Buddhism in the Martial Arts
Martial arts are systematic practices and traditions of combating. The major purpose of martial arts is to protect oneself or others from physical threat. Nowadays, there are countless Kung Fu films about the martial arts and the legendary Shaolin monks. However, what confuses the public is that: how the Buddhist monks, who are supposed to believe in nonviolence and avoid taking the life of living beings, become masters of martial arts. In fact, martial arts are associated with Buddhist religion. Hopefully, this article will help you gain some insight into the interaction between Buddhism and martial arts.
The Roots of Martial Arts
It is commonly known that martial arts are fighting skills to defend oneself. But few know the ancient origins of martial arts. According to some scholarly investigation, martial arts are traced back to the Mesopotamia area, the cradle of civilization. Over time the concept of martial arts spread east first to India, where martial arts grew a fertile ground. Some Buddhists in India developed martial skills to protect themselves during their trip, especially to China.
During the 5th century, the Veberable Bodhidharma arrived in China and began to teach the Buddhist religoin in the Shaolin temple in Henan province. It was during this time that Shaolin Kung Fu was inspired and became institutionalized by Bodhidharma’s introduction of meditation, discipline and exercises. Originally, the monks utilize martial arts to preserve their health, so as to attain enlightenment.
Buddhism in Shaolin Kung Fu
At the beginning of Shaolin Kung Fu, the martial artist bows with two palms pressed together in front and says the word ”Amitoufo”, which is a compassionate name for the Buddha and is equivalent to reciting ”Buddha bless you.” Sholin monks perform one-handed bow in honor of Huike (the 2nd Chinese Chan Ancestor, following Bodhidharma) who scarified his arm to Damo at the initial phase of Shaolin’s history.
In addition, every form of Shaolin Kung Fu begins with a defensive movement in order to avoid conflict, which is known as Shaolin Buddha way. A Shaolin monk never provokes a fighting, and once provoked, he will utilize the attacker’s own violence against him.
Shaolin monks perform Kung Fu to help the innocent in any way and maintain health and strength. Buddhism is injected into the heart of every Shaolin monk and they spread Buddhist teachings to others in any possible way.
The Qi Gong is one of martial arts that interact with Buddhism. While one practicing Qi Gong, one’s mind goes blank and slips into a meditative state, which is close to Chan Buddhist meditation. The Qi Gong benefits one in strengthening one’s body and performing sitting meditation.