Yun Xiang Tseng comes to the Chi Center Sept. 7-8.
A childhood prodigy, Yun Xiang Tseng (Chen) was trained from the age of 6 on China's sacred Wudang Mountain (made famous by the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon). He is a 25th generation Longman Taoist Priest charged with the mission to bring the ancient wisdom of Wudang Taoism to the west. World-renowned martial artist, teacher and healer, Chen makes the purity and sanctity of mystical texts, oral lineages and ancient philosophies and practices entertaining and accessible. He will present Taoist philosophy, qigong and meditation practices Sept. 7-8 at the Chi Center (contact email@example.com for details). Here is a brief interview to give the Santa Cruz community an introduction to Master Chen.
Your teacher, Grandmaster Li, was an esteemed female Grandmaster who lived to 130 years old. What was she like, and how did she find you?
Li Chen Yu was the 24th generation master of Longman Tradition of Taoism. Chen means sincere. Yu means jade, as in purity. Sincere Pure Jade was her Taoist first name. She went to live in the temple at 8 years old, and she also followed a female master. When she went there she had tremendous discipline and devotion to Taoism, and passion for humanity. Her mission was to enlighten as many as possible in her life journey, and she always put mercy and love above everything. She had such a strong love of humanity, and would always help those physically, emotionally, spiritually in need. She really inspired me. Once the Red Guard dragged her 300 feet from the temple behind a horse, which broke her hip, and she never expressed strong emotion toward the young men, she asked us to forgive them for their ignorance.
How did she find you?
She found me when I was 6 and she was already 100 years old, in a vision and using I Ching. She had very specific information about who I was and the day I would be found. She sent Master Guo (who would become Chen's Kung Fu master) from Wu Dang Mountain 1000 miles—by train, by foot over mountains, by boat—all during the Cultural Revolution, when priests must be in hiding or they could be killed.
Master Li trained me from 6-16 years old, and how it is done in the temple is you live closely together. I washed her underwear, brushed her hair, cooked her food. She continually tested my virtue, training my mind, body and spirit so she could trust me and pass down the Longman lineage and its secrets of immortality, healing, religion and culture. Her wish for me was to preserve this lineage and pass it on in the western world and to find my successors here. I worked 18 hours a day studying with eagerness and passion to pursue the mystical arts so I could pass them on, to share their gifts and inspiration to future generations.
Could you please share a couple lessons from Master Li?
1. “Grasping the Air”
The first lesson Master Li taught me, on my very first day at Wu Dang: I was asked to open my hand and she said, “Can you grab some air for me?” The more you try to grasp, the less you have. She said, “Give up! Open your hands! How much air do you have? Unlimited.”
In a little child's heart I admit I felt I must be very special. She could have chosen from billions of people, why me? Wouldn't you feel special? I was sought out by this mysterious priest with a long beard who traveled 1,000 miles to guide me into mountains, back to Wu Dang. Who showed me all this cool stuff as we were returning—how to fly, jump, kick... I felt great, like I'm a Chosen One.
Now remember the lesson: when you feel special you're no longer special. We are all chosen because of common affinity, not because you're “special.”
From 1972 til today I still learn this lesson every day. When I feel emotion, that's what I do. I even walked around the lake last night, opened my hand and grasped. And I laughed, remembering the lesson. Always try to see the magic in it!
2. “No Target”
Master Li said, “The sword of wisdom is always hanging over your head. It is only there to chop the devil.” You mean you don't have to worry about it dropping on you? If you are very wise, this sword is for reference, not for you. If negative, this sword will drop and chop your own head off. When you experience ego, this ultimate negative sword will drop. It reminds us of highest wisdom: cut the crap!
Master Li teaches how 10,000 arrows can get through without killing you. In this life remember that people have the right to try and hurt you, but you have power not to be hit. The metaphor is: are you being tinder to sparks, or can you ignite 10,000 sparks without hurting yourself, without catching on fire? This means: You always have a choice to love yourself. If you don't love yourself you are already a target. If you have compassion for yourself, how can even one arrow lay into you? You have no target for you to be shot, you drop the ego. But that won't prevent them from shooting. There's just no target. Be like water: any arrow penetrates it. It's emotion, desire, attachment that makes you a bright target. You have to let go.
Tell me about your childhood—being a medium, getting sick, coming to the temple at Wu Dang. What did you learn about personal healing?
From 4 to 6 years old I was called a “spooky” kid. At 4 years old I felt myself being taken over. I became a medium. I spoke in a very powerful tone—demanding, commanding villagers. Outsiders began coming to seek my advice. This went on almost three years. This situation strongly consumed my energy, and the quality and strength of my spirit, causing physical ailments. Also at that time it was the Cultural Revolution and our village was very poor. Both lack of food and this consumption of jing (essence), qi (energy) and shen (spirit) made me very sick.
