Mystical Bioethics Network

If you are interested in the network, please contact both:; Frank J. Leavitt, Ph.D.;

- Erin D. Williams, J.D.

Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 11 (2001), 1-2.

What Kalari Payyattu Means To Me, Spiritually!

- V.R.Manoj
Asan Memorial College of Arts and Science,
Chennai , India.

Here is yet another writer trying to describe a personal rendezvous with martial arts. I believe that before me, there have been others who have sought to write about martial arts and what it means to them. Some may do so with a basic zeal which is akin to a child who wants to tell the whole wide world that he knows how to kick and punch ! It is also very true that there have been those who have written such classics; as "Book of seven rings".Such works have been written by those who have truly lived and felt the essence of what they had written. I am the child.

I wish to share some of my personal thoughts about a martial art that I have just started learning. The name of this martial art is KALARIPAYYATTU, considered the mother of all martial arts having it's roots way back in 12 AD from the shores of a beautiful place in India called Kerala, God's Own Country! The practitioners of this art are endowed with supreme control over their body enabling perfect neuro-muscular co-ordination. The physical demands for the learning of this art is painstaking to say the least. At the very core of all this is a sense of spirituality.

I am a mere beginner and I am humbled by how much I have learned . I have started to understand that the human body is not all flesh and bones. Practice of KALARIPAYYATU makes one learn that the body is in fact a temple which is to be revered as the most valuable gift of all with which we must transcend to achieve higher goals. The practice of this art demands that we first master our bodies. Once we have achieved such mastery, we shall then begin to realise that there is an inner self which is always calm and deeply spiritual.

With continued practice, I have come to realise that opposition is not as powerful when compared with harmony. In fact, KALARIPAYYATU teaches a person how to be whole and in harmony. The various stances and movements are inspired by nature. In practicing this martial art, I have found that great reverence should be placed on nature and it's creations. Before I begin any movement, I first pray to the gods for complete safety during my practice. Such a practice has left in me a sense of awe.

KALARIPAYYATU teaches me that there is a lot about myself that I am myself unaware of. Instead of the common conception of going in search of spirituality through philosophical discourses or meditative stages, KALARIPAYYATTU teaches me to be patient and continue practicing. Instead of going in search of truth and spirituality outside, KALARIPAYYATU teaches me to look inside my own self; and find it .

I am still very far away from reaching a point where I can look inside myself. But, the lessons and practice of KALARIPAYYATU have left in me a deep sense of reverence and the sole truth that all of life's greatest mysteries is within ourselves. The only way to unlock it would be cleanse ourselves by constantly performing those deeds which would better define as a; human being.

In a world where the advancement of medical science has made life as a mere concotion of chemical bonds, the practice of KALARIPAYYATTU has been teaching me that there is so much more to everything.

Martial Arts for Love

Commentary by Frank (Yeruham) Leavitt

Israeli mysticism, "Kabbala", has an idea of "raising things to holiness":; nothing is absolutely and iredeemably bad, what seem to be the worst things can be turned to good, even to the most sublime holiness.; Nothing seems to exemplify this idea better than what is going on today with traditional Japanese martial arts. Martial arts were techniques for warfare.; But in Japan, and in my opinion also in Biblical Israel, they were much more, they were routes to self-mastery, love and spirituality, contact with higher worlds, angels and Godliness.; This seems like a blatant contradiction: war and love, violence and spirituality.;

One way to solve a contradiction is to drop one side of it.; This was what happened during the war-torn twentieth century, when the purely violent sides of martial arts were all that most people noticed.; But at the same time, people were developing the peaceful sides of these arts, especially the Japanese idea of "victory without the sword" and the idea of not hurting your opponent, but causing him or her to conclude that it is a waste of time to attack you, and that it would be better to love you. I was aware of these developments only with respect to Japanese martial arts.; Now I learn from Manoj about the peaceful side of Kalari Payyattu (from India), and from Erin about the peaceful side of Kung-Fu, and Tai-Chi (from China). But it is really difficult to explain these things to someone who has not practiced martial arts.; I can imagine many readers saying:; "Oh, come-on! You guys are just into beating people up".

I would not have known how to answer, except that today I went to a kind of "technical park" in Beer Sheva to look at computers.; I stopped my car near where I thought the entrance to the place might be.; As I was reading the signposts to many different businesses, a driver started blowing his horn behind me, angrily.; Then he drove onto the sidewalk beside; me and yelled, in a very threatening way:; "This is not a parking lot.; Get moving". He was a very bad-looking guy, with an equally bad-looking friend sitting next to him.

I replied gently:; "But I don't know which way to go".; He started to curse me.; In the days before I began to practice martial arts, I might have had to fight him. Indeed people have been knifed in similar situations in highly-tense Israel lately. I understand that violence between drivers is the fashion in other countries too, and that in America they have something called: "Road Rage".; But I ignored his threats and spoke gently again:; "I'm looking for Computer House.; Do you know where it is."

He visibly softened and said:; "No, I'm sorry, I don't.; But you might try in that (pointing) direction."; Then he drove away.; On the back of his car were skulls and crossbones and other symbols of violence.; I felt that maybe I am beginning to learn the way of the warrior.; But of course I am only at the beginning.

Commentary on Manoj

- Erin Williams

< When Frank and I began our conversations a couple of years ago about the interplay between spirituality and bioethics, neither of us paid particular attention to the fact that we both happen to be students of martial arts. As best, it was a coincidence that facilitated our other conversations. Since that time, we have each gained more experience in our respective disciplines (Frank in Aikido, and myself in Kung Fu and T'ai Chi), and also in our contemplation of bioethics.; We have each begun to see the ways in which there might be harmonies that exist as these pursuits resonate throughout our lives.

As Manoj notes, pursuing the way of martial arts requires a childlike awareness.; Mine puts me in a state of wonder as I continue to discover the magic that exists in the world and within each of us.; This childlike way carries at its core the understanding that the motivation behind our exploration, whether it be of moral dilemmas or of new forms and motions, does not have to be focused on an endpoint.; In martial arts, there is no endpoint, only an ongoing path of learning and improvement. In bioethics, we can pursue our infinite potential to learn about and from one another.; We seek to explore the magic that each of us brings to our dialogues instead of aiming to pass judgments. We can focus on finding and building consensus rather than on competing to be heard.

Pursuing a way does not eliminate the importance of milestones.; In my Kung Fu school we have periodic exams and a variety of belt levels to mark the progress of students.; This both to allows students to witness how much they have learned since they began their training, and also sets the stage for intense feedback from instructors.; In bioethics, it is useful to have some mechanisms to mark our progress.; Perhaps these come in the form of finding resolutions to dilemmas, publishing papers, or being offered speaking engagements.

The challenge is to remain focused on the beauty and importance of others and ourselves as we pass by these milestones.; Once we proclaim our expertise in a particular area, we may find it difficult to absorb new relevant information.; In martial arts, masters continue to learn.; Training never ceases.; There is no conclusion of practice.; We can benefit from this approach in bioethics.; We can become experts who continue to strive for understanding and wisdom.; We can infuse respect deeply into our ethical processes to enhance ourselves, and to bring us ever closer to comprehending the truths that we seek.

Go back to EJAIB 11 (1) Jan. 2001
Go back to EJAIB
The Eubios Ethics Institute is on the world wide web of Internet: