get the real meaning.

Reference: http://www.scheele.org/

Develop a Good Attitude to Learning Taijiquan

by Wee Kee-Jin

Master Huang Sheng-Shyan once suggested that a student should be prepared to look over the mountain for a good teacher, and a teacher should be willing to travel the oceans for a good student”. Both efforts reflect a good attitude.

Empty Your Cup
The first requirement to learning something new is to let go of what you already know. Only when your cup is empty is there space to add something further. Fully absorb the purpose and function behind the new lessons, before relating them back to the classics. If it fits with your understanding of the principles then incorporate it into your ongoing practise, otherwise let it go. It might be contrary to your present direction, or it might only have some relevance later, on your Taiji journey.

Practise
Students seldom give a teacher the chance to teach, by not practising what was previously taught you don’t have the foundation to be taught the next things. Just attending classes or workshops does not mean that you will become good at Taiji, results come from practise.

Accept the Keys
When someone teaches you they are imparting a method of training, or offering you a key to the door. To open the door and enter the room, you need to practise to develop a foundation of what was taught. During the next stage of training the teacher’s guidance can present you with another key. However if the you haven’t walked through the first door, this new key will be of no use.

Enjoy your Training
Initially it is necessary to establish a regular daily training routine to develop self discipline. However you must soon find enjoyment in your practise and therefore develop the want to train, otherwise you will build up mental resistance that will prevent the subtler depths of Taiji being apparent.

Become your own Teacher
The Taiji journey begins with a teacher being required to build the foundation, or as the classics put it “to come through the door, you need oral transmission”. But once the foundation is solid, and a clear direction is set you can still progress even without your teacher. Then when a certain level is reached, a new dimension of understanding will open up, and begin a process of exploration and discovery that can be continued for the rest of your life.

Always remain a Student
As a teacher it does not mean that you have stopped practising. “Teacher” is only a form of address, we are all just students, always learning and practising.

Reference: http://www.taijiquan.co.nz/

Building a Connection

by Wee Kee-Jin

Taijiquan is not simply relaxing, sinking and being grounded. It is about developing; the right structure; the right sequence of movements to connect the structure; the right timing of the movements; and the mind awareness (Yi) to travel through the movements.
A structure without the sequence of movements is like an electrical cable without the copper wire inside the plastic tube. Without the mind awareness (Yi) even the correct structure with the right sequence and timing of the movements, is like the wire not having a current passing through it.

Connecting the Base and Arms
Often the movements of the base (feet, legs & hips) and the arms are co-ordinated but unconnected, and therefore incorrectly act independent of each other. The connection between the base and arms is in the body’s torso and needs to be cultivated using the mind awareness (Yi) to create a melting sensation through the body as it leads the force from the feet to the finger-tips.

When initially practised it is difficult to recognise anything happening but after a few years of training it is possible to feel even very small muscles in the body change as the mind directs. Eventually the base movements will actually produce the movement in the body which in turn will produce the movement in the arms, both during sinking and issuing.

It is easier to first cultivate the body connecting the base and arms in static foot positions and repetitive movements such as in Master Huang’s relaxing exercises before involving the stepping and changing postures of the Form. Later work it with the addition of an external force in the controlled environment of fixed pushing-hand routines, before attempting it in the free pushing, where the external force direction and speed is not restricted.

Once the whole body is continuously connected, and the timing becomes almost natural, neutralising would involve allowing an incoming force to pass through you into the ground where it would be combined with the energy of the earth and rebounded in greater magnitude back to the source of the incoming force. This “interception” does not require you to initiate any issuing as your body will have become a medium for the forces to pass through unimpeded.

Reference: http://www.taijiquan.co.nz/

Master Huang’s 20 Important Points

Translated by Wee Kee-Jin

For the Taijiquan Form and Qi cultivation Master Huang Sheng-Shyan referred to 20 points:

1 Every muscle in the body has to be relaxed and loosened.

2 The body has to maintain an upright position without leaning or tilting.

3 Empty the chest, relax the shoulders and drop the elbows.

4 Tuck in the back and keep a light consciousness on the crown of the head.

5 Contract the anus, but ensure the buttocks are relaxed and hanging.

6 Bring the Spirit (mind awareness) within to cultivate the Qi. Avoid unnecessary movements in the three parts of the body: head, arms and torso.

