Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Monday, April 30, 2007

The China You Don't Hear Much About

Below is an excerpt from an article about China and it's position in the 21st century. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the entire article, which is very thought provoking and well worth reading. My own opinion is that the greatest obstacle standing in the way of China becoming a dominant power in the world is ... China herself.

The Empire of Lies
Guy Sorman

The twenty-first century will not belong to China.

The Western press is full of stories these days on China’s arrival as a superpower, some even heralding, or warning, that the future may belong to her. Western political and business delegations stream into Beijing, confident of China’s economy, which continues to grow rapidly. Investment pours in. Crowning China’s new status, Beijing will host the 2008 Summer Olympics.

But China’s success is, at least in part, a mirage. True, 200 million of her subjects, fortunate to be working for an expanding global market, increasingly enjoy a middle-class standard of living. The remaining 1 billion, however, remain among the poorest and most exploited people in the world, lacking even minimal rights and public services. Popular discontent simmers, especially in the countryside, where it often flares into violent confrontation with Communist Party authorities. China’s economic “miracle” is rotting from within.

The Party’s primary concern is not improving the lives of the downtrodden; it seeks power more than it seeks social development. It expends extraordinary energy in suppressing Chinese freedoms—the media operate under suffocating censorship, and political opposition can result in expulsion or prison—even as it tries to seduce the West, which has conferred greater legitimacy on it than do the Chinese themselves.

The West’s tendency to misread China dates back to the seventeenth century, when French and Italian Jesuit travelers formed stereotypes that clutter our minds even today. We learned then—or thought we learned—that the Chinese were not like us. They had no religion, and the notion of freedom was alien to them. They naturally gravitated toward enlightened despotism, as embodied by the philosopher-emperor. Such misconceptions link up across time: Voltaire sang the praises of the Mandarins, wishing a similar elite class could rule Europe; leftist intellectuals in the sixties and seventies celebrated the heroism of Mao Zedong; and today’s business elites happily go along with the Communist propaganda that democracy and free speech are contrary to the Chinese ethos.

Yet with enough patience and will, one can plunge into the real China. Since 1967, I have visited the country regularly, and I spent all of 2005 and part of 2006 traveling through her teeming cities as well as her innermost recesses, where few Westerners go. I make no claim to know China fully, an impossibly ambitious task. I merely want to record the words and impressions of some exceptional Chinese men and women, who mostly suffer in silence, raising when they can the demand for a free nation—a “normal” nation.

Before the totalitarian reign of Mao Zedong and his immediate successors, never in human history had an entire nation been under such intense surveillance. The Chinese not only had to speak alike; they had to think alike. The Communist Party regulated every aspect of private life. In the sixties, it even sought to anesthetize all feeling, commanding hundreds of millions of Chinese to repeat mindlessly the slogan of the day; one of Mao’s sayings would have to preface any “personal conversation.” A few second-rate books were the only permissible reading material, and eight revolutionary operas provided the sole entertainment. Placed everywhere—city squares, railway stations, factories, and offices—Party loudspeakers blared martial music from dawn to dusk, making it physically impossible for people to speak or think. The state imprisoned and killed untold numbers of its subjects.

Things have obviously changed, much for the better. China is no longer totalitarian. Yet the 60-million-member Communist Party, if subtler, remains cruel and omnipresent. When I met Madam Ding Zilin at the Golden Carp Café, I had to lean in close to listen. In Beijing, true privacy is only possible in such a public place. Ding Zilin felt that the security agents who shadow her every movement wouldn’t be able to record her confidences above the noisy laughter and the clamor of the waitresses moving to and fro.

It had taken me several months and many intermediaries before I could finally meet with this self-effacing, frail 75-year-old, branded an enemy of China by the Party—a label it gives to anyone with the temerity to oppose the regime. Until June 3, 1989, she was just another conformist professor at the University of Beijing. But on that fateful night, the police came to her apartment and dumped the bullet-riddled body of her 17-year-old son, Jiang Jielian. The boy had gone, out of curiosity, to Tiananmen Square to watch pro-democracy student demonstrators seek a dialogue with the authorities. The world knows how Deng Xiaoping reacted: he ordered a massacre that cost 3,000 their lives, many of them barely adults. Ding Zilin was one of the few parents to recover the body of a child lost at Tiananmen. Most disappeared without a trace, their families never learning for sure whether they were dead or alive.

