Sunday, October 30, 2005

Notes on Hexagram 16 Yu / Enthusiasm

The Yi continues to provide accurate oracles to Professor Sam Crane on matters of state in the United States of America. Therefore the sages say that Heaven favors the good and by virtue of being good, the sincere too, since good actions invariably lead to sincerity (TTC 79, Doctrine of the Mean / Chung Yung 23). Incase you are unaware; Sam posts an I Ching reading every Friday in his blog, The Useless Tree. The oracles posted for the past several weeks have so far unfolded exactly as what the Yi has indicated; therefore one spoke in jest in his blog the other day that if President Bush ever requires advice from the Yi, he would be appointed to provide the divinations.

His latest question to the Yi (or I Ching) on “how should President Bush handle this growing political problem?” was answered by way of Hexagram 16 Yu / Enthusiasm with the first and fourth lines changing and a resultant Hexagram 24 Fu / Return. As usual, Sam has provided an appropriate interpretation of the oracle. In support one will provide a wider perspective on the reading to take into account of other areas which the Yi may have indicated to this sincere fellow diviner.

The Yu hexagram carries a special significance because it was one of the earliest accurate oracles given on a share investment in London back in the 1970s. The newly quoted stock (Mercantile House) in the LSE went up a few folds about three years later. Indeed translator Alfred Douglas who named this hexagram as Calm Confidence knew what he was onto.

From the trigrams of Zhen and Kun, the hexagram actually depicts more things than the commentary suggest, although the ancient commentary captures its essence in Books I and III [W/B] with the emphasis on Devotion instead of the hidden virtue. However since it suffices to rely on the word, Devotion to move the action, one would use it to expand on the reading of hexagram Yu. Perhaps the truly earnest may take note of this comment to further their Yi studies.

A Yi reading for the US President calls for caution and humility since it concerns important matters of state. Only the sincere, with the likelihood of Yi answering with Hexagram 22 Bi / Grace (think Confucius), will be called upon to divine such great matters. Reading Yi answers to Sam’s past several questions gave the impression that he fulfills the requirements and has the appropriate qualifications to merit an appointment to such an important post if ever (no presumptions there) one is created in times of trouble and great hesitations on matters of state.

To add onto Sam’s interpretation of the latest oracle, we shall look at the judgment and the commentary on the decision in Book III and see whether we can derive more meaning from it. The judgment says: “Enthusiasm. It furthers one to install helpers and to set armies marching.” Relevant commentary on the decision: “Because Enthusiasm shows devotion (Kun) to movement (Zhen), heaven and earth are at its side. How much the more then is it possible to install helpers and set armies marching!” “The holy man moves with devotion; therefore fines and punishments become just, and the people obey. Great indeed is the meaning of the time of Enthusiasm.” [W/B 467]

Six at the beginning means: “Enthusiasm that expresses itself brings misfortune.”
The man indicated here enthusiastically boasts his aristocratic connection to the great minister in the fourth. He becomes arrogant and egoistic therefore invites misfortune through improper conduct. As this is the first line of the hexagram, perhaps the indicated situation has already occurred – Libby has been charged and probably a few more would be implicated. Since there is no leeway to back track, the prediction moves upwards to the fourth changing line.

Nine in the fourth place means: “The source of enthusiasm. He achieves great things. Doubt not. You gather friends around you as a hair clasp gathers the hair.” ‘This describes a man who is able to awaken enthusiasm through his own sureness and freedom from hesitation. He attracts people because he has no doubts and is wholly SINCERE.’

Perhaps providing an overview is in order for the sake of clarity since the oracle forms part of sequent changes indicated by the Yi to Sam. (Refer to Understanding changes (2).) Like the current one, all the previous oracles since the question on Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans relates to the US president and his ‘men’ (includes women in certain cases). The Yi keeps saying that the US President needs to be sincere, in this last case devoted, to his people and country as any good leader should be. Appointments to the highest posts of the land should be based on meritocracy and not solely on friendship which can imply cronyism. The appointment and nomination of various unqualified or unsuitable people to senior posts have led to acrimony from both his party and majority of the people, compounded by insincerity to wage war against Iraq at great expense to the US.

Therefore with the latest oracle, the Yi is once again advising the President to install the right helpers to restore enthusiasm to the people and his party. No one is above the law (indicated by the first line and the commentary to the decision); justice must be served if enthusiasm is to be aroused. Another matter unresolved is that of the status of FEMA and the gradual development of NO which can show his requisite devotion to the people. Then again it is entirely up to President Bush whether he wants to master his own fate and to bring back enthusiasm for his leadership.

This would then allow both Sam and me to remain blameless.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

TTC 40 Return to Tao

Reading the latest updates in Yijing Dao the other day, led to these words, “Turning back moves to the Dao” which jumped up at me. One got so used to the translation by James Legge and never saw the significance of Chapter 40 TTC until reading what Steve Marshall said about its first verse. A reason why reading his Yijing Dao’s website is worthwhile for Yi and Daoist students.

To Yi students, ‘Return’ (turning back) conveys a special meaning of its own. By studying the Yi we are also learning Tao (Da Chuan / The Great Treatise). To Eastern Daoists, learning how to return to Tao is of utmost importance. Through the short verses in Chapter 40 Laozi provides yet another subtle guide to what the inner alchemy (neidan) practitioner has to do. Therefore the interesting chapter is definitely worth a mention. And to facilitate a meaningful discussion one has ventured to translate the four short verses in Chapter 40 as follows:

Return (reversal) is the movement to Tao
Yielding is the usefulness to Tao
Myriad things under Heaven are born from being
Being born from non being

Man’s fall from Tao has been discussed in previous entries on Chapter 18 and the cardinal virtues, where ‘when the great Tao ceased to be observed, benevolence and righteousness appeared followed by propriety and wisdom’. Because of this fall, Daoists need to cultivate essence and life to return to Tao.

In the Yi, the judgment of Hexagram 24 Fu says: “Return. Success. Going out and coming in without error. Friends come without blame. To and fro goes the way. On the seventh day comes return. It furthers one to have somewhere to go.” Reading part of the commentary may give rise to a better understanding: “After a time of decay comes the turning point. The powerful light that has been banished returns. There is movement, but it is not brought about by force. The upper trigram Kun is characterized by devotion; thus the movement is natural, arising spontaneously.” [W/B]

Return is the root and stem of character. This is one of the hexagrams where we learn how to cultivate proper conduct of a Junzi and to build character. In forum discussions on this hexagram, one often points out that it is a return to the Light. For essence and life is contained in the light of Heaven. Therefore it is important for students to understand the significance of Return and its deeper implications if we want to progress much in Yi studies. Rereading the judgment and commentary, perhaps Laozi had hexagram ‘Fu’ in mind when he wrote down TTC 40.

Daoists in the East have easier access than the West to real masters and Daoist immortals to assist in their understanding and learning of Tao. They are taught how to cultivate essence and life with the hopes of returning to Tao. Few will succeed but along the far journey, the earnest and sincere becomes better and healthier because of the cultivation. According to Laozi, “The great Tao is very level and easy but people love the by-ways” (TTC 53). (Discerning readers may understand the point one tries to make.)

