Wednesday, March 01, 2006

free will and chi

ok instead of putting it all on the blog, here's a link to an essay explaining why free will and determinism are not incompatible.

http://www3.sympatico.ca/saburns/pg0208.htm

and to completely change the subject, rot 13 said a few days a go that he/she (don't wanna presume!) didn't think that 'chi' was real. well luckily for me i happen to live 5 mins away from one of two of the only shaolin temples outside china and i saw a monk break a real (honestly it was real) metal bar over his head without leaving so much as a mark. another monk was lifted up into the air on 4 spears (sharp enough to split blocks of wood) and he was completely unscathed. another monk pole vaulted with a pole 3 times his size and while in mid pole vault ran up the pole and stood on the top of it.

this one's not from personal experience but:

my friend's dad works for the UN and while in Tibet he was shown a monk levitating (!).

so i believe that chi's real. therefore i believe that correct posture is important in every action that you perform. if your back's not straight and unsupported when you're doin zazen then it's not being done correctly.

also, always bend your knees and keep your back straight when lifting heavy objects (like monks lying on spears).

11 Comments:

At March 01, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

sorry i've been away for a few days and have only just read all the shit that went down in k'vitsch's post 'feeling better'. heavy. so probably better not to bring up the whole free will can of worms again. sorry for posting the link to the essat everyone. feel free to ignore it. mikedoe was right when he said that all the metaphysical hoo hah has very little to do with: eat right, zazen twice a day, regular exercise, show compassion towards all sentient beings, try not to get angry about stupid shit etc etc.

 
At March 01, 2006, Blogger cromanyak said...

No need to apologize. It's hard not to believe in chi. Now that science is starting to look into things like these I think that it will become more of a practical thing than just a bunch of "hoo hah".

 
At March 01, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Again with the "Yeah, what cromanyak said." No apologies necessary.

I just read a book about alternative medicines, specifically what kind of stuff actually has scientific evidence backing it up, and what doesn't. Acupuncure apparently has quite a few studies backing it up, and the author (a practical, scientifically-minded MD) personally witnessed someone receiving open-heart surgery with no anesthetic other than acupunture, while the patient was still awake! I think if everything that hasn't been explained yet is hoo-hah, there's a whole world of hoo-hah out there. :-)

 
At March 01, 2006, Blogger Jinzang said...

I saw a monk break a real (honestly it was real) metal bar over his head without leaving so much as a mark. another monk was lifted up into the air on 4 spears (sharp enough to split blocks of wood) and he was completely unscathed.

A lot of this stuff is just magic tricks and you shouldn't be fooled by it. I believe in chi, but you should understand that China had a different way of looking at the world and chi was part of it. You can't really fit chi into our Western world view as some sort of ghostly new force. Sometimes the Chinese world view works best (chi kung, acupuncture) and sometimes the Western view (nuclear weapons.)

 
At March 01, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

i actually meant that the whole free will determinism thing was hoo hah not the chi. thing. reading my comment again its not very clear i guess. jinzang: i'm really not sure whether this was just a magic trick. those spears were dam sharp and the monk whacked the metal bar on the floor really hard before he hit it over his head. i'm guessing it was pig iron, which is super brittle so that's why it broke so easily but still, breaking anything over your head and being absolutely fine afterwards is more than just a cheap trick!

 
At March 01, 2006, Blogger James said...

dan, you touched on the application of zazen to everyday life in posture, breathing, awareness. It's an important realization and can be used for many ends. This unfortunately applies to doing flashy stunts for cash and recognition. I wonder what type of meditation techniques they practice...?

-James

 
At March 01, 2006, Blogger cromanyak said...

I think that for people who are asleep the deteminism theory probably holds true, since most of what sleeping people do is mechanical, but a conscious person wouldn't be as predictable.

 
At March 01, 2006, Blogger Jules said...

Except that nobody is always asleep... we're all enlightened some of the time, we just don't usually recognize it. Right?

 
At March 02, 2006, Blogger MikeDoe said...

I have done some of the shaolin training and seen others being taught it first-hand and close up.

There is no magic involved. It is no more than body and mind working together with lots of training. You start with little things and move to bigger things over time.

A lot of the chi-building exercises also build muscle tone, strengthen arteries/veins and increase bone density and especially skin strength.

Some of the exercises increase the fibrous content of the skin meaning that it stays soft and pliable but is also pretty tough.

All these Chi arts were originally considered hidden. You could build a pretty tough body and a strong fighter without the scars caused by karate and so you would not know if someone had lethal skills or was harmless.

With that out of the way...

It is best to think of Chi as a metaphor. It does not exist per se but is a representation of something that does.

A lot of chi-building exercises involved a focussed concentration on the part of the body being exercised - eg where the spear would go.

A standard training would be like this:

1. Zazen to become aware of Chi in your body.
2. Zazen/Meditation to increase Chi
3. Practice moving Chi around the body
4. Repeat

Chi (Breath of Life lit.) is part of the eastern holistic medicine structure. It does not transfer into western reductionist medicine very well.

All I can say was that for the exercises I did that were to do with Chi I could find 'sensible' western explanations in either psychology or physiology.

Frankly, unless you are actually doing anything with Chi I wouldn't worry about whether it exists or not.

I didn't believe in it when I did the exercises. They still worked. The 'sensations' I felt matched the summaries of Chi.

Remember, no magic, just lots of practice. Like Buddhism in fact...

 
At March 02, 2006, Blogger Dan said...

james: well they put on the show to raise money for the building of a new temple back in china which i would consider a fairly worthy cause. they are chan (chinese zen) buddhists so they practice zazen. they function as a regulaer buddhist temple as well as a place where u can learn kung fu an tai chi. i don't know whether they are the same shaolin monks who had that international circus act type thing going a few years a go. i don't think they are.

mikedoe: i would agree that there is no magic involved. to me magic is only a word for what we don't properly understand. flying to the moon and laser beams would have been magic a few hundred years a go.

 
At March 02, 2006, Blogger Justin said...

Jules Said: Acupuncure apparently has quite a few studies backing it up, and the author (a practical, scientifically-minded MD) personally witnessed someone receiving open-heart surgery with no anesthetic other than acupunture, while the patient was still awake! I think if everything that hasn't been explained yet is hoo-hah, there's a whole world of hoo-hah out there. :-)

This is evidence only for the anaesthetic properties of acupuncture - for which I agree the evidence is good - not for other claimed medicinal benefits nor for chi nor for mysterious powers or energies. Let's not get carried away.

Chi:
I've done some kung-fu myself including a Shaolin style and I've seen Shaolin monks performing. Chi can be a euphemism for 'force', although some of its powers seem to be fictional. I don't think there are any powers demonstrated by Shaolin monks which aren't explained by skill, conditioning and and understanding of physics. I've seen most of these sorts of feats explained on TV. I'd be very surprised if anyone can really levitate - there were some famous photos of Transcendental Meditators supposedly levitating but it was later admitted that they were bouncing up and down in a lotus position.

Freewill:
The notions of freewill and determinism are philosophical errors based on understanding the intuitive sense of self as a real, metaphysical entity. Without that, the question is meaningless.

 

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