7 Maintain an awareness of the three centres (centre of palms, tantien and bubbling well).

8 Use the mind, not brute force, to stay in your centre.

9 Calm the mind, relax the body and maintain an awareness of the body.

10 Initiate all the turning from the hips and waist.

11 When stepping forward or backward, the substantial and insubstantial feet must be clearly differentiated and firmly grounded.

12 The legs initiate the forward and backward movement.

13 In calmness there is movement and in movement there is sinking.

14 Upper and lower body must synchronise harmoniously, without dispersed movements.

15 Relax the neck, sink the shoulders and drop the elbows.

16 Three things that should never be locked straight in the form; the body; the arms; the legs.

17 Maintain continuity without any breaks, internal and external in harmony.

18 The hands move like reeling silk from a cocoon and the feet move like a cat in motion.

19 Have faith, modesty and perseverance and success will prevail.

20 Fully understand the Taiji Form and the applications will be natural.

Reference: http://www.taijiquan.co.nz/

The Importance of Sequence and Timing to Achieve Synchronization

by Wee Kee-Jin

The Taiji Form regardless of what style, was created as a means to train moving in a synchronized and harmonious Taiji way. During Pushing-hands we extend the practise of synchronized movement to include when being effected by an external force. When we can synchronize all the physical (external) and mental (internal) movements in our daily life, we will no longer be restricted or imprisoned by the Taiji Form, because then the Form will have become formless.

Synchronization
The classics state that; when one part of the body changes every part of the body changes along with it; when one part of the body moves every part of the body moves; the destination might be different but the time of arrival is the same – all parts of the body arriving together.

The key to achieve this principle is synchronization both of the sequence and timing. Being the continuous fine tuning of muscles co-ordinated simultaneously throughout the body.
The physical synchronizing and aligning always begins at the base by releasing the ankles, knees and hips then the shoulders, elbows and wrists. Both upward and downward actions start at the feet, get magnified in the legs and ripple through the body into the arms before being expressed to the finger-tips.

All turning originates from within. There is a line you should imagine running from the crown of the head (niwan) to the tailbone (weilui) that serves as the central axis of the body. From directly above you would see turning as being initiated at the axis about a small circle then expands to the medium circle of the body, then reaching the big circle of the arms.
Although there is a sequence, the movements must be in relation to each other. Any missed timings would effect the whole synchronization.

When stepping forward or backward you need to continue the synchronizing into the substantial foot to create the movement of the insubstantial foot. While the insubstantial foot is stepping, the centre is changing, so the substantial foot adjusts continuously.
Therefore both in the Taiji Form and Pushing-hands all parts of the body synchronize to create a movement and to respond to an incoming force.

To internally synchronize, there first must be physical relaxation and mental calmness. Then the melting sensation of relaxation can flow through the body and legs, into the ground. This is what is called ‘sinking’ and produces ‘grounding’. This downward feeling can then be released and rebound up from the ground through the feet, legs, body and arms, to the fingertips, but only if the body has continued to relax. This generates the force (Jing) and cultivates the ability to deliver it (Fa-jing). Although there is a sequence from the feet to the finger-tips, the timing required is in close relation to each other. After a while the stages overlap until eventually simultaneous, that means at the moment of 1% of relaxation, there is 1% sinking, 1% grounding and 1% rebounding force, which will then continue to 2%, 3% onwards.

In Taiji the ‘opening’ and ‘closing’ originates from the ‘centre’, which is where the ‘tantien’ and the central axis meet. Not only does the opening expand from the centre, but the closing also contracts from there; – both are from the inside outwards.
Once the opening and closing are clear, their timing recombines until simultaneous. Then “when there is opening there is closing, and in closing there is opening”. So that at a moment of closure you also experience being open.

The opening and closing needs to be synchronized with the relaxation, sinking, grounding, and issuing of the relaxed force.
Finally when the external and the internal are in harmony, and the timing and sequence are in relation to each other, total synchronization is achieved. Then when one part of the body changes every part of the body will change along with it, and when one part of the body moves every part of the body will move, and when one part of the body arrives every part will arrive.

Qiqong and Taiji
A commonly asked question when someone is studying Taiji, is whether they should practise Qigong as well. Any exercise that develops the use of your mind to circulate the flow of energy (Qi or Chi) in the body is Qigong. Therefore Taiji is Qigong, however Qigong is not Taiji.

