I had the great honor to sit down with his Holiness Venerable Master Abbott Shi Yongxin on this historical day called the "1st Shaolin Summit" in Los Angeles.
The Abbot and the Shaolin Warrior Monks shared the supernatural powers of Shaolin Kung Fu, which is the combination of Chan Buddhism, martial arts and medicine. The design and arrangement of Shaolin Kung Fu movements are based on the medical knowledge of ancient China, through which it is believed that one may soar to their highest potential physically and spiritually. This system puts special emphasis on the combination of movement and stillness, which demonstrates the ancient Chinese belief in "the unity between heaven and man."
Peter Shiao, CEO of Orb Media Group, executive producer and the presenter of the event, announced the founding of the "Northern American Shaolin Association." He did a beautiful job presenting this extraordinary event. It sold out and there was a wonderful sense of harmony and excitement in the air. The intention of the Abbot's trip to the West is to create more friendship and understanding among different cultures, so we may all work together in unity for world peace, human happiness and social progress.
How do you see the role of women participating in Shaolin Kung Fu?
There are four classes of Shaolin students: There are male monks and there are the nuns, male house-holders, who live ordinary everyday life, and female house holders who practice. So no one is excluded.
Have the Shaolin nuns been around as long as the male monks?
I want to clarify the understanding of Shaolin Temple. Shaolin Temple is actually a consortia of temples. We are inter-related and when you visit you see there are a number of temples being led by the Shaolin Temple. Starting from the days of Bodhidharma 1,500 years ago a lineage of female practitioners has been unbroken. They have always been part of this family. The nunnery is not a large part of the Shaolin Temple, but I want to empathize that it has always been there.
There seems to be a new awareness and people are drawn to learn and absorb the teachings of Shaolin Kung Fu. How can the average person incorporate these teachings to enhance their daily life?
It is actually pretty simple. There is a specific type of practice that is really for all kinds of people, whether you are a kid, older, a business man, any age or gender. It is actually designed for a very diverse range of people. It is accessible you just have to choose where you want to begin.
There is a lot of talk of kung fu as an external activity like some kind of fancy exhibition. The truth about kung fu is the power to be still, to hold oneself in deep unbroken meditation. It is one of the cornerstones of this practice. In addition to the pursuit of this external kung fu, I just want to empathize how incredibly important it is to meditate. To sit down and quiet oneself is a very complimentary piece of the eternal martial arts. When these two come together it is not just physical benefits, but profound things happen: one's character, the content of one's character, also improves, as well as the quality of your entire being, with this type of practice. Our idea of peace is not just external peace, but peace in being with oneself -- utter freedom, the freedom of beingness. To be a liberated being.
I am curious about the Shaolin monks. With all their energy work, meditation and being so in balance, it seems there would be very little illness or disease among them?
Well, we look at disease in several different ways. There is physical illness. Generally, everyone is pretty healthy, but anyone who breathes air is not immune to disease. Disease is a part of life, so we at Shaolin are kind of subject to the same forces. But we do classify diseases. That is why we created The Shaolin Holistic Clinic that seeks to have remedies for all of life's different circumstances. Of course, There is another variety of disease, which is of the mind, which is another conversation altogether.
What would the world look like politically and morally if nearly everyone adopted the Shaolin Kung Fu lifestyle?
The world would be more beautiful. The world would be more peaceful, more perfect.
Can one attain enlightenment through practicing Shaolin Kung Fu?
Shaolin Kung Fu, together with meditation, has both the physical as well as the conscious spiritual components that will contribute to one's enlightenment. Raising consciousness, yes, through this pursuit of life -- that realm is possible. Shaoiln is unique in that the followers of this order practice this way of life.
What do you hope people take away from this 1st Shaolin Summit?
It is very idealistically that we can all be liberated that comes from the philosophical understanding of life itself. Part of that is having a healthy body engaged in activities of your choosing in a very positive and rigorous way. We hope to share that kind of understanding, we also hope people walk away with a better understanding of what this way of life is about and what Shaolin stands for. I just want to empathize the joy of living an awakened life. Having an awakened perspective brings such joy and beauty for everyone's lives. I wish that for everybody.
What would you recommend for people to practice on a day-to-day basis?
I think it is just being true to the moment,.If we can fully grasp each moment that we live in, that can bring a profound change.