08 August, 2005

Shaolin temple

In ancient China there was a young boy named Su. He heard from his friends that the monks in the Shaolin temple knew and practiced the true techniques of Chinese kung fu. So he left home and went on his way to find the temple. After much hardships and sufferings along the way, he finally arrived at the foothills leading up to the famous Shaolin temple.[1]As he struggled up the hill slowly, he was surprised to see someone overtook him on the way up. This young man was carrying two large buckets full of water and he was running very fast up the hill. His buckets were old and they have many cracks at the bottom and were leaking!

On arrival at the temple, Su was brought before the head monk in charge. The boy explained his intentions to learn from the monks the real Chinese kungfu. Fang chang listened carefully and then he assigned the boy to work in the large kitchen. He had to report directly to the cook every day. His job was to cook rice for 200 monks.
[2] The cook showed the boy the huge wok in which the rice is being cooked and how to chop and stock fire wood underneath to keep it boiling. As it cooked the rice had to be stirred constantly with a long wooden paddle to prevent it from burning. The boy had to keep the kitchen and everything clean and spotless. Every night the head cook inspected the area before he allowed the boy to go to bed after dinner.

The boy was also required to carry water from the well at the bottom of the hill. He was given two very old wooden buckets. He filled the buckets and carried them uphill to pour into the tanks. On arrival he found that his buckets were only half full. There were small cracks at the bottom of each bucket! He needed to fill two large tanks for the temple’s use for bathing and cooking, and 200 monks used a lot of water every day. The boy learned to run very fast uphill with his full buckets just like the other man did! He had to hurry because he had many other chores which he needed to complete each day. As the months progressed, he managed to fill these tanks sooner and faster and even had time to rest or take a nap in the afternoons. He was resting in the back yard one day when he observed an old monk chopping fire wood for the kitchen. He was not using an axe; but was just using his bare hands!

One night, when the moon was full, by chance, the boy came across a very old monk with flowing white beard.
[3] He was practicing kungfu in the middle of the night, all alone in a secluded part at the inner sanctuary of the temple. He watched carefully and was very surprised to see that this old monk was sitting down quietly in the lotus fashion. Steam was rising from the top of his bald head! Also he seemed to rise about eight inches off the ground. Suddenly, he pointed his finger at a candle five paces away and the light went out. Next, he pointed his finger at the candle again, and the light came back! Su was curious and he came back to watch this monk practise his unusual kungfu almost every night.

One time, he accidentally made a noise and the old monk knew that he was being watched. At first the boy was very frightened and he tried to run away; but no matter how fast he ran, the old monk was always just behind him like a shadow! In the end he stopped running; but the old monk was not angry with him at all. He told the boy a story: He was the most senior monk in the temple. One day, long ago, he was caught doing something very bad and he was punished by the head monk and was imprisoned for 35 years inside the temple. Because he was bad he missed his turn to become head monk.
[4] Some one much younger than him was chosen. He thought that it was fair that a prisoner like him, should not become head monk. So he became a recluse and use all his time to concentrate on perfecting his martial arts. He read and studied all the old kungfu books and other religious scripts kept in the pagoda. He became a Shaolin kungfu expert and specialist, having many unusual knowledge and abilities.

They talked and the boy became very friendly with this mysterious old monk. He was shown the way to practise real Shaolin kungfu. After 10 years of working in the kitchen, carrying water with leaky buckets by day, and getting private coaching from this old monk by night, the boy slowly grew up to become a strong young man! One day he felt very homesick and he requested leave to go home. The head monk was not pleased because he thought that he was not yet ready. Traditionally, all young monks or ordinary students of kungfu are allowed to leave the temple, if they passed a test!
[5] He was instructed to run the gauntlet defended by all his peers who were standing on both sides of a long corridor. Some of the monks had sticks as weapon, others took up various types of fighting formations. If he succeeded, he may leave. The bell was rung and the test began!

For some strange reasons, all those monks were unable to block his way through the corridors. They tried their best; but they were unable to do anything. He was like a shadow without substance moving at extraordinary speed through their ranks! The head monk saw all this and suddenly announce that Su was free to go. All his fellow monks stopped chasing him around and they all clapped their hands and congratulated him. He passed the test of Lohan Tang!

The young man went home to his village. His mother was very happy to see him after such a long absence. She complained to him that their roof was still leaking! Next morning he was up on the roof of their house repairing the leaks. His mother noticed that he did not use a ladder. He crouched for a moment on the ground and just effortlessly floated upwards to the roof. The next minute, he was already adding new straws and fixing the old leaks!

Unknown to the young boy, all the various jobs that he has been instructed to do, were intended to build a strong body and mind to provide a strong foundation for kungfu training. After ten years he was ready; but he was simply unaware of his own progress in mastering some of the most difficult Shaolin kungfu techniques. He succeeded because he had a strong physique and had the very best mentor and teacher. He did not know that he has been ready for the test for quite some time! He should have left the temple months ago!

[1] Drilling dept. SSB
[2] rough necking on the oil rigs
[3] John Chamley, tool pusher on the Jumbo
[4] Head toolpusher
[5] round one exams in Holland for drillers
[6] All the trainee drillers were good enough to work as drillers; but we did not leave Shell to go and work elsewhere, we stayed in Shaolin temple. It was our biggest mistake!

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