Story 1999 Howard Lee about Carlos Castaneda

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"The Sorcerers’ Doctor" by Dimitri Buffa - Il Manifesto (Italy) April 7, 1999

"I want to express my admiration and gratitude to a masterful teacher, H.Y.L., for helping me restore my energy, and for teaching me an alternate way to plenitude and well-being.” This is what Carlos Castaneda wrote in dedicating one of his most beautiful books, The Fire from Within, to the Chinese master.

On another occasion, Carlos Castaneda wrote: “A Chinese proverb says: A sifu for a day is equivalent to a father for a lifetime. Howard Lee is that kind of sifu: a teacher and a guide towards the light. His extraordinary dominion over the nuances of energy uses and maneuvering makes him into a most respected and admired practitioner of the art of dealing with energy. I am proud to have been one of his students."

Affable and tactful, athletic in appearance, Chinese by birth, Howard Lee turned sixty last March. Acupuncturist and extraordinary Kung Fu master, he is famous in Los Angeles for his natural healing capacity that goes beyond the tools and boundaries of traditional methods. The anthropologist-shaman Carlos Castaneda, Hollywood stars, cultural icons, and average people turn to healer Howard Lee. “In the last thirty years I never left Los Angeles, now it is time to change.” So the sorcerer’s doctor, the master to whom Castaneda expressed in such a clear way his gratitude, will fly for the first time to Europe, where, from April 14 to 18, 1999, he will hold workshops and seminars.

In the sixties, martial arts were almost unknown but for the ones who saw James Bond’s movies. You were teaching Kung Fu in Los Angeles at the time of the explosion of Bruce Lee’s films. What are your reflections on the Western interpretations of Kung Fu as a violent discipline?

Well (chuckling), Kung Fu is violent. It is used for self-defense. Also of course in China there aren’t sports like we have, at least in the old times before the advent of Western sports. People had only the various styles of Kung Fu as a means of physical conditioning, to do something practical. There are two sides to Kung Fu. Its nature is violent when you have to use it, but ultimately the most important part is for health. Daily practice is for maintenance of health, but also as a means to learn about oneself, in dealing with one’s emotions. My approach has always been more slanted toward the health-promoting aspects. Still, it’s important not to neglect the self-defense or combative aspect, because that’s how you stay on track. Also, learning about the combative side of martial arts enables you to deal with your own personal emotions and feelings, thoughts and philosophical attitudes toward your fellow human beings. In the long run, of course, if one were just simply interested in being a tough guy or tough gal, then I don’t think one would have enough patience, because it requires a lot of diligent practice. I used to say to my students that you may once or twice in your lifetime get into an altercation in which you may have to use something to defend yourself, but day to day on an ongoing basis, it is about defending against your own self, self-abuse and neglect, and self-destructive tendencies, emotional or physical. Ultimately, it is about self-discipline.

What is your sense of the real meaning of Kung Fu?

Kung Fu is translated phonetically into English, but in Chinese it simply means doing a little work. So sometimes I’ve often deflated people’s expectations or images of Kung Fu. In China, when one says “go do a little kung fu,” it’s simply to do a little work or practice a little bit of this or that, whatever discipline they do. So to go in the kitchen to do a little kung fu, means you’re going to do a little cooking. If you are going to do a little kung fu in the garden, you know, . . . (Chuckling) kung fu means nothing else other than “work out.” The whole discipline of a martial art is self-discipline and learning to use your body resources more efficiently, the way it was intended. Most people have very little use of their body resources, unless they’re professional athletes or something. Even then, oftentimes, the Western sports involve specialized activity. They only develop one aspect of the body. Kung Fu is much more, involving the whole person. My approach has always been for health.

What is your experience in the acupuncture field?

