Spiritual Growth & Kung Fu Virtue

Guides to help spiritual growth and kung fu virtues.  A must to know and follow for  martial artists training in traditional kung fu.  Without this teaching from Masters of any traditional kung fu school(s), then you are basically training in an ordinary sport/self-defence Academy 


The below topics are continued from the "OUR PHILOSOPHY" Tag above, under part (1) The illusion and wrong views we often have in this dimension (Physical Body, Birth and Death, Family Members or Relatives, and Gain and Loss).

Physical Body:

The Illusion: Our physical body is our real self.

   As an ordinary person, we all say our life is given by our parents, our physical body consists of  hands, feet, five senses, and brain.  Looking from this angle, we all think it is our real self.  But what is the real self of a person to the spiritual world?  

The Reality: The soul is the real self. The physical body is just a temporary reincarnation vehicle, it is not our real self.  

   If the body is opened by surgery/operation, people can only see organs in the inside, but the soul remains unseen, which leads to the assumption that this body is  the real us.  In fact, we are all too familiar with near-death cases we often hear about, that is, the soul comes out of the body and experiences supernatural things...  

Case Study: There is a case happened many years ago about a young girl named Diem who became a millionaire after she had a mysterious spiritual experience, and she shared her story to the public:  Following an accident, Diem had a severe injury in her neck, and at that time, she  felt that she saw there were two shadows heading towards her.  The first shadow was  white one, and the second shadow was a black one. At that moment, Diem said  that she was not afraid because she felt that the white shadow contained a very beautiful light, and strong loving energy.  Diem said that she had a conversation with the white shadow.  The white shadow told her: "You have many things left to do in your life.  Are you willing to do them?"  Diem replied: "If my body can be healed, and back to normal, then I will."  Then she was quickly returned to her body, and felt that the wound in her neck had healed.  Diem realized that she had a responsibility to help people, find the work that she loves, so that she can be devoted and dedicated to more than just to paying the bills. Now, for Diem, death is no longer something feared, and instead it has given her the insight and motivation to use her life to do useful things.  Oftentimes, events happen in our life, seemingly to wake us up.

Birth and Death:

The Illusion: The birth of the physical body is the birth of our real self. 

The death of the physical body is the death of our real self.

  People are all going through the wheel of life and death or reincarnation.  The soul enters the fetus of the baby before he/she is born.  After the baby is born, the soul owns the body to live in, when the body dies, the soul will then leave the body.  Humans always see the birth and death of the body as the birth and death of their own real self… So what is the answer to life and death or reincarnation? and what is its purpose?  

The Reality: The birth and death of the body is not the birth and death of our real self.  The soul is our real self, and the limited time our soul has in the body during a lifetime is for us to realize the meaning of human life, to learn what we need to learn through many life lessons. 

  From there, through many lifetimes and realizations, we can return to a higher realm of existence (Realm of Form, Realm of Formless).  Once we are at a certain level, we will then have the responsibility and mission to help other younger souls advance, so that ultimately, the world will be a better place. 

 Case Study: In Chinese history, during the Ming Dynasty, there was a king named Minh Thần Tông. He was born in 1563 and passed away in 1620.  He was in charge for 48 years and was considered the longest king during the Ming dynasty compared with other kings.  In history books, there is a strange story about his past life in a temple in Vietnam.  

