Just a Thought (#2): Respect for Religion

buddha mantle at my houseWhen I first started teaching the Chinese martial arts of Chen Style & Hunyuan Taijiquan (and later, Contemporary Wushu), I found a touch of resistance within the “Bible-belt” community of my hometown.  I had several email comments within that first year regarding “kungfu as an unholy practice” because of it’s “heathen” origin. (note: this is only what was said to me, in reference to a new website without any religious mention whatsoever).  My email response to these comments were answered in a kind manner, however it prompted me to add a disclaimer to my wushu page (class where I teach both children and young adults).  At the bottom of the site it stated:

The Center for Hunyuan Taijiquan (aka. ChenCenter), although an Eastern practice, does not teach or promote religious doctrines.

I am seriously considering taking this statement down, on principle.  Those who choose to take my classes and workshops not only benefit from learning the martial art forms and calisthenics… but from the rich background of western and non-western philosophy.  It is hard to believe that I once felt I had to tip-toe around such people.  The following statement addresses the key-points of any spiritual or Godly matters within my classes. 

The teachings of wushu, that is to say “our curriculum,” is performed foremost to bring out our character and show our virtue (te).  Virtue, our goodness, is our highest aim.  The essence of our practice is to correct the heart (xiu xin) and to build martial virtue (wude).  We understand that where there is no virtue, a high level of ‘skill’ (gongfu) can not be accomplished.  When we criticize others we lose our dignity, both to those we criticized and to ourselves.  As righteous people, we vow to respect everyone.  We follow the teachings of Buddha (who we see as “excellence”), and likewise we acknowledge the Creator (in our personal faith).  We know and respect Jesus Christ that we know as “Love.”  We respect and love everyone as we respect and love ourself (especially those who have not yet found their way [Tao]).  We realize our ‘way (tao)’ through self-cultivation.  We judge no one.  We make an effort to understand the teachings of others because we understand that there is no limit to the wondrous powers of the mind nor is there a limit to our growth as a spiritual and virtuous person.  We embrace nature, for it governs the world and we pay attention to even the smallest of things.  We do not rush… because we cherish the ability to ‘feel.’  We may help to ‘guide’ others, however we never tell someone how and what to feel.  We strive to realize the illusion that we are in control.  We choose to become aware of our intention- and instead of focusing on our problems (i.e. electricity bill,  hurt, frustration)… we simply throw it away.  Like tossing piece of bark in a river…we see it disappear from sight.  By eliminating the negatives, we can bring our intention to those things that matter most… ourselves and our relationships with others.  And with every fiber in our being, we nurture and develop our life.  Peace and Love.  ~ Coach


~ by chencenter on February 28, 2008.

22 Responses to “Just a Thought (#2): Respect for Religion”

  1. I have never understood the need to attach religion to everything, particularly not in an exclusive fashion. People who have to have it explained to them how Jesus fits into what you do there – well – that is just odd to me. There is nothing we do as martial artists that contradicts Christianity, implying otherwise is just the embodiment of ignorance. I would encourage them to do some research and come to their own conclusions. I wouldn’t touch that issue at all.

    I have a very high amount of tolerance and respect for people and what they believe – everyone. I will never attempt to defend my own beliefs, or non-beliefs nor will I waste my time trying to explain to people that TaiChi saved me in so MANY ways – real physical ways.

    My personal opinion is that you do not need to explain anything. If it is that important to them, they should research. I might even go so far as to offer references in the form of books, but I would never make any disclaimers or offer explanations along those lines.

    Maybe I missed the point here, I’m sorry. I was just so thrown off by you feeling like you have to defend what you do. Ridiculous. And sad. Very very sad.

  2. The only reason people site “Religion” as a reason for not participating in a class is fear and ignorance. Fear that they may have to question their beliefs and ignorance for not daily questioning their beliefs.

    Why would I state “question your beliefs”…Because the day you stop asking questions, you may as well join a cult! This is not to say, should I change what I beleive day to day, but rather ask am I understanding all that I read and hear.

    When you are strong in your beliefs then it will not be a reason for avoiding a class in anything that may be seen as different and you may come out the better for having participated.

