Saturday, March 31, 2012

What kind of food do you like?

Time really flies. This is an article I wrote over 10 years ago and I happen to pick it up to share it here:

I am giving an analogy to describe websites, mailing lists and forums, books, distance learning courses, and live seminars.

The analogy is the different ways of eating.

Websites: You are reading the menu outside a restaurant. Whether you come in to eat is whether the menu suits your taste and budget.

Mailing lists and forums: You are on an island where there are wild fruits and animals. Occasionally there may be a forest fire and you can have some freshly barbecued meat. The wild fruits are usually sour but they may also be some goodies. There may also be poisonous fruits and the wild animals may bite you.

Books: These are fast food restaurants where there is no service. You help yourself. Most of the food is want is labeled as junk food.

Distance learning courses: You are in a restaurant serving all-you-can-eat buffet. If the course is accompanied by a restricted mailing list, then there are other customers telling you what to eat and perhaps to share with you their experience. The restaurant owner and the chef may come out to introduce to you the food they are proud of serving.

Seminars: You are in an expensive five-star restaurant. Whether the food is good will depend on your luck. Ask around before going in.

If you make friend with the owner of the restaurant, he may invite you to his home and eat his home-made food. This is the blog.


Saturday, March 24, 2012

Yuan 元, Heng 亨, Li 利, Zhen 貞

These four words embody the concept of Yi 易.

Yuan 元 is a cycle. It points at the beginning of a cycle. The saying 一元復始 means a cycle begins with the hexagram Fu復:

Heng 亨 means prosperous. The saying 財運亨通 means the wealth cycle has come to the point of prosperity without obstruction.

Li 利 means harvest, The character consists of two parts the left side being crop while the right side being a knife/sickle.

Zhen貞is perseverance. The saying 松柏堅貞is praising someone who can withstand the cold like pine or cedar.

These four words describe the order of nature as cycles. It is all about changes and tells us to deal with changes in the natural way. In short, just welcome the beginning, work hard while the time is right, happily harvest the result of your hardwork and safekeep the return with persevance.

Well, there is no need to make things complicated as Yi is meant to be easy. Just do the right thing at the right time with the proper attitude.


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Yi 易

Yi 易 carries two meanings: (1) Change (2) Easy.

Therefore, Yi Jing 易經 is the study of changes and is easy to understand.
Some people make the Yijing difficult to understand and are already departing from the path of Yi.

Divination (Bu 卜)is communication between a person and the Universe. A person is part of the entire Universe just as a finger in our body is part of the body. Being a part, we are able to communicate with the whole. When a finger touches a hot surface, a message is sent to the central nervous system and a message is sent back to the finger that the hot surface may hurt the finger and another message is sent to the muscles in the arm to withdraw the finger from the hot surface. This initiates a reflex action.

Divination is to send a message to the Universe requesting advice. This is the idea of Bu. We see changes and like to react (make changes) to obtain the most beneficial results. Divination is needed if we do not know what to do. If we know the path of Yi, that is to say, if we can follow the changes in a natural manner, then divination is not necessary. The question is, "Do you know how to follow the changes?"

The saying "He who knows the Yi does not divine 善于易者不卜" points at those who can live a natural life handling changes in a natural way. It does not mean that they know the future without divining 未卜先知. Therefore, those who know the Yi do not claim to know the future without divining. They do not divine just because they know how to live with Dao. The methodology of Dao is to follow nature 道法自然.

Yijing 易經 as the term is used refers to the Zhou Yi 周易. It is a book that contains a system of codes to decode the hexagrams. In the process of divination, the Universe gives the diviner a reply in the form of a hexagram pointing out the changing clues. Yijing was written to decode the message. This leads to the understanding of the Universe and the Way of Life. To say that divination is the lowest layer of the Yijing exposes one's ignorance of Yi.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Best Article I Have Ever Written

This is an article I wrote about Feng Shui Secrets over 10 years ago.

There is a feng shui school that claims to have lineage from Huang Shi Gong 黄石公(about 200 BCE). In each generation, there is one disciple who is chosen to be the head of the school. He inherits the secrets of his school written in a book. This book is not to be viewed by anyone else except the head of the school.

The secret passed on for over 2000 years. The original book (in the form of a roll of bamboos) was lost. The one that is passed on today was made in the Song Dynasty 宋朝. I have seen this book at a distance but have no idea what is written inside. I asked the master who kept this book about the secrets of feng shui. Every time he just smiled and did not answer my question.

