Thursday, September 29, 2005

Please spare a thought for the Kids

Sam Crane in his entry on Blogging for Kids wrote about funding problems faced by local authorities in providing special education and medical care for disabled children, as the Federal Government often forgot about its part of the bargain. To provide some moral support, this entry is the least one can do perhaps to help kids (whether able or disabled) in the US and in the world.

Enriching and educating the people prosper nations. It is an irony when a Government ignores the concepts of its own brilliant and renowned economists while other nations use the same ideas to set economic policies and prosper from them. It can be just a matter of choice between 'butter and guns'. Although a simple concept; it does affect a nation’s allocation of funds and opportunity costs for prosperity, since all countries no matter how rich have limited budgets to spend.

Take a simple look at the big picture and examine why countries like Germany, Japan, and China have prospered over the past several decades and one may find that these countries have a balanced or enforced choice of ‘more butter than guns’ policy? This has nothing to do with maintaining a well equipped army during peacetime and staying ahead in terms of arms technology over other nations. Wrong policies on funds usage by any nation like fighting wars for instance do have major repercussions on its people’s welfare, immediate or in the future.

Wars if fought frequently bring hardship on a state and its people. Sunzi has this to say on waging wars (Chapter 2):

‘When the army engages in protracted campaigns the resources of the state will not suffice.’ ‘When your weapons are dulled and ardor damped, your strength exhausted and treasure spent, neighboring rulers will take advantage of your distress to act. And even though you have wise counselors, none will be able to lay good plans for the future.’

Perhaps wise policymakers could take Sunzi’s thoughts into consideration before they decide whether to better spend their nation’s money on butter or guns. They should not forget that they are of the people, by the people and for the people. Therefore policymakers should also allocate some money for kids’ welfare. After all, a country’s wealth (or debt) belongs to the kids too.

Children if properly nurtured can become future captains of industry or leaders in Government. Is the cost any lesser or money well spent for a Government to send a young soldier to distant lands to fight protracted wars rather than providing continual free special education and medication to a disabled child?

You can decide, but please spare a thought for the kids.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Short cryptic messages

Just when one thinks that the Yi is profound and difficult to interpret, comes another set of short cryptic messages in the form of verses from a Quanzhen heavenly immortal which took a few months to decipher. Perhaps here is something for everyone from the scholars, deep thinkers to students of Daoist, Confucian, Buddhist and Yi studies to ponder and comment on the messages given to me back in 1993. There is one particular message that one is still unable to think through and may need some help from readers.

A reward in the form of one consultation of the Yi will be given to the first person (and before my post of the meaning, if any) who can provide a clear meaning to the message which still remained foggy for more than 12 years. It was also twelve years ago when one consulted the Yi in return for a fee equivalent then to about 600 pounds sterling or USD 1,200. The client made much money from his investment based on Yi’s advice and as a result everyone was happy. This explains why one does not advertise Yi consultations on this blog and why one rarely consults the Yi for others. The Yi does reveal heaven’s secrets to the entirely sincere and what has been written in my profile is to let Yi students know, such secrets can be received just like what the ancients had stated. Therefore please do not belittle the proffered reward of my one consultation. It may be worth your while for the time spent.

To make the cryptic messages (written in Chinese) a bit more understandable, one has translated and paraphrased them accordingly. The verses worded in flowery language indicated my fortune and was given by the heavenly immortal through a planchette. One will append the entire planchetted message and later single out and enumerate each cryptic verse or shorten message as a question for our easy reference:

“For your three daily meals, you should know the results before you do your work. Do not be greedy as there are myriad changes. When you can do hills pour water then you have reached my four immortals’ door front. One advice – you should not stand in the middle of the hill otherwise the hill will open up and you will fall into the middle of the land* below, like the sea in the middle of land, green colored land, and birds flying.”

1) What do ‘hills pour water’ mean?
2) ‘You should not stand in the middle of the hill otherwise the hill will open up and you will fall into the middle of the land below’. What does this verse mean?
3) What does ‘sea in the middle of land **’ mean?
4) What does ‘green colored land’ mean?
5) What do ‘birds flying’ mean?
6) The mother of the cryptic verses is ‘When you can do hills pour water then you have reached my four immortals’ door front’.
What does the entire message (in No. 6) means? The Quanzhen temple is not known or named as the four immortals’ temple and neither does it mean that one will become a disciple as my Daoist friend had suggested. Otherwise it could have been stated as ‘door below’ and not ‘door front’ (translating the Chinese words as they fall). What do the ‘four immortals’ signify? And what does ‘door front’ mean anyway? Yes, I do know what ‘hills pour water’ and the other verses in numbers 2 to 5 means. Just not too clear about number 6 after all these years.

Each of the verses contain interesting meanings and information as one realized later. I did literally cross the great waters, by visiting Australia and stayed in New Zealand for about a month, pondering on what the immortal had said. Even the temple’s disciples could not understand the verses; therefore it was a real challenge to decipher their mysterious meanings. It was only after I have crossed the great waters again on the return trip that the ‘aha’ moment came. Perhaps, at times, Daoist immortals also want to have some fun.