In the massacre’s aftermath, Ding Zilin and her husband, also an academic, drew up a list of victims, to remember the dead and missing and to help parents come to terms with their loss. Both professors swiftly lost their jobs. Every time Ding Zilin tried to contact a victim’s relations, security agents harassed her and the families, telling them never to speak of June 3. Some families found themselves stripped of everything simply for acknowledging publicly that their children had vanished at Tiananmen Square. For them, Ding Zilin tried to raise money from overseas Chinese. The Party accused her of smuggling and threw her behind bars.

Now she’s on probation. If a foreigner tries to meet with her, government thugs will often stop her from leaving the house, at times for days on end. She nevertheless persists in her struggle, heading an association of families of Tiananmen victims that has managed to collect 600 names of those gone or known to be dead, publishing them in a Hong Kong brochure, with photos when available—an incomplete memorial that illumines the Chinese regime’s brutality and deceit.

Eighteen years later, the massacre is still a taboo subject in China, as Mao Yushi also discovered. In 2004, the internationally esteemed economist sent a polite petition, signed by 100 fellow intellectuals, to the Chinese government, asking it to apologize for Tiananmen and thereby help bury the tragic past. He, too, lost his university position and wound up under house arrest. I met him at his home on a rainy day; plastic bowls collected the water leaking through his crumbling roof—his refusal to play along with the Party has had material consequences. “I had forgotten the present leadership is the same as in 1989 or its immediate successors: they can’t confess,” he tells me.

The Communist Party is no less mendacious when it comes to China’s AIDS epidemic. The problem is gravest in the province of Henan, where vast numbers of poor peasants contracted AIDS during the nineties from selling their blood plasma (a trade generally controlled by Party members) and then having the blood, sans plasma but pooled with that of other donors, reinfused, absent HIV tests—a recipe for massive contamination. The AIDS sufferers of Henan are now dying in the hundreds of thousands, trapped in their impoverished villages with no one to care for them.

The government’s initial reaction was to deny any problem, isolate AIDS-affected areas, and let the sick die (a pattern that initially repeated itself when SARS broke out in the country).

Police barred entry to the contaminated villages, and new maps of Henan appeared without the villages, as if they had vanished into thin air. But after the international press became aware of the growing crisis, the Party banned the blood trade (though it enforced the prohibition fitfully) and in 2000 at last officially acknowledged the existence of AIDS on Chinese soil.

Despite all its pious declarations in the subsequent years, though, the government continues more to obfuscate than to help. When Bill Clinton visited Henan in 2005 to distribute AIDS medicine provided by his foundation, for example, the Party prevented him from visiting the worst-off villages. Instead, in the Henan capital city of Zengzhou, he posed with several Party-selected AIDS orphans as the cameras clicked away. It was an elaborate public-relations charade: “China, with the West’s help, was tackling AIDS!” The world saw a smiling Clinton, but not the real tragedy of Henan.

Had Hu Jia been the guide, a far grimmer picture would have emerged. Only 30, he is already in poor health, carrying on his bony shoulders the weight of multiple forms of subversion. He is a democrat and a practicing Buddhist, a follower of the Dalai Lama who favors Tibetan independence. In 2004, he gave up his medical studies to look after Henan’s sick. He has brought them clothes collected in Beijing, a little money, and some food.

Months after Clinton’s photo op, Hu Jia and I traveled to one of the Henan villages that the former president had to miss: Nandawu, home to 3,500 residents. A police checkpoint guarded the entryway, but foreigners could get past it easily by hiding under a tarpaulin on a tractor-trailer. Once inside, there was no danger: the police feared AIDS too much to go in. I shall never forget what I then saw. The disease had struck at least 80 percent of Nandawu’s families; in every house, in every hovel we entered, an invalid lay dying. Most of the sufferers had no medicine. One woman was putting a drip on her sick husband, bedridden for two years and covered with sores. She was clumsy and hurt him. What did the bottle contain? She didn’t know. The label said glucose. Why was she doing this? “I saw in the hospital and on television that sick people had to be put on the drip.”

