Chapter Nine II
The next day, after morning meditation and breakfast, I am going through the usual gung fu exercises when I feel Janah, I’m going to find the old one, Master Tan. Master Sung says he wants to see me.
Was he surprised?
I think he was a bit, although Master Sung doesn’t register surprise. I am. From what I’ve heard, Tan talks to no one.
He hasn’t met you yet.
Nor I him. Should be interesting.
Janah makes her way to the back, the back of the back, past the gardens, through a thicket of dense bamboo. There is a small room, no door. The old one is a hermit, his room a hermitage within a hermitage. He is brought one small meal a day, there is running water, a toilet behind a partition, it isn’t a cave on a hill after all. Master Sung told Janah that Tan had been at the temple since its inception, before his tenure. He is in perpetual mediation, silent. He leaves his room only to perform Yin Chi outside his door. He has no books, no papers, only a mat and one change of clothes. Master Sung goes to the hut once a week, sits with the old man, mostly in silence. Whatever else Sung knew, he chose not to say.
She goes to the doorway and stands, waiting. Janah can see Master Tan sitting in the dim interior, his eyes are open. He indicates she should join him. She enters, floats down cross legged just to one side, facing him. They sit this way for a long time, there is no conversation, she enters no mind.
After a while, Janah feels a mild energy in her head. He is in her mind, probing, gently exploring. She remains motionless for over an hour, she feels his gaze intensify, he is looking directly at her, she at him. Then she feels the energy leave her. The old one rises, standing in one smooth motion, he bows deeply. She stands and returns the bow. He opens his hand towards the doorway, the silent interview is over. She steps towards the door, within her mind she hears, “Return in a week.” She turns her head, nods slightly, then leaves.
We sit alone in our room, it’s after ten. Janah is massaging my legs, she bends and kisses one, then the other, and lays her head on my tummy.
I felt it.
I thought you might. It wasn’t spooky, it was definitely different having someone else in there besides you.
Do you think he knows about us?
I can’t say for sure. Since he didn’t communicate, except at the end. I don’t know whether it was just his qi, or more. Clearly he can send me his thought, I heard him tell me to return, he didn’t verbalize it, I’m sure of that.
Can you tell when he’s in there? I mean, he can’t be there now for instance, without you knowing.
I would know. I’m not sure what his, what’s the word, range or capacity is? You and I can communicate over any distance. If he can, he hasn’t done it with me, I may need to be right there. Who knows? We’ll find out sooner or later.
Does it bother you?
No. I’m going to try and reach out tomorrow. It’s not like us in the sense he can see what I see, or feel my feelings. It’s more like conversation, not like one mind.
Then anything we do doesn’t register with him.
No, I would say I have to direct a thought to him, he to me. He can’t see my thought, nor I his. For instance, I heard him earlier today, I can’t hear him now. I have no idea what he’s doing, like I would you if you were elsewhere. He can’t mentally observe me or us. I suppose that would be bizarre, I mean, like when we make love.
That would be strange.
His head’s so far away from material things I doubt it would matter much.
Janah begins putting me to sleep, within minutes we are silent and still.
Chapter Ten II
We can all communicate without words.
In fact, we do it all the time.
Janah gives it a test during the morning meditation. She focuses on Tan in her mind, then mentally says, Good morning.
She hears a gentle grumble, Sung might not be pleased to know you are chattering away during meditation.
She smiles, Perhaps he would be delighted to find out with whom I was chattering and how.
There is no response. Janah returns to no mind until the gong rings signaling the end of the hour. Time to begin the rest of the day’s work.
When she rises she hears, Send my greeting to Sung. We can generously offer the Abbot something new to contemplate.
Tan has given Janah permission to discuss their meeting with Master Sung. It isn’t so much permission, Janah could discuss whatever. It is nice to know to know it’s okay with him. It’s a clue. He isn’t in his room to be secretive or mysterious, he’s being silent.
Master Sung, “Old Tan has avoided company for over thirty years, I mentioned you to him a couple of weeks after you arrived, he already knew you were here. Hue goes up there once in a while to bring herbal potions to him, I presume he said something.”
Janah, “It’s very peaceful with him. We speak with no words.”
“When I went yesterday, we sat in silence for over an hour. Then I felt an energy in my mind. As I was leaving he told me to return next week. He hadn’t spoken aloud.”