In inner alchemy (neidan), reversal of the breath (qi) leads to Tao. Stillness or quietness yielding like the receptive Earth (Kun) can be achieved through this method of meditation. By converting essence to qi, qi to spirit, spirit to emptiness and emptiness to Tao, although a far journey, a neidan practitioner can return to Tao. Through this process, non-being manifest from being, and being manifest from non-being. Indeed ‘Return’ starts the movement to Tao like the waxing and waning of the moon phases. In TTC 40, Laozi like the skillful Dao masters of old was truly subtle to remain blameless.

If readers ever wonder why one speaks about Tao from time to time, it is because one only knows just a touch. Therefore it may be time to take that pinch of salt again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Understanding changes (3)

In this concluding entry on understanding changes we shall look at cyclic changes, the easiest change to understand but most difficult to predict as it involves a factor of time. Man throughout the millenniums has studied cycles – recurrent periods of events and phenomena – to predict future occurrences of same events or phenomena with some certainty not only for benefit but also to give meaning to the world we live in. From the patterns of change, man can with certain accuracy predict trade, investment, financial, economic and weather cycles and the lifetime of each cycle. Nowadays we have a host of professionals such as economists, statisticians, accountants, various analysts and meteorologists to study and predict cyclic changes that affect humanity and possessions.

The hottest topic across the world today is that of the real property cycle where its continuous uptrend for the past few years may come to an end. But when, no one can say with any measure of certainty. If house owners sell too early they may lose some capital gains and if house buyers wait too long, they may not be able to afford further upward revisions in prices. During such times of uncertainty, diviners invariably turn to the Yi for answers and the ability to foreknow the consequences of whether it is timely to buy or sell properties (or other types of investments). Substantial sums can be gained or lost depending on the timing of each investment or divestment; therefore wealthy investors occasionally consult astrologers, Yi diviners, or mediums before they invest in or divest major investments. Otherwise like most investors they have to leave it to fate or chance.

Of the ancients, Chi Jan of Yue (c 500 BC) knew much about cyclic changes. Using his strategies, the Yue state recovered from devastation after ten years and enabled his King Goujian to take revenge against King Fuchai of Wu after another ten years. As the Yue state became wealthy and powerful, the Zhou emperor granted Goujian hegemony over other states. Chi Jan’s colleague, Fan Li later left Yue, using some of Chi’s strategies became very wealthy twice. One of Chi Jan’s advice (which holds true even today) was, “By noting surpluses and shortages, you can tell what will be expensive and what cheap. When prices rise too high, they must fall again; when prices fall too low, they will rise again.” (Records of the Historian)

To predict cyclic changes accurately, Yi diviners need to be familiar with major local and world events. This helps our minds get a clearer picture or awareness of what is actually happening in our surroundings. My late father used to invest in real properties. Since the mid 1970s he had asked me to consult the Yi for him to invest in properties (both local and foreign) on a regular basis. Following the divinations, most were bought at the lows and sold at the highs turning in a profit. In 1982 the Yi kept advising not to sell a three storey shop in a choice location for 550,000 or higher. He had bought it for less than half that price and was eager to take the profits. In 1984 the Yi advised not to buy any more properties. The following year, the shop was sold for a cool 1,125,000, the highest price fetched for similar shops within the location. On my further advice, my father sold all other real properties except the main house. Shortly thereafter the property market collapsed and the country faced a severe economic downturn. Properties sold earlier could be brought back two years later at half the price. Therefore it was crucial and beneficial to understand cyclic changes with the help of the Yi.

In 1983 one consulted the Yi on whether one should return to London to reside there after coming home three years earlier. Yi answered with Hexagram 3 Difficulty in the Beginning changing to Hexagram 24 Return. If I recall correctly, England was in the midst of a recession then. Therefore the Yi was correct once again. By returning to London one could have faced imminent unemployment, therefore by not returning would be the way to master one’s fate?

Only when we understand changes do we know why the Yi is called the Book of Changes. In the Da Chuan / The Great Treatise it is said: “Therefore it is the order of the Changes that the superior man (Junzi) devotes himself to and that he attains tranquility by. It is the judgments on the individual lines that the Junzi takes pleasure in and that he ponders on.” “Therefore the Junzi contemplate these images in times of rest and meditates on the judgments. When he undertakes something, he contemplates the changes and ponders on the oracles. Therefore he is blessed by heaven. ‘Good fortune, nothing that does not further.’”

And finally, “The Creative (Heaven) and the Receptive (Earth) are the real secret of the Changes. Inasmuch as the Creative and the Receptive present themselves as complete, the changes between them are also posited. If the Creative and the Receptive were destroyed, there would be nothing by which the changes could be perceived. If there were no more changes to be seen, the effects of the Creative and the Receptive would also gradually cease.” [W/B]

Heaven and Earth govern time and space. By following the Book of Changes, the Junzi learns to master his own fate through the easy and simple. Is this not how we can grasp the laws of the whole world?

Monday, October 24, 2005

October, the month of Splitting Apart

October has always been a month where world stock markets take a beating and fund managers feel jittery in anticipation of bigger falls to come. Discerning shares investors who do their homework well may know why foreign funds usually sell down their shareholdings this month. No, they are not cashing out for Christmas or pushing shares down in concert, in order to buy back at lower prices. Discounting the herd mentality of some smaller funds, major foreign funds are turning stockholdings into cash in case world stock markets crash, as the markets have done so occasionally during October months. The biggest single day point drop of 508 or 22.6% in the Dow Jones Industrial Average occurred on October 19, 1987 and brought world stock markets to their knees. The US stock market crashes in October 28 and 29, 1929 were probably the precursor to the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Falling share prices every October have become such commonplace for the past twenty five years that it can be regarded as a cyclic change. (Cyclic changes will be discussed in another entry.) Knowing why share markets are down because of foreign funds selling and the reason behind their selling is not the gist of this entry. More meaningful to readers perhaps is why stock markets fall or crash during this particular month. For that we can take a look at Hexagram 23 Bo / Splitting Apart the monthly hexagram for October (the ninth month). The commentary to the hexagram gives some indication of what can happen during this month.

“The (five) dark lines are about to mount upwards and overthrow the last firm, light line (at the top) by exerting a disintegrating influence on it. The inferior, dark forces overcome what is superior and strong, not by direct means, but by undermining it gradually and imperceptibly, so that it finally collapses. The lines of the hexagram present the image of a house, the top line being the roof, and because the roof is being shattered the house collapses. This leads to the Judgment of Splitting Apart: It does not further one to go anywhere. This suggests that one should submit to the bad time and remain quiet. For it is a question not of man’s doing but of time conditions, which, according to the laws of heaven, show an alternation of increase and decrease, fullness and emptiness. It is impossible to counteract these conditions of the time. Hence it is not cowardice but wisdom to submit and avoid action.” [W/B]

Earnest Yi students can study the lines text and perhaps derive a better understanding of why Hexagram 23 is bad for share investments or any other investments. Regular readers may recall that the Quanzhen immortal had also mentioned Splitting Apart in one of the cryptic messages on my fortune. Therefore enjoy your reading of the hexagram and perhaps learn something deeper today. For the Yi is indeed profound.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Understanding changes (2)

From a point of view in understanding changes, non change serves as the starting point; before questions are asked of the Yi and changes revealed by the answers in the form of hexagrams. Shao Yung of the Song dynasty perhaps comprehended this principle better than most when he invented the ‘Plum blossom (Meihua) yi number’ method of divination doing away with the necessity to use yarrow stalks or coins; forming two trigrams to make up a hexagram through observing activities of nature or of man. Yet even this type of divination relies on something happening before changes depicting good fortune or misfortune can be calculated interpreted and foreknown; however the Meihua method does provide certain accuracy on predictions of time.

