One Hundred Days of Darkness and Light
One Hundred Days of Darkness and Light is the first section in Robert Peng's book, The Master Key
At a Crossroads
Three days after the semester ended, I set off on my first visit to Jiuyi Temple. I climbed aboard the same train Xiao Yao had taken. I carried a small canvas backpack containing two pairs of underwear, a T-shirt, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a hand towel, and a bag of dried lychees to offer my master as a gift. The train ride took a full eight hours and then I traveled by bus for two more hours and got off at a makeshift stop near a remote village. I asked a local farmer for directions to the monastery. He pointed the way.
In the forest I met another farmer, who asked me where I was headed.
“I’m going to Jiuyi Temple to visit my Shifu,” I answered.
“Who is your Shifu?” he asked.
“The monk Xiao Yao.”
“You are a disciple of Xiao Yao?”
“Then please allow me to invite you to have lunch with my family.
We are poor, but it would be an honor to host you in our home.”
I accepted. Lunch consisted of rice mixed with sweet potato bits. One of the farmer’s relatives was an old mountaineer who shared many endearing stories about my master. While listening to him I realized that Xiao Yao had touched many people’s lives before he became a boiler room attendant. These kind people made me appreciate his humility even more. We drank tea together, and then I thanked them for their hospitality and continued my trek to Jiuyi Temple.
I hiked for several hours along the steep path. Parts were covered by a ceiling of thick foliage, and others snaked along the bare, narrow edge of the mountain. I paused a few times to admire the valley below.
When I finally saw the main gate of Jiuyi Temple, I ran toward it and entered the courtyard. Neglect and bad weather had taken a toll on the monastery. The grounds were in need of maintenance, and the structures were in dire need of repair.
A young monk greeted me with his right hand in the traditional prayer position against his chest. “E mi tuo fo—Buddha bless you,” he said.
I wasn’t familiar with the religious formalities.
“Uh, hi. E mi tuo fo. I am Jihui, and I’m looking for Xiao Yao,” I replied.
“Oh yes, I know who you are. He told us you’d be coming. Follow me. I’ll take you to him.”
My master was in the dining hall. His head was shaven and he wore a chocolate-colored robe. I nearly walked right past him.
“E mi tuo fo. Jihui, did you have a good journey?” he asked me.
His new look startled me. It took me a few moments to regain my bearings.
“Yes, Shifu,” I answered.
“Good. Let me show you around.”
Xiao Yao gave me a brief tour of the temple and introduced me to everyone. There were about a dozen monks living on the premises. Most of them were new to monastic life. Only a handful of the older monks had returned. I met the abbot in charge of administration, who was a veteran monk named Liu Bo. The monastery was under- staffed, and everyone was overloaded with work. Xiao Yao was in charge of reconstruction as well as training the new monks.
Next, Xiao Yao showed me the main hall that housed the Golden Buddha. We stood on the veranda and looked out. The far view of the mountains was spectacular. The near view of the courtyard was less inspiring. Piles of bricks and stacked lumber were strewn throughout the temple grounds.
“As you can see, the monastery is a mess,” my master explained. “We are busy with major repairs that must be completed before winter arrives.” He ushered me inside the temple. The dilapidated walls desperately needed patching and a fresh coat of paint, but the space still radiated a high spiritual vibration. The open-air room exuded the musty scent of sandalwood incense, which mixed pleasantly with the scents of summer in bloom. The Golden Buddha sat peacefully on a lotus flower and appeared unperturbed by his cracked skin of faded-gold paint.
He was flanked on either side by two life-sized standing Buddha statues. Beyond him dozens of smaller Golden Buddhas were illuminated by seas of red candles on two long tables that ran alongside the walls.
A silky red curtain hung down from the ceiling, framing the Golden Buddha and his retinue. Xiao Yao led me behind the drapery and quietly showed me the beautiful, radiant, kind-faced, golden statue of Guan Yin, the goddess of compassion. She was twice my height and stood graciously on a stack of lotus flowers, facing the back of the temple.
We returned outside, and Xiao Yao said, “Jihui, you’ll be staying with me. I have to get back to work now. Settle down and walk around the grounds if you’d like. I will see you later.”
Then he asked a young monk to show me to his room.
