The Yi Jing, The Book of Changes, over the centuries is in use as an philosophical treatise of the universe, a guide toward ethical life style, an advisory for ruling, and as an oracle for one's personal life and spiritual future.
The Book of Changes is one of the most important ancient books ever written, and one of greatest treasures of wisdom. Confucius said that by following the advices of the book, and studying it constantly, we can attain creative awareness in every situation.
The Book of Changes is a philosophical system, a method and the oldest written form of known divination in the world which contains many historical events that are for the most part hidden among the hexagrams and lines.
The Book of Changes serves as a foundation for many Eastern philosophies and Western mathematics. The Book of Changes was first introduced to the western world by missionary in late Ming Dynasty and explained by mathematicians using binary code.
The first European commentary was written in the late 15th century. In the 1950s and '60s, the Yi Jing held a special place as a divinatory guidance book for living a better life. It is by far the most referred book in China and East Asia.
German sinologist, Richard Wilhelm's translation of the Yi Jing serves as foundation to most Westerners interested in learning about the ancient work. Carl Jung, psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, expressed interest in Yi Jing and its divinatory aspect.
Carl Jung used the oracle, in particular Yi Jing book with his patients during therapy sessions. Dr Carl Jung believed that the ancient Chinese were much interested with the chances of natural events to occur, and Yi Ying’s main concern is relevance to the aspect of coincidence. Jung explains: "The ancient Chinese mind contemplates the cosmos in a way comparable to that of the modern physicist, who cannot deny that his model of the world is a decidedly psychophysical structure. The microphysical event includes the observer just as much as the reality underlying the Yi Ying comprises subjective, i.e., psychic conditions in the totality of the momentary situation."
During 17th century, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz found a way to brush better arithmetic method over the decimal system. Leibniz invented binary arithmetic by studying the Yi Ying. The title of his paper was: "Explanation of the binary arithmetic, which uses only the characters 1 and 0, with some remarks on its usefulness, and on the light it throws on the ancient Chinese figures of Fu Xi”.
So, what really is Yi Jing?
According to Chinese legend Yi Jing originated with the mythical Fu Xi, one of the earliest legendary rulers of China (2800 BC-2737 BC), reputed to have had the 8 trigrams revealed to him supernaturally.
Fu Xi was said to have found the eight trigrams that form the sixty-four hexagrams on the shell of a tortoise. The meanings evolved from then on, but the book was used mostly for predicting natural events until King Wen wrote the first expositions on the sixty-four hexagrams about 3,000 years ago. These were the first comments that included social and political connotations.
Each inquiry to the oracle will result in a hexagram reading and possibly additional line readings. A hexagram is made up of two trigrams. There are eight possible trigrams: cosmos, thunder, water, mountain, earth, wind/wood, fire, and lake. Each trigram is made up of three lines. Each line is either broken or solid, corresponding to the complementary forces Yin (negative) and Yang (positive). Every time a coin is thrown, one line of the hexagram is determined, thus, six throws decide a hexagram.
These eight trigrams were conceived as images of all that happens in Heaven and on Earth. At the same time, they were held in a state of continual transition, one changing into another, just as transition from one phenomenon to another is continually taking place in the physical world. There are sixty-four different hexagrams, and each hexagram has six changing lines, any one of which may or may not apply for any particular reading. The hexagrams and lines in their movements and changes mysteriously reproduced the movements and changes of the macrocosm.
One method for casting the oracle is to use three Chinese coins for the throws. Each throw creates one line of the hexagram. One side of the coin represents a two and the other a three. These numbers are added to determine the result of the throw.
Changing lines are created if there are any three-of-a-kind throws (a total of six or nine). The secondary reading can be thought of as changing from the primary reading and is only created if there are changing lines in the primary reading.
To use the Yi Jing, a person uses either coin tosses or yarrow stalks to generate a hexagram and receive their divination statement.
By the use of yarrow stalks one could attain a point of vantage from which it was possible to survey the condition of things. Given this perspective, the words of the oracle would indicate what should be done to meet the need of the time. This very procedure is regarded as mysterious, however, simply in the sense that the manipulation of the yarrow stalks makes it possible for the unconscious in man to become active. All individuals are not equally fitted to consult the oracle. It requires a clear and tranquil mind, receptive to the cosmic influences hidden in the humble divining stalks. As products of the vegetable kingdom, these were considered to be related to the sources of life. The stalks were derived from sacred plants.
How to use a book?
In antiquity, oracles were everywhere in use; the oldest among them confined themselves to the answers yes and no. This type of oracular pronouncement is likewise the basis of The Book of Changes. "Yes" was indicated by a simple unbroken line (__), and "No" by a broken line ( _). However, the need for greater differentiation seems to have been felt at an early date, and the single lines were combined in pairs:
To each of these combinations a third line was then added, and these eight trigrams were conceived as images of all representative of Heaven and Earth. The eight trigrams are symbols standing for changing transitional states. They represented a family consisting of father, mother, three sons, and three daughters symbolically.
The sons represent the principle of movement in its various stages. The daughters represent devotion in its various stages -- gentle penetration, clarity and adaptability, and joyous tranquility.
In order to achieve a still greater multiplicity, these eight images were combined with one another at a very early date, whereby a total of sixty-four signs was obtained. Each of these sixty-four signs consists of six lines, either positive or negative. Each line is thought of as capable of change, and whenever a line changes, there is a change also of the situation represented by the given hexagram.
Positive lines that move are designated by the number 9, and negative lines that move by the number 6, while non-moving lines, which serve only as structural matter in the hexagram, without intrinsic meaning of their own, are represented by the number 7 (positive) or the number 8 (negative). Thus, when the text reads, "Nine at the beginning means..." this is the equivalent of saying: "When the positive line in the first place is represented by the number 9, it has the following meaning..." If, on the other hand, the line is represented by the number 7, it is disregarded in interpreting the oracle. The same principle holds for lines represented by the numbers 6 and 8 respectively.
In addition to the law of change and to the images of the states of change as given in the sixty-four hexagrams, another factor to be considered is the course of action. Each situation demands the action proper to it. In every situation, there is a right and a wrong course of action. Obviously, the right course brings good fortune and the wrong course brings misfortune. Which, then, is the right course in any given case? This question was the decisive factor. As a result, the Yi Jing was lifted above the level of an ordinary book of soothsaying.
The third element fundamental to The Book of Changes are the judgments. The judgments clothe the images in words, as it were; they indicate whether a given action will bring good fortune or misfortune, remorse or humiliation. The judgments make it possible for a man to make a decision to desist from a course of action indicated by the situation of the moment but harmful in the long run. In this way he makes himself independent of the tyranny of events. In its judgments, and in the interpretations attached to it from the time of Confucius on The Book of Changes opens to the reader the richest treasure of Chinese wisdom; at the same time it affords him a comprehensive view of the varieties of human experience, enabling him thereby to shape his life of his own sovereign will into an organic whole.