My late father-in-law used to travel throughout the world with a couple of packs of needles. He didn’t speak English or any other language other than Chinese. Later, he started teaching in the Los Angeles area. He was one of the earliest practitioners in this country, in America, back in the ’50s. There were only about two or three acupuncturists in the whole United States, and he was one of them. Some of his students initiated and established the UCLA Pain Clinic. Originally, it was based on acupuncture. I started my private acupuncture practice in the early ’70s. Before then, I was assisting my father-in-law at various times.

How and where did you meet Carlos Castaneda for the first time?

I met him in 1974 when he came to my office for help. He had a serious health problem. I worked on him. In later years, I realized he’d been to many people before he finally came to me. At that time I did not know who he was, even though he mentioned briefly that he was a disciple of some Indian medicine man, a sorcerer, if I recall, and he was learning about power. My nature is such that I do not really like to pursue people’s private business other than what they are willing to tell me, so I never knew who he was in terms of the person who wrote those famous books until many years later, when he acknowledged my help in the book Fire from Within. Even then, it was a year after that book was published before I found out about the book and the acknowledgment. Subsequently, he brought me all of his books and I read them. They have profound value in terms of the teaching.

Remembering Castaneda’s school days, was he a good pupil?

Carlos was always very respectful. He was very attentive. He was very diligent in terms of his practice in the Kung Fu class and he always tried hard. He had some limitations in terms of coordination, but so do other people. He was more than just a student, he was a friend. Some years after he first came to me, he told me that he had known about me before he came for help. Someone had told him that there was some guy in L.A. teaching Kung Fu who talked like Don Juan, for whatever that’s worth (laughing). He mainly studied martial arts with me, and among other things informally some healing and stuff. But he never did learn the Light of Life procedures, because he was gone before I remembered how to induct others into the Light of Life energy.

How did you come to your Light of Life method?

This has been a process of reawakening and remembering. All my life I’ve been able to “remember” certain things intuitively and I would just practice on my own. You might say that I’ve been going to school on my own within myself for many decades. I usually see the need for my patients and students and people in general to be able to quiet down the internal mental chatter that consumes a lot of energy and is very distracting. I myself was that way until the age of nineteen, when all of a sudden I went quiet, that is, my internal brain activity went quiet. Since then I’ve been gradually remembering knowledge and practicing it and bringing it into reality. Even at times when I didn’t know where it was going to lead to or get me to. So then, some years back, I finally remembered the whole process of how to induct other people into the energy. And of course since it starts with me and isn’t part of a lengthy tradition or an institutionalized structure, people wanted to know what to call it, they wanted a name. I don’t remember exactly where the name came from, but someone intuited the phrase Light of Life, so we have a name.

What is the essence of your Induction of Energy seminar?

The Induction of Energy seminar is a one-day workshop where participants will come and be given access to this energy that I use in my healing, the very same energy. It is a very easy, experiential, one-day workshop. Anyone can just come and get it. After that, they have it for life. It is both definitive and absolute in the way it is done. There’s no mistake about it. Everybody will get it. It is a process in which I establish a powerful energy field engaging every participant. You might say that the teaching is done on the higher plane. In fact, it is done energetically, bypassing the rational thinking process. That is why it is absolute, no misinterpretations. It is energetically encoded, if you will. The energy source that people are given access to in the workshop is a powerful, transformative tool of a transcendent quality. It is rejuvenating at the deepest cellular and energetic levels, enhancing youthfulness, beauty and longevity.

In April you will come for the first time to Europe. Many people are waiting for you in Rome, and coming from everywhere in Italy. What is the link between you and our country?

Well, with all honesty, I have no preconceived notions. I have a valuable process that will be helpful to anybody, no matter where they are on this planet. It just so happened that, well, I think there’s a spiritual connection. I’m just glad that I’m being invited. I’m very happy that I will be able to share this knowledge with those people who want to access the Light of Life energy. It is unconditional on my part. I want to thank everybody who has allowed me this opportunity to come and visit your beautiful country.

Il Manifesto (Italy), April 7, 1999