Thursday, December 29, 2005

A simple note on the Three Doctrines

Over the few thousands of years of Chinese civilization, there appeared many great thinkers and philosophers some of whom were acknowledged as sages. Choosing a simple easy and practical doctrine to follow is perhaps wise.

If millions of Chinese throughout the ages found that Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist doctrines practical for their lives and prove fruitful, it is easy to discern which doctrines work and which don’t. Since the wise down the millenniums say that these three doctrines lead to the same path to Tao, there are no reasons to doubt the ancient sages and those who went on to attain Tao.

While reading ancient texts and classics, we try to discern the main gist of what the ancients want to say at the time. And in an interesting way, most of the teachings in such texts and classics seem to all tie up. In case you do not follow what I mean, all three doctrines point to the Center (Zhong).

Of the ancients, Laozi, Confucius, Buddha and Mencius teach a similar path for cultivation. Later, Ge Hong (Bao Puzi) and Boddhidharma (Da Mo) discussed the twofold path to cultivate Tao. Renowned Chan Buddhists, Neo Daoists and Neo Confucians about a thousand years ago placed the same emphasis on the cultivation of essence and bodily life. Some eventually attained Tao to become Daoist immortals or Buddhas. Over the next thousand years to 2005 they returned time and again to teach the same twofold path of cultivation.

If the thoughts do not lead to practices, are we really cultivating Tao? If a lengthy practice does not produce what the sages and wise described in their books and texts did we practise the correct methods? Is it any wonder then that only the sincere and discerning can find the mysterious Way?

With this last entry for 2005 I take this opportunity to wish all readers, A Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Thoughts on TTC 38

The scholars and experts were having a hearty discussion on Chapter 38 of the Tao Te Ching in Tao Speaks a fortnight ago, but one could not jump into the deep end since I was unsure why Laozi differentiated higher from lower virtue and mentioned that foreknowledge was the beginning of stupidity. Although one would like to think that Laozi was talking about sincerity in the chapter, without rendering a translation of TTC 38, one could not know what he actually meant.

Translating the chapter was not difficult but trying to tie up the words with various available translations on the web took a while longer. TTC 38 contains 129 Chinese words is quite lengthy and discusses virtues therefore few translators actually captured its essence and true meaning. Certain translations had omitted original words and/or made meanings obscure. Perhaps this helps explain why earnest Daoist students who have read numerous TTC translations do not comprehend what is required for cultivation to return to Tao?

However if readers find my translation of TTC 38 differs much from what they understand or from what their teachers taught them; please take the translation with a pinch of salt, as always. Without further ado, this may be what Laozi wanted to say with TTC 38:

Higher virtue not virtuous therefore possesses virtue
Lower virtue does not lose virtue therefore has no virtue.

Higher virtue (requires) no action [Wu Wei] or motives for action
Lower virtue (requires) action [Wei] and motives for action.

Higher benevolence [Ren] acts with no motives for action
Higher righteousness/justice [Yi] acts with motives for action
Higher propriety [Li] acts and upon finding no response, he seizes the other’s arm to throw it (at the person).

When Dao was lost, the ancients left behind virtue
When virtue was lost they left behind benevolence
When benevolence was lost they left behind righteousness
Losing righteousness they left behind propriety.

Those who manage propriety for face hold loyalty and trust in disdain
With foreknowledge clear, the Dao flowers, yet foolish was its beginning.

Therefore the great man [Da Ren] correctly dwells in substance and not resides in the thin.
Dwells in the fruit and not reside with the flower.
Thus the ancients remove that and choose this.

Apparently in this chapter, Laozi introduced a ‘new’ virtue in the first two paragraphs and expanded on the cardinal virtues of Ren Yi Li Zhi described in TTC 18. Those familiar with the Shujing (Book of History) may recognize what Laozi wanted to say about the ‘additional’ virtue. No one can cling to Sincerity (Zheng) as it comes from the heart. Does sincerity require any action or motive for action?

