Master Ni: “Watching hands good for brain.”
Some scientists even suggest that this hand-eye-brain connection stimulated the evolution of our species. Although it is easy, neat, and compact to say that the Homo species split from the Australopithecines about 2 million years ago, the reality is subtler. Actually the difference between the two genera is the subject of extensive debate. In some ways the difference between the two is based more on the ability of homo habilis to have a tool technology rather than on major biological differences. Although there is a biological difference between the two (homo habilis has a larger brain and stronger hands), the difference is of a type that some scientists call a refinement of the Australopithecines rather than a brand new species. The evidence seems to indicate that this species split is linked to cultural developments as well as biological. Certain scientists have suggested that the reason for the development of the larger brain and stronger hands is a result of their tool making ability rather than the tool making being a result of the larger brain and hands. Indeed the interaction between culture and environment seems to have driven human evolution rather than just environmental factors alone. Under this line of thinking, those Australopithecines that, for whatever reasons, started making tools, stimulated the development of a brand new species of which we are part. The hand-eye-brain connection led to the evolutionary development of the brain and hand. We see the existence of this hand-eye-brain philosophy in the Montessori schools as well as Tai Chi. Master Ni says watching the hands in Tai Chi simultaneously stimulates and focuses the brain.
So pay attention to your hands or sword tip, if you want to speed up your own evolutionary development. (Tao of China: Chapter 10B)
Jing-chi-shên is an important Chinese construct – with crucial connections to Tai Chi and Master Ni. Jing is frequently equated with the raw unrefined energy of youth or sexual energy. Refining and storing this energy is the key to vitality and longevity according to traditional Chinese beliefs. Uncontained jing, which is also equated with water, normally flows downward and outward, dissipating the energy and thereby the life force – which diminishes the quality and length of life. The pursuit of desires, excessive talking, too much sex and frenetic activity are all ways in which jing energy is dissipated.
Binding jing to shên (spirit) is the best way to protect, contain and store this powerful energy. That is the function of the endless repetition of the Tai Chi forms. The silent practice tames this raw wild energy. Drained of its excesses, jing energy is simultaneously stored and focused. With refinement the raw wild energy is channeled rather than dissipated in the endless pursuit of desires.
However as the wild jing energy is stored and focused the individual becomes very desirable. This is why Tripitaka, the Buddhist monk in The Journey to the West, got into so much trouble through no fault of his own. His contained and unpolluted yang essence (jing) was so attractive that in numerous circumstances a diversity of characters attempted to capture him. Monsters tried to eat him; scholars and kings desired him as their companion; and women wanted him as their husband or attempted to have sex with him. This is what Master Ni was referring to when he said that as one practices Tai Chi two demons are fed – the demon of the crotch (jing) and the demon of the brain (shên > perhaps equated with excess pride).
However it was imperative that Tripitaka retain his vital yang essence (jing energy) - in order to have enough power to complete his mission-quest (shên). This is why he rigorously avoided these encounters, although some were quite appealing. Similarly as we store and refine our jing energy in our Tai Chi practice it is important that we continue to guard it afterwards. We become so attractive or energized that others might inadvertently attempt to steal it or we dissipate the energy in excessive talk or activities due to our internal exuberance (our stored jing energy). As always refinement, containment and balance are the keys to vitality. ( Tao of China1A: Chapter 11C)
Fu Hsi, Shên Nung, and Huang Ti (the Yellow Emperor) are collectively referred to as the Three Sovereigns. Although legendary they supposedly lived in the third millennium BCE. According to legend Fu Hsi introduced herding, matrimony, the eight trigrams of yin-yang theory (the bagua = pa kua), and a slow form of exercise that was good for the marrow and the bones. This exercise is considered to be an antecedent to Tai Chi.
Fu Hsi existed before the introduction of agriculture or the beginnings of centralized society = civilization. Thus slow motion exercise and the trigrams of the I Ching, which are so fundamental to Tai Chi and the Chinese martial arts, have presumably been part of traditional Chinese culture since the earliest prehistoric times. ( Tao of China 2: Chapter 20B)
Master Ni’s eyes lit up when he discovered that a few of his students were studying the Chinese novel called The Journey to the West.
Ni, matter-of-factly: “Author of Journey an avatar.”
“A – V – A – T – A – R. Understand?”
“Yes. Just surprised by your choice of words.”– a Chinaman using a word from Hinduism – always the unexpected from Master Ni.
An avatar is a god who incarnates in human form to lend us some assistance. As such Jesus would be considered a Christian avatar. It was obvious from his use of the word ‘avatar’ that Master Ni considered Journey an incredibly important book. After this point he regularly referred to the characters in the book, especially Monkey and Piggy, to emphasize or clarify a point he was making in class or privately. Many of the Ni excerpts are taken from the book Chinese Alchemy and the Monkey, which is an attempt to elucidate the inner meanings of The Journey to the West. (Tao of China 3: Chapter 22)
The Arts of China by Michael Sullivan p24
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