The Journey of Life - Wisdom from I-Ching Hexagram#1 and Psalm 23

Let's put the wisdom of the Bible and the Ancient Chinese together and see what we can discover, especially in this most important issue of life, our journey of life.

Combining the wisdom of Ancient Chinese and the Bible enriches one's life even more. I-Ching is the root of the Chinese philosophies. Psalm 23 of the Bible, written by King David of the Ancient Israel, is likely the most famous Psalm preached and sung in services, frequently quoted in funeral wakes and imprinted on tombstones.

Each hexagram of I-Ching has a tithe, a description and six verses of text (except for the first 2 hexagrams which has an extra seventh verse. Each verse represent a stage, progressively from stage 1 to stage 6).  Psalm 23 has six verses too. We can put the corresponding verses together, with each verse representing a stage of our life, and see how closely they match!

In Chinese literature and philosophies, dragon, a fictitious animal that contains the best qualities many(may be 5 or 6) animals is used to represent man. Unlike western Biblical dragon that is used to represent evil, Chinese dragon is a good, benevolent and powerful animal. The Chinese king's palaces and his clothes are decorated with dragons.  The I-Ching text is very concise and the meaning may not be clear and hence I put in my interpretation for greater clarity and understanding.

Psalm 23
I-Ching Hexagram#1 Heaven
1 A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
初九:潜龙, 勿用.
Hidden Dragon, Don't/of no use.
1 Hidden Dragon: Just starting life. Full of undeveloped potential but don’t show off yet. It the stage to get ready and prepared well. Do it when time comes and you are ready in the next stage. This is the student, learning stage of life.
The best way to start life is to know God and His ways. I-Ching teaches us to learn the ways of Heaven and Earth. Knowing the God that loves us and shepherd us with His ways enable us to build our lives on a solid foundation. Psalm & Proverbs say that the Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. We start life by learning the wisdom of God expressed in the Bible and in the ways of His creation.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
九二:见龙在田, 利见大人.
Dragon seen in fields. Good to meet great men.
2 Appearing/Rookie Dragon: Entering into the society, joining the work force  after graduation. Try to excel in your work. It is good to get mentors.
As we enter into the work life, the green pastures and the still waters, we need to be diligent in our work. Work opportunities are much more for the young rookies than the middle age or older workers. As rookies, we need to learn from our seniors and more important for us to find mentors to teach us, to help us and even give us opportunities to bring us up. It is important that we pick the right friends.
3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

九三:君子终日乾乾, 夕惕若, , 无咎
Wise man busy whole day. Alert till sunset. Danger. No fault.
3 Diligent Dragon: Doing well in stage 2 brings you promotion in this stage 3. As head of a team or a department, be diligent and watchful at same time; because others are eyeing at your progress and trying to beat you.

Let not our initial success and promotions get into our head that we become proud and start to take things easily. I-Ching tells us to continue to work diligently and be careful how we behave; because many are trying to find our faults and sabotage us in the office politics. It is easy at stage to take the easy and sometime even seemingly good path rather than the righteous path. God will lead you and give you strength to stick to His ways rather than the worldly ways of back-biting, short cuts and hypocrisy.
The Psalm also warn us about having a right balance of work and rest. As a famous Chinese saying says that we rest so that we can walk farther. Abide in God's presence more often that we may be fully charged to excel in our work for His glory.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me

九四:或跃在渊, 无咎.
Choice: Leap across chasm. No fault.
4 Leaping Dragon: To have greater progression, there is the risks to take to leave your comfort zone. Take a leap to higher ground.
To progress higher, we need to take on more challenging tasks. Tasks that take us beyond our comfort zone. Tasks that we may not even think that we can do it. To toughen us up, the Lord may lead us into the valley of shadow of death. Notice that it is only shadow not the real thing. It looks like the real thing. We feel that we have had it and could not progress further. But watch again and be able to see the God's rod and staff, His empowerment and His grace and mercy, that bring you out of your valley victoriously. Your loss of present job, leaving for a lower paid job etc are not a set-back but a set up for a bigger promotion. The Lord who calls you will empower you to accomplish the tasks beyond what you think you could before!
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.