Hope you can rise to the challenge too! Do not worry too much if you cannot decipher any of the verses, no one is going to know. If you can come to understand the meanings to any or all of them, by that you may have increased both your knowledge and insight into ancient Daoist thoughts. Give it a try when you have the time. Have fun.

Remember the proffered reward is only for the first person who can provide a clear interpretation of the entire message contained in verse number six (6) and not for the other five verses. And also conditional that I still have not posted the meaning to it by then, as there is no set time limit for the correct interpretation. So good luck!

The Chinese word is 'Di' and can be translated as ‘land’ or ‘earth’. For conformity, the word ‘land’ has been used throughout to provide clarity for most readers. Deep thinkers and scholars can transpose ‘land’ with ‘earth’ if it provides a clearer meaning.
A direct translation from Chinese is, ‘land middle sea’.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A simple note on Xin Zhai

Xin Zhai translated simply as Fasting of the Mind may contain connotations to many Daoists from different parts of the world and for different Daoist sects. Therefore readers are advised not to assume that the following note based on my simple understanding of Xin Zhai and the thoughts of Zhuangzi, an ancient sage, is correct, although the arguments and findings proffered sometimes seem convincing.

Zhuangzi discussed Xin Zhai in Chapter Four of his Writings, using a fictitious account of Confucius having a discussion with his favorite student, Yen Hui on the subject. The subject of Xin Zhai was brought up last year when someone wanted to discuss it with me in a public forum. That was the time when one delved a bit deeper into this chapter and the topic. Hopefully this will put readers on notice again of my limited knowledge about the ancients and to come to this blog with a packet of salt. (Pity your computer desk.)

Zhuangzi was particularly fond of Laozi’s thoughts and a follower of the ‘HuangLao’ tradition, what Daoists then were known as. Meditation was part and parcel of the practice and a way of life by followers of this tradition**. Unlike various types of meditation practices available today, this meditation involves what some considered as the three treasures of the body that of essence (jing), energy (qi) and spirit (shen). The meditation is what Lu Dongbin referred to as ‘The Circulation of the Light’ and what one likes to call ‘The reversed flow” to describe the backward flow of the breath (qi) and the light. Lu has also mentioned that the originator of this meditation was Guan Yinshi for whom Laozi wrote the TTC.

Why does one suggest that Xin Zhai refers to meditation? It is based on a simple understanding of what Zhuangzi wanted to say through Confucius and his student who were not known to be versed with meditation of this kind. The inferred meaning of Xin Zhai is perhaps contained in the following statements (Writings of Zhuangzi, Legge. Sacred-texts):

'Maintain a perfect unity in every movement of your will. You will not wait for the hearing of your ears about it, but for the hearing of your mind. You will not wait even for the hearing of your mind, but for the hearing of the spirit (Qi is the Chinese word written here). Let the hearing (of the ears) rest with the ears. Let the mind rest in the verification (of the rightness of what is in the will). But the spirit is free from all pre-occupation and so waits for (the appearance of) things. Where the (proper) course is, there is freedom from all pre-occupation;--such freedom is the fasting of the mind.'

With your will or intent, focus not on external sounds but the breath (Qi). Let the mind be empty and allow the spirit to become apparent. Emptiness is the fasting of the mind.

‘Look at that aperture (left in the wall);--the empty apartment is filled with light through it. Felicitous influences rest (in the mind thus emblemed), as in their proper resting place. Even when they do not so rest, we have what is called (the body) seated and (the mind) galloping abroad. The information that comes through the ears and eyes is comprehended internally, and the knowledge of the mind becomes something external:--(when this is the case), the spiritual intelligences will come, and take up their dwelling with us, and how much more will other men do so! All things thus undergo a transforming influence. This was the hinge on which Yü and Shun moved; it was this which Fû-hsî and Kî-khü practised all their lives: how much more should other men follow the same rule!'

With correct meditation, the room is filled with light. The spirit (shen) rests there after Qi is used to cleanse the room. (Refer to the Nei Yeh.) Although the body is seated in meditation, the spirit travels to other places. And the immortals and Buddhas come and live with us, singing their songs or chanting whenever they feel like it in the stillness. The continual meditation practice transforms us, just like the ancient Sages mentioned were transformed. How much more should we follow the same rule?

Lately, from the Daoism: The Oral Tradition article written by Michael Saso, one found that the Shangqing Maoshan Lineage Daoists promoted Xin Zhai as a meditation since the 4th century. Perhaps the founder and early masters of this lineage knew something we do not?

When asked today, my Daoist friend said: Keeping to a vegetarian diet is fasting; abstaining from food and water is fasting of the body; and meditation is fasting of the mind; all these lead to emptiness.

Rather than cleaning the computer desk, perhaps you decide to keep the salt for another day?

Refer TTC; Book of Liehzi; Writings of Zhuangzi; Chapters on Zhang Liang and a few others in the Records of the Historian, and the entry in April on ‘What the Ancients taught’.

Friday, September 23, 2005

A note on Hexagrams 3 Chun and 7 Shih

Professor Sam Crane has yet again received another accurate answer from the Yi. Perhaps his sincerity has already become apparent therefore the Yi likes to talk to him. This time he asked, “What does this second hurricane suggest for President Bush’s hold on the Mandate of Heaven?"

