BaZi “Useful Gods” (用神): When It’s Not Doing Its Job

August 4, 2022

Perhaps the most difficult thing in BaZi is identifying what the “Useful God” of the chart is. “Useful God” refers to the term 用神 (‘yong shen’) in BaZi where 申 (‘shen’) refers to the 10 ‘Gods’ we use in BaZi.

Each chart will have its own “Useful God”; perhaps one of the most challenging things in BaZi is identifying it. Without this information, one could not do any meaningful analysis of a chart.

Common Mistakes When Identifying The “Useful God”

The biggest and most prevalent mistake in analyzing BaZi is the presumption that a chart has more than one “Useful God”. This is completely incorrect.

BaZi hobbyists tend to assume that picking the “Useful God” is simply to pick the elements that either strengthen or weaken a chart’s Daymaster. In other words, when a Daymaster is strong, most would assume Wealth, Officer, or Output elements are the “Useful Gods”. Conversely, when the Daymaster is weak, most would assume that the Peer/Companion or Resource ‘gods’ are the “Useful Gods”.

The above line of thinking and analysis is completely wrong and is often taught in BaZi beginner courses out there.

To approach BaZi thinking that a chart has multiple “Useful Gods” is completely wrong. Indeed, a BaZi chart usually welcomes at least two elements. Still, we do not regard both as “Useful Gods” because one would always be more essential and designated as the “critical element” that a BaZi chart needs. In contrast, the other beneficial element plays more of a supporting role.

Every Element Has Certain Criteria That Bring Out Its Best

I’ve emphasized repeatedly that BaZi analysis is never about just strengthening Weak Daymasters and weakening Strong Daymasters.

One has to have a very thorough understanding of each element and what brings out the best in that element. For example, what Yang Water generally requires for the best of Yang Water to manifest is completely different from what Yin Water needs; what Yang Metal and Yin Metal require to bring out their best side would also be different. The same goes for every other element.

Where Do We Find The “Useful God”

One mistake I commonly see is that people pluck the “Useful God“ from nowhere. This is an extremely sloppy and incorrect way of analyzing and deciding what a BaZi chart needs.

The absolute pre-requisite for identifying a “Useful God” is that it must appear first and in the right place to be usable. If it’s not even usable or cannot be found, there’s no reason why it would be designated as a “Useful God.”

The Role Of The “Useful God”

This role of the “Useful God” is quite simple. It’s to balance and rectify the inherent flaws of the BaZi chart.

No BaZi chart is in a perfect state of balance, and this is the reality of nature. Every chart is always missing something, or rather, something it needs is in a weak state. The role of the “Useful God” is to address this inherent flaw that exists in every chart.

One aspect of BaZi analysis that is often overlooked is that the state of one’s “Useful God” is different for everyone, and the state of the “Useful God” determines the quality and balance of the natal chart.

Types Of “Useful Gods”

The overarching role of the “Useful God” is to rectify the flaws and imbalances of a chart, but “Useful Gods” can achieve differently and can be classified under different categories:

  • Mitigating Useful God (通关): This form of “Useful God” prevents two elements who have a “clash” relationship from actually clashing.
  • Environmental Adjustment Useful God (调侯): This “Useful God” comes into play when we discuss the seasons, particularly summer and winter. It adjusts for the climate depicted in the chart to allow the Daymaster to show its best side.
  • Supporting/Medicating Useful God (扶抑/病药): This is the easiest “Useful God” to understand, as it just represents the element involved in strengthening and weakening the Daymaster.

At the end of the day, the choice of the “Useful God” is to understand the interplay and flow of the elements and under what conditions they are in their best state.

When A “Useful God” Is Weak & Harmed

Not all “Useful Gods” are the same, and one of the key differentiators of a natal BaZi chart’s quality and so-called auspiciousness is the state of the “Useful God”.

Let’s take the below chart for example:

  • The above Yang Metal chart is definitely strong, given that the chart-holder was born during autumn when Metal is the strongest. Many Earth elements appear in the natal chart, which adds to Yang Metal’s strength.
  • It’s a chart where the Daymaster needs weakening, and we know that the elements that can ‘weaken’ Metal are Water, Wood, and Fire. But as I’ve discussed above, we do not designate these three elements as “Useful Gods”.
  • We need to understand what brings out the best in Yang Metal, and the elements known to be able to do this would be Yang Wood (甲) and Yin Fire (丁). But the question that remains is which one do we use? The answer would be Yin Fire (丁), and it’s obvious because we don’t see any Yang Wood in the natal chart at all.

The big issue with the above chart is that although Yin Fire (丁) appears and is known to be one of the two elements that bring out the best in Yang Metal, Yin Fire is in a particularly bad state to do its job. I’ll explain:

  • First and foremost, it’s not “rooted” and does not have what we call a 通根, which is another way of saying it’s in a weak, non-supported state.
  • To say that it is “weak” is an understatement because Yin Fire (丁) here sits on the 丑 (‘chou’) Branch, which is its “Tomb” (墓) position, so Yin Fire is in an extremely weak state waiting to perish.
  • Unfortunately, the Elemental Phases do not rectify the above flaws, so this is a chart where the “Useful God” appears a weak state in the natal chart and continues to stay weak through the majority of the chartholder’s life.

My point here is that the state of the “Useful God” is extremely important in BaZi. We need to know what’s happening in the natal chart first, then assess if the Elemental Phases/Luck Pillars alter their state.

I don’t think I have to say this, but when someone’s “Useful God” appears strongly and continues to be strengthened and activated through their Elemental Phases, one can expect many positive things to happen in their lives. If the “Useful God” gets harmed, then, of course, calamity follows.

Identifying “Useful God” in one’s BaZi chart is difficult. The process is never that straightforward because I’ve not even spoken about Branch interactions and “Void Emptiness” (空亡) yet, but that’s for another time.

– Sean

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