“In his every movement a man of great virtue
Follows the way and the way only.
As a thing the way is
Shadowy and indistinct.
Indistinct and shadowy,
Yet within it is an image;
Shadowy and indistinct,
Yet within it is a substance.
Dim and dark,
Yet within it is an essence.
This essence is quite genuine
And within it is something that can be tested.
From the present back to antiquity,
Its name never deserted it.
It serves as a means for inspecting the fathers of the multitude.
How do I know that the fathers of the multitude are like that?
By means of this.”
– Translated by D. C. Lau, 1963, Chapter 21, Tao Te Ching

We saw yesterday, the evolution of Cook Ting from a mediocre butcher hacking away at the ox into a master butcher who let himself be moved by the spirit, following things as they are and no longer depended on perception and understanding. In Chapter 21 of the Tao Te Ching, Laozi is stressing the same concept. In the first line, he tells us that the Sage follows the Way (Tao) and the Way only. He adds that the Way is shadowy and indistinct. Therefore, perception and understanding are useless. But instead, within it is an essence. That essence is Spirit, and, like Zhuangzi in his story of Cook Ting, Laozi is strongly suggesting that this is what the Sage or anyone of great virtue will follow.


COOK TING, the Dexterous Butcher, another story from the Zhuangzi (the Book of Zhuangzi) Translated by Burton Watson

Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. As every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee — zip! zoop! He slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music.

“Ah, this is marvelous!” said Lord Wen-hui. “Imagine skill reaching such heights!”

Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, “What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now — now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and following things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.

“A good cook changes his knife once a year — because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month — because he hacks. I’ve had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I’ve cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room — more than enough for the blade to play about it. That’s why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.

“However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I’m doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until — flop! the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground. I stand there holding the knife and look all around me, completely satisfied and reluctant to move on, and then I wipe off the knife and put it away.”

“Excellent!” said Lord Wen-hui. “I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life!”

THREE is one of the mystical numbers of Taoism. You will notice that not only their stories but their concepts and even their philosophical notions are divided into three parts. COOK TING is no different. He tells the story of his evolution as a master butcher in three steps. When he first began butchering oxen, all he could see was the whole ox. Then after three years, he no longer saw the whole ox. Now he doesn’t even look. He goes purely by spirit. Both preception and understanding have stopped and spirit moves where it wants. He follows things as they are. Thus, now he never touches the smallest ligament or tendon.

Then he looks at how cooks change their knives, again in three part. The mediocre cook changes his knife once a month due to hacking so much. A good cook changes his knife once a year because he has learned to cut rather than hack. But Ting, now a master cook, has had his knife for nineteen years and yet the blade is as good as new.

Ting says that he follows things as they are. Tomorrow we will look at what Laozi has to say about following things as they are.


Today we take a brief look at the third great classic of ancient Taoism, the Zhuangzi or The Book of Zhuangzi, through a few brief stories.

First up: “Pounding on a Tub and Singing”
Chuang Tzu’s wife died. When Hui Tzu went to convey his condolences, he found Chuang Tzu sitting with his legs sprawled out, pounding on a tub and singing. “You lived with her, she brought up your children and grew old,” said Hui Tzu. “It should be enough simply not to weep at her death. But pounding on a tub and singing – this is going too far, isn’t it?”

Chuang Tzu said, “You’re wrong. When she first died, do you think I didn’t grieve like anyone else? But I looked back to her beginning and the time before she was born. Not only the time before she was born, but the time before she had a body. Not only the time before she had a body, but the time before she had a spirit. In the midst of the jumble of wonder and mystery a change took place and she had a spirit. Another change and she had a body. Another change and she was born. Now there’s been another change and she’s dead. It’s just like the progression of the four seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter.

“Now she’s going to lie down peacefully in a vast room. If I were to follow after her bawling and sobbing, it would show that I don’t understand anything about fate. So I stopped.”

In this story from Chapter 18 of the Zhuangzi (Burton Watson translation), it seems that Zhuangzi did not view death as an outcome to be feared but rather as a natural process or transformation, where one exits one form of existence and enters another. Earlier in Chapter 2, Zhuangzi states: “How do I know that loving life is not a delusion? How do I know that in hating death I am not like a man who, having left home in his youth, has forgotten the way back?”

Here, he is teaching us that the Sage looks upon death with clarity and discernment and thus realizes an equanimity about death that results in absolute contentment.

Next up: The Happy Fish Debate
Zhuangzi and Huizi were enjoying themselves on the bridge over the Hao River. Zhuangzi said, “The minnows are darting about free and easy! This is how fish are happy.”

Huizi replied, “You are not a fish. How do you know that the fish are happy?” Zhuangzi said, “You are not I. How do you know that I do not know that the fish are happy?”

Huizi said, “I am not you, to be sure, so of course I don’t know about you. But you obviously are not a fish; so the case is complete that you do not know that the fish are happy.”

Zhuangzi said, “Let’s go back to the beginning of this. You said, How do you know that the fish are happy; but in asking me this, you already knew that I know it. I know it right here above the Hao.”

The point, if there is one, in this story from Chapter 17 (Burton Watson translation), is illustrating the difference between subjectivity and objectivity. Just because knows one something subjectively does not mean that it has any objective reality.

Last up for today, The Death of Wonton
The emperor of the Southern Seas was Lickety, the emperor of the Northern Sea was Split, and the emperor of the Center was Wonton. Lickety and Split often met each other in the land of Wonton, and Wonton treated them very well. Wanting to repay Wonton’s kindness, Lickety and Split said, “All people have seven holes for seeing, hearing, eating, and breathing. Wonton alone lacks them. Let’s try boring some holes for him.” So every day they bored one hole [in him], and on the seventh day Wonton died.

This story from Chapter 7 (the Mair translation) expresses Zhuangzi’s belief in the danger of going against the innate nature of things. As is the aim of many Taoists, especially those involved in personal cultivation through Taoist Alchemy, Zhuangzi believed that the greatest of all human achievements was to reach a higher understanding of the nature of things through clarity and discernment, and, above all, to cultivate a true understanding of one’s own innate nature.


Switching from the “I CHING” to the other early Daoist classic, the “Tao Te Ching” attributed to Laozi, I would like to start off somewhere in the middle of the 81 Chapters with the often quoted Chapter 56.

“Those who know do not talk
Those who talk do not know.”

(It is impossible to describe that which is beyond words with words. It is also impossible for the finite mind to comprehend the infinite. Furthermore, it impossible and implausible for any being to adequately know and describe non-being.)

