Saturday, September 8, 2007

Q and A about Feng Shui (2)

Q: Is the use of a three-legged toad Feng Shui practice?

A: In Hong Kong, when a patient goes to see a doctor, he expects to get medicine or even injection. One doctor told me if a patient does not need medication, he also gives him some vitamin pills and sometimes an injection with just distilled water. The patient will get well faster. Is this medical practice or malpractice?

If your answer is yes, it is medical practice because it cures the patient, then the use of a three-legged toad is Feng Shui practice. If your answer is that it is malpractice, then the use of a three-legged toad is also Feng Shui malpractice.


7 comments: said...

Giving placebo medicine can be acceptable practice.
But only if cheap product is being used. In this case your doctor used water or cheap vitamins.
There is no justification for using anything more expensive and charge the patient a high fee for it, when it is just a harmless placebo. Then it would become an unacceptable rip-off of desperate patients.

So if the three-legged toad is made from ordinary materials and sold at a normal price, then it can be seen as a placebo cure.
But if somebody sells very expensive three-legged toads, claiming the special ingredients, then it will be an exploitation of the trust of the public.

It would not be considered acceptable in the domain of medicine.
So why it would be any different in the field of fengshui?


Joseph Yu said...

Dear Danny

A lot of Feng Shui masters in Hong Kong are selling their products after a ceremoney called "Kai Guang 開光". The same three-legged toad may be sold at 10 times the price after "Kai Guang" as the Feng Shui master claims that his products are much more effective.

It is hard to tell whether this is a rip-off as what the customer buys is the placebo effect and not really the product.

Buddha says, "Not to reveal."

JY said...

I don't know if it is hard to tell.

If we go back to your original example of the doctor in Hong Kong.

He could say that he has performed a special ritual on the vitamin pills or distilled water he is using for the placebo.
Will that warrant to charge 10 times more than normal for the placebo "service"?

In a lot of countries such practices could cost him the doctor's license.

It is for good reason.
When people are desperate (because illness or money troubles for example), then it will be easy to exploit their situation.
If you allow "placebo" cures to be sold at any prices, then it opens the door for abuses.
This would not only harm the patient, but also destroy the integrity and reputation of the profession as a whole.

Joseph Yu said...

Dear Danny

The way people do business is of no interest to me. I have no right to allow or disallow people selling objects loosely related to feng shui at a reasonable profit or 1000% profit.

The "normal price" you mentioned does not exist in business. I just read that Chinese factories charge $5 for an ipod. Apple sells it at $80 to wholesellers. We all know the retail price of ipod.

JY said...

Dear Joseph,

The example of the iPod is not very good.
Far the biggest cost of the iPod product is in the research & development that has gone into it.
That's typical for all high tech products.
Once the development is done it is then pretty cheap to produce.
That doesn't mean the Apple company should not charge for its development costs.
And there is also software that is included in the iPod.

In fact the profit margin of Apple Inc. has been 17% over the last 12 months.
They made a net profit of $3.1 billion from total sales of $22.6 billion.
That's nothing excessive.
(See : )


In most countries there is some general idea what is a reasonable profit margin, and what is an excessive one (also called profiteering).
But it is quite obvious that opinions about this vary greatly around the world.
What is still considered a fair profit margin in Hong Kong, may be considered blatant profiteering in other places.
I don't think the question is: who is *right* or who is *wrong*.
The question is: what do you want (for yourself)?
Because: what goes round, comes round..

Personally I have no objection if people want to live according to "everybody can charge the profits he wants" principles.
But then they have to accept that other professions will do just the same.
Doctors, taxis, ambulances, firefighters, lawyers, etc.. will also charge the profits they want.
So, no complaints if a taxi charges 10 times the normal fees, when he picks them up next to their broken car on a cold winter day?
The doctor or ambulance cleaning out their bank account when they need the services very badly, will then be "normal".
And so on..
That's the logical consequence if we apply "everybody can do business and take the profits in the way they want" principle.

