Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Not Simplistic" Does Not Mean "Unchanging"

Some scholars in the past advocated the three meanings of the word Yi 易:

(1) Simple 簡易
(2) Not simplistic 不易
(3) Changing 變易

I combined the first two into one as they are talking about almost the same thing. The idea of Yi is simple because it reveals the nature of the Universe, something we can see and understand. However simple, it is by no means simplistic. That is why Shao Yong spent his whole life studying the Yi and his fervent love for Yi made him unaware of the heat in summer and cold in winter. This shows that Yi is not simplistic. One will need an untiring effort to understand the real meaning of Yi. Besides, one has to shake off arrogance and prepare room for other ideas which are simple at first glance but not simplistic as you need to go deeper with no ends.

Some people misunderstand that the second meaning is "Unchanging". Well, things change with time and space. Even truth is not an exception. What is true in one place may not be so in another place. What is true today may not be so tomorrow. There is no "unchanging truth". For example, Newton's laws are considered truth but Einstein's relativity principles show that they are not applicable in certain domains.

If you want to learn Yijing, shake of your ego and distance yourself from arrogance. When you think a bottle is full and that it cannot take anymore, then it is just an empty bottle.



Harmen Mesker said...

I believe you have to differentiate between the character 易 and the book 易. The character 易 does not have the meaning 'unchanging', nor did it ever have that meaning. But the book works with the unchanging, the-change-of-that-which-does-not-change. Kong Yingda says in his Zhouyi Zhengyi 周易正義 that the three meanings 簡易, 不易 and 變易 stem from the Qian Zaodu 乾鑿度, which says: '易一名而含三義,所謂易也,變易也,不易也' - The Yi has one name with three meanings: easy, change and no-change. This sentence deals with the name of the book, its 名, which is different from its 字. The 名 is its label, referring to what it means as a book. Kong further quotes the Qian Zaodu, saying that

易者,其德, 'Easy(-ness) is the Yi's virtue' - without effort all things in nature, the stars, planets, spirits etc. take their appropriate place and work according to their nature because of the virtue of Yi.

變易者,其氣也, 'Change is the Qi of Yi' - it is the life force which enables growth and transformation between the Wu Xing, the four seasons, etc. Although heaven and earth, subject and ruler, have their fixed positions it is because of this that the Qi flows from one to another. It is these fixed positions that the Qian Zaodu refers to as

不易者,其位也, 'no-change is the position of Yi'.

I also see no-change as a stone thrown into the water. The ripples that you see is a change in the water, yet the water is still water and does not change.... The Yi, as a tool, enables you to see that-which-does-not-change by showing the changes in that-which-does-not-change.... The changes themselves are not important, what is far more important is the no-change, possibly the 無極...

Hm, getting philosophical here. Anyway, just my 2 cents.

Joseph Yu said...

Hi Harmen,

Thanks for your very good input.

The way I study is to understand what the past scholars wrote without the obligation to agree or disagree. My attitude is different from the two extreme ways adopted by the two different types of people - (1)to agree totally as if the past scholars are infallible and (2)to disagree for the sake of disagreement thus making a name for themselves.

I did not mention the names of the scholars or their work is because I do not want to make use of their names to show my understanding of their work or to step on their work.

When I mention the word "Yi 易", I am referring to the concept of Yi (易理). I am not referring to the Yijing 易經 but the concept embodied in the Yijing 易經.

If we treat the concept of Yi as a name, then I am talking about the three meanings arising from the one name. However, the three meanings I am talking about are:

(1) Simple 簡易
(2) Not Simplicity 不易
(3) Change 變易

This is slightly different from what Kong YingDa 孔颖達 was talking about.

You can see that I neither totally agree with him nor totally diagree with him.


Harmen Mesker said...

"When I mention the word "Yi 易", I am referring to the concept of Yi (易理). I am not referring to the Yijing 易經 but the concept embodied in the Yijing 易經."

Thanks Joseph, That helps to understand the context of your post. Being narrow sighted by nature I immediately assumed you referred to the Yi as a book. My mistake.

Joseph Yu said...

Thank you Harmen,

When I wrote, I wrote what was in my mind and negligence is inevitable. It is a pleasure to have someone like you to point this out. Thank you, thank you.


Howard Choy said...

It seems you two have just demonstrated the Onto-hermeneutics of the Yi, the two extra meanings on top of the traditional three, proposed by a Taiwanese scholar: Jiao Yi 交易 and He Yi 合易.

Joseph Yu said...

It is even more inspiring to see that 易 has the image of the cameleon that changes colors to adapt to the environment. Just change colors. There is no need for a ninja outfit. :))