A FAREWELL TO KWAN YIN KUNG FU
If you have been with me as a student, a witness, or a friend for some time, you know that this is the name under which I had been presenting my practice for many years. At the time I write this the world is at a precipice of transformation—a gateway stretching over an expanse of unknown terrain.
Like all the creatures on this planet, I too am changing. And to better express the refinements I’ve been making little by little through the years, I’m observing myself reflect the transition in small ways and large, one of the most significant updates being my name.
This is not a goodbye to the practice temple to which the name points, of course; but as I step over the threshold, I’ll leave the old name like skin that must be shed. In a much more aligned way, the new name reflects the practice, those who train in it, and myself:
Quan Yin Gongfu
This way of spelling the name communicates a softer essence. The roundness of the letters feels more expressive of the circular nature of the practice, and this spelling more closely describes the sound the letters make when pronouncing the words.
Really, the pronunciation is the same between Kwan Yin Kung Fu and Quan Yin Gongfu, but for most people who don’t speak Mandarin, Cantonese, or another dialect of the region, when we read them, the variation on the spelling creates a very different sound.
Gongfu and Kung Fu are simply two English ways of transforming the characters 功夫 into an alphabetical form. The sound of the consonant g, k, or q (in the case of Quan Yin) are all trying to describe the sound that is really more of a combination of k + g together.
Likewise, Quan Yin, Kwan Yin, Kuan Yin, and Guan Yin are all ways English-speaking people have tried to write the characters 觀音 as letters.
For me, Quan Yin Gongfu feels much more expressive of the way I sense the meaning of the characters on which the English words are based. Quan Yin is the Goddess of Compassion and her healing essence flows more like a Q than a K—to me.
Gongfu, in its true definition, means focused practice given forth over time, to cultivate excellence in one’s art. This concept is dear to me; it applies to any aspect of life through which one expresses their unique offering to the world.
Although they both point to this meaning, spelling it “kung fu” has gotten logged into our culture as solely the martial art. And while the martial arts is absolutely a part of the practice I share, it more broadly encompasses entering deeply into the practice of the martial and internal arts as a method for following one’s personal Dao.
As we each are continuously presented with the necessary adjustments to the way in which we hold ourselves as expressions of the nameless, may we give ourselves the spaciousness to make those changes that align us more precisely to our personal Truth.