When people act out of genuine kindness (Ren), there is no need for a motive for action. Real justice (Yi) has to be dealt with for a reason; either to help the weak and/or to punish the wicked. Ancient customs (Li) can be adapted to suit different circumstances and modern times, is there ever a need to insist upon following the same old rituals every time? (Not unlike commentaries in the Zhouyi.)

With the fall from Tao, sincerity arose, and then benevolence followed by righteousness and propriety. (The ancients left behind clues to those with wisdom (Zhi) to return to Tao if they can see the unwinding and winding for the far journey.)

There are many (during ancient and modern times) who display propriety for face value and not out of loyalty and trust. For example, a bow to a master had become customary and may not be because of respect or loyalty. Clear foreknowledge is required for the flowering of the Tao, yet at the beginning there was foolishness. Starting out with stupidity, the earnest neidan student can one day become an adept who will see the flowering of Tao eventually.

The Da Ren correctly dwells in substance and chooses the fruit (instead of the flower) which eventually leads to the attainment of Tao. To conclude TTC 38, Laozi provided this verse to show the correct way to cultivation.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Probabilities and percentages in yarrow stalks consultation

Probabilities on divinations by yarrow and coins are occasionally discussed in forums and since one uses the yarrow stalks most of the time to divine, one decided to check and confirm its odds. Clearing the dust off the old journals was not a problem, but collating the information seems a bit tedious therefore one stopped after taking a random sample of 192 (64 hexagrams x 3) hexagrams obtained from early 1981 to the middle of 1987. Not much point in going through the rest of the journals I thought to collate divinations for a further eighteen years to 2005, if the statistics from the sample matches the published probabilities on yarrow consultation.

For those interested, Steve Marshall has a well written article on the probabilities on yarrow and coins in his Yijing Dao website. The published probabilities (one has converted them to percentages) for the yarrow are as follows:

6 -- x -- Moving yin 1 in 16 (6.25 %)
7 ------- Static yang 5 in 16 (31.25 %)
8 --- --- Static yin 7 in 16 (43.75 %)
9 ---o--- Moving yang 3 in 16 (18.75 %)

Since one did the sampling in three batches of 64 hexagrams, each batch showed a slight difference in the probabilities for the moving yin, static yang and yin, and the moving yang as follows:

6 Moving yin /7.55 % / 5.47 % / 7.03 %
7 Static yang /30.99 % / 31.25 % / 27.34 %
8 Static yin /40.89 % / 44.53 % / 47.66 %
9 Moving yang /20.57 % / 18.75 % / 17.97 %

From the above samples, the middle batch percentages about matches the published probabilities on yarrow consultation. Although the other two batches vary, the published probabilities are acceptable as a much larger sample was used by the publisher to even out the differentials.

What is of more interest is that a divination that uses yarrow stalks provides about three times more chances of obtaining a moving yang line than obtaining a moving yin line; whereas a coin divination provides an equal 12.5 % chance of getting either a yin or yang line that moves (or changes). This bias for moving yang lines over moving yin lines from the use of yarrow has been occasionally pointed out in forum discussions. Although it is proven true, do take cognizance of the fact that there are more static yin lines to compensate for fewer moving yin lines and that the total percentages for (both static and moving) yin and yang lines equal to 50 % each in the long run (see middle batch results as an example).

While on the subject of probabilities, from the random sample of 192 hexagrams spanning over six and half years, we would like to think that we can get all 64 hexagrams of the Yi at least once?

Well, it did not quite turn out that way. Two hexagrams that of Hexagram 53 Jian / Development and Hexagram 61 Zhong Fu / Inner Truth did not appear as answers to my questions until about five years later in 1992. Was that statistics or profoundness of the Yi? One would leave it to scholars and the experts to reason that out too.

Meanwhile we wait cheerfully.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Going against a Hindu deity

This story relates numerous incidents that happened to the staff, management and kin of a landowner who were involved in negotiations with the intended shifting of a Hindu temple to a new site within a housing project. The ongoing negotiations started since the land was purchased ten years ago. The incidents that had occurred to date may sound like a Ripley’s believe it or not tale.

