Yi Jing - Questions and Answers

1) What is Yi Jing (I Ching)?
  • Yi Jing is a book, almost 2500 years old book originating in China. This book was and has been used as a divination manual and also as a book of wisdom. One cannot overestimate the influence this book has had on the Chinese society throughout their history, including modern Chinese society.
  • That being said one must keep in mind that Yi Jing is not like most other books, for example a novel or a textbook - the core text of the book is a divination manual and for most people this part of the book will make (some limited) sense only if they use the book as a divinatory tool. In other words just reading the text is likely to be a frustrating experience for most people simply because it is hard to identify "head and tail" in the text. One should not read Yi Jing in the same way most other books are read simply because Yi Jing is a different book altogether.
2) What do you mean by divination? What is divination?
  • In what would Castaneda call ordinary reality our mind has a very convenient way of classifying events in three distinct categories: those event that already happened which belong to the past, those events that are yet to happen which belong to the future and those events that we are witnessing now, squeezed between the past and the future, which we call present time events. Divination is an attempt to obtain information about future events using Yi Jing and another agent which no one really knows what it is: old Chinese thought it was the spirit of their ancestors, or God on High (Shang Di), or spirits, etc. In modern times most people think what is used in addition to Yi Jing is our sub conscious mind which does not operate within restricted framework of past-present-future paradigm (as our conscious mind does). 
3) Why would anyone be interested in 2500 old book? Modern civilization and modern life are much different than Chinese society 2500 years ago, aren't they?
  • Yes, many things have changed however human psyche has not changed; human basic fears, aspirations, anxieties and relationships have not changed. Human sense of uncertainty and confusion when faced with present reality and prospects of future events have not changed and very likely they won't change for another 2500 years if human species manage to survive that long. Yi Jing has remained relevant for so many years only because it addresses those fears and aspirations on a most basic level which remains the same regardless of the age or type of human society.
  • Additionally one may argue that ancient people (such as those who created Yi Jing) had to be much more intelligent and observant to survive in a much more unpredictable environment. Modern men can afford to be stupid, uneducated, intellectually lazy and perceptively blind because of wide-spread use of technology and highly organized societies where majority of people live nowadays. For example - for any bacterial infection nowadays you reach for an antibiotic and deal with it - 3000 years ago one had to think deep and long how to deal with pneumonia, for example. Yi Jing may be divination manual however I strongly believe unbelievable amount of thinking and observing went into its creation and for that it deserves great respect. Yi Jing reminds us that the way we see the world may or may not be superior to any other worldview, contemporary or ancient.
4) Well, can Yi Jing predict the future, then?
  • Yes, it can. However Yi Jing does not describe future as 100% unchangeable destination of present circumstances. On the contrary - Yi Jing will tell you what you can expect and it will give you suggestions how you can avoid danger or profit the most from the future events therefore it will tell you to adjust or to change the direction of current events or your current actions. No one could or should take away the free will from you - you are the one who makes decisions which affect your future and Yi Jing will help you make the best decisions possible in your current circumstances. And again, in reality it is not Yi Jing that is communicating to you, most likely it is your sub conscious mind that is sending you messages about your present and your future. Yi Jing is just a tool in that communication.
5) Does that mean Yi Jing will always suggest the best action for the given situation?
  • Almost always. If you get hexagram # 25 (Wu Wang / Innocence (The Unexpected)) without any changing lines that would mean: do what is right and do not think too much about the future. Examples given in the hexagram are those of farmers who plough their filed and scatter the good seed on the land without worrying about floods or droughts that may ruin their harvest/crop for the season. In that particular situation that is the best advice one can get. Generally speaking changing (moving) lines are the ones that signify the action that one should take in a particular situation in order to make most of it.
6) So, it's always that straight forward?
  • Not always. In my experience sometimes you get answers to the "real questions" as opposed to the question you asked. What does that mean? For example you are under huge mental pressure because of the situation A (something important in your life, for example) and you turn to Yi Jing and ask question B which is somewhat related to the situation A however it does not address the core issue of the situation A. What often happens Yi Jing gives you answer to the situation A instead of answering question B. Why is that? Probably because your subconscious mind is doing "all heavy lifting" in the whole process therefore the real problem is the one which is charged with your energy and it "forces" the answer regardless what you verbalize as your question.
7) Is Yi Jing supposed to be used only for personal affairs? What about predicting what will happen in relation to societies, states, groups of people, natural events etc?
  • Questions can be asked about any of the above mentioned situations, Yi Jing can be used to obtain insight into any type of situation, no matter how big or how small. However your interpretation will depend on how well you understand (the language of ) Yi Jing and how well you understand the situation that you are inquiring about. For example if you ask a question about the likely development of the situation when two countries are confronting each other then you would have to be familiar with at least basics of the geo-political situation where the confrontation is taking place, you would have to know a bit about history for both those countries etc.
8) There are so many translations of the book (Yi Jing), which one should I use?
  • Most people (me included) like good old The I Ching or Book of Changes  – Oct 21 1967 by Hellmut Wilhelm (Editor), Cary F. Baynes (Translator). I also like Greg Whincup's translation. With time you will feel which translation suits you the best.
9) Is using Yi Jing some sort of magic?
  • No, Yi Jing is not magic, neither black or white. In my opinion Yi Jing has nothing to do with magic and it has everything to do with your hidden abilities located deep down in your sub-conscious mind.
10) Can anyone benefit from using Yi Jing?
  • Yes. As long you have (sub conscious) mind and you are not mentally ill you can definitely benefit from Yi Jing. Like with any other tool the more you practice the better you get at it. Those who have a serious approach to Yi Jing will get serious results from the use of Yi Jing. Those users who have light-hearted approach will get entertaining results (yes, the old saying rubbish in rubbish out applies to the use of this great book as well). Please keep in mind: Yi Jing is to other books what is quantum computer to your desktop PC - you can use it any way you want however if used properly benefits can be immense. Much like photographers - Yi Jing users can be divided into those who have skills and those who have skills and talent. But even photographers without exceptional talent can take good photographs. If, however you think Yi Jing is nothing but ancient superstition and you want to use the book to prove it Yi Jing will be very accommodating - you will get what you wanted (it is hard to fool your own mind).
11) Yi Jing is a Chinese book and belongs to Chinese cultural tradition, I am not Chinese how can this book work for me?
  • There is not even one character in Yi Jing which says this book is to be used by the Chinese only (or primarily). If you do not believe all people are fundamentally the same chances are Yi Jing is not for you because you lack some basic understanding of the nature of human beings and their place in the world.
12) Where can I learn more?
  • There are many good web sites for Yi Jing scolarly pursuits - for example:http://ikgf.fau.de/research/research-projects/ritual-and-religion/ or http://www.biroco.com/yijing/basics.htm also you can check our page Yi Jing Learning for more detailed resources.