“Close the mouth
Shut the doors
Blunt the sharpness
Unravel the knots
Dim the glare
Mix the dust
This is called Mystic Oneness”

(This is about shutting off or at least toning down the six senses. Yes, that’s right, the six not five senses – taste, hearing, smell, touch, sight and thought. Why thought? Because when the ego can no longer perceive stimulation from one of the five physical senses, it reverts to thought, to imagination, to overcome its boredom.}

“They cannot obtain this and be closer
They cannot obtain this and be distant
They cannot obtain this and be benefited
They cannot obtain this and be harmed
hey cannot obtain this and be valued
They cannot obtain this and be degraded”

(The Tao does not exist for humanity; humanity exists for the Tao by the grace of its mystic virtue or Te. Thus, the Tao cannot be obtained. What is there for us to obtain as images that have arisen and appear to dwell within this mystic manifestation we call Nature? How can the foot print in the grains of sand obtain or hold onto anything? And we will surely disperse like those footprints on the sands of time.)

“Therefore, they become honored by the world”
(Those Sages who have realized this not merely intellectually but experientially will, in time, be honored by the world.)


At last we come to our Journey’s end with Hexagram #64, Wei Chi/Before Completion, Unfinished Business, Not Yet Completed. With LI, THE CLINGING, FLAME the upper trigram and KAN THE ABYSMAL, WATER the lower one, we have a inverse of the previous hexagram, 63, Ji Ji. One would suspect that Ji Ji, which represented the time right after a climax, that things would settle down and evolve into a new beginning with the present hexagram. But that’s not what happens. Instead, Wei Chi represent the time before a climax.

The WILHELM/BAYNES Judgment and Commentary states: This hexagram indicates a time when the transition from disorder to order is not yet completed. The change is indeed prepared for, since all the lines in the upper trigram are in relation to those in the lower. However, they are not yet in their places.

But if the little fox, after nearly completing the crossing,
Gets his tail in the water,
There is nothing that would further.

WILHELM/BAYNES: One must move warily, like an old fox walking over ice. The caution of a fox walking over ice is proverbial in China. His ears are constantly alert to the cracking of the ice, as he carefully and circumspectly searches out the safest spots. A young fox who as yet has not acquired this caution goes ahead boldly, and it may happen that he falls in and gets his tail wet when he is almost across the water. Then of course his effort has been all in vain. Accordingly, in times “before completion,” deliberation and caution are the prerequisites of success.”

Other Commentaries:
Blofeld: Before Completion — success! Before the little fox has quite completed its crossing of the ice, its tail gets wet. [This implies that we are to expect a setback in our plans.] No goal (or destination) is favorable now. [Hence this is a time for waiting and for drawing in our horns. That the LAST of the sixty-four hexagrams should be Before Completion rather than After Completion (#63) may seem surprising until it is recalled that there is nothing final about it; the cycle of change continues, passing from hexagram #64 onto the first hexagram, and so on eternally.]

Ritsema/Karcher: Not-yet Fording, Growing. The small fox, a muddy Ford. Soaking one’s tail: without direction: Harvesting. (Without direction: Harvesting, WU YU Li: no plan or direction is advantageous; in order to take advantage of the situation, do not impose a direction on events.) [This hexagram describes your situation in terms of being on the edge of an important change of situation. It emphasizes that waiting and accumulating energy to begin the upcoming move is the adequate way to handle it…]


Legge: Fire over water — the image of Unfinished Business. The superior man carefully discriminates among the qualities of things, and the different positions they naturally occupy.

Wilhelm: Fire over water: the image of the condition before transition. Thus the superior man is careful in the differentiation of things, so that each finds its place.

Blofeld: This hexagram symbolizes fire above water. The Superior Man takes care to distinguish between things before arranging them in order.

Liu: Fire above water symbolizes Before Completion. The superior man carefully distinguishes things, and puts them in their appropriate place.

Ritsema/Karcher: Fire located above stream. Not-yet Fording. A chun tzu uses considering to mark-off the beings residing on-all-sides.

Confucius/Legge: Progress and success are suggested by the magnetic fifth line in the ruler’s place. Although he has nearly crossed the stream, the young fox has not yet escaped from the midst of danger and calamity. Getting his tail wet means that the end does not reflect the intent of the beginning. Although the places of the different lines are not those appropriate to them, yet a dynamic and a magnetic line always respond to each other.

Legge:Unfinished Business is the reverse of Completion: it means that the successful accomplishment of the matter at hand has not yet been realized; the crossing of the great stream is as yet incomplete.

So, we get to the end only to find out that we have “Unfinished Business.” Such is life. Good Practicing, People.


We are almost finished our analysis of the personal traits found within the WILHELM/BAYNES commentaries on the hexagrams of the I Ching. Today we look at the next to last, Hexagram #63, Ji Ji or Chi Chi, Begun, In Progress, Already Underway. With Kan, THE ABYSS, WATER above and LI, THE CLINGING, FIRE below, this hexagram is the evolution of Tai PEACE, Hexagram #11.

The transition from confusion to order is completed, and everything is in its proper place even in particulars. The strong lines are in the strong places, the weak lines in the weak places. This is a very favorable outlook, yet it gives reason for thought. For it is just when perfect equilibrium has been reached that any movement may cause order to revert to disorder…Hence the present hexagram indicates the conditions of a time of climax, which necessitate the utmost caution.

According to the JUDGMENT…the transition from the old to the new time is already accomplished. In principle, everything stands systematized, and it is only in regard to details that success is still to be achieved. In respect to this, however, we must be careful to maintain the right attitude. Everything proceeds as if of its own accord, and this can all too easily tempt us to relax and let thing take their course without troubling over details. Such indifference is the root of all evil. Symptoms of decay are bound to be the result. Here we have the rule indicating the usual course of history. But this rule is not an inescapable law. He who understands it is in position to avoid its effects by dint of unremitting perseverance and caution.

The Commentary on the IMAGE, attributed to Confucius, further details the need for caution in this instance, using the example of a kettle heating over a fire…

When water in a kettle hangs over fire, the two elements stand in relation and thus generate energy (cf. the production of steam). But the resulting tension demands caution. If the water boils over, the fire is extinguished an its energy is lost. If the heat is too great, the water evaporates into the air. These elements here brought in to relation and thus generating energy are by nature hostile to each other. Only the most extreme caution can prevent damage. In life too there are junctures when all forces are in balance and work in harmony, so that everything seems to be in the best of order. In such times only the Sage recognizes the moments that bode danger and knows how to banish it by means of timely precautions. 

So, be cautious, my friends, and Great Practicing!