  During the 16th century, Vietnam was considered a province of China. The king of Vietnam during that time was Lê Kính Tông.  Every year, each province had to send a group of emissaries to represent its province to meet with the emperor of China to report issues and politically related matters.  The team leader of the emissary group was Nguyễn Tự Cừơng.  After the meeting was done, the emperor asked Nguyễn Tự Cừơng: “You are from Vietnam. Do you know a temple named Quang Minh, and where it is located?”  Nguyễn Tự Cừơng replied that he did not know.  Emperor Minh Thần Tông then said: “When I was born, there were a few birth marks on my shoulder, and it says that my past life was the head abbot monk at Quang Minh temple of Vietnam. Now I want to wash off those words on my shoulder, but I do not  know how.”  Nguyễn Tự Cừơng then said, “I heard that in the Buddhist religion, one must use the holy water in the temple to wash it off.  If your past life was from that temple, then you must use the well water from that temple to clean it.”  When he returned to Vietnam, Nguyễn Tự Cừơng mentioned this to king Lê Kính Tông.  The king then sent people to search for this temple, and found it in Gia Lộc district, which is nowadays Hãi Dương city in Vietnam. People in the neighbourhood  of the temple also call the temple “Chùa Bóng” in short as a nickname.  When researching, the monks in the temple told a coincidental story…  Dozens of years ago, the abbot monk of the temple was Zen Master Huyền Trân.  Before he passed away, he told his disciples that he saw Buddha in his dream and Buddha told him: “You have a lot of merits with the Buddha’s work for a long time.Your compassion has been recognized, so in the next life, you will be the great emperor in the North.” After waking up in the morning, the Zen Master told his dream to all his disciples and said: “After I die, write on my shoulder ‘ Vietnam country, Quang Minh temple,’ then cremate my body”.  All his disciples then followed his instruction.  

  After listening to the story told by the monks, Nguyễn Tự Cừơng then took some water from the temple’s well, and brought it to China for the emperor.  The emperor used the water to wash off the words on his shoulder, and it worked.  Being so happy, the emperor gave 300 taels of gold to Nguyễn Tự Cừơng as a gift.  Nguyễn Tự Cừơng accepted it, and donated the gift to the temple for renovation.  

  The reincarnation and thrilling story of the emperor of the Ming dynasty is no longer strange to those who are interested in learning about Buddhism, reincarnation or the origin of life.  A vivid historical evidence of reincarnation and the law of reincarnation, of precious cause and effect.

  After a lifetime of cultivation, Zen Master Huyền Trân received a great reward for his next life as an emperor in China… But once at the highest power, people are easily abused and mis-used.  He had a tyrannical rule. .  Several years before the end of his life, he ended up indulging in lust to the point of weakening his body, shortening his lifespan.  No one knows what happened to his next life, but we know for sure he had wasted a lot of his virtues, that he had truly cultivated and accumulated in his past life when he was a Zen Master in Vietnam.  

  Humanity often forgets their true mission and purpose in life...This reminds us of Buddha's story: He left his family and kingdom to exploit the path to enlightenment in order to liberate thousands of human beings.  Another example is of a king in Vietnam named Trân Nhân Tông who left his kingdom and resided at “Trúc Lâm Yên  Tự “ temple in order to find his true self, and the real purpose or mission of being human.

Family Members or Relatives:

The Illusion:  Our family members are with us permantly forever.
  Everyone has family members such as parents, siblings, or children.  But this is only a temporary relationship in the form of relatives in the physical dimension.  
The Reality:  In the spiritual dimension, no one is our real family member.
  When it comes to the time of death, each will go on their own path, no one will stay truly relatives.  Because of this, in the spiritual world, we have no real family members or relatives.  
  Case Study: A typical example is of a famous man named Lý Thúc Đông (1880 - 1942).  He was a well known man in the music and arts, he had devoted a lot of his knowledge and work to China, and later became a monk named Hoằng Nhất (name given after he became Buddhist monk at Dai Tu temple in Hangzhou, China).  Before becoming a monk, he had a family and married a Japanese wife when he travelled to Japan to study arts at a younger age.  One day, he decided to leave the material world to become a monk.  Many times, his wife went to see him to convince him to change his mind not to become a monk.  But he had committed to it and never changed.  Why did he make this decision?  It was because he had understood the illusion or fake world we live in.   The last thing he wrote to his wife was: “ I made this decision, not because I am an ungrateful person, but because the Buddhist path is particularly long and hard, therefore I need to let go of everything.  These things are all fleeting.  They are like fleeting clouds…Human life continues in the wheel of life and death for many lifetimes, the ending of the cycle of birth and death will definitely come, but now, I want to resolve it sooner.  Our separation will come sooner or later, I hope you can see through and understand.”.  The monastic purpose is to pursue the source of life.  The basis of the universe.  This can only be demanding of their lives.  There is a saying:  Human life has three dimensions:  The first is the material dimension, the second is the spiritual dimension, and the third is the soul dimension.  Some of his students had asked “Why did you heartlessly leave your family to become a monk?”  He replied “Human life is hard to predict.  If you die from an illness, then are you not also heartlessly leaving your wife and children?  Sooner, or later, you must leave them all the same.".
  Birth, aging, illness, and death are things we can’t control.  Perhaps zen master Hoằng Nhất understood this principle, and was one step ahead of others.  In fact, not only Buddhism teaches to let go of fame and gain, even in western religions, the same is mentioned.  In the bible, Jesus had mentioned to his disciples “Don’t work hard to chase after fancy food and fancy clothes, your life is more precious than food, and the body more precious than clothing.  Look at the crows, they do not sow or reap, and have neither barn, and yet your Heavenly Father still feeds them, and you are much more precious than birds”.

