Monday, September 15, 2014

Suppression of natural instinct

An essential concept of the internal arts is suppression of our natural instinct. Tai chi as martial art suppresses our natural instinct to tense, rather than relax, our muscles during conflict/combat situation. In situations where our survival is as stake, our adrenalin shoots up, and our natural response takes over. The naturalness of internal arts rests upon the unnaturalness of its practice. Let me explain my contention further.

Natural response represents an activation of energy, in a very specific manner. When we are being offended, we got angry. And anger is a an arousal of special energy. A natural response. Those who can control their anger usually forcefully suppress their anger. A welcoming response to the situation - without letting it into uncontrollable, and oftentimes reciprocal in nature, response on either party. Yet, suppression is, firstly bad for health, and secondly, such stored or suppressed energy may explode one day into an truly uncontrollable and irreparable situation, as far as cordial human relationship is concerned. Everybody can appreciate such possibility, and probably knows some folks are that too.

The internal art is a physical training. It trains a person the way to sublime such energy. With a successful training, such sublimation does not involve our cognition, we "naturally" (a newly created naturalness) respond in such a way that our energy of anger is transformed into an energy to open our internal blockages. A seasoned and observant practitioner can feel the "un-believability" of such self-response. Unbelievable because it is not our natural response. "How come I can feel so calm in such situation?"

In the limiting case, a seasoned practitioner can even suppress the natural instinct facing the situation of death. Religious masters are said to be able to control their natural instinct in face of death. Those of us having the experience of witnessing the death of a relation (in death bed) can appreciate the powerful (though unsuccessful) human instinct of survival against an approach death. Yet, some religious leaders trained in the internal art can die peacefully in a folded leg posture. How? By suppressing his life instinct in face of death. The mummified body of the Sixth Zen Patriarch Hui Neng is still kept in a Buddhist temple in China, although the worship of which had not been the original intention of our master (by the way, it is superstitious to do so, and not true Buddhism).  The Dalai Lama once said in his practice, he will "die" a few times a day.  Our Holiness was talking about same thing as discussed in this article.

Closer to modern rational understanding, a seasoned free diver learns the same thing as our religious masters. The free diver can suppress his natural instinct to suck in air (which will kill him when he dives), and of course at the same time will need to manage to economize his use of oxygen. The interesting thing is that if the free diver does not properly plan the length of his dive against his use of oxygen, he will die "peacefully" without any physical struggle. Like our religious master, but of course our free diver will not be mummified.

For those who are interested in sex (who doesn't?), they might be interested to know the sublimation of sexual energy is also the same thing.

Master Hui Neng


  1. “The heart of the study of boxing is to have natural instinct resemble the dragon.” – Wang Xiang Zhai

  2. The end result is the fierce dragon, the training method is relaxation of a meditating monk.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...