I asked the I Ching to tell me the way to end war and achieve peace. The answer came as hexagram 25. There were no moving lines, so this was a quite definite and timeless response from the oracle.

Hexagram 25 is Wu Wang which means Innocence. It consists of the trigrams ch’ien above and chen below. Ch’ien is ‘heaven’ and ‘chen’ is action. So innocence is when action is under the direction of heaven.  Then one is innocent.

The oracle presents this as a supremely important virtue - supreme success! Great good fortune comes from persevering in it. To act innocently means to have no ulterior mercenary or selfish interest, but simply to do what is right for its own sake. Innocence and the way of heaven - these are things we can have settled faith in. In fact, they are virtually synonymous with such faith. Innocence is the secret of the peaceful heart.

Sometimes, people ask how they can know what is the right thing, but this is slightly to miss the point. It is not that there is just one thing that is the rightest thing of all. There are always many right things. Everything that we do that conduces to the creation of good conditions is a right thing. Such actions are in accord with Wu Wang. They are under the protection of Heaven.

ANSHIN RETREAT 28 June to 2 July

What kind of conditions are good? Ones that make it more possible for people to live innocently. In this world it is impossible to be completely innocent in the sense of never doing harm. The world is not made that way. So the innocence intended here is really purity of heart. Even the person with the purest heart will be implicated in some of the harm that happens in the world. There is no escape from that. However, in the person of pure heart, this circumstance is a foundation for compassion. We are all in this boat together.

Nonetheless, it is possible to advance conditions in the direction of support for innocence. When there is trust and goodwill between people, they naturally revert to a more innocent state. This is not to say that the fundamental nature of people is all good, but rather that it can go either way - many ways - according to conditions. By establishing trustworthy conditions we not only act well, we also help others to do so.

When we establish a spiritual community this is what we are doing. We are trying to make it possible for people to live closer to this ideal of wu wang. If we have a settled faith in doing so, then we shall ourselves be following the Way of Heaven.

Here at La Ville au /roi (Eleusis) we have a bit of a head start in this matter. We are surrounded by natural beauty. Not only that, but we are well of the beaten track. We saw in the last teaching that places of great beauty can sometimes be the scenes of the most terrible conflict. It is best, therefore, not to boast too much about this good fortune. Take delight in being unregarded. All the great sages have pointed out the danger of attracting envy. This is a good example of the matter we are talking about. If one provokes envy in others, that is not setting up conditions for innocence.

So we can rejoice in our good fortune and also in the good fortunes of others, but do so discretely. Anshin is like that. It is not showy. It does not proclaim itself. It just gets on, completes simple duties, and acts naturally.

DT Suzuki tells the story of the conversation between a vinaya master and a zen master. The former asks the latter how he disciplines himself in daily life. The zen master says that when he is hungry he eats and when he is tired he sleeps. The other comments that that is no different from anybody else, but the zen master does not agree. He points out that most people's heads are full of all kinds of turmoil so that they never just eat or just sleep. They do not do so innocently because their heart is not settled. I think that this story gives a good sense of anshin.

Hexagram 25 implies action. Innocence is not just passivity. Faith makes action possible. Most people under-achieve. This is because they dither. They dither because they lack faith and are full of uncertainty, at least, and often also guilt and fear. The innocent person, however, can just get on and do whatever it is that needs doing at the time.

It strikes me as demonstrative that the oracle produced a reply with no moving lines. It is an innocent reply - no doubt, no dithering. It is not going anywhere. Innocence is a peaceful heart, is settled faith, is an end to strife and a foundation of peace, and in delivering it in this way the oracle not only pronounces it, it also demonstrates it. How fortunate we are!

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