九五:飞龙在天, 利见大人.
Flying Dragon in sky, Good to meet Great Men
5 Flying Dragon: Success in stage 4 brings you to greater height. You are flying high in the sky as success brings greater success. You need to watch out of your pride and hence it is better as you soar higher with a network of influential people that will keep you in check and help you go further.
As you come out of the valley stronger and wiser in the Lord, the Lord will bring you to the new mountain top. Even your past enemies will bow down to you. Success begets greater success. The blessings of the Lord on you is overflowing that it seems whatever you touch will turn to gold. However, there is a greater danger here. It is so easy for our ego to grow so big that we think we did it all by ourselves. We may become proud and unteachable. We may even think that we are beyond the normal people and start to do things against the teaching of God (see stage 1). I-Ching warns us of this very danger. I-Ching tells us that we need of group of mentors and friends that dare to hold us in check and correct us when needed. We are so successful that many will not dare to speak to us about our problems and errors. We need such wise group of mentors to help us.
The Bible has many stories about failures just in the height of success. e.g. David's adultery with Bathsheba (David's men were on war while David the King rest in his palace), Elijah's running away after the victory over the Baal's priests.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
Top Dragon has regrets.
6 Retiring Dragon: You have progressed to the very top, like chairman of the board, there is no way up but to retire soon. Prepare for retirement or change of career as a 2nd life.

Our lives are limited. There will surely be a time, no matter how successful we have become, to retire our positions. If we have followed God's ways through our life, we will be able to reflect on our life and agree with David that 'surely goodness and mercy followed us all the days of our life. Even before that, I-Ching tells us to prepare for our retirement. We need to know how to retire well. We must prepare it long before our retirement farewell party. Many has chosen to use their money to start charitable organisations and contribute back to the societies. We read of the work of rich like Bill Gates, Li Ka Shing etc. We can each plan for our own meaningful retirement.

As we bid farewell to this earth, we are assured that we shall dwell in the Heaven House of God forever.

用九:见群龙无首, . 
Dragons has no leader. Good Fortune.
7 Parenting Dragon: You have mature, accomplished much, and become a virtuous leader. You need no one to lead you but you are able to lead others do well in their lives too.

The highest stage of growth for anyone is to become like a parent, a Father or a Mother. We are no longer concern about making a living for ourselves, but rather, about helping others to grow up and making a good living for themselves. It is the love for others as we tasted the Love of God for us. We learn to give of ourselves for others as our Lord, Jesus Christ. The final goal for all of us is to become like Christ, especially in His love for others because God is Love.

The Difference:
While both I-Ching and Psalm talk about following the righteous ways of God/Heaven&Earth, there is a major difference in emphasis. I-Ching stresses on men following God's ways whereas Psalm stresses on the Lord leading and blessing men to follow His ways! Psalm 23 is all about God doing the leading, the anointing, the comforting, the goodness and mercies and men just follow God and reaps the benefits. Psalm 23 can be rephrased with God in the active voice:

1 The Lord shepherds me so I have no lack.
2 The Lord makes me and lead me, so I am in greem pastures and still waters
3. The Lord restores my soul,
    The Lord leads me in the path of righteousness
4. The Lord is with me in the valley...(this is not a punishment but rather a training to strengthen us)
    His rod protects me by beating up the attackers
    His staff comfort me by preventing me from getting myself into dangers,
5. The Lord prepares the table for me in the presence of defeated enemies
    The Lord anoint my head with oil and so my cub overflows
6. Surely, it was the Lord's goodness(blessings) and mercies (forgiveness,saving me from my errors) for all of my life.
    The Lord provides His dwellings for me to stay with Him forever and ever,

In the reading of the above, I hope you can find the ways to live your life to the full, without any regrets, and that we may meet in the House of Lord forever.

For more on Psalm 23 see The Meaning and Cycle of Life from Psalm 23 
For more on Chinese Philosophies and the Bible see Chinese Classics & The Bible
For more on I-Ching and Chinese Philosophiessee Ancient Chinese Wisdom

Lim Liat (c) 13 April 2014

No comments: