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Ming Zhen Shakya

(Formerly Chuan Yuan Shakya)


First published as a ten-part series on the World-Wide

Web by the Nan Hua Chan (Zen) Buddhist Society.


Copyright @1997 Chuan Zhi Shakya



Part l: Introduction


They seem as immiscible as oil and water: Zen, the peaceful practice of tranquillity, and the

martial arts, the deadly techniques of hand-to-hand combat. Yet tradition insists that when

Bodhidharma introduced them to the weary priests of Shao Lin Ji he presented them together - a

solution to the problem of enfeebling Samsara, a compounded tonic for the spiritually ailing.


The priests of Shao Lin Monastery were keeping a stale, orthodox regimen when Zen's

formidable "Blue Eyed Demon" arrived from India. They were following the "polishing" way of

inactivity and removal, the way which claims victory over bodily temptations by avoiding other

bodies, which claims victory over contentious thoughts by erasing all thoughts. Too much

sitting had numbed their brains and let their physical condition

languish, yoked in the sluggish pace of spiritual ennui. They gave the stranger from the West

plenty to work with.


Bodhidharma taught them how to be still with purpose and how to be active with meaning.

Relentless, he sat before the whitewashed walls of Shao Lin Ji and demonstrated Ba Guan (wall

gazing) meditation, the effective alpha-generating method psychologists today call the Ganzfeld

Technique. As such, it became Zen's only original contribution to meditation's vast catalog of

methods. But it was a good one.


And when Bodhidharma got up from his cushion he taught the monks how to put Mind into

muscle: he taught them the choreographed combat calisthenics of Gong Fu.


Or so legend has it.


Whatever the facts of origin are, one thing is certain: for centuries... from the Sixth to the

Twentieth... in stunning proof that opposites attract, this unlikely pair, these two disciplines

as counterpoised as peace and war, swayed together in a graceful embrace; and in every Asian

country into which Chinese Zen Buddhism spread, generations of monks joined the spiritual

dance in celebration of their union.



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Nobody thought the dance would ever end. Nobody imagined that there could ever be a force

strong enough to stop the music and sunder the bond. There was. The cataclysm came in the

form of the surrender of the largest American fighting force in the history of U.S. warfare. The

fission-event had a name: Bataan.


To understand the strange chronicle of union and dissolution we must retreat far into history

and explore hidden places on the spiritual path.


In succeeding sections, we'll explore the origins of Gong (Kung) Fu. We'll discuss some of the

physiology and psychology of the martial arts and the reasons why the combined regimen of

meditation and physical skill is able to produce true mastery. We'll examine the Code of

Wushidao (Bushido) that was formulated to guide and to sustain the true

martial artist; and we'll review the reasons why the martial arts were separated from Zen and

suggest ways in which we might reunite the estranged pair.


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Part 2: Origins: A synthesis of cultures


Of all the oriental martial arts, Chinese Gong (Kung) Fu, which means "masterful", is the oldest.

All of the other schools - Korean, Japanese, and other Chinese varieties, grew out of it.


But Gong Fu did not originate in China. It was an Indian import which, legends

notwithstanding, had no doubt entered China long before Bodhidharma contemplated Shao Lin

Ji's walls.


By the time the founder of Zen arrived, the imported "art" had already been refined, expanded,

and in many ways perfected by Daoism's genius for elegant simplicity.


But neither could the "masterful" martial art be said to originate in India; for it actually arrived

there by way of the Aryan invasions which had begun as far back as l500 B.C.


The Aryans were an east-european people who loved to fight and, judging from the spread of

their language - a sure sign of conquest - did it rather well. Sweeping around the world from

Ireland to India, variants of their proto-indo-european idiom such as Gaelic, German, Latin,

Greek, Persian, and Sanskrit testify that life to these happy warriors was one long and satisfying

Blitzkrieg. As victors are wont to do, they thought of themselves as superior persons. Erin,

Iran, and Aryan as well as the English cognate aristocrat all mean "noble".


True aficionados of destruction, they extended the work of conquest into leisurely pursuits, their

fascination for warlike games and sport being mirrored in the Olympic contests of their Greek

cousins, contests in which martial discipline was emphasized... throwing discus, hammer and

javelin, boxing, wrestling, and especially an event called the Pancratium, a sport which combined

boxing and wrestling and a peculiar ability to turn the force of an attacker's thrust back against

him. In this event, no weapons or protective clothing was permitted. Hands and feet sufficed as

instruments of engagement.


With no military force able to halt their advance, the Aryans swept eastward across Afghanistan

and Pakistan, joyously demolishing every civilization in their path. But in India their irresistible

force finally met an immovable object. In India they encountered that stolid monument to

Spirituality, those amazing yogis, those peaceful men who were indomitable mental warriors.

The Aryans were awed.


Without the slightest hint of condescension, yogis demonstrated their imperviousness to pain.

They could walk on fire or withstand bitter cold. They could stay awake for as along as they

wanted or sleep standing up. They could go without food for days and, using only the power of

their minds, they could even staunch the bleeding of their wounds. Aryan generals rubbed their

eyes and thought that they had entered Heaven's War Room. This kind of power was worth a

good, long look. The Blitzkrieg ended. The blonde bullies settled down. The yogis were

certainly a different breed of heroes. They desired little and lacked nothing. Through the simple

expedient of becoming emotionally unattached to the people, places, and things of this world,

they conquered and reigned, independent and invincible.


Practicing Raja (royal) Yoga, the kingdom over which a yogi so imperiously ruled consisted of

only himself. But what a powerful state it was.


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A yogi mastered his mind by meditative exercise, spiritual discipline, devotional observance, and,

of course, by adhering to a strict ethical code. He mastered his body through the rigorous

practice of Asanas, postures which promoted extraordinary balance and flexibility.


The Aryans took the spiritual techniques of Indian religion and combined them with the

Pancratium event of Olympic sport and called this new synthesis Vajramushti which means

Thunderbolt Fist.


