Meditation through Movement: Pankaja’s reflections on her recent visit to Song Mountain in China.
This article first appeared on the UK Osho site: Omweb where there are associated articles about this visit by Veena, and more details. The article is published with permission.
Buddha Grove at seven on a chilly January morning – I’d never miss a Tai Chi class with Yogendra while I was in Pune. That’s what really turned me on to Tai Chi, tho I had been doing it casually for a few years before that. I’ve been carrying on with another teacher in London for the past few years, so the BBC episode of The Extreme Pilgrim which took place in the Shaolin temple in China was particularly fascinating for me.
I really felt for this poor middle aged English vicar, (who fronted the Extreme Pilgrim series), as he struggled to keep up with these 17 year old martial artists who’d been training since childhood as acrobats and fighters. After a week of this self torture, the vicar visited the San Huang Zhai monastery which is in the process of construction up on the mountain behind. Everything for the monastery has to be carried up several thousand steps – bricks, concrete, tiles for building, plus all food for the monks and nuns who live there. Seeing the monks carrying heavy bags of flour and vegetables on their backs while walking up with beautiful, graceful, swaying steps struck me deep in the heart.
Osho teased and hit me many times for being ‘in my head,’ unable to divorce myself from my ideas, and I spent long years cleaning rooms and toilets in Pune 1. I was never a very good cleaner, never enjoyed it except the time spent scrubbing the toilets with a wonderful opera singer friend, our voices echoing off the white tiles. The first time I walked through Buddha hall carrying a mop and bucket I really had no idea what to do with those implements – though later it became a wonderful game, swirling the huge mops around. I was never remotely interested in learning Tai Chi then – I just wanted to sit or lie down in discourse and disappear into Osho’s energy field, forgetting all about this irritating vehicle, the body!
But as I get older meditation through movement, yeah, have to admit it – tai chi rather than dynamic or kundalini – has become more important to me, and the way these monks moved was meditation in everyday life – truly tai chi. It was the same in the half constructed buildings as the monks swept the floors (lots of dust!) and the two nuns, one young, one old, planted herbs in the garden.
Speaking to Veena on the phone several months later when she said she was going and wanted someone to go with her – I had an instant ‘yes’. And through her amazing networking skills we actually found ourselves, on the very first day we arrived, climbing those very steps and meeting that very monk. I had bought a camcorder the week before leaving and was busy filming while trying to figure out how to use it as we climbed the steps and Veena interviewed Wu Nanfang that first day. The reality was different from the documentary because it was a major public holiday and there were thousands of Chinese visitors and pilgrims thronging the steps. But the mountain was as extraordinary and the Buddhist and Taoist temples a revelation – was this the country where Maoist communism had done its best to destroy any vestige of religion?
Veena had hurt her foot, but I spent every day climbing each side of beautiful Song mountain, passing through temple after temple tucked onto the edge of higher and higher gorges and precipices. The mountain itself is a Unesco World Geopark because of its geological uniqueness, but on this holiday week there were always throngs of pilgrims, young couples carrying their infants, ancient grannies in bedroom slippers, climbing these thousand upon thousand steps to make offerings or just have a day out. It was only at the Longmen caves, where endless statues of Buddha had been carved into the mountainside during the 6th & 7th centuries AD that it was impossible to miss this legacy. Osho often spoke about Mao, along with Stalin and Hitler, as one of the greatest criminals who ever lived. The destruction of most of these images was partly due to war and the greed of collectors, but the relentless and vicious defacement is also a reminder of the Cultural Revolution – well within the lifetime of many of the visitors.
Yet there is one huge head of the Buddha still radiating meditation above all the chaos, as Osho radiates above the chaos of today.