SELECTION OF QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
FEBRUARY 2011 PART 2
What styles does Sifu Wong practice?
— Agustin, Argentina
I have practiced many styles of kungfu, but the main one is Shaolin. Shaolin is actually a very wide style which includes many sub-styles.
I first learned Southern Shaolin from Uncle Righteousnes. Today many people refer to the style Uncle Righteousness taught as Hoong Ka Kungfu, though my teacher maintained it was Shaolin.
Next I learned from Sifu Chee Kim Thong, who taught me Wuzu or Five-Ancestor Kungfu, which is a style of Shaolin. In fact the full name is Shaolin Wuzu Kungfu, or Sao Lim Goh Chor Koon in Hockien dialect, the Chinese dialect spoken by Sifu Chee Kim Thong.
Then I learned from Sifu Ho Fatt Nam, the third generation successor from the southern Shaolin Temple in Quanzhou before it was burnt by the Qing Army in the 1850s. Sifu Ho Fatt Nam taught me mainly Southern Shaolin, but he also taught me some Northern Shaolin.
Later I learned from Sifu Choe Hoong Choy, the Patriarch of Choe Family Wing Choon Kungfu. Wing Choon Kungfu is also a style of Shaolin. Its full name is Shaolin Wing Choon Kungfu.
Besides these four teachers I also learned informaly from other masters, classmates and friends. I exchanged some important kungfu sets with my sidai (junior kungfu classmate), Yeung Khuen Chi, form Uncle Righteoueness' lineage who also learned from the well-known Chin Woo (Essence of Martial Art) Assciation, and later became a Grandmaster there. I learned Shaolin Tantui., Eagle Claw and Praying Mantis from him.
I also exchanged some kungfu sets with my childhood friend and famous kungfu master who was a terrific fighter in his young days, Sifu Chow Kok Chee. From him I learned Choy-Li-Fatt and Ngok Ka Kungfu.
I have been interested in Taijiquan since my young days. I learned Taijiquan from various sources and formulated Wahnam Taijiquan to be taught in our school.
The intensive course was of tremendous benefit and indeed I was "high" for a few days after my return to the UK. However I have noticed that the intensity of chi was much greater when I was at the course with you as compared to my current state.
— Hassan, UK
I am glad to hear from you, and more glad to know that you have enjoyed and benefited from the course.
It is natural that the results at the course were more intense than what you and many other students feel when practicing on your own at home. Here are a few reasons.
At the course students had the benefit of my chi field, but not at home on their own. My chi field acted as a catalyze to activate their chi flow.
Secondly, I gave the best instructions at the best time and also in the right tone. The same instruction given at a different time may produce a different result. For example, when I noticed that the students were relaxed but their chi flow had slowed down, I gave the instruction for them to increase the verocity of their chi flow. If the same instruction was given when they were tensed, they would not have the desired result. In such a situation I would give a different instruction, like "Relax", or "Don't think of anything, just enjoy yourselves".
The third important reason is that at the course I transmitted the skills from heart to heart to the students. At home they would have to develop the skills themsves, which would take more time.
Fourthly, we did many sessions in a day. Though we had a break after each session, which was very important, and which we used to answer questions and explain philosophy, the students could have accumulated results of the various sessions. At home they practice twice a day, and the gap between the two sessions is longer. Thus, the acumulative results are not as intense.
Nevertheless, although the results at the course were more intense, the total benefits you will get by practicing on your own is much more over a period of time. Let us quantify the result to have a clearer picture.
Suppose you got 20 unites of benefit for each session at the course, and we had three sessions in the morning and three in the afternoon. Hence, for each day you got 120 units of benefit. For the whole course of three days, you got 360 units of benefit.
Suppose the benefit you get when practicing at home is only a quarter of what you got at the course, and you practice twice a day. Hence, you get 5 units of benefit per session, or 10 units per day. If you compare the benefit you get per day when practicing at home, which is 10 units, with what you got per day at the course, which was 120 units, you might feel that you were hardly making progress.
But if you compare what you will get in six months with what you got from the course, you would be inspired. There are about 180 days in six months. As you get 10 unites a day, after six months of daily practice you will get 1800 units of benefit, compared to only 360 units of benefit you got from the course.
There are a few points worth noting. Although 1800 units of benefit is 5 times more than 360 units of benefit, you may not feel it as noticeably because it is spread over six months. In other words, although you feel the benefit at the course was more intensed than the benefit you derive from your own practice at home, you actually get more benefit from your home practice in the long run than what you got from the course.
Wouldn't it be better if you could maintain in your home practice 120 units of benefit per day as in the course, instead of only 10 units per day? No, this will be over-training. Getting 120 units of benefit per day for three days, with me supervising the training, and recommending remedial exercise should anything goes wrong, is acceptable. But getting 120 unites of benefit per day for six months is too much for the body to bear. The body needs time and rest to adjust to the new energy levels.
As I have often said, our intensive course format is a bad example of daily training, but an excellent way to learn from me. Instead of coming to learn from and practice with me everyday for six months, as it was the tradition in the past, students now come to learn from me for three days and return him to practice on their onw. It is very cost-effective.
