Looking For Joy Within

Finding authentic joy is the goal of many belief systems and philosophies. The 58th Hexagram from the I Ching, called DUÌ, provides the wisdom of how to find the joyousness that lies within each of us.

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In the text of the Commentary on the 2nd line of this hexagram, it mentions that inner strength is what enables the deep, genuine state of joyousness to arise. This internal strength (signified by a yáng element) is rooted in the will, and is dependent on the virtue of trustworthiness and integrity.

孚兌之吉信志也。 Fú duì zhī jí, xìn zhì yě.
The good fortune of joyousness inspiring confidence [comes from] trustworthiness [rooted in] the will.

Hexagram 58 DUÌ, I Ching (my translation)
Hexagram 58, DUÌ, Joyousness

These post-Confucian commentaries on the individual lines were written by scholars who had the same kind of worldview and learning as those who later became influenced by the 五行家 wǔxíngjiā, the 5 Elements school. During the early Han Dynasty, these Confucian scholars took five of Confucius’ most important virtues — as well as many other ideas — and fitted them within the 5-phase system of correspondences.

xìn, ‘trustworthiness’, corresponded with 土 , Earth. Thus it was also associated with other ‘earth-phase’ correspondences such as 思 , ‘thought’ (one of the five aspects of consciousness), and 脾 , ‘spleen (or digestive system)’.

zhì, the ‘will’, became to be considered an aspect of consciousness, and corresponded with the water-phase, 水 shuǐ. Because of this, it was said to reside in the 腎 shèn, ‘kidneys’, also the storage of our 精 Jīng, ‘Essence/Vitality’, and said to be the deepest of the yīn organ-systems in human physiology.

According to the 克 kè, ‘restraining’ sequence of the 5-phase cycle, earth restrains the expansion of the water element, by creating a container, much like how earthen walls can dam water. While it may be seen as a limiting factor, this is an example of how ‘restraint’ is actually generative; water’s nature is such that it always flows and thus cannot be grasped. In order to accumulate water, it needs to be contained in some way. For example, if you want to drink water you need to hold it in a vessel; if you want to irrigate crops, you need to channel its direction by creating canals and store surplus in a pond or a dam.

Part of the problem with depending on our will too much is that it can eventually drain us of Vitality. I saw this all too often with patients who pushed themselves by sheer force of will in life — such is what is valued in our modern Western-oriented society. This led to significant levels of burnout and chronic fatigue.

In Taoist medicine, the will — that most primal instinct that helps us survive — needs to be tempered by thought, the faculty of reflection within the Heart/Mind. Looking at the construction of the character 思 sī, it is comprised of the component 心 xīn ‘Heart/Mind’ beneath 田 tián ‘a field or cultivated land’. Thus, thought as one of the five aspects of consciousness can be seen as that which is cultivated within the Heart/Mind (consciousness).

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Ask yourself this: how much trust do you place in the quality of your thoughts, and how much trust do you have in your own will?

This is the frame that the hexagram DUÌ places us in when we consider how to elicit a state of genuine, inner joyousness. We are warned against looking for happiness from external sources, even so far as saying that at our weakest we are seduced away from our true nature. The deeper our consciousness, the closer to our core-Self and our true nature — this is where we should be looking for joy if we haven’t discovered it yet. If we seek to be aligned with the 道 Dào, our attention needs to be rooted in that deep centre of our core-Self, for that is the inexhaustible source of our being.

At the same time, this does not mean a kind of isolationism and separation from others; rather, being rooted in our true nature, true joyousness allows us to connect with others genuinely (who are presumably in the same state). This is illustrated by the image of the hexagram, the upper lake feeding the lower lake, and thus never drying up. Zhixu Ouyi’s Buddhist exegesis on this hexagram places an emphasis on the collegiate nature of joyousness:

When one gets through, one is fulfilled; when one is fulfilled, one is delighted. When one is fulfilled, others find satisfaction in this; when others find satisfaction in this, they too are delighted. How can joy not come through?

Thomas Cleary (trans.), The Buddhist I Ching, pp.214-15

Our Heart/Mind is a field where we grow that which sustains our lives. This is why trustworthiness is essential to finding inner peace and joyousness. What are you planting in this field? What are you putting into that soil to help those crops grow? Would you eat what you have grown? Would you feed this to others also?

The internal cultivation of our own truths is essential, but it also needs to be shared with others equally. There is no point growing food that cannot be shared with others; there is no companionship that can come from that.

Conversely, are you happy to receive what others are growing? DUÌ also warns about this — not that external sources are to be ignored or shunned, but that a level of discernment should come into play whereby we receive what will nourish us internally, and kindly refuse that which does not. This still requires a level of self-gnosis to be able to make such choices wisely and appropriately.

To follow many religious teachings is confusing.
To follow their essence is useful.
To follow some plain truth of nature is best.
Too many methods bewilder.
Use only one path to the subtle realm.

Huaching Ni, I Ching: the Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth, p.567

I am struggling with joyousness in this present moment, and the words of Huaching Ni point to the confusion and turmoil I have created within myself. Being a Wanderer has its drawbacks, as I know my tendency is probably to wander too far and fast without the internal stillness.

My tendency is to look outwards, to study far and wide, to learn about what everyone else in the world — past and present — have said, written, thought, done. So many questions I have regarding my now life and my own experience can be answered by going deeply within; and yet I resist this.

Recognising this resistance to what is inside me, I prepared myself this evening for the transition into the next hexagram in the sequence. The Sequence of the Gua text gave me hope for the next step in this process for me, the dispersion of the all the inner blocks that freeze my will and prevent me from coming together with others and creating something wonderful:

《兌》者說也。DUÌ zhě yuè yě.
說而後散之故受之以《渙》。Yuè érhòu sàn zhī, gù shòu zhī yǐ HUÀN.

DUÌ is delight.
Delight, and then afterwards it is broken up, for this reason it leads to HUÀN.

Hexagram 58 DUÌ, I Ching (my translation)
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