A Buddhist monk can be expelled, and never allowed to be a monk again in this life, for killing, or for sexual intercourse. Fair enough, your average Western layperson can understand that. A monk can also be expelled for claiming to have magical powers. Huh? What’s that all about? Surely there aren’t many monks going around pulling rabbits out of hats or making eggs appear from people’s ears? And what would be wrong if they did?
Well, it’s my feeling that meditation can lead you into areas that seem very strange to the layman. Let me emphasize that I’m not speaking from personal experience, just that my extremely limited meditation practice plus reading around gives me ideas. BUT anyway, since this is a blog and, as Tabbycat often says, you get what you pay for, let’s press on.
My feeling is that insight meditation, practised intensively, allows the meditator to develop profound understanding into his or her own mind, and the interaction of mind and body. Knowing their own body and mind so well leads to the ability to simply recognize how subtle physical signs betray the emotions and thoughts beneath. To the observer with a clear mind, these things are just simply obvious; and since people very often unconsciously signal what they are about to do or say, this means that they can be manipulated. To the layman, with the normal cluttered mind dominated by “want” rather than “see what is”, it appears to be… well, magic.
Of course, this is just a way of understanding human nature, and it’s by no means unique to meditating monks! Confidence tricksters, card sharps, hypnotists, all use some variation of this. In my younger days, when I bought lad mags such as Loaded, I remember reading an article on seduction, which recommended synchronizing your breathing with that of the young lady in question, as well as mimicking small body movements. Same thing… it’s using understanding and sensitivity in order to influence and manipulate.
There’s more, though; as I wrote once before, it’s my belief that a mind trained to be empty, to avoid projecting wants, is at the root of poetry and prophecy. There’s no mystical woo-woo here, no pacts or spirits, just the ability of a clear mind to see patterns and trends – but of course, most people don’t have clear minds, so… it looks like magic.
Buddha knew all this. He knew that many monks would go through this period in their development and that some, weak in their purpose to leave all this behind and reach enlightenment, might be seduced by the power they seemed to have developed and present themselves to lay people as having mystical powers. They turned to the Dark Side of the Force, as it were. Hence, Buddha wisely made this rule: say you’ve got magic powers and you’re out – because there are no magic powers, just the insights of a calm, clear mind…
Of course, as I say, this isn’t unique to monks. I gave some other examples, but of course, some martial artists can go this way as well. This is probably where the whole ling kong jin thing comes from: not a Ben Kenobi, levitate-physical-object kind of power, but a sensitivity and ability to feel the opponent’s intention kind of power. And how is this power developed? Aha! Zhan zhuang! Or, for example, taiji’s slooooow movement. Insight. Clear mind. Understanding of self leading to understanding of others, and thus to the ability to manipulate them.
Tabbycat says taiji is pure energy, get the body out of the way. Rick at Wujifa speaks of fascia, and connection. Scott talks about the big muscles of the back.
The thing is, they’re all right! I would submit that you start with what Scott’s talking about, move on to where Rick is, and eventually get to Tabby’s astral plane, the key, the connector, being a clear mind, an empty mind, that’s able to observe, learn, change.
As Tabby says, TV is an energetic phenomenon… but if the circuits aren’t properly connected and the plug’s not in, there won’t be much to see, because the energy can’t flow…
Still, what do I know? I don’t have my Jedi Knight badge yet, no woo-woo powers here. I’m probably completely wrong.