Although non change serves as the starting point, at another level it also serve as an end; where changes have manifested and duality ceases, leading to the center in Confucian, Daoist and Buddhist studies. Before we look at cyclic changes, let us explore sequent changes applied to divination as both changes are quite similar in nature – the four seasons, and day follows night.

The Yi provides multiple levels of answers to the diviner if he or she is sincere. If the diviner only looks at the latest oracle from the Yi and have forgotten about previous answers to past related questions, he or she may have overlooked the sequential changes indicated in the oracles. Past oracles or answers from the Yi on related topics should not be treated as standalones otherwise we tend to miss out on the entire big picture time and time again. That is also why we need to continuously ponder on Yi’s answers. This subject has been broached in my earlier entry on ‘Connecting the lines’. Readers probably did not notice the hints contained therein.

However it is heartening to read that the Yi helped three Asian scientists to win the Nobel Prize for physics – Japanese physicist Hideki Yukawa won it in 1949 and Chinese physicists Yang Chenning and Lee Tsungdao shared the 1957 prize for the study of particles. These three scientists said they consulted the Yi at every stage of their research. Indeed they followed sequent changes diligently to obtain their erstwhile successes.

A further and most recent example of a sequence of change from the Yi to an earnest and sincere diviner can be seen in my following post (with minor amendments) in The Useless Tree blog authored by Professor Sam Crane:

"From the recent answers given by the Yi to you (Sam), it appears that President Bush and the US will be facing difficult times ahead. Firstly it was Hurricane Katrina where the false dragon in Hexagram 2 was ousted with bad blood spilt. And recovery work not distributed evenly. Next was Hexagram 3 / Difficulty in the Beginning for the second hurricane and Bush’s Mandate of Heaven. Even the Homeland Security Secretary recently agreed with the Yi’s answer to revamp FEMA. So far no decision has been announced on the matter.

The nomination and possible appointment of Harriet Miers to the highest Court of the land will probably cause a Darkening of the Light (Hexagram 36) to the US people – your question. Conflict (Hexagram 6) meaning protracted war campaigns in a few foreign fronts will quickly exhaust the state treasures and the people in Yi’s reply to your question on the US economy.

Your latest question that is “Is Cheney himself involved in all of this and will be forced to resign because of it?” draws an answer of yes and no in the form of Hexagram 9 changing to Hexagram 61 as the special prosecutor being the Junzi in Inner Truth discusses criminal cases in order to delay executions. Cheney represented by the third line in Hexagram 9 abandons his family – depicted in lines one and two; but the prosecutor is not amused and cannot be stared down as he is in the higher fourth line. Both the prosecutor and Cheney have to hold on to inner truth that is sincerity – easier for the former than the latter, one would assume. Ultimately it may be up to Cheney himself to do the honorable thing to salvage his dignity.

Sincerity is the most difficult virtue to attain in terms of cultivation. Therefore if President Bush is still in denial and does not realize the indication of fate depicted in the Yi answers, and incorrectly gauged the mood of the US people, he may certainly have cause to regret like some of the past Presidents who held two terms of the US Presidency (think Nixon); and possibly like Chou Hsin – the last King of Shang depicted in Hexagrams 9 and 36.

Just how many times can the people forgive an insincere man, is the question? And where have all the flowers gone?"

To be continued.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Understanding changes

Zhouyi is a short name for The Zhou Dynasty’s Book of Changes. According to Confucius, the Hsia and Shang Dynasties also have their own Book of Changes (or I Ching), known as 'Lian Shan' and 'Gui Cang' respectively which are probably lost to posterity. Until these books resurfaced through archaeology finds in Chinese ancient tombs, the only I Ching (or Yijing) available to humanity is the Zhouyi.

If what Confucius said in passing was true, and there is not much reason to doubt his words, the ancients must have been much fascinated with the study of changes through the ages. Understandably changes such as the four seasons, day and night, light and dark, are natural phenomena that affect heaven, earth, man and the ten thousand things. Man therefore needs to examine and investigate changes that affect humanity and possessions.

These changes were then depicted in the firm (unbroken) and yielding (broken) lines representing light and dark for the holy men and sages to determine what actions to take which lead to good fortune or misfortune. They differentiate the states of change from the images of the eight trigrams; phenomena in the hexagrams; the superior and inferior places in the six lines; knowing that events follow definite trends, each according to its nature.

Therefore in the Da Chuan / The Great Treatise it is said: “In the heavens phenomena take form; on earth shapes take form. In this way change and transformation become manifest.” “The Creative knows the great beginnings. The Receptive completes the finished things.” “The Creative knows through the easy. The Receptive can do things through the simple.” “By means of the easy and the simple we grasp the laws of the whole world. When the laws of the whole world are grasped, therein lays perfection.” [W/B]

Of the three types of changes, non change serves as the starting point; cyclic change is natural and easy to understand; while sequent change is easy to predict and simple to follow. Just like nightfall comes after daylight and summer follows spring, when we understand the constant laws of changes we can perhaps grasp the laws of the whole world.

If we know the timing of each change we can possibly grasp some of heaven’s laws too. To know the phenomena and timing of heaven we have to study all three types of changes, the non change, cyclic change and the sequent change. This could then take the Yi student to the sphere of omens and heaven’s secrets beyond what will be discussed. Just be aware that it is possible if earnest and sincere Yi diviners diligently work towards the objective to be the most entire sincere to manifest the spirit (shen). (Refer to the Doctrine of the Mean / Chung Yung.)

To be continued.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A touch of Tao

We have often enough read or heard this verse; “The Tao which can be told is not the eternal Tao” in Daoist texts and forums and yet the verse conveys different meanings to everyone. Indeed over the past few millenniums Tao has never been easy to understand and to follow. Yet Daoists still try to fathom the profound Tao. Similar to learning the Yi, philosophical or religious Daoist students need to be earnest and sincere in learning Tao, lest they drop it halfway through.

The Tao is considered so vast it contains Heaven and Earth, the Sun and Moon, the stars, the ten thousand things and the entire universe. Conversely, Tao is considered so minuscule and obscure that scientists have yet to find it. Daoists at times like to think that Tao is Air or Qi; Matter or Energy; Water or Fire; Dark or Light; but that is not it.

The closest reference probably comes from Daoist immortal Lu Dongbin who says: “That which exists through itself is called Tao. Tao has neither name nor shape. It is the one essence, the one primal spirit. Essence and life cannot be seen. It is contained in the light of heaven. The light of heaven cannot be seen. It is contained in the two eyes.” [The Secret of the Golden Flower- W/B]

That is why when religious Daoists cultivate to return to Tao; they cultivate both essence and bodily life. Cultivating essence and bodily life is easier to understand as it involves neidan meditation and cultivating virtues although the cultivation itself is not easy and takes a long time to bring to flower. Once someone has attained Tao, he or she could have reached a state of purposelessness. For what else would heavenly immortals want to do on Earth? Unless they still want to rescue people and teach Daoist disciples the way to return to Tao.

