The Sage gazes up and contemplates
the phenomena of the Heavens. Then he looks down and examines
the patterns of the Earth. Thereby he learns the causes
of darkness and light. He traces things to their beginnings
and follows them to their end. Therefore he knows the significance
of life and death. He observes how the union of essence
and breath forms things and how the disappearance of spirit
produces their dissolution. Therefore he knows the constitution
of the Lower Soul ( 'Hun' or Corporeal soul) and of the
Higher Soul, ('Po' or Ethereal soul).
The I Ching is one of the oldest and continuously
read philosophical texts on the planet. It is the basis for the
Tao of Success, one of the 8 Pillars of Tao. Mainly known as a
tool of divination or future telling, it is also an in depth guide
for ethical behaviour. The purpose of consulting the Oracle, as
the I Ching is often called, is to gain mastery over one's circumstances
and thereby live a successful, spiritual life which may or may
not include wealth and high position. Poverty is not considered
particularly noble in Taoist thought.
The 64 hexagrams represent archetypal behaviours to aspire to
on a practical level. Since Nature, waxes and wanes, is in constant
motion and is cyclical, whatever situation you find yourself in,
has been and will come again. In depth study of the I Ching's
commentaries gives the student clues to be able to recognize any
situation and guidelines on how to act in it. It is in this way,
that it is said the I Ching can predict the future. It does not
actually predict the future, it simply suggests that due to the
cycles of nature, what has been will be again.
Each situation you find yourself in requires different behaviours.
Sometimes the Superior Man is called upon to go forward or go
backward or stand still. Sometimes he will be advised to speak
out, in other situations it is better to hold his peace. There
will be rewards and setbacks. It is indeed the mark of the Superior
Man that he knows when to hold'em and when to fold'em, not because
he has some sort of magical power, but because through study and
spiritual practice, and experience, he knows the Oracle will give
him good advice.
The Superior Man is seen as one who is on a spiritual path. He
seeks the Tao. His ideal is to live in harmony with Natural Law.
Embodied in the Superior Man is the ideal of personal responsibility,
not just for his own life, but for those around him. He has a
sense of community responsibility. He does not allow himself to
be ruled by base emotions, greed, or personal gratification, but
neither is he prudish. He is a leader but does not always lead.
He may be a great sage or even an emperor but he could just as
easily be a civil servant or a peasant.
This idea of ethical behaviour is a very important one in Chinese
culture. Lao Tse and Confucius were contemporaries and both were
familiar with the I Ching. Confucius in particular wrote many
commentaries on the desirability of ethical behaviour including
several on the I Ching itself . The I Ching in fact was required
reading for the Chinese civil service for about 1,000 years.
It was actually the Civil Service that ran the Chinese empire
all those years. The emperor and his court rarely left the Forbidden
City, sometimes not for centuries.
Gateway of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City
The sage set forth the hexagrams, examined
their symbolism and added explanations. In this way good
fortune and bad were made clear. The strong and weak lines
displace each other, producing changes and transformations
in the hexagrams. Therefore, good and evil fortune mentioned
in the texts refer to rights and wrongs in the affairs of
men. The changes and transformations of the lines symbolize
the advance and retreat of the powers of nature. Thus strong
and weak lines symbolize day and night. The movements taking
place within the 6 lines of a hexagram reveal the progress
of the 3 powers; Heaven / Man / Earth.
Therefore the Superior Man follows the advice of the Oracle.
He studies the explanations of the lines with greatest pleasure.
The Superior Man living quietly, contemplates the symbols
and studies their explanations. When starting anything he
consults the Oracle and studies its advice. In this way
he gains help from Heaven which brings good fortune in everything
he does. "
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