East of the sun (and West of the moon)
“Only when Art is connecting with ordinary feelings or ordinary common sense it becomes most powerful”. Ai Weiwei 艾未未 2014 BBC interview with Alan Yentob.
I got married many moons ago …. yes, it’s been that long!..so long, that it’s usually my mum who reminds me when she sends us a card, which, fortunately, being that she is well organized- arrives a few days before the anniversary -preventing any embarrassment of me forgetting. ..and the trials and tribulations that could follow!! One could say that greeting cards can serve as good preventative medicine.
Anyway, some of you reading this will probably remember our wedding as I think we invited a few people to our reception in a café next to the Tate Modern that used to be called “East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)”. It’s a reference to a Jazz song sung by Ella Fitzgerald and as I like jazz, it’s included in the name of my website. It has multiple reasons for me to include it….
I get some really good questions from my patients and I’m really happy to be kept on my toes. Sometimes, I am put on the spot and have to think, but I always do my best to answer. The other day I was asked how oriental medicine was developed and how it works. All in the same question! I thought I would share an aspect of my answer with you. It has been a cause for some reflection on my part.
A week or so ago you probably saw the beautiful mega moon. I think I noticed that it did look a bit bigger than usual. I think that it’s best to look at the moon with something in the foreground as a reference. This could be clouds or a famous landmark. I prefer clouds, but, as an ex-photographer ( I want to get back into it ) I can also appreciate landmarks as points of reference. With a good landmark, you are usually at a good point of reference or well-positioned for the predicted picture to take place and unfold. A photographer will usually check out the best place to get the best perspective and wait for the “decisive moment “. Clouds, on the other hand, occur as natural spontaneous phenomena and are difficult to predict -adding something both special and magical to the moment. It’s nice when they clear too, revealing the fullness of the moon, briefly, before obscuring it again.
Undoubtedly, oriental medicine is based on naturally occurring phenomena. It is said to originate from Yin and Yang and the 5 elements. The classic is known as the 易經– I-Ching literally translates as “ Change Classic” and is more commonly referred to as the “Book of Changes” This is a book that I find very helpful and its use has shone a light on some interesting situations. I think that most practitioners should have a working knowledge of it if it’s possible. I can highly recommend the translations I’ve listed below.
Books that include the Kanji Ching 經 – meaning classic -are considered sacred or have some special reverence in Chinese culture. For example, the Holy Bible in Chinese is 聖經 .The 難經 ”Classic of Difficulties” is the acupuncturist’s “Bible”.
經 is a picture of silk糹on the left side and this image巠 is a picture of threads on a loom. It also contains the meaning of guiding principles or sutras. Furthermore, it’s also the original character used for meridian, which is now written like this 経
Let’s have a look at the meaning of the Chinese character for Change. It’s made up of two images placed above and below each other. The image 日is that of the sun setting on the horizon, and the second image directly below勿represents a crescent moon ( written separately it means something different but placed in context below the sun, was the moon). Seeing the sun and moon in their complete fullness and somewhat bare state isn’t necessarily beautiful. The use of the I ching or ” divining” is to look less at things as they are, but rather as to what they can become. With this in mind, the context in which oriental medicine is expressed is worth a mention.
Present information gives way to future potential.
The principle behind the I Ching of “cause and effect” can be similar to the Buddhist idea of Karma. Once you accept that every action you take is a cause for effect, then it’s easier to see the results of your actions. Furthermore, the intention behind each action determines the effect. The main theme of the I Ching is that everything is in continual change. However, paradoxically, the principles of the 64 changes are always the same and complete. ( i.e. the sun and the moon ). Situations can, however, change beyond their extremes and switch to the opposite as situations from the past, develop into the present. ( Have a look at the Yin Yang symbol to see this ). So, finding the ideal outcome from any given situation is what the I Ching is about and, is embodied in the underlying principle of oriental medicine.
How does acupuncture work?
Ah!.do you think I know the answer? I have blagged my way in the past, and notably got away with it! However, the answer I will provide is one borne out of continuous cultivation and I am likely to change my mind ( pun intended ).
Buddha is a generic word that means “ awakened one”. In ancient India, eminent religious figures or trainees were given this title. The term Buddhism can be seen in two ways. Either as the teachings of Buddha or as the teachings to become a Buddha. The concept of “becoming a Buddha” is found in the Mahaparinirvana sutra that declares that: “ All beings have a Buddha-nature”. This means that anyone has the potential to become a Buddha and whether this “seed” blossoms or remains latent is basically up to us. It is worth mentioning that the Shakyamuni Buddha is a human being and became enlightened to the truth ( spiritual liberation from suffering ) under the Bodhi Tree.
Here are some nice sutras from the Mahaparinirvana sutra on the sacred principles ;
Like the full moon is pure, one is essentially without tarnish.
Like the full moon is round and perfect, one lacks nothing.
Like the full moon is clear, one is essentially the untarnished Dharma.
As is the way of the East, it’s not an “answer” as such. I am not trying to attempt this, but, at the very least, I am conveying the idea of continual change and cultivation of something not so good, though not necessarily bad, to something that has true potential. I truly hope that human beings can reach their full potential and whatever tool that guides you should be born out of a continually cultivated and common human spirit.
The Complete I Ching by Alfred Huang, published by Inner Traditions 1998. This is the book that I usually use.
The Numerology of the I Ching by Alfred Huang, Published by Inner Traditions 2000.
A Guide to the Iching by Carol K Anthony, Published by Anthony Publishing Co. 1988