The I Ching is the book of change. So it is about the patterns of change and what we can learn from studying those patterns. The basic unit of the book is the hexagram. This diagram of six lines mutates in a variety of ways. Six is 1x2x3. In other words it is the multiple of the first three numbers which are also the first three prime numbers. Thus, some of the emergent patterns are also a function of number logic. There are various ancient and modern theories about how the basic structure of the universe relates to, or even simply is, numbers.

Let us consider the last two hexagrams in the full sequence. These are numbers 63 and 64. These are to do with the situation when something is coming to an end - a project, a life, a journey, a practice, a phase of life, - things have trajectory and there are beginnings, middles and ends. These last hexagrams are about ending.

Chi Chi : After Completion Wei Chi : Before Completion

63, Chi Chi is, in a certain way, the perfect hexagram. All the lines are in what is considered to be their proper places. So this represents what the ordinary person thinks they are aiming for - the state in which everything has been completed. The job is done. All is now perfect. However, the judgement on this hexagram is: in the beginning good fortune and in the end disorder. The problem with achieving any kind of perfection is that it is all downhill from now on.

64. Wie Chi is the opposite hexagram. Wherever chichi has a yang line, wei chi has a yin one and vice versa. This is essentially a more auspicious hexagram than Chi Chi. It suggests that there is disorder at the moment, but order is coming. This is like the adage "poor dress rehearsal - alright on the night."  There is still danger and the judgement here is "steady as she goes". The natural order is that a good outcome is on its way but if one tries to rush or use too much of one's own strength this possibility will be lost.

Now, aside from the values of these two, as judgements, it is interesting to see the relationship between them. If one were to be in one of these positions and wish to be in the other one, one would have to change every single line. This would be difficult and complicated. However, the natural movement of the lines is upward. In each case a new line is just about to enter at the bottom. If a yin line were to enter chi chi it would immediately and naturally become wei chi without further ado. Equally, if a yang line enters wei chi it becomes chi chi. So by doing nothing one would have a fifty percent chance of getting there.

Of course, the alternative could happen. A yang line could enter chi chi or a yin line enter wei chi. In that case one arrives at

38. K'uei : Opposition 39. Chien : Obstruction

Now these two are both rather unfortunate situations. K'uei refers to conflict within and Chien to obstacle without. Chien gives the image of being stuck between a mountain and an abyss whereas K'uei is the image of conflict within the family. In both these situations what is needed is stillness and patience. While the image is of bad situations, these are both hexagrams that prescribe meditative calm rather than action. In these situations, action will make matters worse, though in different ways. Of course, if one keeps one's equanimity, the situation will again transform as yin or yang lines enter from below.

So this particular range of changes mostly prescribes inaction. Good fortune and bad fortune comes and goes, but throughout it all there is a still point. We can struggle to create change, but when we do so we tend to reckon without the fact that change will come inevitably anyway. We can see that in the philosophy of I Ching there is a deep respect for natural change and although sometimes decisive action is demanded of us, a high priority is given to respect for the natural process first.

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Replies to This Discussion

Dear Dharmavidya, this could have been written for me, though I recognize it to be universal. We live in a society that values doing so highly that we are conditioned to feel as though something is wrong when we are not acting and trying to control our lives. Yet my life situation at the moment is one in which inaction probably is the best course, as one talks about battening down the hatches during a storm at sea. The middle of a storm is not the best time to try to repair the boat: one is liable to be swept off the deck and into the unforgiving waves. It seems natural to think of water metaphors when things are changing and out of control; rivers, oceans, storms as well as much as mountains and abysses... All are so much bigger than we are. In my case the movement in my life is out of my control at the moment, at least in one sense. In another sense the world is asking for something very clear from me. What seems called for is to respond in each moment in the best way I can, to pray for support and guidance from the gods, and to to live what is laid out before me in the best way I can. As you say— to have patience, to be the stillpoint in the turning world. For me, it is an aspect of a larger koan that asks both: how does one move by staying still and what is love is when it is not personal?

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