L Cha Tea The Way of Spiritual Cultivation

Now I invite you to read and experience my Qigong life. Please send your spiritual body with me. Don't know how? It is not difficult. One of the key elements of Qigong practice is visualization. Please do not hurry. This is the way of Qigong, no hurry. Perhaps it will take me a while to tell you about Qigong.

Imagine that you and I are together in a teahouse in a natural setting. It is a very simple house built of logs. We are sitting at the tea table, and we can see flowers and grass outside and a living stream running in front of the house. We can see the forest through the side windows. We can hear birds singing in the sunshine. Now please stop reading and close your eyes. Take some time to imagine this. Feel the relaxation, peace, and harmony in your inner world.

1.2.1 Gongfu and Tea

Thank you for trying the visualization. Allow me to make some tea for us— Gongfu tea. This tea is similar to my lifestyle. You may be curious about Gongfu Tea and wonder what it is. It is a style of drinking tea and a tea ceremony. It requires Hua Gongfu (taking time) to prepare and drink this tea. In Chinese, Gongfu means time. It also means a skill that develops over a long time and through strenuous effort. This implies rigorous repetition of drills, both verbal and physical. Gongfu also means martial arts. Chinese country folk say "Gongfu" rather than "martial arts." In modern China, people still widely use the term "Gongfu" to evaluate a person's skill and talent in a particular line of work. "No Gongfu" means to be without skill or to do a poor job.

Are you ready for a cup of tea? There are two small cups facing you on the tea table. One is a cylinder and the other one is a bowl. After washing and warming up the tea set with boiling water, I make the tea for our tea ceremony using the Jade Red Phoenix Oolong that I brought back from China. I am filling up your cylinder cup with the hot Oolong. Please cover it with the bowl cup for a minute. Be careful, it is hot. Now you can hold the cylinder cup with your middle finger and index finger, and the bowl cup with your thumb. Hold it above the tea table and turn it over. Pretty good job! You leaked only a little bit of tea from your cups onto the table.

Are you ready for the tea? Please take a deep breath, then breathe out and imagine releasing all the old air (Qij from your body. Empty the body and hold—hold your breath, hold the empty state. Next, hold the cylinder and raise it gently, allowing the tea to flow into the bowl cup. Put the mouth of the empty cylinder cup right under your nose. Now take a deep breath from the cup to absorb all the air down into your lower belly. Did you enjoy it? Yes, it is an enjoyable and relaxing experience.

1.2.2 Wordlessness

Tell me, what are you feeling? Difficult to say? No words can express your feeling? Yes, that's your experience. Language always fails to totally express the feeling. Confucius said, "Writing does not fully express words, and words do not fully express ideas."3 It is the same with Qigong practice—you can experience it only when you do it yourself in the right way. Laozi explains this process in Chapter 2 of the Daodejing MWi-

The Sage relies on actionless activity,

Carries on wordless teaching,

Lets all things rise and fall,

Nurtures, but does not interfere,

Acts without demanding,

Accomplishes, but claims no credit,

It is because he lays claim to no credit

That the credit cannot be taken away from him.

At last you can drink your tea. It's a small cup of tea, but don't swallow it all at once or it will hurt you. It is hot! Sip a little with your lips softly touching the edge of the cup. Hold it in your mouth. Taste it with the tip of your tongue and the coat of your tongue. Then swallow it slowly, feeling it pass through your throat and down into your Dantian jJH . This process is called Pin^h in Chinese. The literal English translation of Pin is taste or savor, but this does not convey its deeper meaning. Pin is also the way of study and meditation in classical Chinese culture. This is a way of classical Chinese spiritual cultivation, which we call Chadao ^itt (the Dao of tea). One may become enlightened by drinking tea.

Chinese characters are originally and basically pictorial characters, so they have symbolic meanings embedded within them. Through the Pin, one can enter deeply into the classical Chinese way of life, way of thinking, and cultural background. Let's learn more about the Chinese characters to help us better understand them.

Let us continue to enjoy our tea and discuss the function of the Chinese characters. We call this way of learning Pin Ming Lun Dao m^IfltôË. It means to discuss and understand the Dao through the taste of the tea. This is the lifestyle of the classical Chinese sages and scholars. We can adopt this style and continue to discover the way to connect with the Dao.

1.3.1 The Chinese Character and its Origin

Chinese characters make up the last ancient ideographic or pictographic writing system that survives in modern usage. This unbroken system has been continued for thousands of years. It is possible to learn the ancient Chinese wisdom through the symbolic meanings of the characters. The original function of the Chinese characters was not merely to serve as a means of communication; rather, the characters were intended to serve as a vehicle for channeling universal wisdom and for connecting with nature. Below are two creation stories about Chinese characters connected with WuM. (Chinese shamanism) that demonstrate this function.

The Han Dynasty (140 BCE-220 CE) Chinese dictionary Shouwen Jiezi states that Cangjie ^b! , who was a minister of Huangdi jif (the Yellow Emperor) about 4,500 years ago, formed the Chinese characters after observing patterns of animal tracks and combining them with trigrams.5 This legend also tells us that at the moment Cangjie created these characters, it was storming heavily and the spirits were weeping6—reminiscent of the Wu (shaman) calling in the rains. The spirits' weeping in the story reminds us that these characters affected those spirits. In my Wu practice, I use some Chinese characters as special symbols to channel the universal energy to empower my body and align my spiritual energy or to help patients release disease.