Culture spreads along waterways, and the few hundred miles between India's Ganges delta and

China's port city of Canton is filled with great rivers... the Irrawaddy, the Rouge, the Mekong,

the Si Jiang. South China Daoists learned Vajramushti and then improved it by choreographing

its movements and giving them fluid grace and by adding the powerful techniques of breath

control which Chinese pearl divers had developed. They called the new version Tai Ji Quan

which means Great Ultimate Fist. In its pure martial arts form it was called Gong Fu, the

masterful art.


News of the new improved Chinese version traveled up and down the rivers' information

highway. Centuries later in 325 B.C., when Alexander the Great in another Aryan incursion

invaded India, he was stunned by the daunting abilities of even second-rate Vajramushti

practitioners. (Even today India's martial arts' masters are second to none.)


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Part 3: Bodhidharma, the alien Aryan


The great rivers which crisscrossed Indo-China carried more than information about self-

defense techniques. Ideas and inventions also traversed these waterways. The people who

occupied the area, though often racially and linguistically unrelated, were farmers, hunters,

fishermen, housekeepers, and craftsmen who enjoyed the bounty of similar natural resources

and suffered from the same dependable pestilences and unreliable weather. Their clothing,

buildings, and implements of work and war differed in style but not in basic design. Form

happily follows function but tradition drags its heels.


Naturally they placated gods of similar temperament. The philosophical principles of Yoga were

well known in South China: Brahman and The Dao were virtually interchangeable concepts. The

One. The Indivisible. The Union of Opposites. But Chinese genius had refined the concept;

and Daoism was a cooler, more elegant version of its Indian counterpart. The heated and often

overwrought methodologies of Kundalini Yoga were refreshed and moderated when presented

as Daoism's Microcosmic Orbit meditations. Additionally, Daoism subsumed the entire body of

Chinese medicine: the knowledge of physical anatomy, the comprehensive pharmacology and

the pain relieving procedures of acupuncture and acupressure. Daoism's pragmatic approach

also expanded and enriched Indian appreciation of Prana.


To the Indian, Prana was more than just the breath of life... the vital force or "inspirit" which

God had used to vivify clay. It was the core discipline of the science of Yoga. Daoism's no frills

approach to spirituality simplified the science and made it more accessible to practitioners. The

beneficial distribution of Prana (called Qi (Chi) by Daoists) to every part of the body, became

Daoism's singular obsession. Study of the meridians, the psychic nerve channels through which

Qi was delivered and circulated, gave rise to the knowledge of dozens of particularly sensitive

pressure points, points which the martial artist would later exploit. The human body's

vulnerability to acute pain or to muscular paralysis at these points would make them the prime

targets of a combatant's strikes.


It so happened that when Buddhism was about a thousand years old a certain fatigue, if not

rigor mortis, began to set in. Tons of sutras and shastras began to press the life out of it.

Desiccated old men haunted Buddhist libraries while younger, more adventurous devotees left

to merrily pant the oxygen rich atmosphere of Tantrism. With so much Buddhist energy being

drained away in pseudo-spiritual sexual hemorrhage, the religion found itself in desperate need

of more than the usual dose of Mahayana rectitude. It needed a transfusion of Daoism's

practical, holistic power.


Bodhidharma, who, as Indian Prince and Buddhist priest, was well-educated both in

Vajramushti/Tai Ji Quan techniques and in philosophy and theology, wanted to bring Buddhism

out of the libraries and lecture halls of esthetes and pedants and into the everyday minds of the

common man. His Indian temperament, camouflaged amidst China's "southern" thinkers,

accorded him a nearly native claim to Daoism's methodology. He therefore combined Indian

Buddhist philosophy with Daoist methodology, and came to orthodox China to preach his new

synthesis: Zen.


And what was this "Zen"? The word simply means meditation. In Sanskrit the word is "dhyan";

the English cognate of which is "dwell". Dhyan and Zen appear to be unrelated words, but in


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fact they are similarly pronounced. Whenever a heavily voiced "D" precedes the glide "Y", as in

Did You, the sounds are usually combined and pronounced as a "J". We say, "Di'ja go?." Ed-u-

cate becomes "ejucate." Canad-i-an becomes "Cajun." Sanskrit's Dhyan (meditation) became

"Jen" - pronounced exactly that way but written as Chan in Chinese. In Japanese, a slight

variation: Zen.


Temperament is not a mask. Bodhidharma was a blue-eyed aryan and tended to stand out in a

crowd. Besides his startling appearance, he demonstrated some rather formidable meditation

powers; and the Chinese, suitably impressed, gave him the sobriquet, "The Blue-Eyed Demon."

Novelty being its own cachet the Prince from India was soon invited to the Imperial Court of

the Liang Dynasty's Emperor Wu.


Bodhidharma did not fail to use the opportunity to publicize his new Zen doctrine, the rationale

which would become the governing code of martial arts' conduct: The Code of Wu Shi Dao...

The Warrior's (Wu Shi) Way (Dao). In Japanese: Bushido.


The Emperor had built many temples and performed many charitable acts and considered

himself the most hard working and worthy of orthodox Buddhists; and so he asked the Zen

philosopher how much merit all his imperial good deeds had gained him.


Bodhidharma looked surprised. "Why, none." he answered.


The Emperor grew indignant. "Then what," he demanded, "if not good works should I as a

Buddhist have striven to accomplish?" "To be empty of yourself," answered Bodhidharma. It

was not the sort of remark one generally made to Chinese emperors.


The emperor countered, "Just who do you think you are?" and Bodhidharma shrugged. "I have

no idea," he said.


But the man with no ego was not a fool; The Blue Eyed Demon left town fast and headed for

the sanctuary of Shao Lin Monastery.


At Shao Lin Ji, as legend has it, Zen's First Patriarch found the priests to be in such poor

physical condition that, in addition to teaching them his new form of meditation Buddhism, he

instructed them in the Tai Ji Quan/Vajramushti discipline


known to us now as Gong (Kung) Fu.


