Kung Fu Shaolin Sage Sayings

Words of Wisdom

Sage Shaolin Sayings - During the life of the western adventure KUNG FU/ABC/1972-75 much wisdom was imparted to both the aspiring Shaolin monk Kwai Chang Caine (David Carradine), as well as the listening audience. The following are selected samples of sage sayings from the show's scripts that were distilled from the precepts of Confucianism, Taoism and Zen.

Disciple Caine: Master our bodies are prey to many needs: hunger, thirst, the need for love. Shall we then seek to satisfy these needs?
Master Kan: Only Acknowledge them and satisfaction will follow. To suppress a truth is to give it force beyond endurance.
-- Episode No. 1

Master Kan: All life is sacred. Thus the joining together of man and woman is always honored. Apart, there is no life; but from such union, life may proceed.
Young Caine: Then life must be always defended?
Master Kan: The thorn defends the rose. It harms only those who would steal the blossom from the plant
-- Episode No. 4

Master Kan: Seek always Peace. Wear no path for the footsteps of others unless the soul is endangered. We are linked by our souls. To endanger one, endangers all, but when one is endangered, then the soul must become a warrior.
-- Episode No. 5

Master Kan: Deal with evil through strength-but affirm the Good in man through trust. In this way we are prepared for evil, but we encourage Good.
Young Caine: And is Good our great reward for trusting?
Master Kan: In striving for an ideal, we do not seek rewards; yet trust does sometimes bring with it great reward-even greater than Good.
Young Caine: What is greater than Good?
Master Kan: Love.
-- Episode No. 7

Master Kan: See the Way of life as a stream. A man floats, and his way is smooth. The same man, turning to fight upstream, exhausts himself. To be One with the Universe, each must find his true path and follow it
-- Episode No. 11

Master Po: Perfect wisdom is unplanned. Perfect living offers no guarantee to a peaceful death. Learn first, how to live. Learn second, how not to kill. Learn third, how to live with death. Learn fourth, how to die...To know love, be like the running brook, which deaf, yet sings its melody for others to hear. Feel the pain of too much tenderness. Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for yet another day of loving
-- Episode No. 17

Master Po: The undiscerning mind is like the root of a tree--it absorbs equally all that it touches--even the poison that would kill it.
-- Episode No. 19

Master Kan: Is it not better to see yourself truly than to care how others see you?
-- Episode No.24

Young Caine: Master, must I always serve the law?
Master Kan: Hear the law; serve justice,
-- Episode No. 28

Master Kan: What is gained by using one's strength in violence and anger?
Young Caine: A victory that is swift.
Master Kan: Yet to be violent is to be weak, for violence has no mind. Is it not wiser to seek a man's love than to desire his swift defeat?
-- Episode No. 30

Caine: The greatest victor wins without a battle. Yield and you need not break.
-- Episode No. 32

Young Caine: What is the greatest obligation that we have?
Master Po: To live, Grasshopper. To Live!
-- Episode No. 35

Master Po: One cannot feel joy unless one can also feel despair. We have no capacity for Good without an equal capacity for Evil
-- Episode No. 36

Master Kan: Perhaps the proper conclusion one can come to is not to come easily to conclusions
-- Episode No. 40

Master Kan: What frightened you?
Young Caine: [Awake from his meditation] I heard the Silence, Master.
Master Kan: You have experienced Oneness [To help Caine
understand Master Kan asks Caine about the silkworm]
Young Caine: The silkworm dies, the moth lives, yet they are not two separate beings but one and the same.
Master Kan: It is the same with a man. His false beliefs must die, so that he may know the joy of the Way. What you felt in the Silence is real. Something in you is dying. It is called Ignorance.
-- Episode No. 41

Young Caine: Do evil demons exist?
Master Kan: Do wars, famine, disease and death exist? Do lust, greed and hate exist? They are man's creation, brought into being by the dark side of his nature.
-- Episode No.46

Words of
Lao-Tzu: He who is open-eyed is open-minded. He who is open-minded is open-hearted. He who is open-hearted is kingly. He who is kingly is Godly. He who is Godly is useful. He who is useful is infinite. He who is infinite is immune. He who is immune is immortal.
-- Episode No.47

Caine: The body is the arrow, the spirit is the bow. You must learn to use the strength of the spirit
-- Episode No. 52

Master Po: Who can know himself well enough to speak for all? Who is so well founded to hear all? The sage says 'Shape clay into a vessel; cut doors and windows for a room; it is the spaces with which make it useful' So we must listen for the spaces between us.
-- Episode No. 55

The Shaolin Way
It could be said that 'Kung Fu' was the greatest vegan tv series of all time. Caine's reverence for life (ahimsa), and his avoidance of meat would seem to indicate that, but it was the pacifistic message that spoke volumes. To have a hero that opposed using violence as a first choice to solve a dispute was a breathe of fresh air on prime-time television. If Caine could run instead of fight, he would.

But a reverence for life is just one aspect to the buddhist/tao philosophy followed by the Shaolin. To keep the body and mind strong and focused, the Shaolin practiced many animal styles of kung fu alongside of their meditation practices.

"All creatures - the low and the high - are one with nature. No life is insignificant. If we have the wisdom to learn, all may teach us their virtues. From the crane we learn grace and self-control. The snake teaches us suppleness and rhythmic endurance. The praying mantis teaches us speed and patience. And from the tiger we learn tenacity and power. And from the dragon we learn to ride the wind. Life sustains life and all living creatures need nourishment. Yet, with wisdom the body learns to sustain in ways that all may live."