Today we are nearing the end of our exploration of personal traits within the hexagrams of the I Ching. Hexagram #62, Hsiao Kuo or Xiao Guo/Preponderance of the Small with CHEN, THE AROUSING, THUNDER above and KEN, KEEPING STILL, MOUNTAIN below. Hsiao Kuo has weak lines preponderating, though here again they are on the outside, the strong lines being within. This indeed is the basis of the exceptional situation indicated by the hexagram.

When strong elements within preponderate, they necessarily enforce their will. This creates struggle and exceptional conditions in general. But in the present hexagram it is the weak element that perforce must mediate with the outside world. If a person occupies a position of authority for which one is by nature really inadequate, extraordinary prudence is necessary.

Exceptional modesty and conscientiousness are sure to be rewarded with success; however, if a one is not to throw themselves away, it is important that they should not become empty form and subservience but be combined always with a correct dignity in personal behavior. We must understand the demands of the time in order to find the necessary offset for its deficiencies and damages. In any event we must not count on great success, since the requisite strength is lacking. In this lies the importance of the message that one should not strive after lofty things but hold to lowly things.


Today’s Wilhelm/Baynes commentary on Hexagram #61, Chung Fu/Inner Truth, is so ripe with personal traits and attributes and how to use them that I’m going to present the entire commentary. My own comment will be in ( )

The two trigrams are SUN THE GENTLE, WIND above and TUI THE JOYOUS, LAKE below.

The Wilhelm/Baynes Commentary: The wind blows over the lake and stirs the surface of the water. Thus visible effects of the invisible manifest themselves. The hexagram consists of firm lines above and below, while it is open in the center. This indicates a heart free of prejudices and therefore open to truth. On the other hand, each of the two trigrams has a firm line in the middle; this indicates the force of inner truth in the influences they present. (Here is the first grouping of attributes) The attributes of the two trigrams are: above, gentleness, forbearance toward inferiors; below, joyousness in obeying superiors. Such conditions create the basis of a mutual confidence that makes achievements possible. The character of fu (“truth”) is actually the picture of a bird’s foot over a fledgling. It suggests the idea of brooding. An egg is hollow. The light-giving power must work to quicken it from outside, but there must be a germ of life within, if life is to be awakened. Far-reaching speculations can be linked with these ideas.

INNER TRUTH. Pigs and fishes.
Good fortune.
It furthers one to cross the great water.
Perseverance furthers.

(This part of the Judgment details the necessary traits to deal with intractable people.)
Pigs and fishes are the least intelligent of all animals and therefore the most difficult to influence. (Not necessarily accurate, at least as far as recent studies on pigs and fish such as dolphins and whales are concerned, but this is from ancient China.) The force of inner truth must grow great indeed before its influence can extend to such creatures. In dealing with persons as intractable and as difficult to influence as a pig or a fish, the whole secret of success depends on finding the right way of approach. One must first rid oneself of all prejudice and, so to speak, let the psyche of the other person act on one without restraint. Then one will establish contact with him, understand and gain power over him. When a door has thus been opened, the force of one’s personality will influence him. If in this way one finds no obstacles insurmountable, one can undertake even the most dangerous things, such as crossing the great water, and succeed. But it is important to understand upon what the force of inner truth depends. This force is not identical with simple intimacy or a secret bond. Close ties may exist also among thieves; it is true that such a bond acts as a force but, since it is not invincible, it does not bring good fortune. All association on the basis of common interests holds only up to a certain point. Where the community of interest ceases, the holding together ceases also, and the closest friendship often changes into hate. Only when the bond is based on what is right, on steadfastness, will it remain so firm that it triumphs over everything.

Wind over lake: the image of INNER TRUTH.
Thus the superior man discusses criminal cases
In order to delay executions.

Wind stirs water by penetrating it. Thus the superior man, when obliged to judge the mistakes of men, tries to penetrate their minds with understanding, in order to gain a sympathetic appreciation of the circumstances. In ancient China, the entire administration of justice was guided by this principle. A deep understanding that knows how to pardon was considered the highest form of justice. This system was not without success, for its aim was to make so strong a moral impression that there was no reason to fear abuse of such mildness. For it sprang not from weakness but from a superior clarity.

(There we have that standby trait once more – clarity. So, let me be clear then – Great practicing, people!)


Today we learn the importance of setting limits on ourselves rather than living our lives with total, uncontrolled abandon. Hexagram #60, Chieh/Limitation with KAN THE ABYSMAL, WATER above and TUI THE JOYOUS, LAKE below.

WILHELM/BAYNES COMMENTARY: A lake occupies a limited space. When more water comes into it, it overflows. Therefore limits must be set for the water. The image shows water below and water above, with the firmament between them as a limit. The Chinese word for limitation really denotes the joints that divide a bamboo stalk. In relation to ordinary life it means the thrift that sets fixed limits upon expenditures…In relation to the moral sphere it means the fixed limits that the superior person sets upon his actions-the limits of loyalty and disinterestedness.

Limitations are troublesome, but they are effective…If we live economically in normal times, we are prepared for times of want. To be sparing saves us from humiliation. But in limitation we must observe due measure. If a one should seek to impose galling limitations upon one’s own nature, it would be injurious. And if one should go too far in imposing limitations on others, they would rebel. Therefore it is necessary to set limits even upon limitation.

Water over lake: the image of LIMITATION.
Thus the superior person creates number and measure,
And examines the nature of virtue and correct conduct.

A lake is something limited. Water is inexhaustible. A lake can contain only a definite amount of the infinite quantity of water; this is its peculiarity. In human life too the individual achieves significance through discrimination and the setting of limits. Therefore what concerns us here is the problem of clearly defining these discriminations, which are, so to speak, the backbone of morality.

FROM THOMAS CLEARY’S COMMENTARY: (1):Discipline is developmental, but painful discipline is not to be held to. [Discipline means having limits that are not to be exceeded. This hexagram represents practicing obedience in unfavorable circumstances, adaptably keeping to the Tao. The situation may be up to others, but creation of destiny is up to oneself. When discipline gets to the point of inflicting suffering, it brings on danger itself even where there was no danger; you will only suffer toil and servility which is harmful and has no benefit.]

(2): Regulation is successful, but painful regulation is not to be held to.

MY FINAL WORD: Thus we need to impose limits on our desires and other egoic urgings in order to strengthen our character. But let us not go overboard and impose a ridiculous amount of limits on every single facet of our lives. It is important to remember, we also need to humanistically impose limits on the limitations we are imposing on ourselves and others. Happy unlimited practicing, folks.


