Monday, February 9, 2015

Why your master is better to be an ordinary guy than to be a genius

It has always be a puzzle among meditators in old Dynasty China: Why Zen meditation suddenly lost its teachings after the prominent Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng? So much so, it had been mentioned in various Taoist Neidan texts that some Zen masters learned the art of deep meditation from Taoist Neidan masters instead. After completion of such learning, many came to the revelation that what was being taught by the Fifth Patriarch (now only fragments remained) was actually the same as Neidan teachings (as with other things in the internal arts, there have been disagreement as to the similarity, but the fact remained that Zen meditation had been devoid of much of its contents after Master Hui Neng).

According to the Platform Sutra, master Hui Neng qualified as a genius. He was a woodcutter by profession. He got his immediate (probably transient) enlightenment out of hearing once the Diamond Sutra. He then determined to spend the rest of his life in pursuit of full enlightenment and for this reason entered the monastery of the Fifth Patriarch.  His master tested his patience, as well as training his body and mind, by putting him to do many low-level manual tasks. After he demonstrated his intelligence in a famous Zen poem No dusting required, his master decided to teach him the internal art of deep meditation and later passed down the lineage to him, despite the fact that Hui Neng was a low-level monk. Actually Hui Neng only took one over-night lesson from his master, and he got the techniques (and then spent years of self-training in private to perfect his art before he "reappeared" again to recoup his lineage title and began teaching). The relevant point here is that for a genius like Hui Neng, he could understand the technique in a very short period of time (albeit he had pre-conditioned his body in his woodcutting days and he still needed to practise to perfect his art). Was he a good teacher of the internal arts? He was indeed a good master on the cognitive or intellectual side of Buddhism and Buddhist enlightenment. He trained up many knowledgeable monks, perhaps the most notable one was Master Shun Hui who was a prodigy and learned well from Master Hui Neng. The funny thing is that the art of deep meditation in the Zen tradition seemed to have lost since then. There have been many speculations, though all speculation tried to avoid the speculation that our Master was not a good teacher in the internal art.

Let me fast forward to our modern era. If you are familiar with biographies of tai chi (Taoist mediation or internal martial art) masters, you might have noticed that many prominent teachers were being sent to learn tai chi etc from their respective master because their bodies were weak when they were young. After they trained up their mind-body, some of them became great masters later in their lives. The reason is simple. The internal art is all about training our sensitivity to our inner most internal sensations (we call it chi, jing, Zen or Tao depending on our training objectives), discovery of "hidden secret". In Zen, it is called Clear our heart and face our true self (明心见性). If a practitioner has to go through most paths of (otherwise hidden) internal sensations, chances are that he will be in a better position to teach his students who, in most cases, has less (hidden) blockages then him.

It comes to my mind a prominent master of chi king in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism (he spent a good portion of his time trying to adapt in it into China-context and named his practice China-Zen 中华禅). Anyway he is a genius in chi. He said that he did not need to do any body movement exercise or anything else, except sit down and meditate. Many chi masters ventured to test his chi (in a friendly way). They could not got close to his chi level (though he didn't push people out like some tai chi masters did). The master told his audience that during his twenties, once he practised slowing his heart rate. He slowed it to such a low level that he almost killed himself because he was unable to raise it up again, not after hours of great effort!

How about his students? Once he mentioned in of his books that he met a couple of his old students (middle aged folks but still younger than their master) and they complained to him of various back pains and shoulder pains. He was an excellent healer, after he massaged them, in the right places, one by one for a short period to time, everybody was relieved of pain and was very happy. Yet, my opinion is that these students ought to be able to heal themselves instead of treating their master as doctor! The relationship in the internal arts is master and student, rather than doctor and patients.

Can't complain. Nobody can teach anything internal without experiencing the things by himself. We have a similar situation in the practice of psycho-analysis (also having the possibility of total personality change like deep meditation). Carl Jung had been psycho-analyzed by his master Simund Freud before he could psycho-analyze his own patients. A teacher of the internal arts has to put himself to the test first before he can teacher others. Unfortunately for internal artists who are prodigies or genius, they do not need to slay and dragon in the path, therefore they do not know how to teach their students to slay dragons.

Discovery of inner secret - chi kung and psychoanalysis

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