Gain and Loss:

The Illusion:  Whatever wealth we gain or lose in this life is all that matters.

  In some religions, they state that the gain or loss of humanity is divided into two parts.  First is the gain and loss that happens in the material world, and the second is the gain and loss that happens in the spiritual world.  People who do not practice qigong or meditation at a higher level would not be able to see the spiritual dimension, and therefore think the material world dimension is the only one dimension.  Because of this reason, we all think that everything that happens around us is the only gain or loss in our life.  This is wrong due to the fact that the real self of a person is the soul, not the body.
The Reality:  The gain or loss for the soul is more important.  No matter how much a person gains in the material world for their wealth, at the end, they can not bring with them to the spiritual dimension.  
  Case Study 1:  In Chinese history, Lý Tư is the prime minister of king Tần Thuỷ Hoàng (The first emperor of China who built the Great Wall of China).  Lý Tư’s sons and daughters were all married to the princes and princesses.  At the very top position next to the king, Lý Tư often said to his children that “Everything in the world is like the yin yang.  At the most Yin will eventually turn to Yang.  We are at the peak of power and wealth that no one can match us in the kingdom, I am worried that one day, we may lose them all, as no one is exempt from this yin yang principle).  Indeed, within a few years later, the situation had changed. After king Tần Thuỷ Hoàng passed away, one of the princes became the new king.  Thereafter Lý Tư was framed by one of the officials (Triệu Cao) in the kingdom, and the new king ordered Lý Tư's entire family and relatives to be executed.  Before the time of execution, Lý Tư turned to one of his sons next to him and said “I wish we can go with our dog to the park, and play with our smart dog, or let it chase after the rabbit, and now it is not possible.”.  Both of them were in tears…. Before he died, his mind was not thinking about all the gold, or the wealth that he had accumulated over his lifetime - his only thought was about living a simple and peaceful life.  
  Case Study 2:  Besides the eastern history as mentioned above, in the west, there is also a story of king Alexandra.  All his life he accumulated vast wealth by invading many surrounding countries in Europe.  At the time he died, he called all his generals and ordered them to do three things when he died.  First, he wanted to lay down all the gold that he accumulated, on the road from the kingdom to his grave.  Secondly, he wanted all the doctors in the country to carry his coffin to his grave.  Third, he wanted his hands to be placed outside the coffin while his body was in it.  One of his closest solders asked: “My lord, we will obey your instructions, but may I know why, and what are the reasons behind these 3 instructions?”  The king replied “For all the doctors we have in the country, no one can help me to prevent, and cure my illness.  With all the gold that I have accumulated during my life invading countries, when I die, I can not bring them with me, I can only leave with empty hands, and I want people to understand this principle”. 
  There are so many simple sources of happiness in life, and people will not realize they have it or understand until they face death.  We should think deeply about the question ourselves “Who am I?  Or I am whom?  Why am I so busy and what is it for?”.  Slow down, open our eyes widely and look at  what is really belongs to us…. There is nothing really belonging to us in this material world after we die.  We can not bring anything with us to the other dimension beside the good or bad things we did in life, which become the cause and effect (karmas) that will come with us to the next life.  
To seek spiritual awakening for ourselves is not enough.  We need to practice compassion and attempt to help all beings without exception to overcome their own suffering and find lasting happiness as well.  From a worldly perspective, if we alone are safe and enjoying great pleasures but the rest of our family is in great suffering, if we are goodhearted people, we will not be happy.  From this, we can recognize that it is not right to seek happiness or liberation just for ourselves.  We need to consider the welfare of all sentient beings.  With this, it applies to anything we do, whether to family members as mentioned, at work with co-workers around us, or even as simple as in kung fu schools with students, kung fu brothers and sisters within the style system.  Besides teaching as an Instructor, or learning as a student in classes, it is best practice to provide help to kung fu family members with what we think they are struggling with.  A goodhearted instructor will constantly think of ways to try to help their students achieve their goal, or the senior could help their junior where they need help and guidance the most.  Without the practice of compassion from the Instructor(s) or any senior(s), then it is simply similar to a gym setting, where people come to exercise with a workout machine, nobody would pay attention to which machine or care about the machine besides just ensuring the machine functions properly so that they can use it.


