The Book of Changes

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Chien / Obstruction Adversity

The hexagram pictures a dangerous abyss lying before us and
a steep, inaccessible mountain rising behind us. We are
surrounded by obstacles; at the same time, since the
mountain has the attribute of keeping still, there is implicit a
hint as to how we can extricate ourselves.

The hexagram
represents obstructions that appear in the course of time but
that can and should be overcome. Therefore all the
instruction given is directed to overcoming them.


OBSTRUCTION. The southwest furthers.
The northeast does not further.
It furthers one to see the great man.
Perseverance brings good fortune.

The southwest is the region of retreat, the northeast that of advance.
Here an individual is confronted by obstacles that cannot be overcome
directly. In such a situation it is wise to pause in view of the danger and
to retreat. However, this is merely a preparation for overcoming the

One must join forces with friends of like mind and put
himself under the leadership of a man equal to the situation: then one
will succeed in removing the obstacles. This requires the will to
persevere just when one apparently must do something that leads away
from his goal. This unswerving inner purpose brings good fortune in the
end. An obstruction that lasts only for a time is useful for
self-development. This is the value of adversity.

When obstacles are presented the Southwest is the best place, which
means the place of the retreat (the level ground), and the northeast is
not convenient because it implies the place of advance (the mountains).
Therefore, before an obstacle, first it is convenient to retire instead of
wanting to advance. To retire implies, in this case, to go inside one, to
look for the solution in the own interior, that is to say, the answer is in
oneself, hence it is convenient to see the great man.

The great man means to arrive to an elevation state that allows doing
the things with enough clarity to notice the solution that was not seen
until the moment.

It is not favorable to advance because this would be carried out without
clarity, without having the proper understanding about the things.

In another interpretation level, to see the great man means the
convenience of looking for the help of somebody who is an authority in
the case that is presented as impediment.


Water on the mountain:
The image of OBSTRUCTION.
Thus the superior man turns his attention to himself
And molds his character.

Difficulties and obstructions throw a man back upon himself. While the
inferior man seeks to put the blame on other persons, bewailing his fate,
the superior man seeks the error within himself, and through this
introspection the external obstacle becomes for him an occasion for
inner enrichment and education.

That means that somebody truly capable reexamines the path and tries
to put himself in the same situation; this way, the obstacle lets him learn
and it increases his personality.


Six at the beginning means:

Going leads to obstructions,
Coming meets with praise.

When one encounters an obstruction, the important thing is to reflect on
how best to deal with it. When threatened with danger, one should not
strive blindly to go ahead, for this only leads to complications. The
correct thing is, on the contrary, to retreat for the time being, not in
order to give up the struggle but to await the right moment for action.

When difficulty takes place, to persist ahead would be to increase even
more the unfavorable situation. To go ahead means to face the problem
stupidly. For that reason, staying gives place to praises, that is to say,
to meditate and to study the matter before beginning any act. This
implies not to hurry, to make sure before proceeding.

Six in the second place means:

The King's servant is beset by obstruction upon obstruction,
But it is not his own fault.

Ordinarily it is best to go around an obstacle and try to overcome it
along the line of least resistance. But there is one instance in which a
man must go out to meet the trouble, even though difficulty piles upon
difficulty: this is when the path of duty leads directly to it --in other
words, when he cannot act of his own volition but is duty bound to go and
seek out danger in the service of a higher cause. Then he may do it
without compunction, because it is not through any fault of his that he is
putting himself in this difficult situation.

Here reference is made to a hazardous duty that forces one to face
unavoidably the obstacles. To be the king's servant implies to be the
one in charge of a task, to be duty bound to acting. To find obstruction
after obstruction implies an extremely difficult task, to face a general
disorder, impossibility that is beyond one's reach.

Nine in the third place means:

Going leads to obstructions;
Hence he comes back.

While the preceding line shows the official compelled by duty to follow
the way of danger, this line shows the man who must act as father of a
family or as head of his kin. If he were to plunge recklessly into danger,
it would be a useless act, because those entrusted to his care cannot get
along by themselves. But if he withdraws and turns back to his own, they
welcome him with great joy.

This means that what one has undertaken isn't advantageous; thus one
begins to return towards its old friends (their family or clan) who are
happy for this reason. To return back means to return to the previous
situation, when one had certain security.

Six in the fourth place means:

Going leads to obstructions,
Coming leads to union.

This too describes a situation that cannot be managed single-handedly. In
such a case the direct way is not the shortest. If a person were to forge
ahead on his own strength and without the necessary preparations, he
would not find the support he needs and would realize too late that he has
been mistaken in his calculations, inasmuch as the conditions on which
he hoped he could rely would prove to be inadequate. In this case it is
better, therefore, to hold back for the time being and to gather together
trustworthy companions who can be counted upon for help in
overcoming the obstructions.

This means that what is sought exceeds the own forces. One is truly
capable but the force isn't sufficient to handle the difficult situation. What
is needed is to constitute an association that possesses the enough
power to overcome the difficult task.

Nine in the fifth place means:

In the midst of the greatest obstructions,
Friends come.

Here we see a man who is called to help in an emergency. He should not
seek to evade the obstructions, no matter how dangerously they pile up
before him. But because he is really called to the task, the power of his
spirit is strong enough to attract helpers whom he can effectively
organize, so that through the well-directed co-operation of all
participants the obstruction is overcome.

To be in the midst of the greatest obstructions means to be beset by
danger (this line is in the middle of danger, the upper trigram).

Friends coming means solidarity, cooperation, not to be abandoned.
Friends coming also means to be part of a fair cause, convocation
powers, to lead the work to overcome adversity.

Six at the top means:

Going leads to obstructions,
Coming leads to great good fortune.
It furthers one to see the great man.

This refers to a man who has already left the world and its tumult behind
him. When the time of obstructions arrives, it might seem that the
simplest thing for him to do would be to turn his back upon the world and
take refuge in the beyond. But this road is barred to him. He must not
seek his own salvation and abandon the world to its adversity. Duty calls
him back once more into the turmoil of life. Precisely because of his
experience and inner freedom, he is able to create something both great
and complete that brings good fortune. And it is favorable to see the
great man in alliance with whom one can achieve the work of rescue.

There isn't chance for advance for oneself, but one can help others to
solve the obstruction. This sentence is similar to the general sense of
the hexagram.