Sunday, August 27, 2006

54 Gui Mei / The Marrying Maiden

At times the Book of Changes provide profound answers that need deep pondering, but knowing that I am simple minded, the Yi often answer my questions in a straight forward manner. No twists and turns.

To a previous question on the purchase of a share investment, the Yi had given Hexagram 8 Bi / Holding Together as the prognostication, and already mentioned in one of the ‘Do not chase after your horse’ entries, one did not invest in this particular share at the time. For two months, the share has hovered around the price at the time of asking. In line with the Judgment of Bi, one inquired of the Oracle once again if it was the right time to buy the shares.

The answer to my latest question came in the form of Gui Mei with second and third lines moving and changed the hexagram to Hexagram 55 Feng / Abundance.

Before we look into the prognostication, let me briefly run through what is happening or has happened to the particular company. The major shareholder or owner, a corporate, had tried to dispose of its investment in the company to an international suitor, several years ago, for a few billion ringgits. But the then Prime Minister did not accede to the sale. The company is currently being restructured and repackaged to make it more attractive to international suitors. (This forms part of my homework to gather relevant public information on a potential investment before investing.)

With this brief background on the potential investment, perhaps you can see why the answer from the Yi to my question is straight forward.

The Judgment:
The Marrying Maiden. Undertakings bring misfortune. Nothing that would further.

Second line:
A one-eyed man who is able to see. The perseverance of a solitary man furthers.

Third line:
The marrying maiden as a slave. She marries as a concubine.

In the judgment, the company is depicted as the Marrying Maiden. And the Yi advises not to undertake anything as nothing would further.

The commentary to the second line talks about a situation of a girl married to a man who has disappointed her. Here the girl is left behind in loneliness; the man of her choice either has become unfaithful or has died. Though the other eye is gone, she maintains her loyalty even in loneliness.
Think of the previous international suitor, a man of her choice. The girl could have done well under his guidance as they could have worked together. Both are of the same nature – in the same line of business.

The commentary to the third line says this:
A girl who is in a lowly position and finds no husband may, in some circumstances, still win shelter as a concubine.
Sometimes it is not right for a father - read the then Prime Minister - to interfere in his daughter’s marriage to a good suitor of her choice, just because of face. Otherwise she would not have come to this position and circumstance.

In conclusion, the Yi is saying, do not invest in the company’s shares as undertakings bring misfortune. She will not marry as a wife but as a concubine. Probably the company will become part of a big group of companies and will be neglected by the husband later.

In times like this, we have to wait for impending falls of its share price and buy the shares after the plunge and before the price flares up again – see the Judgment of Feng / Abundance.

The Judgment:
Abundance has success. The king attains abundance. Be not sad. Be like the sun at midday.

If we want to ensure the time is right to buy the shares after its price plunges, if at all, we can still ask the Yi then. But we can miss the boat too, if you know what I mean.

Hopefully with this simple and easy analysis, you can understand how one interprets a straight forward prognostication and the follow up actions required of a divination.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Where to learn Quanzhen meditation

A reader has written to ask me to teach him or her, Quanzhen meditation. This entry serves as an open letter to the reader and others who may have interest to learn the particular type of meditation.

If one has not been clear enough in previous entries, please let me set the record straight. While one may know a thing or two about Quanzhen meditation, and its various similarities with my self taught neidan practice, I am not Quanzhen and have never claimed to be a disciple. As one understands it, only neidan adepts and the Quanzhen immortals are allowed to teach the various methods of meditation to their disciples. Quanzhen is quite strict on this. Even elders of Quanzhen temples may not be allowed to teach meditation.

Therefore for those who are earnest and sincere to learn the meditation, they have to seek entry to a Quanzhen temple and gain acceptance by a Daoist immortal to become a disciple. And go from there.

While there are already some Quanzhen temples in Europe and in the UK, they have yet to accept non Chinese as disciples because of the lack of various facilities (which include the interpretation, translation and transmission of messages through the planchette).

Over the years, my Quanzhen friend has asked if there are many Western Daoists who are sincere and earnest to learn Tao, and my answer has always been in the positive. He still wants to gauge if it is worthwhile to set up the facilities to accept Western Daoists.

Meanwhile those interested Western Daoists who have affinity with Quanzhen immortals will have to wait until the temples are open to them or they can go to a Quanzhen temple in China to become a disciple, like some in the West have done, if they so wish.

For your information and just in case Daoist readers feel upset about the exclusiveness of Quanzhen, even if one were to visit my friend’s temple, I have to first seek his permission. The Quanzhen temples in Malaysia and Europe under his care are not open to the general public or to any Daoist.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Focus on the breath

About three years ago in a Tao forum, one had advised a fellow traveler to ‘focus on the breath’ while practicing meditation. She was an earnest student of Tao and meditation, reading books on and studying various methods of meditation akin to the Circulation of the Light.