Before I left Hong Kong in 1986, I paid the master a visit. Suddenly he said, "You have been asking me about the secret of feng shui for years. Do you want to know the answer?" Of course I was overjoyed to say," Yes!".
Do you want to know what he told me?
A lot of you may be thinking that I will tell you there is actually no secret in feng shui and that all you need is to develop a good heart with compassion.
This makes sense but it was not what the master told me. Well, he said, "It is our tradition that only the current master has the right to read the book. But I am thinking that I am not forbidden to verbally disclose the secret. Promise me, do not tell anyone until ten years after I die."

The master died in 1990 at a very old age. But he lives in my heart.
It is now ten years since the master passed away. I am free to disclose what he told me.
"This book contains the most important teaching of each master of our school starting from Huang Shi Gong," the master said slowly, looking at the stars as if he was trying to find the ancient masters there.

"The first page has four words : 孺子可教 Ru Zi Ke Jiao." He smiled at me while he was talking.

The famous phrase came from the story of Huang Shi Gong and Zhang Liang 張良.

Zhang Liang came from a wealthy family. When he was young, he sold the properties left by his parents and planned to use the money to get rid of the tyrant 秦始皇帝 Qin Shi Huang Di (the First Emperor of Qin). One day he was crossing a narrow bridge over a stream. The bridge was just wide enough for one person to use at a time. When he was about to come to the other side of the stream, an old man stepped on the bridge ignoring his presence. Zhang Liang did not say a word. He stepped back to the side of the stream where he came from to allow the old man to use the bridge first.

When the old man was about to reach the other side, he dropped his shoes into the stream. He looked at Zhang Liang and ordered him, "Young man, pick them up."
Zhang Liang went down the water and picked up the shoes. He dried the shoes and placed them before the old man.
"Put them on for me," said the old man.
Zhang knelt down and put the shoes on the old man's feet.
The old man was pleased and said, "This nice young man is worthy of my teaching."

He gave Zhang a cerulean satchel inside which were a lot of valuable books and said, "Study these books and use your knowledge to help the real Son of Heaven to establish his empire. Come back this same day ten years later to see me."

Zhang Liang helped Liu Bang 劉邦 overthrow the Qin Empire and defeated his rivals to unite China again. This is the famous Han Dynasty 漢朝. Learning from the books in the cerulean satchel that Liu Bang was a man who could not trust anyone, Zhang Liang resigned and lived happily in the mountains.

He did not forget the appointment made ten years ago with the old man. But the old man did not turn up. He found a yellow rock by the stream that reminded him of the clothes the old man was wearing. Since he did not know the old man's name, he called him Huang Shi Gong - the Honorable Yellow Rock Elder.
The first page of the book is not about feng shui secrets. It is about how to get feng shui secrets.

"Page 2 was probably written by Zhang Liang," the master said slowly, looking up to the starlit sky as if Zhang Liang was somewhere there.

"It also consists of four words," the master said.

I leaned forward to wait for these four words. And the master uttered these words with so much impact that they rang in my ears for a long time :

"元亨利貞Yuan, Heng, Li, Zhen".

"These four words are applicable in any scenario," the master continued, "In the study of feng shui, like anything else, there must be a beginning and this beginning is of utmost importance. You may start with reading a book. If it is a good book, you have a good beginning. You may start with learning from a master. If he is a good master, you have a good beginning. Whether you have a good beginning depends on your karma."

I added some hot tea into the master's cup. He sipped and continued, "In the beginning, everything is smooth and rewarding. The progress is like sowing the seeds in spring, watching them grow vigorously in summer. Soon there will be the joy of harvest in autumn. After learning for about a year, you may think you have learnt everything and start practicing."

I started to sweat because it was so true.

"Like in martial arts, when you have learnt for a year, you think you are invincible. When you have learnt for ten years, you will know that it is even difficult to move one foot forward," the master said.

"After the harvest, there is winter," he took another sip of the tea, "You will then know that you have to start another round of learning. This cycle goes on and on. You have to persistently go on the chosen path despite its being ice-clad in winter."
His teaching was so vivid. His interpretation of the Yijing was so inspiring. I must have done a lot of good things in my previous life to find such a good master in this life.
"You must be curious about the other pages," the master said, " My master told me that in each generation, the master-in-charge adds something to the book. After practicing and teaching for many years, he writes down his own discovery in the book. Therefore, our school's teaching is not the same in each generation. The aim is that each generation is better than the preceding. I was stunned. I never imagined that feng shui teaching and learning was like this. I got the impression that the feng shui secrets were disclosed to chosen people when the master was about to die.

