Hexagram #6 Contention

There is blockage of truth. Caution and moderation lead to good results, finality leads to bad results. It is beneficial to see a great person, not beneficial to cross a great river.

EXPLANATION: Contention means contention to decide right and wrong. As for the qualities of the hexagram, inside is Water ☵, dangerous, and outside is Heaven, ☰ strong. Relying on strength because of danger, and causing danger by force, both have the meaning of violation of harmony; therefore it is called Contention.

This hexagram represents the downfall of truth and the contest for victory. People are such because of their temperaments. Only great sages can change their temperaments, while lesser people are bound by their temperaments; when they are run afoul of, the poison in their negative side acts, and they get excited — they contest for victory, eager for power, they plot and scheme to deprive others and benefit themselves. All such things that deviate from harmony and lose balance — arguments, battles of wit, issues of right and wrong — are called Contention.

People who practice the Tao need to know that the nature of the temperament is most harmful. Be inwardly strong but not outwardly aggressive; then there may be danger in the environment but there will be no danger in the heart. In this way one may gradually transmute the temperament, and not remain in the clamor of the realm of right and wrong.

However, as long as one is still in the world, there is still the possibility of being afflicted by troubles and difficulties. Even if you are not wily yourself, people can hurt you by their craft; even if you are not impetuous yourself, people can fool you by what they do. This hurts your self-confidence without reason, and even though you have nothing to be ashamed of, you suffer frustration because of it, and reach an impasse.  If you can be cautious and moderate, wrong thoughts will stop and right thought will arise; the impasse can be penetrated, and wile can be changed, victory-seeking can be eliminated.  However, there are also situations where caution, moderation, and self-struggle do not clear the matter up, and it is necessary to appeal to another, depending on someone to distinguish right and wrong. To distinguish right and wrong , it is beneficial to see a great person. If you do not see a great person, you will not be helped. A great person is one who corrects both self and others, who is able to restrain people's excesses and encourage their virtues, able to solve people's doubts and develop their intelligence. It is most beneficial to see such a person: Should not those who practice the Tao contend with themselves to begin with?
-- Liu Yiming, Hexagram # 6 Contention, The Taoist I Ching
Superior people plan in the beginning when they do things; they do not contend with other people, they contend with themselves. Doing things does not mean one particular action or deed, but all daily activities, practice of the Tao and establishment of inner character.
-- Liu Yiming, Hexagram # 6 Contention, The Taoist I Ching

Return to the Individual Hexagrams page

On the left the ancient shape of the
character for Contention On the right
the present-day shape.

Hexagram #6 Contention

Contending with oneself: The Fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden, Michelangelo, Sistine chapal, Vatican, Rome.
(Click to enlarge)

Contending with oneself: the mind of Tao is attacked by the lower self. The Dance of Death, the Münster of Bern cathedral Switzerland, 15th C.