    My Two Cents, MikeC

  3. Daisy- fact is… when i was starting out in teaching, i felt that i HAD TO explain (at least to those who just plain “didn’t know better”). Glad I grew out of that one! 😛

    Mike- Thanks for throwing your ‘cents’ in! Sometimes, I think that because people are soo strong in their belief, they choose to hold on so tight it almost becomes a paranoia. They say to themselves, “If I let this into my belief…will everyone see me as the same Christian?” Perhaps it wasn’t a reason for not taking my class… but maybe it had something to do with their selfish desire to express their opinion (see: Just a Thought (#1): Honesty). Thanks again grasshoppa! -Coach

  4. Michael: Reverence is a virtue that helps society stay healthy, and in American society we find many examples of lack of reverence, the name of Jesus in bumper stickers, the lack of good parenting, the absolute neglect to take care of the thousands of poor people with nowhere to go………..I could go on and on. So do not worry about explaining yourself anymore, words are very easy to utter, actions are what define people and societies.
    Your actions are virtuous.

  5. I have always been very interested in philosophy. As an Atheist I feel that philosophy is the only way to reason what the importance of my life is. I have developed my own values and somewhat my own philosophy but that is all they are, mine. People feel that it is necessary to publicize their faith for no reason. I don’t go around trying to make people atheist and I certainly don’t wear atheist T-Shirts. Religion is a purely personal issue, it should never be a public matter. If you don’t belive in something, then don’t believe in it. Even when I was a Methodist (I know, a big jump was made there) I was interested in Zen Buddhist meditation not because I believed in Eastern Mysticism but because its relaxing. We can learn from other religions just as we can learn from other martial arts. Use logic in your encounters with people with different ideas from your own, you don’t have to believe it because they do. Keep it to yourselves guys and when you’re practicing the martial arts do what you’re supposed to, TRAIN.

  6. Pat- Thank you for commenting. Funny you mentioned bumper stickers. Three years ago I personally made a red and white bumper sticker that said “Buddha Saves”. I still have one laying around here…but again, my I didn’t want to become “that guy”…plus, I like a clean car. no stickers. 😛

    Adam- Wow, methodist? That IS a big jump..but in life we come to our own conclusions. I certainly don’t hold anything against atheists (some of my best friends are atheists). While religion is combination of philosophy, history, faith, et cetera…both religion and philosophy ultimately serves in our growth as human beings. I grew up Moravian, but it’s not a doctrine that defines me. But as far as martial arts are concerned…in the words of a shaolin monk (shi yingming), “More Qi?…trainer HARDER!”

  7. Great post! Being an atheist, I embrace facets of every religion in some way (but only those I agree with), and always find tolerance extremely important. I definitely agree that we should be more open minded, and not have this mindset that everything should be the way that we see.

  8. Excellent post and excellent points yet despite this I think I would leave the disclaimer intact. The more people you reach (children, young adults or adults) the better and if the disclaimer helps some folks get past their ignorance…well that is great. I think that rather than looking like you are tip-toeing around some people I see it as leaving the door open.

  9. In my opinion, I think that people should try to be more open to at least learning about other religions, because even though one may not necessarily believe in that particular religion, almost every religion and culture has its priciples and morals that could be applied to every day life.

    You can know about a religion or culture, etc. and not be a “worshiper” of it. I think that you can appreciate many different aspects of a religion or culture and still be the same person as before. For example, a christain who may love to read and follow the teaches of Buddha- that in no way is wrong.

    That’s just a thought that runs through mind every now and again…It just hurts to see all the war, all the discrimation, etc. based on religion. I think that ignorance is what is really the underlying problem.

    Then again, this is the opinion of a 14 year old, maybe not the most well thought out…haha:)

  10. Marty- hmmm. I’m still divided,…but I’ll make my mind up soon enough. It might be that I just leave the door open.

    Caitlin- If I had my choice of 14 yr old commenters, I would choose yours…hands down. This blog was also a good way for me to vent about the past…as well as lay out the vow that I hope we all can follow.

  11. everyone should respect the religion that they hold. The fact is we are human and we are nothing! God made us as a best creature…and become somebody

  12. Loved your final essay there. Have you made that a published part of your school’s philosophy/practice, or are you saying that you’re just now considering doing that? It’s wonderful, either way. It’d make me feel really good about taking classes from you.

