mêng / youthful folly

Even the foolish can attain wisdom by modestly following the Sage.

Folly is a characteristic of youth: those who have had little experience generally exhibit little wisdom. This is true of us in a spiritual way as well; in comparison to the Sage we are “babes in the woods.” The hexagram Mêng counsels us to utilize the I Ching as a lantern so that we may survive our youthful folly and travel safely through the woods of life.

There is no shame in seeking guidance in life. A child is eager to be shown the way by his parents and teachers, and we are wise to recognize that in spiritual terms we are akin to children. Our success will come quicker if we find and follow a wise teacher. The Sage is available to serve in this way for those who approach the I Ching with a sincere desire to learn and grow.

To study the I Ching is to gain the perspective of the Deity, to learn the cosmic lesson inherent in every situation that faces us. If we truly look for and strive to comprehend these larger lessons, we gain mastery over fear, doubt, and anxiety. We can learn from study of the I Ching to live in a state of understanding, contentment, and acceptance, but several things are required of us.

The first is that we suspend our mistrust of the Unknown and allow the Sage to lead us. It is tempting to think that the I Ching might be just a book, merely words on paper, but there is more to it that this. To accept this is to recognize the Sage and become receptive to his assistance.

The second thing required of us is that we quiet the demands of our egos for comprehensive answers to our questions about life. The I Ching teaches us not how to get from A to Z but how to get from A to B, then from B to C, then from C to D. The sage travels step by step, dealing always with what is immediately at hand and bringing complete focus and concentration to the moment. By doing the same we fall into step with, and receive the help of, the Creative power of the universe.

Lastly, we are required to unstructure our attitude. By abandoning strategies about people and situations, we let the past and future go and meet the present with an open mind. To be unstructured and open is to allow the Sage to guide us safely and joyfully through life.

The image of Mêng is that of a stream beginning to flow down a mountainside, filing each ravine and hollow place as it goes. If we persevere in following the Sage, seeking the counsel of the I Ching and filling in the gaps in our character as they are revealed, we will be led to lasting success in life.

from The I Ching, or Book of Changes

Hexagram 4, Mêng / Youthful Folly

 

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less is more

 

In the

pursuit of learning, 

every day something is added. 

In the pursuit of tao, every day something

is dropped. Less and less is done,

until one arrives at

non-action. 

 

When

nothing is done, 

nothing is left undone. 

The world is won by letting

things take their own course. 

If you still have ambitions,

it’s out of your

reach. 

 

from The Tao te Ching of Lao Tzu,

Chapter 48


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lasting progress is won through quiet self-discipline

mark thorpe

This hexagram outlines the foundation of proper conduct within ourselves, with those with whom we may have conflicts, and within the larger society. It serves to remind us that no genuine gains can be made unless we are rooted firmly in the principles of the Sage.

An image often associated with this hexagram is that of treading on the tail of a tiger. The “tiger” may be some strong or malevolent force in your own personality, or it may be a particularly volatile individual or situation with which you have to deal. In either case the advice of the I Ching is the same: one avoids the bite of a tiger by treading carefully. To tread carefully means that we remain steadfastly innocent and conscientious in our thoughts and actions. 

It is inevitable that people will display varying levels of spiritual understanding. It is not our duty to condemn or correct others, but simply to go on developing ourselves. Do not imagine that you can hasten your progress through aggressive actions now. Power that is sought and wielded pridefully has a way of evaporating when you need it most, thus exacerbating your difficulties. The only lasting influence is that which arises naturally from a course of steady development.

In the end, it is our inner worth that determines the outer conditions of our lives. Those who resolve to persevere in humility, sincerity, and gentleness can tread anywhere – even on the tail of a tiger – and meet with success.
 

from The I Ching, or Book of Changes

Hexagram 10, Lü / Treading

 

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be absorbed in the now

 

The

present moment

is the source of everything.

As long as you have resentments

about the past or ideas about

the future, you cannot

genuinely be in

the present.

 

You owe it

to your future self,

and to the rest of us, to be

completely absorbed here and

now. Make all notions of past

and future a cool pile

of ashes in the

corner.

 

Wei wu Wei Ching, Chapter 30

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the sheikh who played with children


 

A certain

young man was asking

around.  “I need to find a wise person.

I have a problem.” A bystander said, “There’s

no one with intelligence in our town except that man

over there playing with the children, the one riding

the stick-horse. He has keen, fiery insight and

vast dignity like the night sky, but he

conceals it in the madness of

child’s play.” 

 

The young

seeker approached the

children. “Dear father, you who

have become as a child,

tell me a secret.”

 

“Go away.

This is not a day for

secrets.” “But please! Ride your

horse this way, just for a minute.” The sheikh

play-galloped over. “Speak quickly. I can’t hold this one

still for long. Whoops. Don’t let him kick you. This is a wild

one!” The young man felt he couldn’t ask his serious

question in the crazy atmosphere, so he

joked, “I need to get married. Is

there someone suitable on

this street?”

 

“There are

three kinds of women

in the world. Two are griefs, and

one is a treasure in the world. The first,

when you marry her, is all yours. The second

is half-yours, and the third is not yours at all. Now get

out of here, before this horse kicks you in the head!

Easy now!” The sheikh rode off among the

children. The young man shouted,

“Tell me more about

the kinds of

women!”

 

The sheikh,

on his cane horsey,

came closer, “The virgin of

your first love is all yours. She will

make you feel happy and free. A childless widow

is the second, she will be half yours. The third, who is

nothing to you, is a married woman with a child. By her first

husband she had a child, and all her love goes into that child.

She will have no connection with you. Now watch out.

Back away. I’m going to turn this rascal around!”

He gave a loud whoop and rode back,

calling the children

around him.

 

“One

more question, Master!”

The sheikh circled, “What is it? Quickly!

That rider over there needs me. I think I’m

in love.” “What is this playing that

you do? Why do you hide

your intelligence

so?”

 

“The people

here want to put me

in charge. They want me to be

judge, magistrate, and interpreter of all the texts.

The knowing I have doesn’t want that. It wants to enjoy

itself. I am a plantation of sugarcane, and at the same time

I’m eating the sweetness.” Knowledge that is acquired is not like

this. Those who have it worry if audiences like it or not. It’s a

bait for popularity. Disputational knowing wants customers.

It has no soul. Robust and energetic before a responsive

crowd, it slumps when no one is there. The only

real customer is God. Chew quietly your

sweet sugarcane God-love, and stay

playfully childish. Your face  will

turn rosy with illumination

like the red bud

flowers.

 

Let the lover

be disgraceful, crazy,

absent minded. Someone sober

will worry about things going

badly. Let the lover

be.

 

All day

and night, music,

a quiet, bright reed song.

If it fades, we

fade.

 

Jalal al-din Rumi