There are a few principles that are important for a kung fu practitioner to follow, which will help him/her to become a great martial artist.  It is because kung fu is not just about teaching the fighting aspect, but kung fu also teaches a student how to become an honorable person.  By being an honorable person, one can be an idol for others within the family style system, and be the chosen successor for the next generation.

  1. Keeping his/her word:  An honorable person will say and keep their word.  When they say that they will do something, they will do it regardless of whatever happens in between.  They would never go back and forth or change their mind.  This leads to credibility from others towards the person.  If we see people who keep saying they will do certain things, and we never see them do what they promised to do, then to anybody, this person will lose trust, and naturally, they will lose the respect from others.
  2. Abusing Authority: This is an important principle for any Instructor.  If an Instructor keeps asking his/her students for any favors for their own benefit or convenient purpose, without the student(s) initiating the offer to help the Instructor outside of the school, then this is considered abusing authority.  Something as simple as a car ride home or even to a bus stop terminal is unacceptable if asked for by the Instructor.  An honorable person should try not to owe anyone favors.
  3. Jealousy:  Jealousy leads to inappropriate thoughts and behaviors.  Jealousy because of whatever reasons, such as kung fu brother/sister is better; teammates win competitions and get placement instead of oneself; or classmates get invited for grading; is unacceptable for a martial artist.  A goodhearted honorable person would congratulate others who achieve success, and work hard with what they have learnt to improve themselves, so that one day, they will have the same reward.  Doing so will gain respect from their juniors, and will be recognized by his/her seniors in order to gain credibility.
  4. Respect:  This is one of the basic manners that all martial artists must know, not just kung fu practitioners.  Traditionally, teachers used to teach manners first, and then kung fu second.  Since most students often just want to learn how to fight or get in shape, teaching in this order ensures that the students first understand the value of etiquette and of learning another culture’s beliefs and rites.  All people interested in real kung fu should make every effort to understand rules of etiquette and act accordingly.  Failure to do so ensures the closing of innumerable doors.  They will never get corrections on any techniques, even if they missed out or did something wrong, furthermore, even if they ask, they will not receive the full detailed correct answer.  These people often don't know why others are improving faster than them.  Having and showing true respect and Limao (manners) opens countless doors, makes people generally like and respect you and provides access to treasures hitherto unimagined...  The higher the rank, the more closely an individual’s manners will be monitored. 
  5. Modesty:  This is the major mind set of kung fu practitioners, especially in Asia.  A martial artist may be a guru, famous, or very successful in kung fu, but because they have cultivated the virtue of modesty, they do not call attention to this.  They never brag about their skills or level of attainment.  If we ask people who are at a master’s level how much they know in kung fu, they would usually reply that they know very little.  If we ask kung fu practitioners who are not at a master’s level, they would reply that they don’t know anything.  There is a big cultural difference in North America.  As we grow up, in whatever we do, we are constantly being told to “be proud of ourselves”, or “to give ourselves a hand of applause”.  One must know the main reason to learn martial arts is to be able to defend ourselves when needed, to be fit, to learn and understand violence, and lastly, to discipline our body, mind and spirit.  We train to be the best version of ourselves, but never to "show off".  In Asia, 10 - 15% of people have explored or trained in martial arts of some kind, with differing levels and depth of knowledge.  