Hexagram #47 — Exhaustion

Exhaustion develops the righteous. Great people are fortunate and blameless. If one complains, one will not be trusted.

EXPLANATION: Exhaustion means reaching an impasse. In the body of the hexagram, below is Water ☵, in which one yang is fallen in between two yins; above is Lake ☱, in which one yin is on top of two yangs. Both picture mundanity (yin) making inroads on the celestial, so that celestial (yang) energy does not come through. Therefore, it is called exhaustion. As for the qualities of the hexagram, from the midst of danger (water) it produces joy (lake); joy comes out of danger — so it also has the sense of resolving exhaustion, resolving an impasse.

This hexagram represents polishing and refining body and mind. People who try to practice the Tao can all keep steadfast when they are in easy circumstances, but many of them waver in determination when they are in difficult or perilous situations. They may change their minds because of the pressures of making a living, or they may slack in determination due to illness; their spirits may flag because of old age, or they may stop work because of obstruction by some obsession. All these are cases in which people do not exert the mind of Tao and are hindered by exhaustion, so they ultimately do not attain the Tao.

If the mind is not exhausted even though the body be exhausted, the path is not at an impasse even though the situation presents an impasse, and one can be joyful even when in difficulty, then there is a developmental aspect within exhaustion. But even though being able to rejoice even in difficulty is something people cannot fully attain, and there will inevitably be a point of exhaustion, nevertheless if they become exhausted where they should not, they will not attain development. This is because the developmental aspect of exhaustion lies in being correct.

Dealing with exhaustion correctly, growing correctly, while exhausted one goes along in harmony with the time. Going along in harmony with the time is possible only for great people imbued with the quality of correct balance. Great people, while being very wise, appear to be ignorant; while being very skillful, they appear inept. Random thoughts do not occur to them, and they cannot be influenced by circumstances. Their conduct is unaffected, and they are not concerned with externals. Not only do they find good fortune wherever they are, they also accord with the order of life and are blameless.

As for those whose main concern is food and clothing, they are untrustworthy in an impasse. They will take trouble in hopes of fortune, but as soon as things don't go their way they show it in their words and expressions, complaining against heaven and blaming people. So blame goes along with them-how can this bring about good fortune? Those who deal with exhaustion and impasse rightly, who are able to be joyful even in difficulty, are great people. Those who are untrustworthy in an impasse, who take trouble only to please themselves, are petty people. It may be the same trouble and the same joy, but the distinction lies in how great people and petty people relate to the trouble and the joy. So those who practice the Tao should by all means maintain rectitude when exhausted and at an impasse. -- Liu Yiming, Hexagram #47 Exhaustion, The Taoist I Ching

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Hexagram #47 Exhaustion

On the left the Liushutong character and on the right the present shape of the character
for Hexagram #47 Exhaustion

The lower self, symbolized by the skeleton, is trying to obstruct the mind of tao, represented by the monk. The mind of Tao is ignoring the lower self and is steadfast.
The Dance of Death, Bern,
Switzerland, 15th C.

Being concerned with externals.