What is Cheng Hsin?
By Peter Ralston
Reprinted from Cheng
Hsin Web Site
The Chinese words cheng hsin (pronounced "cheng
shin") loosely translate as "truth" and "being" -
an appropriate title for a body of work that involves increasing
consciousness on all levels of "being." Founded by
Peter Ralston in 1975, Cheng Hsin is grounded in a school of
internal martial arts and contemplative disciplines; however,
any pursuit or course of study can be a Cheng Hsin endeavor if
the objective is a real understanding of the principles and true
nature of the matter at hand.
Zen studies direct our focus beyond the reality that we take for granted, and
martial disciplines offer new possibilities for power and skill in a diverse
range of activities. World-class martial artist Peter Ralston has unified these
studies of consciousness and ability in a unique body of work known as Cheng
Some of the forms we have used so far to pursue this work:
- Martial arts
- Personal growth or transformative workshops
- Intense trainings regarding personal
integrity, clarity, and accountability
- Courses on the principles behind effective
movement, effortless power, and interaction
- Development in the art of teaching or
The overall goal of the Cheng Hsin work is to discover and experience
the principles and dynamics that construct the activity or event
in question. For example, we may set out to discover what is responsible
for creating skill (whether it's being effective as an athlete, a
writer, a painter, a banker, a chef, or a contemplator), or to directly
experience the nature of being - anything could be the subject for
The No Way
Initial encounters with the Cheng Hsin communication
often create a sense of frustration, for its fundamental nature
is ungraspable by the mind. Cheng Hsin does not lay out a path
of moral righteousness nor does it define a set of concrete beliefs.
It doesn't lay out precise dogma or a set of rules to follow,
and so demands patience and commitment to comprehend. It is not
"You can't fix Cheng Hsin on the
wall with a pin because, as you try, you realize that Cheng Hsin
is the wall, and the pin, and the action, and the intent."
Frank LaManna, T'ai Chi Journal
Paradoxically however, there are definite guidelines and principles
to which we adhere - for example, honesty, openness, questioning,
and being authentic. Although we have already established many useful
methods for investigation or training, we are open to whatever is
effective or true, whether it is known by us at this moment or not.
"Giving way, yielding, is not
a meek activity, it is a positive one. Although passive in nature,
it is effective in reality. By learning to yield and follow,
sticking to activity without resisting, one forms a real union
with that activity."
Within the Cheng Hsin martial work, we train to obtain an effortless
power and a gracefully effective interaction. The steady background
objective is to learn about ourselves and life; to observe how our
minds, emotions, and bodies currently operate; and to discover new,
more effective and freeing possibilities in how to think, feel, move,
and interact. The Cheng Hsin arts are designed in relation to the
principles of an effortlessly effective body-being and the principles
of effective interaction.
"When I began putting together
Cheng Hsin T'ui Shou, I wanted to create an art based on fundamental
observations of physics, perception, intent, impulse, and energy -
an art that gears itself to meet any situation because it is founded
on understanding the principles in which interaction takes place. I
wanted an art that is adaptable and well-designed, forged through training
and techniques but designed to teach something beyond the form. Cheng
Hsin T'ui Shou is such an art."
Ontology is the study of being. Zen is the most
well-known example of an ontological school. Within Cheng Hsin, although
we openly consider what has been handed down from the past, we do not
want to simply follow any presuppositions or dogmas. Instead, we reach
for an authentic encounter, a direct experience of the truth.
Cheng Hsin is pursued in ontological work such as contemplation intensives
and other powerful workshops designed to penetrate and awaken "mind." We
investigate the nature of emotion, thought, perception, interaction, communication
- anything that we are involved in as human beings. Our purpose is to have
direct insights that provide us with a more conscious experience of the truth.
The methods of inquiry are many, ranging from dialogue, exercises and experimentation,
to pure contemplation.
Four of the fundamental principles on which Cheng Hsin stands as an investigation
are: Honesty, Questioning, Direct Experience, and Grounded Openness. It is
an alive and evolving endeavor, committed to an experience of what's true rather
than a set of beliefs.
"The essence of Cheng Hsin is found
in questioning our own event. We're striving to honestly investigate
our actions, emotions, beliefs, relationships, and experience. It seems
that in grasping the truth of any matter, the possibility arises of
becoming more powerful, effective, and balanced in relation to that
"Cheng Hsin is non-moral, non-political and non-religious. The intent is
not to embrace a new belief system, but rather to question and challenge openly
and honestly the nature of our event - any aspect of being alive. This often
means challenging our existing beliefs."
Webmaster's note: This article is reprinted from Peter
Ralston's Cheng Hsin web site.