"What if a master wrote something wrong and invalid in the book?" I asked.

"Well," the master said, "We are allowed to add something to the book only after teaching for 30 years. Many masters in the past did not add anything. We cannot expect each generation to have a brilliant master who can contribute new ideas and techniques."

"Why is the book not printed as a textbook?" I asked because I would like to have a copy.

"We teach the more advanced techniques only after 10 years of observation that the student has a good heart. It is not that we purposely keep the secrets. It is because without 10 years of preparation, the students are not ready to learn these techniques. You cannot teach an elementary school child the Calculus, right?"
The master was usually quiet but when he talks, nothing can stop him talking. He continued,
"We do not have a fixed textbook. The first few years we teach the basics. Then we go on field trips to let the students feel the qi. Forms are not easy to teach. You cannot teach forms by diagrams or even photos. You have to be there to get the feeling. You are different as I can see that you spent your childhood in the mountains."

"I encourage my students to read as many books as possible," the master said, "I expect my students to be able to tell which part of a book is useful and which has wrong ideas."

"Besides Huang Shi Gong and Zhang Liang, are there any famous people who have written their thoughts in the book?" I asked the master.

"No one has signed his name in the book. My master told me that Guo Pu 郭璞, Qiu Yan Han 丘延翰, Yang Yun Song 楊筠松, Zeng Wen Chan 曾文辿, Chen Tuan 陳摶, Wu Jing Luan 吴景鸞, Xu Ren Wang 徐仁旺, Jiang Ping Jie 蔣平階, Jiang Yao 姜垚, are among the renowned people who contributed to this book." the master said.

"I understand that only one master has access to this book. Why are the others in the school deprived of this previledge?" I asked with curiosity.

"The book has a lot of information," the master explained, "Information without teaching is useless. Sometimes it can be harmful. You can see the chaotic situation outside our school. People who claim to have lineage to Great Grandmaster Jiang Da Hong 蔣大鸿 are divided into many sects. Why? It is because different people have different interpretation of the same information.

In our school, the master-in-charge selected the best disciple to be in charge after he passed away. He was taught the same thing but he probably had the best understanding. He then shouldered the responsibility to impart what he understood to the others. In our school, the master-in-charge must reveal all the secrets contained in this book to everyone in the school. Teaching is confined within the school as outsiders do not have the foundation. We discuss, debate, experiment in search for truth. The results are recorded in the book."

"Then, how can I learn these secrets since I am outside the school?" I asked.
The master laughed as if I had asked the most stupid question. Then he looked at me and asked, "What do you think I have been talking about to you all these years? If you were inside the school, probably I would pick you as the successor. Promise me, do not disclose what I am telling you today until 10 years after I leave this world."
The laughing face blossomed as my eyes were filled with tears of gratitude.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

"To cure a house" is a western concept

I remember I read something a long, long time ago that goes like this:
"A Feng Shui practitioner is a house doctor. When a house is sick, we can apply Feng Shui cures recommended by the house doctor."

The underlying philosophy is quite different from that of Yang Zhai Feng Shui 陽宅風水。In Feng Shui for houses, we focus at the qi we use in the house. We try to use the most appropriate qi to help people to fully utilize their potential. Of coures, this sentence alone is already prone to challenges.

To put it in simpler language, we can compare living in a house to eating in a restaurant. Choosing a dish from the menu is like picking a house. You don't need a doctor to tell you that a balanced diet is good for health. The dish you ordered may have some ingredients inappropriate to you. The food is all edible. The food is not sick and does not need any cure. Then just avoid whatever in the dish that is unsuitable to you.

In the same way, a room may not be suitable to you. Then stay away from that room. Another room may help you to have fame and fortune and if this is what you are going after, spend more time in that room. Feng Shui is just that simple.

Then there comes the question, "What if the restaurant is located right next to a garbage dumpsite and the filthy smell comes in from the door?" The answer is simple, "Go for another restaurant." The restaurant is not sick. The food is contaminated because of the environment." Can you cure the environment? Yes, move the dumpsite. What if the dumpsite cannot be relocated? An egg-head Feng Shui practitioner may recommend, "Since garbage is earth, use metal containers to weaken it. The restaurant will be cured." If you ask me why garbage is earth, then you are a student of the egg-head professor.