She would travel from the US to India every year to see her guru, a renowned teacher, to improve her meditation and practice. And she would post the various methods of meditation on the forum board for sharing with fellow travelers. She understood Daoist meditations more than most but her practice was not improving. Only when she indicated that she was not able to concentrate properly while in meditation because of thoughts rushing in, did I recommend her to focus on the breath.

Thereby, one was shouted down since she was acknowledged as the most knowledgeable person on Daoist meditation in that forum. According to her admirers and followers, how could I know that she does not know about it already? Yes, how could I know?

Three years on, Daoists in the forums still bandy around the term, ‘focus on the breath’ without realizing what it has to do with the backward flow meditation.

Let us turn to Lu Yen better known as Lu Dongbin, one of the eight renowned Daoist immortals for the answer, shall we?

In sitting down, after lowering the lids, one uses the eyes to establish a plumb-line and then shifts the light downward. But if the transposition downward is not successful, then the heart is directed towards listening to the breathing. One should not be able to hear with the ear the outgoing and in taking of the breath. What one hears is that it has no tone. As soon as it has tone, the breathing is rough and superficial, and does not penetrate into the open. Then the heart must be made quite light and insignificant. The more it is released, the less it becomes; the less it is, the quieter. All at once it becomes so quiet that it stops. Then the true breathing is manifested and the form of the heart comes to consciousness.

The Buddha said: ‘When you fix your heart on one point, then nothing is impossible for you.’ The heart easily runs away, so it is necessary to concentrate it by means of breath-energy. Breath-energy easily becomes rough; therefore it has to be refined by the heart. When that is done, can it then happen that it is not fixed?

While sitting, one must therefore always keep the heart quiet and the energy concentrated. How can the heart be made quiet? By the breath. Only the heart must be conscious of the flowing in and out of the breath; it must not be heard with the ears. If it is not heard, then the breathing is light; if light, it is pure. If it can be heard, then the breath-energy is rough; if rough, then it is troubled; if troubled, then indolence and lethargy develop and one wants to sleep. That is self-evident.
[The Secret of the Golden Flower – W/B]

When we focus on the breath during meditation, thoughts do not flood in. Neither will we fall asleep since we concentrate on the breath and are aware where it is going. In neidan practice, focusing on the breath is elementary but important. Learn it well to go further.

Have fun in focusing on the breath. When fire fills your belly, and thunder roars upon breathing in, while immortals sing, perhaps you may know by then if what Immortal Lu and Buddha already said is true.

But then again, like what those forum members and Zhuangzi had asked, ‘How could I know?’

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Notes on Da Zhuang

This entry continues the discussion on the waxing and waning of Qian and Kun (or of the Moon). In the sequence, Hexagram 34 Da Zhuang / The Power of the Great stand in between Tai / Peace and Guai / Breakthrough. Since Wilhelm and his teacher captured the essence of this hexagram in the sequence, the selected commentary in his translation proves useful for our understanding of the hexagram and the related neidan practice.

The great lines, that is, the light, strong lines, are powerful. Four light lines have entered the hexagram from below and about to ascend higher. The hexagram is linked with the second month (March-April).

The Judgment: The Power of the Great. Perseverance furthers.

The hexagram points to a time when inner worth mounts with great force and comes to power. But its strength has already passed beyond the median line, hence there is danger that one may rely entirely on one’s own power and forget to ask what is right. There is danger too that, being intent on movement, we may not wait for the right time. For that truly great power which does not degenerate into mere force but remains inwardly united with the fundamental principles of right and of justice. When we understand this point - namely, that greatness and justice must be indissolubly united - we understand the true meaning of all that happen in heaven and on earth.

The Image: Thus the Junzi does not tread upon paths that do not accord with established order. [W/B]

Starting from the Return (24) of the light, Approach (19), then Peace (11), the Qi and the Light has reached the Power of the Great (34) and have taken four steps to push out the darkness and replace the void with the light. Four light lines are below while two dark lines remain on top.

Neidan students may find that this stage is not easy to cross. The transition from the mid point of the spinal cord where Tai stands was rather smooth and easy. However the Qi can be blocked and dammed up at this place represented by Da Zhuang – the place between the shoulder blades just above the small of the back - if the breath is not strong enough to push upwards to Guai. However we are told not to use power to push through the blockage, for if we do, further amounts of Qi will be dammed up which will cause more pain and discomfort.

