Hexagram #21. Biting Through

Biting through is developmental. It is beneficial to administer justice. 

EXPLANATION: Biting Through has the meaning of the mouth closing when eating something. In the body of the hexagram, the yangs on the top and bottom symbolize lips, the three yins symbolize teeth, and the yang in the middle represents something in the mouth. Also the qualities of the hexagram are Fire ☲, luminous, above, and Thunder ☳, active, below: Acting with unfailing clarity (illumination — 明), acting only after clear understanding, it has the meaning of action that is not in vain; therefore it is called biting through.

This hexagram represents the study of investigating things and finding out principle. The medicinal substances have different degrees of gravity and energy, the firing process has intervals of time; the slightest miss can produce a tremendous loss; so this work of finding out principle is indispensible. Excellence or inferiority in learning to comprehend essence and life is all a matter of finding out principle. Understanding one part, you can practice one part; understanding ten parts, you can practice ten parts. If you know essence but not life, or know life but not essence, or know action but not non-action, or know non-action but not action, or know the medicinal substances but not the firing process, or know the start but not the finish, this is all incomplete investigation of principle, which will inevitably result in failure of practice.  

If you want to act on something, you should first understand it; first understanding, then acting, all actions will be as you will. This is why Biting Through, using action within understanding, is developmental. Action with clarity (Illumination) is always based on understanding; its development and fruition may be symbolized by the administration of justice. Nothing in the world is harder than to rule; if the true conditions of justice are not clear, right is considered wrong and wrong is considered right - arbitrarily applying penalties, the calamity extends to the innocent, mistakenly injuring essence and life.

Practice of the Tao is like administering justice: Discerning true and false, right and wrong, is like the judge deciding good and bad; getting rid of falsehood and keeping truth, so as to preserve essence and life, is like the justice administration rewarding the good and punishing the bad, so as to alleviate the burden of injustice. When you investigate and find out true principle, it is clear in the mind and evident in practice; fully realizing essence and perfecting life, it is unfailingly developmental and beneficial.

So the work of investigating principle requires you to strip off layer after layer, stripping away until you get to the bones and marrow of the Tao. When there is no doubt or confusion at all, only then is this true knowledge and clear vision. If you haven't gotten to the marrow of the Tao, there is still obstruction, and you cannot be said to have found reality; you should not act arbitrarily, for then you will bring disaster on yourself. "Even if you know the cinnabar and lead, it is useless if you don't know the firing process. The whole thing depends on the power of cultivation; if you deviate in the slightest, you won't form the elixir." Indeed, the work of investigating principle is no small matter.
-- Liu Yiming, Hexagram #21 Biting Through, The Taoist I Ching

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Hexagram #21 Biting Through

The trigram Thunder

A Heavenly Guardian controlling a bull.
(907-960 AD China)

The weighing of the heart ceremony in which the deceased is judged to be fit or not to enter the ancient Egyptian heaven. Papyrus of Ani, Egyptian book of Dead

Mesoamerican mask with three faces,
UNAM Museum, Mexico City.