October 31, 2006 at 10:33 am #19042
Sinse you seem to be a long time student of David Shen Verdesi, would you mind answering a few questions on your experiences with practices he teaches?
– Would you do it again if you could roll back time? If not, why not?
– What are your experiences with the practice and how is it compared to other methods? I guess what I’m asking is “Is it necessary compared with practices that can cultivate stilleness, the dantian and cauldron like zen and Vipassana?”
– Do you continue following the same lineage or you moved on to something else? If the later, what made you do that?
I find David being very kind and sincere seeker, and also very realistic about what is and what isn’t. But still I don’t see any long time students speaking out…
MaxNovember 1, 2006 at 6:22 am #19043
When I met David I was after 7 years of Yoga practices and vegetarian diet. I was at that time very sensitive and could extend my awareness (not at instant will unfortunately but usually as a result of fasting or Yoga flavoured meditations) beyond the social context. I’m telling this so that you can imagine my surprise during the first handshake with David to actually feel the blessings this stranger has gathered upon himself as I could actually feel that he was in touch with several alive traditions and it was like connecting an antenna to a tv so to speak.
In contrast with the new-age style, books-processed yoga practices and highly fantasized realms I was swimming back then this handshake was pretty ‘shaky’.
So with this feeble attempt to rollback time I would say “Yes, I would do it again in a heart bit”. I was already looking for an alternative, something more down to earth, a practice that would help me develop in this reality, in this body.
From what I have seen so far comparing traditions and their practices the elements of the methods are common since obviously we all have the same biology. If you walk the curve of learning the terminology in a new language and cultural frame you will see that the methods have the same elements. What differs substantially is the attitude, the context and the purpose of the practice.
I think David has shaped up during his teaching years a well defined context that he calls “foundation methods” and their purpose is to gradually get the practitioner acquainted with the body framework, to learn how to return the mind from “looking forward for this and that”, quiet the internal dialog and learn to distinguish the signals from the body which were otherwise obstructed. I personally have found him very competent in teaching this methods and explaining the elements to the westerner’ mind.
Either this phase is as you said “necessary” it is up to you to decide for yourself. What I liked about his context is that notion of ‘skill’ is highly regarded and that the achievements are turned into skills. Most of the other systems that one can access while living in the society seem to be loosing the notion of skill in some shady subjective “but” that always comes after the “yes I can”.
So the skill that comes after this phase is that your brain can distinguish the required signals from the body and that you are able to quiet your mind, relax and actually dive into the reality of your own body without letting the mind be hijacked by sensations that bring you outward or by nurturing a fantasy.
Pretty impressive skill if you ask me, good to have on itself just to live a normal healthy life but also quite crucial in the success of the optional methods that David is teaching: the first level in thunder path training.
To answer your last question, I am still mostly preparing myself for the thunder path training, but I am not part of any lineage. I am privileged to met through David a person that has achieved the basic skill in thunder path (YinYang Gong) but that doesn’t make me an [active part] of a lineage. I am hardly keeping a long distance friendship with David.
I also learn wu shu from a Chinese teacher that lives nearby.
RaresNovember 1, 2006 at 2:40 pm #19045
I’m glad Max asked the question because I’ve had similar questions for you. So thanks Max, and thanks Rares for answering.
Rares, I’m hoping if you’ll indulge me and respond to a few more.
I’m wondering if you’ve noticed any physiological/energetic changes since you’ve been practicing his method? I imagine you’re not lighting newspapers on fire with your hands, but have you noticed any changes as you’ve progressed (other than quieting the mind)?
Also, do you feel this path has value EVEN IF one is not able to practice the requisit 4 hours a day for two years? In other words, I recognize that without dilligent all-consuming dedicated practice, I won’t become an yinyang gong master, but will a continuous but less intense practice still provide positive results?
Finally, from you’re own perspective, what is the “end goal” of the thunder path? What do you hope to accomplish if you pursue it?
Thanks much.November 2, 2006 at 11:36 am #19047
Thanks VERY MUCH for your insight and candid comments. It’s given me a lot to think about.
I might have some more questions later. If so (and if you’re interested in answering them), should I post to this board or can I reach you by email?
spyrelxNovember 6, 2006 at 6:55 am #19049
Thanks rares for your even-handed sharing, it promotes real investigation.
Because there was such a hyped up initial presentation on this topic, now that things have settled down I will be making further comments on what I term “extreme yang practices” that result in manifestation of very yang energy and phenomena.
For the moment, I will just say that I think this path, at its higher level, is suitable for very few people. The romance of tangible “real power” is not what it appears to be. Most of the seekers after these powers are trying to fill the vacuum of powerlessness they feel in themselves. Like all paths, it has it rewards. But the more extreme the energy, the more extreme the danger.
