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Hexagram 26: Great Taming

Hexagram 26: Great Taming

Hexagrams 9 and 26 are ‘Small Taming’ and ‘Great Taming’ – the same activity on a different scale. That activity is xu, 畜: rearing livestock, and farming in general. (Stephen Field actually translates these two hexagrams as ‘Lesser Stock’ – mostly goats – and ‘Greater Stock’, namely the horses, cattle and pigs mentioned in the lines of 26.) It involves nurturing, nourishing and raising, and also controlling and keeping in check.

The difference in experience between the two hexagrams is the difference between being ‘small’ and ‘great’. As a small farmer, you feel at the mercy of those gathering clouds, and need to keep your attention on hoeing the next row. As a big farmer, you are responsible for great resources, and you need to think ahead and have an overall vision and sense of purpose for it all.

Hexagram 25, being Without Entanglement, clears the way for Great Taming. The zagua (‘Contrasts’ Wing) says that,

‘Great Taming means the right time; Without Entanglement means calamity.’

In practice in readings, Hexagram 25 doesn’t often mean calamity – but it does mean that you’re not involved, and if there is calamity, the right response is generally to say, ‘Not my doing, not my responsibility – not mine.’

In its line texts, Without Entanglement suggests the mindset of a nomadic herder more than a settled farmer. It’s only a disaster for the townspeople when the tethered cow is stolen in line 3; the frenetic bustle of agricultural activity seems to be being parodied in line 2.

‘Being Without Entanglement, hence capable of Taming, and so Great Taming follows,’ says the Sequence. I think of this as disengaging from what isn’t yours in order to be completely free to engage with what is. The Great Farmer of 26 will say, ‘This is my responsibility: it’s my domain, and I have the power to act here.’

The Oracle of hexagram 26:

‘Great taming,
Constancy bears fruit.
Not eating at home, good fortune.
Fruitful to cross the great river.’

The call to steadiness and persistence over time, or truth to insight, fits naturally with the work of the farmer. And then – ‘not eating at home, good fortune’. Why not eat at home?

Tradition explains that not eating at home means entering public office. It follows from the Tuanzhuan (Commentary Wing) which says not eating at home means ‘nourishing the talented’ or ‘nourishing talent’. (That’s one of the things also nourished in Hexagram 50, the Vessel.)

Wang Bi (in RJ Lynn’s translation) explains, “Here assets garnered by Great Domestication are used to nurture the worthy, which frees them from having to eat at home, so this means good fortune.” In other words… this is about the escape from subsistence agriculture, and how that freedom allows specialisation and the development of culture. That’s an idea you could use in readings: that in a time of Great Taming, you should be able to think beyond questions of subsistence or personal security.

More generally, ‘not eating at home’ implies that what’s nurtured in Great Taming is meant for something more – for use on a higher levelThe animals in the hexagram’s lines are being highly trained, or prepared for great offerings; they’re not just for adding to the domestic stew-pot.

The last two lines of the Oracle belong together: not eating at home is good fortune, and it’s fruitful to cross the great river. This is a good moment to go outside the comfort zone, beyond what’s familiar or safe or normal. Bradford Hatcher puts it best: ‘Not dining at home, and crossing great streams, puts us in a larger world, serving higher powers.’

This makes the Sequence from Without Entanglement look like a kind of evolution of detachment. Not to eat at home is to disengage from your usual preoccupations and supports: you’re saying, ‘This is my responsibility,’ but also, ‘This isn’t all about me.’

Hexagrams 25 and 26 both contain the ‘heaven’ trigram. In Hexagram 25, thunder is below heaven, suggesting an ideal of initiative that’s spontaneously, naturally aligned with all-that-is.

‘Below heaven, thunder moves. All things interact without entanglement.
The ancient kings, with abundant growth in accord with the seasons, nourished the ten thousand things.’

In Hexagram 26, heaven is contained inside the mountain. It’s still responding to the same big question: how can we act and live in harmony with heaven – that is, with the ultimate reality? We can’t hope to create a sustainable way of life, a spiritually-grounded culture, unless we get these fundamentals right.  (The same question and its ramifications run through a whole set of hexagrams that begins here and ends – with the same trigram combination – at 33-34.)

Heaven contained on the inside suggests internalising the laws and power of nature. The great farmer does this, and develops the means to ‘nourish talent’. On an individual level, this is about ‘self development’:

‘Heaven dwells in the centre of the mountain. Great Taming.
A noble one uses the many annals of ancient words and past deeds,
And builds up his character.’

