Monday Morning Tai Chi Training Tip # 276
Tai Chi on Buddha’s Head
In 1970, after a couple of years of Tai Chi study, and an interest in Yoga/meditation, I decided to head to India. (As an aside, my flights to London from San Francisco, and back from Amsterdam to San Francisco, cost a total of $215. Ah, the good old days – 50 years ago!) Once in London, I found the cheapest way to India was overland on the Green Tortoise bus – 77 days! Along the way we either camped or stayed in hostels. Quite the adventure.
The reason I am sharing this adventure is that I recently opened my copy of the I Ching (which I hadn’t looked at in quite a while) and out fell a drawing some fellow did of me while I was siting in a park in Amsterdam, using the I Ching. It was dated July 23,1971. I was headed home after 8 months on the road.
On this trip, headed to India, I took only one book with me – the I Ching. Tai Chi is based largely on the philosophy contained in this writing, some of the oldest writings in the world. The focus of the I Ching evolved in the 1500 – 2000 years of its existence. By the time we Hippies got our hands and minds on it, it was being used as a book of divination or fortune telling. One could manipulate yarrow stalks, throw coins, or just open the book to receive an answer to a question that had been formulated in the mind before hand. The answer was always informative and inspiring.
Note: Google “I Ching”. There is lots of information.
My Green Tortoise ticket was from London to New Delhi. We crossed out of Europe at Istanbul. Through the middle of Turkey, which was so interesting, then into Iran, across that country, heading East. We had been on the road a couple of months by now and I was getting tired. The seats were uncomfortable, and it was getting hot – no air conditioning. I decided to get out in Mashhad, Iran, which was near the border with Afghanistan. Spent a few days there and then got on a local bus that went to Kabul.
What an adventure! Found a youth hostel in Kabul, stayed a month or so, met a couple of adventure seekers like myself, and decided to explore Bamyan and Band-e-amir which were high on the list of incredible places to visit in one’s lifetime. The largest Buddhist statues in the world were in Bamyan. These were later destroyed by being blown up by the Taliban.
My two new friends and I took a local bus up one of the most beautiful valleys, called the Valley of Kings, to the end of the line. That is where the Statues were carved out of sandstone cliffs. The statues were 115 and 174 feet tall and had platforms on the top of their heads so monks could sit, gaze straight down the valley, and feel unity with the life force. The cliffs behind the statues were riddled with small cells for the monks to live in. There were passage ways carved from the ground to the top of the head.
We sat on the head, smoked a bit of hash (this was Afghanistan in 1970 after all), and I decided to do some Tai Chi, on Buddha’s head. The experience of a lifetime. There is something special about being in a place that has been used for religious/spiritual purposes for hundreds of years. I could feel the ground beneath my feet even though I was 174 feet up.
I often, in my writing, suggest to readers to seek out unusual and interesting sites for playing the form. When I was studying Tai Chi with Master Choy in San Francisco, I had a special place in the Arboretum in Golden Gate Park. I practiced there daily, and I could feel relaxation even as I approached this spot.
Open up your mind and see if you can feel the difference between practice on a beach, in the mountains, in the middle of a large city, inside a holy site (although I guess one could say every site can be holy depending on one’s mindset at the time).
Note: The first time I used the I Ching after coming down from Buddha’s Head, I threw
# 38 / Opposition. The hexagram is composed of two trigrams – fire above moving upward, and water below moving downward. It had meaning then and still does. Check it out. I personally use the Wilhelm/Baynes edition of the I Ching. There are scores of different interpretations of this ancient work. It is well worth some research.