Wednesday, September 26, 2012

‘Friends come without blame’ in the Yijing

Yijing aficionados who have been studying the Book of Changes for decades would know that the phrase, ‘Friends come without blame’ and ‘Peng lai wu jiu’ in pinyin forms part of the Judgment in Hexagram 24 Fu / Return. And that the Judgment also contains the unique term, Tao (the Way). An age old and yet globally recognizable term used by Laozi in his Tao Te Ching to explain the phenomena of the ancient Way.

While the more experienced Yijing aficionados may not quite understand the relationship between Tao and the friends who come without blame in the Judgment, those who also practise neidan (inner alchemy) and are fortunate enough to be taught by Daoist celestial immortals would come to realize its profound meaning, one day. But I will leave it to the Zhen Ren (realized persons) to reveal this age old secret, if at all. For friends come without blame in the Yijing is a significant signpost of the Way.

This signifies the importance for neidan students to also study the Book of Changes since many more Tao signposts are also embedded in this ancient classic. By studying the Book of Changes every Yi student can also become learned and wise just like the ancients and those renowned for their Yijing studies down the ages.

And one of these worthies happened to be the renowned Zhuge Liang also known as Kongming of Shu Han (c 250). Some readers may think that I was presumptuous in assuming that the fourteen Yijing-related prophecies contained in the Ma Qian Ke were actually written down for posterity by Zhuge Liang since there is a dearth of documentary proof to uphold the presumption.

If Yijing aficionados, including those who have studied the Yijing for a few decades, lack the requisite knowledge to interpret omens and prophecies obtainable from the Yijing, they would not be able to understand why I am so sure that the fourteen Yijing related prophecies were predicted by Zhuge Liang. They may also not be aware of the fact that, at times, the Yijing gives omens in sequences (one immediately after another); as in the Ma Qian Ke. (The Yijing had forewarned me with three consecutive Hexagrams 29 Kan / The Abysmal of the then impending Asian Financial Crisis in 1997.)

However it is a fallacy to believe that the Book of Changes speaks to every diviner. And if the Yijing do not speak, there would be no actual prognostications let alone omens and/or prophecies. Beware of those who claim otherwise.

Therefore I have had subjected a few Yijing-related prophecies in the Ma Qian Ke to the usual test and found that the Yijing indeed spoke to the diviner, whoever he was. By coincidence, the particular diviner has had interpreted his prophecies the same way that I do or did for Yijing-related omens. Even the fortune indications (good, average, and bad) for each hexagram were similar and apt (except for two out of the fourteen which appeared corrupted). Furthermore in the first prophecy, by way of Hexagram 27 Yi / Providing nourishment, the Yijing told Zhuge Liang (the accredited diviner) about his destiny and fate, as well as what would happened in his era – that is to provide nourishment for future Chinese generations; his illnesses leading to his impending death and the difficulty in returning to Heaven; and the Wei Dynasty. (Refer to my commentary of July 2, 2012 on the first prophecy of the Ma Qian Ke if interested to read more about it.)

Since each of the subsequent thirteen prophecies foretold of successive eras in China, it therefore can be soundly concluded that all the prophecies were obtained from the Yijing by none other than Zhuge Liang or Kongming himself. If readers still have doubts, test your own Yijing interpretive skills to decipher his twelfth prophecy which could be extremely difficult, since it goes beyond the usual traditional methods of Yijing interpretation.

If omens are very difficult to obtain, what would be the requisite higher skill level for a Yijing diviner to obtain consecutive prophecies that cover a period of about two thousand years like those in the Ma Qian Ke? Surely, this is the work of a sage. Therefore Confucius is correct to say that the Junzi stand in awe of sages, and Zhuge Liang is sage-like because of his fourteen prophecies. While the immortality status of Zhuge Liang is confirmed by the several Daoist temples in China dedicated to him.

And unless you happened to be a Zhou Yu or his diehard fan, Zhuge Liang also known as Kongming would definitely be a special friend whose company we would like to keep whether or not we follow the teachings of Confucius in the Analects.

Coming back to the phrase, ‘Friends come without blame’. It so happened that in the tenth prophecy of the Ma Qian Ke derived from the accompanying Hexagram 39 Jian / Obstruction, the same phrase in Chinese was used as the fourth verse for the prediction. (Refer to my commentary on this prophecy on July 28, 2012) Probably many readers, including the much more experienced Yi aficionados, are still foggy to say the least as to why Zhuge Liang used the phrase in this prophecy that rightfully belongs in the Judgment of Hexagram 24 Fu / Return.

However if we read the Yijing and get fixated with convention we may not quite learn the deeper layers in this ancient classic. (But this again has nothing to do with New Age methods bandied around in the Web.)

In this tenth prophecy, Zhuge Liang ‘taught’ how to overcome that fixation, if students are ready, and are willing to learn. And I have had provided a subtle hint when commenting on that particular verse. Yet I find no improvement in readers’ understanding. Surely there is an obstruction to their higher learning capabilities! (Pun intended)

And in the midst of obstructions, I come as a friend to help readers to contemplate and think through enabling them to raise their skill levels, a notch or two. The statement relates to Hexagram 39 Jian / Obstruction, in case readers cannot follow the train of thoughts.