I have been spending time in both types of countries, and I must say that I didn't see any case where "take the profits you want" has led to a more harmonious and balanced society.
Actually, when doctors can charge what they want then there is usually a sizeable part of the population that cannot afford proper medical care anymore...
What's so good about that?
Sure, the doctor does make more money if he charges 3 times more and has only half as much customers as a result...
But what happened to the *harmony* and *balance*, which is still the guiding principle in our art of feng shui as far as I know?


No high R&D costs go into producing three-legged toads, so it does not apply here.
That means I still don't see what could justify a 1000% profit margin on three-legged toads.

You suggest the three-legged toad is like a placebo medicine.
Well, if that is the case then I think it should be charged for like a placebo medicine. Simple.
Your Hong Kong doctor uses cheap vitamins or water, and most likely charges his standard consultation fee for the service.
More cannot be warranted because a placebo only rarely works.


If enough taxidrivers overcharge grossly when there is opportunity to do so, then taxidrivers will get a bad reputation in that city or area.
As a result all of them eventually suffer from the declining business , when customers start looking for other solutions.
It will be very unfair to those taxidrivers who always charge the going rate.
It is no different for feng shui practitioners.
If some of them exploit the reputation of feng shui to sell items at excessive profits, then the reputation of feng shui will suffer for it.

In that respect it *does* matter for you and me how other people in our profession do their business.
There is a commonly shared *reputation capital* at stake, from which you equally benefit or suffer, depending if the reputation is good or bad.
We cannot avoid that.
For that reason a lot of professions have come to discover the need of setting a proper standard and some code of ethics for their business.
And excessive profits for questionable placebo cures, are typically not part of such proper standard that will keep the reputation of the business good...


Life's questions would be very simple if we all lived on a seperate island.
But that's not the case..


Joseph Yu said...

Dear Danny

You are right about all of us not living on separate islands. That is why we are all playing a game and have to abide by the rule of the game. There are international laws we have to follow in doing business. Moreover, there are also ethical principles we have to follow and the public is the judge.

For commodities that affect the basic needs of survival, a responsible government will set strict rules to regulate the price. For commidities that are not necessary in our daily lives, the government will let competition to decide who is the winner of the game. It is only in this way that we can have better products for a cheaper price.

If people have too much money and are willing to pay for something useless to contribute 1000% or 10000% profit to the seller, they may be paying for a karmic debt. Who knows?

Unethical business practices and obscene price settings are suicidal in nature. Let them die a natural death. No one needs to be the police, prosecutor, judge and the executioner.

There is no shortage of unethical doctors and lawyers and other professionals. They have not ruined the entire system. Utopia exists only in the land of imagination.

JY said...

Dear Joseph,

I wonder.
With a lot of unethical doctors and lawyers still around..., doesn'
t this suggest just the opposite?
That unethical business practices do *not* always die a natural death so easily..

I think it is wishful thinking to hope that they will die naturally.
Just like it would be wishful thinking to hope for a beautiful garden without doing anything.
Weeds and grasses will dominate the place and there will be little or no fruits or nice flowers.

This is a very interesting question.

If we organise the society by laws of the jungle, then the predictable result is that our society will resemble a jungle.
Is that what people want?
Since jungles are not the most comfortable places to live, most people probably prefer something more "cultivated", a garden..
That means cutting back on some plants that would otherwise take over the garden, or even remove them completely.

The difficult questions then become: what to cut back, and how much, and how...

I think our world will always have more than one kind of people. And so will the domain of Feng Shui.
Some will prefer to live in a wild jungle, others will want to live in a comfortable garden.
To force everybody to live in a garden will make one group unhappy, and to force people to live in a jungle will make the other group unhappy.
That's why democracy brings no answer to this question, because it typically forces the entire country to live in what the majority has voted for.
It is like trying to fit eveyone in the same size shoes.
Predictably some people will get painful feet, and want to destroy those shoes that are forced on them..

So if we want a world in peace, then we will need to find a way that can satisfy both types, those who want a jungle and those who want a garden.
You can call that an utopia..., but so what?
Even if the utopia is not a realistic achievable goal, that doesn't mean one can't come closer to it with the right ideas and efforts..

We do the same thing in our Feng Shui practice.
"Harmony" is the utopia we aim for , but we all know that total harmony is not possible and probably not even desirable.
Still we try to get closer to it...