Just reading translations or original Daoist texts is never enough, practice does matter. If Daoists for various reasons do not practise meditation they can cultivate virtues (De). That could be a good start if they remember they need to meditate to complete the entire practice. By cultivating virtues Daoists can become better people and citizens of the world. One is sure all great religions or doctrines teach the same, since ancients often quote the virtuous as examples.

In cultivation of virtues, Daoists can perhaps read the Confucian books and Buddhist scriptures since they are more structured, simple to understand and to follow than the Writings of Zhuangzi. Renowned Neo Daoists have always read the Confucian books and Chinese Classics before learning and cultivating Tao. Some of these Neo Daoists went on to become heavenly immortals. Therefore it is nothing wrong or shameful for Daoists to learn something from such books and scriptures.

However if readers were looking for an explanation of Tao, it was not told here; otherwise it cannot be the eternal Tao. And all one knows is perhaps a touch.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Hexagram 6 Song / Conflict

A conflict situation arises when two or more parties with differing points of view strongly voiced out their opinions and refused to budge or back down. We often come across such situations at home, in our workplace, office, and online forums and even in the world where world leaders clash on ideology or on how the world is best run. This is the main reason why we have wars, crisis, fights and quarrels. I suppose, conflicts are nothing new, since ancient texts also contained advice on how best to resolve conflicts or to keep them from arising.

The Judgment in Hexagram 6 Song / Conflict clearly states how to resolve conflicts, and it says:
“You are sincere and are being obstructed. A cautious halt halfway brings good fortune. Going through to the end brings misfortune. It furthers one to see the great man. It does not further one to cross the great water.”

The Image says:
“Heaven and water go their opposite ways: The image of Conflict. Thus in all his transactions the superior man carefully considers the beginning.”

‘If rights and duties are exactly defined, or if, in a group, the spiritual trends of the individuals harmonize, the cause of conflict is removed in advance.’ [W/B]

The Chinese always treat patience as a virtue. That is why they sometimes take a step backwards to avoid a head on verbal confrontation that leads to unnecessary conflict and strife - beneficial to none. This particular action would be similar to, “a cautious halt halfway brings good fortune”. Of course the aggrieved party can still have recourse by sending the dispute to arbitration, therefore “it furthers one to see the great man” (the arbitrator).

One recalled a consultation done in New Zealand for the wife of a friend back in early 1993. She reads the Tarot and he studies the Yi. It was the first time that one had used coins- three NZ 20 cents - since I did not bring the yarrow along for the trip. Yi’s answer to her question was Hexagram 6 Conflict. After the answer, she told me about the conflict at the school where she teaches. She was fighting a good cause trying to protect a trainee teacher from being thrown out. The trainee teacher was also present then. (She had refused to tell me anything beforehand. Therefore using coins for consultation can be just as accurate as using yarrow stalks.) I had advised her not to go head long into the confrontation with the other teachers and to accept the decision of the headmaster (depicted in the fifth line). And I left it at that after she and the trainee understood the message from the Yi. Later one found out that she confronted the decision of the school board and had to resign, which was a pity because she loved teaching at that school.

Indeed righteousness without wisdom often leads to wrong decisions and conflicts; while righteousness and wisdom depict nourishment. Thus in all his transactions the Junzi carefully considers the beginning before he makes a move in the right direction. So says the Yi. The hexagram contains much wisdom and yet many fail to see or follow it thereby leading to needless conflicts in the world.

If some readers do not fully understand the above last paragraph, do not worry, just playing some mind games with the five ‘elements’ and attributes of the trigrams to perhaps come to another level to understand the Yi.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Seriousness of purpose

When we want to study a subject and excel in it, we often go to great lengths to read relevant material, learn from teachers, experts, scholars and hold discussions with like-minded fellows on the matter. Being thorough and having a good understanding of the subject shows a seriousness of purpose. I have always wondered why earnest Yi students cannot afford the same for Yi studies.

Although many consider the Zhouyi or Yijing as a book, it is one of the five Chinese Classics. Probably not many Western readers understand the significance of a Classic since the West classifies many books whether fictional or non fictional as classics. Of course the word ‘jing’ (Classic) is also used by many to describe ancient books, Daoist texts and Buddhist sutras so much so that its original meaning has been watered down. However to the Chinese, the five revered Classics –Book of Documents (Shujing), Book of Changes (Yijing), Book of Odes (Shijing), Spring and Autumn Annals (Chunqiu) and Book of Rites (Liji) - still hold a meaning of their own passed down from tradition. Since for more than a thousand years, scholars have to study the four Confucian books (Analects, Great Learning, Doctrine of the Mean and Mencius) and five Classics to pass Court exams before they can become Mandarins.

Down the ages, the Zhouyi has never been easy to understand because of its profoundness and the classical Chinese. I recalled a brief discussion in London in the late 1970s with a Hong Kong University graduate in Chinese Literature. Her professor had chosen to teach only nine hexagrams to the class in her senior year and few students understood them. Since she also could not understand them, we went on to discuss other things.

Learning the Yi is not easy. However, I do find Western scholars who have a good knowledge of the Yi. This shows that when people have seriousness of purpose, many things can be achieved. A pattern has emerged in a brief analysis of these scholars. They seemed to have something in common compared to others who have equally spent decades in studying the Yi. Probably these scholars are more earnest and sincere in their learning of the subject matter. They tend to be clear, straightforward and structured in their thoughts and also do not condone frivolous questioning of the Yi. But more to the point, they are quite similar to the Neo Daoists and Confucians of the Song Dynasty, in that they too had studied the four Confucian books, the five Classics and more.

We do not have to be as learned to understand the Yi. Just be earnest and sincere in our studies and consultations. The Yi is like a venerable ancient master who had continuously taught many Chinese sages and great masters over the past few thousand years. Fortune has it that for the past century or so, the West has access to the Yi through the efforts of various Western translators such as Legge and Wilhelm who were perhaps well read in the Confucian books and classics too.

Therefore, my advice would be to accord the same respect as you would to a venerable ancient master (if not a divinity) when you consult the Yi, and to read the ancient books and classics. It is time to have some seriousness of purpose if you want to go deeper into the Yi studies. Otherwise you may remain foggy as ever and just reading more translations of the Classic could further becloud your mind with things non ancient Chinese.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Thoughts on Hsin Hsin Ming

One was first introduced to this classic Ch’an Buddhist poem, Hsin Hsin Ming (Xinxin Ming) in the Tao Forum last year as a result of a challenge when discussing a Confucian book, The Great Learning as a way to self cultivate. You see, one knows nothing about Ch’an or Zen Buddhism, and discussing Confucian thoughts in a forum dominated by Daoists and Zen Buddhists invariably stirs up resistance and animosity from some members. Therefore I was requested to explain what this poem by the Ch’an Third Patriarch Seng-t’san (or Sengcan) meant and why it emphasized the ‘Not Two’. The difficult part was to find a translation that resonates and one finally settled on the translation by Arthur Waley, made available by a Mr. Rick Mendoza at his website. (The link was lost when the ex-member deleted his post.)