Today’s we look at dispersion or dissolution with Hexagram #59, Huan /Dispersion, Dissolution. SUN THE GENTLE, WIND blows over KAN THE WATERY ABYSS, THE PIT

FROM THE JAMES LEGGE COMMENTARY: The hexagram of Expansion denotes a state of dissipation or dispersion. It shows men’s minds alienated from correctness and sure to go on to disorder. Here an attempt is made to show how the situation should be remedied.

The lower trigram represents Water, and the upper, Wind. Wind moving over water evaporates it, and suggests the idea of dispersion. Success is intimated because there are dynamic lines occupying the central places in the trigrams. The king’s piety moves the spirits by its sincerity — when the religious spirit rules men’s minds, there will be no alienation from what is right and good. Under such conditions even hazardous enterprises may be undertaken.

The second sentence of the Confucian commentary literally begins: “The king is indeed in the middle…” This means that his heart and mind are set on the central truth of what is right and good. The ancestral temple signifies the recognition that sincere religious practices counteracted the tendency to mutual alienation and selfishness among men. The wooden vessel refers to one of the attributes of the upper trigram, which is Wood. It suggests a boat riding on water (the lower trigram), hence: crossing the great water.

FROM THE JOHN BLOFELD COMMENTARY: This hexagram symbolizes wind blowing across the face of the waters. The kings of old built temples in which to sacrifice to the Supreme Lord of Heaven. A temple is a place of safety from the ills of the world. The symbolism here is that the upper trigram forms a temple in which people are safe from the pit (the lower trigram); its middle line (five) signifies the King. The implication is that we should employ spiritual or moral means to preserve ourselves from the danger threatened by the lower trigram, the Pit, our Ego.

Dwell on that for awhile, folks, and Joyful Practicing.


There are several very important personal qualities implicit in another double hexagram back-to-back, two days in a row. Hexagram #58, Tui/The Joyous, Lake. As you might have guessed by the name, the doubled trigram is Tui, the Lake.

This hexagram, like yesterday’s SUN, THE GENTLE, WIND, is one of the eight formed by doubling of a trigram. The trigram Tui is symbolized by the smiling lake, and its attribute is joyousness. Contrary to appearances, it is not the yielding quality of the top line that accounts for joy here. The attribute of the yielding or dark principle is not joy but melancholy. However, joy is indicated by the fact that there are two strong lines within, expressing themselves through the medium of gentleness. True joy, therefore, rests on firmness and strength within, manifesting itself outwardly as yielding and gentle. This is an important point that one needs to contemplate.

THE JOYOUS. Success.
Perseverance is favorable.

The joyous mood is infectious and therefore brings success. But joy must be based on steadfastness if it is not to degenerate into uncontrolled mirth. Truth and strength must dwell in the heart, while gentleness reveals itself in social intercourse. In this way one assumes the right attitude toward God and man and achieves something lasting. Under certain conditions, intimidation without gentleness may achieve something momentarily, but not for all time. When, on the other hand, the hearts of men are won by friendliness, they are led to take all hardships upon themselves willingly, and if need be will not shun death itself, so great is the power of joy over men.

THE IMAGE also expresses another important distinction:

Lakes resting one on the other:
The image of THE JOYOUS.
Thus the superior person joins with friends
For discussion and practice.

A lake evaporates upward and thus gradually dries up; but when two lakes are joined they do not dry up so readily, for one replenishes the other. That replenishing carries through as we discuss the knowledge we are hoping to acquire, This brings a refreshing and vitalizing quality to that knowledge which we are not only acquiring but sharing through stimulating discussions with congenial friends with whom one practices application of the truths of life. In this way learning becomes dynamic and takes on a cheerful lightness, whereas there is always something ponderous and one-sided about the learning of the self-taught.

So, I do hope you will contemplate the points mentioned and see how they resonate within your daily life. Take care and happy practicing, people.


Today’s hexagram has the penetrating power of the wind and the seedling of a tree. Hexagram #57, Sun/The Gentle (The Penetrating, Wind) is another one of the eight doubled hexagrams with the trigram SUN, THE GENTLE, WIND, WOOD above and below

Sun symbolizes wind or wood and has for its attribute gentleness, which nonetheless penetrates like the wind or like growing wood with its roots. The dark principle, in itself rigid and immovable, is dissolved by the penetrating light principle, to which it subordinates itself in gentleness. In nature, it is the wind that disperses the gathered clouds, leaving the sky clear and serene. In human life it is penetrating clarity of judgment that thwarts all dark hidden motives. We can stop right there.

This is all we need to know. As with several hexagrams before it, SUN again stresses penetrating clarity of judgment. It is that penetrating clarity of the situation that brings about discernment of the Truth. The penetrating quality of the wind depends upon its ceaselessness. This is what makes it so powerful; time is its instrument. Thus, we have a second quality in Hexagram 57 – perseverance – which, like clarity, is stressed many times in the I Ching, regardless of the situation. So, remember those two integral qualities – clarity and perseverance. Now, go ahead and acquire them.


Today’s Hexagram #56, Lu/The Wanderer, Hexagram #56, Lu/The Wanderer…
With LI, THE CLINGING, FIRE as the upper trigram and KEN, KEEPING STILL, MOUNTAIN, the lower trigram, the mountain, Kên, stands still; above it fire, Li, flames up and does not tarry. Therefore the two trigrams do not stay together. Strange lands and separation are the wanderer’s lot. When a man is a wanderer and stranger, he should not be gruff nor overbearing. He has no large circle of acquaintances, therefore he should not give himself airs….A wanderer has no fixed abode; his home is the road. Therefore he must take care to remain upright and steadfast, so that he sojourns only in the proper places, associating only with good people. Then he has good fortune and can go his way unmolested.

In honor of Lu, The Wanderer, I present an inspiration my teacher, Damo Mitchell, just had as he contemplate Nature while wandering across America these past few weeks.

“Stabilise into the nature of form as a starting position. See through to the direct experience of phenomena which sits behind that form. There is a process involved in said phenomena that may be realised and this gives access to the point whereby mind creates experience.
This is known as ‘reversing the course to find the origin’ and takes place as a direct result of ‘reversing the light of illumination’.
Throughout this process, adherence to truth is the lamp that lights the way.”


Today there is the problem of too much of a good thing that may bring sadness. Hexagram #55 Fêng/Abundance, Fullness has CHêN or ZHEN,THE AROUSING, THUNDER as its upper trigram and LI, THE CLINGING, FIRE beneath it.

Chên is movement; Li is flame, whose attribute is clarity. Clarity within and movement without produce greatness and abundance. The hexagram pictures a period of advanced civilization. However, the fact that development has reached a peak suggests that this extraordinary condition of abundance cannot be maintained permanently.

