I-Ching, Book of Changes,
is an ancient book of Chinese origin. Along with the Bible and the
Koran, it is one of the most translated and studied books on the planet.
The Book of Changes is the epitome of Chinese philosophy, founded
on transcendental Taoist understandings and modified by Confucian
logic. It is studied for its pragmatic yet esoteric wisdom and consulted
as an oracle for its solutions to life's problems. It is a book of
64 readings, each chapter made up of a different 6 line Hexagram.
The readings include commentaries and advice on all the different
archetypal life experiences a person or group may live through.
The Books origin is credited
to the legendary emperor and sage Fu Hsi, who lived approximately
5-8000 years ago. It was he who first found and understood a line
symbol system inscribed on the shell of a mysterious tortoise.
Fu Hsi recognized the importance of the 8 Trigram symbols and how
they represented Reality on all levels. It is interesting that other
ancient cultures in the world also used various types of line
symbol systems for representing primal and universal values.
The next important date in history
was during the Shang dynasty, 1766-1121 BCE. King Wen was imprisoned
for a good while and worked hard on understanding the I-Ching and
organizing it into a particular framework. His son, the Duke of Chou
continued his work by writing commentaries on each of the 384 Lines
of the Hexagrams. All of the books published are known as the King
Wen version of the I-Ching. The other arrangements and understandings
of the 64 Hexagrams are apparently lost to history. The King Wen version
is all thats survived, but when studying the I-Ching as a philosophical
system, it is important to read it in other chapter patterns according
to current traditional systems (See T. Cleary; I-Ching Mandalas).
The last important date in I-Ching history
is during the time of Confucius (Kung Fu-tze), 551-479 BCE. He studied
the Book of Changes very diligently and wrote a commentary on it.
Most of the books published today include his commentary (or possibly
his students) as part of the text. As in the general Chinese culture
of the past few thousand years, the Confucian ideas have overlaid
all aspects of the I-Ching. Many of the concepts in the Book appear
to be Confucian, but underneath at a core level are actually Taoist.
I-Ching is based on the Taoist concept of the Universe.
This cosmology starts with the idea that the beginning of all creation,
or the Absolute of reality is unknown. This unknown is called the
Tao (pronounced dow), which in English is translated
as The Way. This avoids the common idea of a divine
being as being the creator, though it doesnt comment about
it, and thus sidesteps the usual theologic battlegrounds. The Way
is a mystery; it is unspeakable and beyond human thought, it can
only be experienced in the present moment.
Tao is usually represented by
the Tai Ji Tu.
contains the basic universal polarity of yin (dark area) and yang
(light area) and shows the continual motion of change. The Taoist
formula of creation is this: The Tao is also the Wu Ji, or ultimate
nothingness/formlessness, symbolized by the empty circle:
. The Wu Ji contains within it the Tai Ji, or supreme ultimate:
The Tai Ji, being the source of time and space is the source of
the two universal forces, yin and yang. As the Tai Ji separates
into yin and yang then all of creation is formed from their interaction.
Another description of the formula is that the Tao produces the
One, the One gives birth to the Two (yin and yang), the Two interact
giving birth to the ten thousand things (all reality and phenomena).
The concept of yin and yang
is about understanding polarity, dualism and complementarity. In
western philosophy as currently practiced, there is only a duality
of good and evil. It is absolute and well known. The Chinese concept
(and other eastern teachings) state that duality is only one aspect
of the polarity of all life. While different cultures have legal
and moral codes that stipulate good and bad, on a deeper universal
level, the balance of duality is always in flux. The principle of
yin and yang is that everything is comprised of both aspects in
varying proportions. Nothing is solely a yin or yang thing, it is
always some relative combination. Every thing or activity has an
opposite polarity, every yin has its yang.
Yin and yang eventually and
always change into one another, just as life continually changes
around us. This happens in the galactic world, the natural world,
the social world and inside our body (as noted and treated by Chinese
Medicine). Instead of being defined states, the two forces are complementary
and will always find expression. In physics, this is known as: each
action has an equal and opposite reaction. The goal of life
is to balance our inner selves, our way of daily life and relationship
to the Tao by balancing the polar forces of yin and yang in all
aspects of our being. Through study, meditation, concious movement
(Tai Ji Chuan, Qi Gong) and experience with teachers, the inner
world becomes simpler and the outer world more calm. The 10,000
thoughts and phenomena go back to their source as the Tao is found
in daily awareness.