However the Shao Lin priests managed to learn Gong Fu, one thing is certain: they learned it

well within the context of Zen's Code of Conduct. The martial arts were practiced as a spiritual

discipline, a devotional exercise, an expression of egoless action. There could be no swaggering,

no aggressiveness, no emotional involvement of any kind... and never a thought of vengeance.

An angry man or a proud man was unfit for such ritualized combat. If a student started to

behave egoistically and didn't catch himself in the act, he'd get a lesson in humility when his

master caught up with him.


"To be empty of yourself!" Think of it. What did Bodhidharma mean and how exactly did that

meaning translate into Wushidao/Bushido?


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Part 4: Wushidao/Bushido explained


"Be empty of yourself!" Bodhidharma's directive had been a tough one for the Emperor to

wind the Imperial brain around. The Emperor, unfortunately, was not to be alone in his

predicament. All Mahayana Buddhists, regardless of rank, discover its confusing difficulty

whenever they recite the Heart Sutra: "Form is not different from Emptiness. Emptiness is not

different from Form." What does it mean to be empty and what does whatever it means have to

do with the martial arts?


Essentially, Form is Samsara, the world of the ego. It is history, Greenwich Mean Time. It is

Maya, the pleasing illusion of permanence, our erroneous notion that matter's form and

constitution are fixed, that our own egos are as stable as the Matterhorn.


Maya is the conditional world. Under certain conditions water becomes ice. When the

conditions change, it may become steam. Somewhere between solid and vapor we encounter

liquid which, we arbitrarily decide, is water's normal state. Atoms of hydrogen and oxygen do

their little molecular dance and laugh. Who are we, they wonder, to decide what is normal?


We see a rock and wax poetic about its eternal properties. Years pass and when gross inspection

of the rock reveals no alteration, we are reassured. A geologist would see change as clearly as a

farmer counts upon it; but we don't care to look. Rocks are what we build our faith upon.


We form a bond with an individual and think we know him and his face. We fix his character

and his features in our mind, certain that they will be as indelibly etched in time as they are in

our memory. Years pass and when we see the person again, we're so startled by the changes our

suspicions are aroused. What destructive force... or behavior... wrought such premature decay?

Naturally we are annoyed if the person whose facial lines we so have so carefully mapped

regards our own face as so much terra incognita. Perhaps, we wonder, he has an ulterior motive

for deliberately failing to recognize us.


In Samsara, all things are in flux. We cannot step into the same river twice. The water keeps

flowing: new molecules rush to rub up against our sneakers as old molecules sigh with relief for

having survived the ordeal. Our mind changes just as continuously, acquiring new data and

forgetting old, and forming upon shifting data bases those evanescent opinions which it regards

as solidly based convictions. No matter how many of us agree on the nature of another person's

character, or on our own, or on the properties of an observable phenomenon, both the observer

and the observed are changing, all our certainties to the contrary notwithstanding. Ultimately, we

can rely on nothing. Samsara is the ego's world of conditional relationships. Samsara is our hell.


Emptiness is Nirvana... and what Nirvana is empty of is ego. Without the seductions of a fickle

ego, reality lacks the incentive to transform itself into illusion. Nirvana may be entered when we

are in elevated states of spiritual consciousness or in any true state of meditation during which,

by definition, the ego has been transcended. In the sense that we are still physically present

whenever we enter the egoless state, Nirvana and Samsara may be said to occupy the same place.

But Nirvana consists in another "meta" physical dimension, a dimension which contains Plato's

Ideal Forms, and the Tushita Heaven's Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, and the empyrean Void.



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Nirvana is the eternal, egoless world of unchanging and therefore reliable reality. We cannot gain

Nirvana through hypnotism, drugs or quietism. Among the ranks of spiritual heroes, we seldom

find supper club hypnotists, potheads, or zombies. We gain Nirvana through purging ourselves

of self interest. Pride, lust and greed have to be sacrificed in the interests of ecstasy. Prideful

passions must be replaced by compassionate humility. Add to this a little Grace, and we're

home free. Nirvana is our heaven.


In Nirvana, we become emotionally independent of those persons, places, and things of the

world to which we previously affixed the adjective "my". We no longer identify ourselves in

terms of our relationship to them. This independence does not mean that we do not care, it

means that we do not possessively care. Instead of having friends, we are merely friendly.


Achieving Nirvana is the single goal of Zen Buddhists. Is this also the goal of the martial artist?

Yes. We can have sport or athleticism without Zen, but to have artistry we require spiritual

discipline and the peculiar insight that comes with spiritual experience.


Here, in part, is the Code of Wushidao/Bushido, the Spiritual Way of the Warrior:


"I have no parents; I make heaven and earth my parents. I have no friends; I make my thoughts

my friends. I have no enemy; I make carelessness my enemy. I have no armor; I make goodwill

and honesty my armor. I have no fortress; I make my Immovable Mind my fortress. I have no

sword; I make my sleeping ego my sword. I have no magic; I make submission to Divine Will

my magic. I have no miracles; I make the Dharma my miracle."


How does a man exist without parents and friends, we wonder. Why is it necessary that he cut

himself off from the people he loves? Surely, we say, no great world religion such as Buddhism

would ever impose such harsh conditions on its followers. But here is Jesus on the subject:

Gospel of Luke, Chapter 14, Verse 26:


"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and

brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." Hate? We cringe at

the word. But Jesus is speaking metaphorically. In Buddhism this metaphor is further

exaggerated but in the extension becomes more graspable: We say that we must kill those we

love. The following Zen story illustrates this requirement:


Upon being told by his master that he must cut himself free of all emotional entanglements and

'kill' those to whom he is emotionally attached, the novice asks, "But my parents, Master? Must

I slay them, too?"


The master answers, "Who are they to be spared?"


"And you, Master? Must I kill you also?"


The master responds, "There is not enough of me left for you to get your hands on."


