Thursday, August 22, 2019

What Story is the I Ching Telling You?

There's really only one story that actually matters: the story of the journey of transformation.  All good stories are variations on it.

All hexagrams of the I Ching have within them a story of transformation. Each one tells its own little story. And when you combine them with other hexagrams in permutations, it's telling another story.
And when doing a casting its doing a very specific little story of transformation with regard to the one question you might have at this time.  While the whole King Wen sequence tells one great big story.

There were two schools in the period after the School of Yin and Yang, after Confucius, up to the Han Dynasty. These schools were rivals, I've spoken of them before. From that school of inner alchemy, there was a division into two forms of interpretation: Image and Number, and Meaning and Principle.

Image and Number focused on the line structures, trigrams, positions of things, mathematics of the I Ching, the elements, the cosmology. All of that was the focus of the School of Image and Number.
The school of Meaning and Principle looked at it a different way, saying that what mattered was the spiritual/philosophical teaching in the I Ching and that this was found by considering and interpreting the text, rather than the image or the mathematics/cosmology.

I've commented on the imperfection of both of those schools before.

Regardless, the value of what came out of the school of Meaning and Principle was a different approach to looking at groups of hexes, not based on their structure of lines and trigrams, but in terms of the text and grouping various hexagrams based on their common themes.  In other words, to look at the stories they tell.

If you do this in combination with the structural elements of the hexagrams, this is the best way to apply your studies in I Ching structure and cosmology to a more grounded and human element of connecting to that personal story of what one must do on a journey of transformation.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The I Ching, Cosmology and Gender

In my latest video, I talk about the nature of gender according to the I Ching and its cosmology. I know this is a contentious issue, and the answer the I Ching's cosmology provides probably won't quite satisfy anyone.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Time Travel of the I Ching

Enter the stream of the I Ching through its symbols.

The I Ching shows that time is like a forest, full of change.

The present is just the place you are at in the forest.

All the steps you took through this forest up until now have put you on this point in the path.

The direction they lead you in points toward where on the path you are heading; this is the future.

If you want to change the future, change it before it happens.

If you want to change the past, change your response to the choices you made in the past.

Friday, July 5, 2019

I Ching Hexagram Commentary #13 - Fellowship

Here is the latest I Ching video. If you are interested in deeper teaching on the I Ching as part of an ongoing program of spiritual cultivation, please consider contacting me about applying to the Yi Fa Society.

Monday, June 3, 2019

What is "Virtue" in Cultivation?

There are two forms of Virtue: Virtue can mean "force" or "power", in the sense that 'virtue' relates to the word 'virility'. This power depends on one's ability to impose his force on the world.

In the most obvious sense, Virtue is the physical force that a person can impose on his surroundings. This includes his physical strength and health, but also things like his intellect and wit.

But these things are limited. Even in one's prime, there are limits to what a person's physical strength or vigor can accomplish. Even at the peak of one's intellect, there's limits to what one can manage to achieve through the mind.

And over time, these forces reach a peak and then ebb. Even someone who has made a great effort to develop physical strength, or speed, or endurance, will find that over a few years those things will weaken and fade, ravaged by time.  And even the sharpest mind will find that over a few decades, their intellect will weaken too, the mind will become less sharp, forgetfulness will increase and mental exhaustion will develop.

The second kind of Virtue is one's spiritual strength.  This is developed by accumulating Virtue through practice, and then applying that inner Virtue to emanate Virtue in the outer world. This force does not ebb, it only gains. It cannot be dulled by time or the ravages of age.

Inner Cultivation is not easy; it takes more work than building up the muscles or even sharpening the mind. But it is also a power that endures.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

VIDEO: "Healing Magic" vs True Health

The following video is not on a topic I cover very often. Most perceptions of Qi Gong as being "for health" as a primary purpose are utterly wrong, and I don't want to encourage these perceptions. But then again, most people's perceptions of health and of what spiritual or alternative-medical practices are capable of doing for their health are totally wrong as well!

So, here I set the record straight:

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Unfolding the Nature of Truth

Truth is a more complicated concept than we tend to understand it to be. It is also a fundamental pillar of the practice of Cultivation and the development of Virtue.  In particular, in the western world, there has been a kind of crisis over the nature of truth that has developed over the last several decades; in our society, certain philosophies have tried to advocate the idea that there is really no such thing as truth, or that truth is an entirely subjective personal affair (which is effectively the same as suggesting there's no such thing as truth), or that "truth" is really just some kind of collective notion where if enough people believe in something that makes it true (which is just a delusion of collective solipsism rather than individual solipsism).

