得意忘形

weecheng Post in Uncategorized
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This Chinese phrase, loosely translated, means to get carried away and forget about one self.

The origin of the phrase goes far back into Chinese history, to the days around the Three Kingdoms.

典故:《晋书·阮籍传》:“嗜酒能啸,善弹琴。当其得意,忽忘形骸。”

魏晋时期的文学家阮籍,因魏亡而隐居山林,与文人嵇康、山涛、向秀、阮咸、刘伶、王戎被称为“竹林七贤”,他狂荡无羁,别人形容他喝酒时爱吹口哨,高兴时好像忘记自己的存在

Though mainly used with a negative connotation, if we choose to go literal with these four Chinese characters, it is actually quite relevant to the practice of Taiji.

“得意” usually means being in a “pleased” state. Individually, “得” could mean “to obtain”, and “意” could mean “intention”. So recombining the two, they could mean “obtaining (understanding) the intention (essence)”. Or to put it simply, “to fully understand”.

“忘形” usually means to forget one self. Or we can take a literal meaning as “to forget (忘) the physical form (形)”.

Once we fully understand the essence, we have to let go of the physical form.

So how is that relevant to us?

I recalled a fellow senior telling me an example about traveling by boat. He asked me to imagine having to climb a mountain after crossing a river by boat.

“Would you carry the boat with you?” he asked.

“Of course not,” I said. “Once I have crossed the river, the boat has little use for me when I start climbing the mountain. In fact it will be holding me back in my next phase of the journey”

So in the same way, once we have learnt a certain aspect of Taiji, and fully understand the essence, we have to move on. We have to let go of the “boat”, or we will not be able to start the next phase of our journey.

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