Between the internet, the dvds, the vcds, most of the key information about the internal arts are almost public domain. If we are smart enough and if we are sufficiently investigative, there is no practice that can remain hidden. In a world where information is king, where knowledge is popularized and horizontal, where everyone knows just about everything about anything but nothing in depth, it is possible to believe that it is enough to become a great self-taught practitioner…
In the Taoist tradition, it is very important to have an initiation, a specific lineage to follow and to practice under the tutelage of a master.
It is only when the master endorses you that it is possible to teach the Way. There is no ambiguity, the teacher appoints the students and then they can teach. Before that, it is a decision of the student to pass on his knowledge before being invited to do so, thus separating from one’s tradition and lineage.
This teaching without permission is the reason for the change in the quality of teaching.
We see more and more discussion forums where everyone spread their knowledge and their revolutionary mundane ideas and secrets for a perfect training based on magic machines or restorative or stimulating hormones. Exchanges are happening in a feint openness to reassure oneself on one’s obvious superiority, on the strength of one’s findings and his secret vcds (with less than 15 000 copies!).
On these forums, some publish their resume, other photos or videos, but why this need to talk about one’s practice? Why spread the arts which once feasted on a comfortable discretion? Is this a need to reassure oneself or to check what is believed to be true? A desire for openness and sharing with the rest of the human beings or a way to get their hands on new recruits?
If these forums are not “traditional”, they are our new tradition and we have to deal with it. I am the first to enjoy reading these “post” from practitioners, it is the same “voyeur” side that drives us to watch “American Idol”. The vcds or dvds that reveal the secrets of ancient China are also from our time and they are sometimes useful, thus saving endangered arts. These media are often like a virus in a river: they poison everything in their path imposing death to life (but it is only a way of seeing it).
The movies are often a way of strengthening our illusions: the Chinese keep a sense of humor and remind us of a saying that is law in the middle kingdom: “You can always fool a foreigner”.
What do we lack of in today’s world of Chinese internal arts? There is a lack of teachers, guardians of traditions and who can advise about a road already traveled. However, there are more and more “coaches” that can lead to martial arts and combine one hundred disciplines to be able to answer any questions.
There are teachers, hustlers, artists, acrobats, practitioners, experts, thieves, historians, liars, psychotics, scholars and even humanists sometimes … but where are the masters?
Without a master, we wander without answers, ready to do anything as long as we follow a direction or that we receive a validation of our practices that are cobbled together from Gandhi, Bruce Lee and the series “Kung Fu”.
What is the definition of a Master?
A master is an expert who has trained everything everything he speaks of, he is the holder of a “global” style . This style, often old, is complete in itself and meets the life needs of the adept. He has no need to seek in other traditions that which he lacks, or to prove anything: he is the image of what he says. He is in his practice and in his life is an expression of his Way. He lives in the world and it does not wear pajamas to train. Each movement is a technique and everything is training for the master.
He is not older than 25, in general.
For us, in our tradition, an expert may have 10 years of practice, but a teacher must accumulate at least 30 years in a precise tradition.
We often hear in discussions that teachers are hard to find when it is so easy to go to a club on the corner of the street. It’s true!
But if we reason this way, why work if you can steal? Why meditate if you can pray?
But if we remain locked up in a world that is not what we really want, the style is not one that we really like andthe teacher is not great for our taste but it is located not far from our couch, we should not be surprised to feel the need to rant on the internet at two o’clock in the morning.
Again, it is necessary to know what you really desire. Why choose a warrior path or a meditative path in an age like ours? Why take refuge in the energy work and meditative? What do we really seek through the excuse of a spiritual practice? Isn’t it strange to practice? (as our ‘colleagues’ at work often remind us…). Are we in another reality or just a victim of a spiritualo-energetic-weird fad?
It is illusory to believe that our way is random and silly to think that this is a “hobby”: who are we to be in this practice and how do we recognize ourselves in it?
It is the role of the teacher to guide us to find ourselves, sometimes to meet ourselves, in an ancient tradition, mirroring the identity of the human being. The same words and the same gestures that have released the masters of yesteryear are the practices of today.
It is certainly possible to name them differently, to make them evolve with machines and elastics, to save time by doing weight training, to use hypnosis or drugs, but the arts have been here for a long time, and they work in the same way as the tradition.
They are complete in themselves and do not need anything other than practice. Perhaps it is easier to hide one’s ignorance in revolutionary innovations, but all that is acquired quickly and effortlessly is often suspect or even useless.
The master is the guardian of a tradition, often a road he is traveling, he can guide newcomers and put back on track those who are lost. He does only this: guiding and recognizing the best way for everyone when they come to him. He should not be “pleasant” or nice, he does not show what people want to see, but what they need. He must be in the image of what he teaches.
This is not a tourist guide, it is a mountain guide.
The teacher should not ask you to be like him, but to recognize you and meet you. Heoffers a return to yourself, by an illogical and tedious practice , without risk if only that of being successful. But he does not do the work, the responsibility is yours.
It is not necessary to dazzle the master, to flatter him, to become his friend (which can happen, but it has nothing to do with evolution). It is useless to talk too much or too tell too much, it is an illusion to hide. The only thing to do is practice. Do not overdo it, do not get locked into inaction or laziness: “If you do it, it works, if you do not, it does not work.”
It is often easier to show off and lie (to oneself) than to seek the resistance of our ego, the difficulties of our body, but the master is here for that.
This implies that the master embodies what he speaks of, that he has your trust and that he is there when he should be.
If you do not follow the path you chose, if you do not follow the advice of the teachings, if you do not trust the practice, if you think you are right … then it is better to learn forms on the internet and follow the advice of lights on the Minitel (it must still exist, a precursor to the French internet, NdT), but your place is not in a tradition.
Any intellectual research can feed the isolated mind, any physical practice without tradition is likely to strengthen the body, any discovery of energy causes changes in vitality, but only a way with a teacher can guide us to the changes that will the source of our “reversion”.