Seng-t’san was a layman in his forties and ill when he met the Second Patriarch, Hui-k’o for the first time in 551 C.E. Hui-k’o , a student of Bodhidharma, deeply impressed with this layman’s capacity for the Dharma; shaved the Third Patriarch’s head and named him Seng-t’san (Jewel of the Community). Seng-t’san was gradually cured of his illness and after two years of practising together Hui-k’o gave him the robe and bowl signifying the transmission of the Dharma. Thereafter he was ordered to hide in the mountains and not to teach, in anticipation of the persecution of Buddhists in China as prophesied by Bodhidharma. Seng-t’san remained in seclusion in the mountains for more than twenty four years. He later met the monk Tao-hsin and transmitted the Dharma to him. Seng-t’san passed away in 606 C.E. under a big tree. (Source:

The Hsin Hsin Ming poem depicts Seng-t’san’s deep insights on the cultivation of essence and bodily life. Although one still knows nothing about Zen practices and beliefs, both the thoughts of Bodhidharma and Seng-t’san do not diverge from those of the Buddha, and that of other ancients on the Way to return to Tao. So here go one’s thoughts on the poem (broken up into two entries as the poem is lengthy). Perhaps, some comments may strike a chord with Buddhists readers and those who practise inner alchemy.

Hsin Hsin Ming:
On trust in the heart.
(Translated by Arthur Waley)

The Perfect Way is only difficult for those who pick and choose;
Do not like, do not dislike; all will then be clear.
Make a hairbreadth difference, and Heaven and Earth are set apart;
If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against.
The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst disease;
While the deep meaning is misunderstood, it is useless to meditate on Rest..
It [the Buddha-nature] is blank and featureless as space; it has no "too little" or "too much;"
Only because we take and reject does it seem to us not to be so.

Comment: There is already a Perfect Way why make things difficult by choosing other ways and go astray.

Do not chase after Entanglements as though they were real things,
Do not try to drive pain away by pretending that it is not real;
Pain, if you seek serenity in Oneness, will vanish of its own accord.
Stop all movement in order to get rest, and rest will itself be restless;
Linger over either extreme, and Oneness is for ever lost.
Those who cannot attain to Oneness in either case will fail:
To banish Reality is to sink deeper into the Real;
Allegiance to the Void implies denial of its voidness.
The more you talk about It, the more you think about It, the further from It you go;
Stop talking, stop thinking, and there is nothing you will not understand.

Comment: How one can still go astray in our cultivation, if careless.

Return to the Root and you will find the Meaning;
Pursue the Light, and you will lose its source,
Look inward, and in a flash you will conquer the Apparent and the Void.

Comment: When one returns to the source, the Truth is there. Do not look outward, meditate and (perhaps) in a flash one attains the Center.

For the whirligigs of Apparent and Void all come from mistaken views;
There is no need to seek Truth; only stop having views.
Do not accept either position [Assertion and Negation], examine it or pursue it;
At the least thought of "Is" and "Isn't" there is chaos and the Mind is lost.
Though the two exist because of the One, do not cling to the One;
Only when no thought arises are the Dharmas without blame.
No blame, no Dharmas; no arising, not thought.
The doer vanishes along with the deed,
The deed disappears when the doer is annihilated.
The deed has no function apart from the doer;
The doer has no function apart from the deed.
The ultimate Truth about both Extremes is that they are One Void.
In that One Void the two are not distinguished;
Each contains complete within itself the Ten Thousand Forms.
Only if we boggle over fine and coarse are we tempted to take sides.
In its essence the Great Way is all embracing;
It is as wrong to call it easy as to call it hard.

Comment: Descriptions of duality: yin yang; forms and emptiness; and of the Center. (Consider the similarities with The Diamond Sutra.)

(Continued in the entry below.)

Thoughts on Hsin Hsin Ming (Part 2)

Partial views are irresolute and insecure,
Now at a gallop, now lagging in the rear.
Clinging to this or to that beyond measure
The heart trusts to bypaths that lead it astray.
Let things take their own course; know that the Essence will neither go nor stay;
Let your nature blend with the Way and wander in it free from care.
Thoughts that are fettered turn from Truth,
Sink into the unwise habit of "not liking."
"Not liking" brings weariness of spirit; estrangements serve no purpose.
If you want to follow the doctrine of the One, do not rage against the World of the Senses.
Only by accepting the World of the Senses can you share in the True Perception.
Those who know most, do least; folly ties its own bonds.
In the Dharma there are no separate dharmas, only the foolish cleave
To their own preferences and attachments.
To use Thought to devise thoughts, what more misguided than this?
Ignorance creates Rest and Unrest; Wisdom neither loves nor hates.
All that belongs to the Two Extremes is inference falsely drawn-

Comment: Holding to wrong views and following what the heart wants to do when it is not at rest, lead to side paths. The senses are not steadfast without stillness and emptiness. The verses also touch on how not to tire the spirit and on self cultivation. (Compare similarities with The Secret of the Golden Flower.)

A dream-phantom, a flower in the air. Why strive to grasp it in the hand?
"Is" and "Isn't," gain and loss banish once for all:
If the eyes do not close in sleep there can be no evil dreams;
If the mind makes no distinctions all Dharmas become one.
Let the One with its mystery blot out all memory of complications.
Let the thought of the Dharmas as All-One bring you to the So-in-itself.
Thus their origin is forgotten and nothing is left to make us pit one against the other.
Regard motion as though it were stationary, and what becomes of motion?
Treat the stationary as though it moved, and that disposes of the stationary.
Both these having thus been disposed of, what becomes of the One?
At the ultimate point, beyond which you can go no further,
You get to where there are no rules, no standards,
To where thought can accept Impartiality,
To where effect of action ceases,
Doubt is washed away, belief has no obstacle.
Nothing is left over, nothing remembered;
Space is bright, but self-illumined; no power of mind is exerted.
Nor indeed could mere thought bring us to such a place.
Nor could sense or feeling comprehend it.
It is the Truly-so, the Transcendent Sphere, where there is neither He nor I.
For swift converse with this sphere use the concept "Not Two;"
In the "Not Two" are no separate things, yet all things are included.

Comment: What to expect and seen during meditation.

The wise throughout the Ten Quarters have had access to this Primal Truth;
For it is not a thing with extension in Time or Space;
A moment and an aeon for it are one.
Whether we see it for fail to see it, it is manifest always and everywhere.
The very small is as the very large when boundaries are forgotten;
The very large is as the very small when its outlines are not seen.
Being is an aspect of Non-being; Non-being is an aspect of Being.
In climes of thought where it is not so the mind does ill to dwell.
The One is none other than the All, the All none other than the One.
Take your stand on this, and the rest will follow of its own accord;
To trust in the Heart is the Not Two, the Not Two is to trust in the Heart.
I have spoken, but in vain; for what can words tell
Of things that have no yesterday, tomorrow or today?

Comment: The wise throughout the world can access the Center where there is no time and space. Therefore trust in the Heart (Hsin) leads to the Center. (Also note the similarities with some chapters in the TTC.)

Seng-t'san is indeed wise.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Of Spirits (Shen) and the Zhouyi

Google’s new blog search is definitely up to date, comprehensive, fast and provides easy access to available blogs, forums, websites and comments in the World Wide Web. Using key words, users can read what has been written in the www, years ago. One was surprised that a Google search showed my posts in the I Ching Forum made under the pseudonym of Chuko Kungming in 2002/03. Since what has been written in the forum previously is now open to public scrutiny, one might as well write them here for readers, getting credits, if any, under my own name. Here goes a story about Spirits (Shen), Zhouyi and my late father.

