Hexagram #36. Concealment of illumination (Injury of Illumination)

In concealment of illumination, it is beneficial to be upright in difficulty.

EXPLANATION: The name of this hexagram has two meanings: The word for concealment also means injury. In the qualities of the hexagram, above is Earth ☷, receptive, and below is Fire ☲, luminous; illumination within receptivity, being illumined yet conforming to the times, using obedience to nurture illumination, it is therefore called Concealment of Illumination. Also, light being within darkness, there is illumination but it is injured, so it is also called injury of illumination.

This hexagram represents being personally illumined and truthful, withdrawing the firing. It follows on the previous hexagram Power of the Great. Power of the Great means strength in action. Being strong in action requires knowledge of when to advance and when to withdraw; if there is advance but not withdrawal, power is excessive and will surely injure the illumination. When illumination is injured, power is ruined. This is why the work of withdrawing the firing is important.

Withdrawing the firing means concealing illumination in the most recondite, secret place, and not using it lightly. In practice of the Tao, the reason for advancing the fire and using illumination is simply to advance to illumination because of not being illumined. Once one has advanced to illumination, and inside and out are lucid and clear, then one can conceal one's illumination and nurture it unbeknownst to others, eventually to reach the realm of consummate good without evil, causing illumination to be free of any defect. Only then can it be said the fire returns to the origin, a mass of harmonious energy, which has energy but no substance, the original spirit of innate and capacity unobscured, neither material nor void, yet both material and void, not constrained by matter or voidness. Inside and out, all is illumined.

Illumination that is not revealed is better than illumination that is openly employed; this illumination has no form or trace that can be espied. Only when there is no form or trace to be seen is it withdrawal of the firing so that the fire returns to the origin. But this withdrawal of the firing, the path returning to the origin, is also a reverse path. What is reversed? The illumination that is produced is reversed back inward, so there is illumination but one doesn't use it oneself. Having illumination but not exercising it does not mean vacant inaction can accomplish the task; therein is the work of preventing danger and the path of constant recollection.

The essential point is in returning when in difficulty, where one cannot be free. If one returns in favorable situations but cannot return in adverse circumstances, then the fire will not return to the origin, and the light will not penetrate reality; eventually there is sure to be injury. Therefore in concealment of illumination it is beneficial to be upright in difficulty. Maintaining correctness in difficulty, withdrawing in accord with the time, illumination does not suffer injury, and the basis of the elixir does not leak away. This is referred to by the classic Understanding Reality in the lines, "Even if you know the cinnabar and lead, if you don't know the firing process it is of no use. It all depends on the power of practical application; if you deviate even slightly you won't crystallize the elixir."

The rule of spiritual alchemy is in the firing: Too little firing and the elixir doesn't form, too much firing and the elixir is damaged. When the elixir has been completed, you should quickly halt the firing, rest, and gently nurture it, keeping to the center and embracing the one, deeply concealing the illumination in imperceptibility, not allowing so much as a spark of fire.

Nurturing the fire is nurturing illumination; withdrawing the fire is concealing illumination. When illumination is concealed and stored within, fire returns to its reality, open awareness without obscurity, eventually to become sublimated, returning to formlessness. But it is necessary to know the firing process of withdrawing the fire to nurture illumination. If you do not know the process, not only will you be unable to nurture illumination, you will also obscure illumination. This too is "injury of illumination"- how can this accomplish anything? -- Liu Yiming, The Taoist I Ching, Hexagram #36. Concealment of illumination (Injury of Illumination)

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Hexagram #36. Concealment of illumination (Injury of Illumination)

Vajradhara with flaming hair, Reihokan museum, Mt. Koya. Japan
(Click to enlarge)

Coin basin at the Ryoanji temple, Kyoto, Japan

Fudo Myo, the Immovable King of Light,
by Unkei (1150 – 1223) Jyōraku-ji temple, Kanagawa, Japan. He is performing the firing process with very firm yang energy.
(click to enlarge)