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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Shaolin Buddhist Monks - All About Them










The shào in "" refers to "Mount Shaoshi", a mountain in the Songshan mountain range and lín means "forest". With sì,  the name literally means "monastery/temple in the woods of Mount Shaoshi". Others, such as the late master Chang Dsu Yao translate "" as "young (new) Forest"or sometimes translated as "little forest".

It is said that a Buddhist monk from India named Buddhabhadra, or Ba Tuo in Chinese, came to China during Emperor Xiaowen's reign during the Northern Wei Dynasty period in 495AD. The emperor liked Buddhabhadra and offered to support him in teaching Buddhism at court. Buddhabhadra declined and was given land to build a temple on Mt. Song. There he built , which translates into small forest.



Thirty years after Shaolin was founded, another Buddhist monk called Bodhidharma from India came to China to teach Yogic concentration, known commonly today by the Japanese term "Zen" Buddhism. He traveled throughout China and finally came to Mt. Song where he found Shaolin Temple where he asked to be admitted.


The abbot, Fang Chang, refused and it is said Bodhidharma climbed high into the mountains to a cave where he meditated for nine years. It is believed that he sat, facing the cave wall for much of these nine years so that his shadow became permanently outlined on the cave wall.
After nine years, Fang Chang finally granted Bodhidharma entrance to Shaolin where he became the First Patriarch of Zen Buddhism.
Originally used as exercise to keep fit, the Kung Fu eventually had to be used against attacking assailants after the monastery's assets. Shaolin eventually became famous for its warrior monks who were masterful in their practice of Kung Fu. Being Buddhist monks, however, they were bound by a set of principles called martial ethics, wude, that includes prohibitions such as "do not betray your teacher" and "do not fight for frivolous reasons" as well as eight "hit" and "do not hit" zones to ensure the opponent will not be too seriously injured.
Not long after Boddhidharma entered Shaolin, Emperor Wudi banned Buddhism in 574AD and Shaolin was destroyed. Later, under Emperor Jingwen in the Northern Zhou Dynasty Buddhism was revived and Shaolin rebuilt and restored.
Shaolin's Golden Era: Warrior Monks Save Tang Dynasty Emperor:


During turmoil early in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), thirteen warrior monks helped the Tang emperor rescue his son, Li Shimin, from an army aiming to overthrow the Tang. In recognition of their help, Li Shimin, once emperor, named Shaolin the "Supreme Temple" in all of China and fostered learning, teaching and exchange between the imperial court and armies and the Shaolin monks. Over the next few centuries until Ming loyalists used Shaolin as a refuge, Shaolin Temple and its style of martial arts enjoyed a flourishing of development and advancement. 
The Decline of Shaolin:

As a haven for Ming loyalists, Qing rulers finally destroyed Shaolin Temple, burning it to the ground and destroying many of its treasures and sacred texts in the process. Shaolin Kung Fu was outlawed and the monks and followers, those who lived, were dispersed through China and to other, lesser, temples following Shaolin teachings. Shaolin was allowed to reopen again about one hundred years later but rulers were still distrustful of Shaolin Kung Fu and the power it gave its followers. It was burned and rebuilt several times over the following centuries.
Present-day Shaolin Temple:

Today, Shaolin Temple is a practicing Buddhist temple where adaptations on the original Shaolin Kung Fu are taught. According to some sources, the original Shaolin Kung Fu was too powerful so was replaced by Wu Shu, a less aggressive form of martial arts. Whatever is practiced today, it is still a place of dedication and learning, as can be seen by the hundreds of youngsters practicing outside on a given morning. There are now over eighty Kung Fu schools around Mt. Song in Dengfeng where thousands of Chinese children are sent to study, as young as age five. Shaolin Temple and its teachings remain impressive.
Sources: http://gochina.about.com


Shaolin Monastery
The Pagoda forest (close view), located about 300 meters west of the Shaolin Monastery in Henan
The Pagoda forest (wide view)
A mural painting in the temple (early 19th century)

List of Chinese martial arts

    Kung fu
    Wushu
    Qigong
Walking through the alley of the monastery
A tree used by the monks to practice finger-punching on within the Shaolin Monastery
1517 stele dedicated to Narayana's defeat of the Red Turban rebels. Guanyin (his original form) can be seen in the clouds above his head.



