Learning BaZi, Zi Wei Dou Shu Or Qi Men Dun Jia: What You Ought To Know As A Student

June 23, 2020

Before I begin, I just want to give everyone a heads up that this current blog is meant as a means for me to communicate my thoughts to my readers. There is a separate section that is meant for case studies and technical stuff. Take note that there is no subscription feature for the new case studies blog for now. I wanted to separate these two themes so that people can know where to go to get what they want.

I’m going to talk about learning Chinese metaphysics today. There has been a lot of enquiries about lessons lately for some reason and I wish to take the time to address a few matters. As always, I have opinions on learning Chinese metaphysics and I want to make a few things clear.

The ignorance out there needs to be addressed.

You Won’t Need To Take Lessons From Anyone If You Are Meant To Be A Practitioner

I know most people will find this hard to believe, but I think I need to remind everyone again that I did not take lessons from anybody. Whatever I know is from books, and in particular, the Chinese classics written in feudal China. I don’t keep saying this because I wish to ‘show off’ that I can read Chinese or that I have some uncanny ability to interpret classic texts. What I’m trying to say is that if you’re fated to be a practitioner, life will somehow just push you there.

The reason is really, really simple. I’ve always had access to the right books and materials and I know where and how to search for them. I did not need to attend someone else’s watered-down course only to come back with more questions, or worse, being taught the wrong thing.

Most people assume that you can only get into this art if you have a teacher, but many fail to realize that even people like Shen Zhu Ren (沈竹礽), who is the founder of the Flying Stars Feng Shui Method, did not have a teacher per se. He simply took the books written by other feng shui practitioners, copied them down, and went back to do his own research. He eventually became a feng shui legend himself. Most practitioners these days are using the method that he founded. Don’t forget that the very founding fathers of Chinese metaphysics developed this art from nothing.

I am not saying that I am close to their level of feng shui mastery. I’m definitely not and I am not worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as them. But what I’m saying is to challenge the assumption that you have to take someone else’s lessons to be able to practice Chinese metaphysics effectively. Let’s also give credit to the successful people who build a successful business by taking learning into their own hands instead of expecting someone to spoonfeed them.

There is no course out there that is enough to turn you into a practitioner, and anyone who claims a course has everything you need to know about a particular technique is lying and really just trying very hard to sell you something. If you really want to learn something, you will find a way to do it. You don’t need to wait for someone to spoonfeed you.

Why Practitioners Give Lessons On Chinese Metaphysics

I know you might be thinking why take lessons at all then since not everyone is meant to be a practitioner? I cannot speak for others, but I will state my opinions.

Teaching Chinese metaphysics can be about wanting to pass on something valuable and giving people an appreciation of what the Chinese sages passed down. This is great because there’s simply so much to learn from their wisdom. In all honesty, the appreciation of Chinese philosophy really doesn’t have to be done through a paid course.

Do I need to keep reminding everyone that the internet is capable of more than just Netflix or YouTube? And may I introduce something called the library to you.

Everything you want to know about the history of Chinese metaphysics is already out there. If you are truly interested, a simple Google search will suffice and you will be kept busy for weeks or even months with the number of resources out there. The only caveat is that the really good resources are in Chinese.

The other reason, which is the monetary reason, as I always said, is because teaching is by far the easiest way to monetize your time and knowledge. You stand to earn a lot more with much less effort by teaching a class of 10 rather than doing 10 BaZi consultations. It will always be the most appealing business model and you don’t have to deal with the emotional drama and toxicity that some clients can bring during consultations. This will almost always cross any practitioner’s mind and you will see that this is the core business model of a lot of commercialized practitioners.

The simplest way to put it is that if there is a demand, then someone will definitely supply it. Me included.

However, please get a few things clear.

Lessons Are Not For Turning You Into A Practitioner

This goes back to what I said in my first point.

If you are in the position where you the only way for you to learn is to take watered-down lessons, and your naiveté lets you leave with the impression a few weekends is sufficient, then I dare say you’re not cut out to be a practitioner. Don’t mess up someone’s life by telling them the wrong thing.

