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Four Pillars Eight Words - Chinese Astrology and Your Practice
When was the last time you thought about the way in which you made choices in your life? What instructs you to choose one course of action over another? Chinese people have known for a long time that we have an internal compass, our heart, which guides us in all aspects of our life. We have the innate ability to feel if something is favorable or good for us. Unfortunately, due to our disconnection from nature and over-reliance on technology, we may have lost our way. Life would not be an interesting challenge if there was not a antidote to the poison. In the same way, there are lineage traditions that can give us back our sense of heart-mind direction. Chinese birth chart analysis, Si Zhu Ba Zi, and Three Treasures study, Santidao, are two studies that assist us along our journey.
What if any thought, feeling or action was more malleable, effective or potent on some days, and less so on others? What if your next visit to your Acupuncturist would be more auspicious for recovering from an ailment in Spring than in Fall? Hypothetically, if you had a grab-bag of three practices, such as Tai Chi, Qigong and Yijinjing, when would you choose to emphasize one or the other and why? Choosing in general is typically left to habit or arbitrary decision. Let me ask you a simple question: have you been suffering from any form of imminent learning (failure/let-down) due to bad timing, lack of foresight, and improper planning?
There might be a yin and a yang to following yourself through life; where you receive and allow, but you also have some foreknowledge of what is likely to work or not before you do it. If you have been “case-studying” in your practice, you already know quite a bit about this. If you have an interest in choosing when and how to do something more effectively, the Chinese arts of birth analysis, seasonal awareness, seasonal diet, and divination might be of interest to you. They might also give your practice that needed “upgrade” you have been looking for, even if its all just hocus-pocus and another lens to look through for awhile.
The foundations of Chinese Metaphysics, or “Micro/Macro Observation”, are the same as the practice. You get to study Yin/Yang, 5-elements, theories of Qi, change, and transformation. So, even on this level, it worthy to look at for reinforcing or relearning your understandings of these lifelong studies. The general concept is if something is true on a small level, such as in my body, it’s also true on a large level, the universe (or vice-versa). The entire universe is spherical, and our bodily movements can be spherical, and within a sphere are infinite circles that are inter-connected. Does this Chinese tool of Feng Shui, the Luopan (pictured below), indicate this idea? Would it be shocking to find out that most of the Chinese tools for living a good, healthy and happy life are also interrelated? The Luopan is a tool of classical Feng Shui that features a compass in the center with rings around it, based on different schools of placement, analysis and divination. It allows the practitioner to decode personal and environmental disharmonies.
These studies can promote a natural way of living that can open the heart-mind and body without much effort. Guiding you into a balanced understanding of daily living, it is possible to start practicing in alignment and knowing why you do internal practice. Instead of facing a constant uphill battle, you can allow your energetic practices to transform you in deeper ways by working with your available resource instead of fighting it. What if eating too many raw fresh greens in Winter made you weak and tired, when eating hearty stews would give you the energy you needed? Would you then be more likely to sit in to a universal post stance and sweat and shake for an hour? What if you asked the Oracle (I Ching) what will happen in a relationship, and it told you to drop something for awhile, let it float downstream and pick it up again later on. Would you take its advice, would that ring true? What if many things like this started “adding up” and 1+1+1’ing, until we became a highly efficient and enduring force? What if all your mental fire and over-thinking needed was a little calming and cooling yin-herb, ingested over the course of a week - with a daily standing practice. If your entire life changed because of a slight observation, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to observe more?
Where we might start this process is in getting a birth-analysis chart. One of the premier methods of birth chart analysis in China, Taiwan and Singapore is Si Zhu Ba Zi, or Four Pillars Eight Words. Definition:
The Four Pillars Chart is derived from the Date of Birth of a Person using the Chinese Solar Calendar, which is also known as the Hsia Calendar or Farmer's Calendar. This chart can be used to forecast the destiny and characteristics of an individual and the relationships and interaction between the individual with the surrounding environment:
The theory behind the study of four pillars is that The Sun, Moon, Earth; planets in the Solar System emit cosmic energy (chi) all the time. This Cosmic energy is not constant but varies with time depending on the relative positions of the planets.
The Chinese discovered a few thousand years ago that at any point of time the energy field (chi) surrounding us can be mapped and represented by a combination of 22 characters known as the Ten Heavenly Stems and Twelve Earthly Branches. This in turn is known as the Hsia Calendar.
A chart looks like this:
A simplified version of Si Zhu Ba Zi chart is just looking at the year you were born in according to the Chinese Calendar. There are 5 elements, and 12 animals, and they alternate in cycles of 60 years. This year is the Yang Water Dragon year, so if you were born this year, that would be a predominant element in your life.