This, of course, is the egoless state, the only state in which we can love unconditionally. In the

egoless state we care for people without meddling in their lives. We reject all sentimental,

contractual relationships which lull us into comfortable illusions of security or press us into

compromising our integrity.


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In religious terms, the ultimate object of both Zen and the martial arts' training is the conquest

of the ego. A man has to realize that the arts of war which he practices in the Dojo are first and

foremost the tactics and stratagems of a battle that rages within his own soul. This is how he

conquers himself. The Code of the Warrior, therefore, is an innocuous enumeration of the

sacrifices which flesh must make to spirit, a restatement of the creed of worldly non-attachment

which, in one form or another, exists in all religions.


How do we attain the goal of emptiness? Just as we grasp with the whole hand and not with one

or two fingers, we make a many pronged attack upon the problem, approaching it from many



We first accept the spiritual regimen which Wushidao's Code prescribes, realizing that it is an

integral part of a discipline which is known and observed in all the world's great religions.

Spiritual soldiers are hardly unique to Buddhism.


Wushidao, however, is antithetical to pseudo, pantheistic nature religions and it is

unambiguously opposed to any form of ancestor worship including all forms of Confucian-style

deification of human forebears. Nana and Pop-Pop do not reign over the Dharmakaya.


Yet, however strongly the concept was presented in Luke 14:26 and elsewhere in the New

Testament, the western world found the concept unthinkable when it was presented in Buddhist

terms. The reason for this is clear: the doctrine had been corrupted by the militaristic regimes of



When Zen entered Japan in thirteenth century medieval times, it was immediately drafted by the

Samurai. It was still suffering this conscription when a series of Zen monks compiled the

Hagakure ("Hidden under the leaves"), a rewriting of Wushidao principles which conformed

them to the requirements of militaristic schemes.


According to the new version, Bushido, the Zen martial artist's singular objective was honor, by

which it was meant doing nothing shameful, i.e., doing nothing to embarrass one's ancestors,

who, as it happened, were always ardent supporters of whichever Shogun or Warlord was

employing the Zen martial artist. Dishonor, which was to be avoided at all costs, was equated

with the fear of death. Therefore, for a man to be really honorable, he had to actively seek a

proud and honorable death. Buddhist humility was no where in sight.


The Hagakure version of the Way of the Warrior thoroughly confounded and compromised the

original doctrine and set the stage for sundering what the Buddhist world had thought was

divinely joined: Zen and Wushidao.


The sundering was accomplished in World War II.


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Part 5: The Battle of Bataan


Bataan was not a routine early-war defeat for the U.S. Army.


The Battle of Bataan has the distinction of resulting in the surrender of the largest American

fighting force in the history of U.S. warfare. But numbers do not necessarily describe defeat.

The real winner of an engagement may well be the one who inflicts the most damage; and

according to this combat criterion, the greater loss was Japan's. It was rather like the Alamo

when, after the battle, one of Santa Ana's generals surveyed the carnage and said to him, "One

more victory like this and we're finished." The Japanese paid dearly for the privilege of raising

the Rising Sun over the Bataan peninsula.


It is sadly recorded that on December 7, l941 Japan launched a surprise attack on American

territories in the Pacific. Among the chief targets were Hawaii, now a state, and the Philippines,

now an independent nation.


While Japan's planes bombed Pearl Harbor, her ships went to the Philippines and disembarked a

huge invasion force consisting of several hundred thousand men. The prize they sought was the

port city of Manila.


Manila was situated at the innermost point of Manila Bay in what might be described as the

bottom of a bottle. To get to Manila by sea, the Bay-bottle had to be navigated. The right side

of the bottle was the large Luzon landmass; the left side was the narrow, twelve-mile-wide

Bataan peninsula. The bottle's long neck was only a few miles wide, and in the middle of its

opening lay a small waterless rock called Corregidor. In order for their Navy to enter Manila

Bay and dock at the port of Manila, the Japanese had to take both the heavily jungled Bataan

peninsula and the rock of Corregidor.


Deciding on a classic pincers maneuver, the Japanese army advanced overland and took the City

of Manila, cutting off the Bataan peninsula. This inland thrust severed all lines of supply to the

American and Filipino defenders of the peninsula. It also caused thousands of civilian refugees

to stream southward into the defensive positions.


Having secured the north of the peninsula, the Japanese placed their warships off the west and

south and proceeded to pound American positions from the sea while simultaneously launching

amphibious attacks on coastal defenses. Then, there being no American warplanes of ny kind in

the area, unopposed Japanese warplanes bombed targets at will as thousands of Japanese soldiers

pressed down from the north.


General Douglas MacArthur, ordered to defend both Corregidor and Bataan, foresaw the

inevitable and said, "Well, the enemy may hold the bottle, but I hold the cork."


The Japanese regarded the guns of the cork - Corregidor's famous cannons - as a joke. With

amusement they noted that the guns had been cast in the year l896 and could not even rotate on

their mountings. Japanese weapons of war represented, on the other hand, the absolute state of

the art.



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With American supply lines cut off and the additional drain on resources by the refugees, all

stores of food and medicine were quickly depleted. The defenders of Bataan and Corregidor did

not have enough of anything to last for more than thirty days.


General Tomoyuki Yamashita estimated that the peninsula would be in Japanese hands within

two weeks. It should have been. It wasn't.


When December... January... February... passed with huge Japanese casualties and no dent in the

American defensive positions, the general, furious and in serious danger of losing face, requested

and received thousands of fresh troops.


The American forces, however, received nothing. Throughout the entire siege they received no

military support of any kind nor any resupply of food or medicine. As the weeks dragged on

they battled not only the enemy but malaria, dengue fever, hookworm, amoebic dysentery,

beriberi, scurvy, infected war wounds, and, of course, starvation.


Cavalry, they ate their horses and mules, and when these were gone, they ate snakes and rats and

whatever else they could scavenge. Their Japanese attackers were on full rations.


And so with no relief, no resupply, and not a single word of hope from home, the defenders of

the strategic entrance to Manila Bay rightly considered themselves military orphans. In a now-

famous poem one GI wrote:


We are the battling bastards of Bataan.