Many people will ask me “why not”? Why can’t these lessons turn you into a practitioner? Isn’t that what you paid for? But really, why should it? You’re not spending four whole years studying every single day or going internships. You’re also not accumulating experience under the personal tutelage of a professional. Even if you do get lucky and managed to get clients after attending some weekend course, you’re only reinforcing the wrong things. You’re not actually gaining any experience. Do you have the humility to tell yourself you got a reading wrong and that you should go back to the books before someone gets hurt?

I personally feel no practitioner out there has the intent to churn out more practitioners and neither is this esoteric field ready for an institutionalized production of practitioners.

I said time and again – I will not endorse anyone nor does it mean if someone takes lessons from me, he or she is ready to give readings. I made it extremely clear on my website that it is a pure monetization of my time. There is a reason why I am so upfront about this. Because if an overzealous student thinks he or she is ready and they aren’t, and proceeds to make grand proclamations of someone’s future, they are going to end up hurting someone else – that’s going to be on me.

Again, if you are meant to be a practitioner, you need not learn from anyone. You will know where to look and what to read. If I can do it, so can you. If you can’t, then maybe think twice about being a practitioner and accept that we’re all meant for different paths.

Everything you need to know is already out there. There is no excuse or reason why you can’t learn it by yourself, but I have to say you’re at a big disadvantage if there is a language barrier. Having a teacher definitely helps make things easier, but if you’re not cut out for it, you’re really not cut out for it – and that’s OK.

There are a lot of things I wish I could do, but I can’t. You just have to accept it, move on, and stop wasting time.

Stop Asking Me About Whether I Give Certificates

The funny thing about the course enquires I’m getting is that instead of asking about the curriculum or anything sensible, the first thing people ask is whether they will get a certificate after the course.

Why? I really don’t understand. Does it really matter?

Do you need a piece of paper to make you feel better about yourself, or that you are more legitimate? Do your pride, skill, and adequacy as a practitioner or student come from a piece of paper that I will likely print at some neighbourhood printer?

I get that paper certification is important these days, but please don’t be that frog in a well and be cognizant of the differences here. This is not a university and there are no exams. If I set an exam paper, most, if not all, will fail the exam. You are also not applying for a job. Perhaps most importantly, Chinese metaphysics is not a regulated field and this fact makes certifications completely pointless.

“I want a certificate issued by someone well-known,” you say. Well, this same person is selling the same generic report to everyone and isn’t even giving a proper reading. If you find significance in getting a certificate from such a practitioner, by all means, make a joke of yourself and go ahead.

If this industry was regulated, then yes, a certification makes sense and there will be a government body doing it. But common sense tells both you and I agree that this field will never, ever be regulated because you cannot get secular governance involved in something that is closely tied to history and tradition.

I recently asked someone why it matters so much that I give a certificate for my courses. I wish I kept that email but I got so disgusted that I deleted it. His reply was that he believes a certificate from a reputable source will make others trust him more, which I personally find very flawed, shallow thinking.

Trust is not built using a piece of paper. It is through your actions and how good at what you do. The person who asked me this question is working as an insurance agent, and the intent of this person is to find a short cut and come up with some funny trick to close deals – it’s too easy to tell. And yes, I have his birthday, so I can tell. Some old low-quality Hurting Officer charts who overestimate their own abilities. What’s new?

Don’t people realize that this field being unregulated is the exact reason why it’s so messy in the first place? Yes, there are some institutional bodies, but these institutions do not have the jurisdiction to bar someone from practice and this is the problem. Even if that day were to come someday, all hell will break loose and it will only exacerbate the problems we already have because it gets political and it involves every practitioner’s personal interests, livelihood, and ego. Things will get even dirtier and misleading.

You getting a certificate is your responsibility and reassurance towards the government and the general public and it’s good there’s this form good governance in place. But at the end of the day, even if you were in a regulated industry, no one cares if you’ve got a certificate or not. No one’s first question is “Did you get your certification?” They just want you to do your job well. As far as I’m concerned, I still see certified professionals selling things people don’t need for the sake of their commission.

You get my point.

Where Should I Learn From And How Should I Start?

