He slowly sinks down to his knees, bends over and just before he scoops the water off the surface of the still lake with cupped hands, he could see his face reflecting in the like water. His eyes looked back at him, calm and stiller than the water.
The last time he had looked at his eyes was a few decades ago when they reflected fireballs shooting like embers with the anger of being rejected by the very people he wanted to be with, enrich and transform.
That day, they drove him out of the very temple he wanted to stay till he could finally rest after his long journey across many lands and rivers.
He still remembered as he looked into the water the images behind him slowly began to take shape. Armed warriors on horseback in a circle behind him inching closer.
The legend then goes that ‘The strange monk in dark robes washed his face, slowly turned around and in minutes the fight was over. The unarmed travelling monk had laid every warrior down to the ground unconscious.’
The Legend continues…
The very same day It is said, the chief priest of the Temple personally came over to the monk, now living in a cave near the lake, and requested if he could come into the cave. The monk agrees. The Chief Priest then gently sits down facing the monk. Then in a flash he whips out his sword with his left hand and slices off his right hand from the forearm which drops to the ground. The chief priest then bows over, picks up his severed right hand with his left and offers it to the monk saying ‘This is the hand that stopped you from entering the temple, please accept it as my apology.’
That is the legend of Bodhidharma who then entered the Temple of Shaolin without any resistance and taught them the skills of the martial arts and meditation that was passed down through generations from 527 AD.
New Year’s eve 2020
Wang Wei looked into the lens at the Changi airport Immigration and in seconds he was waved through for his onward travel. The digital revolution had its advantages.
He had come to Singapore a week ago from Shanghai and lived in the Shuang Lin Monastry as a volunteer of administrative work.
He had earlier flashed his Covid negative test report at the gates and put in back in his sling bag along with his passport.
For the young Wang Wei, a lean & wiry 21 years old, also called as ‘Bodhi’ due to his mastery over Kung Fu, deep Meditation techniques and more importantly his natural affinity and skill with dispensing ‘Chinese Medicine’ at the specialized Kung Fu Clinic in the Temple.
But the senior monks called him ‘Bodhi’ as he reminded them of the legends of the founder Bodhidharma who could fight, meditate and also heal the sick both within and outside the temple with natural oils and herbs.
Wang Wei was thrilled that the ‘Moonwalk’ was over without any mishap. The ‘Moonwalk’ named after the classic dance by Michael Jackson was the highlight of the show. The stunned audiences who were strolling out of the venue after the show dumbstruck with the whole visual and audio spectacle they just witnessed were still chatting about the amazing spectacle.
After a slow, whole year of 2020 wherein all activities at the temple had come to a standstill due to the ‘Great Pandemic’, this show was very special.
They had been practicing all year long inside the temple for their 1st ever public performance towards the year end. With a stage spread of 5 square kilometers and 2800 digitally controlled lights going 1400 meters high, it was one of the biggest ‘Light and Sound Shows’ in the world. The clockwork precision of the choreographed movements of the warrior monks looked mor like a Broadway Musical Extravaganza.
It was of course the ‘Moonwalk’ that was the pinnacle of the entire performance called ‘ The Shaolin Zen Music Ritual’.
The crescendo was when a digitally controlled moon, all of 20 meters in diameter slowly rose up from the forests surrounding the sacred Songshan mountain and tens of Shaolin’s warrior monks literally flew across this massive rising moon.
As he changed costumes into his casual clothes after the show for his final meeting with the ‘International Brand Management Team’ of the Shaolin temple created by the present Head Monk Shi Yongsin, famously or infamously known as the CEO Monk.
For the young Wang Wei, or ‘Bodhi’ as he was called in the temple, it was a strange but almost mystical journey he was about to take in the New Year of 2021.
He was going to India.
His namesake the first Bodhidharma was the chief Monk of the Shaolin Temple in 527 AD who the elders say ‘had travelled all the way from India’. The 3rd son of South Indian King who ruled an empire that stretched all the way to Sri Lanka goes the legends.
But this time, Bodhi’s itinerary was clear.
He checked it on his mobile travel app again.
He would be flying transit via Hong Kong from Shanghai to Chennai. Then, board a domestic flight from Chennai to Thiruvananthapuram. There he would be picked up by the youngest son of a traditional Ayurveda Vaidyan.
Wang had heard of the science of Ayurveda which outdated even the oldest of Chinese medicine. The art of Ayurvedic healing was said to be passed down through the generations by practice and oral traditions.
This family of Vaidhyans were also experts in Kalaripayattu, the unique form of martial arts that existed only in Kerala.
What excited young Wang or Bodhi, was the similarities in the weaponry movements of Kung Fu and Kalaripayattu. Mastery over Martial arts and the art of Healing. It sounded too good to be true.
Wang’s other passion was history.
His reading up on Bodhidharma, the myth and stories woven around him, and his travels all the way from India to reach the Mount Songshan and the Shaolin temple, always fascinated Wang.
If the original Bodhidharma was a young prince in a thriving Southern Kingdom of India and known for giving up his princely rights and travelling all the way traversing the Brahmaputra and Yangtze rivers into the South China seas to finally reach Shaolin, it was the period of 557 AD that struck him.
It was when Buddhism had spread across the South of India.
Wang had come to a personal inference.
Warrior monks honed in the marital arts, meditation and yoga and trained with the finest skills in the power of healing diseases, Ayurveda.
This Wang concluded could only be found in Kerala. Back in 550 AD too.
It was obvious like making the iconic ‘Shaolin Noodle Soup’. All the necessary ingredients in a bowl.
Take the Buddhism of the South of India, the fighting skills of the ancient Kalaripayatu existing then too, throw in the ancient Indian science of healing, Ayurveda.
All of this existed among the people living in the richest of tropical forests, mountains, rivers and bordered by the seas.
And this was the place he was headed to in the new year.
Kerala the land of Ayurveda.
As he boarded the plane he hoped during his long stay of a year with the Ayurveda Vaidyans in Kerala, he could learn enough of the science to help him assimilate it into the traditions of Chinese Shaolin Medicine which was established by the Warrior Monk Bodhidharma.
Also the main fact that Bodhidharma had to be from Kerala.
As he boarded the aircraft headed for India, he heard the voice of the stewardess burst into a crisp crackle.
“Welcome aboard Singapore Airlines…We wish you a very Happy New Year 2021’. We hope you have a pleasant fight to Chennai, India.”
It was going to be a long flight. Wang pulled on his eye shades above his mask and settled to sleep.
… to be continued.
He works for a retail organization in Bangalore and heads it online and branding division. He is a foodie by passion and therefore tries his hand at stuff in his home kitchen. While not dabbling in cooking during his days off he likes his music and of course trying out food. He prefers home cooked cuisine though restaurant fare guarantees a good outing with friends.