Ain't got no mommas, no pappas, no Uncle Sam.

Ain't got no nephews, no nieces, no artillery pieces.

Ain't got no one out there who gives a damn.


The American people gave a damn... they just couldn't do anything about it. Every night on the

news came the reports the battle... of the suffering and the bravery... and all people could do was

bite their knuckles and pray.


Then, in March, after months of relentless naval and aerial bombardment and the hand-to-hand

combat of wave upon wave of amphibious and land assaults, the Japanese began to penetrate

American lines with suicide squads.


Still, March came and went and the Americans and Filipinos fought on. Despite their

exhaustion, disease, starvation and the utter hopelessness of their cause, they fought on.


And in the face of this uncommon valor, on April 1st, General Yamashita sent his airplanes to

drop canisters on the American positions. Inside each canisters was the following note:


To His Excellency, Major General Jonathan Wainwright:


We have the honor to address you in accordance with Bushido - the code

of the Japanese warrior. You have already fought to the best of your

ability. What dishonor is there in following the example of the defenders

of Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies? Your Excellency:


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Accept our sincere advice and save the lives of those officers and men

under your command. International law would be strictly adhered to.


Yet, for more than a week afterwards, the American and Filipino defenders continued to fight

until they were finally overrun and forced to surrender on April 9, l942. The four month siege

had ended.


Estimates of the number of survivors vary. The Japanese captured some fifty or sixty thousand

men. Though announcing that they would adhere to the life-respecting rules of Bushido, they

instead gave the survivors only one canteen of water each, no food or medicine whatsoever, and

forced them to march the sixty-five mile length of the Bataan peninsula in the tropical heat. A

postwar count revealed that 25,000 American and Filipino prisoners died on the road, many of

them with their hands still tied behind them, their heads lopped off or their backs bayoneted, the

penalty for begging for water. This was the infamous Death March of Bataan.


When a Time Magazine correspondent later asked General Wainwright why he had waited a

week before surrendering... why he hadn't accepted General Yamashita's promise to adhere to

the principles of Bushido, General Wainwright replied that he knew all about Bushido. He new

how the Japanese had treated their Chinese prisoners of war. "I therefore gave the offer all the

answer it deserved," he said. "I ignored it."


After the war, General MacArthur oversaw the American occupation of Japan. It is a measure

of his greatness that he succeeded completely in his mission to restore the dignity and the

economy of that defeated nation. But he remembered Bataan. He remembered Bushido. And

as generous as he was to the Japanese, he absolute forbade them to practice any of the martial

arts covered by Bushido's code. All secular martial arts' clubs were disbanded. (He allowed only

one exception: pacifistic, defensive Aikido.) Even Zen Buddhist monks were forbidden to

practice any of the routine exercise "forms" of the disciplines. Anything related to Bushido was

seen to be at the core of a disgusting, subhuman, fanatical, warrior cult. It didn't matter that the

Japanese military had never really taught the Code much less observed it . . . that they had

merely pirated its benevolent mystique much as the Nazis had plundered the mystique of the

Swastika, Buddhism's other goodwill icon. These deliberate subversions of Buddhism's

reputation had been intended to conn the world into believing that the intentions of those who

used them were entirely as noble as any ancient Aryan had ever dreamed of being. The world

was slow to recover from the ruse.


Post World War II saw a burst of international cultural exchanges. The French ate hamburgers.

Americans ate Pizza and imported Yoga and Indian forms of worship. But not Buddhism nor

the martial arts. Americans wanted no part of either of them.


China could have exported Buddhism and Gong Fu, but nothing was coming out of China.

Nationalists and Communists were fighting a civil war that would close China for decades. It

was not until the late l950s, after the Korean Conflict, that American prejudice against

Buddhism and the martial arts had lessened sufficiently to tolerate their import. And when they

came they, of course, came separately.


Zen Buddhism and the martial arts had been officially divorced.


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Part 6: Postwar American Buddhism - the Swinging Singles


While China as both hunter and hunted engaged itself in the blood sports of revolution, Zen

(Chan) Buddhism's wily Fox Spirit "went to ground".


Zen's premier monastery, Nan Hua Si, led by the Venerable Xu Yin (Empty Cloud), quietly

drew on thirteen hundred years' experience of surviving political challenges. It recovered from

the ordeals of Japanese invasion in time to brace for what was to be a quarter-century siege of

civil war, bullying Communist bureaucrats and brutal Red Guards.


Most of South China's monastic centers, suppressed to skeletal function, entered suspended

animation and hibernated through their long, dark winter's discontent as they waited for the

clemency of a more enlightened government; but northern religious centers, too close to

Beijing's officious notice to elude the war dogs, usually found no underground to run to. Priests

were frequently "re-educated" often with swift, short, and fatal lessons. Shao Lin Ji, along with

other ancient monastery complexes, was closed. Throughout China, those masters of the

martial arts who had escaped conscription or imprisonment continued to teach Gong Fu to

anyone who brought the proper attitude to the discipline, but such spiritual teachings as there

were appeared publicly in the more secular guise of Qi Gong.


Although Buddhism, Daoism, and the Buddhist/Daoist synthesis, Zen, were far too ingrained in

the Chinese psyche for marxist ideologues to eradicate, the exportation of Chinese meditation

and martial arts' teachings was effectively halted. Hong Kong and Taiwan, more concerned with

the immediate life and-death issues of sovereignty, gave no priority to the international

marketing of their ancient religious disciplines.


On the heels of Chinese Communism's civil war victory, came North Korea's l950 invasion of

South Korea. U.S. participation in the defense of South Korea left Americans certain about the

evils of Communism, but more confused than ever about Buddhism now that they had

encountered it in a friendly nation. The religion didn't seem like the same fanatical and godless

cult the Japanese had introduced nearly a decade earlier.