The landowner purchased a piece of land for a proposed small housing project in 1995. During negotiations, he found out that a Hindu temple was situated on the land illegally and the purchase price was then reduced by a substantial amount. After signing the purchase agreement, he engaged an Indian lawyer to facilitate the negotiations with the Hindu temple committee. The negotiations went on for sometime with both sides failing to reach an agreement. The temple committee kept repeating that the Hindu deity refused to accept the proffered terms. Therefore the landowner sent various Daoist temple mediums along to negotiate with the Hindu deity. At times the negotiations turned into heated arguments. Meanwhile he commenced legal action to evict the temple but the court ruled in favor of the temple and he intended to submit an appeal on the ruling.

In 1997 the Indian lawyer’s legs became swollen and he could hardly walk to see the doctors. There seemed to be no available cures and he suffered much pain. His mother decided to seek spiritual help from a Daoist temple. The Daoist deity’s advice to her was that “if your son values his life, he has to drop the negotiation and the case”.

Both the lawyer and a mutual friend told me the Hindu deity had warned that ‘if the terms of the temple are acceded to, great profits will accrue to the landowner; if not, the deity wants to see blood”. They placed much emphasis on the latter part of the statement. They left with worried looks as one made no promise to talk with the landowner, an old friend of mine.

This quite explained a series of events that had occurred earlier. An in-house lawyer handling the temple negotiations had a head on collision that smashed his new car. After the accident he quickly resigned from his job. The legal departmental staff and another lawyer who took over the temple file went on medical leave frequently.

The landowner’s son went for a simple operation to be performed by one of the best surgeons in town. Yet the surgeon had to operate on him a few times before it was successful. A lot of prayers and offerings were made at a Daoist temple before the final successful operation.

After studying the case, one went to convince the landowner to drop the appeal on the court ruling. Probably some comments may have hit the mark and he reassured me that an appeal will not be filed in court.

A year or two later, one of his managers’ adult son was fatally struck by lightning in an open field. The manager had been directly involved in the temple negotiations.

The landowner recently took the courage to visit the languishing development project. At the site, he suddenly collapsed and was taken back home to rest for a few days.

Comment: The land for the Hindu temple has already been compensated to the landowner. Firstly, the previous landowner agreed to reduce the selling price by a substantial sum to cater for the existence of the temple. Then the local authorities decided to resolve the protracted matter by giving an ‘open space’ title (to be surrendered by the landowner to the authorities) to the temple and rezoning it for such purpose. The eviction notice was thrown out when the judge ruled that the temple has a right to stay within the land. Both the authorities and the judge know the roots and followed local customs.

During the times of Confucius and Mencius, rulers always think of profits (more territory or hegemony) instead of benevolence and righteousness. Greed has no limits. Even if all those around the ruler fall by the wayside or get injured, he will still try to reap a greater profit.

However one has nothing to gain and much to lose by going against the spirits (shen). Spirits after all are different from Man.

With this final episode on spiritual tales for 2005, I wish those readers who celebrate the oncoming festive season, A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!


Monday, December 19, 2005

Daoist spiritual tales

After the Buddhist spiritual tale, time for something Daoist. The first story is about a slight humiliation for deviant practitioners and the second story is about a non believer who thought she knew better than her mother in spiritual matters.

Two senior disciples from a ‘Daoist’ temple decided to pay some respects at a genuine Daoist temple for immortals. In their own temple, they pray to deities of assorted religions with no thoughts for cultivation. Female disciples can be found swaying and dancing in the main prayer hall of their temple. Apparently they were put under a trance by the master and seemed to thoroughly enjoy their dancing, while the male disciples watch and gape at the swaying dancers. Fortunately such deviant practices are uncommon in the country.

When the dual arrived, they were met by an elder of the Daoist temple who ushered them into the main prayer hall. Upon reaching its entrance, both of them suddenly prostrated themselves and crawled on all fours towards a huge painting of the temple’s Daoist immortal. After several loud kowtows, they crawled backwards towards the entrance without once standing up in the main prayer hall. As they stood up and turned to leave, the elder asked them the reason why they paid such huge respects to the immortal?