Since he had covered the main essence of the prognostication in his blog, ‘The Useless Tree’, one just added in a bit more there for discussion purposes that of the relationships in the three lines change in Hexagram 3 Chun / Difficulty at the Beginning, which changed it to Hexagram 7 Shih / The Army.
(Readers who are interested to read Sam's clear interpretation and a comment by Steve Marshall can access the blog through the Links section.)

On the three lines change, one suggested that the first line of Chun represents the new FEMA director, the second line to represent the Homeland Security Secretary and the fifth line, the US President. Since the first line changes, the helper is about to be or has already been appointed by the President. The problem depicted is therefore not with the helper but the chain of command and the attitude of the President. If the three parties are not persevering, it could lead to unemployment (which confirms Sam’s interpretation about the President’s precarious position).

This is a time of chaos created by the storm and the people are already grumbling because of recent failures of Government. There is a real need for someone strong to capture the people’s hearts and awaken their enthusiasm to work towards the recovery. But this person needs full authority and the confidence of the ruler to perform his duties well.

The second line is depicted as weak and could possibly hinder the recovery process; probably making the recovery period longer than necessary (in line with the depiction of ten years). Therefore the Yi advises that this friend’s help should not be accepted.

The commentary in the fifth line fits the President’s current position to a T:

“An individual is in a position in which he cannot so express his good intentions that they will actually take shape and be understood. Other people interpose and distort everything he does.” And Yi’s advice to the US President, “He should then be cautious and proceed step by step. He must not try to force the consummation of a great undertaking, because success is possible only when general confidence already prevails.” [W/B]

And who else can help him restore the confidence of the people? None other than the person in the first line of Hexagram 3 who later becomes the second line ruler of Hexagram 7 Shih / The Army and reports to the real ruler (the President) in line five.

In conclusion, the Yi is advising that FEMA, if it is leading the recovery and rebuilding process, be brought back up to ministerial level and no longer be part of Homeland Security. This not only shortens the chain of command, it gives full authority to the new head of FEMA to enable him to employ assistants and properly perform his duties in the field. Of course a righteous general having the full confidence of his humane ruler, always does the job well if left unhindered.

Obviously, similar to Sam’s previous divination on the redevelopment of New Orleans, the US President will decide what he wants to do with his men and his rule. It is his right. Therefore we remain blameless.

(Relevant entries in September: 'A note on Hexagram 2 Kun and its top line' and 'A method to interpret 'multiple answers' from the Yi')

Thursday, September 22, 2005

A balanced view on the Legalists

Interpretation and understanding of ancients proves difficult let alone putting their ideas to good use in this modern day and age. Knowing only 1 or 2 about the ancients, one ventures forth to provide perhaps a balanced view on the Legalists of yore.

Of the better known Legalists to the West, Kungsun Yang of Uei who later became Lord Shang of Qin takes precedence. As a youth he was interested in the study of law and served as a clan officer under the prime minister of Wei. Yang later went to Qin and obtained an audience with the duke through the offices of his favorite eunuch. Employed by the duke after a few days of discussions, Lord Shang was later accredited to be the first of the Legalists who implemented rules of law to govern a state. These laws were reforms of established traditions and provided for meritocracy. Yang ensured that the laws apply equally to the people and the court officials, no matter how senior.

“Therefore when the crown prince broke the law, and since the heir apparent could not be punished, his guardian Lord Chien was punished in his stead while his tutor Lord Chia had his face tattooed. From the next day on all the people of Qin obeyed the newly implemented laws.
Later, fathers, sons and brothers were forbidden to live in one house, small villages and towns were grouped together as counties, with magistrates and vice-magistrates over them. The state was divided into 31 counties; old boundaries between fields abolished; regular taxation introduced; with weights and measures standardized. When the prince’s guardian Lord Chien broke the law again, his nose was cut off. After five years Chin was so wealthy and powerful that the King of Zhou sent sacrificial meat to the duke, and all the states offered congratulations.
Two years later, Yang tricked his old friend, Lord Ang leader of the defending Wei troops, to a peace talk where after a pledge to withdraw both troops, he was seized. The Qin army then fell upon and defeated the leaderless army of Wei. On his return, the duke rewarded him with fifteen towns as his fief and he became known as Lord Shang. For ten years, Lord Shang was the prime minister of Qin, and many of the nobles hated him.
When the duke died, and the crown prince became ruler; the followers of his guardian accused Lord Shang of plotting revolt, and officers were sent to arrest him. He fled and sought lodging for the night in a frontier inn but the inn-keeper, not knowing who he was, told him, ‘According to the laws of Lord Shang, I shall be punished if I take in a man without a permit.’ Lord Shang sighed and said, ‘So I am suffering from my own laws!’
Failing to obtain asylum in Wei, he returned to raise local troops in his fief. Qin sent an army against him and he was killed. The duke had his corpse torn limb from limb by chariots as a warning to future rebels. His family was wiped out.

Sima Qian comments: Lord Shang had a cruel nature. His falseness was shown by the way in which he tried to impress the duke with the emperor’s way and kingly way, just high-sounding talk in which he had no real interest. His inhumanity was revealed by the way he gained an audience through the duke’s favorite, but after he was in power punished Lord Chien, tricked Lord Ang of Wei and turned a deaf ear to Chao Liang’s advice. I have read his dissertations on law and government, agriculture and war, which correspond to his actions. The bad end he finally came to in Qin was no more than he deserved.”

