Graphics artist: Dan Barrett
Babes don’t usually go looking for complex things to think about. We prefer to hit the delicatessen and get a pearl tea to go with our croissants, and then yak on the cell phone headset with our boyfriends, but since I am a Taoist, and a fledgling at that, I figured I shouldn’t embarrass myself too much by spoofing off stuff unless I studied it a little bit.
I had read a couple of posts about the I Ching, and I was skeptical about its merits. This didn’t stop me from buying the book just to look at it, and within minutes after receiving the book from my favorite online bookstore, I sat with a glazed and dazed look, my lipsticked mouth pursed into a prune-shaped question mark.
I needed a guidebook, a teacher to walk me through the complexities, and it had to be one who knew the I Ching inside and out, but my circle of friends are similar Babes with Gucci bags. We don’t read the I Ching (most of us don’t read, period), so I had no help from my contemporaries there.
I knew though that there had to be a guidebook written somewhere, so I asked a good friend and he told me to focus on the Ta Chuan, as that was the commentary guide for the I Ching.
As it turns out, not only did the Ta Chuan explain the I Ching in a most satisfying manner, it also gave me a much clearer idea of the thought process of a real practicing Taoist, and I grew to love the philosophy of Taoism (I absolutely refuse to call it a religion… we Babes are not religious AT ALL!!!)
Taoism is a very uplifting thought process. It starts with me and ends with me. There is no other mystery, other than the one within me. I am a microcosm of the universe, therefore, once I figure out myself, I’ve come full circle and have figured out the workings of the universe!
Unfortunately, it is not as simple as I have just described. Is anything of worth ever easily obtained? The ancient sages knew that it would be difficult, but they wanted to help us attain this knowledge, so they put the information in a book that we could read and follow.
Problem is, the book (called The Book of Changes, or the Oracle) is cryptic at best. It was written, not in prose, but rather, in poetry form to make it easy for sages to memorize the texts, and what’s worse, it was written in ancient Chinese hanzi. This was before widespread printing processes, and they didn’t want the information to be lost, so a huge cadre of followers were required to memorize the entire book, to ensure that it got passed down through the years. They also wrote much of it down on bones because they knew that it would stand a good chance of lasting long enough until a modern method could be found to copy the material and disperse it far and wide.
The result is that modern-day students of the Tao have to wade through translations that are out-dated in context, and somewhat clunky and unclear, as Chinese is translated to English. What was needed then, were commentaries made by the sages of old, who understood that the texts were cryptic, but had a good grasp of the meaning anyway.
Remember, by the time Confucius and Lao Tzu had the books in their hands, it was already just as ancient to them as they are to you and me today. Infact, it was already over three-thousand years old when they started looking at it, and they are three thousand years older than I am, so we’re talking about the ancients, talking to them, and then they attempted to bring that information to us, the ultra-modern people.
The resulting efforts produced a series of commentaries called The Wings. There is a good reason why they are called Wings, but that’s for another post. Suffice it be for me to say that there are ten Wings, and the Ta Chuan is one of those Wings. It is very old. Much older than Confucius and his contemporaries, and in fact, would be the commentary that Confucius used to understand the I Ching himself.
So, as a modern-day Babe, I feel fortunate to have the same text that Confucius and Lao Tzu used to comprehend the I Ching. What the Ta Chuan talks about are the pictures and images that I Ching uses to have a running dialogue with anyone who chooses to listen and ask for advice. It divines for us, what is to come.
The pictures that form as we begin to connect the dots give tantalizing glimpses of all the realities that could possibly occur, and while this is an amazing gift in and of itself, the more crucial question is—which shade of reality will offer the best outcome for what we are trying to achieve?
By this time, the gentle reader will be thinking that I am trying to sell a book of fortune-telling, or horoscope-du-monde, but that is simply hogwash. The I Ching is much more than mere fortune-telling, which simply foretells future events but gives no indication of the best course of action to take for the best possible outcome.
What it does is that it gives us the knowledge to discern the best mode of action, and it does so with high style. Follow the I Ching’s advice, and not only will one come out the winner, but a winner with grace and class, something the Babe should always strive for. It offers ancient wisdoms that have nothing to do with calculated precision thought processes or controlled experiments, and everything to do with the movements of heaven, the constancy of earth, and CHANCE.
Yes, that’s right, it is all about chance and the impermeable laws of heaven and earth: with heaven being constantly in motion and changing, and with the earth being fixed, and with lasting conditions.
From the Ta Chuan – Chapter 4: The Deeper Implications of the Book of Changes – Wilhelm
The Book of Changes contains the measure of Heaven and Earth; therefore it enables us to comprehend the tao of heaven and earth and its order.
Looking upward, we contemplate with its help the signs in the heavens; looking down, we examine the lines of the earth. Thus we come to know the circumstances of the dark and the light. Going back to the beginnings of things and pursuing them to the end, we come to know the lessons of birth and of death. The union of seed and power produces all things; the escape of the soul brings about change. Through this we come to know the conditions of outgoing and returning spirits.
Since in this way, man comes to resemble heaven and earth, he is not in conflict with them. His wisdom embraces all things, and his tao brings order into the whole world; therefore, he does not err. He is active everywhere but does not let himself be carried away. He rejoices in heaven and has knowledge of fate, therefore, he is free of care. he is content with his circumstances and genuine in his kindness, therefore he can practice love.
In it (the I Ching) are included the forms and the scope of everything in the heavens and on earth, so that nothing escapes it. In it, all things and everywhere are completed, so that none is missing. Therefore by means of it we can penetrate the Tao of day and night, and so understand it. Therefore the spirit is bound to no one place, nor the Book of Changes (the I Ching) to any one form.
In essence, what this means is, if we can understand and utilize the information given us in the I Ching, we will have a good grasp of what fate awaits us and how we can bring about change to allow for the control and mastery our own fate—to create our own realities.
What does this mean to us? Instead of being buffeted by the waves, We have been, literally, given oars and the knowledge of how to use those oars to ford our way through the waves; to cross the great river to the destination of our choice, on the other side.
With this knowledge, we can keep from being helplessly carried along without any control over the raging power of the river, and also to help others cross with safety and precision. As a great man once said: you can cross the great water while leaving no one behind, and causing no other person to drown or suffer or miss out in any way.
Let’s start with CHANCE.
Hi. I found your blog while preparing a talk for a conference on wisdom in management. I’m going to talk about the I Ching as a personal practice for leading wisely and ethically (and joyfully).
I enjoyed your blog. I like what you have to say about the Tao and the I Ching.
I’ve written a novel about a leader who used the I Ching as a source of guidance. It’s based on experiences I had, and I wrote it hand in hand with the I Ching. It’s called The Ten Thousand Things.
Cheers, Taoist Babe
I Am Boatman. Do we ferry ourselves across? or others?
Good question. I asked the I Ching. Here is what she said: https://taobabe.wordpress.com/hexagram-59-dispersion-crossing-the-great-water/
And therefore, we can practice love. This is beautiful, thank you.