编者按：作者Paul F. Ryan，美国纽约市人（1969出生），中文名字李博安，南老师赐名“道安”（2010年），美国佛蒙特州立大学营养学专业毕业（1994）、北京中医药大学中医学硕士毕业（2004）、美国太平洋东方医学院中医学博士（2018），美国纽约东西医疗安康中心「East-West Integrated Wellness」创办人，行医并传授中国左氏针灸、薄氏腹针等。
A Blessing from Master Nan
By Paul F. Ryan 李博安
“Who is this?” came a voice from behind me while I was sitting at a dining room table at the Taihu Great Learning Center. It was sung by an old man speaking mandarin in a heavy accent and with it his hand gently slid over my shoulder. I turned with goosebumps and melted heart to find Teacher’s hand and smiling face greeting me, “Oh! It’s Li Bo-an ah!” My heart melted and eyes filled with tears. I had received a blessing from Master Nan. I did not fully comprehend the meaning of the gesture at that moment, but on my first visit to the Tai Hu Great Learning Center, Master Nan had accepted me into his community at Taihu.
The night before, Teacher had spontaneously asked me to make an impromptu presentation at an education forum The Center was hosting in 2007 in preparation for establishing a new experimental primary school on the premises. I was asked to offer a response to a presentation on Chinese medicine done by Lü Song-tao’s staff on the use of Chinese herbal medicine for difficult-to-treat disease. Mr. Lü was the president of Green Valley, a company producing a wide variety of Chinese medicine materials and new technologies related to modernizing the implementation of Chinese medicine treatment. It was interesting, but not what Master Nan wanted. He was not looking for an introduction to how the theory of Chinese medicine was being used to guide the treatment protocols for Green Valley projects, but wanted teaching methods to make Chinese medicine knowledge and wisdom available to primary school students in a Western academic setting. And, there seemed to be a general disconnect at the forum. Westerners and those with western methods of teaching were talking in one ‘culture’ and the Chinese were talking in another and meeting points for integration had not yet been discovered.
我本是在北京中医药大学就读研究生的局外人，是彼得•圣吉——师从南老师多年的学生——他邀请我前往大学堂对他所称的“经络仪” 做一个评估，但不参加论坛。吕先生希望通过彼得•圣吉，介绍他与美国科学家合作对经络仪（编者按：即上海道生中医四诊仪）做测试。彼得让我评估这个设备，因为我有中医的背景，之前我还参与过Anne Harrington在哈佛大学的科学研究。彼得邀请了我，但却没有通知主办方我会来，因为没有房间，我差一点就转身离开。虽然我同意去论坛的原因之一是去见南老师，但我并未意识到在那里遇见南老师是多么的幸运。我知道南老师，是因为我的中国“义父母”，他们是南老师的忠实粉丝，义父母尽可能地把通过南老师书籍所获智慧与我分享，但我不是一个急切想见到南老师的忠实追随者。有趣的是，我是唯一一位非华裔留学生，致力于学习中国传统文化，特别是中医药学，想把它带回西方，传播到西方，以减轻病人不必要的痛苦、造福人类为使命。尽管我从未跟老师提过一句，但老师知道我的想法。
As an outsider from the graduate school program at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, Peter Senge, a long-time student of Master Nan, had invited me to evaluate a “meridian machine” as he called it, not to participate in the forum. Mr. Lü was hoping Peter would make some connections for him with scientists in the United States to begin experiments with the meridian testing instrument. Peter asked me to evaluate the device given my background in Chinese medicine and previous participation in scientific research with Anne Harrington at Harvard University. Peter had invited me, but did not inform the hosts I would be coming and I was almost turned away because there was ‘no room at the inn.’ While another reason I agreed to go to the forum was to meet Master Nan, I was not fully aware of the blessing it was to be there and meet Teacher. I knew of Teacher. My Chinese ‘godparents’ were devoted followers of him through his books and shared as much of his wisdom as they could with me, but I was not a devoted follower longing for this opportunity to meet him myself. Interestingly, I was the only non-Chinese participant whose life project was studying traditional Chinese culture, Chinese medicine specifically, with the mission of fully embodying it, bringing it back to the West and spreading it to alleviate unnecessary suffering and for the betterment of humanity. Teacher knew this without me saying a word to him about it.
I gave a short talk on the integration of Eastern and Western ways of thinking using the example of how two people from different cultural backgrounds would assess the benefits of eating congee. Beyond the taste and it’s influence on liking and accepting it, I talked about the westerner’s emphasis — especially someone like myself who has studied nutrition — on the analysis of the thing itself, like the amount of carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals and the role they play in nutritional health in the context of western anatomy and physiology to determine how “healthy” it is. In contrast, my education in Chinese culture revealed to me that the Chinese understanding of the health properties of congee in its various forms and ingredients were all determined by how it made the consumers feel during and after eating it, knowledge that accumulated over hundreds, if not thousands of years. This knowledge was then organized into macroscopic or holistic understandings within the context of Chinese culture and, in particular, the language and understandings within Chinese medicine. Thus, the western perspective is characterized primarily as being externally orientated and microscopic, while the Chinese as being internally oriented and macroscopic. Master Nan loved it. He directed four people to go to my table and tell me how good it was. The last person, also told me that I would have a repeat performance the next night: I would listen to the Chinese medicine presentation then go up on the stage and give my response presentation. Wow. I was not sure this was a good idea, but everyone was sure Master Nan knew what he was doing, so I accepted the request. When audience participants were asked to share their thoughts on my presentation, Demi Mo Lian, stood up saying, “I’d been trying to reconcile the differences between eastern and western teaching styles and find a way to combine them for the benefit of the students in the school, and finally with this presentation I’m finally able to see the possibility for integration.”