Of Legalists during the Han dynasty, two stand out during the reign of Emperor Wen. One was Chang Shih-chih, the other Feng Tang. The Grand Historian comments: “Chang Shih-chih knew what constitutes a superior man and he upheld the law regardless of the emperor’s wishes, while Feng Tang’s comments on what makes a good general are well worth pondering too. The proverb says, “You can know a man by his friends.” The sayings of these two men deserve to be preserved in the court archives. The Book of Documents says, “No prejudice, no bias, how broad is the Kingly Way! No bias, no prejudice, how smooth is the Kingly Way!” Both Chang and Feng came close to this.” (Records of the Historian)

Laws enacted by the wise (lawmakers in parliament or congress) need to be humane and just. As harsh laws harm the people, elicit resentment and resistance. Implementation of laws needs to be tempered by mercy. That is why the wise (in courts and enforcement agencies) are given powers and leeway to impose penalties according to propriety and circumstances, without fear or favor.

When we study ancient thoughts there is also a need to learn some characteristics of the ancients. If we fail to understand what they rest on, and yet study and promote their teachings irrespective of their good or bad conduct and character then not only do we fail in our learning of humanity, we could mislead others. Is it not therefore prudent and wise to examine who or what we choose to rely on, can indeed be relied upon?

Therefore please do not influence those earnest to learn about ancient Chinese thoughts with the wrong sources, for example Lord Shang. Chang Shih-chih and Feng Tang could be better Legalist sources, but how many Westerners have heard about them and their thoughts?

I have seen one too many of professors from established Western universities (like Cambridge for instance) who revered historical figures hated by the Han people, probably teaching their partisan views to their students. It is difficult to unlearn wrong things taught by a seemingly reliable teacher. But what can be done, except do our part in pointing to the correct ancient sources and thoughts.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Much ado about nothing

Over at Tao Speaks, there is a heated discussion over what is considered as ‘American Taoism’, a phrase coined by a member who started the thread after reading Dr. Michael Saso’s article on ‘Daoism: The Oral Tradition’. His article is available at this site:

The gist of his well researched article is on how for over two thousand years, Daoist masters had orally passed on to lineage students, their sect’s practice secrets and rituals including interpretations of ancient texts. He also proposed that Western translators had and will continue to mistranslate Daoist texts unless they become lineage students of such masters in China who can then pass on these oral teachings to them.

What started out as a scholarly discussion on Tao and Saso’s findings quickly degenerated into arguments and bashings when a sighted ‘zookeeper’ (probably from the East) started to describe the ‘proverbial’ elephant. He had been specifically invited as he knows Saso well. Personal enmities between supposedly friends had even surfaced. Not a good thing to happen between friends and Daoists over nothingness.

If you are interested in looking at different views of Daoists from the East and West, perhaps you can check out the thread titled ‘American Daoism’ at Tao Speaks. (Website made available under Links.) You can easily discern the scholars and the pretenders by their contributions to the once interesting discussion. Even if Laozi or Zhuangzi were to join in now to discuss their ancient texts, they could be ridiculed. Therefore be prepared to nurse a ‘bruised’ ego or heal frayed nerves, if you decide to join in the fray.

When asked today, my Daoist friend confirmed that there are such oral teachings in Quanzhen. He expressed surprise that so many Westerners are keen to learn Tao. I had assured him that it is so. The only drawback, one lamented, is that there are no Quanzhen temples in the West to cater for them.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A method to interpret ‘multiple answers’ from the Yi

Those familiar with consulting the Yi will know that answers come in the form of hexagrams either with line changes or none at all. When there is no line change, the prognosis is contained in the judgment and image of the hexagram. Diviners often prefer Yi’s answer to come with one or two line changes. With any line changes, the initial hexagram will then changed into a resultant hexagram, giving diviners more to ‘chew on’. But, if there are three or more changing lines, diviners tend to be unsure of Yi’s answer.

Of course from experience, diviners also know that we have no control whatsoever over the number of changing lines or how the Yi answers our questions. Therefore we need to find a reliable method to interpret ‘multiple answers’ (that is a hexagram with two or more line changes), in order to obtain a clearer understanding of the answer provided and perhaps build a better rapport with the Yi.

A reliable method for such interpretations can be found in Chu Hsi’s ‘Introduction to the Study of Classic of Changes’ (translated by Joseph Adler). Chu Hsi (1130 to 1200), an acknowledged Confucian scholar during his time, introduced it (paraphrased) as follows:

Take the judgment of the hexagram and the image as the prognostication, when there is no line change.
When only one line changes, the line is taken as the prognostication.
When two lines change, both lines form the prognostication with emphasis given to upper changing line.
When three lines change, take the judgments of both initial and resultant hexagrams as the prognostication*.
When four lines change, the prognostication is contained in the two ‘unaffected’ lines of the resultant hexagram with emphasis given to lower line.
When five lines change, the remaining ‘unaffected’ line of the resultant hexagram constitutes the prognostication.
When all six lines change, take the judgment of the resultant hexagram as the prognostication.