Reluctantly they answered, “It was not us who wanted to do it. There seemed to be an immense unseen force that pinned us down to the floor. We had to crawl forwards and kowtow to ask for forgiveness from your Daoist immortal before we could stand up and leave.” With that, they left the Daoist temple in a hurry.

Comment: If students are innocent and misled by teachers, then perhaps it is a mistake that can be corrected. But if discerning students know or realize what they learn and still continue to learn are deviant practices, there is no one else to blame for any future mishap or humiliation. Daoist immortals assist the good and punish the evil in mysterious ways.

A young educated woman was getting annoyed with her mother for spending much time in cleaning the altar for Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) in the house making the altar ready for prayers. She has been admonishing her mother over some weeks for being superstitious; for wasting time and money to pray to a deity. Those who are well educated, she mentioned, do not believe in such things. There are no spirits (shen) and no ghosts (kuei) in this world, she continued, only those who have no or little education believe in such things.

Fed up with her endless remonstrations, the mother decided to ask her daughter to tell that to Guan Yin directly. The young woman was happy to do just that. She placed a chair and sat down right in front of the altar before making her harangues to the famous and revered Daoist deity. She would start early in the morning and end them each evening. These lengthy sessions went on for several days.

One day her mother woke up early to go to the wet market for shopping and found her daughter sitting in front of the altar as usual. Her daughter seemed to be a bit quiet this morning, she thought to herself in between offering prayers to Guan Yin and going off to the market to buy her grocery and things. After coming back from the market, she found that her daughter seemed to have dozed off in her chair. Come evening she decided to wake her daughter up to wash and get ready for dinner. Her daughter seemed to be in a deep slumber and no family members could wake her up, tried as they may.

Fearing something amiss, the mother went to her favorite Guan Yin temple to seek for spiritual advice. The medium in a trance told her that Guan Yin was teaching her daughter a lesson for her constant harangues and non beliefs. After the necessary prayers and offerings at the temple and at the home altar, she managed to wake up her daughter who was highly distressed by the entire event.

Comment: Even if we do not believe in a major religion or religions, there is no need to go to great lengths to disparage it or them. Each adult individual has the right to believe in a faith. The second story depicts what Laozi said about the lowest class of scholars who heard about Tao and laughed. If they do not laugh then it would not have been fit to be Tao (TTC 41).

If you ever go to a Daoist temple for a prediction of your annual fortune near the end of the year, you will be sent home empty and asked to return after the first few days of Chinese New Year. This is a reason why one suggested deferring your Yi consultation for an annual hexagram until then. The rest is entirely up to you.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Buddhist spiritual tale

Perhaps it may be timely to tell some true stories about divinities from different religions which one has heard first hand or know about the strange happenings, as Christmas is just around the corner. Christmas after all is to celebrate a special spiritual event, the birth of Jesus Christ.

This short story is about a young Malaysian teenager who lives in Germany. His parents work in Germany and he attends school there. One day he complained about a headache and he was taken to see a doctor. The doctor found nothing wrong and sent him home with some medicine for his headache. As the headaches became more chronic and regular, the doctor recommended sending him to the hospital for a head scan. Nothing unusual was found upon the scan. But over time his headaches became more severe, specialists were consulted with further scans taken without yielding a clue as to what was wrong with the young teenager. This went on for months and his parents were getting desperate as to what to do.

About this time, there were some relatives and friends from Malaysia who came to visit them in Germany. After recalling old times together they eventually talked about their son’s headache when one of the visitors suggested to his parents to take him back to visit a Buddhist temple where some of those ill have been miraculously cured by Buddha. Since there was no harm in trying and their family had not been back for a while, they made the necessary arrangements to take the long trip to this temple in Malaysia.

The head of the temple was contacted and arrangements were made for the boy to stay over for a week. Upon arrival in the temple and after having rested it was time for the spiritual healing, if any. The boy was sat in front of the master who was in a light trance. Through the master, Buddha told the parents that a tumor in the boy’s brain was the source of the severe pain. However a ‘dark’ force residing inside his head covers the tumor so well that scans cannot reveal it. With the explanation, the master still in a trance proceeded with the spiritual healing of the young teenager for three sessions. Each session (at night) lasts less than an hour. (These healings are free of charge and the master and her disciples all work for their livelihood during the day.) At the end of the third nightly session, after the 'dark' force was cast out, the parents were asked to take the boy to a hospital in Kuala Lumpur the following day to have a brain scan. Sure enough, this time the scan revealed the tumor.