Archeological research indicates that possible precursors to Chinese characters appeared as early as 8,000 years ago. However, unearthed inscriptions on bone and tortoise shell show that a complete system of Chinese character writing had been in use during the Shang Dynasty (1700-1027 BCE). Since these inscriptions were related to the divination practices of the Shang emperors, this style of character is called Jiaguwen Oracle Script. For this reason, we can see that the Chinese characters were invented by ancient shamans and that Cangjie was one of them.

Cangjie Animal Footprint
Chinese character inscribed on a turtle shell discovered in Henan Province; from about 8,000 years ago.

A copy of calligraphy from a Zhou Dynasty (1027 to 221 BCE) stone carving.

A copy of calligraphy from a Zhou Dynasty (1027 to 221 BCE) stone carving.

We can find more stories about the relationship between the Chinese characters and Wu. The Chinese character Wen jC , meaning Chinese character, may give us more information. Let's have another cup of tea and talk about the Chinese character WenjC.

The original meaning of Wen is natural pattern. This pattern could be made up of cracks, tracks, animal footprints, or clouds. It was said that Wen came from Wu ritual. During a divination process, the Wu would burn a scapula bone or tortoise shell. The bone or shell would break during burning and a pattern of cracks would appear. The shaman could get an answer to the question posed in the divination through the pattern of cracks. It was thought that the pattern was a symbol or character from Heaven or from a high-level spirit, and the ancient shamans applied these crack patterns to the ancient Chinese characters. For instance, the Chinese character for divination or to divine is Bu J. Bu looks like a pattern of cracks. The pronunciation of Bu is related to divination as well. The moment that the Wu was burning the bone or shell and the fire made the crack in the bone or shell, it made a noise—Bu. Therefore, the moment the shaman heard the sound of Bu the pattern was revealed and the answer for the divination became known.

This Oracle Script is still relevant today, especially the Seal Script or Zhuan Shu ^ctt . The symbolic meaning of "Zhuan H " is "to communicate with the universe through writing." It is related to the Wu book, the YijingJjfl (Book of Changes or I Ching). The bottom radical of the character Zhuan is Tuan Jj, meaning boar, and it stands for the Big Dipper. In the Yijing, one of the rhetorical structures for explaining the meaning of each hexagram is to begin each line of the hexagram with "Tuan Yue JJ0 "—Boar says or Big Dipper indicates. The radical on top of Zhuan is Zhu JJ , meaning bamboo. It is a hint that the Heavenly knowledge was originally recorded on bamboo. (Paper had not yet been invented.)

Ancient books written in Oracle or Seal Script were titled "Tan Shu jjjU " (Heavenly Book) because people in ancient China trusted that the knowledge was channeled from Heaven through the shaman/sage. Even though the Chinese characters later changed to the Earthly way—square, the ancient Chinese always believed that the knowledge was from Heaven. Confucius said, "I record only the ancient knowledge without adding my own ideas [when I edit the old classics]. I always trust, respect, and love the ancient knowledge."7 The Han Dynasty's Sima Qian WJ H JJf , author of the Shiji jjfB (Book of History), referred to this way of thinking as "the Sage's attitude."8 Its importance has not diminished over time, and this reverence for the ancient knowledge continues to be passed down. I remember my masters always told me as they taught me the ancient knowledge, "Do not make any changes in your practice; the right way is to follow the classical forms. This is what I learned from my master." This is how the ancient wisdom has been passed down. Through studying ancient Chinese characters, I understood my masters better and I have been following in their footsteps in teaching my students.

1.3.3 The Chinese Character and its Function

The tea is still strong. Let us continue drinking tea and talking about the Chinese characters. They carry so much information.

This Oracle Script is still relevant today, especially the Seal Script or Zhuan Shu HH . Zhuan Shu includes Xiao Zhuan (lesser seal character) and Da Zhuan (greater seal character). Xiao Zhuan is the result of the power of the first emperor of the Qin H Dynasty (221-206 BCE), Qinshihuang HB^iË. He asked his prime minister, Lisi ^¡Oft , to standardize the Chinese characters. By the way, did you watch the movie Hero? Yes, as you may have noticed in the movie, there were different writing styles for the same Chinese characters in different states before the Qin Dynasty. Through the principles of Oracle Script and ancient Chinese characters that had been cast in vessels or carved in rock, Lisi created the standardized Chinese character system for the whole nation. Later, people named this standardized system Xiao Zhuan and called all the older scripts Da Zhuan.

Seal Script is now used only in artistic seals or artwork. Although Seal Script carving and calligraphy remain art forms in China today, most people are not able to read them. Yet it is common to use a signature seal instead of a written personal signature in modern China. However, people may use modern Chinese characters in their signature seals rather than the traditional Oracle Script. The verification function of the seal still remains. It originates from Chinese shamanism. Seal is Yin in Chinese. Yin means connect, verify, or response. It is a name for mudra (hand position) in Wu (shamanic) practice. Yin is also a way to verify that a person is practicing the Wu tradition for communicating with spirits.