By following Chu Hsi’s basic method or rules in interpretation, diviners will perhaps obtain a clearer meaning to Yi’s answers. We can apply further variations to this methodical interpretation, just as Steve Marshall has done, when we gain more knowledge and experience over time. Meanwhile, it may be advisable to learn and keep to the basics.

*Steve Marshall’s variation of reading the three changing lines with emphasis given to the middle line is also workable.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Dreams of a journey to Mars and beyond

Songs from immortals reflect across the stillness.
Enjoined, the primordial pass ignites furnace fires.
Wind from bellows fan flames higher,
Water exuberantly bubbles up the cauldron.

The sun climbed to its zenith by abated breath;
Eclipsed, the moon darkens space.
For a brief moment, Kan and Li modestly embraced,
Thereafter, a silvery moon hung in their place.

Silvery forms becloud an opening,
Wherein, cold and darkness predominate.
Beyond the gate, arose two colours, a purplish hue,
Emptiness engulfed red mountain chains.

Up ahead, another opening!
Two fresh colours brighten up empty space.
Is that a Buddha of golden light?
The crown momentarily lifts upon the sight.

The spirit rests, the journey ends,
Back to Earth, the myriad things.
Remember still, Buddha’s words;
One has yet to become a sage.

With good aptitudes we see differently,
What does one know, unless Dongbin states?
Enjoy changes, sights and sounds, for eventually
Wei diminishes to Wu Wei, Laozi said.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Notes on Spirits of Man

During the so called Ghosts' Festival, many Chinese believe that the Hell Gates stay open for the entire seventh lunar month to allow departed spirits of man (Kuei) to return and roam the Earth. Since the Kuei wander along the streets to visit places, they are called ‘Street Spirits’ (Kai Shen). At night time, believers come out from their houses and by the roadside, pray and make offerings of food and burn 'hell money' to these spirits. There will be hosting of Chinese operas, song and dance in open areas or on designated roads in the suburbs for people and Kuei to mingle and enjoy the shows. Altars will be set up nearby for those who want to pray and make offerings to the ‘Street Spirits’. On the 14th day of the seventh month or thereabouts these shows will end and a feast laid out for believers and the Kuei. At this feast, donors will bid for goods or food to cover costs of the feast with any remaining balance donated to charities. The winning bidders feel happy and believe they will receive blessings and protection from these spirits. (National Geographic also covered such events in both Hong Kong and Singapore not too long ago.)

Yesterday, my wife called to say that her company recently made a winning bid of USD 2,100 for a 25 kilo bag of rice at such an event. And that the general manager has decided to distribute the rice in small packets to each office employee. She was given a packet and asked whether she should bring the rice home adding it will bring good luck for those who cooked and ate it. No, I said and told her to either return or give the rice to whoever wants the good luck.

Today, while browsing through the Analects, I came across this long forgotten line by Confucius (who seldom talked about the spirit world) where he spoke about ancestors’ worship and on any other practice:

“For a man to sacrifice to a spirit which does not belong to him is flattery.” “To see what is right and not to do it is want of courage.” (2. 24)

Therefore, one may not be wrong to reject the rice which could have been offered to the ‘Street Spirits’ beforehand?

On a related note, ancestors’ worship is an ancient Chinese practice recorded in the Book of History. Nowadays, a separate altar from that reserved for Daoist Deities or Buddhas, is set up for prayers and offerings by the living to their ancestors. Although some modern Chinese or youth may not understand the significance of ancestors’ worship, it may be worthwhile to note that when a child is unexplainably ill and suffers from chronic fever which remains high even after seeing a few doctors and taking prescribed medicine; it may be time to turn to the ancestors.

A sincere plea from the parent(s) at the ancestors’ altar for help and protection of their child and descendant had proven to work on two separate occasions where one had the opportunity to advise on. Although my experience and knowledge remains very limited, the important thing is, it worked. After all, which parents or grandparents do not care about their children or grandchildren? Similarly the ancestors will also be concerned about their progeny. Whether you are believer or not, it will only take some of your time and a simple plea from the heart to sincerely seek such help for your child. And I verily believe it is harmless to ask for help from our ancestors.

Perhaps you have received similar help from your ancestors and would like to share some of your experiences here with readers and me?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Connecting the lines

In the August 2 entry on 'Hidden Treasures' depicted by Hexagram 26 Ta Ch’u / Taming Power of the Great, one had mentioned that based on Yi’s answer, the GT share price may double by December/ January. Notwithstanding the continuous selling of shares by the former CEO of GT, its share price has since recovered 70 % from its lifetime low. Over this period of time, one has been accumulating its shares, and even if the price doubles earlier than expected, one may still continue to buy. Why? There are various reasons for it.

The share price is way below its 1997 high (the price today is about 3% of that high), there is still a huge discount to book value, GT has already turned around by reporting profits, and foreign funds have identified the property sector as a bargain because of the currency floats in the region.

More importantly, it is what the Yi has indicated in Hexagram 26 and in previous answers to my questions on this particular stock. This to me is ‘connecting the lines’.

