VIEW—FREEDOM and FATE
Astrology, 星命家, and Geomancy, 風水, are two premier subjects of the Chinese Traditional Mantic Arts. Their development in China over the last 2,500 years continues a tradition whose history is incalculable.
According to Chinese Astrology, human beings are a compound of Character, 性, Nature, 道德, and Fate, 命. Nature, the world, and human beings are a single interconnected, on-going cyclical pattern of self-arising and self-resolving movement called “Time.” Due to Time’s cyclical and repetitive nature (like the changing of day to night / night to day and the alternation of the 4 seasons), it becomes possible to name and characterize. In Chinese Astrology, the patterned movement of Time is called Qì, 氣.
We characterize Qì, or Time, by yīn-yáng, the 5 phases, and the 12 animals of the zodiac, a metaphoric language describing the facets and flavors of change itself. The real nature of our experience is a constantly unfolding, non-solidified, un-abiding movement of Qì. The profundity of Chinese Astrology is found in the direct experience that everything is compound and in a constant process of change, 易.
In human beings, these qualities compound during birth to create what we call “Qì Character.” In each moment, the universe exudes a certain pattern, and when you are born, you emerge as a living, embodied expression of that pattern. The pattern of the universe, patterns you. Our Qì Character does not dissolve until death and therefore constitutes our basic “capacity” to resolve Fate in this lifetime.
Fate is the predispositions we inherit from our many past lives and Ancestors, 宗, to re-create and solidify karmic patterns. As Liu Ming once said, “Fate’s most bitter edge is the apparently ‘un-learnable’ lesson – repeated inauspicious conduct. We have all probably said: ‘I can’t believe I did that again!’ Freedom’s worthless edge is sloth. Squandering freedom is common. Most of us spend most of our time in the vagaries in between.”
Because we are a compound of patterns in flux, we have no permanent or abiding self, for a permanent self could not interact with an impermanent flux. Our Original Nature is neither fixed nor unchanging. Our nature is Freedom, the freedom of light to move within space unimpeded, creating the appearance of solidity. Our Nature is Pristine Awareness, fundamentally empty, 空, and therefore free to manifest or project an apparent "world."
This freedom, what Buddhists call Emptiness, Śūnyatā, 舜若多, does not manifest chaotically. To the conceptual mind, freedom is chaos, húntun 餛飩, but because it is chaos, it manifests order, for chaos without order would be meaningless. It does so through rhythms of time, space, and light. The movement quality of time, space, and light create the “appearance” of an abiding “world” and “self,” subject and object, but upon investigation these appearances are empty projections. Their appearance is nothing other than movement, a dream, a vision, a film, a mirage, a phantasm of light that plays out in open space.
Fate and freedom interact and alternate. The way we use our freedom can untangle our fate or harden it into tighter knots. According to Chinese Astrology, this untangling process is immanent. All knots are predisposed to untangle. This is the Dào of Wúwéi, 無為. The story we imagine to be a “self” is Nature’s predisposition to manifest in limits that resolve back into Nature without a trace. In this way all animate beings are unborn. Human beings are not IN Nature. They are Nature. This is the principle of Dàodé, 道德.
Everything that goes out returns. Everything that is compound dissolves. Everything that struggles exhausts itself.
Follow what is compound back to its Simplicity. Trace what is Moving to its constant Unmoving.
Following and tracing I find No Two. No Two rises to Luminosity and descends to Always-so-of-itself.
Always-so-of-itself, what is it? The mirror’s capacity… We call it Dao. – Liu Ming
Welcome to the Year of the Yang Earth Dog, Wù Xū 戊 戌, also known as the Mountain Dog. Be warned—we each have a unique Qì Character and Fate. Therefore, we digest the year differently. There is no “auspicious year.” The following is a rough approximation.
Yang Earth is the Dog’s Native Element, so this is a double Earth year. For the Dog, Yang Earth represents territory. The impulse of Dog Qi surveys and guards the Earth and can traverse territory quickly through explosive movement. The Dog’s keen senses cover the land and go for miles. Yang Earth represents the virtue of support, stability, solidity, and alliance.
The intensity of the past two Fire-Metal Monkey/Rooster years, characterized by passion and delusion—enlightenment and clarity, the very heart of alchemical transformation, will stabilize, harmonize, settle, and every insight garnered has the chance to gain maturity and fruition in the grounded and stable image of the Earth Dog. In the cycle of Time, the Dog manifests the Vision of the Rooster and then guards what has been created with great devotion, for better or worse, so in the Pig year we can relax and enjoy the fruition of the 12-year cycle.
The intense scrutiny of the Fire Rooster has brought us great clarity, insight, and certainty of belief. The Rooster has crowed—the Dog will now follow orders. If you have been waiting for change, action, to move forward—Earth Dog is the Time. This year presents a capacity for action, manifestation, and fruition that has not been present for quite some time. So, look deeply into the past year and ask—what have I learned about the nature of Life? What do I want from life? And most importantly—whom do I care about?
Fire and Wood are “un-manifest,” invisible, so the past four years have provided little Qi for outer or worldly accomplishment. To have accomplished “worldly” goals would have proved both exhausting and frustrating. While the past four years have lacked manifestation, they have provided a tremendous inner intensity, a journey of self-discovery and transformation, and now is the Time to bring forward that intensity in the form of our most noble aspirations and insights, all that we demand of life, not for ourselves alone, but for those we care about.
Bring forward these aspirations with caution—the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and if we do not take care, whatever certainty the Rooster has created, the Dog Year will manifest, for better or worse—war, violence, territoriality—all possible in a Dog Year! Bring forward your aspiration with the question—how can I support and empower others? In the Dog Year, power is wielded not through leadership but from behind the scenes. This year is about the cheerleading squad, not the quarterback…follow the leader, but without leaders.