Once you get your own Birth Chart, you will be given some information about yourself. Using myself as an example, being born in the Yin Fire Rabbit year of 1987, I can identify that my general energetic tendency is yin fire. When I first found that out, I knew inside through feeling that it was generally true.Understanding the 5-element theory, what balances fire? Water. Tai Chi is the water method, so its a perfect compliment to my needs, something I found easily in my life. Is that fate, is that destiny, or luck, or coincidence? What does Fire create when it finishes burning something? Ash (Earth). I work with my teacher, who is primarily Earth, so my fire contributes to his earth. Idealistic and lofty ideas and ambitions turn into tried and true, regulated and grounded plans. This is just one example of the transformations we can be a part of, knowingly or unknowingly.
As you can see in the chart above, there are 8 “words” or symbols, all of which undergo Yin/Yang and 5-element transformations. It is never as simple as saying I am “this” or “that”, but I am this in relationship to that, when this occurs, but not that. We can use this study to start seeing our entire life completely different, as an active participant in how things occur! It’s also important to know what drives our lives, what gives us chances to do certain things, and not other things. We have three main influences in our lives:
Heaven's Luck: This is known as destiny, fate, karma, or luck. Heaven is the source of spirit, believed to account for one third of the influences in our lives. This is our gift at birth, our fate, or karmic inheritance.
Human Luck: This is what we develop and achieve through our efforts of hard work, discipline, education and the development of personal virtues. Man/Woman holds their place between Heaven and Earth and are the bearers of that unique force of human spirit, or will. This accounts for another one third of the influences upon our lives.
Earth Luck : The source of essential elements for life. This is where Yin/Yang House Feng Shui enters our lives by harnessing the energy and forces of nature. Earth's Luck is our invitation to use the tools provided around us to our advantage. By practicing Yin/Yang House Feng Shui principles, we can alter, enhance and support the positive aspects of Heaven's Luck as well as channel both the positive and negative aspects of Man's Luck towards our best interest. - same citation as above quote.
Think of it this way, do you ever feel like you were destined to do what you are doing now? That’s Heaven’s luck. Do you feel like you’ve worked hard to accomplish extraordinary feats through trial and error, and willpower? That’s Human Luck. Have you ever felt living in one environment made you more calm and capable than another? That’s Earth Luck. There is no religious context to these words, Heaven / Human / Earth, just observations of natural phenomena; [hu]man stands between heaven and earth.
Another tool you might consider using, is the Tong Shu, mentioned at the beginning of the article. Every day there is new information to look at. Some of the more obvious discernments are the favorable / unfavorable actions in a day, what seasonal Qi node we're in or approaching, and what the daily I Ching hexagram is. Think about waking up each day and taking a look at this, then deciding what you might do. Or, how about looking at days in the future to see if something is more favorable or less favorable? (Below is information about May 4th, 2012)
The distinct offering of internal lineage traditions is the idea that by following one’s true self through change, the whole-self opens into a vessel suitable for “advanced” movement and insight. We can actually begin to start seeing these tools as second-nature, through feeling and without thought. When we do standing practices of Connection, Alignment, Balance, we are literally standing still on a massive rotating spherical ball flying through outer space, receiving environmental conditions based on our relative position to the sun. Is that not literally being connected to heaven and earth? Studying oneself throughout a day is a very easy but commonly neglected skillset. In what fashion do we work, eat, play, study and rest? Are these areas of life open to ongoing investigation? What if there was already a vast database of information available about this kind of self-research? We can’t be so strict that we never let anything unknown happen, and we can’t be so loose that we’ll go whatever way the wind blows. How do we find the center?
This article is just an introduction, a stimulus to keep learning. I am not a master of Si Zhu Ba Zi or Feng Shui, but merely an interested party who wishes to continue learning. I encourage us to keep studying and do practical things like practicing daily. However, if you want to have an extra edge, or even another way to improve all parts of your life, consider getting a Si Zhu Ba Zi chart reading, and ponder on it for awhile. The best part is when you look at it and don’t understand a single thing, then through open pondering, constant study and re-evaluation, you start seeing it. It was there the whole time, but now you are open to it and ready to receive its wisdom. Many parts of our life have this same transformation, ready to happen. Our sincere interest is all that is necessary.
If you would like to get a chart, you can use this automated tool that is probably 99% accurate at the link below. You will need to know your Birth Year, Date and Time. Quick note on time, if you were born in Daylight Savings Time, please subtract one hour from your time of birth before inputting it into this tool. http://www.masteryacademy.com/baziv4/registerBaZi.asp - there is a lot to read and a lot to learn. Note: I am not advocating you buy the Mastery Academy book series necessarily, just to utilize the tool above.
Another note for the more interested or intrigued, this study is not technically "Astrology" but more of a destiny-analysis or fate-calculation. I felt it necessary to put this disclaimer in here as some might already practice Astrology and wonder what the four pillars chart has to do with the relationships of birth time/date to planetary bodies. My answer, is there are different theories about how Ba Zi came to be and I am learning and case-studying/evaluating its effectiveness in analysis.