Often, students of Yi studies tend to miss this angle in their overeager search for answers from the Yi. ‘Connecting the lines’ is important as Yi’s answers can cover different time spans, for example, Carl Jung’s revelation that Yi’s answer to Richard Wilhelm took two years to manifest; and during the Spring and Autumn era it took a century or more to see the outcome on matters of state. This is one of the reasons for my suggestion to maintain ‘permanent records’ (July 14 entry) of consultations for our easy reference.

A very recent and good example of a short time span is Yi’s answer given to Sam Crane on the rebuilding of New Orleans. The false dragon represented by the top line of Kun has already been dealt with "through a suspension" by the real dragon. Following the ‘minister’s eventual resignation and his swift replacement "with fresh blood" by the US President, perhaps the way is now open for a smooth and gradual rebuilding of NO. This very example also shows and confirms that Yi actually answers questions from Professor Crane. (Refer to 'A note on Hexagram 2 Kun and its top line' September 6 entry.)

Amongst those equally, if not more, sincere and earnest in the Yi studies like Professor Crane, are Steve Marshall and Harmen Mesker. It is advisable to access their blogs and website (The Useless Tree; Biroco and Yijing Dao; Harmen, respectively) to read their onsite material and “tap” their brains now and then if we wish to learn more about the Yi and how to ‘connect the lines’. And by doing so, realize one day that our understanding of the Yi have grown by leaps and bounds. Therefore from this entry onwards, please do not say I have never told you where to go to learn more about Yi studies.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Daoist virtues

Over the short lifetime of this blog, I have often talked to and received feedback from my Daoist friend on what has been written here. His remark that some entries can be too deep for the average students holds true, as the particular entries were meant for thinkers, experts and scholars of ancient Chinese studies. Consequently one often thinks of how to make entries simpler and easier for readers (at whatever levels) to digest. This entry on virtues is written for that purpose.

Daoists have read various translations (or perhaps the received text) of the Tao Te Ching and often hold a fixed opinion of what Laozi meant to say. One is glad to see that a few more learned Western Daoists have lately come to accept that virtues (Te) plays a major role in their own self cultivation. Glad because Daoist students in the forums can in turn learn from them. It has always been an uphill battle to introduce so called ‘Confucian’ virtues to students in the West. As they usually stand their grounds, notwithstanding Confucius’s emphasis that his teachings were based on the ancients and that he merely transmitted their thoughts.

Perhaps, Laozi understood the ancients better than Confucius and his profound understanding may have led Confucius to liken him to that of a dragon. Laozi wrote down these virtues (Te) in the TTC and like the Confucian books, has been passed down to posterity. Let us then examine Laozi’s thoughts on virtues (Te) in Chapter 18 of TTC (Legge) in a simple way:

“When the Great Tao (Way or Method) ceased to be observed, benevolence and righteousness came into vogue.”

Students and those who have read TTC and various translations for years quite often misunderstand Laozi’s lament on humanity’s fall from Tao to mean something else. They prefer to think that Laozi was pointing out the faults of those, especially the Confucians, who practise or cultivate these two cardinal virtues, benevolence (Ren) and righteousness (Yi). Yet they fail to note that centuries or millenniums before the ascribed writing of TTC, revered ancients like Huangdi, Yao and Shun, The Great Yu, King Wen, displayed benevolence (humaneness) and righteousness (justice) in their rule and were therefore considered virtuous (Te).

“(Then) appeared wisdom and shrewdness, and there ensued great hypocrisy.”

Wisdom (Zhi) can be considered similar to perseverance, without which aims can be abandoned halfway. To tie in with the last of four Daoist and Confucian cardinal virtues, shrewdness means propriety or the mores (Li) with which one discriminates between right and wrong. Of course the four cardinal virtues can be misrepresented or twisted by those in power to achieve their own ends, leading to great hypocrisy. No, great hypocrisy did not refer to the Confucians as some may wish to think. And Laozi did not write about the future but on past or current events of his time. (Neither did he write a blog.)

“When harmony no longer prevailed throughout the six kinships, filial sons found their manifestation; when the states and clans fell into disorder, loyal ministers appeared.”

Filial piety and loyalty were also considered important virtues by the ancients. Shun was honored for his filial piety and Yao passed over the rule to him. Shun in turn passed the rule to Great Yu of Hsia. From history and tradition, Shun, Yu and King Wen had remained loyal ministers to their respective rulers at the time.

Why in the world and of all people would Laozi disparage virtuous deeds of these revered ancient sages in the TTC? Perhaps only those who think they know better than Laozi can answer that. For the four cardinal virtues namely benevolence, righteousness, propriety and wisdom are also depicted in the Judgment of Hexagram 1 Qian / The Creative [Book of Changes, W/B]. Then again, those biased could still argue that the received text of the Yi is Confucian in the first place, but here we are discussing Chapter 18 of the TTC, ancient Chinese thoughts and tradition. And is the Judgment of the Qian hexagram in the so called ‘Daoist I Ching’ any different?

The final tie up is to understand why Laozi advised cultivation of these virtues. The key is hidden in this verse: “When the Great Tao (Way or Method) ceased to be observed”. Understanding or misunderstanding it could open or shut doors to further learning. And with the lament over humanity's fall from the Tao, Laozi showed a way to return to Tao which is to cultivate virtues (Te). The TTC has been in existence for 2,500 years. It has always been up to earnest students to understand it.