(‘Builds up,’ by the way, is another translation of the name of the hexagram, xu – ‘Taming’.)

Heaven dwells in the centre of the mountain because heaven makes mountains. If you could penetrate into the heart of the mountain, you might see the workings of the creative principle itself. The noble one becomes a kind of geologist of humanity, taming-nurturing-nourishing his character and building up his power by studying the past.

Old Chinese kings knew about this: they would keep some advisors who specialised in remembering and applying examples from the past for present guidance – literate people who must have had a gift for pattern recognition. In readings, in practice, that also comes in useful, for learning from both other people’s experience and our own.

I ran a quick ‘cast history search’ in my journal before writing this post for hexagram 26, and found that five out of its seven appearances in the past few years were directly about teaching. Great Taming points to a store of knowledge and a way of caring for the people learning – and also to a responsibility for cultivating and nurturing something bigger, such as a ‘culture’ of people connecting and relating to Yi.

It also suggests that the teacher, like the great farmer, has some real influence. That strikes me as pretty unusual, when Yi has so many different ways of explaining how you’re not in control and do not get to choose the direction or bring order or set the schedule. (‘“I want” doesn’t get,’ as my parents would have put it.) Great Taming: take responsibility; this is your domain; develop mastery.

Then again… coiled up in the heart of Great Taming is its nuclear hexagram and core work: 54, the Marrying Maiden. Leave home and cross the river, and you may find yourself out of your depth – and however great a farmer you become, nothing ever grows because you made it grow.


3 responses to Hexagram 26: Great Taming

  1. And the marrying process really is a matter of leaving home, at least leaving one home for another. We do cross the great waters because marriage is quite a transition. And, of course, marriage really does tend to tame our “wilder” nature. It also curbs many of our longings as we reach for a new and better kind of longing, that of a family and a home of our own. Marriage does tame us, as, in a greater sense, any sort of long term contract does.

    The commentary on the image says, “Heaven within the mountain points to a hidden treasure. Marriage itself can in many ways be a hidden treasure if we treat it correctly, But so can other forms of contract. When we tame our “wild beast” we really do find a hidden treasure within ourselves. But the mountain in most ancient cultures was a symbol for a higher state of understanding or a higher level of being. We must be “married” to our inner being, our inner higher self as well. And by the end of the hexagram, “One attains the way of heaven.” Hence is in touch with the deeper realms of spirit and metaphysical ways.

    • Yes , Hexagram 26 is interlinked with marriage institution which is formed by ancient sages & by our great forfather to tame within wild beast

      In India ,from ancient time their is insight which tells that every marriage couple formed in heaven itself before birth

      It mean that every married couple is predefined by heaven ,& will of heaven must be followed.

      Ancient Hindu Culture says marriage is sacrament which canot be breaked in any condition ,it is not contract at all ,as contract is legal matter ,which can be came end by legally ,as marriage decided by divine heaven before birth,hence it is unbreakable.

      Line of from 1 to 6 also point out above fact in sequence
      1) Line 1 -alternates to 18 :

      Symbolise the initial advance
      Contributed by lower trigram
      heaven but blocked by outer
      trigram mountain ,corrosponds
      to yielding 4 but also blocked
      by that line ,thus prematured
      line,thus prematured move is
      is dangerous.
      -In indian culture their is
      insights that their is no
      place for premarrige
      relationship,if it was exist
      then that will prove blockade
      in marraige life.

      Line-2 alternates to 22:
      -at central of lower
      trigram ,tells that don’t
      go extreme & act in
      central way,as situation is not favarable ,hence listen all concern people & act democratically as axel of carriage is broken , don’t move ,follow the middle way of Budhha.

      Line-3 alternates to 41:
      lies at top of lower trigram,denotes end of first stage of advance which inisitated by lower trigram heaven
      This line respond but does not corresponds to top line 6 ,one at this place too anxious to advance but situation is stand still -mountain

      Hence anticipate hardship & accumulate enough virtue ,morality expected by ancient sages & our forefathers ,then one will cross great river of this Sansara & attain way of heaven tell by line 6.

      ~ Thus marraige is divine institution , Husband & Wife are self sufficient for each other ,thus life will leads to prosperity and happiness throught blessings heaven , without any additional efforts
      – obviously their is no place for any
      inleggimate relationship even in dream.

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