This is in stark contrast to certain other paradigms that suggest that truth is starkly and plainly absolute, a thing is either true or it isn't.  This latter concept may be more accurate in the sense that Truth is an absolute feature of reality, but it is not really much more productive because it fails to consider the human element of how we relate to Truth, of the process of understanding Truth.

There is absolute and objective Truth. However, what is true at any given time is not immune to the nature of Change, which the I Ching clearly demonstrates is the fundamental nature of all of reality, to which Truth is not immune. The most absolute Truth is change itself. In all other levels, Truth is only absolute in the context of Space-Time. That is, in certain places or in certain times, something can be true.

If, for example, it is raining where you are right now, that it rains is Truth, when and where you are. There's no relativity to that Truth, no amount of believing differently changes the fact that it is raining, and thus we see that it is objectively true; but we also know that it was not raining before, nor will it be raining later, so it is also a truth that is affected by Change.  Saying "it is raining" is true only while it rains.  With other, much vaster things, the time-span of how long something is true can be orders of magnitude greater, but it is just as affected by Change.

Our awareness as a whole, which includes elements like senses, our ability to reason, and our conscience, allow us to process and attempt to determine Truth. Because we are imperfect, and because the nature of what is true can change over time and place, the process of understanding Truth is a constant and ongoing process. We must continually unfold truth from our inner awareness and our observation of reality.

How do we do this, in practical Cultivation terms?  As always, the process must begin within ourselves.

The first step to unfolding truth is found in our own choice to make the attempt to pursue truth, over what is not true. This can be defined as "sincerity".  It also requires Discipline, to have not only a sincere dedication to seeking truth within and without your own being but to do what is necessary to embody this process in the world. Sincerity is important on a rational basis because if you are deluding yourself it is bound to impede your ability to see what is true about nature and reality; in a more esoteric sense, one could say that it is the nurturing of Truth within your own being that can allow you to connect to Truth in the macrocosm beyond you.

This leads you to the second step, of being able to examine the nature of Reality on a regular basis; through both rational study and the development of learning, and meditation and the development of consciousness.

This observation allows the third step, where you can determine what are right actions, truthful actions, within reality at any given place and time. This allows you to operate in Harmony within yourself, and with your surroundings.

Finally, there is a fourth element to this process, which is the question of how you relate Truth to your responsibility for humanity, how to apply truth to benefit humanity through contributing to its spiritual evolution (what can be called the Great Work). Being sincere and harmonious within ourselves develops within us a quality of fairness, where we wish for the world to be a fair place, for ourselves to be treated justly and for others to be treated justly. Our observation of the interconnection between all things in the tapestry of Space-Time makes it clear to us that this is necessary, because our well-being depends on the well being of others, and vice-versa. Similarly, any claim we have over any natural rights depends on others having the same natural rights.
At the same time, it is only through observation of Truth, and the degree to which we are able to accurately observe Truth, that we can consciously apply this sense of justice. We must be capable of being able to pragmatically manifest concepts like justice, rights, and well-being, in the degree to which is possible in the time and place we are located.

It is only through that degree of understanding what is true that we can manage to enact beneficial change (for ourselves and others, in the short term and building up into the long-term) that can actually work as intended, harmoniously with the reality of what is functional.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Cultivation Starts With the Body

All spiritual cultivation starts with the body.

It's very important to find your center in the body.

But then, when you are seeking to unite to the rest of the universe, you can't achieve that if you are looking at your own being as the 'center' of the universe.

The universe is vast and if you try to push your own being into the center place of it, you won't be able to Unite; you will still be trying to have your own separate being at the middle, you're essentially trying to demand that the Universe unite with you (or "around" you).

When connecting to the Universe, you have to realize that you are United to it as an inseparable part of it, but not the center around which all other things orbit.

It is like the pictures in Chinese art. You see this style where there are great landscapes, symbolic of Nature and the Universe, and then somewhere in some little edge or corner, there is a person.

(note the tiny human figures, crossing the bridge, over the waters between the mountains)

When you try to put yourself at the center of the Universe, this naturally alienates you from reality, and from the physical, and from association with your body. Conversely, when you return your meditation to the body, you go within, and step out of the illusion of your own centrality. Paradoxically, only by doing so can you experience the vastness of the universal in a truthful way.