Firstly, please do no rush. I really don’t get why people keep thinking this is something one can pick up within a few short weeks or months.

I spoke about this countless times, but I do find it baffling that people can be so darn interested in Chinese metaphysics, but yet, completely stay away from the history and philosophy behind it. It’s as though people just want to feel some magical high because they attended some crash course or seminar and suddenly they are imbued with some ‘gift’.

I really don’t feel this is just a matter of personal opinion. I don’t understand this gap of “I’m so interested in Chinese metaphysics but screw the history and philosophy! Just tell me how to apply it!” Such an attitude isn’t going to get you anywhere, and I’m sure you’ll agree this doesn’t just apply in this field. If you’re a software developer and you’re not interested in how software development even came about and how coding languages are invented, I don’t think you’re going to go very far.

There’s also another interesting group of special snowflakes where they want to know about the history and philosophy, but can’t be bothered to read up more and wish to be spoon-fed. How the Chinese sages perceived the universe is not something a practitioner can teach someone to appreciate. They end up getting frustrated because they can’t grasp how our ancestors managed to develop this and how sayings like 太极生两仪,两仪生四象,四象生八卦 came about. No one is expecting you to be able to understand it immediately, but you are barely weeks into exploring and you’re already complaining, I don’t see how such a person can get far in their studies.

Please curb your enthusiasm. I really don’t understand what’s with this hype.

It’s not so much about where you start from, but where do you choose to go from there. If you took some watered-down course out there, it’s perfectly fine. If you started reading online, that’s also fine. The only thing you need to understand is that it doesn’t stop there and please don’t be so childish to think that this is something you can pick up in a few weeks or months. And don’t think that because you’re part of some study group, you’re going to end up learning the right thing. As far as I know, no one in these groups knows what they’re doing.

The worst students I’ve seen are those that get all excited but don’t wish to put in the work. They hit a road bump and they get frustrated that things are too complex and it isn’t presented to them in a digestible form, and then they opt for some dumbed-down version which ends up harming people.

Does anyone actually know how it feels if you get a reading wrong, and someone ends up getting severely impacted by your inaccurate reading? I definitely have because I had to start somewhere. If that doesn’t spur you to buck up or adjust your atittude, don’t touch this field at all.

If you expect Chinese metaphysics to be a short journey of a few weeks or months, and you’re suddenly supposed to ‘get it’, then please do everyone a favour and don’t touch this field at all.

Stop Trying To ‘Help’ People And Help Yourself First

I lost count of the number of times people quoted “I wish to help people” when stating their motivation for studying astrology. I can’t help but be reminded of those toxic parents who claim they wish they want to help their child when they can’t even sort their lives out.

I admire the intent, but honestly, if you can’t do it properly – don’t do it. Don’t put up a show and make things more complicated. There are plenty of other ways of helping others. I’ve had insurance agents, real estate brokers, lawyers, and designers, etc who come to me and say that they wish to help people by learning Chinese metaphysics, but do you know what else can help people? Focusing on your own job and being good at it. Go and inspire people in your own unique way in your own field instead of trying to dabble in something you’re clearly not prepared for.

It’s good that one wishes to help others, but if this person does it the wrong way, this person is just going to end up harming others. Even Liao Fan’s Four Lessons speaks about this. You don’t want to be the person that everyone knows is innocent, but still loves to hate because of how poorly you execute your decisions. There’s really no point.

I’m no one to stop you if you truly want to pick up astrology and use it to help others, but please understand there is a dark side to this.

Another way of looking at this goes deep into the human psyche. There are a lot of people out there who wish to help others because they get to receive attention, feel good about themselves, or be in the limelight – it’s to put up a show. Stop it. It’s disgusting. Yes, there are times where news of such good deeds should be spread, but it had not better be you doing it yourself and someone does it for you out of their own volition. Because if you do a good deed with the hidden intent to be praised or recognized, is that really altruism? Do the Heavens really bless such actors and actresses?