After a major heart bypass in the 1990s, my father suffered another stroke in mid 2001. His heart specialist did not recommend another heart operation because of his age. He was 79. By late 2001, his health was rapidly weakening and the doctor advised the family to prepare for all eventualities. Under this scenario, my mother went to her favorite Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) temple to ask about my father’s health. According to my brother who accompanied her to the temple, the Monkey God transmitted through the medium to say that my father could not cross January 13th 2002. When my brother told me about the definitive date, I decided to consult the Zhouyi for a confirmation.

The question asked was simple: “What is happening to my father? Yi answered with Hexagram 9 Xiao Chu / The Taming Power of the Small with lines 3 and 5 changing and a resultant Hexagram 41 Sun / Decrease.

The Judgment:
The Taming Power of the Small has success. Dense clouds, no rain from our western regions.

The Image:
The wind drives across heaven.
Thus the superior man refines the outward aspect of his nature.

3rd line:
The spokes burst out of the wagon wheels. Man and wife roll their eyes.

5th line:
If you are sincere and loyally attached, you are rich in your neighbor. [W/B]

Readers may find Yi’s answer inappropriate or confusing to say the least. There was really nothing much to read about my father’s condition at this fundamental level in the judgment, image, lines and commentary. Switching to another level and by interpreting the trigrams, one found all the answers to his weakening condition which confirmed both the heart consultant’s diagnoses and the Daoist deity’s indication of my father’s impending demise on or before January 13th. Not accepting fate one decided to help my father cross that date.

If readers are confused, let us take a look at the Image of Hexagram 9. It says ‘the wind drives across heaven’ which means the Xun trigram on top with Qian trigram below. The attributes of the Xun trigram can mean wood, wind or eldest daughter, while the Qian trigram represents metal, heaven and father. It so happened that my eldest sister lives overseas and one decided to inform her on what the Yi said and asked her to see our father. However the flights were fully booked and she was put on a waiting list to fly back on January 19th. I informed my father that his eldest daughter will return to see him if she can catch a flight. As he was eager to see her, he waited and crossed the indicative date. By the fifteenth, my sister called to say that there were no seats available until end February (because students and people were returning home for Chinese New Year) and someone close told my father about it. My father passed away two days later on January 17th 2002.

Yi’s answers can be simple or complex depending on what we want to learn study or know. Answers from Daoist deities and immortals can be very accurate if mediums are not corrupt. It is just too bad that one does not accept fate lying down. Probably the Monkey God is annoyed now but sincerity is a way of heaven. One used to reflect why decades ago the Monkey God had asked a disciple to chase me away from his temple’s main door saying that I was blocking his sight. At the time, I was just standing at one corner of the wide open entrance, looking in just like any curious kid aged seven or eight would do. Probably knowing about the few days’ extension of time for my father and my writing it out in public today may have caused the spirit’s embarrassment and annoyance. One can ask the Yi about the Monkey God’s thoughts too but what is the point.

Therefore isn’t the Zhouyi great and profound?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Qi as energy and nuclear reactions within

Quite often when a simple question on semantics or metaphors is put to a Daoist forum, there can be multiple answers provided. Probably it is a great way to differentiate the classes of scholars learning the Tao; and such questions allow both the students and masters to reflect on how much or little we know about our own practices. That is if we take the opportunity to contemplate self.

The question on why Qi has been translated as energy by Western translators and bandied around in the forum was raised by a witty and discerning poster which elicited more than fifty replies with some quoting the TTC, Zhuangzi and Wenzi, before someone wiser posted a meaning of Qi from a Chinese dictionary. Quoting ancient texts to answer simple question(s) is akin to ‘using a butcher’s chopper to kill a chicken’ when the use of a knife suffices.

Translating Qi as energy by Western scholars captures the essence or intrinsic nature of that word especially for practices that work with or acquire Qi for health, martial arts and longevity purposes. Qi can also be translated as breath but the translation can be considered vague or confusing in regards to meditative practices. Energy is therefore a better translation of Qi.

A simple example is that of the inhalation and exhalation of breath which requires energy. Ancient or Neo Daoist texts on neidan practices describe the process of breath circulation within the body limbs and head and where heat and light are generated during the flow of energy (Qi). The ancients did not require modern science to explain how the sun emits heat and light energy through nuclear reactions or fusion within its core. Using essence (jing), energy (qi) and spirit (shen), the adepts practised the fusion between the sun (fire) and moon (water) within self.

It is amazing to note that not too long ago scientists eventually found that nuclear fusion using heat and pressure converts two hydrogen atoms to a helium atom with a residue of energy. For during a nuclear reaction within a star, hydrogen atoms fuse to form helium atoms releasing heat and light. The recent scientific findings clearly supports what ancients already knew and practised in neidan (inner alchemy) meditation a few thousand years ago.

Internal circulation of Qi using heat and pressure causes hydrogen atoms present in the air and water within to fuse, releasing heat and the light, emulating the sun. It also explains why during meditation, small explosions and bubbles can be heard within. When the hydrogen and helium gases are collected in sufficient quantities within the body, it enables the neidan adept to float up during meditation. If readers still remain unconvinced or mystified, they can examine why ancients point to the mixing and melting of Kan (Moon / water) and Li (Sun / fire); the so called medicines of neidan practice and perhaps come to a meaningful understanding of ancient thoughts.

Just like the binary system in computers and DNA code of humans arguably depicted in the Yi, probably the ancients did know about the mechanics of nuclear fusion a few thousand years ago describing the reactions with metaphors. Therefore how wise the ancients really were is anyone’s guess.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

When you can do ‘hills pour water’

To continue on the short cryptic messages and to provide an answer to the mother of the mysterious messages, one has left the meaning of ‘hills pour water’ or ‘Shan Dao Shui’ to the last to conclude the story. This not only allows everyone to contemplate on the answers, it also gives me time to wander around the www looking for ideas on what interesting topics to write on. One has a few topics already in mind but these can wait so as not to keep readers in suspense on the final episode of the ‘short cryptic messages’.

The imagery for ‘hills pour water’ or ‘Shan Dao Shui’ is that of hills or mountain with water on top. Only when the water is on top of the hills, do hills pour water. Therefore with a mountain trigram below and water trigram above it gives rise to the Image of Hexagram 39 Jian:

‘Water on the mountain: the image of Obstruction. Thus the superior man turns his attention to himself and molds his character.’

Difficulties and obstructions throw a man back upon himself. While the inferior man (Xiao Ren) seeks to put the blame on other persons, bewailing his fate, the superior man (Junzi) seeks the error within himself, and through this introspection the external obstacle becomes for him an occasion for inner enrichment and education.

