Sunday, November 30, 2008

Why the able remain in hiding

The ongoing great bear markets of 2008 have and continue to destroy much wealth all over the world. Many an investor have been severely hurt whether they were invested in stocks and shares, bonds, real properties, commodities, foreign currencies, works of art or antiques. Some lost entire fortunes or their retirement funds. How badly burnt they got themselves, is relative to their means.

Tycoons and owners of quoted companies probably lost much more than the man-in-the-street in terms of quantum. Quite a number of the Forbes Asian billionaires watched their fortunes, measured in stocks; dwindle by 40 to 60% according to Bloomberg. At least, they can do something since they know much about their own companies’ businesses and with it, their very chances of recovery.

It differs with those professional chief executives of global (or your local) giant companies who hang on to their lucrative paid jobs and try to fool their government into throwing more and more money at the huge problems that the incompetent had created. Think of AIG and the rescued casino banks.

If you happen to read some of the balance sheets of the US titans, freely available at Yahoo Finance at a click, you may wonder if their CEOs or their major institutional investors actually read the companies’ financial statements.

While the 2007 Balance Sheet of a titan showed net liabilities in tens of billions which depicts that the company is already insolvent then, its CEO still have the cheek to claim it can survive, if the government pumps in huge sums of money. The financial crises and the stock markets meltdown had actually started in 2008 and not in 2007. So there you go.

Then there is another example where a global bank had financed a gigantic amount of long termed investments with short term loans. The investments amounting to more than a trillion of US dollars in its books is rather frightening and would rank third, in terms of countries’ foreign reserves, behind those of China and Japan. Its CEO has recently ‘fobbed’ that his bank company is still liquid, even though its balance sheet showed that current liabilities exceeding current assets by hundreds of billions.

Without a doubt, the US Fed and the Treasury can make this global bank and others very liquid or solvent by pumping in tens or hundreds of billions.

Already the US government has committed or provided for nine trillion for financial markets liquidity and rescues, a more genteel word than bailouts, as if it really matters now! Together with Europe’s announced bailouts or rescues, the total required funding tops USD 11 trillion, which probably exceeds the combined foreign reserves of the entire world.

Ever wonder how the US and Europe fund that colossal sum designated for the rescues? Who can bail these countries out if and when necessary?

With the huge plunge in assets value and depressed commodity prices after the first half of 2008, renowned economists have started to predict a severe recession or even another Great Depression. The US President had announced why the US needed the USD 700 billion rescue package after its approval. He was told by those in the know that there could be a Great Depression more severe than the 1930s if no such major rescue were pending.

Yet Malaysians are bombarded almost daily that their country’s economy would be alright going forward and why, similar rhetoric to the last four months of 1997 when the Thai Baht was being attacked and rapidly devalued. Obviously, like some other Asian governments, the Malaysian government does not see the necessity to jolt her citizens out of their stupor while the financial tsunami wrecks havoc elsewhere on earth. The Malaysian government may have a valid reason, this time round because of the country’s large foreign reserves.

The KLSE still ranks among the best performers in 2008 amid the battered global stock markets falling less than most. That was one reason why I had not provided a free lunch to Malaysian pensioners or retirees, since the KLCI blue chips may have some ways to fall.

Pensioners could be catching falling knives, even if they have the means and planned lower targets to buy, when the remaining huge foreign funds decide to rush out of the KLSE for a reason or other. By coincidence, British Telecoms recently plunged to an all time low in the London Stock Exchange before rebounding.

Prescient plays a very important part in surviving this financial tsunami and preserving capital for opportunities of a lifetime. But we have to be wary of false prophets.

Amid the worsening global scenario and big corporations failing elsewhere, it peeves me to read in The Star publication an absurd article by the CEO of a tiny Malaysian investment fund which implied that people should not wished for a Great Depression 2 to happen.

If people can ‘wish upon a star’ or pray and get back their recent lost wealth, I am sure billions in the world would do so, if they have not done that already.

When your parts of the world is ruled by or have public quoted corporations run by incompetents, it is best for the able to go into hiding otherwise they could get slaughtered too, so say the ancients and the Yi. Why?

For with the closure of Heaven and Earth on September 15 2008, and without Tao, not even the gods can help.

So it is best that the able remain in hiding to avoid the final cut.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Go on to greater heights

The Master said,

‘To live in obscurity, and yet practise wonders, in order to be mentioned with honour in future ages:- this is what I do not do.