The following night my presentation received mixed reviews, with the most important criticism and correction coming from Master Nan. The presentation by Mr. Lü’s company physician was on using five phases theory as the theoretical basis for the prescribing of Chinese herbal medicine formulas. I spoke on the philosophical models of Chinese medicine. By this I mean the various “theories” that make up Chinese cosmology and are used in the medicine to diagnose and treat disease, like qi as the ultimate common denominator of all things as in, “all is one”, or yin and yang as the model through which looking at the world one sees everything having some qualitative attribute of both yin and yang and can be differentiated into categories of yin and yang based upon their relative manifestation. Teacher clearly felt my reducing these understandings to the realm of ordinary models missed something fundamental to their existence and thus used the opportunity to share with the forum participants the way academy style education is structured. In this manner of education, students study on their own, and then in a group setting the students are asked a question by the teacher, after which the students speak and debate as to their understandings as answers, followed by acknowledgement or correction by the teacher. I was corrected. The five phases was not just a model, at least not in the sense I was portraying it, but rather a direct manifestation of the underlying qi movement of the universe. When Master Nan joined the stage, I attempted to translate for him. But despite my acknowledged prowess in speaking Chinese, I was no match for his accent on this first visit with him, and struggled to the point of needing saving. Fortunately, there were many who could do so. What clearly happened this trip, was I went from an ordinary visitor to a student in Master Nan’s community. This was beyond my wildest expectation. “Li Bo-an ah!” became a common lyric Teacher sung when I was around.
I was permitted to return to The Center a couple of weeks after the forum for Teacher’s Spring Festival student retreat to listen to Bill Bodri’s report on his profound transformation experience. I was given the Zhunti mantra practice and I began the difficult task of trying to get control of my mind. It was not until two years later and I had recited the mantra a few hundred thousand times that I was invited back to The Center to work at the experimental school. Given that my main interest is in Chinese medicine, I resisted being a primary school English teacher and was unsure I would stay past a couple of months. But Master Nan did something extraordinary for him, he told me what I should do. On a warm autumn evening in late September, during the traditional theatrics preceding Lipton Lee’s wedding ceremony, we walked together in traditional men’s changpao with Peter Senge and others along the covered pathway between the main building and building seven. Teacher looked me in the eyes and said, “Li Bo-an, you should stay. You really should stay.” There are those that only need a hint, an indirect invitation to know that Teacher is guiding them. The state of my confusion was such that I needed a direct order. Even with that, I needed the encouragement of others to fully appreciate the direction. I stayed and gradually Master Nan guided me onto the cultivation path more solidly.
At the experimental school I saw how Teacher’s guidance permeated the spirit of the school and hearts of the teachers. While there were some teachers who were there only for the teaching job, most were inspired to participate in the experimental project because of Master Nan’s teaching which they had read thoroughly before coming. Their open and giving hearts were fed by the opportunity to serve and learn from Teacher. This is where my heart ended, but it is not where it started. It took time for me to settle into The Center. The first semester I traveled frequently to Shanghai to buy winter clothes, western foods and visit with friends. I also struggled with my role of being a primary school teacher — one who at age 40 had had almost no interaction with young children — and wanted to assert my knowledge and skills as a Chinese medicine doctor. Teacher was kind and understanding, and gave me every opportunity to meet and learn from masterful doctors visiting The Center. In addition to teaching English, I co-created the Chinese medicine curriculum with Yuan Yuan and we taught the subject in a student centered, highly interactive and hands-on manner. The students enjoyed the classes and some had the natural ability to remember the herbs and their functions beyond us! And, Teacher gave his permission for me to act as the school doctor and I helped many children and teachers with their health problems. I even led the treatment charge against H1N1.
Teacher gave me so many opportunities to serve and grow during my year at the Center, but nothing more important than to ground my cultivation in everyday life through fulfilling the roles that are needed of me selflessly. I arrived at The Center with a notion of cultivation as being quite detached from human society: my head stuck like a hermit in a Taoist cave and heart floating on a Buddhist cloud. I had spent many years practicing standing meditation, dabbling in meditation and since meeting Teacher reciting the Zhunti Mantra. But I was having trouble being at ease in society and struggling with compassion for others. There were basics of Chinese traditional primary school education that I was lacking, and I was asked to embody them: uprightness, discipline and compassion. By the time I left, I had a much clearer sense of how I needed to be in the world, at least the basics. I was ready to continue my journey and Teacher let me go.
In the past five years since I returned from China, I have begun my work introducing the best of Chinese culture to my own culture in the United States. Peter Senge often commented that it is time for China to contribute more to the world than “Made in China” products. It is time for systems and methods of cultivating the body-heart-mind and spirit to enrich humanity beyond the borders of the Middle Kingdom. To that end, I have established a private practice of Chinese medicine in New York City. While completing my doctorate in Chinese medicine, I teach acupuncture to Chinese medicine doctoral candidates as well as to fellow practitioners and direct students toward cultivating their heart-minds if they truly want to be good doctors. With my wife, I lead a group meditation gathering where I share Master Nan’s teachings and we guide patients on their path through meditation. And, most importantly, married to a cultivator raising our young daughter, I face the joys and challenges of each moment of life with deliberate intent to create the compassionate, wise presence of Buddha.
Master Nan, my palms are joined and head bowed in deep gratitude for all you have given me. I continue to receive your teachings through your senior students in the United States, Hong Kong and mainland China and I dedicate my life to continuing the transmission.