To the Taoist, true virtue comes
from experiencing the Tao in the moment as a balanced being. During
those relatively enlightened moments thinking, feeling and action
are correct, according to the flow of the Universe and in harmony
with it. (Until this becomes real for each individual, there are
many legal, moral and religious codes that keep personal behavior
The I-Ching is based on these
basic Taoist principles. It is written from the viewpoint of the
Enlightened sage who needs to re-find the Tao flow in their life.
The Book uses the yin and yang idea in the form of 2 types of lines.
The yang line is solid :
, and the yin line is broken: .
These lines are doubled to form the 4 Duograms:
. The ancient Taoist sages then added another line to the duograms
which results in the 8 Trigrams that
Fu Hsi found on the tortoise. The final permutation was multiplying
the 8 Trigrams together resulting in 64 Hexagrams. [In western mathematical
terms this yin-yang system is called a binary system. The inventor
of the binary system, Liebnitz, found out about the I-Ching and
how it predated him by a few thousand years from a Jesuit priest
friend who busy trying to convert the Chinese.]
are symbolic of the 8 primal forces of the universe.
The 64 Hexagrams represent all
the possible outcomes of these forces interacting with each other.
In the I-Ching, the Hexagrams are all the possible themes in how
the Tao moves and manifests in the larger universe,
the human social world and the earthly natural world. The Hexagrams
are the underlying matrix of the world of form.
The I-Ching has 64 chapters
explaining the Hexagrams and their meanings. Each Hexagram is made
up of 6 Lines, so commentaries on each Line are part of the reading.
The 64 Hexagrams are the possible situations that might arise from
the endless changing of yin and yang. Through this changing, individual
Lines may change in value from yin to yang or yang to yin. The Hexagram
will then change into another one. In this way there is a ceaseless
movement of life from one situation to another. [Why only 64 Hexagrams?
Possibly the answer is that the next permutation leads to serious
complexity and with the ability of any Hexagram to turn into another,
there are plenty of options for finding reality and getting in harmony
with the flow of the Tao.]
In the Asian world, all of the
greatest minds through history have made a study of the I-Ching.
Many key decisions in war, business, love, and any other field that
requires deep understanding and strategic thinking, have been made
based on guidance from the I-Ching. The basic Taoist concepts are
the same for the I-Ching, Chinese medicine, Taoist inner cultivation
and meditation techniques, Feng Shui (the art of harmonious placement)
and martial arts. When a student in any of these fields desires
to get to the deepest level of attainment, they all have to finally
study the I-Ching.
In the Western world, the I-Ching
has only been known and used for about 100 years. Deep study of
it has been hampered by limited texts until recently. Those who
use the Book credit many correct life changing decisions
based on it. It has been a doorway for many students of life into
deeper levels of conciousness and awareness.
As the world moves into a faster rate
of change and chaos, the Book of Changes only grows in importance
for guidance and wisdom. The principles of change never vary, history
always repeats itself. The application of wisdom based on the interactions
of time and space (yin and yang) can only help to illuminate the
way through a world made crazy by conceptual thinking, post modern
philosophies, rampant greed and unchecked power. But no matter how
difficult the time, there is always a deeper flow of Reality that
beckons us to merge with it and find our way with the fewest bumps
and greatest harmony.
philosophy is a large part of the I-Ching. It is laid
over the Taoist world view and brought into focus in the commentaries
on the Hexagrams. Confucian teaching stress the the importance of
"relationships," including social, family, government
and spiritual. There are ideal relationships between family members,
government officials themselves and with citizens, and between the
forces of Heaven, Humanity and Earth. In China the Confucian teachings
became a cultural standard until modern era, and even now, still
has a hold on most of the Asian world. In the I-Ching, advice is
given to the enquirer as if they were in a situation that needed
to be put back into the ideal Confucian type of specific relationship.
There is also a strain of Buddhist thought
running in the I-Ching, but it is so close to the Taoist
that it is not crucial to discriminate it here (see
the Buddist I-Ching by T. Cleary). These teachings are more
about personal evolution to the highest level of sage accomplishment
and service to society. What is most important is that all types
of Chinese philosophers and spiritual teachers of the Taoist, Confucian
and Buddhist teachings studied and applied the wisdom of the I-Ching
in their daily life and public teaching.
sense, the Trigrams could be considered as the 8 Elements.
This is most important for Chinese Medical doctors and acupuncturists
using the I-Ching in their practice for diagnosing the most difficult
patients or for finding the most powerful points.