The Qi Character of the Earth Dog year will bring a powerful sense of social and family value in the form of the wolf-pack. We will be prompted to nourish our sense of loyalty and re-value all our relationships. Rooster year offered great reflection in terms of the “pecking order,” social hierarchies, power structures, sexual/gender/personal identity—who are we in relation to others? The movement to dismantle oppressive power structures and condemn sexual predation have been very characteristic of a Fire Rooster year; so has been the tendency of those in power to further entrench their beliefs.
Earth Dog year will provide a wonderful opportunity for the social and political change we are seeking, not through huge public demonstrations (that was Goat year), but through the strength of personal alliance—friendship, family, partnership—small, personal, local, grassroot demonstrations of conduct—how are we to change the world if we cannot change our ourselves, our family, our neighborhood?
Overall, this is a year of fairness and equality—all controversial issues will be given their due, revolutions may be successful, politics - liberal, and political oppression - opposed. Integrity and honesty can flourish under the Dog’s just influence, that is, if we use our freedom well.
Our culture is obsessed with dogs, so Dog Qi may be the easiest for us to understand. The greatest virtues of the Dog are subordination, service, and loyalty—think Samurai. Yin behavior when faithful and devoted; Yang behavior when a fierce guardian. If you want to make the best of Dog year, work to strengthen, heal, and solidify your alliances, and do so with altruism, kindness, and inclusivity—welcome everyone into the pack—some sniffing and growling is okay; I know we are all a little guarded after the chaos of the past two years. Do as the bumper sticker says—wag more, bark less.
Dog Qi functions based on a deep and simple principal of trust. When we meet a dog (the animals) we encounter a defensive territorial stance, so we put out our hand, they sniff; we pet them, offer treats. If their human shows acceptance and lets you into their home, dogs can quickly switch from defensive to slobbering love machines. The Dog’s instinct is to protect no matter what, so it perceives everything as a potential threat to those in its territory. But at its core, Dog Qi is overwhelmingly loving. Dogs alternate from growling to rolling over and showing you their belly. They go from “I can kill you,” to “do me!”
Show up for people like your dog shows up for you. You’ve had a rough day; you walk in the door and are met with waging tails and puppy licks—how much does this brighten your day? Imagine friends like this. Who shows up for you? Who is there without you having to ask? Who values you despite your flaws and shortcomings? To whom to will you offer these virtues?
Make time for people, for family, for dinner dates and quality time, for small gestures of love and loyalty. Ease up on the judgment. Stop double-checking to see if everyone is worthy of loyalty; value yourself and all others as perfectly lovable humans as you/they are. If they turn out to be jerks, who cares; shake it off like a wet dog. You can be friendly and warm without sacrificing your boundaries. Boundaries are healthy; walls are not.
Remember a time when someone supported you without reserve—keep this feeling in your heart throughout the year and approach each situation with an open heart. Also, please make time for yourself—every Dog has in them a touch of the lone wolf. Dogs are characteristically private and enjoy solitude. Enjoy yourself, but don’t hesitate to reach out; join the pack, or you may be forced to go at it alone.
Classical Chinese Medicine associates the Dog with the Pericardium, 心包, which represents social bonding, our capacity to love and be loved. Like the Xīnbāo, the function of the Dog is to protect what is most valuable—our precious Human Heart, 仁心. The Dog exemplifies "trauma informed care."
The past two Years have been about Mental Health, taking care of our “inner landscape.” We have been called to honor, understand, and destigmatize mental illness, to open the conversation around anxiety, depression, and the social construct called “mental illness.”
This year is about social welfare, equity, and equality. The Dog calls us to acknowledge the fact that humans are not meant to go through the world isolated or alone. The Dog loves everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status, or legal documentation. In our culture, work, and social lives, we will be called to befriend, protect, and advocate for all those without support. So, speak up! Bark at injustice! Make the change, implement the policy, and stand firm at the lines that will not be crossed! In our personal lives, we will be called to nourish, heal, and process the deep traumas around our Heart, the ones that keep us from experiencing the true connection we desire. We will be called to let down our walls and let in love.
The New Year is, traditionally, a time for repentance and forgiveness, so wipe the slate clean; forgive those who’ve wronged you and let go of any judgmental Rooster Qi you’ve been holding onto—happy Dogs don’t hold grudges. The Dog’s ears and keen senses intuit and feel; they listen carefully and closely with the spirit of—how can I help?
The happy Dog is faithful, loving, loyal, caring, protective, helpful, intuitive, insightful, private, just, expansive, congenial, quiet, and calm under fire. The pathological Dog is territorial, stubborn, argumentative, spiteful, vain, rigid, stingy, critical, and frozen with anxiety.
Dog Qi most exemplifies the Buddhist Bodhisattva Ideal, so be like Guānyīn, the one who hears the cries of suffering throughout the six-realms, whose compassion is limitless.
I wish you the all the best in this New Year and hope you find true loyalty and devotion in your Heart.
Every harmful action I have done
With my body, speech, and mind
Overwhelmed by attachment, anger and confusion,
All these I openly lay bare before you.
While circling through all states of existence,
May I become an endless treasure of good qualities--
Gathering limitless pristine wisdom and positive potential.
May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness.
May they be free of suffering and the cause of suffering.
May all beings remain in boundless equanimity, free from attachment and aversion!
 Liu Ming. Paraphrased from New Year's teachings, Wood Horse, 2014.
Tiger's Play--the View Teachings of Chinese Astrology
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