People can tell if there’s a void you’re trying to fill. This is why there are stories about why it doesn’t make a difference if you donate a single dollar or a thousand dollars and it is your intent that counts. This is why transcending charts is not as simple as doing good deeds for the sake of it and throwing money out there. Heaven doesn’t take bribes. If your intent deep down is twisted, then you’re not actually changing as a person – you’re just a hypocrite putting up a show and you’re not going to be able to transcend your chart. I lived with someone like that, so trust me, I know.

The sages encouraged us to do good deeds because it changes something inside us – it’s really not about doing it for the sake of doing it.

If you are an insurance agent, educator, or whatever, then please for goodness sake just focus on being good and whatever you do – you’ll be helping tons of people that way. Don’t start a childcare center only to hire monstrous teachers to traumatize children, and don’t be that insurance or real estate agent who wants to close a sale just because of your commission. Being lackadaisical in your main job and also in Chinese metaphysics is not helping anyone. You don’t need to put up an act and say that learning BaZi or Zi Wei Dou Shu can help you help more people when deep down, you know you’re probably going to screw up someone’s life when you can’t even get your main job right.

I really, really hate it when people say they wish to help others when they can’t even sort their own lives out. Are you really that deprived of attention and validation?

I Don’t Care How Big Your Chinese Metaphysics Study Group Is

There are a lot of study groups out there with people trying to help each other get better at metaphysics. They’re usually students who took a course together. I’ll put it simply in one sentence.

The blind leading the blind.

There’s really no point trying to convince them otherwise that they are learning the wrong thing because when you a large group of ignorant people together, they just won’t listen to anything else. They want to listen to the famous one whom they paid thousands too.

Cognitive dissonance perhaps. It’s painful to admit you’re wrong especially when you paid five figures just to learn the wrong thing. No one likes being made to look silly, so I guess people immunize themselves by being in a large, clueless group. A classic textbook case of groupthink.

I’m inside such groups and a lot of my ex-clients are in such groups feeding me information too. It’s a mess.

I Also Don’t Care How Long You’ve Been Learning

I really don’t care how long you claimed you have been learning. As far as I’m concerned, there are practitioners who said that they have 20 years of experience, but are still interpreting the charts wrongly, what more the apprentices of these practitioners? I’ve also not met a single student who ‘graduated’ from these courses who can interpret a chart correctly.

Experience is important, but what you’re doing with that experience is even more important. It is not just about clocking time for the sake of clocking time.

This doesn’t just apply to the Chinese metaphysics field. We have tons of examples of people surpassing others who have been in the field longer and I’m sure you’ve witnessed this at some point in your life. Let’s take chess for example: Why is that some teenagers can just use 5 years to surpass more experienced players who have been playing it for 10 or 20 years?

Experience is not simply a measure of years. Yes, it’s still important and some things do take time, but please remember it is just one out of the many measures.

I’m not saying that experience doesn’t matter at all. It does of course and experience still counts. But what I’m trying to say is that too many people simply fall back on the number of years of experience they claim they’ve had, only to realize that someone else has surpassed them already.

I’m always meeting people who claim that they’ve been studying metaphysics for a number of years and that they finished all the courses by some famous practitioner, but still, they can’t even grab hold of the basics.

My client shared a really interesting story with me recently. She was been told by her friend, who is a student and has been trying her hand at BaZi for 10 years, that if your chart lacks Metal, people should go for surgery and acupuncture.

Don’t believe the absurdity? Below is the Q&A and conversation with my client:

Yes, I curse a lot.

In all fairness, this student of ten years did not claim to be an expert, and neither does she have the intention to become a practitioner. I’m not targeting or trying to shame the above person because she has the self-awareness that she is still a beginner, but you can’t help but ask what on earth what this student has been doing and reading during those 10 years. Imagine the kind of harm my client would have been put under should she have believed her friend.

What’s more worrying is what is being taught to the masses and the above example is just the tip of the iceberg. How such a curriculum even came about is beyond me. Did someone just hire some random job-seeker and tasked this person to come up with some attention-grabbing content? Because it certainly seems that way.

This is why I keep saying it is important to appreciate Chinese metaphysic’s history and philosophy. If not, you will always be stuck with such garbage even if you spent 10 years trying to make sense of it. Are you that lazy to not even pick up a book? Or is this as far as your cognitive abilities allow you to go?