  13. Great Post Michael.
    I think when people like your early detractors react that way it is because their faith is really weak. These type of people are afraid to examine their own faith or analyze their own beliefs for fear they’ll find them lacking. As someone previously said they become paranoid. Anything from outside is a threat, some diabolic temptation to stray from “the one true path”. This type of fear doesn’t exactly promote clear thinking. What was that line from Dune? “Fear is the mindkiller” The irony to me is that it seems every individual fundamentalist church, let alone each denomination with those leanings, has “the one true path”. The trick is to find your own “one true path”. If you have the attitude that no wisdom can come from any tradition other than your own, you’re just making your world very small and limiting. Hard to grow in that environment.

  14. You don’t have to be in the Bible belt to experience religious intolerance and close-mindedness. I have heard similar accounts from people all over the country.

    I find nothing wrong with you keeping your short disclaimer. Maybe you can reframe your thoughts about it in light of the Buddhist view of compassion. Rather than thinking about the disclaimer as defending your art, think of the disclaimer as a small gesture to ease the discomfort from religious misgivings. It doesn’t hurt those already in the know, takes little effort on your part, and shows that you’ve extended the welcome even to those who might initially greet you with a negative reaction.

    Let me add my own personal disclaimer: I don’t claim to be a Buddhism scholar. I’m still learning about it, but thought I’d offer my interpretation.

  15. John- Thank you for honoring my page…don’t mean to “kiss up” but I think you’re a tremendous writer. [everyone visit his page]. To answer your question…gradually all my students are learning about my newly-established blog. Eventually I may post our vow in published form, but for now…I’ll simply urge them to read it…and [hopefully] absorb it.

    Greg! OMG…pulling out a Dune reference! If you were here in Winston, we’d surely “hang out.” I’m such a Dune fanatic that I think (with a strong coffee [or Dew]) could remember the whole movie verbatum. My main stance regarding people (even messiahs)…is that noone holds the monopoly on wisdom. Great comment.

    Johnny- You make a good point. By keeping the disclaimer, the “waters remain calmer” than if I left the website open to misinterpretation. Great thought. Definately gonna put that one under my cap. Peace.

  16. Er… The Buddha never taught himself to be a creator. We collectively create this world we live in. Amituofo

  17. Ashen- yes sir. some of us may not know that. And although I said that part about the “creator” nearly in the same breath as “follow the teachings of the Buddha”… I didn’t mean to imply that the Buddha had a hand as a creator. I simply wish that, for those who believe in a God, a God that creates, that they take a daily acknowledgement in that…and that they seek to better themselves in that light.

  18. Excellent thoughts. It is sad to see so many people have so many misconceptions about Buddhism and other minority religions in America. And yet many of these same people don’t want to learn the truth!! They would just rather stay in the ignorance then face the idea that they might have to change.

  19. Nice words brother.

  20. nice work, bro

  21. Thank you guys!
    Just got an email today from a friend and student, Rob (Dhammasara) whom a Theraveda Buddhist monk and is oversees at the moment. He had some insightful words that I wish to post here.
    One reflection which occurs is a very well known teaching within Buddhism: We are told that there are eight worldly states consisting of four pairs of opposites.
    • Prosperity and poverty or gain and loss
    • Fame and infamy
    • Praise and blame
    • Pleasure and pain
    The reason this list came to mind is that it illustrates the point that no matter what one does, some will praise one, while others will critisize. This is not something we can avoid, after all Jesus was crucified, John the baptist was beheaded if I remember correctly and attempts were made unsuccessfully on the Buddha’s life on at least two occasions. Gandhi was assasinated etc etc. This is also very obviously true of figures in public life today; there are those who praise the President of the US or the Queen of England at the same time as others are critical of them. Both praise and blame being part and parcel of living in the world, no matter who you are.

    The way out of this then is to train oneself not to become attached to being praised and to train oneself not to react with displeasure when we are blamed, in this way we develop equanimity towards both states. Knowledge of Equanimity, when it is fully developed and our other perfections and virtues have reached an adequate level of development is the departure lounge for Liberation. The departure lounge is far as we can go through our own effort as Liberation is uncompounded and unconditioned; to put it in Christian terms, from here it is up to the grace of God.

    If one talks about this sort of thing in a public forum there are bound to be those who will find fault.
    Peace and Love- Coach

  22. […] within the ???Bible-belt??? community of my hometown. I had several email comments within that firshttps://chencenter.wordpress.com/2008/02/28/just-a-thought-2-respect-for-religion/BiblePlan — Helping You Read The BibleBible reading plans in several languages and translations, by […]

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