This type of writing hints at knowledge of the Wu cosmos. Most strokes in the Seal Script are rounded and the shape of the characters is circular. It is said that the Han Dynasty's Chenmiao

A copy of calligraphy; from a Han Dynasty stone carving

HiiH developed the Clerk Script (Lishu fHH) for convenience. The strokes of Clerk Script are straight, and the pattern of the characters is square. This was the original model for the modern-day Chinese characters. Clerk Script is still easy to read. According to ancient Chinese cosmology, "Tian Dao Yue Yuan Di Dao Yue Fang jjjM 13 0 jjj jtjj^fj" —Heaven is circular and Earth is square.9 This cosmology became the basic Chinese philosophy. Therefore, in Chinese tradition, the circle is a symbol for Heaven and the square is a symbol for Earth. This philosophy is the fundamental principle of Qigong, Taiji, and other martial arts.

By now, it must be obvious to you that the Chinese character is a portal into deeper layers. So, what exactly is the function of the Chinese character? In Chinese, it is WenYi Zai Dao jjj jjj Kilt This means the function of a character is to carry the Dao, or to express and convey the Dao to people. Qigong is also a way to access the Dao. The difference is that Qigong is the experiential way and the Chinese character is the symbolic way. We are able to merge into the Dao through correct Qigong practice and can better understand the symbolic meaning. Turning this around, we can find a better way to practice Qigong through the symbolic meaning. Therefore, I use some Chinese characters in this book to help us better access the Qigong practice.

After we learn some more about the Chinese character, let's have another cup of tea. How about continuing our chat about Chinese characters with part of the Chinese character Pin ¿p ? Why only part of Pin (=n=r rather than the whole character? Because we Pin (taste or savor) the tea and the Chinese characters with a part of Pin - Kou p (mouth). Also, it is the same way we drink the hot tea. We must take small sips, otherwise it may hurt us. Of course, the Chinese character will never hurt us physically, but I don't want us to feel overwhelmed or to misunderstand this due to our attitude of being in a hurry. Let us taste the Chinese characters as Pin iS itself.

1.4.1 The Way of Subtlety

Pin is made up of three of the same radical—Kou P , which means mouth. There are two layers of symbolic meaning in these three radicals. The first one is three and the second one is mouth. Three means numerous; it does not mean simply the number three. Also, three means the three layers of the universe— Heaven, Earth, and the Human Being. Three is the creation number and it is the symbol for everything and the universe. Therefore, in classical Chinese, three stands for many or numerous. We will learn more about three in Part II of this book (See Part II, 5.4 Sancai ^ ^/3—Three Sources). In this section, let us focus on the second meaning; it is also Kou.

Another cup of Gongfu ^^ tea may help us better learn about this because we need to use our Kou (mouth) to experience the Pin.

You did a good job just now. No tea leaked when you turned over your cups. Repetition can make the experience different each time, and it will make you more skillful, too. We will have a similar experience as we practice Qigong. Can you tell the difference in the flavor of the tea? Yes, it is fantastic. It has a better taste compared with the first cup. How could this happen when this cup of tea comes from the same teapot as the first cup? We haven't changed the tea leaves, yet you can tell the difference with your Kou. This is the Universal Way. The Yellow Emperor called this Jiwei Zi Dao jH^^iH—the way of subtlety. We can understand the Dao jg through careful observation. The Dao is in the tea. We can access it only through Pin.

1.4.2 The Entrance to the Dao

Kou p, again, means mouth. The second symbolic meaning of Pin is entrance. It is a symbol that represents human beings as well. The mouth is a very important entrance into the body because to stay alive we need to take food into our bodies every day through the mouth. In the Chinese medicine perspective, the mouth is connected with the heart/mind. When we speak, we open the mouth. Language is the voice of the heart. This is the original meaning in Chinese. We use our mouths to express what we are thinking, what we need, and what we want to communicate to others. The Shuowen Jiezi explains "Kou (mouth) —a person uses the mouth to speak and to eat." Moreover, the Guoyu Hif (Conversations from the States) tells us that "Kou is the gate of the Three and the Five." Here, the Five is also the symbol of the universe. From ancient Chinese cosmology, the three layers of the universe are made from the Five Elements: Water, Wood, Fire, Earth, and Metal (See Part II, 5.6 Wuxing Sfr /5 — Five Elements). Therefore, we can learn how to connect our heart/spirit with the universe through the Kou.

Kou is the entrance to the Dao. The traditional way of Qigong teaching is "mouth to mouth." Qigong is the way of experiential knowledge. We could not learn Qigong by merely reading a book or watching a videotape. We can get the subtle feeling only by following a master in person. The traditional way in China for this kind of knowledge teaching is "Kouchuan Xinshou □ JJJJ j Jj JjJJ "— Teaching through the mouth and giving through the heart. This means that if we want to learn authentic Qigong, we must follow a true master. A book or video tape is only a way to help us remember what we have learned in the traditional Chinese way.

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