Such a time of abundance is usually brief. Therefore a sage might well feel sad in view of the decline that must follow. But such sadness does not befit him. Only those who are inwardly free of sorrow and care can lead in a time of abundance. They must be like the sun at midday, illuminating and gladdening everything under heaven.

So, what this hexagram is alluding to here is emotional neutrality – having neither sorrow nor care. Thus, nothing disturbs the Sage and that allows one to shine like the sun at midday, illuminating and gladdening everything that comes one’s way. If abundance is here today but gone tomorrow, the Sage carries on without any concern. Thus, our emotional neutrality is the trait to work on. Good practicing, people.


Today, it’s back to the I Ching and #54, Kuei Mei/The Marrying Maiden with CHêN THE AROUSING, THUNDER, the upper trigram and TUI THE JOYOUS, LAKE, the lower trigram. This hexagram and the following one are based on the family hierarchy in ancient China, when a husband had his #1 wife, usually a family-arranged marriage, but he was allowed to bring in mistresses/concubines for propriety sake named as lower ranking wives. So, these arrangements certainly do not apply to our modern culture. Therefore, I am skipping over them and moving onto the Image of Kuei #54.

Thunder over the lake:
Thus the superior person
Understands the transitory
In the light of the eternity of the end.

Thunder stirs the water of the lake, which follows it in shimmering waves. This symbolizes the girl who follows the man of her choice. But every relationship between individuals bears within it the danger that wrong turns may be taken, leading to endless misunderstandings and disagreements. Therefore it is necessary constantly to remain mindful of the end. If we permit ourselves to drift along, we come together and are parted again as the day may determine. If on the other hand a man fixes his mind on an end that endures, he will succeed in avoiding the reefs that confront the closer relationships of people. Good practicing, folks!


Today I would like to try something different and get your comments. Inspired by the number of quality personality traits listed in the last two hexagrams – #53 Chien/Gradual Progress like a tree growing at the top of a mountain and #52 Ken, The Mountain, a double trigrams with the image of two mountains back-to-back – I wondered what is all this leading to. Whether you are doing Internal Arts practice, martial arts, or another Cultivation practice, where has all your training led you so far. Not in terms of the particular art itself but rather what aspects of your life and your sense of self has all the training changed in either positive or negative ways.

For example, I have had over 20 years of training in tai chi and chi gong as well as some xingyi and bagua, but I have started with a new teacher, Damo Mitchell, six months ago and I am half-way through my first year with him in tai chi and Nei Gong and some three months into Bagua. I have noticed that I am beginning to sleep better and becoming a little more attentive and mindful but I still have a long way to go. Neither my digestion nor my overall health have improved nor has my breathing, although I am getting less upper respiratory infections and very slight improvement in post-nasal drip and GERD. I have been a belly breather ever since I began martial arts, but the other aspects have only improved when I am concentrating on them. They have not as yet become consistent in every day life unless I stop whatever I am doing to focus on the breathe. So far all I feel in the dantian has been movement under the influence of lao gong, no heat or warmth, no pulsations. Calm abiding and mindfulness in seated work has not been consistent either. My non-reactivity is still far from where I would like it, but there has been a slight improvement. My connectivity with others is still more closed than it is open. But at least I am mindful of that, which I wasn’t before.

So, that’s about it for me. What about you, my internal arts brothers and sisters and other cultivators?  I’m interested in reading your comments.


Hexagram #53, Chien or Jian/Development (Gradual Progress) is filled with several very useful character traits. the trigram SUN, THE GENTLE, WIND, WOOD is sits above the trigram KêN, KEEPING STILL, MOUNTAIN. This gives us the image of a tree growing at the top of a mountain, which is a perfect analogy for our Cultivation practice.

A tree on a mountain develops slowly according to the law of its being and consequently stands firmly rooted. This gives the idea of a development that proceeds gradually, step by step. The attributes of the trigrams also point to this: within is tranquility, which guards against precipitate actions, and without is penetration, which makes development and progress possible.

This principle of gradual development is always applicable where it is a matter of correct relationships of co-operation, as for instance in the appointment of an official. The development must be allowed to take its proper course. Hasty action would not be wise. This is also true, finally, of any effort to exert influence on others, for here too the essential factor is a correct way of development through cultivation of one’s own personality. No influence such as that exerted by agitators has a lasting effect. Within the personality too, development must follow the same course if lasting results are to be achieved. Gentleness that is adaptable, but at the same time penetrating, is the outer form that should proceed from inner calm. The very gradualness of the development makes it necessary to have perseverance, for perseverance alone prevents slow progress from dwindling to nothing.

On the mountain, a tree:
The image of DEVELOPMENT.
Thus the superior person abides in dignity and virtue,
In order to improve the mores.

The tree on the mountain is visible from afar, and its development influences the landscape of the entire region. It does not shoot up like a swamp plant; its growth proceeds gradually. Thus also the work of influencing people can be only gradual. No sudden influence or awakening is of lasting effect. Progress must be quite gradual, and in order to obtain such progress in public opinion and in the mores of the people, it is necessary for the personality to acquire influence and weight. This comes about through careful and constant work on one’s own moral development.

So, recapping, let’s look at the qualities that Richard Wilhelm’s commentary pointed out that will make our own personal Cultivation possible. First, tranquility and penetration. Tranquility within guards against precipitate actions, and penetration without makes development and progress possible. Next, “Gentleness that is adaptable, but at the same time penetrating, is the outer form that should proceed from inner calm.” Then “The very gradualness of the development makes it necessary to have perseverance, for perseverance alone prevents slow progress from dwindling to nothing.” So, gentleness that is adaptable and penetrating as well as perseverance. Finally, our personality must acquire influence and weight through careful and constant work on one’s own moral development.

There you have it, folks. So, get busy on developing these qualities, and, as always, good practicing, everyone!


Today’s hexagram is another double trigram, one of eight in the “I Ching.” It is also one of the more esoteric ones that imparts instructions to reach a higher ground rather than giving divination regarding your current situation.
Hexagram #52, Gen or Ken/Keeping Still, Mountain, comprised of two Ken trigrams below and above. The image of this hexagram is the mountain, or rather, two mountains situated back-to-back. The male principle is at the top because it strives upward by nature; the female principle is below, since the direction of its movement has come to its normal end. In its application, the hexagram turns upon the problem of achieving a quiet heart, a most difficult one for anyone who has tried to meditate. While Buddhism strives for rest through an ebbing away of all movement in nirvana, the Book of Changes holds that rest is merely a state of polarity that always posits movement as its complement. Possibly the words of the Judgment embody directions for this kind of practice.


