In this new interview, Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming discusses moving to his new location, Yang Family Heights, his disciples, and his ongoing quest for enlightenment.
The 2020s have brought enormous changes to the world. Plague, war, oppression, and empires divided – it's been almost apocalyptic. We have all had to pivot in some way or another. For YMAA's founder, Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming, 2022 marks the end of an era and the beginning of something new. He closed his beloved Retreat Center in Miranda, California last October and relocated to a new home about 70 miles north in McKinleyville this year. As Dr. Yang was settling into his new place, busy with renovations, he graciously took the time to answer a few questions about where he is now.
Congratulations on your recent move. How are you feeling about the new space and this transition?
I like the new place because the location is convenient for shopping and, if needed, medical attention. McKinleyville is a very safe and peaceful town. However, from a Fengshui perspective, I still like the old mountain place better due to its strong Qi field, remote isolation, pure water, clean air, and peaceful feeling.
This new home was built more than thirty years ago and has many problems. Since moving into this new place in March, I have been busy fixing things with two assistants, but many projects need work by local contractors. I hope all of these can be done in the next two months so my mind can be peaceful again.
I remember how pleased you were with the Fengshui of the Miranda Retreat Center. You said the water flow echoed the curve of a yin yang. How is the Fengshui of your new home in McKinleyville?
This place (18 acres) is much smaller than the old one (243 acres) and is two miles from the Humboldt County airport (ACV) and the beach. From the house, we can see the Pacific Ocean and also hear the airplanes taking off. The water, though it is spring water, can never compare with the water in the old place. We need to install new filters to clean the water for drinking. It is a bit colder than the old place, due to being further north and constant wind from the ocean. However, it is still peaceful and semi-quiet. From Fengshui point of view, this place may calm down the mind and body's excess Qi, but it does not provide as much Qi for nourishing as on Miranda Mountain.
Now that you have a new space, might take on more disciples?
No. I will not take more disciples due to a few reasons:
I did spend more than 13 years of effort on the mountain trying to preserve the arts. However, the success was not as great as I hoped for. I believe it is hard to find as many sincere and committed students today. Only 7 of the 10 made it through the complete program to graduation.
I am almost 76 years old. I have lost the last momentum of pursuing my dream. It will be much harder for me to train another group of disciples.
In order to fulfill my dream of preserving the art, I threw all my life savings into building the Mountain Retreat Center. However, due to lack of funds, I had to bring in money through summer seminars to keep it going till the end of the program. Today, I would not be financially able to launch another program.
How many disciples do you have now?
I accepted seven more disciples when the program on the mountain finished. With the older disciples I have accepted since 1975, I have twenty disciples total.
Have you thought about a successor?
No. This is not the ancient time. No successor is necessary. All disciples and students should create and develop their own future. The arts should be alive and should not be restricted by traditional rules or dogmas.
What is your daily regimen like nowadays? On average, how much time do you spend practicing, meditating, reading, and writing each day?
Well, it is hard to compare now since I have not settled down and stabilized my life here yet. I am still in the middle of fixing the place and remodeling some rooms. Now, other than dealing with work, when I have time and feel peaceful such as on the weekend, I play some piano, meditate, and ponder the next book I want to write and learn. Other than that, I have begun to teach some local students in the morning, Monday through Friday. I will also accept some visitors from the world for training or consultation. I will also offer seminars in the summer for at least few more years. Those interested in visiting the new place (Yang Family Heights, 楊家苑) or participating in summer seminars can visit www.yangjwingming.com.
You've said that you're contemplating your next book – Exploring the Mystery of Spirituality. Do you think that martial arts must inevitably become spiritual, or can someone practice without spirituality?
The fact is, most of the deep Chinese martial arts were created in monasteries such as Shaolin, Wudang, Emei, Qingcheng, Kunlun, Tianshan, etc. The main goals of the monks' cultivation were spiritual enlightenment, the necessary step toward Buddhahood and Immortality. For this reason, all monks were spiritual.
One of the most effective methods of self-spiritual discipline is through self-conquering, challenge, and suffering. From this self-conquering, you will cultivate your spirit and further comprehend the meaning of life. Martial arts training is only one of many methods that can help you to cultivate your spirit. Many monks chose the path of martial arts training because it was necessary to have some defense skills at that time, especially if you needed to travel to preach.
