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Find Your Teacher and Practice Humbly

by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, January 7, 2008
Chinese Teapot

Empty Your Cup

There is a Chinese story about six blind men who touch an elephant to know what it looks like. The first one touches the elephant's ear and says, "An elephant is like a large fan." The second one touches the side of its body and says, "No, it is like a wall." The third one describes the leg, "No, the elephant is a pillar." The fourth one touches the nose and shouts, "The elephant is like a big, hanging branch of a tree!" The fifth one touches the ivory, and says, "it is a large horn sticking out of a huge mouth". The sixth one who touches the tail says loudly, "No, an elephant is a large swinging broom sticking out of the wall". If they were to put all of the information together, they would have a reasonable description of the elephant. This story shows we should not stubbornly insist there is only one viewpoint, as we often see only part of the story. There is always more to learn.

Don't waste time in only theoretical research. Practice and theory should go together. From practice, you gain experience, and from theory, you have a clear guideline for practice. Some people hesitate due to the danger involved in martial arts, qigong, or meditation, accomplishing nothing and simply wasting time. Be cautious but determined, and learn from the experience of others, and you will find the right path. Study the Classics passed down in the lineage of your art. Find a teacher, and practice, practice, practice.

Buddha traveled the countryside one day and came to a river. An old Qigong master lived there, who asked him, "You are the Buddha? If so, can you do the same thing I can? I cross the river by walking on top of the water!" Buddha said, "That is very impressive. But how long have you practiced it?" The old man replied proudly, "It took me nearly forty years to achieve it." The Buddha looked at him and said, "It took you forty years! It takes me only a few coins to cross the river on the ferryboat."

Often we spend too much time on unimportant things. Treat your time preciously and use it efficiently. Get rid of your dignity. If you take your dignity too seriously, you will not find a sincere teacher willing to teach from the heart.

A young Samurai swordsman entered the house of a famous Zen master. He looked at the master, bowed and said, "Master! I have reached a deep level of Zen, both in theory and practice. I have heard you are great so I come here to bow to you and hope you can teach me something." The Zen master looked at this proud young man. Without a word, he went into the back room and brought out a teapot and a teacup. He placed the cup in front of the young man and started to pour the tea into the cup. The tea filled the cup quickly and soon began to overflow. The young man looked at the old man with a confused expression. He said, "Stop, master! The teacup is overflowing". The old Zen master put the teapot down and smiled at him. He said, "This is you. You are too full already. I cannot teach you. If you wish to learn, you must first empty your cup." Can you be humble?

When you find a good qualified teacher or source of learning, treat it preciously, so you don't miss the opportunity of learning. This chance may not come again.

Traditionally, it was very difficult to find a qualified teacher. Even if you found one, you would not necessarily be accepted. Today, it is easier to collect information since there are so many books, and DVDs available. But the guidance of an experienced teacher is crucial to reach the final goal. Subtle advice can save you a great deal of time and effort. When you are lost in a big city, even though you have read the map, guidance from a passerby could save a lot of effort.

A young man had already spent more than seven years searching for a good master. He came to where a great teacher lived deep in the remote mountains with a few students. He was received kindly and expressed his intention of learning from the master. The master looked at him for a while, then brought out a teapot and a teacup.

He poured tea into the cup, stopping when the tea reached the brim. He put the teapot down with a smile, hinting to the young man that the place was already full. He could not accept another student. The young man looked at the cup and realized what it meant. He lowered his head in sadness. Noticing a rice straw on the floor, he picked it up and carefully stuck it into the tea. The tea did not overflow. He looked at the master's face with hope, showing him, Look, there is still space for me. The tea did not overflow. Through this silent communication, the old master realized that the young man was one of those rare intelligent ones who could comprehend the profound feeling of the art. He accepted him with delight. It is very difficult to find a humble and intelligent student able to comprehend the art deeply and to develop it. When a teacher finds this kind of student, it will be like a precious pearl in his hands.

Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, is a renowned author and teacher of Chinese martial arts and Qigong. Born in Taiwan, he has trained and taught Taijiquan, Qigong and Chinese martial arts for over forty-five years. He is the author of over thirty books, and was elected by Inside Kung Fu magazine as one of the 10 people who has "made the greatest impact on martial arts in the past 100 years." Dr. Yang lives in Northern California.


I would like to have a tai chi master. I live in Pachuca city, it is 1.5 hour north from Mexico city. Can you help me?
Hector – February 5, 2008, 4:16 pm
i would like to show respect to the great dr.yang jwing ming , i owe all things that i know to him , from his books , he enlight my road , i wish i meet him one day , iam from egypt ,, i wish to be follow him , so much love , respect to the great master ... its my dream to be one of his student ,, may be my dream comes true one day
mohamed elsayed – November 12, 2008, 9:24 am

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