Yin and Yang
The terms of Yin and Yang are frequently used in Taiji, and are often made to sound mystical. Unlike words such as table and chair which refer to specific objects, Yin and Yang are concepts describing opposites that have a relationship to each other; up and down; front and back; internal and external; positive and negative; male and female; dark and light; etc. They are as complementary as they are contrasting. Their existence and combination are actually scientific, not mystical.
The essence of Taiji is simplicity; black and white. It is not necessary to colour it with esoteric descriptions.

Reference: http://www.taijiquan.co.nz/

Master Huang Sheng Hsien

One day in Taiwan the famous White Crane Kung Fu champion and teacher, Huang Sheng Hsien, went to meet Professor Cheng Man Ching. T.T. Liang who was present during their meeting, engaged Huang in a Pushing-Hands and knocked him down almost immediately. Huang was both stunned and amazed. Liang said he was like a small baby, and couldn’t figure out why he was considered such a highly skilled kung fu master.

Huang in typical Chinese fashion, quit his White Crane Kung Fu immediately and took up learning T’ai Chi. Liang remembers not only Huang’s true expression of humility, but his perseverance in learning the T’ai Chi. According to Liang, Huang spent 7 years just learning solo form in order to gain root and develop his ch’i. Then for an additional seven years he just had people push on him, so he could develop his yielding and neutralizing skills. Lastly, he spent another seven years psuhing on people in order to learn how to issue. Huangs’s twenty-one-year learning program really impressed Mr. Liang.

Many times I heard Liang comment on how he considered Huang to be the best living T’ai Chi master in the world, equaled only by one of Liang’s other teachers, Wang Yen Nien. Liang showed me a film that was taken in Malaysia of Huang’s famous match against a champion wrestler named Mr. Liao. In a decision of twenty-eight knockdowns to none, Huang soundly proved his T’ai Chi skills before thousands of people.

Master Huang continued to reside in Malaysia until his death in 1995. He had thousands of students and was bestowed the nickname “The Grandfather of T’ai Chi”. Over the years Liang periodically received letters from Huang, wherein Huang would always humbly refer to Liang as his savior. What really impressed Liang the most about Huang was his unfailing trait of never speaking bad of others – no matter the rumor or situation. It was from Huang that Liang claims he learned the idea of “internally imagine your self as already being a master of T’ai Chi, but externally never express it to others.”

Reference: Steal My Art – The Life and Times of T’ai Chi Master T.T. Liang by Stuart Alve Olson
ISBN: 1556434162

Pages: 76-77

Huangs wrestling match with Liao on youtube.com

Huang Xingxian Vs. Liao Kuang Cheng I

Huang Xingxian Vs. Liao Kuang Cheng II

Questions and answers with Master Huang

Are there different schools or sects of Tai Ji?
Tai Ji embodies a comprehensive set of knowledge, developed and handed down by our learned predecessor with mystifying principles and profound philosophical learnings. The Tai Ji movements are scientific as the principles are based on scientific fundamentals. Our predecessors developed the art for improving human health, warding off sickness, slowing down the ageing process, achieving longevity and defending oneself. All this benefits mankind and society. Good character formation is promoted. An adherent imbibed with the Dao (or philosophy as a way of life) of Tai Ji would contribute towards proper governance of the country and universal peace. Tai Ji is not a martial art meant for bragging and antagonistic purpuses. A Tai Ji exponent would need to understand the principles and philosophy of Tai Ji. No one should deviate from these principles and philosohpy. The movements can be developedand modified but the principles are eternal. The external forms may differ from person to person but the principles are standart and unvarying. Because of this, there is no basis for differentiation by schools. Instead a spirit of a single family should prevail. Common interest of the art should take precedence over personal interest. An open attitude should emerge, bearing in mind the spirit of the founder and predecessors to propagate the philosophy of Tai Ji thoughout the world so as to improve the health of mankind.

How should we practice Tai Ji in order to reach accuracy?
The gap between accurate and non-accurate achievement is wide. Remember the words of the old master, Wang Tsung Yueh that the body must be naturally and vertically balanced bearing in mind the principles of being relaxed, rounded and awareness of the various parts of the body. During practice of the set movements, one must be careful, concious or alert, observant and must feel where one is moving. Otherwise there is form without substance and deception to people. To achieve accuracy, the principles of Tai Ji must be followed in addition to correct methods of practising. A good master is necessary coupled with one’s own constant research. The art must be learned progressively having to be on firm ground first before advancing to the next step. Personal requirements are also important. One must be determant, confident, persevering and motivated. A secure means of livelihood and having normal environment coupled with single-mindedness, constant learning and practice and clear understanding of the principles throroughly – all this will lead to achievment of accuracy. This is in contrast to those who want to learn fast, who concern themselves with the external forms and who learn to practise sporadically. These hope to learn first and be corrected later not realising that it is worse than having a new person learning from scratch. Others take the principles of Tai Ji lightly or superficially and liken the art to a common exercise, drill or dance. All this has form but no substance. One’s body must be likened to a perfect machine where a wrong spare part will affect the operation of the machine. The founder of Tai Ji has said, “Achieving the Dao is important, acquiring the skill in the art is secondary;not learning my Dao, he is not my student. ” Therefore also important would be honesty and righteousness or a good moral character.

