Is there a Definition of Heaven in the I Ching*?


All religions speak of ‘heaven’ but do they convey the same? It seems that the Taoist perspective of Heaven is different from the children stories we used to hear in the church. It seems that in ancient times, the notion of Heaven was very ‘accessible’ to people, not an idealistic image or fairy tale, but something as fundamental as the earth one had under one’s feet. It was a natural counterpoint to Earth. Earth was associated with Man, and Heaven with the Divine Realm. This is all I can say in my simple understanding of a very complex teaching. So let Master Ni talk through this quote.

Hua-Ching Ni
Ren, from the North of Kun Lun, said: (…) Ancient developed people recognized Heaven as their subtle supporter. Interpretations of Heaven as a dominion that is different from what the ancients knew came from later religions. Heaven (Tien) is the universal subtle law residing above all ruling forces. Mo Tzu elucidated it thus: ‘Heaven desires righteousness and detests unrighteousness. If I lead people under Heaven to live a life of righteousness, I do as Heaven desires; then Heaven will respond to me with what I desire. What I desire are blessings and benefit. What I detest are calamities and harm. If I lead people to live a life of troublemaking and evil doings, then I do not do as Heaven desires, but as Heaven detests. How do I know what Heaven desires and detests? By the fact that under Heaven the one who is unrighteous usually dies unnaturally. One who is righteous enjoys life, one who is unrighteous suffers. One who is righteous receives peace, and one who is unrighteous suffers being disordered. Heaven desires people to live happily and not die unnaturally. Heaven desires people to be self-sufficient and joyful and not suffer from self-created poverty and difficulties. Heaven desires people to live peacefully and not struggle in disorder and confusion. This is how I know that Heaven desires what is righteous and detests what is unrighteous.’ This was the invisible law engraved in the minds of these developed people. Can one separate heavenly nature from human nature? The social code of ancient developed people depended upon self-recognized natural moral law; as a result, there was mutual understanding and consideration among all / people. Even though there were leaders in the ancient system of government, society was naturally ordered without being specifically organized. Modern people may think the old natural societies were backward, yet they were more normal in a healthier, human way. Modern people may think the old, natural societies were random and unorganized, yet they were natural and organic. Modern people may think the old, natural societies were inefficient, yet they were relaxed. Modern people may think the old, natural societies were unsystematic, yet they were flexible. The ancient faith of humanism did not function as a regimented system of law or religion that forced its demands on people. The foundation of ancient society did not depend on emperors or officials for the establishment of order; it depended on an invisible moral force in every individual, which was further established within the family. Family discipline was the real foundation of social discipline. Parents took responsibility for the behavior of their children, and the elders took responsibility for the young. For almost 5000 years moral law was the foundation of society. Until the present time, though the dynasties have changed, the social code has not. Faith in the Subtle Law of Heaven and humanism was the real ruling power of the unspoiled mind. Ancient leaders were not the real rulers; on the contrary, they were the ones who enjoyed the good nature of their people. The real leader on the spiritual throne of China was universal humanism. The society developed naturally, stage by stage. However, the seeds of confusion in thinking sprouted like weeds, and the Old Sage, Lao Tzu, saw correctly that the decline of human nature was inevitable. He beckoned people to return to their original nature, for when one returns to the true mind of simplicity, there is neither confusion nor contention. Surely, human life is now much more highly developed than animal life, so why don’t humans have peace? Although wild animals are not more highly evolved than humans, they have no organized wars. Competition and war have made all divine beings sad to see the backward direction of human nature. If the human race continues to follow the darkness of its impulsive blindness, it may lead itself to the point of self-elimination. The natural faith of humanism or universal love is the mellow fruit of and for all people. Ancient developed people / directly realized and applied the principle that heavenly law is the human mind, and the human mind is heavenly law. They maintained naturalness without deviation from the truth. A developed person should keep a balanced, broad perspective without becoming religiously dogmatic. Humanism, or universal love, should be one’s contribution to the world. This is the essence of the individual in human society and it should be the goal of the entire human race. /621-623

I think it is important to see that in integral spirituality the notion of Heaven is fundamental, not just picturesque and fairy-like, but a concrete idea of law, of legality, of integral goodness being codified as a natural moral order, a natural law in the cosmos. Hence, people had a precise notion of what was the demand or requirement of a spiritual life. It was righteousness, correct moral behavior. Today we would coin it in the impetus: First, do no harm! Is it not essential to see that today most of our governments actually behave in ways that may be legal, but that are by and large immoral, thereby leading their people by means of a strange contradiction inherent in their systems. They should tell their people to act not like their governments, but better than those!

Glossary

* I Ching or Book of Changes is the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. A symbol system designed to identify order in what appear to be chance events, it describes an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy that is at the heart of Chinese cultural beliefs. It is based on the alternation of complementary energies called yin and yang, which are developmental poles that by their alternation trigger inevitable change. It is also based on the old integrative philosophy of the five elements that is part of many other esoteric science traditions. The philosophy centers on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change.

The I Ching consists of 64 hexagrams. Each hexagram or kua is an energy pattern that is a unique mix of the two base energies, yin and yang, represented symbolically by lines. Yang is represented by a solid line, yin by a dotted line. Each hexagram is composed of six lines, and two trigrams consisting of three lines each. The lower trigram deals with matters that are in their beginning stage, from the start of a project until about half of its realization. The upper trigram deals with the culmination and the end of processes or projects, positively or negatively.

The I Ching has been a book for divination and relief, and for spiritual learning for many great and famous people such as Confucius, Hermann Hesse, John Lennon, Carl Gustav Jung, and many others. I personally consult the I Ching on a regular basis since 1990.

Bibliography

Hua-Ching Ni
The Taoist Inner View of the Universe and the Immortal Realm
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1979, 1996

Hua-Ching Ni
The Power of Natural Healing
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1991, 1995

Hua-Ching Ni
The Complete Works of Lao Tzu
Tao Teh Ching & Hua Hu Ching
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1991, 1995

Hua-Ching Ni
Life and Teaching of Two Immortals
Volume I, Kou Hong
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1992

Hua-Ching Ni
Life and Teaching of Two Immortals
Volume II, Chen Tuan
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1993

Hua-Ching Ni
Internal Alchemy
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1992

Hua-Ching Ni
Nurture Your Spirits
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1990

Hua-Ching Ni
I Ching, The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth
Revised First Edition
Santa Barbara: Seven Star Communications, 1990

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