Honesty – To my self and others at all times
Humility – To all people in thoughts words and deeds
Patience – I serve others according to their needs
Sincerity – Is the foundation of my every action
The arts of our teachers the Li family of Sichuan Province China were collectively know as Daoqiquan or way to life force through boxing. Their methods were first and foremost those of using martial skills to survive as bodyguards (Baobiao 保鏢) who protected wealthy clients and their caravans. Later they served as soldiers in the war. At the core of their methods were these concepts know as The Four Virtues (Si-de 四德). The Si-de served as their guide for living and interacting with others.
Master Li, Long-dao said that one who kept these in the heart and all actions would live a long life free from anxiety and fear. One could say it was their form of mental Qigong or life force skill. As he explained it when these concepts were followed one had little to worry about as one tended to be honest and did not generate negative feelings or worries. Without deception, lies and half truths one could be open and devoid of tensions. Such a state was according to Master Li was the key to a long life a healthy body and mind.
In our schools we recite these virtues after each class as a reminder of our lineage and a guide to living fully and openly. The truth is that living with these Si-de is not easy. It is easy to repeat them and think about them, but living them is very, very hard. It is one thing to have them written down or posted on the wall of your meditation room, school, or home, it is quite another to apply them to each moment of your life, but that is where the real lessons come, in every day applications.
Now you say, well I am an honest person. I am sincere and patient and even humble so I must be following them. I must be following the right path. This could be true but the question is do you really put the needs of your family, friends, spouse or boss above you own! Let me be clear here on that word needs. In this instance needs means things necessary to survive such as air, water, food, shelter and yes love. You do not need a new car, pizza, expensive shoes, those are wants.
It is very easy when things are going our way to convince ourselves that we are following these concepts. However, when things are not so easy or times get tough then the attitude of “special me” sets in and we start to think, “Well the rules are good for some, but I am special so I do not have to follow them exactly. I can bend them here and there and no one will notice.” But, someone has already noticed, you and you have begun the process of lying to yourself and so you are no longer being honest with you.
The moment that inner voice questions a decision you have made as being fair and honest and you have to justify it to yourself so you can make up the excuses to yourself or anyone else, you have failed the test of the four virtues, first to yourself and then to others.
Some of you will read this and want to argue with it, to say what you think it means but the meaning is crystal clear. You will either follow the path or you will not, you will act in a selfish way or you will not. No one likes to face this about him or herself but it is a very worthwhile lesson to face.
Some of us want to think of these so called internal martial arts as spiritual and something that is mystical, that has to be followed only when wearing robes or special clothing. Others may only be interested in physical prowess derived from martial training, but there is so much more to it than that shallow attitude. Some feel that the rules only apply to them when in class or with teachers or others in a formal setting. The Si-de to be of benefit must be adhered to in public and private at all times they must become the rule not the exception for our every action.
No one ever perfects the Four Virtues but those who are sincere keep striving to do so. If we transgress we can learn to forgive ourselves and when we honestly fail try again. Now even that statement I just made sets up a scenario for the egoist to say, yeah so I can transgress and not follow the virtues. It will be OK because I can apologize and forgive myself and it will be OK. No it is not OK because you should realize that the person you are harming is not so much your friends, family, spouse or teacher, it is you!
We often cover up that little inner voice that says, “This is not fair to all concerned.” We begin by making some justification, but at the bottom of it all is always selfishness and ego. And that is exactly what the Four Virtues are supposed to help you overcome. They help you to learn that the real way to the truth is not found meditating in a cave, or the wilds of Tibet, or on some retreat; the truth is found in loving and serving others and then yourself right in your own home, office, or wherever you are at the time.
Can you accept the challenge of the Si-de if you do it will change your life for the better!
John P. Painter