I base this on my own investigation into the yang/fire path, as well as on extensive conversations with my webmaster, James, who is the ONLY western inner door student of the mysteriously named “Sherfu L-” in Thailand. James had Sifu L– live in his home in Canada last year for a month and a half. So I have been hearing about “L–” for quite a while.
James is the only Westerner that was invited into L–‘s Grandmaster’s circle in China, a traditional Taoist bagua- cell of eight adepts and the Grandmaster, who are engaged in these extreme yang practices. Since David was explicitly NOT invited into the higher level/inner door group in China, I trust james’ take on this over David’s promotions.
I am sure David Verdesi’s forthcoming book, whose manuscript he has been dragging around for years, will be fascinating, informative, and a great entertaining read, and I will be one of the first buyers. I totally support his investigations and adventures. But the reality on the ground of what path is suitable and effective for each seeker in developing “te” (as in Tao Te Ching) – spiritual power/virtue – is a different matter. The subject of a future essay.
michaelNovember 14, 2006 at 1:33 pm #19051
The achievement of objective results is simply a useful side effect of effective practices. It allows one to measure progress in a concrete way; not the goal of the practice, but rather a natural outcome to be moved beyond. To say that those who are seeking through the practices of the Lei Shan Dao or who have achieved these abilities are compensating for a feeling of powerlessness is really inaccurate. Power is simply a necessary, basic measure of the progress one is making toward immortality and enlightenment in this life and the after death state. If enlightenment and immortality were such effortless endeavors that required no practical achievement, then the world would be full of living immortals; in reality, this is not the case.
Enlightenment has always been a fuzzy thing; therefore its easier to play around with it. Immortality on the other hand is quite a word, and even Chia in the early books clearly stated that the immortality he was referring to was pretty physical; with reference to achieving the rainbow body and daylight ascension. It has now become a rather diluted word, subject to creative interpretation and nobody ever addresses the main point: what are the practical results and implications of the immortal practices of the HT?
People are numbed by the use of words they have no understanding of, and again, the fact that there is no standard of reference (nobody is able to demonstrate and prove anything) makes the actual meaning and implication of those words all more fuzzy. It could be argued that the basic formulas are good and beneficial; and, for the most part, there are no false expectations behind them. For example, one does not become enlightened or immortal from practicing the microcosmic orbit and does not expect to; the basic formulas also do not imply the development of preternatural powers. However, when a student moves on to the HT immortal practices, the convenient fuzziness begins.
In the Lei Shan Dao, no Pai (school) makes promises of physical immortality or rainbow body characteristic of Xian Tian Fa, but they do promise and prove the Yin Yang Gong and that after level 4 one can go and come back. Logically if someone never witnesses this, it is hard to believe.
The same issues apply for enlightenment. Everyone that has some cosmic revelation is enlightened and writes a book on it. But, why, since the death of Buddha and Christ, have millions of people closed themselves in monasteries and temples to find the Divine, to realize this enlightenment and yet few succeed? Are they all stupid? The Dalai Lama has clearly stated he is not enlightened or immortal and that he has met only a few who are. Others in equally meaningful positions have said much the same. Do we really know better? Conceptually speaking, if by immortality and enlightenment we mean psychological comfort, an idea that helps Christians without enough faith that the lord has already saved them, then qigong, as it has largely emerged in the west, is as good as anything else. But this is not the way that Daoists in China understand the topic.
Gross displays of power, if you have never met a master, are easily misunderstood. The burning of a newspaper by John Chang in the now famous Ring of Fire documentary is a good example. If you understand or have this power, then you know its the fire that burns away the very karma that binds us to this mortal body and leads to enlightenment. The outer manifestation of this power is just the shell. If you dont have the contextual knowledge to recognize this truth, then such things will have no meaning.
Let us remember that the same phenomena, such as healing and other manipulations of material reality, are written about in many faith traditions such as the Christian faith, were they are considered a sign of sainthood. Individuals such as Saint Teresa of Avila, perhaps one of the more well known examples, was widely believed to levitate in the ecstatic state of devotion on a regular basis; is she too fulfilling some ill perceived need for power? In orthodox Christianity, the basis of the main doctrine taught is the achievement of sainthood. Sainthood, and its requisite power, for them are equal to striving toward the realization of the resurrected body of light displayed by Jesus for the disciples on mount Tabor.
The same is true for all abilities or miracles such as walking on water and resurrecting the dead. Only the ignorant see them or seek them as empty manifestation of power. Those who know the difference between empty power and achievement see the purpose, the allegorical meaning behind the power.
It is true that this path is not for everybody and teachings were given to help also those who wouldnt or couldnt undertake such commitments, but to be honest the careful reading of the scriptures leaves much to debate by what achievement really means and if those who did not give their lives to reach measurable results would actually achieve salvation or immortality. In the view of real Christian hermits, Buddhist and Bon practitioners, interestingly, it is not enough.