For that, we have to re-examine the phrase, ‘Friends come without blame’. The Chinese in pinyin for the phrase is ‘Peng lai wu jiu’. ‘Peng lai’ means ‘Friends come’ while ‘wu jiu’ means ‘without blame’ or even ‘no blame’; since ‘wu’ can also be translated as ‘no’ to get to the correct meaning of what was actually said. (See the subtlety in translating Chinese words in ancient classics or texts into English?)

Friends come’ (Peng lai) appears in the fifth line judgment of Jian. But where does the second half of the phrase ‘without blame’ comes from? My subtle hint then was that no blame can be accorded to the friends and the Chinese (if you care to reread my commentary on the tenth prophecy).

The hint pointed to the second line of Jian since the Chinese are the King’s servants, not his friends, and where the line image accorded ‘no blame’ to the servant who tried his very best to overcome the obstructions upon obstructions faced.

Therefore did Zhuge Liang make a mistake in his usage of the phrase, ‘Peng lai wu jiu’ that rightfully belongs to Hexagram 24 Fu / Return? No. The phrase is certainly apt to foretell what will come to pass and which later had occurred.

Since in this instance, the fourth verse in Chinese should be translated into English or to be read as, ‘Friends come, no blame’. For additional clarity, Zhuge Liang has had already indicated in the third verse of the prophecy that ‘Five two reversed’ pointing to the reversal of positions in the fifth and second lines of Hexagram Jian. What more can be said?

The great image of Hexagram 39 Jian / Obstruction is certainly apt for the Wu (Yijing diviners) and the Shi (Daoist priests or neidan practitioners) who have to contemplate within to raise their skill levels, a notch or two. So that ‘Peng lai wu jiu’ in the midst of great obstructions, and/or for the Return! And perhaps we have learned a thing or two from Kongming and from this discussion.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sign of the Valley Spirit(s) (Gu Shen)

This short article is written for the esoteric and those who have not read ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’. In the previous article, I have had mentioned that pedant scholars and whiz kids who do not practise would never get to know the real meaning of Valley Spirit(s), and here is the reason why:

‘Now there are three confirmatory experiences which can be tested. The first is that, when one has entered the state of meditation, the gods are in the valley. Men are heard talking as though at a distance of several hundred paces, each one quite clear. But the sounds are all like an echo in a valley. One can always hear them, but never oneself. This is called the presence of the gods in the valley.’
[The Secret of the Golden Flower by Lu Dongbin as translated by Richard Wilhelm]

Although there are additional written signs on the Valley Spirit phenomenon, this clear explanation of the Valley Spirit(s) by Lu Dongbin should suffice for neidan practitioners who have yet to obtain good aptitude.

Take note not to mix up your understanding with that of the Valley Spirit and the Mysterious Female phenomena of Chapter Six (6) of the Tao Te Ching since the combination depicts a much higher level of attainment, that of reaching the Center (Zhong). And as Laozi indicated therein, the Center seems to continuously exist. Therefore similar to the Valley Spirit, the Mysterious Female will also not die.

I append below my simple translation of Chapter Six of the Tao Te Ching for your easy reference to this brief discussion:

The Valley Spirit(s) die not, likewise the Mysterious Female.

The door of the mysterious female is the root of Heaven and Earth.

Continuously it seems to exist, use it without exertion.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Valley Spirits (Gu Shen)

There is an ongoing interesting discussion in the Daoist section of the Tao Bums forum on the subject of Valley Spirit (Gu Shen in pinyin).

The debate started on whether Chapter Six of the original Tao Te Ching contains the term, ‘Valley Spirit’ or ‘Valley-water Spirit’. The current widely accepted text uses Valley Spirit while the MaWangDui (Early Han) silk text contains the term, Valley-water Spirit instead. It could be just a matter of semantics. Since what is the difference between a valley and a valley with water? After all when it rains, water will still flow down the mountain to the valley below. Researching the semantics by pedant scholars will not provide any further clarity. Probably of more importance is the real meaning of Valley Spirit(s).

There are various technical terms in the Tao Te Ching, meant only for cultivators of Tao and/or neidan practitioners, of which brilliant minds or whiz kids (Wang Bi for example) will not be able to penetrate unless they also cultivate or practise. And one of those terms is that of ‘Valley Spirit(s)’.

No matter how intelligent and diligent we are, theories will remain just that until what Laozi taught in the Tao Te Ching is put into practice. Both the Daoist and Chinese Buddhist term for the basic practice is called self cultivation (siu hang). Without self cultivation, there is no cultivation of Tao and/or neidan practice. Without this higher level of cultivation or practice, valley spirits will forever remain unknowns!

Since Valley Spirit is a phenomenon or a Tao signpost that can be witnessed and experienced by a neidan practitioner who has good aptitude according to Lu Dongbin in the Secret of the Golden Flower. Probably this would explain why Laozi in Chapter Six (6) of his Tao Te Ching indicated that ‘The Valley Spirit (s) never dies’. For how could the Valley Spirit die if the phenomenon can be witnessed or experienced by neidan adepts down the millennia?

In case of doubt, Valley Spirits are also inferred to by Lu Dongbin in his ‘Hundred Character Steele’; and by an unknown Daoist adept in ‘A directory for the day’; as well as by the Buddha in the Shurangama Sutra. Whether Zhuangzi has had inferred to the term or not in one of the writings is debatable since his description of the phenomenon differs. But how would I know?

The good thing about deep and profound studies – that of the Tao and of the Yijing - is that those who do not know cannot hoodwink or ‘madoff’ the learned and the wise!