Mo: Tibetan Divination System – Jamgon Mipham, translated and edited by Jay Goldberg
Snow Lion. 1990. 156pp. 9781559391474.
While a lot of has been written on Tibetan Buddhism there is still a lot more to be translated and written about in English. This book covers one such area, Mo –which just means divination– in this case refers to a system of dice divination. This text is based on the version put forth by Jamgon Mipham (1846-1912), a renowned master from the Nyingma school, based upon his study of the Kalachakra Tantra and The Ocean of Dakinis, along with other texts and his own insight.
This system is deceptively simple, you role a die twice, and that gives you one of thirty-six possible answers. The die is rolled to make a pair, twice, the second two rolls being used to indicate how strong or weak the answer is, or how fixed or changeable it is. Each answer is split into eleven categories so that instead of a blanket statement you get information that is specific to family, money, enemies, spiritual practice, health, and the like.
One thing I really enjoy with this system (and there is a lot I enjoy) is that it is eminently practical. It is part of a religious system so when it says something is wrong it sometimes tells you what caused it, but it also recommends what sutras to read, or Boddhisattvas to work with, or what rituals to perform in order to increase your chances of success. I like having that answer right there, you may have to work out the physical side but this gives you the spiritual work to undertake. Of course the advice is specific to Buddhism, and some is specifically Tibetan Buddhist, which can limit the usefulness to non-Buddhists. Though some of the advice is simple enough that even someone without familiarity with Buddhism would be able to undertake, such as reading the Prajnaparamita.
Traditionally the die has six Tibetan letters on it, but you can substitute a numeric die or order a proper Mo die from the Snow Lion website. (This is where I felt a touch let down, as far as I can tell they don’t sell the die and book together, which I think is a mistake, and inconvenient). Also each letter has various attributes: directions, body parts, Buddha families, elements, and so on. These attributes can be used to give you more insight into the answers, and Goldberg mentions this but doesn’t explain how. While I’ve been cobbling together my own system of finding increased meaning it would have been nice to see more of it.
Also the nature of the advice/answers doesn’t allow for the same freedom of form in your questions that you would get with something like tarot. It took me a while to learn how to ask the right type of questions, which in many cases is just “Tell me about my health” “What’s going on with Frank’s job?” and so on. It’s a small thing but it wasn’t addressed and I wish it had been as I believe knowing how to ask the right questions is an important part of getting a relevant divinatory answer.
Regardless of my few quibbles I think this is an excellent book and essentially unique in topic, and as such I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in adding a bit more depth to their study of Tibetan Buddhism, or varying divination systems in general. I’ve experimented with the system many times in the last month and I’ve found the results very insightful as well as practical and synchronicistic to a degree that surprised me.