A visitor to the site wrote to me recently asking, “By charging people money for this information aren’t you undermining everything it stands for?”
That’s a forthright and important question. It’s also one I’ve struggled with for years.
Truth be told, he meant no disrespect by the question, as he was coming at it from a Buddhist perspective of compassion which I completely agree with.
I’ve practiced Shaolin Gong Fu for 10 years, and have taught it for free ever since I was capable enough to do so. My family and friends have sometimes said I’m a fool to give it away for free, but for me, Shaolin Gong Fu is sacred.
Shaolin Gong Fu originates in Buddhism and is (or at least used to be) a martial art that can enable someone to attain the level of Arhat, as taught by Bhodidharma. To charge for that just seems disrespectful. Of course I can understand if it’s your business and livelihood. That’s a different situation.
It’s my understanding that the lower the level, the more complicated and expensive. A great way is simple and free. The only thing you lose is karma, and what you gain is priceless… how could someone put a price on eternal enlightenment?
Buddha Shakyamuni didn’t charge money. He asked you to let go of your attachment to money altogether. Charging money for salvation is the complete opposite of the teachings being promulgated, and is a great hypocrisy.
So that’s the battle I faced when I decided to charge for the book. I rationalize it by saying that I’m not offering salvation to people or trying to start a practice. Just, possibly, lead people to an upright practice that can truly improve their lives or even save them from a downward spiral toward somewhere they don’t want to go. But that’s up to the reader, and it isn’t the main focus of the book.
There’s still a part of me that contests, and I can see both sides of the equation. I kind of feel like I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t, so, as the Buddha Law suggests, I try to walk the Middle Road.
Free to Perceive
Regarding the ‘getting stuff for free’ thing. Sometimes people don’t value the lessons because they are free.
I taught a Shaolin Gong Fu class at University a few years ago. Sometimes I’d get students and sometimes I wouldn’t, even though they liked the class. They wouldn’t come because they didn’t lose anything by not coming. I imagine that if there were already a financial investment that they’d feel more obligated to show up.
On the other hand, in my senior year I had one faithful student that showed up every time. He was thin and weak in breath but loved Shaolin and wanted to become strong. He valued our time together more than anything and he reciprocally motivated me to work harder.
It essentially comes down to perceived value. What you receive might be the greatest in the universe, but if you don’t value it like the rarest diamond then you might disrespect it or even throw it away like garbage. You might figure that if you lose it, so what? But if you paid for it, even if it was a pet rock, well, by golly you’re going to value it. And the more your money means to you the more you’ll value it.
I would think that a true sage could pick a rock up off the ground and peer into its inner dimensions, the microcosmic matter and life that lay within, and truly value what’s inside, while a normal person thinks that rocks are useless and walks right by.
So it’s this little game we play here on planet Earth, giving people something they value in a way that they will perceive it as valuable. If you don’t do it like that then it’s completely up to the other person whether or not they want to value it, and it takes a lot of patience and compassion to continually wait for the person to come around. Of course, that’s what all great masters have.
The Eye of Ones’ Heart
I’m reminded of a scene in the Majin Buu arc of Dragon Ball Z where the Fat Majin Buu, an evil being who had a spirit of a holy and high level deity inside him (a Kaio-shin), comes across a young blind boy.
He asks if the boy is afraid of him, as everyone else in the world was terrified of his very image. The blind boy says no, because he can’t see like other people can.
After Majin Buu realizes what’s wrong with his eyes, he places his hand on the boys face and projects energy into his head. You think that he’s going to kill him like he does everyone else. But he doesn’t.
After removing his hand the boy opens his eyes and can see!
The young boy receives the gift of light. More grateful than anyone he had ever met, the boy reaches into his pocket and pulls out his only item of value, a small coin, and offers it to Majin Buu with all his heart.
Majin Buu doesn’t value money at all, but he loves food. So he picks up the coin, bites it, and spits it out. “Tastes yucky,” he says. He then tells the boy to wait there and flies away.
Majin Buu travels to a nearby town where the villagers are afraid of him as usual. He blasts one of the villagers with his energy beam and transforms into a carton of milk! He then flies off and returns to the boy.
He offers the boy the milk and and the boy is grateful for the food. He sits with Majin Buu on the cliff for a while and they chat. He is genuinely unafraid and enjoys the time with his new friend.
Now granted, what the boy was drinking was “made of people,” but that’s beside the point! I chalk that up to the evil that controlled Buu’s actions and the wacky humor of Akira Toriyama.
It’s a notable moment because this was the first compassionate act that Majin Buu ever performed. And it happened because of the boy’s perception. His perception was different than all others, and it was the first step toward driving out the evil inside Majin Buu’s mind. The subsequent reaction of events led to a climactic battle between good and evil that changed the world.
The Awareness of Value
In Goku’s case, he understands how to value something right from the start!
Not a single one of his masters ever charged him a penny, and what he received was priceless. He cherished and valued every moment of it and took full advantage of their time together to learn and improve as much as possible.
Goku himself is essentially penniless and cares not for money. He occasionally wins cash prizes from the martial arts tournaments but he doesn’t enter the tournaments for the money, he enters because he loves to fight. Chi-Chi handles the money after he’s earned it.
From Master Roshi, to Kami, North Kaio, Kaio-Shin, Dai Kaio-Shin, all the way from bottom to top, never once do any of these teachers ask for money.
What do they ask for? Goku’s heart.
They want him to perceive their training as valuable. And when he does, incredible things happen.
Goku becomes their greatest student of all time. Each teacher, in sequence, one after the other, is amazed at Goku’s progress and ability to rise up, to break down his own internal barriers and defeat himself. That’s what makes Goku #1.
In all truth, Goku perceives everything as valuable, not just his martial arts training. He even perceives his opponents as valuable, which is why he tries not to take away their lives. He gives them chance after chance to redeem their wicked ways and turn around. Whether or not they choose to do that, again, comes down to perceived value.
Could you imagine a Goku that didn’t perceive everything and everyone as valuable? He’d either be fat and lazy like Oolong or vicious and selfish like his brother Raditz.
And Goku had been this way throughout his entire life, not just when he matured and had his own family. Goku could see the inner beauty in even the ugliest of creatures.
Perhaps that is what made Goku the greatest master of all.