Xiao Yao’s room was set into the perimeter wall of the monastery just across the courtyard from the main temple. The quarters were neither small nor large. There were two narrow beds on opposite ends of the room shielded by mosquito nets. On the far wall was a small window and a wooden desk with a kerosene lamp and a few candles on it. Two chairs were tucked away in the corner. I placed my back- pack down on one of them.
“Our daily routine is simple and it never changes,” the monk explained before he left. “We pray and chant three times a day, we work two shifts, and we eat once, at lunchtime.”
I followed the daily routine and the next day, after morning prayers, Xiao Yao led me outside the temple grounds while it was still slightly dark. We walked for twenty minutes through the early morning mist in dreamy silence. The path narrowed as we walked along the edge of the mountain overlooking a deep ravine. Then the path widened and the Earth became grassy. We stopped in front of a pine tree that had put down roots at the very edge of a steep cliff. Half its branches overhung the rock and extended into the void. From here the neigh- boring mountain peaks, which were suspended like celestial islands in the swirling, curling morning mist, were an awesome sight to behold.
“I practice Qigong here almost every morning,” Xiao Yao said. “The mountain Qi is powerful and it is peaceful and quiet.”
We practiced a set called Four Golden Wheels Exercise and medi- tated under the tree, facing the majestic sky.
Two otherworldly hours passed and my master said, “Jihui, take a look.”
By now the sun had risen and its heat had chased away the morning mist. The sky was blue and clear. Xiao Yao was pointing above the pine tree at a double rainbow that seemed to bridge Heaven and Earth.
“These rainbows appear here almost every morning,” he said, his face reflecting the golden sunlight.
We practiced Qigong by the “Rainbow Tree” daily. After morning practice my master usually went back to work and engaged in various activities. Sometimes I helped the monks with construction. At other times Xiao Yao instructed me to read old manuscripts that were stored in a large wooden chest in a small reading room. Some of them were hundreds of years old. I was amazed to discover that many described the same practices that Xiao Yao had taught me. I read them with care, realizing that Xiao Yao and his masters had read the same scrolls when they were my age.
Whenever a villager came for a healing, my master would call for me. I would set aside whatever I was doing and assist him with the treatment in a room near the main temple, just as I had done in the boiler room.
And when I wasn’t meditating, working, reading, or assisting Xiao Yao, I explored the sleepy mountain trails and swam in the gurgling streams. The summer passed at a leisurely pace, and I grew attached to the pleas- ant simplicity of monastic life. When it was time for me to return home, I was sad to leave peaceful Jiuyi Temple for the lively streets of Xiangtan.
To be continued in the next issue of Catalyst...
Robert Peng is a world-renowned Qigong Master, healer, and author of the book, The Master Key: Qigong Secrets for Vitality, Love, and Wisdom.
Click here for a free download of the audiobook, 100 Days of Darkness and Light, which is the first section in Robert's book, The Master Key.
Robert's companion resources include:
The Master Key Video Series (4 DVDs of Qigong practices)
The Master Key Audio Series (5 CDs of Qigong practices)
Qigong Ecstasy (45-minute Qigong practice video)
AM/PM Qigong (Two 30-minute Qigong routines video)
Robert was born and raised in Hunan, China. At age eight, he began an intensive apprenticeship under the close guidance of the legendary monk Xiao Yao, an enlightened master known for his profound healing ability and martial arts skill. At age 15, Robert performed a 100-day water fast in a small dark room at a secluded monastery in the remote mountains of Hunan province. He underwent a radical spiritual transformation and awakened amazing healing powers. Master Xiao Yao encouraged Robert to develop his healing skills by studying with other Chinese masters.
After pursuing his training quietly while attending university in Changsha, where he majored in English Literature, at 29 years old he began to teach publicly, and within five years had trained over 150,000 students all over China, Australia, and the U.S.
With his deep understanding and practice of Qigong, and with extensive life and teaching experience in the western world, Robert has developed a unique way to teach Qigong that people from different cultures can easily understand and follow while enjoying the real essence of this ancient Chinese healing art of wisdom, love, and vitality.
Robert has been a regular presenter at the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, The Esalen Institute, Integrative Health Symposium, and many other organizations and schools.
Together with Bishop Desmond and Pema Chodron, he was honored as one of "Top Ten Heroes of 2013" for his contribution to transform "the ancient Chinese healing art of Qigong into today's fast-growing holistic practices — in addition to use as a spiritual practice for inner balance and peace, Qigong movement is gaining acceptance as a gentle movement for chronic illness and pain."