Chieh – Limitation


A lake occupies a limited space. When more water comes into it, it overflows. Therefore limits must be set for the water. The image shows water below and water above, with the firmament between them as a limit. The Chinese word for limitation really denotes the joints that divide a bamboo stalk. In relation to ordinary life it means the thrift that sets fixed limits upon expenditures. In relation to the moral sphere it means the fixed limits that the superior man sets upon his actions—the limits of loyalty and disinterestedness [not exceeding the boundaries of inner truth, and conducting oneself in a right manner]


LIMITATION. Success. Galling limitation must not be persevered in. Limitations are troublesome, but they are effective [what is strongly bound in limitation, grows elsewhere, if this growth is wise and directed, it leads to supreme effects in character, similar to mental yoga or meditation, disciplining the mind serves to toughen and render it more attentive, perceptive and intelligent]. If we live economically in normal times, we are prepared for times of want. To be sparing saves us from humiliation. Limitations are also indispensable in the regulation of world conditions. In nature there are fixed limits for summer and winter, day and night, and these limits give the year its meaning. In the same way, economy, by setting fixed limits upon expenditures, acts to preserve property and prevent injury to the people. But in limitation we must observe due measure. If a man should seek to impose galling limitations upon his own nature, it would be injurious. And if he should go too far in imposing limitations on others, they would rebel. Therefore it is necessary to set limits even upon limitation [limitations turning into rigour is a stiff attachment, contracting and expanding to shape the nature, to give it direction according to command over self polishes the men and women]


Water over lake: the image of LIMITATION. Thus the superior man creates number and measure and examines the nature of virtue and correct conduct [virtues are resolved through reason, they are therefore reasonable in the light of the whole, what is a vice is unreasonable in the light of the whole, and resolves itself in darkened delusion, or ignorance, when reason is tied with Intellect, we are hunting for mirroring the Divine. When sets the proportion and content, maps the inner and outer boundaries of the worldly, the human, and the Divine, and thus measures it in a fine harmony, contemplaing the structure and the web of inter-relations and causality he incorporates and sees the essence within and without]. A lake is something limited. Water is inexhaustible. A lake can contain only a definite amount of the infinite quantity of water; this is its peculiarity. In human life too the individual achieves significance through discrimination and the setting of limits. Therefore what concerns us here is the problem of clearly defining these discriminations, which are, so to speak, the backbone of morality. Unlimited possibilities are not suited to man [they destroy him, excessive passions and attachments consume him until he destroys himself, and then finding himself on the bottom, he raises himself above them, never to suffer them again, similarly, men is not infinite, he has a form and nature, half animal, aspiring to the divine, the bodies and minds have their limit in exposure to chaos beyond order, thus one unwisely subject to excess is corrected or perishes, one dwelling on chaos becomes insane if he truly meets these forces, and as soon as he sobers up, sets limits to his activity, creating a new order] if they existed, his life would only dissolve in the boundless. To become strong, a man’s life needs the limitations ordained by duty [if one is dutiless, may he judge – what can he apply himself into, what skills and talents does he possess – and thus the duties may be self-forged, giving sense and meaning to life, otherwise one is lost in discouragous stagnation, taking effective action in one’s area is important, pioneers are characterized by such boldness, people of strenght are self-tone and self-directed towards greated aims and duties, they don’t need to be asked or forced to perform their duties] and voluntarily accepted. The individual attains significance as a free spirit only by surrounding himself with these limitations and by determining for himself what his duty is.


Nine at the beginning means: Not going out of the door and the courtyard is without blame. Often a man who would like to undertake something finds himself confronted by insurmountable limitations. Then he must know where to stop. If he rightly understands this and does not go beyond the limits set for him, he accumulates an energy that enables him, when the proper time comes, to act with great force. Discretion is of prime importance in preparing the way for momentous things.