The good man (Junzi) tries to proceed according to the right path (Way), but when he has gone halfway, he abandons it: - I am not able so to stop.

The superior man (Junzi) accords with the course of the Mean. Though he may be all unknown, unregarded by the world, he feels no regret: - It is only the sage who is able for this.

[Chapter 11 – Doctrine of the Mean – Legge]

It is characteristic of the most entire sincerity to be able to foreknow. When a nation or family is about to flourish, there are sure to be happy omens; and when it is about to perish, there are sure to be unlucky omens.

Such events are seen in the milfoil and tortoise, and affect the movements of the four limbs. When calamity or happiness is about to come, the good shall certainly be foreknown by him, and the evil also.

Therefore the individual possessed of the most complete sincerity is like a spirit (shen).

[Chapter 24]

Past eminent Confucian scholars have had discussed this chapter 24 in detail according to Legge but he penned this in a footnote:

“The whole chapter is eminently absurd, and gives a character of ridiculousness to all the magniloquent teaching about ‘entire sincerity’. The foreknowledge attributed to the Sage, - the mate of Heaven, - is only a guessing by means of augury, sorcery, and other follies.”

By rubbishing the chapter, renowned sinologist James Legge showed his religious bias and ignorance of Yi divination. His unfounded opinion probably misled a few generations of Yi aficionados in the West to believe that the future cannot be foreseen with the Book of Changes.

Perhaps Legge had never heard of Guan Lo of late Han or those Yi students who can divine like a spirit.

Over the years, regular readers have probably seen plenty of happy and unlucky omens, and heaven’s secrets in this blog. So much so that one fellow Yi aficionado even complimented me being akin to Shen Suan Liu Bowan, the adviser to a Ming emperor.

Do you really think I have been guessing, using sorcery or other follies, all this time?

When one can divine like a spirit, what next?

In the Great Treatise, the wise tell Yi aficionados to assist the gods!

For that you may need to raise your spiritual level and know what gods (include Daoist deities, heavenly immortals and Buddhas) actually do on earth.

The Way which the superior man pursues, reaches wide and far, and yet is secret.
[Chapter 12]


Friday, November 14, 2008

Wise and generous mother earth

Perfect indeed is the sublimity of the Receptive. All beings owe their birth to it, because it receives the heavenly with devotion.

The Receptive in its riches carries all things. Its nature is in harmony with the boundless. It embraces everything in its breath and illumines everything in its greatness. Through it, all individual beings attain success.

A mare belongs to the creatures of the earth; she roams the earth without bound. Yielding, devoted, furthering through perseverance; thus the superior man has a direction for his way of life.

Taking the lead brings confusion because one loses his way. Following with devotion – thus does one attain his permanent place.

In the west and south one finds friends, so that he proceeds with people of his own kind. In the east and north one must do without friends, so that he finally attains good fortune.

The good fortune of rest and perseverance depends on our being in accord with the boundless nature of the earth. [W/B]

In writing the commentaries to the decision or judgment on Hexagram Kun, the wise depict their understanding of the wisdoms contained in the Book of Changes for posterity. Like mother earth, being broad and generous, they do not have preference if their thoughts are read by Confucians, Daoists, Buddhists or any other doctrines. All are welcome.

They left behind the words for all Yi aficionados including those who had attempted to read the Book of Changes. If students cannot find the meanings or wisdoms then nothing else can be done, since the Yi is not meant for everyone on earth. Only the earnest and sincere can find the true meanings in what is written in the Book of Changes.

That remains the truth for the past few millennia.

Here is my simple take:

There are times to be creative and times to be receptive. By following and being receptive to Heaven, the governor of time, the Junzi know what to do and what not to do.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A touch of Tao

Keeping still
The body quivers
Listen to the songs of immortals

Cold air plunges down to Kun
Fire the bubbling water
Steam rises up to Qian
Qi brightens and cleans the home for shen

One heavenly cycle completed
Followed by others
Clouds, first dark then bright
No more forms or emptiness

When wu wei stops
From sheer darkness, it appears
Shimmering lights
Colourful diamonds

Beautiful, magnificent
The golden flower
A touch of Tao
To climb the stairs of heaven

Related references:
The Zhouyi, Tao Te Ching, Neiyeh, Secret of the Golden Flower, Hundred characters Steele, Shurangama and Diamond Sutras.