There are different forms of Tai Ji? Are the principles different?
The founder created the art. But through the years, the forms of Tai Ji have differed:some have 24 basic movements while others have 37; some have 64 set movements and some have 72 while others have 108 movements or even 124. There are long sets and short sets. Movements have been large and expansive and have been small and compact. Some emphasised high postures;others opt for low ones. Some practise slowly;others practise at a faster pace. All this divergence is writter by men. What is important is that the principles remain the same. Different masters with different temperaments have been following the basic principles through the ages. They have engaged in continous research and training. They have reviewed and improved the art until the ultimate objective is achieved where form becomes formless, limbs are no more important, brute force becomes nonexistent and stiffness has given way to being fully relaxed. Character formation has advanced to the stage of “non-self” and of non-resistance so that the whole body is used and hands are no more used as hands. Youthfulness and longevity are attained. It is easy to master correct forms as the Qi and the principles of the art are internally harmonised. Harmonisation is also to be achieved between the upper, middle and lower parts and between the left and the right body. Even though difficult it is relatively easier to master correct forms compared to aquiring skill in the art. This is so as in training or practising there are a number of normally undetectable parts of the body that are difficult to keep under control from the aspects of speed, timing, rhythm and balance. Because of this, skill in the art is difficult to acquire. But then as the founder says, “Understanding one portion of the art would mean being enlightened on all portions or parts. Then all schools and sects become one. ”

Is it better to practise Tai Ji more frequently or less frequently?
There are no extremes in Tai Ji. The essence is in the training method. If the method is not correct, it is no different from ordinary drills with a lot of time spent but relatively little achievement. So it is not a question of practising more or less frequently but practising correctly. That is, the central equilibrium must be vertically maintained. Every movement must be disciplined such that the posture is vertically balanced. The principles remain unchanged:there is straightness in a curve and vice versa. There must be constant learning and practice, understanding the principles and the less obvious points. Mastery of this will produce skill naturally. There is no question, therefore of practising too much or too little but rather of practising correctly.

Is it correct to practise the art fast or to practise it slow?
The earth rotates at a constant and specific rate. Similary, Tai Ji should not be practised too slowly or too fast but should be practised comfortably. The human body must be moved naturally otherwise there would be weaknesses. If the practice is too fast, breathing is affected resulting in uneven respiration, breathlessness and the heart pulsating too fast. If the practice is too slow, the limbs and the joints become stiff. Qi is blocked and is locally stagnant:intent or consciousness is employed but the Qi is not flowing. Internal force and Qi must be synchronised. Internally, there is the harmony of the libido, energy, Qi and spirit while externally, the mind, consciousness (or intent) and body are also harmonised and in turn both the internal and external harmonies are synchronised. Muscles must be relaxed and all parts of the body are naturally without tension. It is not possible therefore to say practising fast is correct or practising slow is correct as this has to be based on the standard or level of achievement of the student. One must practise until the whole body is relaxed and comfortably balanced. Once there is internal and external synchronisation, then the question of slow and fast in practice is unimportant. At this stage, one gets the feeling that the upper portion of the body is like the drifting of clouds and the lower portion is like the flowing of water. Consciousness is continuous and is harmonised with movement. All parts of the body are natural and are unified. There is then no question of being fast or slow.

Is it correct to have either high or low postures in the set movements of Tai Ji?

The art of Tai Ji does not distinguish high and low postures, but is rather based on the idea of four “balances” or equilibriums: 1 balance in the magnitude of the posture or movement such as both sides of the body must have “balanced” amount of spatial displacement when moving; 2 accuracy or precision achieved simultaneously by all parts of the body; 3 bodily balance when moving or turning; 4 steadiness particularly when moving. External and internal balance or harmony must be cultivated where there is no slanting of the central axis of the body. When hind force is invoked, the hind knee being bend will move up or straighten slightly though the height of the body remains unchanged. This is so as consciousness (or intend) and Qi would “close” centrally instead of coming up while the bent knee is used to adjust accordingly. Consciousness is used to lead the muscles in relaxing. Joints, muscles and ligaments must then be loosened, relaxed and “thrown”open but still linked. The body is then erect and comfortable. Consciosness is also used to “move”Tai Ji principles to parts of the body. Having achieved “four balances and eight steadiness,” the question of high and low postures is then answered individually.