Soon, only orphans would be left in Nandawu. No school will take them in—teachers refuse to accept these children. A charity run by a young Beijing democrat, Li Dan, tried to open a school for AIDS orphans, but the authorities shut it down. The orphans are a painful reminder of a story that the Party wants to erase from public memory, Li Dan said.

For as long as my guide Hu Jia worked alone to help the sick, the Party let him be. But then he began to distribute pamphlets, put up posters, and question the Henan government. Worse still, he urged the victims to form an organization. The Party will sometimes put up with isolated dissent, but the moment an “unauthorized” association forms, the boot comes down. Several months ago, the government placed Hu Jia under house arrest in Beijing. It is only thanks to his wife that he can communicate with the outside world. When he tries to post a message on the Internet, the Propaganda Department’s screening software immediately deletes it.

So far, the young Beijing writer Yu Jie, a leading liberal voice in China, has avoided Hu Jia’s fate, experiencing nothing worse than interrogation in a police station. This despite writing in a Hong Kong magazine of the truth about Mao Zedong, whose murderous reign is another taboo subject in China: “It is inconceivable that the Olympic Games, one of the high points of civilization, be held in Beijing as long as the body of the assassin lies in the heart of the city.” (Mao’s mausoleum still occupies Beijing’s central square.) Yu Jie’s words spread like wildfire on the Internet, where his romantic but typically apolitical writings have attracted a large readership.

With his writer’s pince-nez and baby face, Yu Jie may not seem much of a threat to the authorities; he is a lone intellectual with no organization. But the Party’s lenience probably has more to do with his relations with American Christian churches. Yu Jie and his beautiful wife are among China’s newly converted evangelicals, some 40 million of whom now congregate in “house churches”—private prayer and Bible study groups, discreetly supported by American churches and unfettered by any government control. The Chinese authorities don’t want any U.S. Christian protest movements to tarnish the 2008 Olympics, so for now, it serves their interests to keep their hands off Yu Jie. He acknowledges the point: “Until the games, I am safe. After the games, who knows?”

In general, however, and especially outside Beijing, the Party ruthlessly polices non-sanctioned religious movements, haunted by the memory of past Chinese dynasties overthrown by mystical upsurges. The authorities have decimated Falun Gong, a Buddhist sect whose master lives in exile in the U.S. The group’s members languish in prison or in reeducation centers.

Today’s dissidents and their compatriots don’t seem very threatening. None promotes the overthrow of the government. They aren’t comparable to Chinese dissidents in exile, such as Wuer Kaixi, leader of the 1989 Tiananmen revolt, or Wei Jinsheng, hero of the 1979 Democracy Wall, political men with no following left in China. So why does the Party expend so much time and energy trying to keep them in check? Because it recognizes that their activity, however limited in scope and seemingly harmless, is a sign of the desire for freedom and truth among the people—a desire that ultimately threatens the leadership’s future.

By looking at conventional forms of political protest alone, one might miss a deeper current of dissidence. Mass culture highlights the growing tension between Communist Party ideology and popular sentiment. The reach of popular Western, Japanese, and South Korean culture extends throughout Chinese society and may well rock it to the core. China is now home to 123 million Internet users, well over 30 million of them bloggers, for instance. Internet-savvy students play a cat-and-mouse game with the censors to access foreign information sites, though it’s personal success, not political causes, that tends to drive this young jet set.

And like everybody else, the Chinese love to watch TV, despite pervasive censorship and the propaganda broadcast on it in China. One of their favorite shows is a local version of the U.S. hit American Idol called Super Girl, broadcast by a Hunan satellite channel and produced by a private firm. In 2005, the winner of this amateur singing contest was Miss Li, a lanky 20-year-old with a punk hairdo, sporting jeans and a black T-shirt—a fashion inspired by South Korean pop bands. Miss Li won democratically with nearly 4 million votes, text-messaged by viewers using their cell phones from home. Over 400 million Chinese viewers—more than the combined populations of the United States and England—watched the finale.

An unexceptional story—except that it happened in China, and the Communist Party, taken by surprise, condemned Miss Li for not singing in Chinese but in English and Spanish and for wearing clothes that didn’t conform to the anodyne official dress code laid down by the national television station. A columnist in China Daily, the Party’s mouthpiece, interpreted her victory as a popular uprising against the established order, concluding that “Miss Li has been elected but the people have made a bad choice. This is what happens when people are unprepared for democracy.”

