Reflecting on the Tao Te Ching and the I Ching Trigrams
1. Heaven, the Creative ☰
(Qián or Ch'ien) - 3 solid Yang lines: heaven, light, warmth.
Representing creativity, because in ancient Chinese thought, Heaven is seen as the origin of the world and all forces within it. This trigram also signifies the drying warmth of the sun.
Tao Teh Ching - 43
The softest of all things
Overrides the hardest of all things.
Only Nothing can enter into no-space.
Hence I know the advantages of Non-Ado.
Few things under heaven are as instructive,
as the lessons of Silence,
Or as beneficial as the fruits of Non-Ado.
2. Lake, the Joyous ☱
(Duì or Tui) - Yin (Earthly), resting upon 2 Yang (Heavenly). An image of the primordial Sea. Representing the open: with earth on the surface, there is room for heavenly forces to come forth from below. Fortune and adundance radiates from such a great body of water.
Tao Te Ching - 4
The Tao is like an empty bowl,
Which in being used can never be filled up.
Fathomless, it seems to be the origin of all things.
It blunts all sharp edges,
It unties all tangles,
It harmonizes all lights,
It unites the world into one whole.
Hidden in the deeps,
Yet it seems to exist for ever.
I do not know whose child it is;
It seems to be the common ancestor of all, the father of things.
3. Fire, the Clinging ☲
(Lí or Li) - Yin between 2 Yang lines, as if Heaven is charging the Earth with its forces enough to ignite a flame, enough to cause intense change. Representing the clinging and radiance; freedom and departure.
Tao Te Ching - 26
Heaviness is the root of lightness.
Serenity is the master of restlessness.
Therefore, the Sage, travelling all day,
Does not part with the baggage-wagon;
Though there may be gorgeous sights to see,
He stays at ease in his own home.
Why should a lord of ten thousand chariots
Display his lightness to the world?
To be light is to be separated from one's root;
To be restless is to lose one's self-mastery.
4. Thunder, the Arousing ☳
(Zhèn or Chen) - 2 Yin lines on a Yang line, so much Earth piled on top of Heaven causes pressure and resistance. Heaven has to use great force to affect Earth, quaking and tremoring with excited energy. This force can be destructive or constructive.
Tao Te Ching - 3
He who knows men is clever;
He who knows himself has insight.
He who conquers men has force;
He who conquers himself is truly strong.
He who knows when he has got enough is rich,
And he who adheres assiduously to the path of Tao is a man of steady purpose.
He who stays where he has found his true home endures long,
And he who dies but perishes not enjoys real longevity.
5. Wind, the Gentle ☴
(Xùn or Sun) - 2 Yang upon a Yin line, great powers from above impacting everything on Earth. Towards such an unstoppable force, what else can we do but abide? A gentle wind will invisibly flows around its surroundings, while a strong wind thrashes everything in its path; we have no say.
Tao Te Ching - 23
Heaven-and-Earth is not sentimental;
It treats all things as straw-dogs.
The Sage is not sentimental;
He treats all his people as straw-dogs.
Between Heaven and Earth,
There seems to be a Bellows:
It is empty, and yet it is inexhaustible;
The more it works, the more comes out of it.
No amount of words can fathom it:
Better look for it within you.
6. Water, the Abysmal ☵
(Kan or K'an) - Yang between 2 Yin lines. Representing the abysmal among which water travels, the nature of water is to flow to the deepest place. Different from the Lake, which is admired at its surface; water is headed for the abyss.
Tao Te Ching - 8
The highest form of goodness is like water.
Water knows how to benefit all things without striving with them.
It stays in places loathed by all men.
Therefore, it comes near the Tao.
In choosing your dwelling, know how to keep to the ground.
In cultivating your mind, know how to dive in the hidden deeps.
In dealing with others, know how to be gentle and kind.
In speaking, know how to keep your words.
In governing, know how to maintain order.
In transacting business, know how to be efficient.
In making a move, know how to choose the right moment.
If you do not strive with others,
You will be free from blame.
7. Mountain, Keeping Still ☶
(Gèn or Ken) - The full Yang line on top of 2 broken Earthly Yin lines draws a Mountain shape. The Mountain reaches up and is still, connected to Heavens goodness forever.
Tao Te Ching - 16
Attain to utmost Emptiness.
Cling single-heartedly to interior peace.
While all things are stirring together,
I only contemplate the Return.
For flourishing as they do,
Each of them will return to its root.
To return to the root is to find peace.
To find peace is to fulfill one's destiny.
To fulfill one's destiny is to be constant.
To know the Constant is called Insight.
If one does not know the Constant,
One runs blindly into disasters.
If one knows the Constant,
One can understand and embrace all.
If one understands and embraces all,
One is capable of doing justice.
To be just is to be kingly;
To be kingly is to be heavenly;
To be heavenly is to be one with the Tao;
To be one with the Tao is to abide forever.
Such a one will be safe and whole
Even after the dissolution of his body.
8. Earth, the Receptive ☷
(Kun or K'un) - 3 broken Yin lines. Yin is Earth, dark and cold. Receptive to Heavens forces, abundant with resources.
Tao Te Ching - 25
There was Something undefined and yet complete in itself,
Born before Heaven-and-Earth.
Silent and boundless,
Standing alone without change,
Yet pervading all without fail,
It may be regarded as the Mother of the world.
I do not know its name;
I style it "Tao";
And, in the absence of a better word, call it "The Great."
To be great is to go on,
To go on is to be far,
To be far is to return.
Hence, "Tao is great,
Heaven is great,
Earth is great,
King is great."
Thus, the king is one of the great four in the Universe.
Man follows the ways of the Earth.
The Earth follows the ways of Heaven,
Heaven follows the ways of Tao,
Tao follows its own ways.