Saturday, February 28, 2009

Inside out, outside in

Laozi wrote in the Tao Te Ching that the Tao which can be told is not the eternal Tao. And that it exists before Heaven and Earth. With the fall from Tao, Te (virtues) became valued.

Confucius lamented that people love beauty more than virtues.

A few hundred years later, Mencius indicated that humans (baby) are born good.

All three sages knew the Book of Changes (the Zhouyi/ the Yi) well.
The ancient sages and the wise down the ages all point to Heaven and Earth. Those who fully grasped their esoteric meanings reached the Center (Zhong) where heaven and earth, the eight trigrams and the myriad things, is said to exist.

To assist fellow travelers of the Way, they tried to make it easy and simple. They even assign symmetric things like the round and the square to heaven and earth. But still many down the ages seems to stumble and founder.

It is not that easy and simple after all to travel the magical far journey of the Way. No ancients said it was so anyway! Otherwise they would have no cause to lament.

Instead of following the second class scholars who invariably point to the sky and the ground (Chinese pun intended) by trying to fool students and experts alike with their lengthy essays and rhetoric, one would try to make it simpler and easier for deep thinkers and fellow students who cultivate Tao.

If you cannot fully understand why the ancients point to Heaven and Earth, why Qian and Kun represent the Light and the Dark, the easy and the simple, the round and the square, and the combination of both equates the Center; then you probably would not know why earnest and sincere followers of the Way need the dual cultivation of essence and life to return to Tao.

If you are already on the path or a deep thinker in ancient Chinese philosophy, try to make sense of why I say this:

‘Inside out, outside in’

It could be easier and simpler or more explicit than trying to understand what the real masters said, let alone the ancients and the holy sages, to ‘Square the circle, round the square’.

If you understand both indications and know how to cultivate that, then perhaps you could be truly on the Way!

But how would I know?


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Where history repeats itself

Man made disasters, financial or otherwise, often repeat itself therefore the wise set up checks and balances (also known as independent controls) to deal with human weaknesses for the various systems concerned. However even with the best internal or external control system put in place there need to be constant monitoring or regulation of transgressions by wayward management or personnel i.e. humans. Therefore control systems break down where collusion arises or where regulators regularly turn a blind eye to transgressions of the system. Such irresponsibility and greed of man has happened before, occurred in this decade, and would happen again in the lifetimes of future generations. When and not how will be the question?

In 1989 after reading the book, ‘Surviving the Great Depression of 1990’ by Dr. Ravi Batra, I ventured to ask my elderly businessman friend who had since passed away, what happened during the Great Depression. The same gentleman who lamented that bank ‘collects umbrellas when it rains’.

The first thing he recalled, he was in his early twenties and a trader back then, was that there was ‘No price’ (Wu Jia). ‘No one seems to have any money’, he continued, ‘and jobs were scarce with many unemployed’. Does that sound familiar in the current dire happenings across the globe and the markets?

Malaya or the Straits Settlement as it was known back then rely heavily on the exports of commodities such as tin ore and rubber. Still do to a smaller extent. Her commodities exports now include crude palm oil, petroleum, gas, and cocoa.

Even with so many natural resources available compare to others, a country can still suffer the full blown effects of a great depression tells us much.

When people have no money, capital or credit, demand for any type of supply quickly dissipates. The current ongoing financial tsunami cum credit crunch is proving that simple economic theory to be true. Even if a country has surplus labor and/or land, so what, since money or capital is currently scarce all over the world.

Therefore countries are pumping in enormous sums of money into their economies as fast as they can, unfortunately to no avail it seems, since the control systems have failed miserably, no one knows the bottom of the abyss, and most of these countries actually do not have the means. Sooner or later, they too like Iceland, Pakistan, and some Eastern European countries, need to be rescued. IMF is quickly running short of funds while the rescued countries are requesting for more – there never is enough money to go around – in crises of a lifetime.

So whether the dire scenario would turn into a Great Depression 2 or not, readers need to look after themselves to survive the unfolding crises that have yet to stop.

Though another Great Depression did not happen in 1990 as predicted by Ravi Batra, some of his suggestions to survive one, may help. The most notable of which is for a family of four to set aside a savings of four years minimum annual income (to live), to survive a depression. The excess savings, if any, to be invested in safe or almost risk free investments.

If readers find his suggestions unduly conservative or ‘unworkable’ because it is already beyond their means, perhaps they can follow the suggestions by Suze Orman, a financial adviser who hosts her own show on CNBC (Saturdays in the USA, and weekends in Malaysia on Astro). The American people / audience should hold eight months of their monthly salary in savings to weather the ongoing financial tsunami, she suggests. On top of that they should also have huge savings in their retirement accounts. Start saving and minimize spending on unnecessary things is also her sound advice.

When we are about to see a repeat of history, the able has already gone into hiding since September 15, 2008. Amidst the dire scenarios around the world, do you really want to wait for a much delayed confirmation by eminent economists of a full blown D 2 to do anything to protect yourself and your family?