Behavior which is not modest, or in other words considered as showing off, will usually open doors to countless problems that one could not imagine, such as:  people will come up to challenge you to teach you a lesson not to show off; or if a local gangster wants to rob you, they will be more careful about their actions, such as stabbing you first until you are down before they rob; etc...  It will never be an honorable one-on-one fight.  Similarly, if you are a tourist travelling to a rough neighborhood in Europe and you have to deal with a group of gangsters all at once, a surprise to the attackers is always better than if they were prepared for you.  By being modest, and not showing off, you do not give your opponents the chance to prepare.  Never overestimate yourself, or underestimate your surroundings.  This is the main reason to be a modest person.
  6. Loyalty:  Masters often take time to see if their students are loyal.  The level of loyalty that is expected from the students varies for beginners to Instructors level, and especially at higher ranks up to head Instructors level.  A big percentage of people from ancient times to the present, when they are in a high rank position of any style system, they often think that they have grown, and tend to behave in a way that shows a lack of respect and loyalty to their master.  It is a sad thing, but it happens very commonly, as humanity is like that.  Because of this reason, a very high percentage of old masters often reserved some knowledge, and towards the end of their life, only passed it to the student they chose to be the system successor.  It is more of a gift, or reward, to the master's real disciple.  If we look at it from another angle, this gifting of knowledge is similar to what parents choose to give to their children in their will.  “Loyalty” is one of the main tasks and is highly recommended to be practiced by all high-ranking martial artists.  Without this manner to your master, it is guaranteed that you will be 100% surprised and wonder why another younger kung fu brother or sister received some knowledge that you did not.
  7. Honesty:  In general, Kung fu practitioners or martial artists should practice honesty.  Honesty helps an individual gain credibility from others within the style system.  When a person lies, with time it is easily discovered by others.  When it is discovered once or twice, and if the individual keeps lying, no matter what this person says in the future, nobody will believe them.  This also reflects point 1 above that an honorable person should keep their word no matter what.
  8. Persistence:  The persistent mind set of a martial artist plays an important role for his/her success in training.  This overall trains us to overcome difficulties, not only in all aspects of the martial arts training, but also in our lives.  In each level in any system of martial arts, there will be certain difficult technique(s) to learn, to achieve, and to succeed.  After years of training techniques to enhance the skill sets for the body, the second level is to train the mind, and the third level is to train the soul.  Training the mind is not easy because it requires commitment and discipline in the way of life or changing the lifestyle.  In kung fu training, it is called beginning to enter the Tao (the Way).   Without persistence, the majority of practitioners fail in this area.  In order to come out of this and succeed, one will not have extreme emotions such as too happy, too sad, or too moody.  One must train for one’s emotions to remain in a stable state.  It should always be neutral.  Once this can be achieved, it will prepare the practitioners to train the soul or spirit, because in order to discipline the soul or spirit, there will be next to no success for people with too much emotional instability.  

In this section, it will explains the process of choosing successor of our lineage style system.  A kung fu partitioner has to be accepted to be one of the disciple or close door student of his Master/Sifu. They must be discipline and achieve with all the key points above with kung fu virtue, on top of the few critirias below, he/she will be chosen to be the successor of our style system.  
  1. Financial secure and stable
  2. Place federation and school activities as first priority
  3. Generous person
  4. No criminal record
  5. Have good social skill
  6. Have good general knowledge about other cultures
  7. Care for others
  8. Creative mind and good leadership skill



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