Most people think of the I Ching as a method of fortune telling. It’s known as The Oracle. I don’t believe in divination, fortune telling, soothsaying – but I’ve found that if you use the I Ching as a philosophical text, as a book of wisdom, instead of divinations you discover illustrations or models of different ways of life, signposts to different directions.
I Ching consists of 64 gua or hexagrams, each one a combination of six broken or unbroken lines. The text is made up of commentaries by Confucius and others on the Judgments, or decision, and the image (symbol) formed by the lines.
For a lark, the other afternoon I thought I would divine the election. Usually, when I “consult” I Ching all I do is simply pick up a translation and read whatever is on the page I opened. Occasionally, I used to meditate on a thought and then throw the sticks or coins. It’s rarely a formal question that I have in my mind, but for this exercise, the question was “Who will win the 2016 Presidential election and what will it mean for the future of the United States?” I tossed 3 coins six times and the lines corresponded to this hexagram:
Above: Heaven, the creative, active
Below: Thunder, movement, perilousness
Alfred Huang translates Wu Wang as Without Falsehood and says that it “literally means untruthful.” John Blofeld translates it as Integrity, Richard John Lynn (translating Wang Bi’s interpretation) as No Errancy, and John Cleary (in The Buddhist I Ching) as No Error.
Huang writes, “This gua displays the wisdom of holding to the truth – that is, no matter how situations change, truthfulness never changes. The ancient Chinese did not have a personal God; they submitted to the will of Heaven and resigned themselves to their fate. They believed that to live and act in harmony with the will of Heaven was the nature and duty of humanity.”
The way of Heaven means the way of nature, and ideally, to be in harmony with the way of nature.
Falsehood seems an apt hexagram for this election. We are sure that all politicians lie and according to Politico, this year voters must choose between a presidential candidate who lies every three minutes and 15 seconds, or one who lies every 12 minutes.
Yet, Wu Wang represents more than truthfulness. Another definition is “a person’s prestige.”
The Judgment: Without Falsehood. Sublimely prosperous and smooth. Favorable to be steadfast and upright. If one’s intention is not truthful, there is trouble. Unfavorable to go anywhere.
The Image: Under the sky, thunder rolls; from it all things are accompanied by truthfulness and receive their integrity. The ancient rulers, in accordance with this, nurtured myriad beings.
Here is Chih-hsu Ou-I’s interpretation (The Buddhist I Ching):
Judgment: Freedom from error is very successful, beneficial for the upright. Denial of what is correct is mistaken, so it will not be beneficial to go anywhere.
Commentary: In politics, a government that restores well-being accords with the way of heaven and if free from error. In Buddhism, a teaching that restores the true way is the same as the orthodox teachings and is free from error. In contemplating mind, on returning to original essence, truth is found and confusion is ended, so one is free from error. All of these are very successful, and beneficial for the upright.
But whether in worldly affairs or transcendental affairs, helping oneself and helping others, it is necessary to look deep into oneself to be sure one’s mind is free from aberration and one’s words and deeds are not mistaken. If inwardly one denies what is correct, outwardly one will make mistakes; then one should certainly not go anywhere or do anything in this way.
One way to look at it is from the conventional or relative view, which seems to me rather pessimistic, that no matter who is elected President, the country is going to be in trouble. The notion that it is not beneficial to go anywhere would seem to indicate that the country is not going to move forward, there will be more gridlock and almost certainly, more division. That is, as long as our leaders remain with falsehood and out of harmony with nature.
There is another aspect of this view to consider and it relates to Lincoln’s words that the American government is “of the people, by the people, for the people.” If we want better politicians, we need to be better citizens. Too many of us are kind of lazy especially when it comes to learning about the issues.
“To look deep into oneself” is ultimately about truth as a personal experience. This kind of truth does not necessarily have to do with conformity with facts. Maybe we could call it self-truth, or integrity, becoming men and women of principle, cultivating an ethical way of life. It is, to some extent, what we mean when we talk about finding our true nature or original essence. It is not separate from the realm of truth, but intersects with all truth.
John Blofeld’s interpretation of the commentary on Wu Wang (Integrity):
Those who do what is right win great success . . . Those opposed to righteousness will suffer and have nowhere favorable to go; for, without integrity, what remains for them?
The I Ching is known in English as “The Book of Changes” and because we can change, those without integrity can chose to develop it, and those with integrity can discover how it is beneficial to find harmony with one’s own truth and be without falsehood.
Read more posts about the I Ching here.