The Rubin Museum

Photo by Lyn Hughes

Shifu Shi Yan Ming expresses his life and philosophy doing many things.  Every day of the week, he uses his “action meditation” or “dong chan” at the USA Shaolin Temple to teach Chan philosophy to his temple students. But on April 8th, Shifu used his words (mostly) to spread the Chan philosophy to an assembled group at The Rubin Museum as part of their Brainwave 2015 series. The Brainwave is a series of on-stage conversations, films, and experiences.  Shifu’s talk was a sold out affair.

The subject of the eights annual Brainwave series is “The Attachment Trap”. The below paragraph was taken from The Rubin Website:

The Attachment Trap-The Buddhist notion of “attachment” is symbolized by the Attachment Trap:  In India and parts of Southeast Asia monkeys are sometimes trapped by placing food in a vessel with a hole just big enough for the monkey to reach through with one hand.  Sensing food, a passing monkey will reach in and grab it, forming a fist.  What the monkey soon discovers is that it cannot pull its clenched fist out of the hole.  The monkey will stay that way, with its hand clinging tightly to the food, until someone comes along and captures it.  If the monkey would just let go, it could easily free itself.  This “attachment trap” is a metaphor for a core Buddhist principle: by holding tightly to external sources of happiness, we prevent ourselves from being truly free.

Shifu’s talk was called “Discipline as an Art”.  He shared the stage and the evenings conversation with Tracy Dennis, Assoc. Professor at Hunter College and in the Behavioral Neuroscience & Biopsychology Doctoral Program at The City University of New York. 

Shifu started the evening with a few basic stretches that he asked the audience to participate in. From light physical stretching, he quickly switched to some mental and spiritual training and stretching. The expectation is a flexible body reflects a flexible mind. 

Shifu spoke of the relationship between the body and mind. Both must be sharp and smart, active, and engaged to truely live this life we have. He said to move your body, to move your life forward.  We cannot fly above the ground. We are in this life, and must challenge ourselves here with this reality.  So you must engage with life.  He also said attachment isnt always a bad thing, and told the audience that to live a full conscious life, you must be passionate about it. You must not waste your life.

He also said that the monkey should be smarter, and pickup the vessel and smash it to free himself!

(Photo by Lyn Hughes) 


ifu’s booksigning after the talk Shifu with Program Director Tim McHenry (Photo by Lyn Hughes)