Friday, April 27, 2007

Golden Week

If you have anything to do with a Japanese company, you quickly learn that you had better not count on anything getting done in Japan during "Golden Week," the longest holiday period of the year, for the Japanese.

Below is the article on Golden Week from If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original page, where you can find more information, links, etc.

This phrase also refers to Golden Week (China)

Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク Gōruden Uīku?), also known as Ōgata renkyū (大型連休?) or Ōgon shūkan (黄金週間?), is a Japanese term applied to the period containing the following public holidays:

Note that May Day, also known as Labor Day (労働祭 Rōdōsai?) (on May 1) is not a public holiday, but is nevertheless often granted as a holiday by many companies. When a public holiday lands on a Sunday, the next day that is not already a holiday becomes a holiday for that year.


The National Holiday Laws, promulgated in July 1948, declared nine official holidays. Since many were concentrated in a week spanning the end of April to early May, many leisure-based industries experienced spikes in their revenues. The film industry was no exception. In 1951, the film “Jiyu Gakkou” recorded higher ticket sales during this holiday filled week than any other time in the year (including new years and Obon.) This prompted the managing director of Daiei Films to dub the week “Golden Week” based on the Japanese radio lingo “golden time” which denotes the period with the highest listener ratings.

At the time, April 29 was a national holiday celebrating the birth of Emperor Showa. Upon his death in 1989, the day was renamed as "Greenery Day."

In 2007, Greenery Day will move to May 4, and April 29 will be renamed Showa Day to commemorate the late Emperor.

Current practice

Many Japanese take paid time off on the intervening work days, but some companies also close down completely and give their employees time off. The longest vacation period of the year for most Japanese jobs, Golden Week is an extremely popular time to travel. Flights, trains, and hotels are often fully booked despite significantly higher rates at this time. Even some foreign destinations (such as mainland Asian Countries, Guam, Saipan, Hawaii, and cities on the U.S. west coast such as Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco) are affected during this season by large numbers of Japanese tourists.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Philosophy Practiced is the Goal of Learning

How We Live Our Lives Is Our Philosophy
Philosophy Practiced

"Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning."

A useful teaching method used at the School of Cultivation and Practice is to organize our activities according to Yan Gao Fei's theoretical hierarchy:

philosophy-> principles->applications-> form

From the philosophy of one's art, comes the principles. The applications in turn are derived from the principles, and subsequently manifest themselves in the form.

I think it might be helpful to say a few things about philosophy.

"How we live our lives is our philosophy."
Rick Matz

We can intellectually be drawn to the ideas of a given philosophy. If we feel strongly in the truthfulness or utility of a philosophy we will order our lives to be in alignment with that philosophy, and actually become a living example of it. It doesn't commonly work that way though.

"Words mean exactly what I want them to mean, neither more nor less."
Lewis Carroll

I know countless people who consider themselves Christians, for example, but don't in any way, outside of attending church rituals (and sometimes not even that!) adhere to the teachings of Christ. In fairness, the same could be said of so many who consider themselves Taoists, Buddhists, pagans, pacifists, liberals, conservatives, or whatever. We tend to want to adopt a philosophy of life, and then bend it to what "we want." If that's what you're going to do, that's just hijacking the name of someone else's philosophy. If you're not living it, you're not doing it.

It's been said elsewhere, with regards to the classics of a given martial art, that people tend to bend the classics to what they are doing; rather than change what they are doing to reflect the classics. I'm saying the same thing in a larger sense.

I submit that it doesn't matter whose books you can quote from memory, or what society collects yours dues; your philosophy is exhibited by how you live your life. Quoting someone doesn't necessarily reflect you our own knowledge that is held deep within you.

How one lives is worth examining. How else can we derive principles, create applications, etc? In doing this each of us creates our own art after our own image. It becomes uniquely ours, and is a Natural Boxing in the truest sense.

Having said that, if you really understand your own philosophy of life, you can draw on the works of others freely. The work of those who have come before us is a storehouse of tools and knowledge that we can draw upon. We create our lives, but there is no need to recreate the wheel.