If you don’t know how to assess health issues using BaZi, that’s fine. It’s considered an advanced application. But to say that you need to go for surgery or acupuncture if your chart lacks Metal is next-level warped thinking. It is a clear indication that commercialized Chinese metaphysics is harming more people than helping them. The reason why such nonsense has to be spun each year is because you’ll eventually run out of ways to sell Chinese metaphysics, so commercialized practitioners will have to spin new content and pretend they are legitimate.

Being sold the same thing, again and again, is one thing, but being sold the wrong thing is another.

I don’t get why people don’t realize that if you just stick to the fundamentals and learn it well, you’ll be able to do your own research eventually. You won’t have to keep paying thousands each year just to hear the same thing that’st presented in another way.

Forgive me for always having something ‘bad’ to say about this industry, but it really is that bad. I hope everyone understands why I keep saying not everyone is cut out for this field and why a certificate does not matter.

I Get That It’s Fun – But Should It?

Trust me when I say I understand the allure of knowing how to ‘read someone’s fortune’. I get the appeal of the novelty that you can tell so much about someone just with the birthday. It can make you feel special, powerful, and whatever. But if you let that get to you, you’re straying down a very dangerous path. I know some people will accuse of me being a pot calling the kettle black, but let’s allow Heavens to be the judge of that.

If you went to a heart surgeon and asked him/her why they chose the job, and they said that “I love surgery because it’s fun!” Would you not be freaked out?

Yes, in a social setting, it can be fun. It helps break the ice. People will find you interesting (or odd). To be honest, I do enjoy that kind of attention sometimes. That aside, I think most people don’t quite appreciate the sobering side of Chinese metaphysics when you have to tell someone your BaZi chart is bad or have some bad news to deliver to them.

A lot of enthusiasts these days believe that there is no such thing as a bad BaZi chart because some well-known practitioner said so and that it’s about how you use your talents and innate abilities. Is it really? Are you telling me the degenerates and menaces of society like Martin Shkreli have good BaZi charts, but unfortunately someone did not tell him what his talents were? Don’t know who he is? Google him.

If my client above went with the advice or textbook teachings from the students of that famous practitioner, she may never end up getting the right treatment for her health issues. I don’t know what it’ll take to get people to see the world and Chinese metaphysics in a more balanced manner instead of through rose-coloured glasses. When a situation called for Chinese metaphysics to be applied, trust me, there is nothing “fun” about it. People are really looking for answers for decisions that will have a huge impact on their lives.

There is a reason why this field is called ‘ming li’ (命理) in Chinese because you’re studying life itself. Life if you did not realize it yet, can be very, very harsh.

If not, go talk to Buddha. He said it first.

Please Keep Your Journey As A Personal One First

You don’t have to agree with what I say here. It’s your life and your karma – not mine. I am no one to stop you from doing what you want, but I will say what I want to say.

If you wish to learn Chinese metaphysics, by all means, please do so. If you’re willing to fork out the money, some practitioner out there would not say “no”. Even I wouldn’t say “no”.

But I want to make this clear first, especially when it’s taking lessons under me:

  • Taking a few courses over the weekend is not enough – it really isn’t. My courses are definitely not to turn you into a full-fledged practitioner. It’s really just for self-enrichment and to satisfy your curiosity. That’s it. Like I said, if you are meant to be a practitioner, you need not take lessons from anyone. If you find that unbelievable, then perhaps have the humility to accept that some career paths are not meant for you. You should probably just focus on other things in your life.
  • A practitioner already knows whether one is cut out for this field and someone’s affinity with this Chinese metaphysics can definitely be seen from the charts. Teaching you everything, at the end of the day, can be pointless. Sorry. I’ve met enough ex-students of other practitioners to know the majority will always not be able to grasp Chinese metaphysics and apply it effectively. They are just unable to perceive the charts and reality in a certain way that allows them to be effective at this. As I said, no ethical practitioner will conduct classes with the intention to churn out more practitioners en masse. As offputting as it might sound, conducting lessons is really just for the money. How much more blunt or upfront do you need me to be?
  • Let’s face it, no one will shrink the pie for themselves too and make it so easy for someone else when they put in the hard work, especially when they already know you’re not cut out to be a practitioner. This has been the case back in feudal China where practitioners do not share what they know with others. It’s not just that, but if such knowledge falls into the wrong hands, a lot of harm can be done too.
  • If your attitude is to quickly get hold of some certificate so that it buys you trust from others, then clearly, you are not cut out for this field. If all you want is a certificate, then please go to someone else and have your ego stroked. You should be more worried about society’s bias towards prestigious university degrees instead of getting a certificate from an unregulated industry.