The Judgment, Image and the six lines give instruction on how to overcome the obstructions that appear in the course of time. Here an individual is confronted by obstacles that cannot be overcome directly. In such a situation it is wise to pause in view of the danger and to retreat in preparation for overcoming the obstructions. One must join forces with like minded friends and put himself under the leadership of a man equal to the situation: then one will succeed in removing the obstacles. This requires the will to presevere just when one apparently must do something that leads away from his goal. This unswerving inner purpose brings good fortune in the end. An obstruction that lasts only for a time is useful for self-development. This is the value of adversity. [W/B]

The commentary to the judgment, image and the lines provide a primary level to understand the Yi. It also ties in with the immortal’s concern about my dropping the Yi studies half way. On another level, water (Kan) and fire (Li) form the nuclear trigrams. Those familiar with Tao cultivation know that Kan and Li represent medicines for inner alchemy (neidan). Therefore to mix and/or to overthrow Kan and Li implies an esoteric ability which would be taught by the Quanzhen heavenly immortal if one had accepted his offer to become a disciple. To get the best of both worlds, one had continued to study the Yi and in 1993 started practising neidan, hoping to reach a higher level to overcome the obstructions.

At the primary level, one overcomes the obstruction with help from friends or to help friends. A good example is that of those who provide relevant and reliable information in blogs and websites for those earnest and sincere in learning ancient thoughts and the Yi. Up a notch, one needs the help of or helps the immortals to do rescue work. Both scenarios will depend on the line or place where one is supposed to be. The rescue work of Daoist Immortals and Buddhas is to help people and to guide them to return to Tao. It has taken so long to understand the mother of the cryptic verses because one had only started reading the Tao Te Ching, Daoist texts and the Buddhist sutras online about two or three years ago and found them repeating the same thing – ‘the fall from Tao’ and the way to return to Tao.

Writing this story has prompted me to analyze and ponder the relevant information deeper than usual and only last night did I find the answer to the entire mysterious sentence that of, "When you can do hills pour water then you have reached my four immortals’ door front".

For only when the required higher level is reached can one participate in the rescue work whether at the primary level or at the level of the four immortals. Without the requisite knowledge, experience and integrity wherever we write or discuss about ancient thoughts will be scoffed at as amateurish. So far, my thoughts on and interpretations of the Yi seems acceptable to many fellow diviners online, therefore a higher level may have been reached.

The Yi occasionally reveal omens and heaven secrets with which one had and could forewarn relatives, friends and fellow diviners on major ominous events or illnesses that may affect their welfare. For more than two decades, the answers from the Yi have often been taken to compare and found to tie in with what Daoist deities and immortals have indicated or about to indicate, except in cases where the mediums or planchette handlers were corrupt. My later ability to use trigrams and images to interpret omens and heaven secrets provided more details of oncoming events. It also brought on awareness whenever the Yi wants to tell me something. Only then will one ask for the message. It follows that with such messages from the Yi, one may have reached the level of spirits (Shen) and at the four immortals’ door front helping in their rescue work.

To explain the four immortals, firstly one would say it could refer to the remaining four Northern Patriarchs of Quanzhen. But not being big headed, one would rely on the six lines of Hexagram 39 to provide the answer.

The person of the top line returns to see the great man in line five. The ruler in line five who is called to help in an emergency has the ability to attract and organize helpers to overcome the obstruction (the rescue work). The minister at the fourth gathers trustworthy companions for the work. The official at the third returns and meets up with the person below. The person in line two has been called to duty and seeks out danger in the service of a higher cause. The person in line one having just entered the situation, encounters the obstruction and returns home; leaving the other five to do the rescue work. (This left the minister in a lurch.) The remaining five comprises of the four immortals and me. And if a line position has to be indicated then one will probably be in line two – the king’s servant.

With all the answers provided including the mother of the cryptic verses, the conditional offer of a reward in the form of a Yi divination has lapsed.

It is entirely up to readers to follow the Quanzhen immortal’s advice on the use of trigrams and Images or to follow those Yi scholars and experts who argue against their usage because the ancients do not use them. The available records so far point to their usage during the Spring and Autumn period, the earliest around 600 BC. To remain blameless, one can only say it works.

A special thanks to Steve Marshall for his comments and for the correct pinyin usages. Thanks to readers for listening to this long story and Google for providing this blog for free. A donation has been made to the building fund for the new Quanzhen main temple with an indicated top up when one has a bit more money.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Stand not in the middle of the hill and ‘green colored land’

This entry provides answers to two more of the ‘short cryptic messages’ from a Quanzhen heavenly immortal on one’s fortune. To refresh our memories, one appends the sentence that contains four of these messages:

“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.”

As two of the messages, ‘Dizhonghai’ (the sea in the middle of land) and ‘Birds flying’ have already been dealt with in an earlier entry, let us look at the remaining two cryptic messages.

The first of the two is ‘not to stand in the middle of the hill otherwise the hill opens up resulting in a fall into the middle of the land below’. So what does the message say?

If we visualize the imagery, it looks like someone standing on a hill (or mountain). The hill opens up suddenly and the person falls into the middle of land (or earth). If readers still cannot picture it, have a look at the Mountain trigram. It is made up of a flat unbroken line at the top supported by two broken lines at the bottom. That is why the message says not to stand in the ‘middle’ (and not on top) of the hill. The Earth trigram made up by another three broken lines is taken to represent land below. If we look at all five broken lines, we will see that there is a middle parting or gap in each broken line. Therefore if the only unbroken line on the top of the mountain opens up or breaks, then the person standing in its middle falls all the way down the gap to the middle of earth below.

Mountain resting on Earth gives rise to Hexagram 23 where the Image says:
“The mountain rests on the earth; the image of Splitting Apart. Thus those above can ensure their position only by giving generously to those below.”

Those familiar with this hexagram may note a subtle difference between the imagery given in the message which infers that the mountain ‘collapses inwards’ instead of the Wilhelm/Baynes commentary that the mountain ‘topples over’. It is of no consequence however whether a mountain collapses inwards or topples over; a person standing on the mountain invariably gets injured by the upturned earth. To escape the danger the Junzi gives generously to the people below.

Next we take a look at ‘green colored land’. Does the green color mean trees, wood, grass or mountains? None seems to fit until one recalled that the Chinese sometimes refer to land as green land (especially those covered with grass and/or vegetation). (It pays to listen in on elders' conversations now and then.) Therefore ‘green colored land’ gives rise to the doubling of land or earth, meaning Hexagram 2 Kun / The Receptive, Earth. As some readers may be aware, the Yi gave a couple of omens, namely ‘the 9/11’ and ‘another 9/11’ incidents to me through this hexagram.

Of the four hexagrams contained in the sentence, except for the ‘Birds Flying’ of Hexagram 62, the remaining three have been delivered through the imagery of trigrams. Together with the much commented on ‘Shan Dao Shui’ or ‘hills pour water’ in another sentence, it has become apparent that the heavenly immortal was also teaching the student to look at trigrams and the Images back in 1993. Ignorant of the fact that both Eastern and Western scholars continuously argue over their usage, one began to analyze and examine the trigrams and the Images in detail. And found them to work just like what the immortal and ancients had indicated. Perhaps being a frog in the well has its own merits. But on a more serious note, there is more to it than that.

To be continued.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Of students and masters

Daoist students have always been fascinated by wonderful stories of skills possessed by Chinese masters and adepts in martial arts or in inner alchemy. Invariably some of these skills colored by their own imaginations and exaggerations get overblown from time to time. And more often than not, the imaginary superhuman skills are exploited to mislead unsuspecting Daoist students.