The boy was operated on and the tumor taken out. The last I heard was that the boy was fine with no more such headaches.

A strange tale but true even though we cannot understand spiritual things with the intellectual mind, a point Buddha emphasized to Anand in the Shurangama Sutra (Leng Yen). Neither can science be used to explain away such spiritual matters.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

One cycle of circulation

The sound of running water
Or was it the wind
That stirs the immortals song
Melodic by repeating words
No one any wiser
On what they really mean

Sitting still the body swings
Left to right in rhythmic twist
The bellows blow, a burbling brook
The vocal gets louder
Its time to breathe in

The breath dips down below
Mixes with essence
Meandering with ease
Up the back it seems to go
Moving with little effort
Before adjourning to the lighted room

Where the dark interplays with existing light
Creating forms and emptiness across the sky
A wisp of smoke a distant star
Neither head nor tail ever changing sights
In the middle of being, there was non-being
How it comes and how it goes
There is no need to know
Just behold the sights

Having enough, its time to release
When the breath leaves
The remnants dive below
Warming body regions as they go
This completes one cycle of circulation
The cycle of life and death

Aptly named the Circulation of the Light, it is indeed old.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Time with the family

Having lived in England for almost a decade and having celebrated the festive season once in Bergen (Norway), one found that Christmas is a time for family gatherings in the West, while the Chinese in the East celebrate Chinese New Year with family reunions. A family plays such an important role in a person’s life from young, middle and old age that ancients have reasons to include it in their teachings.

Confucius said: 'Now filial piety is the root of (all) virtue, and (the stem) out of which grows (all moral) teaching. Our bodies--to every hair and bit of skin--are received by us from our parents, and we must not presume to injure or wound them:--this is the beginning of filial piety. When we have established our character by the practice of the (filial) course, so as to make our name famous in future ages, and thereby glorify our parents:--this is the end of filial piety. It commences with the service of parents; it proceeds to the service of the ruler; it is completed by the establishment of the character.’ [Book of Filial Piety (Ziaojing or Hsiao Ching) (1) –]

Our parents not only have given us life, the greatest gift possible, they also nurtured and nourished us when we were young taking care of our needs for growth, education, holidays and achievements, providing protection and guidance wherever possible. They worry when we were ill and when we left home for short or extended periods of time. Yet people nowadays think nothing about committing suicide without giving a second thought for their parents. Taking one’s life or living recklessly is certainly not filial when our parents are still alive for who is going to serve and nourish them in their old age?

A reader has recently asked for information on websites on family structures of Chinese dynasties. Perhaps readers can provide relevant links to such websites in the comment section, as one does not know of any. My references on family roles come from Hexagram 37 Jia Ren / The Family in the Zhouyi and the Confucian books.

In the Great Learning, it is said: “The ancients, who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.” (Text of Confucius 4)

The wisdoms contained in the Ten Wings commentary to the Judgment in Jia Ren shows ancient thoughts still relevant to existing roles of a family:
“The foundation of the family is the relationship between husband and wife. The tie that holds the family together lies in the loyalty and perseverance of the wife. Her place is within, while that of the husband is without. It is in accord with the great laws of nature that husband and wife take their proper places. Within the family a strong authority is needed; this is represented by the parents. If the father is really a father and the son a son, if the elder brother fulfills his position, and the younger fulfills his, if the husband is really a husband and the wife a wife, then the family is in order. When the family is in order, all the social relationships of mankind will be in order.”
“Three of the five social relationships are found within the family—that between father and son, the relationship of love, that between husband and wife, which is the relationship of chaste conduct, and that between elder and younger brother, which is the relationship of correctness. The loving reverence of the son is then carried over to the prince in the form of faithfulness to duty; the affection and correctness of behavior existing between the two brothers are extended to a friend in the form of loyalty, and to a person of superior rank in the form of deference.” [W/B]

The Image of the Family is where the Junzi has substance in his words and duration in his way of life. Only then can he make an impression on others that they can adapt and conform to it. The text of the six lines and the lines commentary depict the respective roles of parent/child; daughter/wife/mother; discipline; woman of the house; king/father; and master of the house. And what each must do to maintain peace and harmony in the family.

