Archive for yi quan

Dogma: a dead tradition

Posted in Buddhism, Cults, martial arts, Mysticism, Qi, Reality Bites, Religion, society, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 29, 2008 by wizardsmoke

What’s the deal with rigid fundamentalism in “spiritual” lineages? You know, hard-line dogma sort of stuff; keeping people’s nose to the grindstone without ever letting up or letting their opinions of the doctrine sway. I think there are two ways of interpreting it. One is literal, in which the professeur actually believes the words of their own agenda or party line. The other is that it is strictly an educational policy, albeit a hard-line one (almost propagandistic), where the person projecting the agenda is doing so merely to keep the students’ minds in line or on task.

For instance, in the Yi Quan lineage and with some newer Chinese martial art teachers they might say not to pay attention to qi. I think it is because that’ll distract you from the practices that actually develop qi. But they would not hear of such an explanation and probably would say it doesn’t exist at all. Not that I know these people personally, I’m just speculating. And getting rid of qi in this martial context is probably more of a progressive thing given the mystical Chinese religious implications of the subject.

In much Zen Buddhism they might say not to pay attention to rebirth, or that it doesn’t exist. I figure that’s because it’ll just distract your zen practice, and it really isn’t that important when it comes to practicing. But guys like Brad Warner and his teacher don’t believe in rebirth at all. I realize that’s a tiny faction of just Soto Zen, but my point is they don’t believe in it, they don’t teach it or talk about it. Not that it literally exists like reincarnation, but they could point that out. But they don’t.

In Tibetan Buddhism (and occasionally in Theravada during talks to laypeople) we see examples of teachers warning students of how they had better pay attention to their practice, because if they don’t they’ll be reborn in one of the lower realms or the hells. This sounds especially dogmatic and reeks of Catholicism or some such western practice. So are the fundamentalist guys, like Namdrol over at E-Sangha, just dishing this stuff out to push us to practice until we can be self-sufficient, or do they really believe it?

The conclusion I always am afraid is a two-fold one. (A) these guys really believe their fundamentalism or at the very least will never let it go in public and (B) the masses are not entitled or “healthy enough” to understand or comprehend the totality of being because it would leave them nihilistic. In the beginning I thought that a lot of religious folks just emphasized the fundamentalism to keep the student’s minds on track. Now I don’t think it matters what the teacher believes considering what they teach people.

I suppose, if the teacher reveals everything at the beginning, a lot of people might not stick it out. That’s like a basic business strategy, isn’t it? The tempting existence of mystery and “secrets” in a lineage of martial arts or religious teachings is what probably attracts a lot of people in the first place. Today we expect way too much right up front, way too much information. But even if you desire information, having it all too early can be overwhelming. If you see through everything without the acquired determinism to keep going, or the renewable energy to have continuous faith in yourself, everything becomes empty and without purpose.

This is why I’ve never been much of an academic. I only want experience, I don’t care about facts and information. Academia is only worthwhile to me if I’m going to implement it into some kind of active practice. A lot of academia, like dogma, is dead. Being static and unchanging, it has no place among the living. It belongs in a museum. Sometimes I feel that way about fundamentalism. Don’t you have to change your methods to fit with the times? But how do you avoid changing your tradition to suit modern needs? And if a tradition is no longer applicable in modern times, doesn’t that belong in a museum?