The I-Ching and Tofu

I-ChingDo you believe in the I-Ching?
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After graduating from Oriental Medical School in Osaka, Japan, I took up an apprenticeship with one of the most famous Oriental Medical Doctors in my home town of Kyoto.  My teacher was very successful, highly respected and well-loved by his patients.  Though he was 40 years my elder, we became good friends and shared hours in conversation like college friends.

His favorite conversation was on the philosophy surrounding the I-Ching.  The I-Ching is an ancient classic Chinese text of divination — an oracle, a guidebook.  To access the divination, one throws coins or sticks to decide which of its 64 chapters to read and how to read them. Each chapter was based on one of 64 hexagrams derived from Ying Yang philosophy and is meant to help one answer questions he or she has in their life.  People spend lifetimes studying the text and it has been used for millennium to answer difficult questions.

Mapo TofuMy teacher lived and breathed the I-Ching. His enthusiasm was contagious. We would talk about it on our long strolls in Japanese gardens or even at Geisha parties to which he’d invite me.

He explained to me that to benefit from the I-Ching, one reads the vague passages with an open heart. Another friend likened it to Tofu — it has no flavor of its own but picks up the flavor of those who read it.

I read the I Ching for about 2 years, and often threw coins and contemplated the text. But it was difficult for me. I was a Westerner and had not been immersed since a child in this culture.  Thus the philosophy behind it was more intellectually inspiring and less emotionally stirring. I can’t say I made any amazingly good decisions using the I Ching, but the time spent was fun.

i-ching-coinsI’ve seen many Christians read their Bible in a similar way:  When troubled, the open it  up and read — looking for guidance, strength, insight or inspiration.  People do this other literature too.   My experience has told me that no god speaks through text, there is not magic.  Well, unless one understands that our minds are complex, we are not who we think we are and a text can act as tofu, drawing in a hidden flavor of many ourselves, helping us to see life more fully.  Heck — that is magic, eh?


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

6 responses to “The I-Ching and Tofu

  1. I really like the tofu metaphor. I need to remember that. You know, I’ve never really gotten into the I-Ching. It’s on my nightstand. I want to study it one of these days, but the time hasn’t come yet. : )

  2. I also like the tofu metaphor. When I read tarot for myself, I do so as a meditative tool, to reach inside my subconscious and ferret out what might be wiggling around in there, causing me issues.

    But then, I also think that we are part and parcel of the divine, so that when I am talking to this hidden part of me, I might be talking to God (albeit a very different God than that imagined by many) after all.🙂

  3. Ben

    I think by separating “an actually powerful divination tool” and “like tofu and only reflects your own thoughts” you are claiming that your mind is not a powerful divination tool (which isn’t a conclusion I’m willing to make).

  4. @ Ben
    Thanx for stopping in.
    I am not sure what you are saying?
    I feel the human mind can yield more information than we think it can. See my post on “Prayer for Guidance” and how it works.

    What do you believe. Do you believe that the human brain can see into the future? I don’t believe that.

  5. this is a great article Sabio. I love the analogy. I know many people that open up the bible to a random passage. I read all religions, and even being Catholic by birth, I find merit in every single one. It is though, I do have to say, done more out of interest, than for trying to connect to a beyond matter divination or what not. I believe we are much more expansive than we perceive ourselves, and if one can utilize another person’s words or text to tap into that part of the self, than a victory, as mild or strong as it may be, has then been won. Currently I’m meditating on Chakras, finding less than I thought I would, but still, there are merits and enjoyment, especially when I use them in conjunction with meditating upon my breath. Prana or Chi, same thing really, and perhaps it is mostly the mind willing through belief to feel the positive after effects, probably is, but nonetheless intriguing and often refreshing.

    Oh, and by the way, I love tofu in a nice bowl of hot and sour soup. yum!

  6. @ hobgoblin :
    Thank you kindly. It is clear that you get exactly what I am saying. I have long messed with meditation too — with a similar attitude as yourself.

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