“No. I tried greeting him this morning. He chided me for talking during meditation. When meditation ended, he suggested I see you.”
“It’s not an illusion then.”
Sung is quiet a long while, “How much we don’t know, how beautiful it is to discover. Please give Tan my thanks for sharing this blessing.”
Janah is silent for a minute.
She giggles, "He says maybe a blessing for you, now he is cursed with a noisy young girl interrupting his peaceful life."
Sung, “He is laughing at my ignorance, deservedly so. Tan instructs without leaving his room, I will seek to be worthy of instruction.”
Despite the ability to speak to her across the temple, over the next few weeks Tan continues to invite Janah to sit with him. To the ones who have been in the monastery a long time, it’s interesting that the young master had been chosen to receive instruction from the mysterious hermit. It is simple enough to presume that’s what it is. While it is also simple to understand why, it escapes many of them.
She talks it over with me that night, “It’s not a matter of choice for him. He has to work with someone ready to receive. It would be like trying to push more electricity through a power line than the line is equipped to handle. It’s going to overload and burn up. Tan isn’t going to train someone to get to the point of handling what he could teach, to bring someone along, it can’t be done. He had to wait until one appeared.”
“So he’s going to upload his files into you?”
Janah laughs, “I guess that’s one way to put it. You really are your mother’s child, that’s how Sis would think of it.”
“Well, it’s accurate. He’s got this storehouse of stuff, he’s been collecting the data, the abilities, for over seventy years, just sitting in meditation. In order to preserve it, he needs a place to put it. A piece of paper, a disc drive or an average mind won’t do. He needs a Janah.”
“And a Daphne, one to receive, one to sort it out. He wants to supply me with the energy packets, the data as you call it. There’s more to it though.”
“So there has to be someone who can absorb the nuance, the intent, more than words. You think there’s more. What is it?”
Janah looks at me.
I mentally shriek, “Get out!! You mean he’s going to….?”
“That’s awesome. We haven’t even done that. He’s going to transmit the skill directly. Put the actual physical skill in you, not just the information about it. Dang, that’s cool. I wonder if we can do it?”
“Do you want to do a standing front flip?”
“I guess. You taught me how to walk around on my hands, but that wasn’t a direct transmission, I had to fall over a bunch first.”
“One thing at a time. First, he hasn’t formally opened the door, I think he will, he’s spent a fair amount of time with me. He’s not likely to visit for no reason. He went into my head as a test. Second, we never thought about exchanging physical skills. I’m not sure we can. He’s going to transfer a, what, a neuro-physical skill. It’s not a proprioceptive skill.”
“What does he know about us?”
“I’m going to explain us. To accept his teaching without telling him about you seems misleading. I don’t think he’ll care, but I don’t want to assume. I also don’t know if it’s something you get by default. Or are you like an external hardbody drive? I’d get the ability, then I’d have to export it to you separately. We don’t share physical skills. Qi, particularly at this level, is a mental and physical skill. Still, if he can transfer it to me, I should be able to transfer it to you. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, I have to see if I can even receive it.”
I tease, “And after this mind dump, I’m left to figure out how to sort and file it?”
“It’s so totally you, I can feel you getting pumped about the project already. You’re just like Susan with a complex mess of digital data, waiting to start pulling at one knot at a time, as long as it takes to unravel the ball.”
“Good thing for you. As soon as I get you unraveled, the next day you have more knots. One day we’re going on vacation and you aren’t allowed to think for a whole week. I need the rest.”
“I’m pretty sure I keep you sufficiently relaxed.”
“Are you going to untangle my knots?”
Janah kisses me. I lay in orgasmic bliss while Janah untangles my everything.
Chapter Eleven II
Now I have studied philosophy,
Medicine and the law,
And unfortunately, theology,
Wearily sweating, yet I stand now,
Poor fool, no wiser than I was before;
I am called Master, even Doctor,
And for these last ten years have led
My students by the nose—up, down,
Crosswise and crooked. Now I see
That we know nothing finally.
Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Janah is sitting across from Tan. She explains her relationship with me, detailing our abilities, which means that whatever he tells her is no different than telling me. If he wants to think it over or change his mind, she understands.
Tan, “There is no other, she is you, you her. One body practices gung fu, another is here, there is only one mind. The presence of her permeates you. Tell me about her.”