How can substantiality and insubstantiality be distinguished between left and right or between top and bottom parts of the body?
The muscles, the skeleton and the nerves are parts of the body system. when practising the movements, the use of consciousness to sink and relax the body is most important. The centre of gravity is moved while perserving the uprightness of the central axis of the body. It is important to focus on steadiness, tranquillity, relaxation and rootedness. The movements propel the external movements in a continuous or uninterrupted fashion. Internal force is gernerated with turning movements. After a long time, the whole body is in balance. When left and right is distinguished, one is substantial and the other insubstantial along the pattern of “cross alignment”. For instance, together with the distinction between top and bottom parts of the body, when the left upper part of the body is substantial, the left lower part is insubstantial and similarywhen the right upper part of the body is substantial, the right lower part is insubstantial. This pattern of cross alignment is used in shifts of the centre of gravity from one leg to the other. This is similar to the “cross-roads”of the nervous system. When moving Qi, therefore, one must separate substantial from insubstantial, move the step without moving the body or moving the body and not the hand. If in moving a step, the body also moves, then it is not separating substantial from insubstantial. If in moving the body, the hand also moves, then the shoulder and the hands are not relaxed. It is important to follow the principles of using consciousness to propel movement. The top and bottom, left and right portions of the body must be coordinated. a rounded grinding stone may move but the centre is not moving. All parts of the body become one system characterised by lightness and agility, roundness and smoothness, even respiration, alternate opening and closing like that of the sea where with movement from one part of the sea, all parts are also moved. The movements are guided by consciousness and are properly regulated like the regular movements of the waves in the sea.

How could the movements be practised in order that they can be usefully applied?
Take the five loosening(or relaxing) exercises as an illustration. These exercises are based on Tai JI principles. During practice there must be full concentration since any distraction will nullify any effects. Bear in mind the three points of non-mobility:the head which must be locked on to the body, the hands which must not move of its own volition and the soles of the feet which must be still and rooted to the ground. Consciousness(or intend)will lead the Qi along. Steps are made without affecting or moving the body. Turning movements start from the waist and hips with hands propelled from the waist and hips in accordance with the principle that all movements originate from the waist. Principles must be understood and no movements are separated from the principles. Once you make it internally you are also “through” externally. Once you are fully relaxed, you can change according to circumstances and can therefore, neutralise an oncoming force. You would have reached that position of “non-self” where the whole body is the weapon and the hands are no more used as hands. If you are not able to usefully apply your movements then you still have not understood the basics of the five relaxing exercises. If you have not mastered the essentials, then there is no point of talking about application of the movements.

What is the rationale for relaxing the abdomen and withdrawing the coccyx(or tailbone)?
Qi is stored in the Dan Tien as a result of using consciousness to sink the Qi to this point. From here Qi should circulate to the whole body. If Qi just remains in the Dan Tien, then the abdomon will have the sensation of being styffed. Only when Qi circulates throughout the body will the abdomen be relaxed and pliable. After a time, the abdomen will acquire some “bouncy” or”springy” effect and Qi would have been circulating to the whole body. Qi can be occluded or absorbed into the backbone. the Song of the Thirteen Postures says, “If the abdomen is thoroughly relaxed, then the Qi will rise. “So do not just store the Qi in the abdomen otherwise it will simply bloat. Having coccyx withdrawn means there is no protrusion of the buttocks while making sure at the same ime that the hip joints are not”sliding”forward. This must be combined with relaxing the abdomen and both requirements must be met at the same time. Otherwise, there is no rootness while the waist is stiff resulting in vertical imbalance or disequilibrium. It is important to maintain the uprightness of the central axis of the body in order to achieve central equilibrium. A test can be made as follows to see whether all this has been done correctly all along:use one thump to press the abdomen and release the thumb suddenly. There should be a bouncing or springy effect of the abdomen. At the same time, the seat of the buttocks behind should be very soft to the touch.