At this stage, we need to be gentle and still. Not active and not to rely on our power. If the backward flow breathing is natural and soft, there is a good chance of a breakthrough. With the advice, the hexagram may help explain the difference between the Stillness method and the Active method of meditation. It also helps to differentiate the established order from bypaths.

Similar to the advice given in the judgment and the image, the lines warned against using force, and remaining stubborn which may get one trapped like a goat in a difficult position. Just like the continual damming up of Qi at this place.

If neidan students feel blockages around the small of the back or in-between the shoulder blades then it is advisable to stop the practice, and get some help from a Chinese physician or a Qigong master who is familiar with providing such relief. The dammed up Qi will remain or build up there for quite some time and will cause a lot of pain if nothing is done about it. Just like the goat in the top line of Da Zhuang, the Qi is stuck; it cannot go up nor can it come down of its own. If you realize this, stop and seek help.

For others who can pass through this stage with ease, the Qi and the light will continue upwards to Guai (43) / Breakthrough. Guai has already been discussed in a previous entry. After Guai comes Qian / The Creative, Heaven.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Foreseeing the future

Palmists, fortune tellers, psychics, tarot readers are among those who can read the future. So can Daoist deities and immortals, and Buddhas. How accurate the readings will ultimately depend on the skills of each reader or the medium. The criterion also applies to an I Ching divination.

While many people read the Yi, some do not believe in divinations, some do not consult because their religion forbids divinations. Not wanting to divine for these reasons is understandable. But those who believe in Yi divinations and yet do not think that the Yi can tell the future are fooling themselves if not out of their depth in Yi studies.

There are also those who prefer not to know the future. They do not wish to know the misfortunes that may arise along with the good if they have their fortune read. Perhaps they may find it worthwhile to ask the Yi instead.

The Yi not only allows diviners an insight into the future, it usually empowers them with alternative actions to change their future for the better too. If only the diviners can interpret with certain accuracy what the Yi wanted to say. Reading skills come with continual practice. In any prognostication, the Yi will give alternative courses of action. For clarity, staying put or not doing anything is also an action. (On the assumption, the divination was for taking an action, like for a travel, or for an investment.)

Therein lay the difference between a fortune telling and a Yi divination. The Yi provides alternative actions to overcome current or unforeseen obstacles and/or to make life better, if one follows the prognostications. While a skilled fortune teller, palmist, psychic and tarot reader just tell what lies ahead. They cannot foresee many changes.

If one is skilled in Yi divinations and in interpretation of prognostications, the future can be seen way ahead of time. Instead of swimming against the tide, the diviner will then be able to go with the flow. And learn something about Tao. Is this not like ‘without going out of the door, you can know the world’ and ‘without looking at the window, you can see the ways of Heaven’? (TTC 47)

If instead you like to cast the Oracle outdoors, perhaps that could be cheating (as a result of the peeks)?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

How to lose Heaven’s Mandate

Since the capital had been moved eastward from Hao to Luoyang in 770 BC, the Zhou gradually lost control over the zhuhou – rulers of feudal states. During the Spring & Autumn and the Warring States eras, the states contended for hegemony for more than five hundred years. Until the ruler of the strongest state, Qin finally conquered the other six states before capturing Luoyang, thereby ending the Zhou dynasty in 221 BC. The Zhou dynasty had reigned over China for 800 years. (Think about the sagacity of King Wen, his strategist, Jiang Ziya – Taigong, and his son, Zhougong Dan.)

King Zheng of Qin spent twenty over years to conquer and annexed the other states. On the advice of his Prime Minister Li Si, he ended the divisive feudal system practiced by the Zhou. King Zheng became the first emperor of Qin. He had the country’s 120,000 richest families move to the capital, Xianyang to prevent any rebellion.

To prevent foreign barbarians from invading, the emperor sent a million prisoners and conscripted laborers to build the Great Wall along the northern border. He also ordered 700,000 prisoners to build the Afang Palace and the Lishan Tomb. Suffering under the heavy conscripted labor and taxation, the common people hated the Emperor of Qin. The Qin Dynasty did not last long. It collapsed within 14 years.

How often need the ancients advise : Rule the people with benevolence (Ren) and righteousness/justice (Yi)

When a ruler loses touch with the masses because of his arrogance and inhumanity, Heaven will withdraw its Mandate. The Daoists may call it ‘cause and effect’ and the Buddhists may name it ‘Karma’.

The same applied to Hsiang Yu, the Overlord of China, after he gave the order to massacre 200,000 Qin soldiers who had surrendered to Chu. He also ordered the killing of his appointed rulers of weaker states.

