What is the Story?
Two stories. The first are my trials and tribulations on the journey to become a bodhisattva. This journey is far from over, I feel as though there is no end. What is a bodhisattva? I believe Master Sheng Yen of Dharma Drum Mountain describes it best.
Way of a Bodhisattva
The process of maturing involves both leaving behind concern for yourself and reorienting yourself to the benefit of other [people]. Then you will be ready to bear inconvenience, trouble, suffering, and vexation on others' behalf. To save [people] from suffering, as Buddhists vow to do, requires that you give whatever is needed, time, money, or all your effort. When you give, it may seem that you lose something. A bodhisattva pays no attention to loss. It is the responsibility to other [people] that is important.
To voluntarily abandon your own benefit, to actively help and when necessary suffer for the sake of [people] is the correct attitude. When our actions in the interest of others are voluntary, our own suffering diminishes. It is when suffering and vexation are involuntary, that they are difficult to bear. Those on the bodhisattva path must disregard their own benefit, despite the discomfort this may bring. Even if the [people] we help do not express gratitude, we will have no regrets. This is wisdom and compassion, and way of a bodhisattva.
The Chan View of Life, Dharma Talk by Master Sheng Yen, Oct. 1993
The story “Monkey: Journey to the West” has been a metaphor for my life. It is an elaborate tale filled with adventure, allegory, and spiritual insight. It begins when the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Guanyin, sends the main character, Monkey, on a journey deep into the Buddhist heartland of India to bring Buddhist philosophy and meditation to the people of the East.
Monkey tricks his way in and out of many stressful situations and, after many trials and much suffering, paves his own path toward becoming a bodhisattva.
Story is important. My fondest stories as a child were from Teju The Storyteller. He visited Milwaukee Spanish Immersion School often, telling stories to teach morals and inspire. I was deeply honored to have him present when I taught my first taiji seminar.
My “Journey to the East,” much like Monkey’s journey West, was also filled with many trials and much suffering.
Being biracial meant never quite fitting in as a child.
Being a “bad” kid meant barely graduating high school.
Those were the easy parts.
Being diagnosed with bipolar created a lifelong battle with depression, mania, medical bills, hospitals...
Stories like Journey to the West, movies like The Karate Kid and music by conscious hip hop artists are what kept me motivated during the most trying times.
Story and lineage are vitally important. Take, for example, the story, lineage and cast of characters involved with learning to meditate.
Jackie Chan who first inspired me to train in Traditional Chinese Martial Arts
Wu-Tang Clan a hip-hop group inspired by the kung-fu movies they saw growing up
Master Wang telling me I needed to learn meditation in 2002
The list goes on and on. It was “an elaborate tale filled with adventure, allegory, and spiritual insight” that led me to a video by Russell Simmons which then led me to...
the Maharshi University of Management in 2008 and finally learning to meditate
That same year I discovered Dharma Drum Mountain, a place that perfectly blended my love for martial arts, my desire to be a bodhisattva and “Monkey: Journey to the West.” It wasn’t until this year, 2015, that I was able to make meditation a habit I do every morning and evening but...
My journey isn’t complete. It feels like I’m starting from scratch once again. This program is a new journey. It exists to give kids in Milwaukee the opportunity to learn in three what took me 30 years of trials and suffering.
My brief encounter with the musical artist Common inspired me. When I researched him I found a compassionate individual who represented so many things I was aspiring to be. This quote, from the Common Ground Foundation, summarizes perfectly what I will achieve with the creation of this program:
Lineage and teachers are of the utmost importance in Chinese culture. It is my sincere hope to pass this respect of one’s lineage, teachers culture on to the youth of Milwaukee.
Black Horse Tai Chi Back Story
This is a brief story of the key influences in the creation of Black Horse Tai Chi and, by extension, this program.
My path as a martial artist started with my first viewing of “The Karate Kid.”
See that guy behind the ref with the sweet 70s collars?
I wanted to grow up and be that guy. I took a karate class in grade school and signed myself up at the Chinese Kung Fu Center when I hit high school but the problem was…
How do you become Mr. Miyagi?
Instead you find role models and discover pieces of yourself hidden within each. Jackie Chan, Gordon Liu, Bruce Lee and Jet Li all became a part of me. I also studied and trained with a number of people off screen, the most influential being Master Henry Wang.
I met Master Wang in 2002. He holds a summer camp for one week every year. A group of friends and I spent an extra three days with him before camp that year.
In the years leading up to that camp, I intensely studied a book called the Daodejing (Tao Te Ching). Hidden within the passages of that text are the secrets to free life.
When I met Master Wang I knew I met a man who, in many respects, mastered the freedom I sought.
Master Wang gave me permission to teach and a name for that system in 2008.
My first Daoism and taiji teacher, pictured on the left, once told me there are two sources for philosophical insight and high martial skill.
A skilled Master
A group of friends
The focus of my practice, and system built as a result of it, has been on number two. If I had to choose one path, it would be number two.
It’s obviously best to have both.