Taijiquan and Death

Spirit Keeper Funeral UrnToday is Yom Kippur.

It is traditional to greet people with the saying, "May you be sealed in the Book of Life for a Good Year."

Chinese and Jewish traditions both use the same metaphor to think about human conduct. Once a year our actions are recorded in a book and that book contains both a tali of our meritorious acts and records our fate for the up coming year. Our actions throughout our life have a cumulative effect.

In the Chinese tradition when we die our actions during our lives continue to effect the living after we have died. Ideally, we simply become a supportive ancestor for our descendants. But it is also possible that we pass on bad habits, strange quirks, or even vendettas.

The residue of our inappropriate conduct during our lives is called unresolved qi. It becomes the responsibility of our descendants to resolve this qi for us if we leave it floating around after we have died. One way this is done is by offering incense and sacrifice to ancestors. This is mandatory for Chinese people.

The resolution of unresolved qi can also be achieved through appropriate conduct. For example if we brake a bad habit like quiting smoking, or start a good one like keeping the kitchen really clean.

Taijiquan clearly falls into this category. It is a positive social practice, it keeps people in good health, and it improves the efficiency of our movement so that we aren't wasting qi. Central to the practice of taijiquan is the exploration of wuwei: variously translated--not doing, non-aggression, or "like water it does nothing, yet leaves nothing unnourished."

Taijiquan is the practice of easily bringing things to completion, it is practice for dying a complete death. A death in which the only legacy we leave behind is unconditional support for the living.