Inconceivable and Mysterious--
But not Ultimate

By shramanera Kuo Ehr

Off and on I have had doubts about practicing T'ai Chi Ch'uan and although many people have benefited from doing it, I had heard of none who had transcended birth and death.

Even more puzzling was the short lifespan of two of the most accomplished T'ai Chi Ch'uan Masters--Yang Pan Ho (first son of the founder of the Yang School, Yang Lu Chan) and Yang Chen Fu (Great grandson of Yang Lu Chan). The former lived 53 years and the latter 55. This contradiction (since T'ai Chi is supposed to promote good health and longevity) coupled with the apparent lack of peace and tranquility in the T'ai Chi Masters I have come in contact with made my doubts stronger.

T'ai Chi is a combination of martial art and Yoga which ideally transcends fighting and transforms the body and mind. The body becomes cotton-soft on the outside and steel-hard on the inside. The mind attains the sagely state. The ideals as stated in the T'ai Chi Ch'uan Classics certainly are fine, but has anyone attained them? The life of Master Chen Wei Ming will give some answers.

Master Chen, during his youth, was sickly and began doing T'ai chi Ch'uan to improve his health. Through proper instruction and perseverance in his practice, his health improved and he mastered the Art of T'ai Chi Ch'uan. At the age of 60 he was living in Shanghai and because of his skill, the little-known art became widely respected and many students came to study with him. At that time, the person from whom I learned about Master Chen was a student of the Master's and received instruction in his home outside of Shang­hai. Over a two-year period in weeklong intervals, he received private instruction and witnessed the behavior of the Master. He relates that on the two-hour ride from Shanghai to his home. Master Chen sat in full-lotus posture meditating. The days of his residence began with two hours of sitting meditation followed by one hour of walking recitation of the Buddha's name. Afterwards the Master himself did T'ai Chi Ch'uan and then began instruction.

For many years this routine was Master Chen's standard practice and at the age of 80 he knew beforehand when he would depart this world. Three weeks prior to leaving he assembled his family and instructed them, "I am going to die in three weeks. From now on, no talking. Don't disturb me." He then increased his sitting meditation and Buddha-recitation and after two weeks passed he instructed that only water be given to him--no food.

On the day of departure—three weeks as predicted—he bathed himself, put on fresh clothes, and called in his whole family. At that time he individually instructed each one in an appropriate manner and when finished, he told them a11 to recite the Buddha's name with him aloud, saying that now he was going to depart. After a few minutes, with the words "Namo A Mi Two Fwo" (Namo Amitabha Buddha) on his lips, he left this world for the Western Land.

I am happy to report that at least one T'ai Chi Master had some real kung fu—but not from reliance on T'ai Chi Ch'uan alone. Many masters of T'ai Chi Ch'uan believe in the Buddha, because they have entered a mysterious and inconceivable, realm and realize its vastness. But few truly follow the Buddha's teachings. How rare are those with true faith!