The Noble One: Plentiful

April 13, 2011

Hexagram 53, Plentiful has this Image:

The wise one decides lawsuits and applies punishments.

Why should a time of plenty be a time for lawsuits?

First, in times of trouble such as war or famine, lawsuits are of a lower priority. The first attention must be given to survival.

Secondly, times of plenty bring more disputes. However, when the society is stable and wealthy these conflicts must be confronted. It goes unsaid here, but too many disputes threaten the very stability that supports times of plenty.

The second half of the Image, however, makes it clear that criminal penalties are being referred to. Again, in times of plenty there will be more crime and so the Noble One has to enforce the law.

The I Ching was aimed at the ruler of a country and therefore the reminder to adjudicate lawsuits and to mete out punishment was relevant to the intended recipient of the oracle. We are fortunate to have access to the I Ching today. Applying this advice if we are not necessarily leading a country means this: in a time of plenty, we must be on guard for disputes and conflicts and, where necessary, we have to respond to transgressions against us.

Perhaps it seems strange to talk about conflict and punishment if we use the I Ching with a spiritual motivation. But the monks in ancient China had to learn martial arts because bandits attacked the monasteries. Being spiritual—and being in a time of spiritual plenty—does not make one invulnerable to attack. The Noble One must be wise enough to manage crime.



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