There are now quite a number of inner alchemy (neidan) practices offered in the West by masters trained in China by so claimed high spiritual masters. Apparently the higher the claimed spiritual level or the number of titles their master’s masters held in China, the more authentic and impressive it would sound to Western students. (This brings to mind, the maiden who loses possession of herself when she sees a man of bronze as depicted in line 3 of Hexagram 4 / Youthful Folly.)

It actually depends on what these masters brought over from China to teach. After all there is a marked difference between authentic and deviant practices in inner alchemy. And a real danger in the practice of breath control. As even in China, there were students who have gone mad or had committed suicide after practising perhaps the wrong neidan or qigong techniques (as reported in a Qi journal in the www).

Having read recently a 1994 interview on such a master by the name of Kumar Frantzis who had spent a few years in China learning from a so claimed high master of an unnamed Daoist sect; one ventured to ask my Daoist friend what were the ‘water’ and ‘fire’ methods of the Tao. Not recognizing the names, I was asked to explain what Kumar had meant by these two methods. With the clarification, he said and I quote:

“There are two methods in neidan practice. One is called the ‘stillness’ technique as practised by Quanzhen where breathing is natural and the other is the ‘active’ technique which uses force. They are not known as the ‘water’ and ‘fire’ methods of Tao, but as ‘stillness’ and ‘active’ techniques respectively.”

When I mentioned that Kumar also teaches sexual meditation techniques**, we came to the same conclusion that it is a deviant practice. ‘How can a neidan adept ever become an immortal if he does not abstain from sex?’ my friend asked. Perhaps neidan practitioners who teach sexual meditation techniques in the West can provide an answer to that.

If masters promote the lineage and high profile of their masters, and yet not name the sect or school of thought, it depicts a surprising lack of knowledge in Chinese culture. Or perhaps they really feel ashamed of the sect. Therefore Western students should keep a look out for such tell-tale signs in their search for authentic masters and teachings.

The 1994 interview is available at this website:

On another master in China who is eighty or more years old. He has practised meditation for sixty of those years and has recently send some students to Malaysia to teach breath control akin to the ‘Circulation of the Light’ meditation or what is better known in the West as ‘Micro Cosmic Orbit’ meditation. The meditation is taught over a 12 days session for a small fee of USD 70 or 40 pound sterling. If students are not able to achieve a break through in the breath circulation, they can attend further sessions for free. Some students achieved the break through within a matter of days, before proceeding to the ‘Macro Cosmic Orbit’ where qi circulates to the arms and legs. It is easy, simple and effective. There are safeguards provided and also advanced courses available. The only minor drawbacks, if any, could be that the meditation starts with exhalation, instead of (the usual) inhalation; and that they accept young adults as students.

This old master made no claims on lineages, sects or titles, except that the meditation was ‘developed’ by him for purposes of health.


1) In the interview, it was strange that Kumar did not mention his master’s sect in China. Nor did he name it in his book. According to him at the interview, he spent a total of ten years in China, of which 7 ½ years were spent in Taiwan and Hong Kong where he learned the ‘fire’ method and the sexual meditation techniques. His master in China who had abstained from sex after performing his filial duties as a son, taught Kumar the so-called ‘water’ method.

2) According to someone in a forum who kindly provided the additional information where one enquired about the sect’s name, Kumar in his book referred to his master as an immortal who was also accorded an enlightenment status by a Buddhist sect. (And that his master’s sect can only be revealed to Kumar’s own students.) Of course, it remains specious, as not many neidan adepts and sages have attained immortality or the Tao.

3) ** For comments on the practice of sexual meditation techniques in China, refer to entries on ‘Hua Hu Ching’ – April 27 and ‘The Center’ (Note 2) – June 17. In addition, the Book of the Elixir also says: ‘The fool wastes the most precious jewel of his body in uncontrolled lust…. The holy and the wise men have no other way of cultivating their lives except by destroying lusts and safeguarding the seed.’ Yet masters who teach sexual meditation techniques in the West unashamedly and unethically continue to claim otherwise to mislead na├»ve students.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

‘Dizhonghai’ and ‘Birds Flying’

Since no readers except Steve Marshall, whose comments were much appreciated, has come forward and made attempts to interpret the so-called ‘short cryptic messages’ given by a Quanzhen heavenly immortal, perhaps it is wise not to hold back the answers and keep readers too much in suspense. With Steve’s deep insight of Yi studies and his knowledge of ancient Chinese customs and thoughts, one had indicated to my Daoist friend beforehand and it had turned out right that Steve would probably attempt the answers. This shows Steve's willingness and sincerity to share his knowledge with those earnest to learn things Chinese and the Yi.

The entry on ‘Short cryptic messages’ was written with the same intention to provide some insights into religious Daoist practices that is on messages transmitted by heavenly immortals and the interpretation of the messages which invariably come in the form of poetry or flowery language, sometimes only to be understood by the recipient, like in this case. This explains why the Daoist disciples could not decipher the messages. In addition, the messages probably provide ‘unwritten’ or ‘unavailable’ insights into ancient Daoist thoughts on Yi studies, where experts and scholars have argued over the ages on usage of the Image(s) and trigrams. Therefore one was lucky to have an immortal provide these insights, and take the opportunity to share them here with you.

Of the six short cryptic messages, one will deal with the easiest and most obvious two. What has first triggered the answers in my mind was the ‘Birds Flying’. What has birds flying or flying birds got to do with my fortune and work? In 1993, one had obtained the ‘Flying dragon in the heavens’ line, left a well paid job and gone into full time shares investment or trading. Then I recalled Hexagram 62 Hsiao Kuo / Preponderance of the Small where in the judgment, it says: ‘The flying bird brings the message’. The flying bird also appears in lines one and six. This was another reason why one has written on a recent entry to this Hexagram that it carries a ‘special’ significance. If you reread that entry probably you may get the gist of why it relates to my fortune or work.

The next not so obvious answer is for ‘Dizhonghai’ or ‘land middle sea’ paraphrased as ‘sea in the middle of land’. As Steve correctly indicated, Dizhonghai is the Chinese for the Mediterranean Sea. But it was not the answer. This was one reason why one has mentioned (in my previous entry on these messages) that Daoist immortals also want to have fun. The immortal was testing my earnestness and sincerity to learn. Firstly he said to follow him to read his ‘real classic’ and not learn the Yi as both classics are the same? He was also concerned that one may drop the Yi studies halfway. Then in reply to the question on my fortune, he gave ‘cryptic messages’ (which turned out) to represent trigrams and hexagrams. Probably he must have ‘sniggered’ when he transmitted the messages (within a couple of minutes).

Dizhonghai, if some readers do not know by now refers to Hexagram 7 Shih / The Army. The trigrams for the hexagram are water below earth. And in the Image, it is written as:

“In the middle of the earth is water: The image of the Army. Thus the superior man increases his masses by generosity toward the people.” [W/B]

Perhaps with two answers provided, readers can attempt the remaining cryptic messages either privately or published their comments in this entry. As always, one suggests you use the Wilhelm/Baynes translation. Have fun.

To be continued.

Relevant entries: ‘Short cryptic messages’- Sept 27; ‘Thoughts on Hexagram 62’ - August 17; ‘Flying dragon in the heavens’ – July 1; and ‘A choice between the Yi and a Quanzhen immortal’ - April 13.