Concerning this, Confucius says:

“Where disorder develops, words are the first steps. If the prince is not discreet, he loses his servant. If the servant is not discreet, he loses his life. If germinating things are not handled with discretion, the perfecting of them is impeded. Therefore the superior man is careful to maintain silence and does not go forth.” [if a young plant is exposed to scorching sunlight as in droughts, it dies, the scorching sunlight are the unsurmountable difficulties, it needs to gather strenght and emerges at the right time, least all will be spoiled, become too accustomed to count, losing its initial break-through force and disappear without notice]

Nine in the second place means:Not going out of the gate and the courtyard brings misfortune. When the time for action has come, the moment must be quickly seized. Just as water first collects in a lake without flowing out, yet is certain to find an outlet when the lake is full, so it is in the life of man. It is a good thing to hesitate so long as the time for action has not come, but no longer. Once the obstacles to action have been removed, anxious hesitation is a mistake that is bound to bring disaster, because one misses one’s opportunity [missing opportunity and not taking decisive action by whatsoever reason, inner or outer, cognizant or ignored should not however be lamented upon, one may lose a major strategical move, but let him settle for what he may still achive, and thus progress, otherwise one becries a lost moment and freezes in a stagnant mindset of ‘what if?’ Life has its own laws, and they need to be accommodate to their fullest, like the lake that sets the limit to water]

Six in the third place means: He who knows no limitation will have cause to lament. No blame. If an individual is bent only on pleasures and enjoyment, it is easy for him to lose his sense of the limits that are necessary. If he gives himself over to extravagance, he will have to suffer the consequences, with accompanying regret. He must not seek to lay the blame on others. Only when we realize that our mistakes are of our own making will such disagreeable experiences free us of errors [the wheel of karma has turned, may all blame be banished to self-grasping, seeking fault in the world means we have a wrong relation to occurences of events, and need to change our perspective, similarly – seeking blame in others is outsourcing our command over our self to something outside of our control, and disables us in perfecting and rounding ourselves, for every misdeed against us, we should think “if we wouldn’t exist in a network of causality, would such a chain of events happen, it does not mean that we should abhor our existence, but accept it as a whole, and have enough willpower to forge ourselves bravely in relation to the worlds events, ameliorating the negative mishaps, and overcoming looking towards the creative Heavens]

Six in the fourth place means: Contented limitation. Success. Every limitation has its value, but a limitation that requires persistent effort entails a cost of too much energy. When, however, the limitation is a natural one (as for example, the limitation by which water flows only downhill), it necessarily leads to success, for then it means a saving of energy. The energy that otherwise would be consumed in a vain struggle with the object, is applied wholly to the benefit of the matter in hand, and success is assured.

Nine in the fifth place means:Sweet limitation brings good fortune.Going brings esteem. The limitation must be carried out in the right way if it is to be effective. If we seek to impose restrictions on others only, while evading them ourselves, these restrictions will always be resented and will provoke resistance [be expectant of yourself, don’t expect too much of others, in this way no disillusionments occur, don’t rely on others too much, build your own resilience and direction, if your friends on which you relied abandon you, you have only your own mind and muscles to rely on, as in a saying ‘if we rely too much on others in our own inner battles, our own astuteness and muscles fade’, take friendship in good conduct and cheer, but don’t put the weigh on others when it comes to your independence, everything you have carry within, people come and go like mirages, busying themselves like mirages, you are a mirage in their life after a while. Better it is to be remembered in Heavens in solitude, then caught amongst people moving hither and tither with joys and sorrows, and joining the family of the grave, better to win Heavenly memory, then erect a monolith of fame or memory on Earth. The dead want to be remembered, they thrive on memory, millions of lights and candles are aflame in the underworld when we remember all these small and great who passed away, that is the memory of the human race]. If, however, a man in a leading position applies the limitation first to himself, demanding little from those associated with him, and with modest means manages to achieve something, good fortune is the result. Where such an example occurs, it meets with emulation, so that whatever is undertaken must succeed [self-sacrifice of the little creates a following in self-sacrifice in others, the nobility of spirit rises in the whole].

Six at the top means: Galling limitation.Perseverance brings misfortune. Remorse disappears. If one is too severe in setting up restrictions, people will not endure them. The more consistent such severity, the worse it is, for in the long run a reaction is unavoidable [that which is free in nature will not bear the yoke of limitation that denies it and forcefully breaks its nature]. In the same way, the tormented body will rebel against excessive asceticism. On the other hand, although ruthless severity is not to be applied persistently and systematically, there may be times when it is the only means of safeguarding against guilt and remorse. In such situations ruthlessness toward oneself is the only means of saving one’s soul, which otherwise would succumb to irresolution and temptation. [ruthless methods of limitations should be used on oneself, when transgressions of our principles, due to external or internal incitement occur, however ruthlessness that is turned outward becomes bloody hatred, and cruelty without boundaries. Drakon laws of ancient Greece foresaw legal genocide, but it was never used, it stood as a dead law and a terrifying warning]

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