The choice as always is up to you. Of course it would be better to be safe rather than sorry.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Crouching tiger, hidden dragon

Learning to live with nature, the ancient Chinese studied and observed how animals and birds behave. Having thoroughly understood the animals and birds’ instinctive natures, the ancients referred to as the holy sages embedded these studies into the Book of Changes. That is probably why students in their course of study of the Yi come across celestial dragons, horses and oxen, wild goose and cranes, tortoises and fishes, tigers and panther, goats and sheep, boars and pigs, hawk and pheasants, small birds and cock, fox and the hamster. A rich and symbolic imagery bounded with a station in life of the times since except for the celestial dragon, the rest still exists till today.

About two thousand years later, the Chinese devise the twelve animal signs to represent each year of birth or horoscope for the multitude. This derivation method of prediction of the future proved highly popular among the people since it is much easily understood and accessible to all walks of life compared to that of the Yi. Many people around the world today can tell you that 2009 is the Year of the Ox!

But only the real masters can probably tell you accurately what is going to happen this year even though most expect things to be really dire. What with the rapid slump in demand and with it dwindling sales/exports and plunging of profits experienced worldwide.

Lemmings have followed or are still following their kind to jump off cliffs; bulls and bears badly burnt by the past six months precipitous plunges and rises have resorted to call each other or themselves chicken; ostriches having had their heads stuck in the sand while eagerly splashing out their remaining precious savings and/or available credit during the recent festive seasons. The rabbits which have scampered into their burrows at the first signs of danger in 2008 and remained there can be considered wise; so are the hidden dragons (or masters) since it is not the right time to act. Remember, no Tao on earth?

The many who had consistently called bottoms during 2008, the Year of the Rat became scapegoats, sacrificial lambs, or roasted pig! Some have lost their fortune(s) or a large slice of it; others, their pledged homes or worst still, their lives.

At the start of 2009, the wiser fund managers have decided to call themselves chicken and stayed well away from the markets.

If you have decided to retire or go into semi retirement from the stock market like the main characters in the award winning Chinese film titled ‘Crouching tiger, hidden dragon’ but instead remained in hiding, you could be fine. If you are enticed by innocent looking ‘brats’ or sweet words to change your very intention, you could find yourself embroiled in the existing chaos in the world wherever you are.

The timing of investment needs to be perfect. But I have not seen anything yet.

Since September 2007, the Yi indicated chaos and unemployment is still ongoing, and the expected implosion of the mountain, a month later, has yet to touch rock bottom.

My worse case scenario projection of USD 900 billion write downs by global banks, which doubled the existing forecasts prevailing then, has since been exceeded in real terms. It is rather academic now. Let others – Goldman Sachs and/or the IMF with their huge army of highly paid experts – do their work. I still only have the power of one! Some institutions are currently indicating two or three trillion USD write downs in total.

One way to crouch like a tiger or remain hidden like a dragon is to ‘sit on your hands’. Then you will have ‘no itchy fingers’ to dial your stock broker or key in a buy order online. I have been sitting on my hands since last May, if some readers want to know.

However do not mind me if bulls and bears are looking for small gains or pocket money from the global battered stocks, but be ready to scamper like a rabbit or you could be badly burned. While a 30 or more percentage gain from stock investments will make most cheerful for awhile, it is not what I am looking for.

If the ancients are right, a lifetime crisis proffers a lifetime opportunity. And one is still looking for an eight to tenfold gain.

2008 has come and gone, could it be in 2009 or 2010? Perhaps only those students or experts who know much about timing in their Yi studies could probably answer that. A hint! The late renowned sinologist, Mr. Richard Wilhelm knew it too.

Meanwhile, the Yi has given my annual hexagram for 2009. While it is a good hexagram for stock investments, the Book of Changes has also reminded me to crouch or remain hidden until the timing is dead right again and therefore the title for this entry. Otherwise fellow Yi students and the good people may instead rely on the prevalent derivative methods of predictions such as animal signs for their future.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

Ominous signs from Heaven?

The ancients learned to interpret and differentiate various signs from Heaven into auspicious or inauspicious omens. Heavenly signs which signify an oncoming change in rule over China were called a Mandate from Heaven.

With the advent of science and astrology, most people would now consider those who still watch heaven for omens to be of the superstitious kind. Perhaps, most people could be right.

But hold on a second. The ancients could have known more than us about heavenly signs. Here is some food for thought.

Solar and lunar eclipses are becoming quite a common sight for the amateur and expert astrologists. A yearly affair it seems.

However did it ever occur to any reader that there could be some significance in the solar and lunar eclipses that happened in 2008 and about to happen this year, 2009?

The first solar eclipse in 2008 occurred on the first day of Chinese New Year followed two weeks later by the lunar eclipse on the fifteenth day (the first full moon of CNY).

Look at what happened to China and the world, last year. Earthquake, floods, collapse of ‘titans’, global stock market crashes, credit crunch, financial tsunami, chaos and huge unemployment.

By an eerie coincidence, the first solar eclipse in 2009 also occurred on the first day of Chinese New Year. And the first lunar eclipse will also occur on the fifteenth day of CNY – Monday February 9, 2009. If you Google for eclipses, the website at NASA would show there will be six eclipses all told, significantly more than 2007 and 2008, this year.

Is Heaven trying to tell those who can read such signs, something more? How would I know?

By the way, do not forget to hunker down, batten the hatches, and return to the Light.

And do not worry too much about missing the proverbial boat. It is a slow boat from China!