November 6, 2000: Tai Chi's Buddhist Foundations

Am reading a Tai Chi book, which claims that the spiritual connection in the Chinese martial arts came via Indian Buddhism. Initially the Chinese warrior training had no spiritual component - at least according to the author. It was mainly about being dominant. However the warrior class in India did have a spiritual code. Buddha belonged to this warrior class before he began his quest that led to his enlightenment.

When Buddhism first reached China, it was particularly focused upon developing the mind, at the expense of the body. When the Bodhidharma came to China from India in the middle of the first millennium he was appalled at the health of these Chinese Buddhists. He taught the Chinese the Indian martial exercises at Shaolin temple to improve their health. They became consummate martial artists. Chang San Feng in the 1200s studied this Buddhist martial arts at Shaolin temple. He returned to Wu Tang Mountain and combined their spiritual and martial insights with the I Ching and the existing Chinese martial forms to create a Taoist martial art. According to legend, as we mentioned, he was the originator of Wu Tang Sword and the 13 elements, which eventually led to Tai Chi. The author also stated that the martial component of Buddhism and Yoga in India was eliminated by the Moslems, who considered it a threat to their military supremacy.

The circles get tighter and tighter as the world becomes smaller and smaller. Not only are we participating in the Chinese culture when we do our forms, we are also participating in the spiritual culture of the military class of the ancient Brahmanic society of India.

Here’s to world culture - practiced individually - by you and me.

The mind that thinks it’s a body with the name of don.