Spiritual Philosophy of the Li Family
“Open the mind and the heart and cease to cherish opinions.”
Following The Dao of Life
The Li family of Sichuan Province China developed a method of coping with the stresses of life and the world. In their day there was not a plentiful supply of food, medicine or the necessities of life. Times were hard and life was not all that comfortable. There were also the stresses from their chosen profession as protective agents, Baobiao or wagon masters for wealthy merchants who traveled on long dangerous routes throughout China. When one examines the life of a wagon master at first glance, it seems romantic and glorious to be a martial artist who fights and protects other with his amazing skills of Gong Fu (Kung Fu).
The truth is it was often boring, with long stretches of inactivity through mile after endless mile of travel in snow, sleet or scorching heat, steaming forests and muddy roads. There were long days and nights being ever watchful for sudden attacks from bandits, kidnappers, or assassins as they moved from town to town. One mistake, one wrong turn and your life could be over, or even worse your client could be killed and then the companies’ reputation as protective agents was compromised. This type of life, no matter what philosophy one follows, is stressful and drains ones energy. Ask any soldier who has been in combat and you will discover that such constant stress takes a physical and emotion toll on those not prepared to deal with such a lifestyle.
Li family, by combining ideas from various philosophical traditions including Tibetan Bon, Shamanism, Buddhism, Confucianism, The Yijing, Chinese martial virtue (Wu-de) and Daoism created their own personal philosophy. It was called Xinfu Dao. This Chinese term roughly translates to “complete acceptance of the way”. The word “way” here refers to the Chinese term Dao (Tao). Dao’s calligraphic character translates as the path one walks to find wisdom. It is an image of a foot to signify travel or going above which is a symbol to represent a head wearing a crown signifying a wise individual. So while the word is often translated as the way of nature or nature itself its true meaning is a path of wisdom. The great sage Laozi who wrote the famous book Daodejing / Classic of the way and power says that Dao or wisdom comes from following the methods of nature. Following the ways of nature is life, ignoring the ways of nature eventually brings discomfort and death.
“The true man follows nature
Nature follows heaven
Heaven follows Dao
Dao shows us what is natural”
At its essence, Xinfu Dao is not a set of rules for living. It is based on the idea that we can come to know ourselves and learn how to deal with the pressures of life by first understanding and accepting that we are a part of nature. We accept that no matter how hard we try we cannot know all the answers. The basic premise of Xinfu Dao is summed up in the statement, “Things are what they are not what we desire, learning to use what is rather than what is not is the path to freedom.”
It is common for human beings to bend facts about life and the world to suit their own purposes even if the information they manufacture is false. Given the chance to satisfy ego or desire human beings will lie to others, and even themselves. They will self aggrandize or put themselves down in the eyes of others to get attention or fulfill an imagined self-image. People may think of themselves as better than others and even seek to punish those in their way, or they may fain false humility to gain another’s trust. Other individuals may knowingly or unconsciously work to develop a self-defeating attitude to thwart their own progress. Xinfu Dao teaches that the way to avoid this entire ego driven dis-ease is to awaken to the realization that the whole of it all is an illusion we create in our own mind a series of choices we have made about how we believe the world operates.
We may become insincere with others and ourselves just to foster the lies we tell. These lies can be used to hide the truth of our condition so that we never come to know our true worth to our family, friends and business associates. This inability to grasp reality or appreciate ourselves fully can in the life of a bodyguard be deadly. Here is a little story to illustrate the overall concept of not knowing. It illustrates the all too human principle of filling in the blanks when we do not have all the facts.
Cat and Mouse Xinfu Dao at work
One day you walk into a room on the floor is a big six foot length of hollow bamboo. You look in the tube, it is empty but there is a hole in the center of the bamboo tube that is opening into a hole in the floor. As you start to walk away suddenly a cat runs into the left side of the tube then a mouse runs into the other side. You cannot see what is happening but you hear a growl from the cat, a squeak from the mouse and then a crunching sound. Hurriedly you run to the tube look inside, nothing is there. No cat no mouse just an empty tube.
What happened inside that tube? Did the cat eat the mouse? Did the mouse attack the cat? Did the mouse run into and below the floor followed by the cat? Of course you will form an opinion, but is it the truth? What is the truth? The truth is that you have an idea and you choose to believe it. Then after a time you will tell the story so many times that the cat ate the mouse it becomes that you saw the cat eat the mouse. It becomes your truth, but is it really what happened.
No, the truth is you really DO NOT KNOW. That is the essence of Xinfu Dao (acceptance of the way) you will become comfortable knowing that you do not know and are open to many ideas and concepts, accepting some and rejecting others. In the end we all need to feel as if we have something to which we can cling. Even that is an illusion.