Janah is intrigued, there’s just no staying ahead of these old men, “Daphne is pure focused energy. Her sensory responses are off any known charts. I did extensive research, if there is another with the depth of her sensitivity, I couldn’t find them. I can’t say she’s unique, she’s unique as far as I know.”
“Her gung fu?”
“She is untouchable. Her work here is precisely suited to her. She is speed, graceful elegance, masterful deception, mystical gung fu ballet. The masters are still digesting her ability. If they demonstrate a kuen, she absorbs it immediately. They have difficulty understanding it’s just how she is. She hasn’t studied it before, she learned no kuen in advance.”
Tan, “Good to keep the big deal masters on their toes. Sung has done a wonderful job here, his temple is orderly, the monks proficient and studious. Sometimes, within, arrogance can creep in to a disciple, even a master. Students listen to them raptly, they are honored and bowed to. All that mumbo jumbo they talk, easy to get Ch’an head. A student that does not need to follow gives perspective, reminds the master he’s no big deal.”
Janah grins at Tan’s forthrightness.
He continues, “Student Sylk keeps her head down?”
He’s asking if I have attitude, pride in my skills.
“I’m inside her mind. I can answer with complete clarity, not a guess. She has no ambition, does not care for, even avoids, recognition. She is extraordinarily beautiful and gets the attention one would expect. She’s appreciative of compliments, doesn’t seek them. She teases our family by pretending to demand attention, the point of which is to let the family poke fun at her. She showers them in her care. Student Sylk has zero pretense or affectation. She strikes no pose.”
“Knowing herself, she has no need for reassurance from others.”
“Daphne sees her purpose in service.”
Tan studies Janah for a long while, “You are the one she serves. What else does she do here?”
“Daphne likes to cook. She works in the kitchen every day.”
“That explains the improvement in the food.”
“She has, as a chef friend of ours said, le disposition.”
“Tell her Tan almost dissolved his 'self,' then it crept back in when he started looking forward to mealtime. I may have completely disappeared if she hadn’t started cooking. Now I have to begin again.”
Janah laughs, “She will be pleased to know she had a hand in keeping our silent master around longer.”
“I do not wear the robe.”
“Like my other covers me, your robe covers you. You wear simple monk’s garments. I see the robe.”
“I have wondered if the universe would send someone who could receive the skills I was blessed to receive. It has sent you. Give the following message to Sung, he will understand. Tell him, it is time.”
They stand, bow to each other. Janah makes her way back to the herbalist to help with bottling new preparations and to pick up liniments to treat me. She works silently with Hue for over an hour, then helps him clean up. When the work area is pristine, she showers the herbs with a light mist with Hue following behind her.
“The old man is going to take you for instruction, he has chosen wisely.”
“Master Hue, is there anything you can’t see?”
“The plants tell me all I need to know. The bees and birds come from all over the grounds and tell the plants, then they whisper to me. Can you not hear them?”
“I’ll be more attentive. I hear only whispering, I haven’t learned the language they speak.”
Hue, “You are the first to realize there is a language at all. The others think I’m like the old hermit, hiding in solitary with my plants. They don’t understand I have to hear them jabbering away all day. They will teach you their language, they love to talk, like an assembly of excited school children. It’s always noisy in the garden during the day. In the evening they call to each other for a while, then rest.”
Janah finishes spraying, turns off the water and rolls up the hose. A breeze rustles through the garden, the plants shake, playing in the droplets, thanking Janah for refreshing them. She is happy here, washed by the loving scents that cover her, she listens to their whisperings for a while, then leaves to find Master Sung.
He is seated near the rock garden just off to the side of the practice area, enjoying the afternoon session, students and disciples learning, strengthening their bodies, following their instructor closely. I am demonstrating a kuen under my instructor’s watchful eye. Master Khan oversees all the gung fu activities. He offers a word here or there to the various instructors.
Sung is absorbed by the whole scene, the beauty of the training a reminder of his many sessions years ago. He looks over as Janah approaches, waves for her to join him.
Sung returns his attention to the students, “You’ve been with Master Hue.”
She carries the wonderful scent of the herbs, as if they didn’t want to leave her. Janah is sort of a mobile temple air freshener.
“He is teaching me the language of the plants. Before that with Master Tan.”
Sung turns, “What is the old hermit up to hiding away in his room?”
“He asked me to tell you, it is time.”
Chapter Twelve II
One has to be indifferent-to health, to loneliness,
to what people say or do not say,
indifferent to success or no success,
indifferent to authority.
