The Ten Shaolin Laws are non-religious, and transcend cultural and linguistic differences. These simple laws promote values that are worthy and desirable in any culture. Laws, in the Shaolin tradition, are not meant to be restrictive; they are meant to help followers achieve set aims and objectives. In this case, the laws to help us to attain the best possible results in practicing Flowing Zen.
It may be tempting for Westerners to dismiss these laws as old fashioned, but that would be a mistake.
It is not without good reason that my teacher, Grandmaster Wong, wrote the following:
“The Shaolin Laws are meant for the student’s interest – a fact not many people may appreciate. Following the Ten Shaolin Laws is an excellent and practical way to help him in his cultivation – irrespective of whether the cultivation is for health, combat efficiency, daily performance, as well as spiritual development. Take, for example, the first Shaolin Law.
“Some students practice an exercise not according to what the master has instructed, but according to what they think is right. This is being disrespectful to the master, tacitly implying that he is not as smart as they themselves. Not only will they not get any benefits from the exercise, they may get harmful side-effects.
“The moral way refers to the Chinese concept of ‘wu de’, or high moral virtues traditionally accepted by ancient warriors. If a student goes against the moral way, like lying or being brutal towards others, then he will inevitably bring harm to himself.
“Basically, any actions that go against the moral way start with evil thoughts. The evil thoughts of that student, irrespective of whether he is consciously aware of them or not, and irrespective of the length of time involved, will generate events that will be evil to him – just as a film that has been imprinted with ugly images will result in pictures that are ugly when the film is developed.”
Thus, we can begin to see why my teacher is adamant that all of his students understand and practice the Ten Shaolin Laws:
- Respect the master, honor the moral way, and love fellow students as you would your brothers and sisters.
- Train the Shaolin arts diligently, and strive towards physical, mental, and emotional health.
- Be filial towards your parents, respectful towards the elderly, and protective of the young.
- Uphold righteousness, and strive to be both wise and courageous.
- Do not be ungrateful or unscrupulous.
- Never rape, molest, steal, rob, abduct, cheat, or lie.
- Never associate yourself with evil people; never do any sort of evil yourself.
- Never abuse power, be it official or physical; never oppress or bully people.
- Be humane and compassionate; strive to spread peace and happiness.
- Be chivalrous and generous, nurture talents in others, and help to spread the Shaolin arts to deserving students.