Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Training the Legs (腿功)

Frankly, hard work and perseverance are the only way to train your legs to sit comfortably for long hours in a meditative posture. I laid my foundation during my times practicing in the Tibetan Buddhism, where the sessions, especially the big events, usually lasted from 9am till 5pm, for about 8 hours non-stop. The long hours were daunting. I would think at the back of my mind, “8 long hours, will I be able to take it?” However, with strong faith and determination to do well, those 8 hours passed by quickly, and I actually did very well. But I have to agree that the initial period was really tough. So, you have to pull it through.

Based on my personal experience, the first two hours will really hurt: your legs will feel so painful that they will become completely numb and swollen. It will be followed by the blood rushing through your legs, clearing the blockage completely. Then, you will feel very comfortable and can sit there for long hours.

The time it takes to make it through vary from person to person. Some people will take 2 to 3 hours, some 3 hours, some just half an hour. Of course, I am referring to those whose legs are healthy. Those with problematic legs will face a different and more difficult situation. If your leg bone is not straight or your backbone has a little problem, then you will have a bigger problem.

For those in a healthy condition, you will have no other choice but to practice sitting in a meditative posture for long hours; it is pure hard work. The moment the blockage in your legs was about to be cleared, when the blood was about to rush through the blockage, you cannot stand up immediately or you will feel great pain in your legs and fall. But when the blockage is cleared, you will feel so comfortable that you can sit in the same posture for a long period and you just don’t feel like getting up. Sometimes you may even forget about the time. So, that period of training is critical.

It will be difficult for you to do your practice well if your legs hurt soon after you sit down. Based on my personal experience, you will need to sit there for at least 1 to 2 hours, with no problem with your legs, in order to do your practice well. If you start feeling the pain after just 15 minutes or half an hour, you will be in trouble. Usually a prayer session will last for at least one to one and a half hour, or even two hours. You can’t make it if your legs hurt so soon. So, there is no shortcut. You will need to have the determination and perseverance to succeed. Based on my personal experience, the power of blessing plays a crucial part too. When the power of blessing is strong, your legs will hurt less. Otherwise, the pain will be greater. No matter what, I think determination is the key to success.

I have gone through this process: you will only do better in your practice after you have transformed your physical body. Otherwise, you are only heading towards an aging process. If you could not do it in your 20s or 30s, how can you do it when you are much older now? You will feel worried when your body starts to ache. You could play your sports very well in the past but now your body aches soon after you start your game. You will start feeling worried and wonder if you could still continue with your practice. My personal experience told me that you can. I am 50 plus now but my body and legs feel young; my legs can do better than when I was in my 20s or 30s. My body is even softer than before; they are in a better condition now. So, if I can do it, so can you.

Our mind and body are one. When you have tamed your mind, your legs and body will become soft. On the contrary, when you have not yet tamed your mind, regardless of your age, your legs are stiff. After you have tamed your mind, regardless of your age, your body is soft. Master Nan is already in his 80s and his body is even softer than a baby’s. So, if Master Nan can do it, I believe with the great Vajrayana practices and the great blessing power, we can do it too if we practice with diligence. Otherwise, it cannot be helped; you would have missed a great opportunity.

We must put it to practice. First, we must learn to tame our mind. Although the legs are a problem, the mind is an even greater problem. I have seen many people who could sit still for long hours but their minds were running wild. If you sit there for long hours with no problems with your legs, yet your mind is restless and bored, you will start thinking about why you should be sitting there for so long and find it a painful experience. I don’t think the legs give you a big problem but the mind does. If you cannot tame your mind, your legs do not help even if they don’t give you problem. When your mind is running wild all the times, eager to travel outward to chase after the Six Phenomena (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, thought), your Six Senses (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind) are attached to the Six Phenomena: your eyes become attached to a pleasant sight, your nose becomes attached to a pleasant smell, your ears become attached to a pleasant sound, your tongue becomes attached to a pleasant taste etc. You will love the changes: you will want to eat this today, and eat that tomorrow, and eat something yet different on the following week. You want to try something new all the times. Why? Your mind is running wild!

For a practitioner, if you want to do well, you will have to bring back all the Six Senses and not let them run wild after the Six Phenomena. Quietly, you eat the same food every day, every moth and every year, yet not feeling bored but find it tasty. When you can live on very simple food and yet find it nice, you have succeeded in your practice. All things appear right before your eyes look pleasant and you will no longer seek anything new. When you still seek something new and you are still playful, your mind is not tamed yet; you are still outside the door of enlightenment. So, it is not easy to train the legs. But it will be even more difficult to train the mind after you are done with the legs. On the contrary, when you have tamed your mind, your legs will be tamed naturally. By then, you would have transformed your body and will be able to sit in a meditative posture for long hours. If I can do it, I hope you can too.