Not really, no. There’s certainly no topic you can’t ask about. (Though people who try to use the oracle for immoral ends are unlikely to enjoy its answers!) Also, the wording of your question isn’t that important. You’re not spending time on the question so as to explain things to the Yi and make sure it doesn’t get the wrong end of the stick – you’re doing this so that you know what you mean.
Having said that, there are some ways of asking that make it much harder to understand or use the answer – and you’ll want to avoid these.
Take, for instance, the question,
‘Am I going to become a millionaire and marry the man of my dreams?’
There are a few problems with that one.
First, there are two questions here and they need asking one at a time. That’s a good general rule: one thing at a time. That also means that,
‘Should I go out with him or should I stay in and study stock trading?’
doesn’t work well – because it’s going to be very hard to tell which option the answer’s talking about. Instead of ‘Should I do a or b?’ ask, ‘What if I did a?’ and then ‘What if I did b?’
Back to our original silly question, now reduced to,
‘Am I going to become a millionaire?’
There are just two possible answers to that: ‘yes’ or ‘no’. And among the Yijing’s 64 hexagrams and 384 lines, there isn’t one for either ‘yes’ or ‘no’. That doesn’t mean it won’t give you a straight answer (it really will…) – just that it’s designed to talk about the full complexity of the real world.
Which leads us to the basic silliness of the question. If I asked you this question, how would you answer?
Maybe, ‘Er, I don’t know, what are you planning to do about it?’
That would be sensible of you. And yet it’s extraordinary how many people encounter an oracle and seem to forget who’s actually in the driver’s seat of their lives. (Maybe that’s because we have this deep superstition that oracles are meant to ‘tell your fortune’? They really aren’t, and never have been.)
In other words, we have free will. What we do influences the outcome, as a rule, and it’s also the one part of the picture we can change. (And ‘Yijing’ does not translate as ‘Classic Book of Sitting Waiting For Fate To Happen’.) There are more creative, more interesting questions to ask than ‘What will happen to me?’
‘If I continue to devote my life utterly to promoting my new musical toothpicks, what does my financial future look like?’
(Or whatever. But you see what I mean – as a question for the Yijing, this is a radical improvement.)
Rules for beginners
- Ask about one thing at a time. Instead of ‘Should I do this, or that?’ ask ‘What if I do this?’
- Don’t ask for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. (If you really wanted just a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ answer, you’d toss one coin, once – so what kind of answer do you want?) Instead of ‘Should I…?’ ask ‘What if I…?’ Instead of ‘Will it happen?’ you could ask ‘What will happen?’ – or you could simply wait and see.
- Make a habit of asking about your own choices and feelings, not other people’s. If you want to know something about someone else, 99.98% of the time your best option is to talk with them, not with Yi.
- Write your question down before you cast the reading. Getting half-way into a reading only to wonder which question it’s answering is no fun.
I’d also suggest keeping your question as open as possible – free from assumptions. For instance, ‘How did I do?’ is better than ‘What did I do wrong?’ and ‘What to expect?’ is better than ‘What to guard against?’ That way Yi can confirm your suspicions – but you’re also leaving space for it to show you something completely new.
On the same principle of keeping things open to learn something new, I find starting with understanding (‘What do I need to know?’) works better than jumping straight to action (‘What if I do this? Or this?’).