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To Title or Not To Title

Sunday, January 14, 2007
By: Joey Yap

Happy 2007 to all my readers. The change over to a new year is always a good time for personal reflection and to give some thought to the path forward, as it were. In Feng Shui and BaZi, the solar calendar determines the change of energies for each year. So for those of us in the Metaphysics field, the new year begins on February 4th rather than on January 1st. So there's still time for reflection, contemplation and resolutions. I thought this week I would share some of my reflections about the Feng Shui profession here in Malaysia.

A Master by Any Other Name

Of late, it seems, there seems to be a clear lack of ethics, integrity and a loss of professionalism in the Feng Shui industry. It's sad to see such practices perpetuated by those who claim to be classical Feng Shui practitioners, when these are the very practitioners who should be striving to improve the image of Feng Shui.


The first thing I want to talk about is titles. Not the official kind, but the kind that is commonly found in the Metaphysical fields and in particular, Feng Shui and Astrology. I'm talking about the title of Master or Grandmaster.

There is a huge fixation in this profession with the title of Master or Grandmaster and it is not just an Asian thing. Even my western students want to know when they will be accorded the title 'Master' and when I will 'grant' them this title. I always tell them, you can call yourself 'Master' when you think you're ready to be a Master.

The fact of the matter is that the title is hugely impressive to clients and students but really, it's not a testament to anything. This is because unlike the title of Master or Grandmaster in chess, which is awarded by a sanctioned world chess body, FIDE, the title of Master or Grandmaster when it comes to Feng Shui, is not awarded by any centralised body or international body. Basically, you can call yourself master if you want and who is to question you on your right to call yourself a master? Heck - call yourself grandmaster or great grandmaster. How is anyone to challenge your right to call yourself that?

Hence, the term 'master' and 'grandmaster' can be hugely misleading and cause people to assume that the person is highly skilled or experienced. This is especially the case when the titles are self-awarded.

Personally, I don't use the title 'master'. I do have clients who call me Master but I try my best to dispense with that kind of title. I ask my clients to call me Joey or if they prefer to keep things formal, Mr Yap will be just fine. I prefer to refer to myself as their consultant or I say I manage their Feng Shui and BaZi needs and concerns. You could say, I prefer to take my cues from the industry's approach in Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, the cradle of Feng Shui, Feng Shui practitioners don't call themselves master. There simply is no equivalent Cantonese or Mandarin word for that term. Most of my masters in Hong Kong (and I'm using the word masters here in the context of schoolmaster or academic master) ask me to call them sifu or lao shi or even 'Ah Sir' (sir in Cantonese).

Of course, there are some true long-dead famous figures in Feng Shui, who post-humously have been called Grandmaster by the Feng Shui community as a whole. Yang Yun Song, author of the Green Satchel Classics, Han Long Jin and Yi Long Jing is often referred to by today's students of Feng Shui as a grandmaster simply because his books are considered the classical texts and groundbreaking works on Feng Shui.

In this business, it is important to maintain a healthy sense of reality and have one's feet firmly planted on the ground. If you are an expert, you don't need to add a title to affirm that. Your results will speak for themselves and how you speak to people, will tell people you are someone with substance and skill.

Walking the Talk

The Feng Shui profession in Malaysia has come a long way of late. But it seems there is much more to do before those in the profession can move closer towards 'walking the talk'. We've come to a stage when marketing Feng Shui, and approaching feng Shui as a business practice, is quite acceptable to the lay public. People now understand that feng shui practitioners are merely consultants for hire, like specialists and consultants in any other field.

In that light, it is important to ensure that as practitioners, a strong sense of integrity, ethics and professionalism are maintained. There's nothing wrong with taking a traditional approach but taking a professional approach; providing written reports, letting the clients know what they can reasonably expect from the consultation(rather than making wild statements about striking the lottery) and ensuring that we provide a high quality of service to clients will do much more to improve the image of Feng Shui than any title can ever achieve.

Claims like being able to change a person's life overnight, especially in the bank balance department, is definitely not what one might call ethical.

It is time that the feng shui profession move away from this mentality as a whole. Money of course is important and wealth solves lots of problems in this lifetime, but it also makes people hugely susceptible to hiring a Feng Shui practitioner purely on the basis of which Feng Shui master claims to be able to make the client richer. Although it is easy to get business by telling people you can make them billionaires, claims such as this overlook the fact that in the end, the real results created are a result of the clients hard work and entrepreneurial spirit.

Remember that Feng Shui can only help you achieve your endeavours, it certainly won't drop a bag of money on your doorstep and you will still need to work hard to achieve your goals. Any practitioner telling you different really needs a conscience-check.

As a simple rule of thumb, when faced with such a claim, consider things logically. If it really was so easy to make the millions, wouldn't your Feng Shui practitioner be laughing all the way to the bank in a Rolls Royce? You don't have to doubt Feng Shui, but you should have a healthy curiosity about the practitioner you're about to engage and any extravagant claims.

Most of my Feng Shui studies was done in Hong Kong and having studied with a number of Feng Shui Masters there, I admire the level of professionalism and integrity of practitioners in a country where Feng Shui is employed extensively.

So although not my New Year's resolution, it is my sincere hope that come the year of the Fire Pig, things will change. Ding Hai, the pillar for 2007, invokes the image of stars over the night river. Ding, the shining stars, represents Fire-related industries which includes Feng Shui. Hai is the Officer, denoting the finding of a new path that is just and virtuous. Ding and Hai are a combination, indicating progress and evolution for the better, for these industries. Next week, I'll share with you more about the Year of the Pig and what it holds in store for all of us.

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