In the world today both husband and wife spent much time in their work or business. Just do not forget the kids at home and our parents. Just like in ancient times, they need us and we need them too. Therefore during festive seasons, take a rest and spend some quality time with the family; after all everyone remembers about time together as one big happy family, no matter how rich or poor we were.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Simple thoughts on Zhuangzi 2

A good spirited discussion is currently ongoing in Tao Speaks between deep thinkers on Chapter Two of the Writings of Zhuangzi. Since one has limited reading of this Daoist text and arising from different experiences may hold differing views; it would be more appropriate to post some simple thoughts here instead of disrupting their deep thinking on the profound subject of making duality into one.

Zhuangzi started chapter two with a story about a master by the name of Tzu-chi of South Wall who was staring up at heaven and breathing – vacant and faraway as though he lost a companion. His student standing by his side in attendance asked, "What is this? Can you really make the body like a withered tree and the mind like dead ashes?”

Tzu-chi remarked that it was a good question and went on to explain how to make duality; some may like to call the ‘double walk’, into one.

Zhuangzi as usual teased one’s mind with various analogies and sub plots therefore making his writings profound. It is good and healthy for deep thinkers to have a go at understanding what he actually meant. This invariably leads to a deeper train of thoughts and study but it can also reveal the limitations of each class of scholars. Hearing about Tao we seem now to keep it and now to lose it instead of earnestly carry it into practice to reach the highest class (TTC 41). Whether one eventually gets it right or not, at least one has some fun and amusement for the mind. Do not get me wrong, Zhuangzi indeed knew in depth of what he wanted to say in his own way of discoursing on the Tao. And he knew much about meditation, which he discussed in the ‘fasting of the mind’ (Xin Zhai) and a bit more elaborately this time in chapter two.

Starting with the example of piping, Tzu-chi discusses the duality between Heaven and Earth; and went on to differentiate between great and little minds; sleep and awake; rights and wrongs; completeness and impairment; forms and emptiness; being and non being (Wu Wei). Only with clarity can ‘the man of far ranging vision’, get to the center. This is what Zhuangzi called the Way. Without lucidity, how do we discern we are learning and practising the correct methods? For the people who do not practice to return to the center, he said, ‘when their minds draw near death, nothing can restore them to the light’.

Perhaps some may understand the question raised by Tzu-chi’s student which initiated Zhuangzi’s elaboration on duality in chapter two. According to Lu Dongbin, from a continuous practice of the Circulation of the Light meditation neidan practitioners can reach the condition where a person sits like a withered tree before a cliff. Did readers spot what Tzu-chi was first doing before his student asked the question? He was staring up at heaven and breathing. Can this action not allude to meditation? Indeed Zhuangzi is sagely and like to play tricks on one’s ‘little’ mind!

In the later part of the chapter, Zhuangzi voiced his objections to ‘Confucian’ virtues; therefore one would not proffer any comments on them except to point out that his views on the cultivation of virtues differ from other ancient sages such as Laozi, Confucius and Buddha; as well as Daoist immortals and Bodhidharma. However his writings still prove a good read and insightful.

Meanwhile remember to take this entry on Tao with a bit of salt as always.

Relevant entries for further reading if required: Thoughts on Hsin Hsin Ming (I and II) Oct 12; A simple note on Xin Zhai Sept 26; Daoist virtues Sept 11; A muse on emptiness and form Aug 26; Twofold entrance to Tao May 03; and Directory for a day Apr 25.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Annual Hexagrams

The year will soon come to a close and many would reminisce whether 2005 was a good year and hope that next year could turn out better. As the saying goes, hope springs eternal and is the mother of all men. Invariably some will consult fortune tellers of various kinds to see what lies ahead in 2006 to satisfy their curiosity and the consultation can turn into a costly yearly affair depending on the accuracy and prediction skills of the fortune teller concerned. Those who can afford it will pay while others seek out the less expensive ones. Some good fortune tellers in the East may limit the number of readings made available to clients in order to read for their family members and themselves.

