Learning from I-Ching 2 坤 Earth – Receptive, Love

This “2 坤 Kun” hexagram represents the Earth or Mother Nature. In contrast to 1-Heaven, which is forceful, hard, and invisible, 2-Earth is receptive, soft, and material. 1-Heaven is invisible Energy, and 2-Earth is visible mass. 1-Heaven is active, and 2-Earth is responsive. Heaven represents righteous action and Earth represents love and acceptance.

Earth Hexagram is:

  1. 元 Beginning. This beginning is the start of living things on earth. It is in response to the creative force of heaven.
  2. 亨 Smooth Flow – no obstruction, growth, and success. The earth provides the environment for living things to grow throughout the earth.
  3. 利牝马之贞 The mother-horse constant and unending righteous behavior brings forth gains, increases, and harmony.
  4. 君子有攸往,先迷后得主 Wise man started a journey, losing his way at first until he finds a master.
  5. 利西南得朋, 东北丧朋 Finding friends in the southwest and losing friends in the northeast.
  6. 安贞,吉 Follows the way of purity and truth will bring blessings.

Key Moral Value is 厚德载物 Love
The character of Earth is as thick as the earth (as deep as the sea) and able to accept and carry things (people and events). Its characteristic is soft, yin, follow, obey, gentle, and quiet. I think it is best to use the biblical word “Love” to represent it. No matter how hard to pound it, it can absorb the attacks. Its response is always loving acceptance and your promotion.2-Earth does not take things into her own hands. She leaves it to the 1-Heaven to take action.

In the Bible, the description of Love or Charity matches well with this hexagram. 1Co 13:4-8  Love suffers long, and is kind; love envies not; love vaunts, not itself, is not puffed up, does not behave itself rudely, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, keeps no record of evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

1-Heaven and 2-Earth also signify husband and wife or more accurately Father and Mother. It is these two that give birth to the other 6 hexagrams forming the 8 hexagrams. The 8 hexagrams also form a family representing 1-Heaven Father, 2-Earth Mother, 51-Thunder Eldest Son, 57-Wind Eldest Daughter, 29-Water Middle Son, 30-Fire  Middle Daughter, 52-Mountain Youngest Son, 58-Lake Youngest Daughter.

The Stages of Growth

Stage 1 Begin-Six: Stepping on frosts tells us that deep-frozen Ice is coming soon. 初六: 履霜,坚冰至

When we step on frost, we know that the winter has come, and soon the weather will be very cold and ice will be formed. Before any action, we must know how to plan first. Planning involves doing situational analysis and forecasting the future. We must be watchful of the tell-tale signs and be prepared for them. Before the big financial crisis of 2008, there were already signs of sub-prime problems. Before the dot-com crash of 2000, there were already many reports of the possible running out of cash of many dot-com companies. Those who do not take heed, who think life is going to be the same as before in spite of the signs, end up suffering losses. Tell-tale signs should alert us immediately to do an investigation to discover the real impacts – whether they be just a random statistical error on the quality control charts or one that is indicative of structural changes such a change in technology, policies, tastes, or trends. Be watchful, investigate and prepare for the coming impacts.

Stage 2 Second-Six: Straight and Square are great. Don’t spin it and there will be gains. 六二: 直,方,大,不习无不利

When we are well prepared in stage 1 to face the changes, then follow the righteous way of being straight and square (honesty and integrity). Don’t try to be smart and take shortcuts or spin a story or try to hide. The honest way will bring increases. We can recall the tempering of Tylenol incidents in the 80s that resulted in the death of a few people in the US. The immediate, open, just-in-case, actions of the supplier resulted in creating confidence and regaining market share. In contrast, the milk-poison affair in PRC China resulted in many losses of lives and loss of confidence in PRC-made products. It not only affects milk products but also other products made in China.

Stage 3 Third-Six: Have proven capability and good character. Can take up tasks assigned by the bosses. Don’t claim credits and have a good ending. 六三:含章可贞。或从王事,无成有终

As we faithfully performed our duties – whether bosses or people are watching or not, our consistent performance will be noticed and will be assigned important tasks by our bosses. We are not to take our own initiatives independent of our bosses. We are to do our best in those opportunities assigned. But remember to give credit to your boss and you will have a good ending.

Stage 4 Fourth-Six: Tighten our mouths and pocket and there will be no troubles and no bad reputation. 六四:括囊;无咎,无誉。

As we progress in our careers we will get to know confidential information. It is important for us to control our mouths and not show off. We must know how to keep secrets. We should be cautious in our talk. Then there will be no troubles for us and no bad reputation. This key is not to outshine your immediate boss. This is in preparation for our future promotion to stage 5.

Stage 5 Fifth-Six: High Position 2nd in command (2I/C). Good blessings. 六五:黄裳,元吉。

The original wording is “Yellow Skirt – Lower Garment” symbolizing the dressings of the King. Here we are promoted to departmental manager or company vice-president or COO or the 2I/C. This position of the CEO belongs to the 1-Heaven Stage 5. There is one boss you report to and others are reporting to you. Note that there is one person higher and you have to help him. You cannot independently take charge without consulting him or else you will end up in Stage 6 described below which is bad. Recall the moral characteristics of this hexagram is soft, follow, gentle and loving. Serve upper and lower well and you will keep your position.

Stage 6 Top-Six: Dragons fighting in the wilderness. Yellow and Black blood flow. 上六:战龙于野,其血玄黄。

At the stage, there is the description of the great fight between the dragons of the 1-Heaven and the up-start 2-Earth horse(2 I/C) transforming into a dragon. The fight is fierce and results in casualties and injuries.  Some of us are dragons and some are horses. We need to know what are our capabilities and follow our own journey. Fighting for the top position may not be the right thing for you to do. You may want to stay at stage 5 and wait for the right opportunities such as your CEO retires, got promoted and move elsewhere, or you are headhunted to lead another company. The key is not to force your ways. It may also teach us to work with our competitors to enlarge the pie instead of dividing a fixed-sized pie, for greater value add to the community.

Ultimate Stage Use-Six: Eternal Righteousness and Just is Good. 用六:利永贞。

The best position is always maintaining righteousness and justice. Everyone knows their roles and positions and contributes together harmoniously accepting and respecting each other. The teaching of I-Ching is about the harmonious synergies of differences! Discover your talents and roles in life and work with others for the greater good of the community be it your family, colleagues, country, or the world at large.


Earth hexagram teaches us to respond to this world with receptive love, kindness, and gentleness. To be more broad-minded, more forgiving, more supportive. Have a positive outlook on life. Pushing and forcing is one way, but often, the softer touch of acceptance, going with the flow and trend and drawing and channeling them into a better position, maybe a much better and longer-lasting way.

The seven lines of wisdom can be shortened into the following:

  1. read the trend & plan for it
  2. work with integrity and not for show.
  3. work with excellence and faithfully serve your boss well.
  4. control your tongue and keep confidentiality
  5. serve up & down the line
  6. don’t fight & co-operate for bigger contribution
  7. righteous living is the best way

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