After a rapid chi flow when one has come to a standstill by concentrating on the dan tian, should I continue to concentrate on the dan tian for the remainder of the time whilst standing still, or should I not concentrate on anything? I find if I concentrate on the dan tian for at least 2 to 3 minutes then the chi is building up. It feels like a pulsation expanding from my stomach, and the intensity is much stronger.
Having come to a standstill after some chi flow, you gently think of the dan tian once. Then you don't think of the dan tian any more. In fact you don't think of anything. You just keep still and enjoy the stillness. After some time when you want to complete the exercise, you gently think of the dan tian again. Then you don't think of the dan tian any more as you complete the exercise by warming your eyes, massaging your face, performing point massage and performing heavenly drums. This is the standard procedure, but it is not a rigid rule. There can be modifications.
For example, instead of thinking gently of the dan tian twice as in the standard procedure, you may think of the tan tian only once, especially when you wish to complete the exercise more quickly, as follows. After a chi flow, you gently think of your dan tian. Then you stand still for a short while (during which time you don't think of the dan tian), and complete the exercise.
Or you may think of the dan tian three times, espcially when you have a very vigorous chi flow. During the flow, you think of the dan tian once, i.e. you think of the dan tian for 2 or 3 seconds and then stop thinking of it. It is not continually thinking of the dan tian. This will slow down your chi flow. When you have come to a stand still, you think of the dan tian again. You think of it for 2 or 3 seconds, then stop thinking of it. This will help chi to be focused at your dan tian. You don't think of anything and just enjoy the stillness. Then you think of the dan tian the third time and stop thinking of it as you complete the exercise.
Normally you should just think of the dan tian for 2 or 3 seconds. You should not continually think of it for the remainder of the time while standing still. While standing still, you should not think of anything. But if thoughts arise, as it sometimes happens, it doesn't matter. Just gently but decisively put the thoughts away. To many people, this may not be easy. But with some practice, the skill can be acquired.
It is important to put away arising thoughts without fuss and without question, but it should be done gently yet decisively. For example, while standing still, a thought arises of you walking in your garden. Don't make a fuss like why can't I discipline my mind, why I allow that thought arise. Just put the though away. Don't ask any questions, like why am I walking in the garden, or what does this symbolize. Just put the thought away.
Nevertheless, if you wish to focus on your dan tian for a longer time, say two to three minutes, that is fine, provided you do not become mentally tired, and other thoughts do not arise to distract you. If you focus on your dan tian, you enhance the building of chi at your dan tian, as well as develop a one-pointed mind.
Should you become mentally tired, you should let go of the focus on the dan tian. You may return to focus when you are more mentally fresh. Should other thoughts arise, just gently but decisviely put them away without fuss and without question.
Focusing on the dan tian and not thinking of anything are two different skills with different objectives and results. The former aims at one, the latter aims at zero.
As I understand, concentration and mindfulness are the yin-yang of meditation. Both of these must be balanced for correct meditation. But one can emphasize anyone of them. If one performs more concentrative meditation his mind becomes strong and he can better manage his internal force/energy. If one emphasizes mindfulness he attain awakening or enlightenment. Am I correct with these statements?
— Denas, Lithuania
Like other questions, there are different answers and all the answers can be correct. Much depends on your interpretation of key words, the philosophy and methodology you adopt, and your developmental stage.
Let us take your premise as an example. "Concentration and mindfulness are the yin-yang of meditation." This statement may be right, wrong, sometimes right and sometimes wrong, both right and wrong, and neither right nor wrong. I should add that the "right" and "wrong" mentioned here are straight-forward. There is no play of words.
In some traditions, concentration is mindfulness, and both are meditation. In other traditions, concentration is different from mindfulness, and both lead to meditation. This brief explanation alone shows that answers to subsequent topics like whether concentration and mindfulness are yin-yang aspects of meditation, and whether concentration would strengthen the mind whereas mindfulness would lead to enlightenment, can vary. Unlike scientiic terms, terms in meditation are loosely used. What "concentration" means to you and some people, may not be the same to other people, or even to yourself in a different situation.
Let us look at your statements from the perspective of the Theravada tradition, which is a very important tradition in meditation. In concentration, you train your mind to be one-pointed. This makes your mind very strong. This type of meditation is known as samatha meditation.
When you have attained a one-pointed mind, you progress to being mindful of your immediate surrounding both inside and outside your body, and eventually being mindful of reality. This is mindfulness. And this type of meditation is known as vispassana meditation, which may lead to a spiritual awakening or enlightenment.
From this perspective, your statements are correct, that concentration and mindfulness are the yin-yang of meditation, that they must be practiced in balance, that focusing on concentration strengthens the mind, and that focusing on mindfulness leads to awakening and enlightenment. However, your statements are not necessarily always correct. There may be occasions when they are not.