- Master Kan

Young Caine: You cannot see.
Master Po: You think I cannot see?
Young Caine: Of all things, to live in darkness must be worst.
Master Po: Fear is the only darkness.
Master Po: [after easily defeating the boy in combat] Ha, ha, never assume because a man has no eyes he cannot see. Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Young Caine: No.
Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?
Young Caine: [looking down and seeing the insect] Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?
Master Po: What do you hear?
Caine: I hear the grasshopper.
Master Kan: Quickly as you can, snatch the pebble from my hand.
[Young Caine tries to do so and fails]
Master Kan: When you can take the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave.
Master Kan: Avoid, rather than check. Check, rather than hurt. Hurt, rather than maim. Maim, rather than kill. For all life is precious, nor can any be replaced.
Caine: Is it good to seek the past, Master Po? Does it not rob the present?
Master Po: If a man dwells on the past, then he robs the present. But if a man ignores the past, he may rob the future. The seeds of our destiny are nurtured by the roots of our past.
Caine: I seek not to know the answers, but to understand the questions.

"The courageous fighter shuns violence. The skillful soldier avoids anger. A mighty warrior does not fight for petty conquests." - Caine

"True insight cannot be gained by specialized knowledge, by victory or defeat, doctrine or dogma. It can only be achieved by the illumination of one's inner self. In other words it does not matter who wins or loses." - Caine

"When one eye is fixed on the destination, you have only one eye to search for the way." - Caine

"I can see beyond the eyes. A sometimes unfortunate gift." - Caine

"If a man sees a wrong and does nothing, how can he still call himself a man?" - Caine

"A battle avoided cannot be lost." - Caine quoting Sun Tzu
"I do not drive ... I do not [have a social security number]." - Caine

"I don't know what goes on in his head." - Peter on Caine

"In trust, as in love, there's always a risk." - Caine

"A man who has no skill can be taught. A man who has no honor has nothing ... You must guard your honor, Peter. It is the most precious possession you will ever have. It is the one thing that can never be taken from you." - Caine

"One makes friends with many skills in 15 years of wandering." - Caine

"In kung fu, battle does not force you apart. It brings you together." - Caine

"You have a lot to learn, my son ... but you do have ... a good right cross." - Caine to Peter

"You helped me. You understood even, even though I couldn't always talk to you. That night you ... you understood. I love you for that. Just for being there." - Peter

"It is, the function, of a father." - Caine, in response.

"That night, I needed you perhaps even more than you needed me." - Caine

First season of Kung Fu sayings :

From the Crane, we learn grace and self-control.
The Snake teaches us suppleness and rhythmic endurance.
The Praying Mantis teaches us speed and patience.
And from the Tiger, we learn tenacity and power.
And from the Dragon, we learn to ride the wind.
All creatures, the low and the high, are one with nature.
If we have the wisdom to learn, all may teach us their virtues.
Is it good to seek the past? If a man dwells on the past, then he robs the present; but if a man ignores the past, he may rob the future. The seeds of our destiny are nurtured by the roots of our past.
When you can take the pebble from my hand, it will be time for you to leave.
You must walk the rice paper without leaving any marks. This will signify that you can walk without making any sounds.
The outer strength, the strength of the body, withers with age. The inner strength, the Chi, remains and grows stronger with age.
The right of vengeance belongs to no man.
A Shaolin priest can walk through walls.
A man cannot live his whole life in fear. To hide such feelings is to increase them 1000 times.
If you tell a man he is less than a man often enough, he will come to believe it.
All life is sacred. I would not take pleasure in the death of any man.
Fear is the enemy. He who conquers himself is the greatest warrior.
To hate is like drinking salt water; it only makes the thirst worse.
I have seen the silkworm; it spins a thread that it may be seen. Hate is the thread and the tomb you weave; it will not save you from your suffering.
The mind and the body and the spirit are one. When the body expresses the desires of the mind and the spirit, the body is in tune with nature, the act is pure and there is no shame. Love is harmony.
Each journey begins and also ends. Life is such a journey, yet it is full of journeys within which begin and end.
Seek always peace. To endanger one, endangers all. In such times, the soul must be the warrior. The soul sees always. What the soul sees cannot be denied.
Discipline your body that you may find greater strength. Be one with all that is without one’s self.
Where the tiger and the man are one, there is no fear, there is no danger.

Part II

I have three treasures which I hold and keep: the first is mercy, for from mercy comes courage; the second is frugality, from which comes generosity to others; the third is humility, for from it comes leadership.
How shall I hold these treasures, Master? In memory?
Not in memory, but in your deeds.
Peace lies not in the world but in the man who walks the peaceful path.
To reach perfection a man must develop equally compassion and wisdom.
Shall I treat every man the same? Yet the flower beneath the water knows not the sun. Other men, not knowing me, will find me hard to understand.
As far as possible, be on good terms with all. Accept the ways of others; respect first your own.
Look beneath the surface of the pool to see its depths.
Rock crushes scissors. Paper covers rock. Scissors cuts the paper. Each in turn conquers the other; there is no stronger or weaker. This is the harmony of nature.

Part III

Ten million living things have as many different worlds. Do not see yourself as the center of the universe, wise and good and beautiful. Seek, rather, wisdom and goodness and beauty, that you may honor them everywhere.
A man may tell himself many things, but is a man’s universe made only of himself?
If a man hurts me and I punish him, perhaps he will not hurt another.
And if you do nothing?
He will believe he may do as he wishes.
Perhaps. Or perhaps he will learn that some men receive injury but return kindness.
If you sow rice, you will grow rice. If you sow fear, you will grow fear.

David Carradine - inspirational grasshopper and wonderful flute builder - rest in peace.

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