So, again conceptually, if by immortality and immortal soul/self we mean actually psychological comfort or an understanding, then HT is as good as anything else. If the HT maintained only these humble goals, wellbeing and simple qigong for health and emotional management, there would be no flaw; the point is that since the beginning, the HT was presented as a way to immortality also.
Although most people are confused about such matters, it should still give rise to questions when people of no provable achievement and without a lineage or a master of concrete achievement talk of such matters like it is the most natural, effortless thing on earth, fundamentally coaxing people into believing that by attending Kan Li courses and practicing them for a few years they will have an immortal fetus, having realized their immortality.
The point is simple yet not many want to see it. Too much talking as usual is done on major ontological matters like immortality or enlightenment and logically if there are not objective standards (too uncomfortable and therefore denied) anyone can claim to know the truth about such things, which is fine as long as it remains in the realm of pure debate or friendly conversation. But, when even one person, not to mention 1,000 people, put their heart, belief, life, destiny and time into someones hands looking for an answer, a solution and the realization of their dreams, then the chosen person has an ethical duty to search for something beyond subjective reality. He or she needs the humility to accept that, like the Daoist-Buddhist story, it is one thing to know the Dao and to speculate on the Buddha fields and another thing to walk the Dao and be able to go and come back from the Buddha fields carrying the fruits of objective realization. Like the Buddha said, dharma is beyond theories; dharma is to be tested, manifested and realized here and now. The unforgettable story of Ling Zhi chopping off the finger of his disciple upon hearing him claiming he was enlightened in the masters presence, even after many years of retreat in the mountains, should make one reflect.
So, whoever claims a spiritual truth and makes promises of immortality for example, or rejuvenation, if he or she is in the role of teacher, there is an ethical duty to be able to prove at least certain achievements that simply show the ability to bring the student into uncharted. Otherwise the blind lead the blind.
If a teacher is not yet in that position but he or she chooses or is chosen to open the way for others, then, even more, there must be a root, a lineage of representatives to guide from the top down; a lineage of beings in the flesh, accomplished in their practice, not just in the mind. If its Daoism we speak about, then we should know that Daoism implies not only the realization of powers but their application and manifestation.
A few of lines to address the accusations of Mike Winn:
James McConnell is the second westerner David introduced to Shi fu Luo in 2002. David and James are still close. Mike Winn makes too many assumptions here. From what Im told James has said very little about his apprenticeship.
Luo had five masters and of all his western students, David is the only one who met three of the five. The One James met does not accept students and James only met him as a student of Luo who forbid him to look for him on his own. David has also met and worked with this master on many occasions and it’s not true that James was accepted to the so called inner circle and David was not. The opposite, if anything, would be truer.
Luo had five masters and of all his western students, David is the only one who met three of the five. The One James met does not accept students and James only met him as a student of Luo who forbid him to look for him on his own.
The bagua circle” Winn is talking about is just a fantasy, there is no such thing. Hes drawing this from the fact that one of Luo’s masters produced eight masters. Luo is the youngest of eight. For the record, the master that James met is Luo’s Tong Ling teacher not the Lei Shan Dao (thunder path) one. Tong Ling is the so called religious line of the Dao.
All this is really quite beside the point as David knows many Hsien (someone who has achieved immortality) of greater accomplishment then Luo. He has been accepted as a so called inner door student by four masters. His current teacher (not Luo), has safely produced over thirty students who have reached the first stages of Hsien, or Daoist immortality (the so called level 4/5), and beyond. These are all healthy, well adjusted people, many with normal families and children. I wouldnt classify them as extreme yang. Nor would I say the practices are for the few; although its true they require a lot of discipline. On the contrary, the Lei Shan Dao is considered one of the few Dao thats realistically achievable by lay practitioners.
Recently David was accepted as a family student by his current teacher; this is a step beyond inner door student. Youll have to forgive all the dramatic labels, becoming a family student simply means that the student becomes part of the masters family in virtually the same sense as a biological child, with all the rewards and responsibilities that come with the position. This is unheard of (for a westerner) in the Lei Shan Dao and represents a big step, both for David and, even more perhaps, his Shi fu. Over three hundred masters and practitioners traveled from all over China to be present at Davids acceptance ceremony, which I attended. Many of them came from remote, little known areas of China to be there.
Im not here to spark further debate on the subject, but I would ask those listening to carefully weigh the criticism and judgment Mike Winn has made against David and others over the past decade. Just know that there is a different perspective out there than the one hes giving. All these stories of Davids past as an Orphan and other such nonsense are largely a falsehood, or at least misperceptions that have been exaggerated beyond the pale.
There is a lot more that could be said, but its not my intention to dwell on the subject. I hope there can be some closure on the topic and old judgments can be put to rest. We should really be working together in service.
Sincerely, Sean D.
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