Morality of the Mind Part 1 - Will (Yi Zhi)

By Grandmaster Shou-Yu Liang and Master Wen-Ching Wu

It usually takes a while to demonstrate a strong will. This is because of the struggle between the emotional mindand the wisdom mind. If you wisdom mind governs your entire being, you will be able to suppress the disturbances that come form the emotional mind, and your will can last. A strong will depends upon the sincerity with which you commit yourself to your goal. This has to come from deep within you, and can't be just a casual, vague desire. Oftentimes, the students who show the greatest eagerness to learn in the beginning, quit the soonest, while those who hide their eagerness deep inside their hearts stay the longest.

There is a Chinese story from ancient times about a ninety year old man who lived together with his sons,daughters-in-law, and grandsons near the mountain Bei. In front of his house were two mountains, Taixing and Wangwu, which blocked the road to the county seat and made travel very inconvenient. One day he decided to remove these two mountains to the coast nearby and dump the dirt into the sea. His neighbors laughed at him when they heard of this. However, he replied, "Why is this so impossible? I will die soon, but I have sons and my sons will have grandsons without end. However, the mountain remains the same. Why can't I move it? Isn't it true that where there is a will, there is a way?"

There is another story about the famous poet Li Bai. When Li Bai was young he studied at a school far away from his home. He lacked a strong will so before the end of this studies he gave up and decided to go home. While crossing over a mountain on the way home he passed an old lady sitting in front of her house. In her hands she held a metal pestle which she was grinding on the tope of a rock. Li Bai was very curious and asked here what she was doing. She said, "I want to grind this pestle into a needle." When Li Bai heard of this he was very ashamed, and decided to return to school and finish his studies. He later became one of the greatest poets in China.

There is another well-known story which tells of a famous archer named Hou Yi. When Hou Yi heardthatthere was a famous archery master in the North, he decided to ask the master to take him as a student. After three months of travel, Hou Yi finally arrived in the cold Northern territory. Before long, he found the home of the famous master. He knocked on the door, and when the old master came out, Hou Yi knelt down and said, " Honorable master, would please accept me as your disciple?" The old master replied, "Young man, I can't accept any students. I am not as good as you think, and besides, I am already old." But Hou Yi would not accept no for an answer> "Honorable master," he said, "I have made up my mind: I swear I will not get up until you promise to take me as your student."

The master closed the door without a word, leaving Hou Yi outside. Before long it got dark and started to snow, but Hou Yi remained in his kneeling position without moving. One whole day passed, but the master never appeared again. Hou Yi continued to kneel on the ground in front of the door. A second day passed, and a third day. Finally, the master opened the door and said, " Young man, if you really want to learn my archery techniques, you must first pass a few tests."

"Of course, master," Hou Yi replied with great happiness.

"The first is a test of your patience and perseverance. You must go back home and every morning and evening watch three sticks of incense burn out. Do this for three years and then come back to see me."

Hou Yi went home and started to watch the incense each morning and evening. At first, he got bored and impatientvery quickly. However, he was determined to keep his promise, so he continued to watch the incense. Six month later, watching the incense burning had become a habit. He started to realize that he had become patient, and even began to enjoy his morning and evening routine. He began to concentrate his mind, focusing on the head of the incense as it burned down the stick. From practicing concentration and calming his mind, he learned to distinguish between the real and the false. After the three years were up, he found that every time he concentrated and focused his eyes on something, that object would be enlarged in his mind, and all other surroundings objects would disappear. He did not realize that he had learned the most important factor in becoming a good archer - a concentrated and calm mind. After he finished this test, he was very happy and traveled to the North to see his master.

The master told him, "You have passed the first test, now you must pass a second. You must go back and day and night watch your wife weave at her loom, following the shuttle with your eyes as it moves incessantly to and fro. You must do this for three years and then come back to see me.

Hou Yi was very disappointed, because he had thought that his master would teach him now that he had completed his three years of patience training. However, because his heart was set on learning from this famous master, he left and went home. He sat by his wife's loom and focused his eyes on the shuttle as it moved to and fro. As with the incense, he didn't enjoy himself at first, but after one year passed he began to get used to the fast shuttle motion. After another two years, he found that when he concentrated on the shuttle, it would move more slowly. Without realizing it, he had learned the next important part of an archer's training - concentrating on a moving object. He returned to his master and told his master what he had found. Instead of beginning his instruction, he was asked to return home and make 10 rice baskets a day for the next three years. Chinese rice baskets were made out of rattan, and one needed to have very strong wrists and arms to make them. Even a very good basket maker could hardly make five a day, and Hou Yi was being asked to make ten a day!

Although disappointed, Hou Yi returned home to do as he was told. In the beginning he hardly slept, spendingalmost every hour of the day in making baskets. His hands were numb and bleeding, his shoulder were sore, and he was always tired, but he persisted in working to finish ten baskets a day. After six months he found that his hands and shoulders were no longer in pain, and he could make ten baskets a day easily. By the end of three years, he could make twenty a day. He surely had achieved the last requirement of a good archer - strong and steady arms and shoulders. Hou Yi finally realized that all his efforts for the last nine years had actually been the training for how to become a good archer. He was now able to shoot very well with his concentrated mind and strong arms.

Proud and happy, he returned to his master, who said, "You have studied hard and learned well. Ican't teach you any more than what you already know." With this the master turned and walked away.

Hou Yi was thinking that all his master had taught him in the last nine years was expressed in only threesentences. He couldn't believe that his was all there was to learn. He decided to put his master, who by now was two hundred yards away, to a test. He pulled an arrow from his quiver, aimed at the tassel on his master's hat, and released. His master instantly sensed the arrow coming his way, pulled and nocked an arrow, and shot it back to meet the coming arrow in the air. Both arrows dropped to the ground. Hou Yi saw this and without stopping shot a second arrow, and this second arrow suffered the same fate. He couldn't believe that his master could shoot and meet his arrows in mid-air three times in a row, so he loosed a third arrow. He suddenly realized that his master had run out of arrows. While he was wondering what his master was going to do, his master plucked a branch from a nearby willow tree and used this branch as an arrow. Again it met Hou Yi's arrow in mid-air. This time, Hou Yi ran toward his master, knelt before him, and said, "Most respected master, now I realize on thing. The thing that I cannot learn from you is experience, which can only come from practicing by myself."

Of course, part of the story is exaggerated. However, masters in China often used this story to encourage the students to strengthen their will, to think, and to research. What the master can give you is a key to the door. To enter the door and find things inside is your own responsibility. The more experience you have, the better you will be.