You do not need to be in the middle of this vastness; in fact, you can't be. You can't achieve that and create the appropriate place for the universe.

To Unite, you need to see your place in the enormous vastness of space/time that came before you and comes after you, that is beyond you and behind you.
That is to say, of your notion of you.

When you can be comfortable and fulfilled with just being a part of the big picture, even as a small figure on one edge of the canvas, then you can achieve Union.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Repost: Qi Breathing Video

Here is a repost, because in light of my previous blog someone had asked me for it, of the video on how to perform Qi Breathing.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Practicing Out of Balance

Some students have asked me regarding how to effectively maintain cultivation practice when they are sick, or very tired, or swept up in emotional turmoil, or deeply distracted by some other activity. This is a very important subject.

With regards to all four points of difficulty, clearly it is easier to Show Up when you are in a state of Balance.

All four of the situations you describe are basically situations of being unbalanced.

And yes, all four can be difficult.
The fact is that when you are challenged, that's when it's easy to lose balance.

It's in those moments that you have to have the level of consciousness to be able to realize that you're out of balance, and then get back to it.

Getting back to Balance can be as simple as remembering to Breathe; but you can't expect to be able to achieve that if you are only trying to remember doing that when the unbalanced situation arises.

So now this is where Discipline comes in.

If you can engage with Qi Breathing on a regular basis, doing it when things are in Balance, that will make it much much easier to remember to Breathe, and restore Balance, when things are difficult.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Video: Freedom is the Basis of All Spiritual Transformation

In this week's video, I talk about freedom, on both the level of the individual and also of society. And I try to explain that freedom is the fundamental requirement for spiritual transformation in an individual; and that a society that values freedom is going to be more open to evolve socially than one who disregards the freedom of the individual.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Can You Use the I Ching for "Trivial Purposes"?

I have often had students ask me whether it's proper to use the I Ching for 'trivial' questions.

The question usually comes from the defining of certain types of questions as important, and others as unimportant. Sometimes it involves the notion that the I Ching should only be used for questions of Spiritual importance, or deep profound life-decision questions about one's purpose or higher self.

So I am asked, for example, if it is acceptable to ask about lost keys or some problem at work or how things will go at a football game, etc.

So my perspective is that this is absolutely acceptable to do; but I think what we need to define is the difference between something being "mundane" and something being actually "trivial", in the context of the I Ching.

The point isn't that the I Ching can't be used for everyday ordinary things. In fact, the I Ching can be greatly useful for mundane questions. You can use it for everyday subjects, even minor questions or doubts, or nearly-inconsequential problems.

However, where you can't use it is for something that's "trivial" in the sense of being a question you don't really care about.

That's true whether the question is about something very mundane or something of great cosmic, spiritual or life significance.

This is the secret of understanding whether a question is trivial or not: it's not about the subject matter but about whether you have anything actually invested in the subject matter.

 If you don't have a sense of the question actually mattering to you, then you should not do an I Ching casting about it.

Note: the idea that "you shouldn't do it" is not in the sense that it would somehow 'dishonor' the I Ching or that it is some kind of spiritual taboo or will cause bad karma or anything along those lines. It's simply that you shouldn't do it because if you don't have some kind of of sense of investment in the question beyond mere curiosity, the casting won't actually work for you.

You need to have some level of caring about the question asked beyond just mere curiosity. It has to matter to you a little more than that, whether it's at the level of something where you just have a strong feeling of wanting an answer even if the casting won't have any real consequence, all the way to "this casting is a matter of life and death". As long as you have investment, as long as there's skin in the game, regardless of the scale or whether the question is incredibly mundane or cosmically profound, the casting will be able to function.

Otherwise, the casting really will be "trivial".

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Chapter 50 of the Path and the Power (Tao Te Ching )

In this new video, I read chapter 50 from my new book, The Path and the Power, a new interpretation of the Tao Te Ching, with commentary. 

You can get a free PDF copy of the Path and the Power if you sign up to the Swami's Newsletter, which will give you one or two updates a month with recent teachings and new material just for subscribers.

You can join the Newsletter by following the link on the video description or by clicking on the "Newsletter Sign Up" link to the right of this blog.

(note that it's an interactive sign-up form so you need to make sure that if you have "noscript" or "adblock" or programs like that on your browser you may have to allow the page's script to see it!  When you sign up, the link to the Path and the Power will be found in the Welcome e-mail sent to you on sign up, so be sure to read that)