Is one's philosophy a fixed and unchanging thing? No. You live and grow. You learn. Life is a process, and so is one's philosophy. The way I conducted my life 20 years ago is so much different that the way I do today. One's art grows and changes. Look at films of the founder of Aikido when he was a young man, and when he was older. You're not just witnessing an increase in his skill, you are seeing his deepening understanding of his philosophy of life.

"We should think for ourselves. Tell us more."
The Life of Brian

A tricky thing about one's philosophy is that it can't be forced. For a philosophy to be authentic, it must well up unhindered from one's inner being. To force one's philosophy into a given shape is just riveting on some armor. This would be a philosophy hijacking the individual; forcing one to behave and think in certain ways.

"One should clean out a room in one's home and place only a tea table and a chair in the room with some boiled water and fragrant tea. Afterwards, sit solitarily and allow one's spirit to become tranquil, light, and natural."
Li Ri Hua, a Ming Dynasty scholar

So what to do? Just as the air that we breathe, and the food that we eat provides us with input that our body puts to use; our reading, or discussions, and our daily activities are our inputs into our individual systems of philosophy. What we do with all these inputs is to ... relax; and like a cup of tea, steep to attain the flavor of our lives. The outcome will be reflected in the way we live our lives.

We do not learn kung fu, we practice it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Fighting Buddhist Monks

When it comes to "fighting Buddhist monks," I don't think this is what comes to mind. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the full article.

Buddhist monks clash in Cambodia amid anti-Vietnam protest

(Kyodo) _ At least two Buddhist monks were injured Friday in a street clash in Cambodia's capital between two opposing groups of monks during a protest against Vietnam, which some monks accuse of suppressing religious freedom.

The demonstration march was made by some 40 monks, most of whom identified themselves as Khmer Krom, an ethnic Khmer minority people of Vietnam who inhabited the Mekong Delta area prior to the colonization of that area by Vietnamese settlers.

The marchers were demanding relief from alleged religious suppression of Khmer Krom by Vietnamese authorities, and had hoped to deliver a protest letter to the Vietnamese Embassy but were dispersed by some 150 riot police.

They then walked to the Royal Palace, where the clash occurred, and to the U.S. Embassy.

Marcher Lim Yuth, 23, his face bloody from a cut above his eye, said he was injured by an object thrown by a small group of Buddhist monks, still unidentified, during his group's peaceful march.

It was unclear whether the Buddhist monks who clashed with the marchers acted on their own or under orders from above.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Why I Train

On a message board I frequent, that is centered around martial arts, the question was asked: why do you train? Here was my response -

Why do I train? To allow a calm mind to develop.

I'm nearly 50. I live and work in what is statistically one of the safest areas in the United States. I don't hang around in bars. I work behind a desk. The chances of getting into a physical encounter are remote.

The test of needing to have a calm mind came my way about 16 years ago, when my father had suffered a heart attack.

It was late at night and he was in the operating room undergoing emergency surgery. Everyone had gone. I was alone. Every few hours, a couple of doctors would come into the waiting room to ask me to make life and death decisions on his behalf.

I stayed calm enough to think clearly. I asked questions. I developed options. Rather than being distraught, and of no help to my father; I stayed calm and provided useful feedback to the team of doctors who were trying to save his life.

My father died, but not on that night.

As a teenager, Kung Fu, the TV series hit the airwaves in the 70's, and I was hooked. I started training in JiDoKwan TaeKwanDo under Won Chik Park, in Detroit. Then I discovered beer and girls ...

Through out my 20's and 30's, on and off I had intense periods of study in Yoshinkai Aikido, under Kushida Sensei, mostly at the old Detroit dojo on Davison. In my mid 20's I also learned the Cheng Man Ching short Yang form of Taiji. I didn't learn push hands though. Then the multiheaded hydra of adult responsibilites entered my life ...

In my 40's, I've invested a lot of time and energy in learning the practice of Zhan Zhuang, or "stake standing."

Now that my youngest is getting her driver's license fairly soon, I'll have some time on my hands. Late summer/early fall of 2007, I want to get back to a regular martial arts class. I'd love to go back to aikido, but at 50, I don't think I'd be able to train the way I remember during my "glory days." I think it might be better to leave my memories intact. I'd be happy to continue to train with CMC Taiji, but convenience is a factor, and no one seems to be practicing it on this side of town. It turns out that there is a very well established Wu style Taiji in my area. I am learning what I can about the Wu style and it's derivatives, and if all goes well, I'll enroll with them.