KEEPING STILL. Keeping his back still
So that he (the Sage/Ruler) no longer feels his body.
He goes into his courtyard
And does not see his people.
No blame.

True quiet means keeping still when the time has come to keep still, and going forward when the time has come to go forward. In this way rest and movement are in agreement with the demands of the time and the flow of Tao.

The hexagram signifies the end and the beginning of all movement. It also suggest keeping the back still because the spine is where all the nerve fibers that mediate movement are located. In theory, if the movement of these spinal nerves is brought to a standstill, the ego’s influence, with all its restlessness, fades as it were. When the Sage has become calm and turns to the outside world, he no longer sees the struggle and tumult of individual beings. If the Sage has maintained his clarity and discernment upon reaching stillness, he sees the great laws of the Universe being acted out according to the flow of the Dao. Therefore he has reached true peace of mind.


Two Mountains standing back-to-back,
The image of KEEPING STILL.
Thus the superior person
Does not permit one’s thoughts
To go beyond one’s situation.

The heart-mind (Xin) thinks constantly. This cannot be changed, but the movements of the heart-that is, a person’s thoughts-should not be acted upon without clarity and discernment. See through your desires, which ones bring harm to yourself or others and which bring benefit. In this way, you stabilize yourself in the Way of Dao and become mindfully non-reactive. Great practicing, friends, have at it!


Today we are in for a real shock with Hexagram #51, Chên or Zhen/The Arousing (Shock, Thunder). The doubling of the Chen trigram THE AROUSING, THUNDER both above and below represents the shock of continuing thunder that brings fear and trembling. Here, in both trigrams, a yang line develops below two yin lines and presses upward forcibly. This movement is so violent that it arouses terror. It is symbolized by thunder, which bursts forth from the earth.

The shock that comes from the manifestation of God within the depths of the earth makes man afraid, but this fear of God is good, for joy and success can follow. When one has learned within one’s heart what fear and trembling mean, one is safeguarded against any terror produced by outside influences. Let the thunder roll and spread terror a hundred miles around: The superior person remains so composed and reverent in spirit that the sacrificial rite is not interrupted. This is the spirit that must animate leaders and rulers of men-a profound inner seriousness from which all terrors glance off harmlessly.

The superior person is always filled with reverence at the manifestation of God; one sets one’s life in order and searches one’s heart, lest it harbor any secret opposition to the will of God. Thus reverence is the foundation of true culture.

That last sentence is the real shocker. How many of us in our Cultivation practice have thought to acquire reverence as a fundamental character trait? But more than any other trait at the very base of our being we need reverence – reverence for the Divine, reverence for Nature and reverence for a fellow man as well as ourselves as true manifestations of the Divine. So start there, and good practicing, people.


Today we cook up a special opportunity with Hexagram #50 Ting or DING/The Caldron. With LI THE CLINGING, FIRE above and SUN THE GENTLE, WIND, WOOD below, Ting gives the impression of the flames of a fire being stoked by wind and wood. Also, the six lines of this hexagram construct the image of THE CALDRON; at the bottom are the legs, over them the belly, then come the ears (handles), and at the top the carrying rings. At the same time, the image suggests the idea of both nourishment and sacrifice. The ting, cast of bronze, was the vessel that held the cooked viands in the temple of the ancestors and at banquets. The heads of the family served the food from the ting into the bowls of the guests. It also held the meat and plants being offered to the divine.

The fate of fire depends on wood; as long as there is wood below, the fire burns above. It is the same in human life; there is in man likewise a fate, one’s Ming, that lends power to his life. And if he succeeds in bringing the two into harmony, he puts his fate on a firm footing. These words contain hints about fostering of life as handed on by oral tradition in the secret teachings of Chinese yoga.

Here it is the wood (the Hun soul, related to the Liver organ) that serves as nourishment for the flame, the spirit, (the Shen, related to the Heart). All that is visible must grow beyond itself, extend into the realm of the invisible. Thereby it receives its true consecration and clarity and takes firm root in the cosmic order. Since the Ting serves in offering sacrifice to God, it must contain the highest earthly values. But the truly divine does not manifest itself apart from man. The supreme revelation of the Infinite Non-Being, the Absolute Eternal Oneness can only be realized when one has achieved the productive stillness that brings inner enlightenment and true understanding only if one has maintained the clarity and discernment of the Truth. This leads to the greatest fortune of all – a successful cultivation of one’s Nature. A worthy practice, folks. All the best!


Most of us are aware that many animals molt or shed their fur according to changes in their environment. That’s the Image of Hexagram #49 Ko/Revolution (Molting). TUI THE JOYOUS, LAKE sits above LI, THE CLINGING, FIRE. The Chinese character for this hexagram means an animal’s pelt in its original sense, which is changed in the course of the year by molting. But commentators down through the ages have changed their application of the original meaning to apply to the “moltings” in political life or the shedding of one government for another through revolutions.

According to the Image of KO, fire below and the lake above combat and destroy each other. So too in the course of the year a combat takes place between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, eventuating in the revolution of the seasons.

However, like we did yesterday, I would like to forego political or seasonal changes and look at physical ones within our bodies. There is a constant fight between Fire and Water which are represented by the heart and kidneys respectively and between Yang qi, the electronic component of our qi, and the Yin qi, the magnetic component. The Yang qi is constantly trying to move upward away from the kidneys which generate it while the Yin qi keeps attempting to pull the Yang qi downward and gather it in. The problems arise when the Yang element is much stronger than the Yin. This imbalance creates an excess of heat as the Yang qi rises upward toward its two favorite spots – the brain and the upper chest cavity. When this happens we get conditions known as Qigong Deviations. “Long Bing” also known as Dragon Sickness and “Zou Huo Ru Mo” or “Entering the Fire to Invite Demons” are a couple of the more noted deviations that can affect Qigong and Neigong practitioners.

As the Yang qi rise into the head, it can cause all sorts of psychological and emotional conditions that can destabilize our lives. As it moves into the upper chest, it eventually heats up the heart and the arteries and we get various forms of cardiovascular disease such as hypertension, arrythmias, arteriosclerosis and atherosclerosis. Also as the Yang qi rises, more and more Yin energy is depleted as our body attempts to reel in the Yang energy. Eventually our Jing (essence) is needed to produce more and more Yin energy and thus, it eventually gets depleted as well.

Although this is an ongoing battle between these two forces, it is our primary goal in qigong and Neigong to balance the Yin and Yang and at the same time strengthen our awareness through clarity and discernment. This is why we practice, and this is why we maintain our perspective within. Good practicing, folks!