To further clarify to readers still unclear on the concept, one can look at the virtues from bottom up (progressing from young to maturity to old age) and perhaps visualize the return to Tao after the fall, this way:

‘Filial Piety’ to parents; ‘Loyalty’ (or staying true) to friends, relatives, teachers and rulers; learning to discriminate between right and wrong according to ‘Propriety’ (and the Mores) leading to ‘Wisdom’; ‘Righteousness’ in helping people and righting wrongs because it is just; serving and ruling the people with ‘Benevolence’. Once we have cultivated these virtues and with these human characteristics, Heaven may consider us the right persons to return to Tao.

Indeed the truth has always been in front of us or out there. Perhaps Daoists in the West may still prefer to see it differently. After all, it is a free world.

1) Relevant entries
What do the Ancients teach – March 27; Te in the TTC, The fall and return to Tao, and 50 Ting / The Cauldron – April archives; The center, and Twofold entrance to Tao – May archives.
2) Further readings
Book of History, Book of Changes, the Spring and Autumn Annals (– for the great hypocrisy depicted by the Ruler of Song in trying to gain hegemony), the Book of Filial Piety; Analects and the Great Learning.
3) Meditation
Cultivation of virtues is only part of the whole picture. Lest we forget, meditation is also required in the far journey to return to Tao.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A simple note on Ways of Heaven

Yesterday, my Daoist friend and I had a meaningful discussion on how of late; Daoist immortals have been honoring him with their presence. Over the years, he had continually remonstrated to his master, a heavenly immortal, on disciplinary issues in the temple. However he still accepts tasks from his master and dutifully executes them. Since last year, he had indicated to me that he may leave Quanzhen upon completing his latest assignment; to oversee building of the new main temple.

The heavenly immortals must have noted his intention to leave; consequently many had come forth to talk with him. Of the four Northern Patriarchs, Donghua Dijun, Zhongli Quan and Lu Dongbin had through the planchette praised his good works and cultivation. Patriarch Wang Chungyang, the founder of Quanzhen, has so far remained silent. Even Laozi (Taishang Laojun) tried to convince my friend of the merits in continuing to help develop and expand Taoism to the West.

And my simple note on Ways of Heaven spoken in jest to my friend was:

Heaven, Earth and the sage are not humane (bu ren) for they treat things and people like straw dogs*. But Heaven is always on the side of the good**.
(*Chapter 5 and **Chapter 79 TTC, Legge.)

We ended the conversation laughing. For although Heaven treats all things and people equally, Heaven invariably favors the good and virtuous. From experience, so do Buddhas and Daoist immortals.

Self cultivation and doing good deeds comes from the heart/mind (hsin), therefore it transcends religions. The ancients merely taught people to meditate, cultivate virtues and do good deeds. Yet ‘New Age’ Daoists (religious or philosophical) fail to understand the teachings and continuously yak in forums on irrelevant things attempting to put words into the ancients’ mouths. Although humans are born good (and pure), such are the times. But it is never too late to learn, do kind deeds and/or to correct ourselves. That is cultivation.

Have a nice trip and Heaven will be on our side when we start returning to the original state of goodness. The state before each of us was born.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A note on Hexagram 2 Kun and its top line

Currently, there are two ongoing discussions on this sixth or top line of Kun / The Receptive. The first is at the ‘I Ching Forum’. To join in the interesting discussion, readers can post their comments in Hilary’s ‘Answers’ blog. The other discussion is at ‘The Useless Tree’ between this author and Professor Sam Crane. (All sites can be accessed through the Links section.)

The Professor concerned about the disaster and human misery in New Orleans has asked the I Ching: "What can we expect there in the coming months"? The prognostication (posted last Friday) came in the form of Kun with moving third, fifth and sixth lines changing Hexagram 2 to Hexagram 53 Chien / Development. Agreeing with his interpretation, one ventured to say that the Yi has given an apt answer to his question and has provided a guide to the Mayor of NO whom one considered a Da Ren because of his benevolent acts. The Professor then set this student (for trying to be too clever) a few assignments for further interpretation. This time it was on who is in the ‘subordinate’ position in relation to the prognostication – the Mayor of NO, the Governor, the head of FEMA or the head of Homeland Security.

To do the assignment and answer his questions, one made the assumption that the moving third line represents the Mayor, the fifth line represents the Governor to whom the Mayor reports. With FEMA being absorbed by Homeland Security, the Secretary of Homeland Security will take the sage or adviser’s position of the top line of Kun. And the US President, the real dragon, represented by Qian / The Creative. With that the Mayor’s friends and helpers are in the South and West (the Governor and local leaders), and not in the East and North (the ministers and the President).

Seeming satisfied with the answers, the Professor has set yet another assignment which is on the top line of Kun where the false dragon supposedly fights with the real dragon. As we know that political infighting can affect the people’s welfare and the orderly rebuilding of NO, it is worthwhile to contribute thoughts on the issues at hand. Here goes the note based on my simple understanding of the top line.