Those who read the Yi and also divine are fortunate since they can consult the Yi for a reading of their fortune for 2006 if they so wish to. My first such consultation was way back in 1981 for friends and relatives since it was in vogue. After asking the Yi for my own annual hexagrams in 1982 and 1983, I stopped. As the oracles became more accurate over time, one restarted the consultation for an annual hexagram in 1990. It has been a yearly affair ever since.

A good example of annual hexagrams given by the Yi was in 1997 before the Asian Financial Crisis struck in August/September that year. The oracle came in the form of Hexagram 58 Dui / The Joyous with the fourth and fifth lines changing and a resultant Hexagram 19 Lin / Approach.

The Judgment for Dui:
The Joyous. Success. Perseverance is favorable.

Nine in the fourth place means:
Joyousness that is weighed is not at peace. After ridding himself of the mistake a man has joy.

Nine in the fifth place means:
Sincerity toward disintegrating influences is dangerous.

The Judgment for Lin:
Approach has supreme success. Perseverance furthers. When the eight month comes, there will be misfortune. [W/B]

Reading the changing lines and the judgment for Lin will suffice for this entry. The eighth month signified August/September when the Thai Baht was dumped which triggered panic across the whole of Asia resulting in a financial meltdown.

The example provided is to show that the Yi can still foretell things that will unfold during the year in question, if our interpretation of the oracle is correct. The real difference between fortunes read by a very good fortune teller and the Yi is that the Yi provides guidance on how to avoid or overcome any obstacles in times of trouble and the reasons why. Daoist immortals and deities will also provide such guidance if they want to help a mortal, but it would be unusual for them to give the reasons because they cannot reveal Heaven’s secrets on the mortal’s fate. You have to take their word for it.

Just in case after reading this entry, you may wish to consult the Yi for an annual hexagram, do not do it now or immediately after January 1st. There is no need to be fashionable and follow the Yi crowd in your part of the world who does it in December or early January. From experience, the best time one suggests for such consultation is during the first fifteen days of Chinese New Year. The first day of Chinese New Year happens to fall on January 29 2006. Good luck.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Liu An and Huainanzi 8

Instead of talking here alone, at times one visits blogs and forums of interest to read what is written by deep thinkers and to make some comments where appropriate. It is a good exercise for the mind and to learn a bit more along the way. Just the other day, one dropped by Taospeaks and read a discussion thread on Master Kung and Li where a scholarly chap quoted Huainanzi 8 together with relevant chapters from Tao Te Ching, Zhuangzi and Wenzi to explore the necessity to cultivate Li (propriety/mores). Just in case you are unaware, Master Kung refers to Confucius.

Compared to the other three quotes, Huainanzi 8 made no sense which was why one commented there that it was gibberish. And invited him to read the entry on the history of Prince Liu An of Huainan and whether the prince actually understood humanity (ren) and justice (yi). After kindly spending the time to read the entry, he referred me to a book with an in depth study done which actually tells the truth about the prince and differs from the account recorded by Sima Qian. Also according to him, the author’s justification to refute the account given by Sima Qian was by comparing the Book of Han (Han Shu) with the Records of the Historian (Shiji). He further added that many learned scholars over the past two thousand years have disagreed with the account presented in the Shiji.

The book in question is The Huainanzi and Liu An's Claim to Moral Authority by Griet Vankeerberghen (2001). Griet Vankeerberghen is Assistant Professor in the History Department at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. At the back cover, there was a summary on the book available at Amazon. Here is what it says:
"Author Griet Vankeerberghen provides a fresh treatment of the Huainanzi, which she establishes as a unified work with a coherent moral philosophy. She shows that rather than defending any particular school of thought, as is often claimed, the Huainanzi was the primary means by which Liu An displayed his vision of the good and advertised his readiness to be a ruler.
By 123 B.C.E. Liu An was accused of plotting rebellion and forced to commit suicide a year later, but the disloyalty he was accused of may have had more to do with his independent intellectual stance than with a military plot.
The book goes on to explore the relationship of moral, intellectual, and political authority in the first century of the Han dynasty, a period when the regime sought to monopolize all moral and intellectual authority."