Today we reach down into the well for a look at Hexagram #48, Ching or Jing/The Well. The trigram Sun, Wood, is below, and the trigram Kan, Water, is above it. Wood sucks water upward. Just as wood as an organism imitates the action of the well, which benefits all parts of the plant, the superior person or Sage organizes human society, so that, as in a plant organism, its parts co-operate for the benefit of the whole.

While Richard Wilhelm and most other commentators have a macrocosmic view of Ching and how it relates to society as a whole, I have a much different perspective. I look at Ching from a microcosmic, inner view. Like the plant organism, our bodies can be viewed in the same way, where Water represents the major liquid substance, namely, our blood.

So, how is blood formed within the Wells of our bodies?

Like the rope and bucket of an external well, our bodies use Qi and Jing (essence) to draw blood from our nutrition.
The nutrition from food and drink that consume are transformed in the digestive organs under the supervision of the Spleen to make Ku Qi (Qi of Food). The Spleen then sends the Ku Qi upwards to the Lungs where it is mingled with Ta Qi (the refined Qi of Air). This combination gives us Nutrient Qi that is then moved to the Heart, where Jing (Essence) from the Kidneys is added and Blood is formed. While it is true that the actual manufacturing of blood is done by bone marrow which is ruled by the Kidneys, which Provide Jing (Essence) and Yuan Qi, a catalyst that sparks all transformative processes in the body, according to Chinese Medicine theory. However, this function is done under the supervision of Heart which can only do so if it received adequate Nutrient Qi from the Lungs and the Spleen.

So, just as there is so much that needs to be transformed in society if it is to function properly, the same is true of our bodies, and all the organs must function properly in order to make these transformations possible. Thus, the lesson to be learned here is to realize how much work your body has to do, and it is our job to see that the body gets exactly what it needs: proper nutrition – good food and drink – plenty of exercise as well as adequate rest.
So, look after your own personal Well that holds the precious red elixir of a long life. And good practicing, folks!


“It’s all there”
a commentary

Instead of my usual review of the hexagrams of the “I Ching” for those personal qualities that each one promotes, I decided to do a commentary instead, not on the hexagrams or the “I Ching” but on deepening our clarity and discernment. Although it is not about any hexagram in particular, it was inspired by yesterday’s review of Hexagram #47, Kun, meaning Oppression or Exhaustion. What happens when we feel we are oppressed? We could be oppressed by an employer or a manager, by authoritarian figures, polictical figures, law enforcement, by society in general, or by ourselves, in the case of workholics for example. If this opporession is kept up long enough, it is bound to turn to exhaustion, and this is not conducive to either our physical or mental health or our spiritual growth and cultivation.

As I noted in my review yesterday, some commentators have suggested cheerfulness as an antidote for opporessed exhaution. But can anyone be truly cheerful when oppressed or exhausted or in the face of adversity? I suggested riding things out or, at the very least, try not to be despondent. But neither of those are viable solutions when one is bordering on depression. So, as I completed my morning incantations and took my shower, I suddenly realized no matter how negative things can get, it’s all there. Wait a second, hold on! What’s all there, and what’s all where?

I’m glad you asked. The short answer is not a solution but a process – a process to go within. Not to still your mind, but to still your jing – that energy which is your very essence. Once it stops overworking to balance the energy you lose through worry, nerve-racking stress, brain fog and despondent thoughts, the jing can settle down and energize your spirit instead of your nerves. So, before you reach for that cigarette or that chocolate cream donut, sit down instead and allow your breath to slow down and deepen. Don’t “DO” anything, just observe your breath as it slows down and deepens on its own accord. Observe it as it deepens all the way into the pit of your stomach, about two-fingers width beneath your navel and a couple of inches inward on the center line of your body. Once you feel it reaching that spot, then allow your mind to join with the breath.

Again, don’t do anything but simply observe as your awareness sinks with your breath into that spot. Allow your breath and your mind to move deeply, easily and softly, and lengthen as there is no rush. Allow them to take as long as they want. Now you are in that very “THERE,” that space within where all potential lies. The solution(s) to your situation, your Fate, if you will, is among that very potentiality. ‘It is all there.’

With clarity and discernment, you can discover the real truth within your situation and, more importantly, within the very ego, the overly conditioned, acquired mind that has woven this particular fate for you from your own perceptions of each and every experience you have ever had. See the truth of those perceptions and falsehoods of your beliefs they have formed. Once you see that, then the clarity and discernment necessary to either improve your situation or to break free altogether will arise.

So, again, don’t get mad and don’t get sad. Just sit, settle down, and allow your breath and your awareness to deepen. Great practicing, everyone!


Today we look at a somewhat inauspicious fate, that of Hexagram #47, Kun/Oppression or Exhaustion. TUI or DUI, THE JOYOUS, LAKE is above, but below is KAN THE ABYSMAL PIT, WATER.

The lake is above, water below; signifying that the water has flowed out below, and thus the lake must dry up and become exhausted. That is its fate and symbolizes an adverse fate in human life. In such times there is nothing a one can do but acquiesce in his fate and remain true to himself. This concerns the deepest stratum of his being, for this alone is superior to all external fate.

While some commentators have suggested cheerfulness as an antidote to overcome this dire fate, let’s be real – there is no antidote except to ride it out. Also, when one is oppressed or exhausted by one’s current fate, it is difficult to be cheerful. However, I do recommend avoiding despondency. Simply go to that quiet place within, where one’s true strength lies, settle your thoughts, and hunker down. And go deeper and deeper into your practice every day.


Today our spotlight is on Hexagram #46, SHENG/Ascending, Pushing Upward. KUN, THE RECEPTIVE, EARTH is the upper trigram with SUN, THE GENTLE, WIND, WOOD below. As you can see, with wood below the earth, we have the Image and idea of a young sprout pushing upward, attempting to break through the earth and into daylight. This pushing upward is associated with effort, just as a plant needs energy for pushing upward through the earth. That is why this hexagram, although it is connected with success, is associated with the effort of willpower, ZHI, which, in turn, is associated with the kidneys. PUSHING UPWARD indicates a vertical ascent but not necessarily a direct one.

If one again thinks of a seed becoming the sprout of a sprawling tree, it doesn’t directly shoot upwards as there may be obstructions in its path. It doesn’t attempt to move them with a violent force, but like water, only moving upwards rather than downward, it adapts to its environment and acquiesces to that which is blocking it and bends around it until it finds a suitable path to continue its upward ascent.