Kun relates to humanity and the masses. The doubling of the trigram Kun means people above people – forming a hierarchy. Another attribute of the trigram is that of sincerity. Therefore leaders all the way up to ministers rule by serving the people with sincerity. Kun is represented by the mare. And these leaders or Da Ren receive their guidance or orders from Hexagram 1 Qian / The Creative (therefore the President is the real dragon – in ancient times, the King). Following the guidance, in this case the President’s declaration of a National disaster when Hurricane Katrina struck a week ago, the Da Ren – the Secretary of Homeland Security and his ‘subordinate’, the head of FEMA - could have saved many more human lives, protected them from harm and alleviated their misery earlier, if they had acted promptly. An undue delay without valid reasons shows ‘insubordination’, so to speak, and their insincerity in the rescue and protection of those left destitute. Probably they have forgotten that they are not the real ruler, but a false dragon as depicted in the top line of Kun. (For how could a mare ever become a dragon?) They had also caused confusion among those who expected urgent aid from the Federal Government but the ‘cavalry’ never arrived for the rescue until the Mayor’s public remonstration on TV. The world sat up and took notice. And humanitarian aid pours in.

With much bad blood splattered around in the form of shifting responsibilities and throwing accusations in full public view by ministers and local authorities, it will be difficult for them to work together towards rebuilding NO. However it is important for both the Mayor and Governor to sincerely and humbly work with the appointed Federal ministers to rebuild the devastated areas. If not, they can also progress up to the top line of Kun and just like the adviser, become far removed from serving the local people well. For an efficient and effective rebuilding of NO, perhaps, someone occupying the top line has to go, replaced or shunted aside. Who that someone is will be for the real dragon, the President to decide. There could be a fight on his hands with the false dragon (a struggle between light and darkness), but we already know the outcome of that battle.

Rests assure, for if each Da Ren involved acts with sincerity, the rebuilding could start by November or the first week of December 2005 and progress gradually thereafter.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Benefit of a good deed

The ancients have taught us to do kind deeds with sincerity and no expectations of rewards or benefits. However through life, we sometimes learn that past good deeds by charitable people can redound on their children or their grandchildren.

A good example today is that of Kuwait’s intention to offer 500 million dollars in oil products to US hurricane victims. According to a news report, the Kuwaiti government “took it as an opportunity to show their gratitude to US for liberating Kuwait (from the clutches of Iraq) in 1991, with the blood of their sons”.

Indeed George Bush Senior and the US led international coalition fought a righteous war then and won accolades from the whole world. Therefore it can be said that a good deed by a father has redounded on his son.

Thoughts of a top class scholar

Students may be pleased to know that a master of ancient Chinese studies has recently started a blog to share his thoughts on ancient sages. His simple and easy style in connecting ancient Confucian thoughts to current events shows his clarity and in-depth knowledge of the subject, which can prove inspirational to students in ancient Chinese studies.

Professor Sam Crane also provides insights on the I Ching which he consults and writes the prognostication together with an explanation every Friday. His blog is titled, ‘The Useless Tree’ which depicts his humility.

As of today, one has added his blog under the Link’s section for readers to gain access to thoughts of a top class Confucian scholar. Hopefully, he will continue to teach us more about ancient Chinese thoughts in the months and years ahead.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Deeds of Da Ren and Xiao Ren

Often in times of crisis or hardships, people show their true colours through their words and deeds. And in such times those affected by the crisis or hardships truly appreciate the kindness, compassion and help shown by relatives, friends, neighbors and the Da Ren – in this case, leaders of society and governments. But invariably, there are also those Xiao Ren (mean men) who take advantage of the situation to sow discord, cause confusion and do evil to the people for their own selfish gain.

This is what has happened and happening in New Orleans (N O) recently devastated by Hurricane Katrina where many inhabitants are left homeless and destitute by the storm. According to news reports, local leaders are doing their level best to bring quick relief to the people and to control the blatant lootings, rapes and anarchy that reigns in this chaotic situation filled with human misery.

In such an emergency and an hour of need, apparently some of the destitute were left to fend for themselves against looters and ‘organized’ mobs.

Where, you may ask, are the upholders of law and enforcement?

According to a news report, a female tourist from another U S state asked for help from an N O police officer and was told, “Go to hell. It is everyman for himself.” A previous news report said that the police were around but looked the other way while mobs looted stores. The police were doing search and rescue missions then, which has since been called off to protect the helpless people, hospitals and property. There were also reports of police turning in their badges in this time of need. If the police in my own country, a so called developing country, have such attitudes, I cannot help wonder if our federal government will soon have anarchy on their hands.

Together with the bad, the good news was that fishermen from a neighboring state floated their boats right into town to rescue those lucky people stranded by the high waters during the crisis. And that a local mayor had the keen foresight to evacuate willing local inhabitants before disaster (in the form of Hurricane Katrina) struck. Those who were part of this evacuation can now count their blessings and perhaps thank this Da Ren for it. The Australian Prime Minister has on behalf of his country donated a sum of 10 million to the American Red Cross to provide relief for the destitute caused by the storm. Reading such good deeds truly warm the heart.

Therefore in times of crisis and hardships, we quickly learn who our true friends are and are able to distinguish clearly the Da Ren and Xiao Ren by their words and deeds. To date, Laozi, Confucius and other ancient sages have not been wrong on humanity.

(A relevant entry is “Three types of Man” on August 13)