Hexagram #52 Mountain

Stopping at the back, one does not have a body; walking in the garden, one does not see a person. No fault.

EXPLANATION: Mountain represents stopping, stillness. In the body of the hexagram, one yang rests on top of two yins: The yang is above, the yin is below; yang governs yin and yin obeys yang, so the celestial is not damaged by the mundane. Inwardly still and outwardly still, one stops inside and also stops outside. Because one stillness pervades inside and outside, it is called Mountain.

This hexagram represents nurturing energy (気 - this character can also be translated as 'breath') by quietude, discerning the good and holding fast to it. It follows on the previous hexagram the Cauldron. In the Cauldron, one follows an initiatory process to produce illumination. Illumination comes from following the procedure; illumination, reaching everywhere without becoming defective anywhere, refines the great elixir. But if you want to refine the great elixir, you cannot do so unless you discern the good and hold fast to it, staying in the proper place.

Staying in the proper place does not mean empty inaction; the path has both action and stillness, and both action and stillness must stay in the proper place. In the qualities of the hexagram, the inner stopping means stillness staying in the proper place, and the outer stopping means action staying in the proper place. By stillness you develop the abode of rest; by action you test the abode of rest. By the former stopping you reach the latter stopping, by the latter stopping you master the former stopping; action and stillness both end up in a single stillness. Stillness upon stillness, it is like the one stopping on the back of the other. Therefore, the text says "stopping at the back." Stopping on the back of stopping is acting from stillness, testing stillness with action, so action and stillness are one continuum. Then stillness does not become empty quietism, and action does not become unbridled indulgence. Action is none other than stillness, stillness none other than action. Stillness is of course still; action too is still. Inside and outside are one stillness, staying in the proper place without shifting, therefore "one does not have a body; walking in the garden, one does not see a person."

Not having a body means there is no self; walking in the garden, not seeing a person means there are no others. Ordinary people discriminate between self and others, inside and outside, because they have discriminating consciousness. When there is discriminating consciousness, there is self; when there is self, there are others. When there are self and others, one doesn't know where to stop. If one can stop at the back, then the discriminating consciousness of self and others sublimates. When there is no discriminating consciousness of self and others, then the human mentality leaves and the mind of Tao arrives.

There is only one truth; act and rest according to truth. In repose you preserve correctness: Stillness is accomplished by realizing truth, not by the body; resting in the proper place, inwardly you are unaware of having a body. In action, you act correctly, acting on the truth, not in obedience to other people; stopping in the proper place, outwardly you do not mind other people. With no self or others, having been able to stop inside, you can also stop outside. Active or still according to the time, inwardly and outwardly in communion with the Tao — both action and stillness come forth from mindlessness. Through this one principle all faults can be eliminated.

If learners can apply their efforts to this double stilling, stopping in the proper place without wavering, then they will finish all tasks by this one attainment. Why worry that the gold elixir won't form or the great Tao will not be realized? -- Liu Yiming, Hexagram #51 Thunder, The Taoist I Ching

Return to the Individual Hexagrams page

Hexagram #52 Mountain

Left: the ancient shape for the character for Mountain. Right: the present day shape.

A fire-spitting dragon, creating illumination while simulateneously destroying yin energy.

In the Chinese novel Journey to the West, Monkey is put under the five elements mountain as punishment for
creating havoc in Heaven.

A Japanese Zen garden, in which a dragon chases a pearl, Zuiho-in,
Daitokuji temple, Kyoto
(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)
The head of the dragon is made up of rocks, his body is made up of moss.

A Jain released spirit, symbolizing that
there is no (lower) self.