...life can be translucent

Care of the cow

Happy Diwali!

I wondered what hexagram to write about for today… then learned from Wikipedia that ‘Diwali’ actually means ‘line of lights’ and that in Nepal, the first day of celebrations are marked by thank-offerings to the cow. So it had to be Hexagram 30.

‘Clarity. Harvest in constancy.
Creating success.
Rear female cattle, good fortune.’

The Chinese character for ‘Clarity’ shows a bird and a net: the bird of omen, and the moment when you capture it and ‘get the message’. But the hexagram’s theme is not just the flash of insight, but also the sustained light of awareness, and the capacity to sustain it. It’s constancy that bears fruit, not just the ‘aha!’ moment itself.

There are cattle to be reared, cared for or accumulated (this verb is the same as in the names of Hexagrams 9 and 26). They deserve our attention for exactly the same reason that the cattle of Nepal receive yearly thank-offerings: they give their strength for our farming, and they give food. They represent the willing resource that gives us the space even to think about cultivating our awareness or vision.

This meaning’s come over very clearly on the occasions when I’ve seen this hexagram as advice for exams. It’s not enough just to be naturally ‘bright’ in the exam room – not if you’re passing out from lack of sleep or food. Yi’s advice to care for your reserves is an absolute practical necessity.

Changing lines

Line 1:

‘Treading, hence confused.
Honour it,
Not a mistake.’

There’s an ancient divination practice – not unique to China – of smoothing the bare soil and leaving offerings for the ancestors overnight. They come, in their animal form, and at dawn the diviner reads their tracks. This morning, the tracks ‘go criss-cross’ – much as our first experience of a reading is often of an interwoven confusion of images. All these signs, all these possible directions: it could get a bit overwhelming. There’s a temptation to get lost in trivialities, or to hide in the dark and wait for it all to go away. But if you can only accept that the meaning is present, honour the travellers who have passed through even if you can’t make sense of their tracks, then you will be without mistake.

Line 2:

‘Golden light.
From the source, good fortune.’

This is sunlight: the heart of Clarity, and as far as you can get from the dark, watery underworld. It’s Clarity’s Great Possession: light that is abundant because it’s shared – Hexagram 14 reveals exchange as the real source of wealth.

It might not be too much of a stretch to think of the ‘golden light’ as pure energy – that constitutes everything, sustains everything, connects everything.

Line 3:

‘In the light of the setting sun,
If not beating a pot and singing,
Then you will be making the lament of great old age.

I think I heard the lament of great old age once, when a subdued little old lady was asked what one message she would broadcast out out to the whole world, if she could. Her message?
‘I wish things could be more like they used to be.’

In divination, this line can warn you of a time when you could easily sink into melancholy. As Clarity Bites Through, really gets stuck into the situation, it will discover the taste of decay. But the meat isn’t rotten right through; the day that ends is not the only day.

Line 4:

Thrown out.’

Here is a flame without fuel. It’s natural to interpret this as a bad thing – but Yi places no value here, only says that it is short-lived. This can be a ‘flash in the pan’, or an emotional blaze that gutters and dies away.

This is Clarity about Beauty (hexagram 22) – and beauty is transient; flowers fade. Hexagram 22 is about being something for someone – finding and authentically filling a role. But suitors become husbands and stop courting: any bright-burning connection that comes from the roles we play for one another will die out as the roles do. There can still be a moment of great beauty, though.

Line 5:

‘Weeping tears like flowing streams,
Sad as if in mourning.
Good fortune.’

Yi doesn’t say what insight prompts ‘tears like flowing streams’, but I think this is a moment of compassion. Sometimes it’s a call to be compassionate towards oneself; sometimes it speaks of fellow-feeling, recognising humanity. 30.2 fully understands the great possession we have in one another. 30.5 fully understands our transience.

In a Blackfoot creation myth, , it was Old Woman who determined that people should die:
‘It will be better to die forever,’ she said, ‘so that we shall be sorry for each other.’
And the sign by which she made it so was a stone that sank into a river.

Line 6:

‘The king makes good use of marching out,
There is a triumph.
He executes the chief, the prisoners are not so loathsome.
Not a mistake.’

You cannot spread light to the extremes without having to deal with darkness. To take charge like the king, you need absolute clarity on exactly what is and is not the problem to deal with. If you handle the leading issue, the rest is likely to sort itself out. It’s not good to get caught up in the details and let your decisiveness be sidetracked and diluted into general, ineffective aggression. This is the Clarity looking towards Feng (Hexagram 55), the royal garrison city where the king takes on his role amidst an Abundance of potential allies and enemies.

6 responses to Care of the cow

  1. Having finally finished my exams after five long years of studying, I asked ‘where now?’ with my career, and received hex 30, changing line 3 => Biting Through. It made a lot of sense: there WAS a danger of that ‘morning after the night before’ feeling when continuous and sustained effort comes to an end, and you do feel a sense of loss (goodbye to the studying, the routine, the chums who will be going their separate ways etc). Certainly I was very tired and needing to replenish my physical and mental reserves and feeling rather down just at the moment when I thought I’d be on top of the world.

    I am still laughing at the synchronicity of you posting this ‘answer’ which so perfectly matches my situation Hilary. And I’m profoundly grateful!

  2. Congratulations on finishing! And you sound a lot saner than I remember being when I finished my Finals. (Not that that’s particularly difficult…)

  3. Diwali, the festival of lamps was about when Lord Rama returned to Ayodha after the terrifying ‘battle’ with the demon named Ravana. The festival of lamps and all the streets decorated with banana leaves, palm fronds, coloured rice, milk offerings and most importantly all the lamps were to welcome Lord Rama home.

    Look it up on http://www.purebhakti.com and put in the battle of Ravana with Lord Rama in the SEARCH box. Or read the Srimad Bhagavatam.


  4. Hilary – this was my second time around, so maybe that’s why I’m more sane than I was after the first one??

    Diwali is such a lovely festival – all the light and colour.

  5. Thanks, Nick. You know the top line of Hexagram 30 comes after a military victory…?

    Ann – maybe. Then again, what kind of sanity persuaded you to go through it all again?

  6. Well, it could be insanity of course! Actually, it was a combination of things – wanting to understand more about how and why people do the things they do, looking for new things to do at work, general interest, and I ended up doing a BSc in Psychology with the OU at the same time as running a family and a business. And now, five years later, I’ve done it – sat the last exam two weeks ago. Great sense of achievement, and now looking for new things to do. But not formal studying.

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