Thus, our lesson to draw from that tree sprout is to temper our own progress not with violence or force but by adaptability and modesty. Although, as in the case of the sprout, this progress requires the effort of willpower, it also requires the modesty of taking the middle road, which means drawing back the intensity of that willpower and letting it suffice as perseverance rather than sheer strength of will. Happy practicing and cultivating, folks!


Today we look at Hexagram #45, Cui or Tsui / Gathering Together, Amassing, Collecting, Bunching Together, A Crowd. the trigram TUI or DUI, THE JOYOUS, LAKE is above with KUN, THE RECEPTIVE, EARTH below. Usually, one thinks of a gathering as a joyous occasion. There are weddings, birthday parties, family gatherings, sporting events and tailgating. We also have a familiar saying: “The more, the merrier.” But that’s not always the case.

If the water in the lake gathers until it rises above the earth, there is danger of a break-through. Precautions must be taken to prevent this. The Age of COVID has taught us to be wary of large gatherings, to keep a social distance, to wear a mask and to keep our gatherings small. But even prior to COVID, large gatherings often presented problems. There’s the drunk who wants to fondle every woman and fight every male. One can always find persons with a belligerent nature in large crowds who are ready for a fight at the drop of a hat.

So, the bottom line: where men gather together in great numbers, strife is likely to arise. Human woes usually come as a result of unexpected events against which we are not forewarned. If we are cautious, they can be prevented.
Happy practicing, folks!


Today we have a rather controversial hexagram with many differing commentaries. Just when you thought your troubles were over, evil raises, not its ugly head, but its beautiful, innocent temptress facade. That’s Hexagram #44, Kou/Coming to Meet with CH’IEN or QIAN, THE CREATIVE, HEAVEN sits atop SUN, THE GENTLE, WIND. As mentioned, there is a good deal of controversy over its interpretation. Thus, I will present two views.

The first is the James Legge-Richard Wilhelm commentary: “This hexagram indicates a situation in which the principle of darkness, after having been eliminated, furtively and unexpectedly obtrudes again from within and below. Of its own accord the female principle comes to meet the male. It is an unfavorable and dangerous situation, and we must understand and promptly prevent the possible consequences.

“The rise of the inferior element is pictured here in the image of a bold girl who lightly surrenders herself and thus seizes power. This would not be possible if the strong and light-giving element had not in turn come halfway. The inferior thing seems so harmless and inviting that a man delights in it; it looks so small and weak that he imagines he may dally with it and come to no harm.

“The inferior man rises only because the superior man does not regard him as dangerous and so lends him power. If he were resisted from the first, he could never gain influence.”

The second commentary represents the feminine point of view from Kari Hohne at cafeausoul.com: “The powerful feminine energy of rebirth is at play because of the single yin line emerging at the bottom of many yang lines. Some see it as the emperor’s first wife’s child who becomes the heir.

“Gou can be important in creative readings as suggested by the hidden influence of the Creative. Others define it as a temptress who may lead a man astray. If we look deeper into the transformative power of the entire I Ching we find room for all images. As the Shadow or Anima in a man’s dream, the Trickster temptress is actually allowing a breakthrough of his feeling nature. For a woman, the Shadow shows how her own power may need to be resurrected after being forced underground because it was misunderstood or thought to be bad.

“The underlying cause of Return may have caused the present to be overlaid with unacknowledged images of the past. Return relates to what is going on inside and you may be judging a situation subjectively when you should really be looking at it objectively. Therefore, Gou can symbolize any type of encounter that leads to Shadow transformation and putting misunderstandings under the proper light. This may be why Kung fu tzu (Confucius) said: “when meeting contention in another it would be wise to examine oneself.”

So, there you have it. Take your pick as to which points in the two commentaries you choose to accept. Since I am a believer in the power of introspection, I go with Confucius’ contention. And Good Practicing to all!


Today has been another “bad news” day. It seems as though evil doers in positions of power have beseiged those leaders who hope to serve in humanistic and humanitarian ways. It has reached the point where we could certainly use a break-through. And that’s the title of today’s Hexagram #43. Kuai/Break-through (Resoluteness).

In his commentary on Kuai, Richard Wilhelm has raised a few points that are in line with Daoist teachings and my own ethical values. Therefore, I will paraphrase his commentary to insure they are not misconstrued.

With TUI or DUI, THE JOYOUS, LAKE above and CH’IEN or Qian, THE CREATIVE, HEAVEN below, Kuai signifies on the one hand a break-through after a long accumulation of tension, as a swollen river breaks through its dikes or in the manner of a cloudburst. On the other hand, applied to human conditions, it refers to the time when inferior people gradually begin to disappear. Their influence is on the wane, which is certainly not the case today. Their influence among their particular constituents remains as steady as ever.

Nevertheless, even if only one inferior person is occupying a ruling position in a city, he/she is able to oppress superior leaders. Even a single passion still lurking in the heart has power to obscure reason. Passion and reason cannot exist side by side. A resolute breakthrough is necessary if the good is to prevail. In a confrontation of good against evil, there are, however, definite rules that must not be disregarded. First, resolution must be based on a union of strength and compassion or empathy for the victims of the evil doers. Second, a compromise with evil is not possible; evil must under all circumstances be openly discredited. Nor must our own passions and shortcomings be glossed over. Finally and most importantly, the confrontation must not be carried on directly by force. If evil is branded, it thinks of weapons, and if we do it the favor of fighting against it blow for blow, we lose in the end because we ourselves get entangled in hatred and passion. Therefore it is important to begin with ourselves, to be on guard in our own persons against the faults we have branded in others. In this way, finding no opponent, the sharp edges of the weapons of evil becomes dulled. For the same reasons we should not combat our own faults directly. As long as we wrestle with them, they continue victorious. Finally, the best way to fight evil is to make energetic progress in the good.

THE IMAGE of BREAK-THROUGH contends that the superior individual or sage dispenses riches downward and refrains from resting on his virtue. When the waters of a lake have risen up to heaven, there is reason to assume a cloudburst is imminent. Thus, if a person were to pile up riches for himself alone, without considering others, he would certainly experience a collapse, for all gathering is followed by dispersion. Therefore the superior individual begins to distribute while accumulating. In the same way, in developing his character he takes care not to become hardened in obstinacy but to remain receptive to impressions by help of strict and continuous self-examination.

The two most important traits here to add to your own character are first, we should not combat our own faults directly. As long as we wrestle with them, they continue victorious. The best way to confront evil is to make energetic progress in the good. And the second trait, the superior individual begins to distribute while accumulating. In the same way, in developing his character he takes care not to become hardened in obstinacy but to remain receptive to impressions by help of strict and continuous self-examination. That, my friends, is the Daoist Way. Good practicing, people.

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