All these being said, it doesn’t mean practitioners don’t wish to do a good job when they do end up teaching. We want people to enjoy the lessons so that students will sign up. The least any practitioner or teacher should do is to nudge you in the right direction, and what happens next is really up to you. If you can apply Chinese metaphysics to your own life, that’s great, but please think twice before you try to apply it to other people’s lives.

If your first step to becoming a practitioner is really through such courses, I’m happy for you, but just know that taking such courses will not be enough. You have to keep reading and learning. There is no course not there that can help you understand or appreciate 5,000 years of Chinese history in just a few days. By all means, ask questions, but don’t ever expect to be spoon-fed.

At the end of the day, my question to potential students is this: Are you truly appreciating Chinese metaphysics? Or are you just curious? There is a difference. You can be both at the same time of course, but what I’m saying is that being able to appreciate something from the core of your being is also not something that can be trained nor taught.

If you’re merely curious, then trust that your curiosity will eventually die off . You’ll most likely end up being that student of 10 years who thinks surgery or accupuncture are the remedy for charts that need Metal.

I know what’s being taught out there. Deciphering a BaZi chart is not as simple as mouthing off which of the Ten ‘Gods’ appear and what they represent. It is the basics, yes, and it is by no means irrelevant. Just that there’s a lot more.

For now, keep your learning journey to yourself. Don’t be an over-zealous clown and be so eager to read someone’s chart when you can’t even recite the Chinese dynasties in order. You might end up harming someone.

Whenever I write such posts, it’s not about me wanting to make a point that I’m better than other practitioners. It’s irrelevant. Most of you who know about my background know what I’ve been through, and I am way past the point of needing validation from others to feel sure about myself and I am by no means insecure about what I’m doing. I’ve been at a point where I almost had to sell soya bean drinks to pass time and survive, and if I have to go back to that, I will.

At this stage in my life, I tell myself I’m answerable only to Heavens, the people I love, and to my clients who trust me. No one else.

I’ve always told myself I just to do my job well and let nature take its due course, and I have Heavens to thank that things have unfolded in a way I could have never imagined. I’m grateful.

I’ve said this before, but practitioners also have their owns paths to walk. There will be those who earn a lot but are burdened by the business and can never take a break; there will be those who are low profile but secretly enjoy life and financial stability, and there will be a bunch who are disgraced, shunned, and their lives are filled with unnecessary drama. Knowing how to read charts does not mean we get to live outside of what Heavens has in store for us. Every practitioner also has their own set of character flaws to work on, and mine happens to be my bluntness, impatience, and my inability to empathize sometimes because life hardened me up a bit too much. I don’t say it as an excuse, but more of a matter of fact.

I write about all these things because these are very real issues in this field, and if I feel something is wrong and can be better, I will point it out. Why not? I know these things are trivial compared to other things that are happening in the world, but as someone active in this field, I have to speak about it. This really isn’t just a career or business to me – it’s a lot more than that and I hope you can relate to how it feels.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really not stopping everyone from learning. It’s good that people want to learn, but there is also a proper way, approach, and attitude to learning. If you think learning is just for the sake of a piece of paper for you to hang on a wall, then a formal education is wasted on you. You’re like that MBA holder that is being overpaid and everyone secretly hates because everyone doesn’t get what’s so special about you.

Chinese metaphysics really isn’t a game. If you act as though you know what you’re doing and say the wrong thing, someone is going to screw up his or her life – that’s on you.

Is there a karmic repercussion on that? Of course, there is. And you can be sure Heavens will make you feel the brunt of it.

– Sean

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