The story is not the truth

19 Nov

A story about a house on fire….

“At that time the rich man had this thought: the house is already in flames from this huge fire. If I and my sons do not get out at once, we are certain to be burned. The father understood his sons and knew what various toys and curious objects each child customarily liked and what would delight them. And so he said to them, ‘The kind of playthings you like are rare and hard to find. If you do not take them when you can, you will surely regret it later. For example, things like these goat-carts, deer-carts and ox-carts. They are outside the gate now where you can play with them. So you must come out of this burning house at once. “At that time, when the sons heard their father telling them about these rare playthings, because such things were just what they had wanted, each felt emboldened in heart and, pushing and shoving one another, they all came wildly dashing out of the burning house

The story above comes from the Buddhist “Lotus Sutra” and is about using expedient means of white lies to rescue children from a burning building. My apologies to any of my friends who know this and realize that I edited it a bit.


A little more than a month ago, Sinovision USA came down to New York San Da and interviewed me about Chan Tai-San, the methods I currently teach and of course my ideas on Chinese martial arts. I demonstrated a few techniques to explain the concepts I was discussing.

I didn’t know it at the time, but literally on the other side of the planet, Sifu Deng of the Hap Ga system was also being interviewed. Hap Ga is a “sister art” to the Lama Pai I learned under Chan Tai-San and Sifu Deng is actually the teacher of one of my friends and colleagues, Sifu David Rogers of Great Britain.


Now back to “expedient means” for a minute. This is a concept which emphasizes that practitioners may use their own specific methods or techniques that fit the situation in order to gain enlightenment. The implication is that even if a technique, view, etc., is not ultimately “true” in the highest sense, it may still be an expedient practice to perform or view to hold; i.e., it may bring the practitioner closer to the true realization in a similar way. The exercise of skill to which it refers, the ability to adapt one’s message to the audience, is of enormous importance in the Pali Canon. (Thanks Wikipedia for most of that!)….

Most of you by now are scratching your heads, a few have left the discussion. For the rest of you, I submit that “systems” and definitions like “internal” and “external” are expedient means. They are white lies, they are crutches, to get you to move forward. They aren’t “truth,” they are vehicles to carry you to truth.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that many of the things that I demonstrated for Sinovision USA were also demonstrated by Sifu Deng in his interview (well, not the ball room dancing but that’s another blog!). You might say “well, Lama Pai and Hap Ga are sister methods” and you’d be partially right. Because that is expedient means.

But the higher truth is, there is a higher truth. There are universal truths. And even if you are really committed to wrapping yourself in a certain nation’s flag, or a certain “system” or a certain “teacher” you will never be able to change that fact.

And the sooner you accept that fact, the sooner you are on your way to enlightenment.



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