In order to reach a high level of martial arts skill and comprehend the deep meaning of life, a martial artist is required to cultivate his or her spirit. The higher the achievement of the spirit, the higher the feeling develops, and with that the feeling of the arts can be accomplished. The spirit side is Yin while the physical training and manifestation is Yang. Both are balanced.
With such a deep foundation in Daoism and Buddhism, but do you think it's necessary to follow those religions to practice qigong?
Of course, no. Personally, I respect and admire those holy men such as Laozi, Confucius, Buddha, Muhammad, and Jesus. However, because their philosophies have been misused and devolved into blind worship, dogmas were created. Power and wealth have become the main motivation of religions. I believe the philosophies of those holy men, but I am against religions that have restricted and narrowed people's innocent mind. The philosophies of those holy pioneers should be studied but not blindly followed, otherwise, it has become an obstacle of future human spiritual evolution. Spiritual cultivation should be encouraged with an open mind, not to be channeled into a tiny corner.
Do you feel that you're enlightened?
Of course, no. In Chinese Buddhist and Daoist societies, whoever has reopened the third eye and become enlightened is called Shentong (神通), which means spiritual transportation. This is because when someone has opened his or her third eye (what the Chinese called Tianyan or Tianmu, 天眼/天目), since his or her spirit will not have an obstacle to communicate with the natural spirit, he or she will be able to feel and sense the change of nature—enlightenment). Usually, when one has opened his or her third eye and become enlightened, he or she will have capabilities of telepathy, intuitive instinct, and the ability to foresee the sudden change of nature energy. These people were called prophets or holy men since they were able to see the future. Usually, these people would isolate themselves from lay society and seclude themselves in the deep mountains. The human emotional matrix is an obstacle for their spiritual cultivation.
I have not opened my third eye yet. I am still in the mud, squareness, or human matrix. It is not easy to reach my goal when I am still in lay society.
If you have yet to open your third eye, what gives you to confidence to write your latest book Grand Qigong Circulation for Spiritual Enlightenment?
I am not enlightened. However, I would like to share what I have learned from my nearly sixty years of experience. The book I am writing is only my personal experience and understanding. It is only for reference and inspiration.
As we know, even today's science cannot interpret Spirit, or even Mind. We are all blind in this search. However, through everyone's effort and sharing their experience, we may find a path to advance our understanding. The book I intend to write will be a huge challenge. Countless questions will still remain. Therefore, if it is published, all readers should put a huge question mark up to every sentence in the text.
Have you met anyone that you believe was enlightened?
As matter of fact, I did encounter one when I was 23 years old. When five friends and I climbed Taiwan's Central Mountain Range and finally reached one of the heights, Tianzxiang (天祥) . We were sleeping in a government lodging facility, six people in a tiny bed. Due to the poor sleeping conditions, I woke up in the early morning and stepped out for some fresh air. I could hear a gong sounding repeatedly in the deeper part of the mountains. Out of curiosity I walked toward the sound, following an existing path. After 20 minutes or so, I saw a small temple with a gazebo in the woods. When I walked closer to the gazebo, I realized that there was an old monk meditating in it. While I was hesitating, wondering if I should get closer since it might disturb the monk's meditation, the monk opened his eyes and looked at me.
I went forward and bowed to him. He looked at me and told me about my family background, my thinking, and even my future plans. He simply read my mind. What he said was so accurate, it shocked me greatly. He had the capability of telepathy. After five minutes, he closed his eyes again, and that meant it was time for me to leave. I cannot forget this experience. In just five minutes, it provided me enough to think about for a lifetime. I don't know if he had opened his third eye and was enlightened, but his capability of reading my mind was a shock and amazed me greatly.
This year, 2022, marks the 40th Anniversary of YMAA. How does that make you feel?
The time passes too fast, and the life is very short. A lot of memories accumulated in last 40 years. I am so glad and appreciate that through teaching, writing, and traveling, my life has been so fulfilling. I would like to thank all of those who have been part of my life.
Do you think you might ever retire?
For teaching and writing, once I have reached a level that allows me to be relaxed and peaceful, I will stop. Currently, teaching is the whip that keeps me going for my health and mental balance. For searching for the truth of the Dao, I will never retire till the end of my life.
The above is an interview with Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming by Gene Ching, staff writer with YMAA Publication Center, May 30, 2022.