strengthen the body,
sharpen the mind
and enrich the spirit
When I had my Karate studio (2000-2003) Jefferson, Texas, (Inner Spirit Martial Arts) the one factor I used was zen stories during the cool down period of the class. After an extensive work out I’d have the class sit and cool down, and I would tell a zen story and allow the class to meditate on the moral of each story. To keep the stories fresh I would read a lot of stories to tell, and have even made a few of my own. I even dabbled in zen poetry that I categorized as zen mountain poetry.
My favorite of all the stories I told was, ‘Enemies of the mind’, it is a tale of Da Mo, Da Mo, it is said to have created kung fu, when he went to a monastery and noticed that the monks had become sluggish from constantly sitting and writing books, mostly copying and creating more books for their religion. They meditated, prayed, and worked sitting down.
Da Mo was an energetic person and exercised frequently. One night the temple was being robbed and Da Mo not knowing what to do but certainly wasn’t going to allow the robbers to just walk away with the items belonging to the monastery, Da Mo thought that he would jump out and be as ferocious as a tiger. He leaped out growling and moving around the bandits like a tiger and the bandits in total fear dropped the stolen items and fled, hence, kung fu was born.
The days that followed, began the monks on an exercise regiment and self defense moves took place, creating the tiger, dragon, praying mantis, crane and snake styles of kung fu. After awhile Da Mo felt he had benefited physically from this new art but was now in search of something deeper, more mental, in short he was in search of zen. So, Da Mo set out in search of enlightenment.
After many days of traveling in the wilderness, Da Mo was growing hungry, it was becoming dark and it began to rain and visibility was getting harder to see. He now grew cold from the rains and it was getting harder to see now that night was setting in. Da Mo was feeling his way through the woods like a blind man, praying to the gods for help when he came upon a cave. “the gods have blessed me,” he thought. As he entered the cave and got out of the rain he could not see a thing but was stepping on something, ‘crunching’ sounds came from beneath his feet. ‘Perhaps twigs and leaves blown into the cave by the wind’ he thought. As he got deeper in the cave he sat down and found what felt like hay, ‘the gods have blessed me’ he thought as he balled the hay like material up and made a bed and pillow. Da Mo laid down and as he was falling asleep he thanked the gods for a place to lay his head for the night, out of the rain.
In the middle of the night Da Mo awoke with a powerful thirst and even though he could see nothing, he heard dripping of water near-by so he crawled over and found the water dripping, allowed it to drip on his hand, tasted it and it was good. As his hand dropped slightly, he felt a bowl like object that had trapped a small amount of water. He picked this goblet like object up and drank from it, thinking, ‘the gods have truly blessed me,’ so he quenched his thirst, set the object down, crawled back to his make shift bed and went back to sleep.
The next day, morning came and the sun’s light entered the cave and illuminated it enough that Da Mo could now see that the crunching sounds he heard coming into the cave was actually bones, the hay he had made a bed with was really hair and the bowl he had drank from in the dark was really a human skull. He was in a burial cave. Da Mo felt slightly ill from this thoughts and went back to the monastery feeling enlightened. What had Da Mo learned… Enemies of the Mind, for every thing was a blessing until his mind had told him it was not.