Bridging The Gap By Vincent Chu

The Tai Chi Chuan Classics, "Tai Chi came from Wu Chi, the mother of Yin and Yang. When it is in motion, it is separated. When it is not in motion, it is combined."

Tai Chi Chuan is a physical interpretation of the philosophy of Tai Chi and it is a complete art because, with its Yin and Yang Components, it has many functions and benefits. Among them, one of which is indicated in the Tai Chi Chuan Classics, is the bridging of two realities. The Yang Reality or physical reality is described by Ou Wen Wei in his book "Goodbye My Soul" as anything that has mass, shape, occupies space and is visible to our naked eyes to see and our hands to touch. The second reality is the Yin Reality, it is commonly referred to as Spirtual Reality. This is described by Ou Wen Wei as anything that does not have mass and shape, does not occupy space, is not visible to our naked eye and we cannot touch but we can sometime feel when it is present. Therefore, Tai Chi Chuan is a product created by ancient Chinese to study the human body and it's relation to the environment. Some people called the human body the small universe. How it relates to and interacts with the environment has been called by some people as the big universe.

At the beginning of Tai Chi Chuan training, the emphasis is on the Physical Reality. It is a reality that one can see and touch so that a practitioner can have a better perception of what it is and how to refine it. Since this is possible, one will pay attention to the coordination of each Tai Chi Chuan Solo Form's movement and understand how each part of the body works. Later, after one has mastered the physical movements, the training emphasis will shift into the abstract reality or the reality controlled by concepts. These concepts are so different from our physical reality that they are difficult to comprehend. Lao Tzu had said, "My words and behaviors are easy to understand. However, the universe is difficult to understand and predict." Further, he said, "An intelligent person asked for Tao, I encouraged him to continue. An average person asked for Tao, I do not reply. A stupid person asked for Tao, I laugh." Chan, Yen Ning, a contemporary Taoist master said, "spiritual technique and knowledge are not for everyone." Later, he said, "Spiritual knowledge is not a religion. It is only for the highly intelligent people, not for average or stupid people." This is why over the years, few people have achieved high skill in Tai Chi Chuan. Most of the practitioners do not realize the significance of this spiritual reality because the emphasis of their training is only on each individual movement and application, or better known as the Physical Reality.

The Tai Chi Chuan Classics have pointed this spiritual reality out and carefully guided practitioners. Here are some of the excellent examples we found in the Tai Chi Chuan Classics: "No mass and shape, the whole body is transparent, forget everything and be natural." "The body has to be in motion, the mind has to be tranquil, the chi has to be penetrate, the spirit has to be comfortable." "Mind is the order, chi is the banner, spirit is the general and the body is the soldier." "First the mind, later, the body." "The method of practice is to let the mind direct the chi, no physical force, all on nature." And Yang Cheng Fu in his Ten Essentials said, "Apply the intent, not physical force."

If this Spiritual Reality is so critical in Tai Chi Chuan training, what is it? This subject has been studied throughout Chinese history. Lao Tzu said in his book "Tao Teh Ching" that the true tao does not have mass and shape and cannot be transmitted through communication. Chan, Yen Ning puts it in much simpler words: "A mouth that does not talk; a mind without any thought. This is the true tao. When one speaks or has thought, it has become two. It has become either oppositive or complementary." Although Buddhism does not believe in physical reality, Buddha had said that a person needs a boat to cross the river. However, after one had crossed, there is no need to continue the journey with the boat.

However, Buddhism believes that any speaking language or writing in books that have mass and shape are not the absolutely true. Therefore, many sects of Buddhism do not believe in transmission through writing. If this Spiritual Reality is so important, why do we need the Physical Reality? As Lao Tzu and Chan Yen Ning have pointed out above, Spiritual Reality does exist by itself. For its characteristics that do not have mass, shape and occupy space. Therefore, it is difficult for people to comprehend. People need to be introduced to this Spiritual Reality through Physical Reality. In other words, Physical Reality is a stepping stone for Spiritual Reality. This is why Taoism's teaching emphasizes the importance of Physical Reality as well as Spiritual Reality. It believed that when the two realities combined, the true nature of all things is manifest. Take a computer as an example. For it to work, it must have the hardware as well as the software. It does not work without either one. This is the same thing with Tai Chi Chuan. A practitioner working only on the physical movement alone is not enough, one must incorporate the many concepts into practice so that one will achieve high skill and knowledge.

In Tai Chi Chuan, there are many terms that are not commonly used today, like Yin and Yang, Five Element, I Ching, Pa Kua. To people with knowledge with Chinese history and philosophy, these terms are easy to understand. However, it is not so for most of the people today especially so when many non-Chinese are practicing Tai Chi Chuan.

Generally, people classify information based on their experiences. For information that they do not understand as mystical and occult and are against its propagation. We read in history books about the Salem Witch Hunts, The 50's Communist Scare in this country and the skeptic Qigong phenomena in China are some of the common examples. These examples happened because people wanted a scientific explanation. What some people do not know is that science is the study of Physical Reality. Every conclusion must be supported with physical data. Substances that belong to the Spiritual Reality do not have mass and shape of any kind. It is difficult to understand and collect data. The scientific community today recognized this gap and developed a new study called quantum mechanics to study substances from this Spiritual Reality. Since Tai Chi Chuan was a tool applied in ancient China to study this Spiritual Reality, it is no surprise that many new names and vocabulary have been introduced to describe much information and phenomena as quantum mechanics scientist today. We can understand these terms today as a demonstration of Tai Chi Chuan has a long and extensive history.

The art of Tai Chi Chuan does not have any mysticism, as many scientific researches conducted today have confirmed. However, when a practitioner achieves a high level of skill and knowledge, it was so because he understood and was able to utilize substances from the Spiritual Reality. Many people do not understand this background information and find the tasks amazing. When Issac Newton discovery gravity, he never expected people to utilize it today to explore space. When Benjamin Franklin discovered electricity, he never expected it to be something that we cannot live without. The same thing is true with Tai Chi Chuan training, when one understands the many concepts in Tai Chi Chuan and applies them to his daily life, enormous functions and benefits will come. For example, Tai Chi Chuan practitioners are able to apply the concept of relaxation in their daily life to reduce stress. Tai Chi Chuan is an art of bridging the Physical Reality and Spiritual Reality.

Copyright © V. Chu. All rights reserved.