That Buddhism finally began to get the benefit of doubt was no doubt due to the application of

the adage, "The friend of my friend is possibly my friend, but the enemy of my enemy is

definitely my friend." Chinese Communists were killing American soldiers in Korea; and in the

Chinese mainland, Chinese Communists were attacking both Christianity and Buddhism.

Common enemies make common allies, and allies are at least temporary friends.


In the U.S., a benign but restrained interest developed in things Oriental . . . artwork, literature,

philosophy, religion, and physical fitness programs. But in particular, doomsday scenarios of

nuclear catastrophe had given the average Joe a survivalist mentality. This, of course, and the

rise in street crime made Americans ripe for learning Asian forms of self defense.


Ironically, it was the importation of Japanese culture which became the legacy of the Korean



By the mid-l950s, while Korea was still struggling with the aftermath of war, Japan had long

since come to grips with peace; and, since China had already withdrawn from polite society, the


Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun


field was now open for the divorced pair of Japanese Zen and Japanese Martial Arts to present

themselves to their American hosts as legitimate Buddhism and Bushido. The antics of the

shameless couple were as shocking to the Japanese as they were exciting to the Americans who

separately entertained them.


In the U.S., Zen, cool, refined, intellectual and exotic, helped engender the new postwar attitude

- a wave of sang froid to compensate existential angst and postdiluvian Christian righteousness.

Beatniks and Dharma Bums. Bongo drums and bhang. Hippies, Peace-niks and Flower Power.

Zen was definitely In.


Across the country Zendos ubiquitously appeared, to use the Buddha's Diamond Sutra simile,

"as miraculously as mushrooms . . . or gods . . ." So did Zen Buddhist converts.


Fortunately for the importing savants, Japanese Zen stands to Buddhism as Protestantism stands

to Christianity: austere . . . straight-lined buildings with no-frills interiors and minimal or no

artwork... and, of course, a non-celibate clergy. Chinese Zen stands to Buddhism as Roman

Catholicism stands to Christianity: expansive . . . intricate architecture with ornate decoration

and much statuary . . . and a strictly celibate clergy.


The new American posture, being of the Japanese orientation, was, therefore, easy to maintain.

Nobody had to explain all those Buddhist statues with their troublesome swastikas.


Callow American youths declared themselves bodhisattvas, and with zeal conferred by bhang

and benzedrine, proceeded to save, if not all sentient beings, then at least the sensual ones. The

Doctrine that forbade sentimental attachments to parents and friends did not seem to prohibit

lovers. In fact, the permission to marry was often interpreted as a mandate for promiscuity as

birth control pills and condoms completed the clerical Kit. Scandal followed scandal. With no

established hierarchy to maintain order, anarchy naturally resulted. Personal disagreements led

to fragmenting schism. As new groups formed, self-ordination became the order of the day.

What was Zen? Whatever anybody wanted it to be.


Persons with bachelor degrees in psychology or English literature seemed automatically to

qualify for the honorific title of Roshi. Here and there the title was deserving: Jiyu Kennett,

Philip Kapleau, Bernard Glassman, Joko Beck, Robert Aitken - to name a few of the real-mccoy

teachers who rose to prominence. Unfortunately, the landscape was dotted with fake mccoys.


The Reverend Alan Watts, a Church of England priest, became Zen's principle exponent even

though, by his own admission, he had never so much as attained the altered state of

consciousness defined as meditation. Nobody seemed to think it relevant that Zen, which

means "meditation", had never been experienced by the person who spoke with such authority

about it. (Sadly, Alan Watts would later die an alcoholic's death.)


Wherever it was not anchored by the truly spiritual, Zen drifted off into the wretched currents

of Six Worlds' spurious Zen: the Angel Zen of esthetes; the Animal Zen of the timid; the

Human Being Zen of the efficient; the Titan Zen of bullies; the Hungry Ghost Zen of

dilettantes; the Devil Zen of well attired poseurs.



Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun


There was merit in the approach. Zen remained unmarked by the cachet of fanaticism which

Bataan had caused Christian America to stamp on Buddhism. Either Zen was not a true

Buddhist Path or else it was too bizarre to take seriously.


The problem for the martial arts was different.


Since Bataan, Christians, who understood the purpose of Christian monastic training - the

deliberate quest for humility through the systematic destruction of egoism - a process called

"dying to self", were convinced that when Buddhist monastics used the term they were

advocating ritual suicide - seppuku or hara-kiri. The Hagakure, which came to the West's

attention after World War II, confirmed this view.


For American martial arts' entrepreneurs the problem was simply stated: how to attract Christian

clients without offending Christian sensibilities? The solution was simply effected: dump

Bushido and with it any suggestion of religious sentiment. Fortunately, Daoist emblems were

untainted. On one hand, nobody had waved a Tai Chi (yin/yang) symbol at the Americans on

Bataan or Corregidor; and on the other hand, the Tai Chi symbol was omnipresent in friendly

South Korea.


Overnight the intriguing black and white pair of commas was incorporated into the logo of

every martial arts studio in Christendom. In applique and embroidery, dragons and tigers, freed

from all negative associations, appeared on Tee-shirts and jackets. There even appeared an

occasional "laughing Buddha" whose innocence extended to permission to rub his belly for luck,

something martial artists, in lieu of spiritual fortitude, were in need of.


Without the moral code of Bushido to conform theory to practice, the martial arts degenerated

into mere sport just as Zen had degenerated into New Age fluff.


Imitation showed the extent of flattery's sincerity. Dojo etiquette was de rigueur as travesties of

formality obtained. Students eager to kick ass bowed stiffly from the waist to opportunists who

called themselves Sensei.


Inevitably, the same lack of hierarchical authority produced fragmentation and schism. Dojos

multiplied like amoebas. One produced two: two produced four; four produced sixteen, and so

on infinitum. Storefront studios popped up in the shabby malls of every town.


The sport that fed itself upon fad and fear developed an appetite for theatrical heroics.


