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A Thousand Ways to Practice Shaolin

3 September 2006

On September 1, 2006, three dozen kung fu masters entered Shaolin Monastery to begin their nine-day intensive meditation at Closing Gate. It is part of the preparation for a top level martial arts contest that has ever taken place in history - or it is so claimed.

In his early film "Shaolin Temple", Jet Li practiced Shaolin kung fu for good twenty years before facing his moment: to pass the matrix of 18 Iron Man - only after that he would be allowed to leave the monastery and see the world. This scenario is not fictional but an authentic Shaolin tradition. Now when the Gate is reopened on September 9, the kung fu guys will once again face the Matrix, and the world will have a chance to see a live show of Iron Man battle.

Face the Matrix

By the time martial artists fight tooth and nail at Shaolin for their place in the kung fu world, civil artists will come to Shaolin to hold a joint seminar on Zen's place in our lives. Their mission is to find a linkage between Zen and comedy, Zen and music, Zen and kung fu, and Zen and just everything under the sun.

And these are just a couple of introduction chapters. If you want to skip to main content, wait until middle of October when Shaolin is to open a grand theatre for Zen music concert.

Located in the Valley of Waiting Immortal, the open theatre will be so epic that is capable of accommodating 700 performers and 3000 audience at once. In this unspoiled corner, the music can perfectly blend into the natural elements - the sound of running water that reverberates in hush, and of the pine trees audibly vibrating in night gusts. And the surrounding hills, in the flicking lights of 1000 colourful lanterns hidden among the trees, return echoes from all directions.

As audience sit on cushions meditating in this panoramic setting, the melody flows unruffled and refined. In such a united effort of contemplating the void and understanding the indefinable, time stops, dimensions are lost, and the rest of the world could just fade away ... ...

While in a short distance the temple stands quietly, illustrating the power of silence.

Out of the Entrance

All these happenings are breathtaking. Yet not everything is rosy. In recent months, Shaolin Monastery has attracted great deal of criticism from the general public, being accused of becoming less a Buddhist hub but more a business entity. When the abbot expressed his delight over the award of a luxury car for his work on promoting the local business overseas, he was especially reproached for looking like a businessman, talking like a businessman and acting like a businessman.

Probably he is the one. But who says a businessman can't practice Buddhism? After all, there are a thousand ways to enlightenment, aren't there?

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