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

Monday, April 16, 2007

Words of the Buddha

A friend sent me this. I have no idea if the Buddha really said any of it or not. It could well have been Kurt Vonnegut Jr., or Ernest Borgnine for all I know. Regardless, these quotes are well worth reading...

A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker. A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.

A jug fills drop by drop.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.
All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else.

All wrong-doing arises because of mind. If mind is transformed can wrong-doing remain?

Ambition is like love, impatient both of delays and rivals.

An idea that is developed and put into action is more important than an idea that exists only as an idea.

An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.

Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence.

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.

Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.

Ennui has made more gamblers than avarice, more drunkards than thirst, and perhaps as many suicides as despair.

Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.

Every human being is the author of his own health or disease.

Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.

Hatred does not cease through hatred at any time. Hatred ceases through love. This is an unalterable law.

Have compassion for all beings, rich and poor alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer too much, others too little.

He is able who thinks he is able.

He who experiences the unity of life sees his own Self in all beings, and all beings in his own Self, and looks on everything with an impartial eye.

He who loves 50 people has 50 woes; he who loves no one has no woes.

Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?

I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.

I never see what has been done; I only see what remains to be done.

In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth, and have begun striving for ourselves.

In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.

It is a man's own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways.

It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.

It is better to travel well than to arrive.

Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.

Just as treasures are uncovered from the earth, so virtue appears from good deeds, and wisdom appears from a pure and peaceful mind. To walk safely through the maze of human life, one needs the light of wisdom and the guidance of virtue.

Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful.

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.

On life's journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are a shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.

Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.

Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.

The foot feels the foot when it feels the ground.

The mind is everything. What you think you become.

The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.

The tongue like a sharp knife... Kills without drawing blood.

The virtues, like the Muses, are always seen in groups. A good principle was never found solitary in any breast.

The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.

The wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve.

The world, indeed, is like a dream and the treasures of the world are an alluring mirage! Like the apparent distances in a picture, things have no reality in themselves, but they are like heat haze.

There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting.

There has to be evil so that good can prove its purity above it.

There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.

Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.

To be idle is a short road to death and to be diligent is a way of life; foolish people are idle, wise people are diligent.

To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one's family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one's own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.

To keep the body in good health is a duty...otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one's own in the midst of abundance.

Unity can only be manifested by the Binary. Unity itself and the idea of Unity are already two.

Virtue is persecuted more by the wicked than it is loved by the good.

We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow that never leaves them.

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.

We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.

What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What's the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?

What we think, we become.

Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.

When one has the feeling of dislike for evil, when one feels tranquil, one finds pleasure in listening to good teachings; when one has these feelings and appreciates them, one is free of fear.

Without health life is not life; it is only a state of langour and suffering - an image of death.

Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.

You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection.

You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.

You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Haven't been around lately

Make your plans for the day in the morning.
Make your plans for the year in spring.

- A Chinese Proverb

I haven't made many posts recently, because I haven't been around. April is the busy month for my youngest daughter's travel volleyball team. There are three major tournaments in four weeks. To get her to them, I have to take days off of work, and so I'm busier at work as well. We aren't done yet. The third tournament will take place this coming weekend, and so I'll have another short week.
Right now, I have around 200 emails to wade through on my Yahoo account, and I don't even want to think what my work inbox looks like.

After the last tournament, in Atlanta, we continued on to Gulf Shores, AL, to finish off Easter Vacation. Gulf Shores has been a tradition in our family for some years. A large number of people from St. Mike's, the parish/school that my kids went to, all rent condos at the same facility every year.

This year I think we set a new record. There were 88 of us, of all ages. It's a great vacation because there's not a lot to do there, but soak up some sun, and watch the waves. There are few things better than that to clear one's head. I untangled a few things in my own life. Not that I really came up with answers, but that the questions sort of faded away.

I am reminded of the impermance of things; that change is the only real constant in our lives. Next year will be an early Easter. We've been there for an early easter before, and the weather isn't all that great. The year after, my youngest will be a senior, and she'll probably want to go on a trip with her friends, rather than go with us. On the other hand, my oldest will be finished with college by that time, and will probably be working. She might want to go with us.