If we could not produce masters, we could produce movie stars. American born but Hong Kong

trained Bruce Lee became, unquestionably, the brightest start in the martial arts' cinematic

firmament. A consummate martial artist, Lee brought to his performances an exquisite level of

skill and a resonating spiritual charisma. But it was Chuck Norris who would best exemplify the

American martial arts fighter. Tough and with the spiritual persona of a rutabaga, Norris led the

sport down the only path it could go at the time. Due to the popularity of the Billy Jack films,

the Kung Fu television series, and the Karate Kid films, people came to study martial arts under

black-belted entrepreneurs, many of whom had managed to attain mastery in the empty halls of

Shao Lin Ji.



Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun


A rise in street crime brought adults to the dojos or training gymnasiums, but adults soon

learned that, given their dismally inadequate physical condition, they ran greater risks of being

injured in the dojo than on the street.


In the "me" generation of the 80s, a new trend developed: The martial artist was seen as a

buffoon... John Belushi and other comedians lampooned him; and in one of the more important

films which referenced the martial arts, Indiana Jones laughed in the face of a threatening Ninja

and then matter-of-factly drew his gun and shot him dead. The point was not lost on a

generation of sofa spuds. It didn't take years of muscle training to squeeze a trigger.


The dojos contributed to the humor. Many continued to emphasize high-flying kicks and other

flashy acrobatic moves that were originally intended to enable foot soldiers to knock horsemen

off their mounts. Such moves were regarded as ludicrous in terms of modern self-defense.

Nobody in the l980s expected to be mugged by someone on horseback.


The public perception of the value of the martial arts steadily declined as the return in personal

protection no longer seemed worth the investment of time and money and the risk of training

injuries. Besides, the average businessman felt strange carrying stardarts in his breast pocket. A

more conventional can of mace, a stun-gun, a hired bodyguard, or a Beretta would protect an

individual far better. And so, in the public mind, the martial arts degenerated even further into

just another blood sport.


And in the United States as well as Japan, young men and women of stamina and ambition were

well advised to take up tennis or golf. More deals were cut at country clubs than at dojos.


And then real Buddhists started arriving from the Orient. Mature, celibate priests began to

arrive from China and Viet Nam, Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Tibet, priests who understood the

commitment to Dharma. Ordinary Buddhist immigrants arrived and became ordinary neighbors

who flew the Stars and Stripes on the Fourth of July.


Orientals began to join oriental martial arts' studios and with their influx, the need for

organization became both obvious and acute. Responding to this need, the various schools

began to organize into regulatory federations which established standards of performance,

competitive criteria, and so on.


When the martial arts finally submitted to the idea of self discipline, people stopped laughing.

But still, there was a gap in every school's training regimen, a split that lay open like a wound.

The martial arts needed the Code of the Warrior; and the Code of the Warrior was pure Zen...

of which, during the narcissistic l980s, there was precious little in the U.S. Zen, too, needed

order and stability. Zen, too, needed Wushidao.


And somebody began to wonder if the divorce was final, after all. Whether frivolous Zen could

reunite with macho Gong Fu, whether these pseudo-disciplines could mate again and become

what they were always intended to be: two halves of the glorious whole: the Buddha Dharma's

Gentle Force of Goodness. Power and the Law Power Obeys.


Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun



Part 7: Why the marriage works


One man may conquer ten thousand men in battle

while another man may conquer only himself . . .

yet this man is the greater victor.

- The Buddha (Dhammapada)


Every Zen practitioner is a warrior and the Code of the Warrior, Wushidao (Bushido), defines

his objectives and governs his actions.


In medieval Europe, the Paladin, a religious knight who trained in the heroics of championship,

was expected to be brave, modest, pious, generous and courteous to his foes even as he impaled

them on his lance or cleaved them with his sword. Likewise, the Wushi, the Chinese Paladin,

was expected to conform his conduct to the high standards of a spiritually refined knighthood.


It is no accident that martial arts were traditionally taught in monasteries. From the earliest days

of the pancratium/yoga synthesis, it was seen that the surest way to produce a champion was to

fuse in his character the ethics and humility of spiritual conviction with the wisdom which only

meditation can provide. In fact, it was always assumed that an enlightened man required very

little in the way of additional physical training and conditioning to attain mastery in any martial

art. As art transcends technique, martial art had to go beyond mere athleticism.


Without Wushidao, there could be skill in boxing, wrestling and kicking; but mastery would not

inform the practice. Without Wushidao, there could be meditation as therapy or devotional

exercise, but spiritual authority would not be attained. Therefore, in all regimens of physical

training, the spiritual code of the warrior was given pre-eminence.


Depending upon such considerations as geography and politics, different varieties of the martial

arts arose; but regardless of stylistic differences, the common denominator of all masterful

performers was a peculiar spiritual demeanor, a demeanor evidenced by imperturbable humility.


What rationale and methodology did the master follow which conferred upon him such distinct

advantages over any opponent who was not similarly disciplined?


We have all heard of a martial arts' master who, though old and, compared to his opponent,

weak to the point of fragility, still manages to win. His defeated opponent will afterward insist

that the master has an uncanny ability to read minds. What the master has is an uncanny ability

to anticipate.


The moment his opponent begins to execute a strike, the master has already begun to block or

parry and to follow through with a well-targeted counter-strike or riposte. Additionally, the

master moves with effortless fluidity, without conscious consideration of a single move. He

remains in a state of complete dispassion, going through the motions of combat without feeling

the emotions of combat. He is able to remain calm because his ego is not involved in the

contest. Let's look at how he accomplishes this.


Even though in his relaxed or casual moments the master may experience a comparatively high

state of awareness, when beginning a contest he will nevertheless heighten this state by entering


Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun


a meditative trance. To an observer, this shift of consciousness may be so subtle as to be

imperceptible, yet the master has completely evicted his ego from the combat arena. The

method he uses to accomplish this is usually a simple triggering stimulus.


