In 1964, renowned martial artist Bruce Lee fought a famous private battle with a master of traditional Chinese Tai Chi Chuan named Wong Jack Man. Legend has it that they fought to prove, among other things, whose form of Kung Fu was superior. Bruce Lee taught a new form of fighting that was modern, practical and free of much of the veil of secrecy and dogma. Wong Jack Man was an adherent of the old ways, the secret brand of combat traditionally taught only to monks in Shaolin Temples. Whatever the reasons, the fight did take place, though the outcome is still controversial and debated.
“The fight ensued, it was a no-holds-barred fight, it took three minutes. Bruce got this guy down to the ground and said ‘Do you give up?’ and the man said he gave up”. – Linda Lee Cadwell, Bruce Lee’s wife.
Why did they need to fight to determine which teaching was better? They were supposed to be masters of their craft, having attained a high degree of control over their bodies, their emotions, and their egos. Each system follows a slightly different path and is tailored for a different type of student. Could they not see that both systems are equally valid and lead to the same place, and achieve the same results? What drives them to fight to prove that “My kung fu is better than yours”.
This same type of conflict occurs in the realm of spirituality every day. Someone will teach doing things one way and one way only. Then, someone else comes along and proclaims the old ways outdated and that their new approach is the best or only way to achieve results. They come into conflict and their students and disciples become rivals, spending their time arguing and disagreeing over relatively trivial points instead of embracing each other as fellow travelers on the road to the Truth.
We get caught up in the emotional conflict and lose sight of the underlying reality, that all systems are valid and all paths lead to the same destination. We all strive to remove the control the Ego has over our lives, yet through our egos, we believe our way is superior and all other ways are inferior. We mock, put down and condemn others and become outraged and confrontational when we are likewise criticized or insulted.
It is easier for us to fall victim to pride and jealousy than it is to tolerate and accept other viewpoints and perspectives. As we journey on the spiritual path, our own perspectives will change. Things we scoffed at a few years ago we now value. Things we prized in years past we now view as pointless and valueless. Everyone is at their own place on the road to enlightenment so our individual maturity and knowledge will vary greatly. There is an endless number of roads on which to travel, each with its own unique and specific beliefs and practices. Sometimes we mock out of ignorance. Sometimes it is out a false sense of superiority.
Whatever the reason, we need to choose a different way. When we feel the urge to judge, criticize or make fun of someone or something, instead we should open our hearts, feel love and compassion for our fellow spiritual travelers and wish them well on their journey. We should focus our energy and attention on our own development and our own explorations rather than wasting our energy on putting others down.
Never assume that what works for you will work equally well for someone else. Never assume you have all the answers. Never believe that your personal accomplishments make you in any way superior to anyone else. Likewise, never believe that your failures make you any less.
Most importantly, never take your methods and learnings so seriously that you need to fight with anyone to prove whose kung fu is better.
Yours in Light,