Whatever happens, it will be different than it is now. The situation will resolve itself, but no matter - we've had a good run.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Yamaoka Tesshu

Below is a biography of a famous samurai, Yamaoka Tesshu. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the site where it came from:

Please pay them a visit.

Yamaoka Tesshu was born in Edo (modern day Tokyo) in 1836. At the time of his birth, he was known as Ono Tetsutaro. Later, he adopted the family name of Yamaoka from his spear instructor, who’s sister he married.

Tesshu was born into a samurai family and began his study of swordsmanship when he was nine years old. Over time Tesshu studied a number of fencing styles and became highly proficient.

When he was twenty-eight, Tesshu was defeated by a swordsman named Asari Gimei and became his student. Although larger and younger, Tesshu could not match his teacher’s mental state. During training sessions, Asari was known to force Tesshu all the way to the back of the dojo, then out into the street, knock him to the ground, and then slam the dojo door in his face. Confronted with this challenge, Tesshu increased his efforts in training and meditation continuously. Even when he was eating or sleeping, Tesshu was constantly thinking about fencing. He would sometimes wake up at night, jump out of bed, and get his wife to hold a sword so he could explore a new insight. Then, one morning in 1880, when he was 45 years old, Tesshu attained enlightenment while sitting in zazen. Later that morning he went to the dojo to practice Kendo with Asari. Upon seeing Tesshu, Asari recognized at once that Tesshu had reached enlightenment. Asari, declined to fence with Tesshu, acknowledging Tesshu’s attainment by saying, “You have arrived.” Shortly after this, Tesshu went on to open his own school of fencing.

Tesshu was 6ft tall, unusual for a Japanese person of his time, and very athletic. He was a natural leader and very competitive. So intense was his practice of his three main pursuits (fencing, Zen, and calligraphy), that his nickname was Demon Tesshu. Tesshu was also famous for combining his competitive nature with his love of drinking.

Tesshu was a master calligrapher and is estimated to have created over 1,000,000 calligraphy paintings. His art works are considered important and are studied now, even as they were in his lifetime.

Tesshu’s life bridged the time between feudal and modern Japan. Tesshu held a position as a bodyguard for the last Togugawa Shogun. Tesshu even played a role in the transition of power. Then Tesshu became a tutor for the Emperor Meiji during the emperor’s early adulthood.

On one occasion the young emperor challenged Tesshu to a wrestling match. The emperor enjoyed sumo wrestling but he had acquired the inappropriate habit of challenging his aids to impromptu wrestling matches. On one occasion, following a bout of sake drinking, the emperor challenged Tesshu to wrestle. When Tesshu refused the challenge, whereupon the emperor tried to push and pull Tesshu, but the emperor found Tesshu to be immoveable. Then the emperor tried to strike Tesshu, but Tesshu moved slightly aside. The force of the emperor’s blow caused him to fall down, whereupon Tesshu pinned the emperor to the ground. The emperor’s other aids were furious with Tesshu and demanded that Tesshu apologize to the emperor. Tesshu asserted that he was in fact doing his duty and would commit suicide if the emperor requested, but he would not apologize. The emperor saw the wisdom of Tesshu’s way and gave up (temporarily) both wrestling and drinking. From then on Tesshu was one of the emperor’s most trusted advisors.

On another occasion, the emperor, observing how worn Tesshu’s clothing was, gave Tesshu some money to buy new clothes. Tesshu, however, had little regard for material possessions and gave the money to the numerous poor people who sought the hospitality of his household. The next time Tesshu appeared before the emperor, he was wearing the same old clothes.
"What became of the new clothes?" asked the emperor. Tesshu responded back, “They went to you majesty’s children.”

Tesshu died from stomach cancer, in the year 1888, at the age of fifty-three. On the day before he died, Tesshu noticed that there were no sounds of training to be heard from his dojo. When Tessu was told that the students had canceled training to be with him in his last hours, he ordered them to return to the dojo saying, “Training is the only way to honor me!”

Tesshu’s last moments before his death were classical. First he composed his death poem, then he sat in zazen until he died.

Tightening my abdomen
against the pain.
The caw of a morning crow.