Saturday, April 14

I Ching

Confucianism. Very old wisdom.

As regular readers may recall, I am teaching the youth Sunday school class at our United Methodist Church. First of all, I must express my gratitude to the leadership of our congregation and church that tolerate my outside-the-box thinking. In my 3-ish years of teaching this class we have studied Old Testament, the 12 disciples and many aspects of the UM faith...but in addition to that, we have held an abbreviated Seder one Palm Sunday to honor the fact that the Last Supper was not just a meal among friends. And now we are in a study of World Religions.

We spent several weeks each on Judaism and Islam, a little less time on Hinduism and Buddhism and tomorrow we will examine the religion known as Confucianism.

We are using the Complete Idiot's Guide to World Religion as our text (I also have Religion for Dummies as a secondary reference). I spend most lunch hours poring over these books and scrolling through pages on my Blackberry so that I can be well prepared to both honor the traditions of each religion AND to find parts of each that we can embrace as Christians. So far, I find many more similarities than differences. There is much common ground in what we have studied so far.

In preparation for Confucianism, I have a selection of wisdom from The Analects printed for us to ponder upon and I had hoped to be able to show the class a copy of I Ching. Unfortunately, the book proved so enlightening to whomever checked it out of the Lynchburg Public is now listed in their card catalog as "lost". So I asked my Facebook friends if anyone had a copy (not expecting that anyone had one in their personal libraries - but it was worth asking). And no, none of my Lynchburg friends has offered one up...but one of the people whose wisdom I am often in awe of...she responded thus: "You need a copy of your own. I have a very small one that I can carry with me. The words are too precious to leave with the library."

Wow. NOW I am intrigued. So I have already ordered my own copy. But meanwhile, I have read a tremendous amount about it online. One area that had caught my attention while reading the Complete Idiot's Guide was the system of divination. By throwing coins (originally manipulation of yarrow stalks) one seeks wisdom in the results. Three coins are tossed six different times and those results create a hexagram - there are 64 possible hexagrams and each of those has text associated. To add one more dimension to the system - the "lines" that are created with each throw are characterized as "changing" or "unchanging". Because situations are always in transition. So the hexagram is transitional.

The Methodist Church (indeed I expect the entire Protestant religion) does not support divination. In fact there are scriptures in Deuteronomy and Leviticus that forbid it. So that would mean that Judaism is probably not a supporter either. This fact will be pointed out to the class tomorrow. But the wisdom is in the text - not in the coins. And seeking wisdom is not a bad thing.

So, in the interest of preparation for class - I located an online version of I Ching and asked this question: "Will the teaching I do for the youth Sunday school class yield positive results?"  You see, I'm never quite sure if I'm on the right track. Or if I'm the right person to be leading the class. (some of you may ask the same question!).

The results were Hexagram 16 (Providing-For/Enthusiasm/Excess) with lines 1, 4, 5, 6 being transitional (they read from bottom to top). And the associated text reads in part: Thunder comes resounding out of the Earth: Similar thunder roars up from the masses when the Superior Person strikes a chord in their hearts. Whip up enthusiasm, rally your forces, and move boldly forward...This is a time for instinct, not intellect.

Since there are transitional lines - the transformed hexagram is 42 (Augmenting/Increase). Whirlwinds and thunder: When the Superior Person encounters saintly behavior, he adopts it; when he encounters a fault within, he transforms it. Progress in every endeavor. You may cross the far shore.

I think that I will interpret the answer as "keep going. keep trying."

No, I do not put great store in divination. I do not believe that yarrow stalks or coins should guide our future. But I do embrace the idea of sitting back sometimes and looking at a problem from a different point of view. If the I Ching can assist someone in that - I do not see the down side.

If you choose to disagree - then I invite your input!

The Master said, "If the will be set on virtue, there will be no practice of wickedness." - The Analects, Li Ren.

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