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Master Ni's Passport

September 11, 2007

Master Ni, 93 years 2 months old, as we’re walking along Shoreline Park at a leisurely pace about 9:30 AM on the perfect day – Sun out – not too hot, not too cold – a slight breeze – not too strong, not too still – the rays of our solar father reflecting off the surface of the Ocean Goddess – dazzling our eyes with an array of sparkles and shimmers: “Walking one foot in front of the other is like joining Body and Mind together – naturally. But only enter the Door – much more to be done. Must join Mind- Body- Spirit as One. That is the Way.”

I reflect on the last few days with him. What a change!

Yesterday as we were doing errands of a significant nature, Ni: “I 93. When I reach 100, there will be a big celebration.”

Me: “I’ll visit you in China, when that happens.”

Ni: “Good.”

Me: “How old was your father when he died?”

Ni: “Young, 53”

Me: “War?”

Ni: “Just sick. I am the oldest of Ni family. That because I take care of inner and outer.”

Me: “Meditation & Tai Chi?”

Ni: “Right. Yin and yang, both important.”

Me: “Meditation almost more important with everyone so busy.”

Ni: “I meditate twice a day – in morning when I wake up and at night before I go to bed.”

Me: “I mediate every morning for about a half hour.”

Ni: “Good.”

Me: “But if I meditate at night before bed, my wife goes after my yang.”

Ni laughs merrily: “The way of women.”

I join in the Clear Lighted Laughter, which, as we both know, points to the Void by embracing the Non-Duality of merriment.

Me: “Most have too much yang. Need meditation to Balance.”

Ni: “Must have quiet or use too much energy.”

Me: “Die young.”

Ni: “I balance Active and Still. That is the Way.”


“Visit him in China?” you’re probably wondering. A shock – a bombshell. Let me take you back to the beginning of our most recent encounter.

At 8AM on Thursday morning I get the Call. After the normal brief salutations:

Ni: “Randy on vacation. Kathy recuperating from operation. Can you help me?”

Me: “Of course. Any time.”

Ni: “need to go to bank on Friday.”

Me: “Fine, I’ll pick you up at 10:15 – after Tai Chi class.”

Ni: “Maybe earlier. Lots to do.”

Me: “I’ll come as soon as I can.”


As soon as I arrive Master Ni, looking frazzled: “You know about passports?”

Me: “Not really. I know nothing about anything and a lot about nothing.”

He smiles weakly.

Ni: “My passport expired. Need new one. I 93 – so hard.” A mighty sigh.

Me: “Going on a trip?”

Ni: “No I move back to China.”

Me, not comprehending: “Back to China?”

Ni: “Yes.” Firmly, but somewhat desperately. “At 93 – so hard.” Another sigh.

Me: “Why?”

Ni: “Disappointed with youngest son. Unhappy house. Better in China.”

Me: “Move in with your other children?”

Ni: “Right. Oldest son in Nanking. Good energy.”

Me: “So where to?”

Ni: “Kathy’s house. She know about passports.”


We get lost going to Kathy’s house because we have the wrong address, but finally arrive.

Kathy: “It will probably take about 2 months to get your replacement passport.”

Ni: “Two months!? But I ready now. Maybe in Goleta it will be quicker.”

Smiling patiently Kathy: “It will about the same no matter where you go.”

Me: “Besides it will take about 2 months to pack and get your affairs in order.”

Ni: “I pack quickly.”

Kathy: “It will still take about 2 months for your passport.”

Another mighty sigh.


As we drive to get the passport pictures, I park in the wrong block and we must walk an extra two blocks. I’m worried that it might be too much for Master Ni at 93. But he does just fine – leading me up and down two flights of stairs rather than taking the elevator, in addition to the two extra blocks to and for it takes to get to the camera store.

Me: “Some days are just hard.”

Ni sighs again: “Today a hard day for me. Only one hour of sleep last night. Many thoughts no matter how much I meditate.”

Me: “But then deep in meditation you finally heard the voice that said ‘Go to China’. And you must obey.”

Ni: “Right. Time. Very hard.”


On Monday we filed for the replacement passport papers and turned most of his fixed Certificates of Deposit into liquid CDs - complete with ATM card for use in China. His aura brightened noticeably upon the completion of these tasks. He even proudly told the lady at the bank: “I’m 93. I bet you didn’t know that.”

Smiling Lady: “Wow! You look great.”

Ni is beaming now that we’ve completed our business.


As we’re driving Ni: “Thank you. Today you helped me out a lot.”

Me: “My pleasure. Did you sleep well after making your decision and taking care of business?”

Ni: “Much better. 5 hours of sleep last night.”


So now it’s Tuesday mid morning and Master Ni has gone from frazzled senior citizen to enlightened master. We walk down the 100 steps from Shoreline Park to the beach. The tide is high and there are only slim patches of dry sand punctuated by rocky outcroppings. Barefoot I walk in the ocean. Dressed in tennis shoes he attempts to avoid getting wet. But then the tide rushes in dowsing both his shoes and pants. Rather than turn back he adopts a more nonchalant attitude to the erratic tidal waves lapping the shore. We traverse through five or six more of these jutting promontories, where the ocean touches the land on the inward rush of the waves. He gets wet a few more times but doesn’t seem to mind. He seems to relish every moment here as if it is last.

Me: “I remember coming here with my wife before we were married.”

Ni: “40 years ago. So quick.”

And the transience of life passed through my consciousness and resided there.


At a distinct time with no hesitation Ni: “Time to go back.”

We walk up the stairs and reach a landing.

Ni: “Must rest. At 93, more difficult. In my 80s no matter how hide the tide I jump from rock to rock. Very good for balance. But now time for quiet.”

As we sat on the wooden platform overlooking the sparkling waves on that perfect day we experience an intimate moment of exquisite silence.

Looking through the slats of the stairs I notice a couple taking pictures. I closed one eye inadvertently and noticed I could only see the young lady. Experimenting I shut the other eye and could only see the man. But with both eyes open I could see them both without any obstruction. My mind had filtered out the slats and replaced them with a holistic vision of the couple. I relayed this to Master Ni.

Ni: “Mind very powerful. Sees and wants. Must eliminate desire.”

Me: “Not easy.”

Ni: “Unite jing, chi, shen as One. Than blend lights, internal and external, with integrated energy. This is the Way.”

Me: “External light important?”

Ni: “Very. This is why must have eyes open when meditating. Lets light in.”

Me: “Suck the external light in?”

Ni: “No. Just open eyes. Happens naturally. Without effort.”

Me: “Wu-wei (non-action in the midst of action)?”

Ni: “Spontaneous like wuji (the Void).”

Me: “Wu-wei or wuji?”

Ni: “Wu-wei –wuji. The same.”


As we finished our walk:

Me: “Would you like to go to the beach again next Tuesday?”

Ni: “At 93 hard. First convert ji to chi – 100%. Then convert chi to shen – also 100%. Have so little ji left - difficult.” (Roughly ji = body, chi = mind, shen = spirit)


As we reached my truck Ni: “Take a drive? You have time?”

Me: “Of course.”

As we drove along Cabrillo Boulevard towards East Beach, he reflected upon which of the beaches he had been to and that he had taught Tai Chi at the Cabrillo Recreation Center, when he first arrived in Santa Barbara – over 30 years ago. As we saw the young joggers and volley ball players at the beginning of their lives it evoked a bittersweet mood of melancholy nostalgia.


Upon reaching his home Ni: “You have time to take me up to the Mesa to get some filtered water?”

Me: “Of course.”

We arrived at the water dispensers on top of the Mesa - a steep quarter mile from his house.

Ni: “You go home now.”

Me: “I’d be glad to wait.”

Ni: “I walk home.”


Driving home I experienced sharp pangs of grief. From what? My Mind was fine with his decision. I knew it was the right one – all things considered. But my Body was suffering from a deep sense of loss that I was about to separated from my spiritual Master forever – the One who had persistently and patiently guided me through my Life’s course for over 30 years – ironically with very little words, primarily by example. And I shed more than a few tears as I write this – suppressing some involuntary sobs – probably because I sense that the Ni era is about to end.