Sung is quiet, staring out at the monks going through their drills, “Come with me, please.”
They go to a room in the back of the meditation hall, like the entire temple, it seems to be a thousand miles away from everything. I’d seen Janah with Sung, had only blown her a mental kiss, then returned my focus to the practice. I’m busy getting tossed around by Disciple Chin.
Abbott Sung, “Tan has acquired skills far beyond things we teach in the normal course of Shaolin. They aren’t taught at all, first because they have no direct benefit to our purpose. Healing qi, such as yours, is naturally related to the relief of suffering. Tan’s qi is far more powerful. More than that, taught to the wrong person, they can become self aggrandizing parlor tricks, that might serve to bring inappropriate attention to our Order. Even to say taught is incorrect. A student with the capability to receive the training is more than unusual, they are almost nonexistent. The number of masters with these skills has dwindled to no more than a half dozen in the world. There are no doubt more that simply choose not to reveal themselves, those we can’t know. Only one with similar skills would know them. They can hide from everyone except each other.”
Sung stops, letting Janah absorb his comments.
Janah, “And there are no doubt those who have already misused these abilities.”
Sung nodded, “Sadly, yes. We are aware of two, there is the unseen but felt presence of others. The Order did not approve of the transmission of the teaching. We live in an imperfect world.”
Janah, “So, there is powerful evil out there, known and suspected. Old Tan cannot roam the earth looking for them. Too many people, too little time.”
Sung, “They reveal themselves eventually. But their power is unique, they are almost untouchable. To control the mind of another for them is child’s play. You have been selected because Tan recognizes another like himself. For him, there was nothing to decide. There is, however, for you.”
Janah cocks her head slightly, inviting him to continue.
“In their eyes a Shaolin monk is the enemy, any monk, not just the few with the skill. They cause endless suffering through controlling others. Only one with the gift can recognize evil at its source. You will want to think this over. The process itself is arduous, mentally and physically painful. It can be slow, it will stretch you to the breaking point, perhaps beyond. If you choose to receive, you must accept that it has to go very, very slowly. Like three day tai qi over many months, perhaps years.”
Sung is referring to a form of tai qi that moves so slowly it takes three days to complete one kuen. It is similar to how Janah reached her current level of qi control. To an average mind, it is tedious in the extreme, like cutting ten acres of thick grass with a pair of scissors, one blade at a time.
Janah, “Thank you for your explanation. As it is a serious matter, I will meditate on it.”
She does not ask what she will be taught, or how long is a long time, or any curiosity questions. A door has been opened. She will have to enter blindly, as a demonstration of both fearlessness and trust.
They stand and bow. Janah goes to our room and showers. She is finishing up when I come in to clean up for evening meditation.
“Out of curiosity, how much time during the day does it take, I mean you enjoy teaching and the herb garden so much. Is this all day every day or what?’"
Janah, “No, there may be long sessions from time to time, not initially, I think a couple of hours max. Master Sung says it is tiring and can be painful, time per session isn’t the question, it’s progress in tiny increments.”
“I guess it’s too pushy, American, to ask what it is you’ll be learning. I presume they expect you to trust them like I trust my gung fu master to teach what I need to learn.”
“They would hardly be secrets if they weren’t secrets.”
“Duh, I must be more tired than I thought, my question didn’t make much sense did it?”
“It’s more than that. The teacher has to see how the student absorbs the teaching. The Shaolin understand, unlike most educators, that expecting every student to master the same subject in an artificial time period is counterproductive. You learn the kuen instantly, others more slowly. It’s essential to pace the training to the student.”
“So as long as the student is giving what he’s got, the instructor is satisfied. That’s how C-mom does it.”
“During this, I may need more care from you than I can give back.”
“What’s the problem? You will do it of course,” I already know the answer.
“If he fries my brain, you’re going to be stuck with a mentally challenged Janah for the rest of my life.”
“Guess I’ll have to settle for a lot of sex and skip the Chinese lessons.”
Janah raises an eyebrow, “Maybe I can get my brain fried right away.”
I drop my towel and kneel between Janah’s knees, “Got a half hour to meditation, you think beautiful thoughts and I’ll demonstrate tai chi tongue.”
Walking to the meditation hall, Janah feels very relaxed, practically liquid. As we settle into no mind, I think I hear soft bubbly laughter. Perhaps only water playing over rocks in the pond.