Hexagram #33 Withdrawal

Withdrawal is developmental. The small is beneficial and correct.

 Withdrawal means retracting. As for the qualities of the hexagram, above is Heaven, strong, and below is mountain, still. Strength is based on stillness; using strength with restraint, one has strength yet does not lightly use it arbitrarily. Therefore it is called withdrawal.

This hexagram represents storing yang and subduing energy. Subduing energy means to still strength and not presume upon it. The quality of strength in people is connected to the primordial true energy; after one yin comes and mates with it, yin energy gradually grows, and yang energy of course recedes. The developed person at this point knows the yin energy is active as a natural process, and can hardly be fought, and so does not set about repelling yin but first aims to preserve yang. Preserving yang means gathering in the vital spirit and stabilizing it in its place, whereby to subdue the primal energy. If you can subdue that energy, the yang energy is not injured, and the yin energy spontaneously sublimates. Thus there is a path of development within withdrawal.

In this hexagram there are two yins and four yangs: The yin energy is still submitting to the yang energy. Withdrawing at this point, withdrawal is preemptive; thus the developmental path of withdrawal exists when the small (yin) is beneficial and correct. The small being beneficial and correct is when the yin energy has not gotten to the point of injuring the yang energy. When the third yin arises, yin energy is not beneficial and not correct; it gets out of control and beyond withdrawal. Therefore the developmental path of stilling strength and subduing energy must take place just when the second yin has come forth. Then neither yin nor yang is injured, and yin follows the withdrawal of yang; the benefit and correctness of the small is also the benefit and correctness of the great.

Second yin: Use the hide of a yellow ox to fasten this; no one can loosen it.

EXPLANATION: When flexible receptivity is properly balanced and rests in its proper place, external influences cannot penetrate; this is like fastening with yellow oxhide, which no one can loosen. Fastening with oxhide means effecting emptiness and keeping quiet, so external objects do not enter and internal thoughts do not come forth. Withdrawal without withdrawing, this is withdrawal not losing control.

Fastening with oxhide means controlling the lower self. The ox is a symbol for the lower self. In the right image, Milarepa is sitting on ox hide and in the left image, Lao Tzu is riding an ox. Both images portrait the mind of Tao controlling the lower self. Fastening with yellow oxhide refers to using yin to maintain yang.

Third yang: Entangled withdrawal has affliction, but it is lucky in terms of feeding servants and concubines.

EXPLANATION: Yang in the third place is near two yins; strength is pulled by weakness and does not know to withdraw promptly. This is withdrawal that has personal entanglement; that affliction is very dangerous. The true energy in people is like the master, acquired energy is like the servant; getting entangled in yin and thus damaging the real with the artificial is feeding the servant and losing the master-so it is "lucky in terms of feeding servants and concubines." This is withdrawal having personal entanglements.

Top yang: Rich withdrawal is wholly beneficial.

At the top of withdrawal, strength and flexibility merge; the ten thousand things cannot move you, creation cannot bind you-you are free and independent. This is called rich withdrawal. Of the six lines, only in the top line is the true body undamaged, so there is no effort to preserve strength needed. In the others, yin and yang are mixed, and the true body is already defective. Practitioners of the Tao should practice the path of nondoing when the true body has not been damaged, so as to nurture yang; but once the true body has become even a little defective, it is necessary to practice the work of subduing energy so as to guard against yin. The bodies are not the same, so the functions are also different; it is important to know this precisely, for it is an individual matter.

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Hexagram#33 Withdrawal

The trigram Mountain

Milarepa, seated on a ox hide ((16th-17th c Portola Palace Collection, Tibet)
(Click to enlarge)

Mahavairocana Buddha, representing the Dharmakaya, the Body of Truth, the Real Body of Pure Yang. (Unkei, 13th c. Enjo-ji temple, Nara, Japan)