There are so many micro concepts in the study of bazi, with each indicating that they are the most important singular centerpiece, that it’s no wonder beginners who have dived into bazi often find the dynamics of the 4 pillars too complicated to comprehend.
Some of the concepts that are often termed as the “most critical” include:
- The status of the self element
- The month branch being the rule maker
- The hidden stems within earthly branches
- The virtuous stems
- The 12 growth cycle
One other concept that is also frequently deemed as the “most important” in the classics include the concept of the useful god.
The useful god (用神) is a term that refers to an element, or more specifically a character, that benefits a bazi the most. This can sometimes also be said as the one character that a bazi desires the most.
It’s not about what brings the most wealth to an individual, what element energizes a person with good health, or what maximizes the odds of someone finding a life changing romance, etc. It’s about which single element or character brings the most benefits to a set of bazi from an energy flow perspective.
Benefits can be a subjective word. Something that someone feel is a benefit can be seen by another as redundant, disadvantageous, needless, etc.
Which is why in the concept of useful gods, there is no table that a learner can refer to in order to identify a useful god. One has to assess a bazi, practice judgment that is shaped by his or her approach to feng shui and bazi, and determine what would be a useful god to a set of 4 pillars.
It’s nemesis is the useless god (忌神) which clogs the movement of energy within bazi.
To determine what benefits a bazi, one has to ascertain what is the objective that a useful god is trying to achieve, or the role it is supposed to play.
While the objective of bazi readings is generally about attaining balance, this line of thought is also not necessarily the case in terms of the useful god. It’s objective can also be to bring harmony, relief, enhancement, counter-balance, defense, etc, to the overall condition of a bazi after taking into account the dynamics present in it.
If you are a building planner of a shopping mall, take a look at the blueprint of the basement parking plan. If you have enough funds to make one change, addition, or installation, to improve the traffic flow or solve a bottleneck problem, what would it be? What is the biggest complaint of patrons? Would an additional entry/exit point be beneficial? Would additional parking spaces be appreciated? Is there an ease of access to retail shops? The single change made to improve the overall efficiency of things can be deemed as the useful god.
If you are a PC repairman, and a customer brings in a computer with a blank screen. What types of repairs and spare parts are needed to fix it depends on what you determine to be the problem. Is it a power problem? Is it a monitor problem? Can it be the motherboard? Is the wiring fine? What is required to get the monitor up and running again is like calling upon a useful god.
By the same token, if a bazi is too hot from the intense heat of summer in the month branch, then more water from a useful god would help it cool off. And as water can be embodied by more than 1 character in bazi, it also implies that a person can have more than 1 useful god.
At this point, it should be noted by learners that useful gods:
- Should be the element or character that draws the most benefits for a bazi
- There can be more than one useful god
- There is no hard rule to reference what is a bazi’s useful god based on a table
With this in mind, there are 3 main types of classifications for useful gods.
- Fu Yi (扶抑), can sometimes be known as help, restrain, medicate, balancer
- Tiao Hou (調侯), can sometimes be labelled as adjustment, regulate
- Tong Guan (通關), can sometimes be link, bridge, arbitrate, peacemaker
The role that a useful god plays in a set of bazi would put it under one of the above 3 categories of useful gods.
Fu Yi (扶抑)
This is a term used to describe elements or characters that help to achieved balance in a set of 4 pillars. Either by strengthening a particular element or to weaken one.
This does not necessarily mean enhancing or exhausting the strength of the self element.
For example, a day master of Jia wood can have a very strong presence of metal in the bazi. Causing chaos and mayhem in life pursuits. It is possible that the most straightforward way to bring stability is to counteract the metal with fire even though fire energy would theoretically further weaken the strength of Jia wood. Water element in the form of Gui water can also potentially be a useful god as water don’t just feed some well-needed energy support to the self-element, but also weaken the strength of metal at the same time. In addition, the presence of more wood element can also help the daymaster bear the brunt of excessive metal.
As stated earlier, what is the best useful god really depends on the configuration of a bazi, and the assessment made by an expert.
Tiao Hou (調侯)
The focus of this type of useful god is in bringing neutrality to a bazi that is too hot or cold, too wet or dry.
For instance, a person born during the chillingly cold month of Zi rat, surrounded by many other characters of water or metal. Such a bazi might desperately need the heat of fire to warm it up. How is one going to go all out to attain his life pursuits when he is not in his best condition to take on the various challenges of life itself.
Hot is countered with cold. Cold is remedied by heat. Dry is assisted by wet. And dampness is helped by dryness.
Do take note that a useful god in this category is not limited to fire and water. It could be any of the 10 gods as each heavenly stem have their own characteristics that align with one of the 4 conditions.
Tong Guan (通關)
This type of useful god is required when there is a strong presence of two conflicting elements that dominates a bazi.
For example, when there is an intense clash between strong fire and strong metal present in the birth chart. The introduction of earth would help to harmonize the relationship of the elements as fire feeds earth, which in turn helps metal to grow. With the absence of earth, metal would constantly be attacked by fire. This is why this type of useful god is sometimes known as an arbitrator.
It’s like two groups at war, and a third party enters the fray to negotiate a truce between them.
The element to introduce to harmonize two conflicting elements can be determined by referring to the basic rules of the 5 elements.
The superior useful god
Once a useful god is identified, one can use it to boost the overall status of a bazi.
But with a superior useful god, the benefits that it brings a bazi can multiply exponentially. This basically refers to a useful god that is in optimal condition to provide assistance to a bazi, and ultimately the individual in question.
Finding a superior useful god that scores a 10/10 is actually very rare. And it is safe to say that if you have one, tapping on it can potentially be the one single thing you need to do to achieve extraordinary accomplishments.
So what are the conditions for a superior useful god?
Firstly we have to determine whether the approach that it takes on influencing a bazi is tender and sentimental. This takes bazi into the philosophical realm.
For example, if we have determined that a useful god is fire element. There are two types of fire stems in Bing and Ding. The former is essentially a symbol of the sun and latter is like a naked candle flame. Which of the two would influence the bazi in a more tender way? Yi wood for instance, would benefit more from the sun as plants and flowers need sunray to grow. Bringing in a flame would actually burn the plant into ash and soot. So in this case, Bing fire would be more sentimental.
How this is assessed depends heavily on the approach and perspective the reader takes.
Then we have to look at whether the useful god is present in the bazi and where it is positioned. Is it on the month pillar? Hour pillar? Hidden in the earthly branches? The best position is the month stem as it is right beside the day master and sitting on the month branch where it is also rooted. This is sometimes called a unification.
This leads us to the next condition where it is assessed whether the season of birth supports the useful god. What we want to see is the month branch supporting the elemental base of the useful god.
At the same time the useful god should not be exposed to clashes in the bazi. It won’t be able to keep you safe if it is not safe itself. By the same token, being part of a combination of stems can potentially render it useless as well.
To close this off, remember that the useful god is just one of the various micro concepts in bazi analysis. It is often not necessary to assess it when seeking answers from bazi… except when the analyst determines that the requirements to resolve a situation demands it.