When one decides to rely on an author or a book for authority, it is important to know whether the author is an honest professional, the work is detailed and indeed reliable. Certainly it calls for further examination when someone casts aspersion on the integrity of a book, especially a historical reference book as important as the Records of the Historian. Although one is not learned and scholarly, perhaps one can do a simple analysis and see whether the account on Liu An was false.

Firstly some background. The aspersion that the Grand Historian, Sima Qian may have been restricted in the writing of the truth on Liu An did cross my mind when making the recent blog entry on the prince. The plot to revolt was recorded in great detail. The translated record on the Princes of Huainan runs into 22 pages. One had only named some officials and not others to make the entry brief, yet accurate and fair to Liu An, the readers and translators.

Of the forty three nobles ordered by the emperor to discuss the matter to serve justice, there were actually two princes and a marquis mentioned by name who declared Liu An guilty of high treason and of his plot to revolt. Also present were the prime minister and Chang Tang, the chief justice at the time. Surely these princes and righteous high officials would have objected to the recorded inaccuracies, if any, or at the very least do so after Emperor Wu had passed away. Although Emperor Wu very much favored the legalist system, they would not have colluded to penalize one of their own kin or superior or to let Liu An be known as a villain down the ages. Several thousand men were involved and many together with their families including those of Liu An’s were executed. Surely this was not a show of force by the emperor or the Han Court against Liu An’s independent intellectual stance, as suggested by Vankeerberghen, (probably leading to his perceived persecution stated in a website) which involved the loss of so many guilty or innocent lives?

Do note that Sima Qian was in his twenties in 123 BC and his father Sima Tan was the Grand Historian at the time of the event. He was appointed Grand Historian in 107 BC, three years after his father’s death. Sima Qian was known for his strong sense of right and wrong and wrote frankly about the ugly conduct of rulers including some of the Han emperors. He described their vices truthfully and made his condemnation clear. When he dared to write the truth about emperors and kings, would he have made an exception about prince Liu An to ruin his reputation on purpose?

As I understand it, The Book of Han or Han Shu was started by Ban Biao (3 – 54 AD) with the intention to supplement the Records of the Historian (Shiji). Ban Biao was said to be a Han Court historian. The work was continued by his son and later by his daughter who eventually completed the Han Shu by AD 82. That would be about 204 years after the death of Prince Liu An in 122 BC.

It looks rather weak and presumptuous to use a later works to reverse or cast aspersions on detailed eye-witnessed accounts, records, comments of the Han emperor, princes and high court officials as recorded in the Shiji (completed in 91 BC) by Sima Qian. Sometimes scholars can outdo lawyers arguing a case with or without factual evidence or original documents. One has seen one too many ‘scholars’ and/or history professors willing to twist facts or attempt to rewrite Chinese history to sensationalize their own books; to emphasize their slanted versions; or to support a belief of theirs. This invariably misleads students and can be widespread because of the ease of access in the World Wide Web. It is sad but true and happens occasionally.

Lastly we have a look at Huainanzi 8:
“When humanity and righteousness are established and fixed and the Li and music are cultivated, De departs and only artifice remains.”

If Huainanzi was where Liu An has learned his humanity (ren) and justice (yi) and his other virtues (De) to display his supposedly ‘goodness’, no wonder he did not know his seeds and lost his roots. Perhaps his De had already departed (sic) and only artifice remains. Nah, the loss of several thousands of innocent or guilty lives remained unimportant; it was supposed to be part of the game. Heaven, Earth and Sages are supposed to be inhumane (Bu Ren). And justice had been served to all because he lost the plot.

However if readers have seen any humanity and justice displayed by Liu An as suggested by assistant professor Vankeerberghen, perhaps they can take some time to enlighten me?