What is true spirit of Tai Ji?
Good and famous masters of Tai Ji teach the same stuff but students will learn differently. This is because students differ in natural endowment and physical make-up. The real acquisition of the art is not in just mastering the external forms but also in mastering the principles and philosophy. The learner must be a man of reason having learnt, practised and understood the art successfully. He applies those principles and philosophy to his daily life. He will not take unfair advantage or be selfish. He is wholeheartedly devoted to Tai Ji. He shares the founder’s spirit of striving for mankind to be physically and mentally healthy. This would be the true Tai Ji spirit.

How many times must we practice the set movements everyday?
The important principle is moderation. The practising technique must be correct in the first place. Some people say you must practise the whole set of movements ten times a day with one set lasting about 25 minutes. This only focuses on quantity and is wasting Qi and energy. It is contrary to the basic principles of Tai Ji succeeding in only making you sweat and reducing weight. It is not beneficial to the development of the internal force, internal organs or gererally the body internally. Grandmaster Cheng Man Ching has said, “I practise the mobilisation of the internal force and Qi using the 37 basic movements every day. One set of movements lasts only 7 minutes. ” Practising too much or too little is subject to whether it is practised correctly or not. Utilising my experience and following my practising technique, students are encouraged to practise every morning and evening using about 5 minutes to practise a particular movement or posture(dividing each of them into 2 parts)over and over again. Those studens who do so are likely to succeed.

Some students have been learning and practising Tai Ji for several years and are yet unstable. Why is this so?

A lot of students are using wrong learning and practising technique. Students must start with understanding the Dao of philosophy, then the principles, then using the correct method and finally putting in the effort. He must understand the relationship of man and his surroundings or the universe and use the method of Qi to practice. He must be humble and persistent in his practice. Slowly, rootedness will result and the method of practising be understood. Understand the principles and be aware of the less obvious and unnoticeable aspects in slowing acquiring skill. Being rooted and having internal force can never be observed externally. They can be accomplished through correct method. In practising the movement and developing the internal force, the joints of the body must be loosened and yet linked. The whole body is relaxed and is not easily pushed over by an opponent. Substantiality is distinguished from insubstantiality. Aim to be flexible and pliable like a snake whose tail will come in to help if you attack the head, or vice versa or whose tail and head will assist when the centre is attacked. Be responsive to consciousness(or intent), then tranquillity and pliability can be achieved. It is easier to lift off a 200 katies iron rod than to lift up a 100 katies iron chain. This illustrates the principles of throroughly relaxed joints. Students must also understand the application of yin and yang in the movements and push hand exercises. Yin and yang principles are in Tai Ji which encompasses the universe:all movements whether divided according to upper and lower body, right and left, front and back, internal and external must not deviate from the principles of substantiality and insubstantiality. Moving and stillness alternate continously:Yin does not depart from Yang and vice versa. When Yang moves, Yin also moves and vice versa. This principle must be understood when practising the set movements. The body and the character is trained together as is the acquisition of the Dao and the art. Dao is likened to yin while the art or skill is the yang. Yang is evolved from yin at yin’s completion. Being relaxed, stillness and being rooted become yin comonents. Neutralisation of force forms the basic foundation where no strength is used. Stillness is like that of the mountain. No change is seen but it is capable of a lot of changes. The founder has said, “Dao is the basis, art is the consequential”. One must therefore acquire Dao by learning not to resist, for only then will the body learn to be obedient. In attacking and defending, one must understand the method, then acquire insubstantiality and quietude. Only then will the defence be solid. Attacking will also be successful as one is naturally comfortable. In pushing hands exercise, one must learn to achieve non-resistance and stickiness. Having achieved stickiness, then one can achieve the ability to neutralise force. With adequate reserves, the neutrasising ability is applied with an involuntary exertion of internal force.

How should a student relate to his teacher?
In the present day, science is very advanced affecting all aspects of human endeavour day by day. This gives rise to stress and keen competition in business having a telling effect on the spirit. This is a common malady. This is why Tai Ji an ancient art, is popular and a common practice. It has no secrets. It is equitable to all as it discriminates against no student. But students often commit errors in practising the art. Students should bear in mind the following pointers:
1 Respect the teacher and accept the philosophy or Dao of the art;
2 Be honest and do not take unfair advantage;
3 Be conscientious and serious, think, observe and feel or being aware during practice;
4 Progress step by step;
5 Be humble and practice constantly;
6 follow all the principles mentioned earlier when practising by themselves.

Reference: Interview with the late master Huang Sheng-Shyan from bao i dao Tai Chi Chuan