The I Ching- Understanding and Divination
The Accurate, Profound and Practical Book of Changes
The I Ching or Book of Changes is considered as the oldest book in the world. It was used to determine war strategy by the ancient Chinese and later on to determine solutions to the dilemmas of daily life. Many great minds of ancient China have contributed to the book, but it was initiated by China’s first great emperor and sage – Fu Hsih.
The book contains 64 answers or hexagrams, each made up of six lines which can be either yin (broken) or yang (unbroken) lines.
How I was Introduced to the I Ching
The first time I learned about the Book of Changes was at a friend’s place. A friend with a philosophical bent of mind who spoke of it with such a great respect and gentleness of voice that I went out and bought myself a copy. Of course, it took a lot of practice – trail and error – to interpret the hexagrams correctly. Several times I discovered that it was not the I Ching that was vague, but my own understanding of it.
The best way to learn is by keeping notes of the questions asked, answers obtained and the outcome.
The I Ching has infinite patience. Even when I badger it with too many questions. And when it does think it’s too much, it gives me the gently admonishing hexagram 4 – ‘Immaturity. Ignorance.’ It is the one voice of truth that can make me blush, make me aware of the truth inside me, veiled at times.
Last night my sister wanted to find out whether her boyfriend who’d missed meeting her at home twice would check on her again. I was pretty fed up with jotting down the lines she threw, so I decided her to teach how to consult the I Ching. She’d hesitate painfully before determining whether it was yin or yang line. I told her that if she were to get distracted by the details, how could the I Ching give her the correct answer?
Example of a Hexagram and its Outcome
It was hexagram 8 – ‘Seeking Union’ with the last line moving which said: “Commit yourself before it’s too late.” And she said, “How can I, Ani? It’s too early. But that does not answer my question – will he come?”
Before I could finish pointing out that it was about seeking union after all, she ran to the balcony. He had arrived.
That night he proposed to her. And she did commit herself. It was a surprise proposal. She didn’t expect it, but the I Ching did!
I have introduced a lot of grateful souls to this ancient book of Chinese wisdom that Confucius was confused enough to want to study if he had more years to live. I’ve been using this marvel of divination and advice for years. And I can vouch for its unnerving, uncanny aptness.
When people say they believe in a pre-ordained life – destiny, I tell them of the Book of Changes, as the I Ching is referred to. Each of its 64 hexagrams provides variants on a theme; many possibilities that an “inferior” or “superior” man could make possible. It is up to us to change our lives and make the right choices. Nothing is constant but change according to the philosophy of the I Ching.
How to Show Respect to the Book of Changes
I had read, with some amount of guilt about the way the book should be used. Wrapped in silk, opened out on silk, so that it does not come into contact with ‘impure surfaces’; kept above shoulder-level and besides performing other rituals, one should bow to it, light incense and pass the coins used for divination through the smoke.
Now I wrap the books in Chinese silk, keep them on the highest shelf, even try to face south as I jingle the coins, and of course, I bow to the books very willingly. One can’t help feeling a reverence and awe for the book that great minds like Carl Jung, Confucius, Karl Marx and others have felt.
The Accuracy of the I Ching
Author of ‘I Ching the Book of Change’, John Blofeld’s writes that the first time he consulted the I Ching, he was overwhelmed by fright because the answer seemed to come from “a living, breathing person.”
He continues: “Of course, I do not mean to assert that the white pages covered with black printer’s ink do in fact house a lively spiritual being. Yet, if I were asked to assert that the printed pages do not form the dwelling of a spiritual being or at least bring us into contact with one by some mysterious process, I think I should be as hesitant as I am to assert the contrary.”
I know for sure that I could not make the wrong decisions or fail to see through situations and people with the I Ching by my side. Besides, foresight renders decision making easier. The book has timely sense of humour – like when it told me when I asked about a raise in salary – “Stop crowing.” It made me blush and shut up, because that was exactly what I had been doing – praising my own ideas.
Method of Divining with the I Ching
The method of consultation uses coins. You use three coins, concentrate on your question and toss them in your cupped palms. Each toss makes a line. You need six lines that begin from the bottom. Drop the coins slowly onto a flat surface. The value side represents an unbroken yang line, while the other side, yin or a broken line.
If you get two yins and one yang in your toss, you create an unbroken yang line. Two yangs and one yin create a broken yin line. With three yins you get a moving or changing yin line and three yangs give you a moving yang line. Such a moving line is read as the main answer.
No Moving Lines
If there are no moving lines, you read the judgement of the hexagram. Some believe that such hexagrams are “locked” and you should ask again another time.
Asking the Same Question More than Once
This is a common mistake made by beginners. As I point out right in the beginning of this article, its’ not a good idea to ask the same question more than once in a single sitting. This not only implies disrespect for the I Ching, it can also draw confusing answers. You can ask the same question another day.
More than One Moving Line in the Hexagram
Experts differ on this subject. Usually if you get three moving lines, the middle line is most important.
If you get more than that, it’s suggested that you focus on the judgement and not on the lines. If you get two yins, the lower one is read. If it’s two yangs, the upper is read.
Moving Lines Creates a Second Hexagram
A moving line or lines change to their opposite to create a second hexagram. The second hexagram can be the present situation or according to others, the eventual outcome. You can tell by examining your situation.
Everything Changes But Change
The darkest night of the soul is never dark enough to dispel the light. Everything changes.
In fact, having found this essay I had written many years ago, I decided to turn it into a hub since it had something important to say. But how things have changed! My sister is no more and I have undergone a metamorphosis from party-loving fashion model to reclusive spiritual aspirant. My deep regard for the I Ching, however, continues. What has changed is how I perceive the answers it gives me.
- Books I Recommend
The Illustrated I Ching by R. L. Wing
The I Ching on Love by Guy Damien Knight
The I Ching on Business and Decision Making
I Ching – An Introductory Guide to Working with the Chinese Oracle of Change by Stephen Karcher
Hub Article I Recommend for further details: I Ching Reading - Step-by-Step Guide