 

There is evidence of Shaolin martial arts techniques being exported to Japan in the 18th and 19th centuries. Okinawan Shōrin-ryū karate, for example, has a name meaning "Small [Shao]lin". Other similarities can be seen in centuries-old Chinese and Japanese martial arts manuals.





The stele does not list any such imperial dispensation as reward for the monks' assistance during the campaign against Wang Shichong, only land and a water mill are granted.Historian Meir Shahar is unsure if the popular tale about wine and meat consumption originated after the released of films like Shaolin Temple.
In the past, many people have tried to capitalize on the Shaolin Monastery's fame by building their own schools on Mount Song. However, the Chinese government eventually outlawed this, and so the schools all moved to the nearby towns. However, as of 2010, the Ta Gou kung fu school, one of the largest kung fu schools in China, owns and practices on land below the Shaolin Temple.

A Dharma gathering was held between August 19 and 20, 1999, in the Shaolin Monastery, Songshan, China, for Buddhist Master Shi Yongxin to take office as abbot. In March 2006 Vladimir Putin, then President of Russia, became the first foreign leader to visit the monastery. In 2007 the Chinese government partially lifted the 300-year ban of the Jieba. The Jieba is an ancient ceremony where nine marks are burned onto the head with sticks of incense. The ban was partially lifted only for those who were mentally and physically prepared to participate in the ancient tradition.

Two luxury bathrooms were recently added to the temple for use by monks and tourists. The new bathrooms reportedly cost three million yuan.
He was historically worshiped as the progenitor of their famous staff method by the monks themselves. A stele erected by Shaolin abbot Wenzai in 1517 shows the deity's vajra-club had by then been changed to a Chinese staff,[23] which originally "served as the emblem of the monk".[24] Vajrapani's Yaksha-like Narayana form was eventually equated with one of the four staff-wielding "Kimnara Kings" from the Lotus Sutra in 1575. His name was thus changed from Narayana to "Kimnara King".
One of the many versions of a certain tale regarding his creation of the staff method takes place during the Yuan Dynasty's Red Turban Rebellion. Bandits lay siege to the monastery, but it is saved by a lowly kitchen worker wielding a long fire poker as a makeshift staff. He leaps into the oven and emerges as a monstrous giant big enough to stand astride both Mount Song and the imperial fort atop Mount Shaoshi (which are five miles apart). The bandits flee when they behold this staff-wielding titan. The Shaolin monks later realize that the kitchen worker was none other than the Kimnara King in disguise.[26] Shahar notes the part of the kitchen worker might have been based on the actual life of the monk Huineng (638-713).[27] In addition, he suggests the mythical elements of the tale were based on the fictional adventures of Sun Wukong from the Chinese epic Journey to the West. He compares the worker's transformation in the stove with Sun's time in Laozi's crucible, their use of the staff, and the fact that Sun and his weapon can both grow to gigantic proportions.


The Buddhist monk Bodhidharma is often popularly considered to be the creator of the monastery's arts. An example is provided by Wong Kiew Kit, who writes: "It was during this time that the Venerable Bodhidharma came from India to China to spread Buddhism. In 527 CE he settled down in the Shaolin monastery in Henan province, and inspired the development of Shaolin Kung Fu. This marked a watershed in the history of Kung Fu, because it led to a change of course, as Kung Fu became institutionalized. Before this, martial arts were known only in general sense." Wong cites the "Sinew Metamorphosis" as being a qigong style that the Buddhist saint taught to the monks to strengthen their bodies.


All of these claims, however, are generally not supported by martial arts historians because the idea of Bodhidharma influencing Shaolin boxing is based on a forged qigong manual written during the 17th century. This is when a Taoist with the pen name "Purple Coagulation Man of the Way" wrote the Sinews Changing Classic in 1624, but claimed to have discovered it. The first of two prefaces of the manual traces this qigong style's succession from Bodhidharma to the Chinese general Li Jing via "a chain of Buddhist saints and martial heroes."




The work itself is full of anachronistic mistakes and even includes a popular character from Chinese fiction, the "Bushy Bearded Hero" (虬髯客), as a lineage master.Literati as far back as the Qing Dynasty have taken note of these mistakes. The scholar Ling Tinkang (1757–1809) described the author as an "ignorant village master'."
Bodhidharma is traditionally said by Buddhists to have meditated at the temple and the important early Ch'an practitioner Shenhui locates it as the site at which Bodhidharma's disciple Hui-ke cut his own arm off to obtain the ineffable dharma.

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