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May 26 Sunday Zen: with John Tarrant & Friends

June 3 Zen Luminaries: Poet Marie Howe in Conversation with Jon Joseph & Friends

June 10–16 Great Summer Sesshin: Meeting the Inconceivable with John Tarrant & PZI Teachers


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MONDAY ZEN: Double Radiance! Divining Radiance Above & Below – with Jon Joseph

March 20, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

Free – $10


Join us as we examine “Illumination,” Hexagram 30 in the Book of Changes (Yi Jing), to understand the shamanic Chan-Zen roots in this Chinese classic.

Fire is beneficial if correct; then there is success.
Raising a cow brings good fortune.
Fire has no nature of its own;
it only appears cleaving to fuel—therefore it is called clinging…

In Buddhism, when demons cause a disturbance, it is necessary to cleave to correct observation to dissolve obscurity. Therefore, in each case the benefit is in being correct; therein lies success. A cow is gentle and docile, yet very strong; it can also give birth to calves. This symbolizes correct concentration being able to produce subtle insight.

—Book of Changes (Yi Jing), Hexagram #30 (Illumination)

Fire below, fire above. As we investigate the broad shamanic influences on Chan-Zen, this week we read the Book of Changes (Yi Jing), a book of divination. It is the oldest of the ancient Chinese wisdom texts, predating Confucius and Laozi by a millennium, and Chan Buddhists by even longer, and has garnered commentary from all. The Yi Jing hexagrams describe the “inner dynamics of both spiritual life and social life” and is a “basic guide for conscious living,” writes translator Thomas Cleary.

Synchronicity. In his forward to the Wilhelm translation of the Book of Changes (1949), C.G. Jung suggests that generating a hexagram is a form of synchronicity which “takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers.”

In other words, the diviner believes that a hexagram reflects a certain state of mind or natural condition existing both inside a person and in the outside world at any point in time.

The major philosophical schools of China embraced the Yi Jing, adding their own commentary. But the Chan school always identified most closely with the Daoists, and from early days embraced the elements of the Yi Jing that expressed Chan’s fundamental message of awakening.

Yi Jing of the Five Ranks. Followers of Dongshan have closely linked the Illumination (30th) hexagram to his famous Five Ranks, a text commonly used even today by Caodong (Soto) and Linji (Rinzai) Zen teachers. The trigrams of the Illumination double-fire hexagram can be reconfigured into a grouping of five linked hexagrams: Gentle, Penetrating, Joyous, Preponderance of the Great, Inner Truth, and Illumination.

These five are thought to align closely with corresponding lines in Dongshan’s Five Ranks. Lines from these five hexagrams may have inspired elements of the Five Ranks, according to Leighton (2015), including:

Rank One: In the darkest night, it is perfectly, truly clear.
Rank Two: You are not it, but the truth is in you.
Rank Three: In the end it says nothing, for the words are not yet right, or true.
Rank Four: Inclined and upright (form and emptiness) interact.
Rank Five: Wondrously embraced within the real, drumming and singing begin together.

The Buddhist Yi Jing. Though some key phrases and symbols were adopted by various Buddhist schools, it was not until Chan Pure Land monk Zhixu Ouyi (Chih-hsu Ou-i) composed commentaries on the Yi Jing in the 17th century that a comprehensive Buddhist commentary was found.

Interpretations of this oldest shamanic text shift and change with people, time and place. Even so, we may read the hexagrams as showing a progression from the first (bottom) to the sixth (top): from self-discipline, to tolerance, energy, meditation, and finally wisdom, writes Cleary. This is the “inexhaustible classic of ancient China.”

How are we to read the Yi Jing?

—Jon Joseph

Below are lines from the Yi Jing with commentary by the Buddhist monk Zhixu Ouyi in italics.

Hexagram 30: Illumination, Clinging (Like Fire)

The Overall Judgement: Fire is clinging—the sun and moon cling to the sky, plants cling to the earth. Clinging to what is correct with two-fold illumination transforms and perfects the world.

The Image: Illumination doubled makes fire. Great people illuminate the four quarters with continuing light.

Bottom line (yang): The steps are awry; be heedful and their will be no fault.

—Ouyi: Even with insight, the practice is not yet purified.

Second line (yin): Yellow fires is very auspicious, attaining the middle way.

Ouyi: Subtle concentration in harmony with essence is used to illumine all things.

Third Line (yang): In the fire of the afternoon sun, you either drum on a jug and sing, or lament as in old age.

Fourth Line (yang): Coming forth abruptly, there is no accommodation.

—Ouyi: Here, even though it seems that one has insight and concentration, in reality one is not balanced and not correct, unable to harmonize the elements of the path of enlightenment.

Fifth Line (yin): Weeping and lamenting, there is good fortune.

—Ouyi: This represents concentration in balance, which can bring forth genuine insight; therefore progress is certain.

—Top Line (yang): The king goes on an expedition, has good luck, and overcomes the leader, taking captives, but not because they are repugnant. No fault.

Ouyi: Strong without excess, at the peak of illumination, self-help has already been completed, so there is a way to transform others.


The I Ching, or Book of Changes, Wilhelm (1950)
Classics of Buddhism and Zen, The Buddhist I Ching, Cleary (1983)
The Record of Tung-shan, Powell (1986)
Just This Is It, Leighton, (2015)

Jon Joseph Roshi

Join us for a koan, meditation, dharma talk and conversation.
Register to participate. All are welcome.

—Jon Joseph


March 20, 2023
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Free – $10
Event Category:


Jon Joseph Roshi