For example, one normally practices concentration first, then progresses to mindfulness, and the time or effort in the two practices may not necessarily be in balance. In this way, we may not refer to them as the yin-yang as they are progressive rather than complementary. In the same way, we may refer to a man and a woman as the yin-yang of humanity, but not in the case of a boy growing to become a man.
It is also not always correct that while concentration leads to mind strengthening, mindfulness leads to awakening. Besides stengthening the mind, conscentration alone can also leads to awakening. Similarly besides leading to awakening, mindfulness can also strengthen the mind.
In the Zen tradition, both the philsophy and the methodology are quite different. While Zen meditators do not dispute the validity of the Theraveda tradition, they attain the same goals using different ways. Zen practitioners do not consciously make a difference between concentration and mindfulness; they just clear their mind of all thoughts. When they attain non-thought, they not only strengthen their mind, but also attain a spiritual awakening. When they attain no-mind, which is actually All-Mind, they attain Enlightenment.
I meditate like this: perform "Lifting the Sky" 10 times, then stand relaxed, gently focus the mind on the dan tian and let go with awareness of all thoughts.
If there is distraction, I notice it, let go and gently return to the instructions. I meditate for 40 minutes. With this meditation I strengthen my concentration and mindfulness with emphasis on one pointed mind. Are the techniques correct?
The techniques are correct and very good. The important point is not the techniques, but whether you can carry them out skilfully.
For example, how well or badly you perform "Lifting the Sky" ten times, and are you really relaxed when you are supposed to be relaxed.
In one session when I achieved a one-pointed mind for a short time I felt that I had lost my arms and I was leaving my body. Very frequently I feel tingling at my fingertips. One time I felt strong pulsation and sucking feeling at my third eye. Are these signs of progress?
Yes, these are signs that you have progressed very well. Feeling that you had lost your arm and that you were leaving your body, not only without feeling afraid but actually feeling peaceful and happy, showed you experienced a satori, or awakening to higher levels of Cosmic Reality. Congratulations.
Strong pulsation and sucking feeling at your third eye indicate that your third eye is opening. You may (or may not) feel some pain. It is of utmose importance that you use the power of your third eye always for good.
What is more required for internal force and energy management in chi kung -- skill of one pointed mind or skill of ultimate awareness/no mind?
One-pointed mind is more required, but no mind is more powerful.
You have mentioned that in standing meditation one must totally relax and don't think of anything. So, how are concentration and mindfulness incorporated? Are these factors totally balanced in no thinking? What is the difference when one does not think, and where one's mind is one pointed in standing meditation?
In internal arts, words often fail to describe what we want to express. Here is a good example.
To many ordianary people, relaxation and concentration are self-contradictory. They believe that when one is relaxed, he cannot concentrate, and vice versa. This is not true. Indeed, relaxation is essential. Without relaxation and thinking of nothing, a meditator cannot concentrate. Without concentration he cannot attain mindfulness.
Concentration here is not what ordinary people think it is. It is bringing the mind to one-pointedness, and this has to be done in a gentle, relaxed manner.
Concentration and mindfulness do not merely happen when one is totally relaxed. He has to cultivate them. Various techniques are used, and all the techniques without any exception must be carried out in a totally relaxed manner.
No thinking is also not what most ordinary people take the term at their dictionary meaning. Not to intellectualize or not to have irrelvant thoughts are more appropriate descriptions.
Indeed, in "no thinking", a high-level meditator may "think". It is like saying that when one trains in an internal art, he should not use strength, yet he can develop a lot of strength. The first "thinking" and the second "think", just like the first "strength" and the second "strength", are quite different.
In the first "no thinking", it means that a meditator should not use his mind to intellectualize rationally. In the second "think", it means he may have a gentle thought intuitively. In the context of internal arts, the first "strength" refers to muscular tension, whereas the second "strength" refers to internal force.
When a meditator does not think rationally, or does not intellectualize, he creates a right mental state for concentration and mindfulness to occur. When he starts to intellectualize, he comes out of his intuitive state into the ordinary eveyday state, and his concentration and mindfulness may disappear.
The difference between not thinking and one-pointed mind is self-explanatory, though those without the experience will not understand the differnece even when it is explained clearly in words.
When you do not think, thoughts do not arise in your mind. Your mind may or may not be one-pointed. Your mind may wander though you may not think. Others may be talking to you, yet you may not know what they say even when you are not thinking.
On the other hand, when your mind is one-pointed, your mind is very strong, and it does not wander. You may or may not be thinking. But when others talk to you, you understand them well, though you may or may not be thinking. When your mind is one-pointed, you can solve problems efficiciently irrespective of whether you are thinking of one or many thoughts.
Not thinking and one-pointed mind are different, but they usually occur together to have the best results.
Like their physical counter-parts, not being ill and having strength are different. Strong people can still be ill. On the other hand, not being ill does not necessary make a person strong. But if a person is free from illness and at the same time strong, he will produce the best results.
- The Aims and Objectives of Practicing Kungfu
- Zen and Tao
- Amazing Experience of Internal Force
- From Combat Sequences to Free Sparring
- Examples of Intellectual Questions