When Master Guo came to find me he said he had a special way to help me get well. He taught me ancient Dao Yin techniques; he found herbs from the mountainsides and cooked them during our journey. Recipes to heal my body. He taught me Qi Gong and meditation. Also talismans to reinforce spirit and get rid of the “hitchhikers.” During this trip I learned many Daoist healing methods. For the next 10 years I was a devoted beneficiary of the healing work. I wanted the world to learn what I had learned.
You were the youngest Wu Dang priest to attain completion after only 10 years of study. Did you have to take a test or be initiated to leave the temple as a Master?
At 16 years old I was given a final test by my Master. I was put on a stone dragon carving over a cliff about 300-500 feet above ground. I had to stand on the dragon's head on one foot, in a posture called “White Crane Spreads Wings,” for 20 minutes. The dragon's head was sticking out three feet above the drop. It was only about 12” wide with many bumps and curves on it. It was a very windy day.
This Taoist test is about strength of spirit, quality of stillness, intensity of self-trust. Do you break through the philosophy of life and death? If you see fear, you fall off the cliff. If you have ego, you also fall. You must get through the self to the wu wei stage, the do nothing stage. This test is to verify integration of Taoist philosophy.
In your Santa Cruz workshop on Sept. 7-8th, we are going to experience a guided meditation conducted by “transmission of qi.” Can you describe the concept of teaching by emission of qi?
Qi is life force, invisible energy. It is a challenge to explain but we can make an analogy: it is like electricity. Without electricity, the light goes out; without a light, electricity doesn't work. The way to carry electricity through to the light is to show compassion. The Qi in our physical body relies on a still mind to guide it. It follows the road of life force channels, the meridians. Material life force applies from the internal to the exterior.
Qi can penetrate anywhere, anytime. Through mind and intention, we can heal disease. The mind's hint can change an object to medicine, it can change the quality of molecules; it can raise the vibration of the body and spirit. To teach others to emit Qi, you need a healthy body without illness, with unblocked meridians. First you help through Qi Gong, Taiji, healthy food and a healthy mind. Then, as the “traffic” unblocks, you can let the energy go outward, changing the outcome of health.
A practitioner can emit through the voice, impression, physical motion, intuitively through the atmosphere, what we call the “primordial qi field.” Among the audience, those who resonate with the healer can heal; not everyone can. We have to create a harmonic induction to achieve the healing result.
What does mystical mean? Does it have practical applications?
Today, modern Western scientists can't verify the mystical magic of ancient healing practices. e.g., the use of talismans, I Ching, feng shui, the concept of external Qi—even acupuncturists today still have problems “validating” the nature of their work. It is about understanding the primordial qi field. The work involves recognizing patterns in qi, setting qi in harmony to promote healthy living. Science lacks this concept of Qi, so it is difficult to understand.
Spiritual characteristic of each person—that is mystical. The Taoist concepts of Shen (spirit) and body uniting as one are not just philosophical. This is a material process, with techniques and practices to promote longevity and immortality. The mission is to cultivate mind, body and spirit to find a way back to the immortal world. The application of mystical and practical methods are to return us to our spiritual home, which means different things in different traditions. Taoists call it the immortal world. Mystical practice bestows us with hope, peace and techniques to be in charge of our lives, and to improve our quality of life.
What do you love most about being a Daoist priest? A martial artist? A teacher? What do you hope to inspire in others?
(Priest:) I love the experience of returning to simplicity and living our true nature. This is the wu wei principle, the “action” of non-doing. To guide everyday life, to guide spirit and body in stillness, to cultivate virtue, to allow self, ego and identity to disappear. To do nothing but still life is productive. This is true freedom from stress, from life and death. We have techniques to understand “the universe” and “me.” This is a clear portal to longevity and immortality because wu wei is detached, living in peace and harmony with nature.
(Martial artist:) Also using a Taoist principle, “virtue in skill.” It's not about attack/offense, but it's also not about defense. It is a mode of peace, like “a bowl without an edge.” People can attack with force but you are not intimidated nor are you using counterforce to respond. To be a master means being a peaceful warrior of the Tao. You protect and cherish life.
Teacher: my hope is to inspire people through personal attitude and action, because I walk the talk. I hope I can live a peaceful, detached life using my spiritual beliefs to inspire others to live the peaceful way of the Tao. And through a high quality of physical health—using Qi Gong, Taiji, and meditation as practical methods, to inspire others to do the same: to live the highest quality, productive lives, applying spiritual, philosophical theories and living in the way of the Tao.
Taoist Priest Yun Xiang Tseng
Sept. 7-8 at the Chi Center
21511B East Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz
Tatyanna Teeuwisse, LAc is an acupuncturist practicing in Capitola and Los Gatos at Whole Medicine. Visit http://wholemedicine.net/practitioners/tatyanna for more information.