First, he concentrates his attention on some object - think of a hypnotist swinging a gold watch

back and forth in front of a person's eyes or a fortune teller staring into a crystal ball. In the

martial arts the focal point is usually the body's center of gravity, sometimes called the Hara,

which is a point deep in the abdomen where the aorta (the large blood vessel that exits the heart

and travels down the center of the body) splits to become the femoral or thigh arteries.


Using specific meditation exercises (given at the conclusion of this series) the master trains

himself to feel his pulse beating at his Hara or center of gravity; and, using concentration on this

point as the triggering stimulus, he enters a meditative trance as he simultaneously balances

himself around this center.


At this point, the master's ego-identity has vanished. He's no longer a person. He's simply a

fighting machine. He's not wondering how good he looks. He's not wondering what he's going

to do after the contest or even what move he's going to make next. He's not thinking, period.

He has practiced his combat skills to reflexive perfection, and he lets his training take over,

reacting automatically as he enters an intense Zone of egoless concentration.


This egoless state gives him several distinct advantages. He can react instantaneously; he can

process fainter signals, signals which otherwise might be undetectable. He can respond to

sensory data which his conscious ego might not notice or know how to interpret correctly, and

he can prevent his own body from experiencing the deleterious effects of emotion or pain. And

yes, he can even curtail blood loss should he be wounded. How does entry into this Zone

facilitate such advantages? Let's examine the mechanics of an action/reaction event.


In order for a person to respond to a given stimulus, that stimulus must cross several thresholds.

First, it must be noticed by an appropriate sense organ. Sensory organs pick up information in

the form of energy: light energy excites the receptors within the eye; compression waves of

sound strike the ear drum; heat energy directly passes through our fingertips, and so on.


Let's say that a student martial artist, a man with normal vision, is sitting in a dark room and that

he's been given the instructions to shout "Yo!" whenever he sees a tiny green light flash. For

him to respond, the light stimulus must be bright enough to excite the cones and rods in his

eyes. If the light is too dim, it will fail to excite these receptors. But if it does excite them, it has

crossed the first threshold: the SENSORY threshold.


The stimulus must then have enough energy remaining to travel along neural pathways to his

brain. If it succeeds in making itself felt in the brain, it has crossed the second threshold, the

PERCEPTUAL threshold. The brain records the green light event - it's now entered in the

student's data banks, so to speak.


The student can "overlook" or otherwise pay no attention to this data (his ego may be directing

its attention elsewhere or he may simply be daydreaming) in which case the light event is

recorded in his brain without his being aware of it at all. Under hypnosis, he can retrieve the

information. Consider the often cited case in which a bystander sees the license number of a

getaway car but simply can't remember it. The visual stimulus clearly crossed the sensory and


Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun


perceptual thresholds but, in the excitement of the moment, the data became garbled and the

ego-consciousness could not process or memorize it.


Or, the student can access the "green light event" data in two ways. He can ego-consciously

respond to it by thinking, "I see a flashing green light now. I'll do as I'm instructed and yell

'Yo!'." When this happens the stimulus has crossed the third threshold, the CONSCIOUS

ACTION threshold. He has noticed an action and has considered and executed a reaction to it

and he can usually recall this action/reaction event. If, for some reason, he is unable to summon

a recollection of it, under hypnosis he will be able to remember the event.


To retrieve forgotten or overlooked data the confused ego has to be bypassed - transcended in

the trance or hypnotic state. A re-entry into the perceptual threshold's domain has to be



This retrieval technique is related to the second way the student can respond to a stimulus: he

can experience it directly or unconsciously and then react to it automatically without his ego's

involvement. We call this action/reaction event "subliminal". "Limen" is the Latin word for

threshold. It is this direct, subliminal response that the master uses.


For very good reasons, the martial artist wants to prevent his ego-consciousness from interfering

in the combat.


The ego's domain - the world of I, Me, Mine and Numero Uno - is the place we find those seven

deadly sins: pride, envy, lust, laziness, gluttony, greed and anger... all those reckless, destructive



Whenever a stimulus is consciously acted upon, the ego evaluates the stimulus and decides what,

if anything, ought to be done in response. If the ego does decide to act, it directs the body by

sending out electrochemical messages to the appropriate muscles. In fact, the ego has an array

of chemicals at its disposal which can influence and interfere with all body systems.

Unfortunately, the ego does not always act in the body's best interest. Think about fear: Some

people who are loquacious in their living rooms can't utter a meaningful syllable when standing

in front of a microphone. The quick-draw artist at a gun club may find that his hand has turned

to stone when he's suddenly confronted by a live, hissing rattler. We say that such individuals

are paralyzed by fear.


Any emotion can be detrimental. A surgeon doesn't operate on people he loves or hates

because his ego's involvement might prejudice his judgment. Lawyers, likewise, abstain from

representing themselves for an understandable fear of compromising their own self-interests.


A person can become so angry that he will kill another person even though he knows that he,

himself, might be punished later with imprisonment or death. We say that his reason has been

consumed by rage.


The ego always sees itself as being at the center of a drama, the principal actor... the one whose

feelings count.. the one who requires loyalty, respect and admiration. Egos, as we know in Zen,

demand attention and they don't much care how they get it.



Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun


Animals don't see themselves as being in the center of a drama. Animals don't have egos; and

because of this they respond efficiently and without prejudice. Their reactions are fast and direct

and if they kill it is to satisfy hunger, not anger. Animals do not resort to mortal combat to settle

territorial disputes; humans, providing they reasonably feel threatened, may kill anyone who

intrudes into their premises. Male animals fighting over mating rights to females do not kill their

competitors. If a rogue male enters a harem and dallies with a female, the dominant male runs

the rogue off. A human male, on the other hand, will likely be excused if, upon catching his

wife en flagrante, he dispatches her lover. Though the husband be a notorious womanizer who

only vaguely recalls that his wife is a female, the stain upon his dishonored ego is naturally too

great to be cleansed by anything less than the lover's detergent blood.


Again, animals respond faster than humans because animals don't have egos that interfere with

their body's actions. Their responses are pure reflex, uninhibited by personal judgments.

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