How could Heaven forgive someone who kill or abet to kill innocents and allow him to hold the Mandate? Where would be the justice? As we are aware, the Mandate of Heaven was given to Liu Pang of Han, the weaker of the two contenders, instead.

Things we can learn from history.

Monday, August 07, 2006

2nd Line of Kun

Six in the second place means:
Straight, square, great. Without purpose, yet nothing remains unfurthered.

The words in the second line of Hexagram 2 Kun / The Receptive are simple and easy enough to understand yet one often sees Yi students stumble over the meaning. And some like to take to task what Richard Wilhelm has translated. But his translation is clear and good enough for many Western students and yours truly. Otherwise how the translation could be considered a reference book for many Yi aficionados in the West?

Wilhelm’s teacher, Lao Nai-hsuan was one of the foremost Chinese scholars at the time. Both the pupil and his teacher had worked on the translation. No doubt, Wilhelm’s translation may not be perfect since both his and NH Lao’s knowledge could be limited to a certain extent as to the lack of full research into antiquity and in defining the profound meaning of Tao.

In his translation, the meanings of straight, square, great were explained this way:

The symbol of heaven is the circle, and that of earth is the square. Thus squareness is a primary quality of the earth. On the other hand, movement in the straight line, as well as magnitude, is a primary quality of the Creative. But all square things have their origin in a straight line and in turn form solid bodies. Nature was taken as an example to further the meanings on Straight and Square; and to explain the meaning of Great. [I Ching – W/B]

One is sure the above explanation is deep enough even for Yi scholars and experts, and students of Tao.

What does the second sentence of ‘Without purpose, yet nothing remains unfurthered’ mean? It is also simple and easy to understand. No? Just refer to your Daoist studies. Probably the Daoists better understand the meaning in this sentence.

If readers still do not understand the meaning of the second sentence, please read the Tao Te Ching, or any other good Daoist texts. The truths remain in those texts forever waiting for the earnest. Not unlike the truth hidden in the second line of Kun probably reserved for the sincere and earnest students. If Wilhelm and/or his teacher knew about this hidden truth, they never said. Sometimes it could be beneficial for the truth to remain hidden and let the earnest search for it.

Meanwhile the Yi scholars and experts still have occasions to discourse the meaning of the second line of Kun in time to come. It is alright; one still learns something from these discourses and is aware of one’s limited knowledge. After all, one only knows a touch, a touch of the ancients.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hui Ming Ching

The ‘Hui Ming Ching’ (The Book of Consciousness and Life) was written by Liu Huayang, a monk, in 1794. The text combines Buddhist and Daoist directions for meditation. It comprises of eight paragraphs of verses with explanations and drawings on how to attain Immortality or Buddhahood. The directions given therein are more precise than that made available in the Secret of the Golden Flower. Both texts have been translated and made available together by Wilhelm/Baynes with a commentary by Carl Jung. (Wilhelm had highlighted in the translation that his obtained copy of the Secret of the Golden Flower is incomplete.)

By combining both translated texts in the same book, Wilhelm knew it would help readers and those interested in alchemy (neidan) to compare the respective directions given by Immortal Lu and Liu. While both texts may not contain the entire process of neidan practice, it did help this blogger clarify many things.

Neidan practice is too wide and deep a subject for any text to cover its entirety. Earnest neidan practitioners have to diligently compare notes from several Daoist texts, Buddhist sutras, Confucian books and Chinese Classics, to understand the principles and progress in their dual cultivation. If your neidan master tells you otherwise, it is time to move on.

Let us explore the first paragraph of verses in the Hui Ming Ching titled: Cessation of Out flowing

If thou wouldst complete the diamond body with no out flowing,
Diligently heat the roots of consciousness and life.
Kindle light in the blessed country ever close at hand,
And there hidden, let thy true self always dwell.

‘If you want to complete the ‘immortal’ body, there should be no out flowing.

Liu Huayang indicated that the note on cessation of out flowing came from the Lengyen Ching (Shurangama Sutra). Compare the first verse to the sexual practices advocated in deviant texts and the sexual meditation courses taught by self professed neidan masters.

‘Diligently heat the roots of consciousness and life.’

This verse depicts the dual cultivation required, the cultivation of heavenly essence (Hsing) and bodily life (Ming). Heat arises from breath control (backward flow) meditation.

‘Kindle light in the blessed country ever close at hand.’

The ancient classics, Daoist texts and Buddhist sutras all indicate the light and at times, where it can be seen.

‘And there hidden, let thy true self always dwell.’

Let your spirit dwell in the blessed country within. This verse is similar to that indicated in the Neiyeh, and in Xin Zhai by Zhuangzi on the practice of the ancients.